Thursday, 31 December 2009


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.


  1. A pivotal moment in a life for a pivotal moment in time. Well placed, I say.

  2. better out than in.
    It's really quite simple, as I am sure you know by now: a bully is a coward, always. Stand up to the bastard and he'll cower. I know.
    You did well.

    Happy New Year.

  3. I'm glad you told the story - and I'm glad you stood up to the bully!

  4. You were so very brave to have done what you did,Argent,it's incredible, but it is also so sad that you had to do it and you never found out why.It will probably never be healed but I'm sure writing and maybe talking about it will at least help a bit.
    It seems a bit trite to wish you a happy new year right now but nontheless I do, life is complicated and people are complicated, we just have to muddle through as best we can and from what I see you seem to be doing a fine job.Happy New Year!

  5. 'Out with the old and in with the new', that was the saying every New Year in our home when the first person walked through the door after midnight.

    A very touching story, the sort I hear so often in my line of work. You needed to tell it and you did that so well.

    Here's to 2010 and good times. xoxo

  6. Such a sad story really if you will excuse me for saying so. Sad because he never even knew what he missed by not getting to know his children especially the very special, unique and talented one who looked him in the eye and stopped him in his tracks. The loss is his Argent, not yours.

  7. Some things just burn into one's memory. Even writing things down does not expunge them, but it does help to some extent to ease those hard recollections of long, long ago. Well done and well written.

  8. Powerful memory written perfectly. I'm sorry it's real...

  9. It proves that sometimes, you can fight fire with fire.. some bullies need the threat and the ire thrown back at them to get the message. the new year always has tendecies of drawing things out of people, memories, regrets, etc. Michael says it perfectly!

  10. ER - Thanks. I think it was indeed a pivotal moment in some ways. I don't think he hit my mother ever again after that and she served divorce papers on him shortly thereafter and he had to leave the family home. so maybe some good came of it.

    Friko - I've always believed that people should stand up to bullies where possible but I know it's not easy and veeerrry scary.

    Bug - Thank you. I would not advise everyone to take the same course of action - I'm not sure if I would do the same thing in that situation now, although I hope I would. The thing is, when you're a kid, you don't really think of the consequences of your actions the way you do when you're older.

    TFE - Thanks. I think I'm pretty much past the pain of it now. I did feel quite emotional revisiting that memory whilst writing it up, but maybe that's a good thing. People are indeed complicated - even my Dad wasn't a one-dimensional person. Heppy new year to you too!

    StJude - It is a sad story I suppose but there are plenty who get off a lot worse than me and my Mum did, so there's something to be grateful for. Happy 2010!

    Human - Yes, I wish we could have had a better relationship than we did. He was very difficult to approach. We got on better when I was an adult but there was always the shadow of the past hanging about, and the fear of him which still lingered even after I'd looked him in the eye that day.

    Phil - I think in this instance, writing this memory out was a good thing to do, although I did have my doubts about whether I should post something so personal. I'm glad I did, though.

    Michael - Thanks, I'm sorry it's real too, but it's in the past now and its power diminishes year by year, thank goodness.

    Watercats - Thanks, kitties, new year, new start, that's what I want.

  11. I guess we all have dark moments in our lives - but that one was pretty dark. I'm sorry you had to go through it, but perhaps putting up here is a kind of exorcism?

    Here's hoping 2010 brings you joy

  12. DFTP - It was a dark time but it is mercifully in the past now. Better times for 2010!

  13. Wow.

    I think we all have our buried secrets, ones that define our life, but hold us back in some unknown way. Releasing is always a blessing, mostly though we are unable to do so. I envy your frankness (if not what happened), and think only good can come from this.

    2010 should be special.


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