the problem is all inside your head…

My Dad taught me to iron.

It’s a very particular manner of ironing though.

What you have to maybe understand is that my Dad had worn a uniform of some variety for his entire working life. Whether that was overalls on the railway or the very brief of time he worked at Fords in Halewood, so he could raise enough money for a house downpayment. He was also a post man driving that strange thing in the way of a Morris Minor Mail Van. Looking something like this. Sometimes he would take me with him around the back lanes delivering parcels. Now those back lanes are Kirkby and other housing developments. We would stop and get eggs and milk and bread and vegetables from various farms along the way.

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He claimed this was the best job he ever had although it never earned enough money as there was no over time. It was almost idyllic for a man from Scotland Rd. in Liverpool and he often wondered at only being a few miles from the center of town. Kirkby was in the later stages of being developed at the time and his parents had begun the move out there, with a certain amount fo rancor as they had held on in the city for as long as they could. His fathers ill health and lack of ability to work had pushed the issue. Being on the post allowed him to drop things off for his family, there was no GPS or planned routes and it took as long as it took to get parcels out.

He ended up driving busses and being an inspector, back in the day when those existed, in St. Helens. At the point when he was finally going to be able to get off the road he got sick and had to retire, he was only about 45 and he never worked for pay again. Although he never stopped working.

The common denominator as I said was a uniform and at that time in the Uk what went along with a uniform was usually a white shirt and a tie, yes even in those overalls.

Every day a new shirt had to ironed as this was physical work he did, no real power steering in those days, and in the summer it was warm and well, sweat happens. My dad developed a particular way of ironing that was just the collar and the front of the shirt as the rest was hidden by the uniform jacket and if you had to take it off you would roll your sleeves up. What this meant was when he came to teach me to iron, he taught me this way of doing it, as that was the method he used, my Mum is not someone to teach you to iron, she would just take the shirt and do it for you.

This morning as I ironed my shirt for work I realized that I still ironed this way, neglecting the back of the shirt and the sleeves. This has driven Michelle crazy for about thirty years now and yet she never offers to iron for me, we really come from a do it yourself family. The other thing I realized was that I have never done a days manual labor for pay, this was something that was important to my dad. Now I have done a lot of manual labor voluntarily and even at work I have been known to roll up my sleeves, this afternoon I was stood on a roof cleaning gutters, this however is not my roll, it’s something I do because it’s fun to work that way with kids, not because that is what I have to do. This was my Dads greatest hope that I would not have to work as hard as he did. The funny thing is two thirds of my kids are doing manual work by choice, go figure.

This evening as I sat at the end of the day and reached for a record to play I was seeking something undemanding and enjoyable. Uncharacteristically for my recent habits I reached for Still Crazy After All These Years by Paul Simon. My Dad had been on my mind and this was one of the records I remember him owning, he got it new from the Columbia House Record Club and it sat on the stereo shelf and was played very occasionally. This was probably the record of the month he got by mistake and he never sent back, or missed the deadline more likely.

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I always think the record sounds like Simon had lost the thread a little. It’s too polished and safe, a little too L.A. and then there is the return of Garfunkel for the song My Little Town that adds a saccharine sheen.

But this evening I could see my Dad sat there trying to get it, he had loved Simon and Garfunkel and it seemed he really wanted to like this album especially as he owned it. I can smell the scent of Golden Virginia tobacco, sweat and the gravy from dinner. My dad would usually nod off about half way through side two. We would then sit in silence as in no way could I play an album on the  sacred stereo and my mum would have wanted to let him rest as he had probably worked overtime and not do anything too loud like turn the T.V. on. I think this stopped him buying other Paul Simon albums.

6 thoughts on “the problem is all inside your head…

    1. My guess is they did, we had many records that never got sent back though including The Kinks, some Beatles compilations and Don Gibson for some reason.

  1. Lovely stuff Neil, my parents were more Franklins Mild than Golden Virginia – I still have a couple of those tins somewhere, they make me very nostalgic.

  2. J.

    Really enjoyed this, Neil. I have similar memories of my old man ironing his clothes for work (believe it or not, he still irons his jeans) and he often asks me if I have an iron when he sees me (I never iron).

    As for Paul Simon, I often fall asleep when I hear him.

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