My father has taught me many things. Many explicitly. Others with a glance or soft word. A few, with no more than a flick of the eyes. Some, and maybe the most precious, wordlessly. Above all though, he has taught me patience. To strive and search for something. To wait for an experience. To savour. On a few occasions, he took me to a cave. A magical place, of seclusion and repose. I’ve not been there for over a decade, but I remember it well. Distinctly.
As many fathers and sons feel about each other, I know my Dad of old, and him, me, or at least I hope so. We share memories. Though time flies ever onward and upward, of all my many recollections of him, my mind’s eye casts back to my first pair of walking boots, of supple brown leather, and the Lakeland walks we trod together. Those clod-hoppers felt like armour. Kitted up, I most keenly remember the walks over Langdales in the Lake District. ‘Over the Policeman’s helmet’, as my Dad said, ‘then down the scree to the cave’. The cave. That exotic promise of seclusion and ownership. A shared space.
My father is a storyteller. At the cave, when I was a few less years than ten, he would tell me about the ancient craftsmen there who honed axeheads to trade with far-off nations. Of folks who could temper precise tools from the rocks within their grasp, and discard any hunks not worthy of their working down in to the chasm below. Casting them down the scree, without a second thought . At the time, I recall being only hungry and tired, but nevertheless aware of something. A skill. An ability to weave a tale, and pass that tale on to others. An enthusiasm he posessed. As if by osmosis, I think I must have absorbed this, and I seek to pass it on to the pupils that I teach in my job. As an English teacher in a Secondary School I encounter receptive minds, and try to fill them with inspiration. With a sense of a tale well told.
To return to the cave, though, when I was little. After long minutes and hours we would reach a steep gully and descend to the ‘scree’. Scree. At Seven years, an unfamiliar word, but soon recognised as a scramble downwards that was half wading, half surfing through loose shale and knappings to reach a haven of solid rock in the form of a triangular cave. I recall every inch of that place. My Dad was in the process of reading ‘Lord of the Rings’ to me, and I felt sure that Gollum was near. Lurking. I kept away from the edges of the place.
We would sit, Dad and I, with legs dangling from the cave floor, and look at the landscape, eating lunch. Look only for a while, though. There was axehead- seeking to be done. Searching for worked, knapped edges in the tide of stone. Echoes of the past. We found a lot. One axehead bruised my bum as we slid downwards, I recall, and my Dad was delighted with the discovery of a very fine workmanship. It is now preserved in a specimen cabinet in his verandah. After scouring the slopes for discoveries, what followed was a strange Cossack dance further downward, delving heels in to a free flowing stream of rock to skid in to the valley and stop at a stone-flagged, gloriously warm pub.
I owe a great debt to my father. I have written this Tom Tide blog for a little over a year now, and often after midnight in the deep quiet. It is a collection of musings and recollections from many years. 33 to be exact. With this particular entry, I want to acknowledge the pivotal role that my Dad has played in forming my creative self. He taught me how to look and appreciate. How to see my surroundings. As if as a printing woodblock, he gave me a pattern to follow and flourish from. I am forever grateful for this, Dad. Thank you.
© Tom Tide 2016