Every Remembrance Sunday we all troop up to London to watch my dad march in the Veterans' Parade. He used to be in the Fleet Air Arm and fought against the Japanese in the Pacific. Fortunately there was a war on, so this was legal - otherwise he could have got into trouble. I found being a goth frightening enough at that age, so God knows how he managed to keep it all together. I have an enormous respect for the fact that he did.
Recently I've been watching the fifth series of my favourite show of all time, Curb Your Enthusiasm. There's a great gag in one of the episodes about a Japanese guy whom the hero, Larry David, meets. The gag is that the Japanese guy's dad is a Second World War veteran and when Larry asks him what his dad did, the guy replies that he was a kamikaze pilot. Larry is obviously curious as to how you could be a kamikaze pilot and survive, and asks in his usual tactful manner: "Was he in his final dive on the target when he suddenly changed his mind and pulled up, only grazing the ship?"
I would have definitely been a ship grazer had the call ever come. I have a couple of friends who feel the same way as me and, when we meet, we often wonder if we are now too old to serve, should the country be suddenly thrown into another global conflict. The consensus is that, at over 40 years old, we're pretty safe. Hooray, only seven years to go... ish.
So, anyway, we're standing in St James's Park opposite Horse Guards Parade. We're watching my dad march past and I'm trying to explain to Parker what this is all about and how she should be very proud of her granddad. I'm also trying to explain the point of Prince Andrew, the Duke of Golf to her. He's standing on a dais not far from us. This turns out to be a far trickier question.
Occasionally, someone in the crowd around us recognises me and leans in, whispering that it would be very inappropriate for me to answer my big mobile or don a large squirrel costume at this event. I desperately try to reassure them that I'm here for the right reasons, but I can see them start to nudge others, indicating to them that it might be necessary to restrain me if I start acting up. One of them even goes up to a policeman and starts gesturing towards me. I know that I've brought all this hassle upon myself, but I would love a day off occasionally.
So it was with some relief that my dad peeled off from the parade and we all headed off to our other annual ritual - a slap-up lunch at Simpson's-in-the-Strand. I don't visit these great English institutions very often. It's a great excuse to turn up and stuff my face while surrounded by the ever-increasing soap opera that is my extended family.
I was sitting next to my dad's first wife, who is one of my favourite women in the world, and a true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool eccentric. She never eats much and loves getting doggy-bags to take home for both her and her numerous doggies. This has never been a problem in countless other restaurants all over the country. In Simpsons, however, it was slightly more complicated. When she made the request, the senior waiter suddenly appeared with a form to fill out. In it she would legally waive her rights to sue Simpson's, should she become ill after eating any of the food that we might take home and eat at a later date.
I must have looked particularly dumbfounded as he started to explain to me, rather patronisingly, that food has bacteria in it that can go off after a couple of days and could then make someone ill. No, really?
I explained to him that we were fully aware of how food could go off as we were all intelligent grown-ups - a couple of us even had degrees. I did, however fail to properly explain the ludicrousness of our being here to honour my dad risking his life to fight for a country that now made us sign legal waivers in order to be able to remove food from a restaurant.
"It's a mad, mad world out there," is what my dad used to say - and I'm starting to agree with him.Reuse content