He was drunk. He had a fistful of my hair and there was murder in his eyes. I would have been a skinny sixteen or seventeen and I had just seen him punch my mother in the face.
He drew back his fist...
He was never Daddy, only Dad. There were no hugs and kisses (apart from one clumsy drunken buss on the cheek one New Year) and he didn't dandle us on his knee as babies – indeed, for all that he was a bit handy with his fists as a young man – he hardly ever touched any of his three daughters. My brother wasn't so lucky though and, as it turned out, neither was my mother.
It was 1979 and they were just dragging tiredly on the spent fag-end of their marriage – twenty-five years of it. She had wanted her freedom for years but there were the kids to think about. He went to work, came home, read the paper and went to the pub. He was about as disengaged from family life as a man can be, living in the same house as his own wife and kids.
But then he got the idea that she was interested in some other bloke and that's when the fighting started. You see, although he wasn't that bothered about his family, he could not – would not - have anybody think him a fool or a cuckold.
He hadn't hit her for years – oh, he had done it a fair bit in those first years of their marriage, to teach her a few things, you know. Then his duodenal ulcers kept him off the drink for years and things settled down into a fairly safe if rather loveless routine.
Then the doctors fixed his ulcers, which meant he could start drinking heavily again.
And so here we were.
Seeing him lash out at my mother, I had grabbed his arm – a real tiger-by-the-tail move – and pulled him away.
"Get upstairs and mind your own bloody business!" he roared.
But I wouldn't, even though by now, he was dragging me by the hair towards the hall door.
His fist was drawn back. This was it. I was going to get it now for sure.
So I did the only thing I could think of and, to this day I don't know what made me do it.
I drew back my own skinny fist and looked him in the eye, all terrified defiance.
I could almost hear the terrible grinding noise as the cogs in his head failed to mesh properly and his thoughts crashed to a dead stop. This was not what was meant to be happening
We looked at each other for just a moment – father and daughter. You could say that it was the only time we ever really saw eye to eye.
He lowered his fist and let go of my hair. "Think you're a bloody tough guy now, do you?" he muttered.
"No!" I shouted, breathless with adrenaline. "But I'm not standing here, letting you hit Mum."
Wordlessly, furiously, he pushed past me and stamped upstairs to bed.
Looking back on it now, it's almost laughable to think that I stood up to him like that. What was I thinking? One blow of his fist and that would have been that. He wasn't a big man but he was strong and fit. My mother's eye was black for days after.
Perhaps even in his drunken state, he realised the whole situation was ludicrous and that's why he stomped away. We never ever spoke of it and he's been dead years now so I guess I'll never get his take on it.
So why am I posting this now?
Honestly, I don't know. Maybe to get it out of my system for good and all, who knows? All I can say is that this story has been an insistent pushing at the back of my eyes today and so here I am tapping away at the keyboard.
Sorry if this is all a bit heavy – Lord knows, this blog is usually full of trivial froth. Anyway, better out than in, as they say.