It's Father's Day, and we're having a nice quiet one: just the two of us. We have one off earning his keep, scoring at a cricket match; and the other one? We'll be heading out to pick her up later on. She's camping this weekend, with the Guides.
During the week I helped her pull together everything she needed (and yes, of course, half a rucksack full of other essentials besides) and I remembered the thrill of filling my own kit bag, tying on my sleeping bag, and heading out to find a campfire to light and a starry sky to sleep under.We'd come home exhausted:
filthy, smelling of smoke, spattered in grease, down a teaspoon or two. happy. We'd jostle off the bus, to find our parents lined up and waiting; and today of all days I can't help thinking of the day I came back from camp to find my dad had been running the Guide Bush Telegraph.
I was always fiercely proud of the tiny Welshman. he didn't look like the other dads - he was little, older - and he didn't sound like them either. He was well known in town as Head of the most interesting school around, where he nurtured kids facing every challenge life knows how to offer. But I was never more convinced that my dad knew more than the other dads put together than that afternoon, when all the parents were there and the Guide Leader said..Sian's dad organised it.
We were late, see: thrown thoroughly off our schedule by a freak accident involving a train, a platform, a missed step and one Guide's trip to the local A and E Department. In the days before mobile phones that meant something. There were repercussions. No chance of a group text, nor a quick post on Facebook. Our Captain had to find a public phone box, pick a parent, leave a message, ask for it to be passed on. A Bush Telegraph, she called it, and she had chosen my dad to start it. Because he knew how to do anything. Obviously. That was probably one of the last times he was able to come and collect me before he got sick; but the memory of it flickers every so often, like one of those campfires round which we used to warm ourselves. I always think of it when someone says "sleeping bag", because he had insisted on buying me the thickest, finest one he could find. It's still in use today..
...which reminds me. I need to check my phone, just in case. We have a girl to collect and we need to be right on time. She'll be looking out for us.