• Lizzy Shannon

Paternal Plunging

Here is one of those Dad stories I promised. This happened during the summer of 2005, just after he had knee replacement surgery and I flew over from the States to look after him. And, coincidentally, it includes the sock-yelling I referred to in my last post!

My older brother Steve and sister-in-law Moya came over from Inverness in Scotland to visit while I was there. They arrived on Friday and seemed just the distraction Dad needed. As in the past, one-on-one I get along fine with Dad, but bring a third party in and the dynamics change. Dad suddenly became fractious, bad-tempered, and gave me the cold shoulder throughout the visit. Well-used to this treatment, I was only slightly irritated but mostly amused. I had dinner ready for us all when Steve and Moya arrived and afterward, we finished up the wine and caught up - we haven't seen each other since Mum's death. in 2003. We had a really enjoyable evening, and I got Dad off to bed in good time and in reasonable temper.

The next day, however, was another matter. altogether. For the first time since getting out of hospital Dad rose earlier than me. I was immediately in the doghouse for not having breakfast ready, and not having fetched the morning paper. Then Steve and Moya took the dogs out alone giving me a break. (Dad could not for the life of him understand why one would want a break from those two spoiled dogs!) I was lurking in my bedroom when I heard a long string of curse words from Dad's room. I listened in case he needed help, but he was only shouting at his socks.

"Damn and blast you, you bastards!" Then he apparently shouted at the window. "Fucking close, will you?!"

After that, any inanimate object was fair game.:

"I can NEVER ... find a bloody THING!"

"Who stole my fucking shoes?"

"Jesus Christ, damn your soul!"

After another few minutes of this I heard an almighty crash so went in to see if he was all right. "I'm spilling water everywhere," he complained, so I cleaned it up, poured him a fresh glass and beat it out of there on the double. The man is highly educated and intelligent and I love him dearly, but he has always been temperamental and rather fond of Anglo-Saxon vocabulary.

When he was settled with his favorite soup in front of a rugby match on television, Steve and Moya invited me out to lunch. We went to our usual bar in Newcastle, Rooney's, which sits on a corner looking out over Newcastle beach. The building has been many things since, the last being an Indian restaurant, but has recently been bought by Brunel's next door, although presumably because of COVID-19, nothing's been done with it yet.

This day in 2005, however, was not to be the quiet lunch we sought. A Scottish pipe band festival was being held in town that weekend, and the streets were choked with traffic and a huge influx of plaid-clad tourists. It also coincided with Live 8 and the 20th anniversary of Live Aid. These blared from a huge television in the bar, competing with the bar music being piped through the system.

"What are you's havin'?" yelled the friendly young waitress.

"A Bloody Mary, please," I told her.

Her hand flew to her mouth. "Oh, Gawd! I don't know how to make them!"

I quickly explained and the three of us attempted to relax with our drinks. The combating music made it impossible, so we eventually moved to a different part of the bar away from the television. That was quieter and we began to unwind ...

... until a few minutes later when a family entered and sat near us. An older woman, a younger one, (obviously the mother of the two young children), her husband, and an elderly man. The young woman wore what was the height of fashion at the time. A gypsy-style skirt but slung low so it only covered the pubic and buttock area. A bright scarf was attached to the 'waistline', giving a Turkish effect. Even on the slimmest, model-like female, this fashion looked appalling!

"That's just not right," said my brother, who never passes remarks about such things.

Then one of the children made a call on her flip cell phone, and screamed into it at the top of her young voice. She was so loud that we couldn't hear each other.

"Sorry, Steve, I can't HEAR you over the RACKET!" I'd bellow.

"WHAT?" he'd bellow back at me, but to no avail. The family was oblivious. He lit up a cigarette (has since successfully given it up) and we encouraged him to blow the smoke toward the family.

Our waitress returned. "Everything okay?"

We asked if she could turn down the volume on the children and she collapsed in giggles. When we ordered paté as appetizers, she said, "Jesus, I don't know how you can eat that stuff, I hate it."

During lunch we became aware of a low droning noise. It grew louder and rhythmic tapping began. A tuneless, awful sound began along with clacking of feet, and we came to the horrible realization that the children were thumping about loudly to the out-of-tune torture of their grandfather's humming.

"Right, finish up - we're leaving," ordered Moya.

"Too right," we agreed.

When we got home, Dad was obviously annoyed at being left alone. "These plants need watered," he snapped at me.

"Okay." I lifted the water jug he had ready and headed to water them.

"Not like that! They need soaked."

I couldn't soak them in the kitchen sink as Moya was getting dinner ready for that night, so I lifted all twelve of the plants and put them in the bathtub.

"Only some of them need watered," growled Dad.

"Which ones?" I asked.


"I don't know!" He flounced (as best one can on crutches) away and disappeared into his room for a while.

We three had a pre-dinner drink and relaxed. Again.

After dinner I brought the plants one at a time to Dad. "Does this one need watered?" I asked cheerfully.

He'd 'yes' and 'no' appropriately, and finally the job was done. I'd forgotten how difficult things could be when Dad's out of humor. But the good thing was that he must have been feeling better if he was that bad-tempered again!

I knew he was improving when I had to confiscate the toilet plunger from him last week. One of the toilets was blocked and we borrowed a neighbor's plunger to see if we could clear it before Steve and Moya's visit. It was entirely the wrong shape for this toilet, and it didn't take rudimentary physics to realize this. But Dad insisted I try anyway. Always obliging, I moved some water about and made a splashing noise with it, but naturally there was no suction, so nothing happened. Leaning on his crutches, Dad snatched the plunger and rammed it in and out of the toilet, splattering water over the walls and carpet. And over me! I saw Dad was quickly tiring so I took it away from him.

Later, I was working at my computer and I heard a slosh, slosh noise from across the house. "Are you PLUNGING?" I bellowed, then looked up through the open window in front of me to see three startled workmen gaping at me from the neighbor's roof. Blushing, I got up to investigate the sound, and sure enough, Dad had covered the bathroom in water again.

"You're going to exhaust yourself to no end," I told him firmly, and hid the plunger in my room. He spent the rest of the evening surreptitiously searching for it, and only found it the next morning when I was out getting the papers! We ended up having to call a plumber, and that, as they say is another story!