Barry Wood by Anna Wood:
It is good to dance, in very short shorts, in the summertime
If you were asked to write about your father, what would you say?
Ted Kessler posed this question to a number of well-known names for his book, My Old Man: Tales of Our Fathers. Their responses, by turns funny, tender and heartbreaking, offer a unique opportunity to reflect on our own relationships with our dads—who they really are, and how we come to understand ourselves through them.
In this exclusive extract, short story writer Anna Wood remembers her dad, Barry Wood.
Some things I’ve learned from my dad.
Read books. Surround yourself with books. Life will be better, you will be better, everything will be better. Words are yours.
It is good to dance, in very short shorts, in the summertime, along the beach at Sutton-on-Sea, singing ‘Blame It on the Boogie’.
It is good to dance, in the kitchen, to ‘Crocodile Rock’. (It may never be as good again as when I was very little and standing on my dad’s feet, holding his hands, while we danced in the kitchen to ‘Crocodile Rock’.)
Sit at the kitchen table doing the crossword with a loved one, or read out clues while the loved one makes tea. You can do this a few times a week, for years, for decades, and it will always be a good idea.
“It may never be as good again as when I was very little and standing on my dad’s feet, holding his hands, while we danced”
Loyalty is a good idea. But don’t put up with w*****s. Laugh at them gently, fondly, and then walk away.
The main thing about living in a detached house is you can play your music louder.
Read poetry, listen to it, memorise it. Poetry pursues the human like the smitten moon above the weeping, laughing earth. I spit the pips, and feel the drunkenness of things being various. See into the life of things. ‘Moon!’ you cry suddenly. ‘Moon! Moon!’
Whisky is good. Scotch, usually, with a splash of cold water. It is best late at night (or early in the morning) with friends and conversation.
And cheese, and crusty bread.
Good shoes. Cool shoes.
And jazz. Maybe even opera, one day.
You’re all right.
Other people are interesting.
Kindness is strength.
Have a good cry if you need one. And a hug.
Loneliness leaves a child unsure of their place in the world, it inhibits their development, and it deprives them the need to give and receive love. Between 14–20 June we’re exploring how isolation impacts lives, and we’re celebrating the bonds of family—where children belong.
Buy Ted Kessler’s My Old Man: Tales from our Fathers from Bookshop.org and all good booksellers.
Copyright © Individual Contributors, 2016
Selection and Introduction © Ted Kessler, 2016
Extracts from My Old Man: Tales from our Fathers reproduced with permission of Canongate Books Ltd.