Novelist Raffaella Barker remembers her father, the poet George Barker, who was 52 when she was born

The last day out I had with my father was two months before he died. He had pounds 300 in his pocket, and we were going to spend it on a car. By sunset, we were penniless and jubilant. Dad was the owner of a gold Ford Cortina with a black go-faster stripe and a raunchy-sounding engine. He had always loved cars. When my brothers and sister and I were small, he perched us in a row along the bench front seat of his Sixties Mercedes and we slid to and fro all the way to Aylsham, shrieking for more speed, anticipating great treats. On our last day out together, I was struck by the unstoppable circle that is life; it was I now behind the wheel of a car, while he sat beside me demanding lemonade and ice-cream at pit stops, not strong enough now to drive himself very far.

My father died when he was 78. I was 26; my siblings were younger. He had already had three families when he met my mother. I cannot describe the experience of having an older father. I can only describe being my father's daughter. I never thought of him as being old. I did not notice it as I grew up. He was not irritable, nor was he intolerant of youth. He didn't play football with my brothers, but he made goblets out of the silver foil in cigarette packets and he mended our bicycle tyres, often with chewing gum and optimism when the puncture kit was missing. He taught us nonsense songs, and how to drink wine as if we were Italian (half-and-half with water). He watched Top of the Pops with us on Thursdays, and once caused me supreme mortification by suggesting to the woman in the school uniform shop that I should have a dress like Debbie Harry's punk plastic one. He came to my school sports day in a suede jacket, dark glasses and a black polo- neck, and sat smoking unfiltered cigarettes. He did not run in the fathers' race, but he looked like a spy, and my schoolmistresses twittered nervously when he glanced at them.

When I grew up and had children of my own, I became aware of the cobweb frailty of human existence. A baby shows you your own mortality with absolute clarity. I knew my father had become ill and was often in pain, although he never complained. His conversation remained vivid and acrobatic to the last, as did his self-mockery. "I really am a crashing old bore. Shut up, George," he would say, having recounted a tale. I understood that he was old now. The prospect of his death hung over me like an invisible cloud I could never bear to think about. However much you have anticipated it, you remain unprepared for loss. My father would be 83 now, which seems absurd. And, if he were here, he would be the first to agree

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

    £23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

    Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

    £14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

    Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower