This week, if he was still alive, my father would have been 80 years old. We’ve marked the milestone with a pint or two of Guinness and fulsome toasts to him.
I’ve been thinking about Dad a lot recently, trying to pass on some of his prodigious wit and wisdom to my children, both of whom were too young to have known him when he died.
Dad was a dapper man, who wore a well-cut suit to work and never owned a pair of jeans. However, some time in the late 1970s he flirted with what might be termed communist worker chic. He bought himself a navy anorak “for hacking around in.”
It was a utilitarian, padded affair, with a zip up the front. It was probably waterproof. It was unlovely and unfashionable, and Dad wore it into the ground.
For years Dad’s navy anorak was his go-to coat for any and every eventuality. He wore it to the rugby, to mass, to walk the dog and even once — to my mother’s consternation — to parents’ night at our school.
The anorak gradually lost any lustre it once may have had and became the very model of lived-in. But still Dad loved it and stubbornly wore it even with the indelible stains and fraying edges. Meanwhile, Mum’s dislike of the navy anorak steadily grew and she would urge him to get rid of it.
On one of the anorak’s last outings Mum, Dad and I headed into Kingston for a spot of shopping. I was about 14 and, like Dad, loathed shopping so I joined him sitting on an upholstered bench in the Bentalls’ ladieswear department, kicking our heels while Mum was trying on clothes.
A man came over to the bench and sighed deeply as he sat down next to us. Dad nudged me. “See that?” he said, pointing an elbow towards our neighbour. “He’s wearing my anorak.” Sure enough, he was wearing the same anorak as Dad, albeit a slightly less battered version. He nudged the man: “Nice anorak,” he said.
The man looked up and it was Roy Kinnear. He looked Dad up and down and started to laugh. “My wife hates it,” he said. “So does mine,” said Dad. And that was the start of a conversation about all things anorak that had the two of them in stitches.
By the time Mum came back to claim us both men were slapping their knees and crying with laughter.
Henceforth, any criticism of the navy anorak was countered with, “Roy Kinnear’s got one just like it.” It had a stay of execution, and Dad and I privately referred to it as “The Kinnear.” However, not even fame by association could save the navy anorak from its own personal Waterloo.
Out shopping for ski gear for my first school trip abroad, my parents and I bumped into a classmate and her well-groomed parents. Very unusually for him, Dad hadn’t shaved that day and had paired the anorak with his threadbare allotment trousers. As we left the house Mum had warned that he looked like a down and out, but he shrugged it off because we were only going to C&A.
My classmate’s father took one look at mine and assumed he’d fallen on hard times. Hence an awkward phone call later that day from her mother asking if there was anything they could do to help us out. My mother binned the anorak.
Gone, but not forgotten, the anorak lives-on in memories. Every time he saw Roy Kinnear on television Dad would say, “He’s got my anorak.” The other night my husband raised an eyebrow as I pointed at Rory Kinnear and said, “His dad and my dad had the same anorak, you know.”