They say you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but I feel that this needs to be expressed in forthright and direct terms. My father died on the 1st April 2017 and was apparently cremated on the 28th April 2017. I got this information from a third-party website and latterly confirmed by a relative via Facebook. No-one could be bothered to tell me that my father had died. No-one had the decency to treat me like a human being. I had to find out this information for myself. Thanks Google!

Me & My Dad

Even though we had been estranged for many, many years – he was still my father and over that time I had tried to reach out to him and build bridges. I wanted nothing more than a civil relationship bordering on “normality” but this was never to be. All my attempts came to nought. I redoubled my efforts when his grandchildren came into the world, but even that proved futile. He had no interest in us at all and this was all the more evident at his passing.

When you have children yourself, your perspective immediately changes and you see faults in your own parents that were not there before. I could never understand someone who had no interest in their children or even their grandchildren. With my kids, I want to keep them close and being a continued influence in their life – through thick and thin. It’s what makes you human and a nurturing parent.

The relationship between my father and my mother was never an easy one – I guess you could describe it as tempestuous. One story I remember my grandparents telling me was about the time they were babysitting me while my mum had a well-earned night out with her girlfriends. Instead of everything going smoothly, my father rocks up drunk, accuses my nan and granddad of kidnapping me, gets into a fist fight with my granddad before returning later with a police officer from the old Leyton Police Station in Francis Road to arrest them. Thankfully, the junior police officer (who was ginger, my grandfather always remarked when joined in the story) saw what was happening and advised my father to go home and sober up.

Another memory I have is going to a Donkey Derby (remember them) with my mum and nan when I was very young. It was held at the Draper’s Field Recreation Ground in Leyton High Road, heading towards Stratford. It was a great day and I’d had lots of fun, but as we were waiting for the bus back home, who should stop at the traffic lights but my father in a car with his mistress sitting beside. This was enough to set my mother off like a rocket. She somehow found half a house brick and valiantly tried to lob it at him, but she missed. As you can imagine, she was in a right old state and it ruined the day out for us all.

His excuse was that his relationship with female co-worker was platonic. They were just good friends. That’s his story and he was sticking with it.

My dad eventually left when I was around seven years old. This was in the late 1970s and things were different back then. Single parent families were regarded as an oddity and I suddenly found myself facing the ire of the neighbourhood kids who were once my friends. I was “The Bastard” who had no dad (even though I did) but once he was gone, it was something for them to throw at me. So I retreated and I hid and I made up stories about what my dad was doing so that when we had to write about family life at school, I had a plentiful supply of material to feed them.

The problem with Alan J Lock was his habitual lying. He’d make promises to me and never keep them on a consistent basis. He travelled the world as a steward on British Caledonian airlines and was never at home. Being at home seemed unpleasant for him, so I was constantly promised that he would return. There were some good times obviously, he often took me to the cinema when I was young and it was with him that I saw the original Spider-Man movie (with Nicholas Hammond) and latterly Superman.

In those days in the cinema, they never emptied the place at the end of the movie and so when my dad fell asleep, I got to watch the film again. They were different times. But I remember when Star Wars came out, he promised he’d take me only to see the queue at the cinema and turn on his heels. That was when the rot set in. And I’d told all my friends at school that my dad was taking me to the cinema only for it never to have happened. And so I lied, I told them I saw the film and did my best to pretend I’d seen it, cribbing plot points from a Star Wars comic series I was reading, which deviated somewhat from the actual movie.

As the time went by, the broken promises built up and eventually you become numbed to the whole affair. You stop becoming upset, you stop crying because you miss your dad, you just exist in this vacuum, pretending that you don’t need him. The bottom line is that son’s need their fathers. If we’d have seen Star Wars together we’d have learnt that lesson together.

But he wasn’t that good to us back then. He was an habitual liar, a heavy drinker and I saw him beat up my mother on numerous occasions. Her black eye, a reward for a drunken argument escalated to punches and slaps.

“I walked into a door”

I heard that line half a dozen times.

To be fair, they were both as bad as one another at times and his treatment of my mother turned her into a firebrand psychopath. After rolling with the punches, she fought back and subsequently pushed him to the edge of madness. Trust me, the female of the species are deadlier and more devious than the male. Her tactics were to fuck around with him: phone up his work and cancel his rota, leave personal items in the middle of the night on his doorstep, make anonymous phone calls. I found myself being roped into the phone calling with my mother forcing me to phone up his work from the call box in Hainault Road. There, she made me push the change into the slot and then ask tearfully “Is my daddy there?” – the tears were real and it took me many years in adult life before I could talk on a telephone without coming out in a cold sweat and hanging up.

