I am twenty-six years old. My father watches me eat as we sit in the restaurant of the racetrack in Nice looking down over theMediterranean. We discuss the pastry of the almond tart I have for dessert. We talk about the margins they are making on this fifty franc almond tart and why the English would never pay that much. The collar of his shirt is baggy around his thin neck. When the lady bookies come to take our bets, he tries to get me to flirt with them but my French is not up to it. We put a few francs on a horse. He sips some water. His weight is down to about 6 or 7 stone. We talk a little of the past. Mainly we just sit together. Watch the races. Watch the sun on the sea. Then he coughs into his handkerchief for some time. His eyes fill with tears from the strain. When he recovers he says: “I think we might go on toItaly”. “Ok, I will go toParisto see Andrew then”. “We should go back”. Zia Laura drives us back to the hotel near the promenade d’anglais. I help him upstairs. Later my mum comes to my room. “Can you help?” I enter their room. Packets of powdered food litter the sideboard. By this time he could keep virtually nothing down. I help to lift his tiny frame out of the bath. The last time I see him before going to Paris he is sitting in that hotel room getting ready to go to Italy and the next time I see him he is dead. I am fourteen years old. It is6amon a Saturday morning. For a moment dungeons and dragons, football, school and everything else is forgotten. The only things that matter are the warm sugared doughnuts. I can see a little of their jam filling oozing out, colouring the sugar. They are sitting in front of me next to my cup of tea. I glance up to make sure Dad is not around. He probably would not tell me off but I know the boss’s son should not be doing this. I know that I should take it into the office where the “men” won’t see. But I cannot help myself. I pick up a jam doughnut. Fat still drips off it. I dunk it in my tea. It is pure indulgence: warm, melting, sweet and smooth. And I made it. Dad comes out of the office. He looks big in his white coat, more than his 18 stone. Powerful arms begin to push racks and lift sacks to move jobs along; he issues orders, teases and criticises. He does not notice me. He is pursuing someone else; forcing the shift along. His face quickly reddens from the heat of the oven. This is his world. For most boys the journey around and beyond their father is the most difficult journey of all. We want to transcend the world they have made for us so that we can make our own because the great asked question of a boy’s life is: “Am I my Dad?” Now he spots me and smiles a little: “Come on Titch, stop dreaming”, he yells across the bake house for all to hear.
Sonhood continues here