Written by Lucy Reynolds

Voices

Daddy Cool

Constantly acting the goat has made Lucy Reynolds’ dad Chris a legend in his own household. It’s exactly how it should be, she tells Standard Issue.

Lucy's dad ChrisA father and his son go to a family barber to get their hair cut. The boy loves the experience, being sat and spun around, getting giddy when the ‘automatic’ chair buzzes as he’s raised higher.

Twenty years later, the same boy, now a man, goes back to the same barber, sits in the same chair and waits for the excitement of the buzzing chair. But nothing.

The man asks the barber politely where the great automatic chair of his childhood had gone, to which the barber smiles at the confused man and says: “It wasn’t automatic – your dad just sat behind you and made the noise. Didn’t you know?”

Picture another scene: a girl spends most of her childhood telling people, with pride, about her dad who bravely wrestled with a vicious conga eel in a fight to the death while posted abroad in the RAF. It is only when she recounts this story again, as an adult, in front of her friends, that the aforementioned father admits, gleefully, “I made it up!”

The barbershop man is my brother, the girl is me and the dad is my dad. And this is one of the many moments of our upbringing that we choose to remember on Father’s Day. For many, it is a day of spending time with your dad (or for some, sadly, remembering him), possibly buying him a new jumper, liquorice allsorts or some socks because… y’know, Dads seem to like that sort of shit.

But for my brothers and me, we spend our time recounting the many jokes and japes that Chris Reynolds, arch-prankster, has played on us. Father’s Day is a chance to recall his greatest hits.

Growing up with a dad like ours has meant that my brothers and I inherited a sharp and silly sense of humour very quickly. Like every child, there were stages of being embarrassed by your parents. I have vivid memories of my dad picking me up from primary school in his trailer-towing secondhand car, full to the brim with garden rubbish, wearing work clothes covered in soil and creosote, and impersonating a submarine depth-charge siren (‘Awooga!’ was my Dad’s go-to noise way before Kris Akabusi in Gladiators) as I walked out of the school gates. People looked at him like he was tapped – and he loved it.

I was mortified, watching the other fathers in their shiny, fancy cars, stone-faced and boring, attracting no attention. It was only when friends begged me to get my dad to give them a lift home too that I realised that having a fun dad was much better than the one who doesn’t smile and act silly. We would drive past those cars, windows rolled down, singing tunes from the Mary Poppins soundtrack at the tops of our voices (Dad as Dick Van Dyke, me as Julie Andrews) with my friends whispering, “Your dad is ace”. And I’d secretly feel smug.

“His total lack of embarrassment is probably one of the things I admire the most: he doesn’t care what others think about him, as long as he and his family are happy.”

He’d spin us tales about how he had the ability to send his ear and eye around primary school while we were there, seeing how we were doing. Thinking of it now, the idea of a disembodied eye and ear floating around is pretty messed up, but I bought into it as a kid and the idea he was always watching out for me was comforting.

Our birthdays were always immense, with Dad as DJ/clown/magician/entertainer all rolled into one big noisy ball. Swimming lessons would descend into him pretending to be Jaws, hand-fin protruding from the water as we scattered and screamed in delight. Evenings would invariably end in my brothers and I wrestling with my Dad on the floor or sat on his back while he plodded around the living room, pretending to be a horse. Our neighbours looked on in horror as he would shout “Raus! Schnell!” in a mock-German accent as we were herded into the car for school. We loved it.

His total lack of embarrassment is probably one of the things I admire the most: he doesn’t care what others think about him, as long as he and his family are happy.

On Father’s Day, my brothers and I can reflect upon not only the happiness and fun that we had growing up but also remember the lifelong values we’ve gained from him. He isn’t afraid of speaking up for people, challenging inequality and standing up to people who are rude, ignorant or bullies. He taught us how to be funny but not cocky, confident but not arrogant and value education and good humour above vanity. As a child who left school in 1960 with no qualifications at all, Dad made sure we all enjoyed our time at school and worked hard with my mum to fund us all through university so we had no debt.

I spent summers working with him as a landscape gardener, visiting many of his customers who would say, rather astonished, “Oh, you’ve brought your daughter to work? Where are your sons? She shouldn’t be lifting heavy things!”

Chris wearing a false moustacheHe would tell them straight that I was much stronger than I looked and that I could do anything the boys could do. After that, with my arms, skin and hair covered in soil, I realised that I could do anything I wanted to, regardless of gender.

In his late 60s, still playing squash and running countless miles a week, he has recently become a grandfather (or Grumpa as he now calls himself) to my brother’s son Sam. As all the family predicted, he is obsessed: not only does he hog baby-cuddling duties but he also positions himself as the ‘baby whisperer’ in the family, much to the eye-rolling desperation of me and Mum. But one thing I do know to be true is that if he is half as great a grandfather as he is a father, then baby Sam is a very lucky boy indeed.

@MissReno1981

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Written by Lucy Reynolds

Lucy is a teacher whose dream as a child was to be WWE Wrestling Champion. That dream is still alive.