I know you secretly read my blog, so this post is just for you!
You came to the UK from Cyprus back in the 70s, on your own. To me that shows your bravery and adventure.
You started working in a pub as a pot-boy, where you eventually met mum, by which point you started working up the ranks to become assistant manager and then on to manager of your own [huge!] pub and restaurant. To me, that shows your ambition and drive to succeed.
One by one, me and my 2 sisters and brothers came into the world. For the first couple of years, it was just me, you and mum. I don’t remember much from then – I was a baby! But, I only have to look at photographs from that time and know how much of a daddy’s girl I was – and still am!
I know that you worked so hard to provide for your family, and for that, we are all eternally grateful. To me, that shows your responsibility and determination. I couldn’t have wished for more when I was growing up. Even though you were working a lot, and I know that you sometimes think you were not a ‘good dad’ let me tell you – you were…and still are…you’re the best!
I remember silly things from my childhood, like the staff parties at The George. Maria and I would beg you to let us go to them, but as they were always very late – well after midnight before they started – we never used to be able to go.
One day you said we could go if we had a sleep during the day so that we could stay awake for the party. As kids, these staff parties sounded like a lot of fun, and when you said we could go to one, we would be so excited that we just couldn’t sleep…and ended up missing out any way!
At one of those staff parties…one of those parties that Maria and I couldn’t stay awake for, you came upstairs when it finished, and crept into our room to ask us if we had a good time at the party…turns out you were very drunk and forgot that we had actually not been! We laughed because we knew you were drunk and said “Dad…we didn’t go to the party!” You were pretty insistent from what I remember, asking us if we had a good time, and eventually you crawled (yes, I said crawled) out of our room into the front room and did a good old drunk cry at the window! Probably the one and only time I really remember you being drunk!
I remember when you took you took Jo, Liam and I to Enfield a few years ago; we had a nice lunch out with you and on the way back decided the scenic route would be a lot more pleasant than the M25. Whilst going through Chingford I suddenly remembered how you would drive the car really fast over a hill and as we reached the crest of the hill, I don’t know what you did, but it was like we were on a rollercoaster and our bellies would do flip flops!
As this memory came to me, I knew I would be able to put it here with all the others…but then as we were driving through Chigwell, you started talking about how when we were little girls you would drive really fast over a hill! I laughed as I remembered this with you, and also smiled inside because not 10 minutes before I was thinking exactly the same thing!
We were really lucky as kids to be able to go on holiday every year to Cyprus, and when I finally went back in 2009, as soon as I stepped off the plane I was transported back to all the wonderful times we had spent there as a family in the 1980s.
One such memory is snorkelling. To this day I love to snorkel, and you were the one that taught me how to do it and not be afraid. Often you would take Maria and I out into the sea to look for seashells. You would tether yourself to a lilo that we would cling onto as you went into deeper waters, and dive down and collect shells for us. As I got more brave, I would have a go at diving down too, but could never blow the salt water out of my pipe the way you could! I still can’t!
On some occasions though, you would go out into the very deep waters – not safe for Maria and I to come along with you. Maybe the prettier shells were that far out, I don’t know, but I would watch you wade into the water with a snorkel mask on your face, flippers on your feet and a net for collecting shells.
You probably won’t know this, but I would sit on the beach watching you swim further and further out, and see your bright orange flippers break the water as you dove down to the seabed to pick something up. I would panic if you seemed to be taking a long time, worried that something happened to you out there, but then I would see those flippers and I knew you were okay. Eventually you’d swim back to shore with a bundle of seashells you collected for me, and I’d give you a big hug – maybe to thank you for the shells, but also because I knew you were safe.
Another Cyprus memory is you throwing us into the water in the sea. We would stand up on your shoulders and you’d launch us in and we’d land with an almighty splash!
It was great fun, and I don’t think we could ever tire of you mucking about with us in the water…all good fun that is, until I got seawater in my eye…and then the cries would come “Daddy! I want a towel, I want a towel!” I couldn’t cope with water in my eyes, and a quick wipe with my hands wasn’t going to help.
Most of the time we would be quite far out, so that meant you having to carry me all the way back to the beach for a towel, just to wipe my eyes…and then we’d go back out into the sea and continue playing about in the water. I reckon you must have got fed up with having to do this, and I remember you had one of those sweatbands round your wrists, so instead of hauling me back to the beach, I would just use the wristband to wipe my eyes and I’d be happy again, with no more tears!
I remember my wedding day. A day filled with happiness, excitement and love. I planned that day for a year, making sure everything was perfect…and it was. I got ready with my girls, whilst Steve got ready with the guys. I came down the stairs of the manor house a bundle of nerves.
Photos were being taken, wasps were flying about and I was preparing myself to walk down the aisle to marry the love of my life. A rose fell out of my bouquet and I panicked, you calmly put it back in place for me and started talking about how we should walk down the aisle – left foot first? Right foot first? Military march…normal walk?!
A few official photographs later and we were waiting in the pathway, watching my bridesmaids go into the ceremony room first, and I was frantically fanning myself, trying to cool off and calm down. You told me to relax and to ‘stay cool’…and then it was our turn. I linked my arm with yours and you walked me down the aisle to give me away to Steve. A hankie was thrust into my hand from mum (as my something borrowed) and I turned to Steve…I remember looking back at you and smiling. The man who raised me to be the woman I am today, gave my hand to a man who loved me more than I could ever imagine. I know I didn’t get to kiss my dad ‘goodbye’ as he gave me away and I regret that gesture (or lack thereof!) to this day, so here’s a big kiss now! *Mwah*
Your first grandchild, Liam was born on the evening of 17th February 1999, weighing 5lb 15½oz. You couldn’t come and see us until the pub was closed, but late at night I was allowed a visit from my dad.
I remember you creeping into the room to say hello and to meet Liam for the very first time. I had heard that you announced ‘It’s a boy!’ over the tannoy at The Plough and I am sure you were a very proud grandad that night!
As a young girl I had the luxury of having lots of wonderful birthday parties. I was lucky to grow up in a pub and be able to have these big parties with lots of kids from my class…and Maria’s class too!
I remember my 6th birthday party – that’s over 30 years ago now!! Maybe it was the brilliant cake you got for me, or the fact that you laid on a great party tea for everyone. It may have been the music – I had a cool dad with a cool stereo system and my favourite song of the 80s ‘Come on Eileen’ I remember being played at this birthday party. Or maybe it was your generosity to all the party goers – I remember everyone getting a prize – we bought a load of fancy shaped pencil sharpeners from Nicosia when we had been in Cyprus a few weeks before, that went in the ‘Pass the Parcel’.
I think what it really is though, is this picture of you with a charming party hat on, organising all the girls to play a party game. Not ‘Pin the Tail on the Donkey’ like normal kid’s parties, but ‘Pin the Chicken Drumstick in the Tiger’s Mouth’! And the poster was from the song ‘Eye of the Tiger’! And what else would you blindfold us all with but some trusty old ‘blue roll’?! Good times Dad, good times! Thank you for all the parties you’ve paid for me over the years!
So on Father’s Day, dear Daddy, I may be grown up now with my own child; but I am still, and always be your little girl, who looks at her dad with so much love and admiration, that an open letter like this will never be enough to thank you for all you have provided me with my whole life.