But when you read the eulogies and memories of this man, he was a great guy. Sure – he gave my mother an STD (though he always claimed it was the other way around – yet she wasn’t the one galavanting around the world). When he left to make home with his British Caledonian best friend, we were expected to just deal with it. But then he did manage to hold down a relationship with his mistress for the rest of his adult life and raise a daughter. So maybe the problem really was US? Maybe we really were THAT bad, after all.

When I was eleven years old, he visited for the last time – although we didn’t know it then – and promised me that he was coming back, that he was returning home and that we’d all be a family again soon. All lies as per usual – his cover blown when my mother “accidentally” saw him attending his brother’s wedding at St John’s Church Leytonstone and he was accompanied by his mistress who was now heavily pregnant. This all happens while my mother and father were still married, his daughter born out of wedlock, a lie he covered up by getting his mistress to take on my mother’s name (Yes, she became Mrs Linda Lock and we used to joke at home regularly about getting “the real Mrs Linda Lock” to stand up) – though they were never properly married until 2000 – six years after my mother eventually divorced him in 1994. I wonder if they ever explained any of that to my half-sister, Ann-Marie? If they didn’t, I just did. Oh what an utter cunt I am. No the truth comes out, it always does.

And so, my relationship with my father was destroyed by this news. It was the ultimate betrayal, to start up a new family, while lying to me that he was coming back. I didn’t want to see him anymore. How could I? I’d receive the same cloying birthday and Christmas card, filled with the same old syrupy sentiment, but never any presents or even cash. And before anyone asks, my mother always let me open my own mail – that was our level of trust. He left us destitute, refusing to pay any child maintenance (of course, he denied all this when I asked him about it later on – the payments must have gotten lost in the system!) – instead he invested in his new family. And rightly so, but while I was having to sell my old toys to get new Christmas presents, my half-sister got everything she wanted and many trips to Disneyland. I’m not bitter. It’s just what happened.

In a weird quirk of fate, while my nan and myself were visiting the City of London Cemetery to tend the graves of my great-grandparents, we actually bumped into my father, his mistress and my baby half-sister in her walker. My grandmother had to escort me from the cemetery because the sight of them caused some kind of panic attack. Oh how we laughed about it years later…

I remember once, when I was walking with my peers from Norlington School to the County Ground for our weekly rugby lesson, I saw my father as he was visiting his own brother Leslie in Grosvenor Road. I stared at him as he sat in his car and he took exception to this, communicating to my mother that I had sworn at him. At that time, I was wearing a brace on my teeth, so even when I smiled it looked like I was in a permanent sneer on the verge of delivering a labio-dentive fricative.

When I finally did meet up with him in 1993, I was 22 and decided that I should try and put that side of my life right. My grandmother had just died the previous year and it made me realise that time isn’t on our side and that I should try and fix things. So I wrote him a letter and we met up, but he rushed me into meeting my half-sister and then wanted me to meet his family and it all got too much for me. It was intense. After about three weeks of spending time with him, he sent me a “Dear John” letter telling me that we should take some time apart.

I made no demands on him. There were no “black moods” or “silences” – the only black moods came from him. Suffice to say, I never heard anything from him again. I was hurt – I had opened up to him and this was all I got. I was just a bitter, unforgiving person – when I was trying to tell him how frustrated I was with how my life was going and how I felt about what had happened between him and my mother. I thought we had a connection, but he didn’t see me for who I was, he saw someone else – someone I don’t recognise. When he did give me a little bit of money, I spent it on Gameboy games and gave them all to my half-sister. The Missus will attest to that, she was there the whole time, even when we visited them at their home in Kent.

So I retreated with my tail between my legs and got on with my life. Worked hard, had a bit of a career, got married and years later, by accident, our paths crossed again via email. I kept suggesting we meet up, but he always rebuffed me. When Verity was born, I made concerted efforts to repair things – I thought it important he see his grandchildren and be part of their lives. But again, nothing came of it.

I kept badgering him via email over the years and at one point he told me to “Let him die in peace”, which I thought was a bit melodramatic, but after my mother died and he tried to blame my grandmother for the failure of his marriage, I left him alone. I realised he saw the world entirely differently to me. He was a blameless soul, it was everyone else, NOT HIM!

When you find yourself in the middle of adulthood, sliding towards middle-age and you know what your responsibilities are – you realise that this person is not like you at all. So you leave them well alone in the hope that they one day grow up – that they might “see the light”. I guess he never did. He never liked it that I wouldn’t wholly “forgive and forget” the misery he had put us through as a family. I don’t see why I ever should. When you make a mistake, you live with it – you learn to own it. It’s your mistake, you made the decision.

And that brings me to my final jibe – my maternal grandfather was a man of few words but when he spoke, you listened. On telling him that I’d seen my father in 1993, he turned to me and asked: “Has he grown up yet?”

By posting this, I’ve probably made myself look terrible, but it is here for record, this is cathartic, this is unloading some baggage. It is here so that my kids can read back and see what went on. It is a record of events how I experienced them. This is my truth…