Memories of Dad

Today, I shall be reading my dad’s eulogy, something I’m not entirely prepared for, but then who is? Anyone who knew my dad would also know of his temper, and my brother and I didn’t always have the easiest childhood as a result. But now I choose to focus on the good memories, memories I’ll share below.

Memories of my dad.

How could I start without remembering him as a Manchester United fan? Something my brother, Nathan, and I understood from a young age was you do notinterrupt a match, Alex Ferguson is the greatest manager there has ever been, and that when United score, you go deaf. Besides Dad’s cheering, there are two soundtracks to my childhood. The first is the drone of formula one. This always brings me back to sunny afternoons playing in the garden, with dad in the lounge, curtains closed and in the dark to see the cars better. The second noise would be the harrowing opening to The World at War series. Dad began my love of history, with endless documentaries, a trip to the Cabinet War Rooms primary aged children aren’t supposed to enjoy, and he’s the reason I still have to explain to people why I own a copy of Mein Kampf. History was a passion we shared, but now I’ll have to watch Dunkirk without him.

Dad was also passionate about his work. When I was at school, he turned creating a British Gas poster into a class competition, and everyone went wild for it; I’m still gutted I didn’t win. But that was the love he brought to his work, and the love he passed on. When Dad met my father-in-law, they spent the entire meal competing over who had the better job, fancier watch, and fastest car.

Cars are another thing I’ll remember about Dad. The uncertainty of not knowing which car he had each week, whether it was the Subaru, the Mercedes, or the Maserati, and whether I’d get in the right one when he picked me up from work. Regardless of which car it was, eventually, it would breakdown, which might be a comment on the speed he drove at.

Whenever I went to Dad’s, I was guaranteed a good lunch. I was also guaranteed to be eating that lunch at six in the evening. Wine would be on tap, at some point an argument would start, and we would finish the evening laughing at Dad’s awful dancing. And if he wasn’t dancing, he might be trying out his acrobatics, like the time he hung upside down from the pergola. He always kept us laughing, whether it was the holiday tattoo—the Chinese symbol for heaven, or possibly ironing—the bleached hair, or the whole Eminem’s Dad phase.

Most of all, I want to remember Dad with family. Nathan and I lost our mother young, and Dad did his best to fill both roles. Unfortunately for me, that led to many awkward conversations about, as he phrased it, “whether womanhood was imminent”. It was, therefore, lucky when Tracy came along, and she and dad tried for a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest engagement.

I’ll remember dad walking me down the aisle, and his insistence on what he’d wear when doing so. I’ll remember him buying my oldest son the biggest and most difficult to store Christmas present—but what one-year-old doesn’t want an Audi to drive? And I remember when my youngest son fell over, Dad gave him the biggest hug. He always gave the best, rib crushing hugs, like he was hugging for all the times we weren’t able to see each other too. I’ll miss those hugs most of all.

Reading Round Up – December

64. Queen of Coin and Whispers

Helen Corcoran

Rating: 2 out of 5.
Queen of Coin and Whispers

‘She loved me as I loved her, fierce as a bloodied blade.’

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other …

This books attempts to be a political fantasy as well as a romance, and fails at both.

I love courtly intrigue and I love a good romantic subplot, and once I heard this was a sapphic romance I couldn’t resist reading it. Perhaps I expected too much from the blurb, but my expectations fell short. I political aspect of the book felt both overly complicated and over simplified in all the wrong places, and I just couldn’t take it seriously. While at the same time I felt the romance began strong but something about it sort of fizzled at the midway mark and never quite recovered.

65. Morning Star

Pierce Brown

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Morning Star (Red Rising Saga, #3)

Darrow would have lived in peace, but his enemies brought him war. The Gold overlords demanded his obedience, hanged his wife, and enslaved his people. But Darrow is determined to fight back. Risking everything to transform himself and breach Gold society, Darrow has battled to survive the cutthroat rivalries that breed Society’s mightiest warriors, climbed the ranks, and waited patiently to unleash the revolution that will tear the hierarchy apart from within.

Finally, the time has come.

But devotion to honor and hunger for vengeance run deep on both sides. Darrow and his comrades-in-arms face powerful enemies without scruple or mercy. Among them are some Darrow once considered friends. To win, Darrow will need to inspire those shackled in darkness to break their chains, unmake the world their cruel masters have built, and claim a destiny too long denied—and too glorious to surrender.

This is a fantastic book and a great conclusion of the trilogy. An ending that truly did not disappoint.

After the dramatic ending of the previous book, I was very keen to get stuck into this one, so I don’t know why I left it over a year to begin reading it. But one of the issues I had with this book was that it wasn’t very forgiving towards readers who hadn’t just that second completed the previous book. There were a lot of places where a reminder was sorely needed about who characters were, how they related, and what events had gone on previously. It took a long while for me to feel comfortably back in this world as a result.
The other issue that stopped me giving this book the full five stars was the weird references to other works–I’m going to assume they were heartfelt homages rather than plagiarism. Whatever their intention, they sucked me right out of the story. For example, the moment that’s meant to be very deeply emotional between Darrow and Mustang, where she repeatedly tells him it’s not his fault in a scene plucked straight out of Good Will Hunting. It just undercut the moment for me, and left me feeling disappointed.

Other than that, I loved the book. And in a world of bittersweet or just unhappy endings, I was so pleased with this one.

66. A Court of Thorns and Roses

Sarah J. Maas

Rating: 1 out of 5.
A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

Why did I read this book? Maybe because I hate myself…

I knew nothing more about A Court of Thorns and Roses other than it was considered very inappropriate for the teenage audience it was intended. “Inappropriate for teenagers,” I thought, “I’m in!” What people should have said was it was just… pants. 

Apparently, the MC falls in ‘love’ but really she’s just in ‘lust’. That’s fine, whatever, but it all became very hard to believe the MC is going to risk her entire life because some fairy has a hot body…

67. A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens

Rating: 5 out of 5.
A Christmas Carol

‘If I had my way, every idiot who goes around with Merry Christmas on his lips, would be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. Merry Christmas? Bah humbug!’

To bitter, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas is just another day. But all that changes when the ghost of his long-dead business partner appears, warning Scrooge to change his ways before it’s too late. 

Part of the Focus on the Family Great Stories collection, this abridged edition features an in-depth introduction and discussion questions by Joe Wheeler to provide greater understanding for today’s reader. “A Christmas Carol” captures the heart of the holidays like no other novel.

As soon as I read this I understood why A Christmas Carol is such a classic and why it’s been adapted so many times (The Muppets Christmas Carol is my favourite, followed by Scrooged). I listened to this on Audible, and can’t recommend the Hugh Grant audio book enough. When reading previous Dickens books I’ve occasionally found his meandering style a little tiresome, but when done in the Hugh Grant mumbles and waffling he’s so known for, the writing feels perfect. All Dickens should be read by Hugh Grant! 

It has been a long time (if ever??) since a book has brought me to tears, and I did not expect that to change now. But change it did. When the story concluded and Tiny Tim lived, tissues were required. I’m welling up now thinking about it.

This book also brings up a great code to live by. “I wear the chain I forged in life.” I think that’s something everyone should remember, regardless of religion, and remember the message of the book.

I loved this book so much I immediately bought the Penguin Classics hardback and vowed to read it every Christmas.