Sitting around the kitchen table at 5am, just me, my dad and a spicy chicken and pineapple pizza, we somehow got to talking about feeling sad. He and I did the talking. The pizza just lay there. We did most of our talking either while driving or sitting at the kitchen table in the middle of the night, my dad and I. Dad was a taxi driver. Night shift. He started at dinner time and worked til breakfast time depending on how much money he had or hadn’t made. Depends how you look at it. I worked in a nightclub. Dad would come collect me and drive me home after my shift. On the way, we’d pick up a spicy chicken and pineapple pizza from the shithole takeaway place round the corner but sometimes dad had already picked up the spicy chicken and pineapple pizza and so I’d sit with it on my lap all the way home. I never let on that the warmth of the car seat under my bum where the pizza box had been made me squirm. I’d sit quietly, praying cheese grease wasn’t soaking into my trousers. My trousers were soaked in stale beer anyway. They were stinking. I don’t know why I was bothered about a bit of cheese grease on the arse.
Dad said that sometimes, when you feel sad, there’s nothing else for it but to just go back to bed – fuck it. I agreed. ‘See. If ye need to go back to bed – then that’s alright. But it’s no’ alright if you’re going back to bed and thinking about bad things. What use is that? So. Hen, if you need to go back to bed, go back to bed, but only think about nice things.’ I thought this was a good rule and a pretty sound piece of advice. I didn’t think to ask my dad what nice things he might think about – but then I didn’t get much of a chance to wonder about the nice things I might think about either before he rounded off the conversation. ‘So. Whenever you feel sad, go back to bed – and just think about nice things. Like rolling down the hill at the caravan with Julie’.
Dads aren’t always great at noticing things or paying attention to the stuff you think they should be paying attention to. But knowing that my dad had looked out of the caravan window to see me hurtling down the hill, squealing and laughing with tufts of jaggy dried grass all in about my jogging bottoms and paid enough attention to notice that I was at my absolute happiest right then, well, that hits me hard. That he thought to remind me of it twenty-something years later is something else to say thanks for. That and the recurrent hankering for spicy chicken and pineapple pizza I get in the middle of the night sometimes.