My relationship with my dad wasn’t perfect. But, is anyone’s relationship with a parent perfect? Throughout his life my dad had many jobs, including; reporter, cab driver, photographer, web designer, newspaper editor, barman, computer programmer, milkman and many other occupations that I shall probably never know. I do know that he loved Chelsea Football Club (naming his own web design company CWD). He loved his cricket and was a member of the Marylebone Cricket Club. He loved reading novels by such authors as Wilbur Smith, Clive Cussler, Frederick Forsyth and the like. I had always been a lover of books and these novels, which I would read when dad was busy, probably are the reason that I got in to the authors that I like; Robert Ludlum, David Morrell, Eric Van Lustbader and many more.
I remember the odd visit, where he would take me to see his sister, Deirdre, and my cousins Sean and Katherine, in Nottingham, where I would spend the night or weekend. When there I remember an old book about the adventures of Robin Hood, (What else when staying in Nottingham?), which I would read at night. Or he would take me to Great Missenden to see his mum or his other sister, Maureen.
I also remember countless weekends hanging over the fence, at the end of our garden, waiting for him to arrive, many of which he didn’t show up for. Not that it stopped me from waiting in the cold or heat. The rain or snow. It must have driven my mum mad. Back then we didn’t have a house phone and mobiles were still a part of Star Trek, so there was no way of him contacting us. (Unless we were at nan’s house, as she had a bright red ‘Bat-phone’, as I called it.)
One of the earliest memories that does stick in my mind was a Bank Holiday Monday, where my dad took me to London. I don’t remember much about the day, except being around a crowd of people and my dad talking to lots of strangers, with cameras and notepads. It was years later that I found out that he had taken me close to Princes Gate. (The date having been May 5th, 1980, where the S.A.S. stormed the Iranian Embassy, to end the hostage situation.)
Another day out was to Euston Tower, London, to see the Capital Radio bus and meet the DJs. This was back when it was still ‘Capital Radio 194’. I remember getting a car sticker that dad let me keep, which I stuck to my bedroom window. I didn’t have the heart to tell my dad that I only listened to Radio 1, at the time, so I had o idea who anyone was.
I remember that my dad was very keen on photography, at one point, and arrived at my mums house to take my photo. I was still in my school uniform and remember being sat at tour pine dining table, with a hardback book, while my dad took my picture. (I believe my mum may still have the print.) Which reminds me: In 1976, when I was 4, Prince Charles came to Watford to officially open the Charter Place Shopping Centre. He arrived via helicopter, which landed in Cassiobury Park, where my dad and I were waiting. The only part of this event, that I remember, was my dad hoisting me on to his shoulders, handing me his camera (one of those big, heavy 35mm cameras with changeable lenses) and telling me to get a shot of ‘the future king’. Apparently, I managed to take one photo of the grass and one of someone’s legs. (Possibly those of Prince Charles, but I doubt it.)
There was also a trip to Ireland, where I spent a holiday with all of my cousins; Sean, Katherine, Amanda and Joshua. It was spent near Kenmare, Kerry, and was brilliant. Towards the end of the holiday, while my cousins and I were playing in the garden, of nannie’s bungalow, a car pulled up and out of it stepped my dad. The holiday just got a bit better.
Another memory which sticks in my mind, was when Watford Football Club had got through to the FA Cup Final, at Wembley, where they would be playing (and ultimately losing to) Everton. My uncle Ian and his then girlfriend, Debra, had cued up all night to get us tickets, when my dad called to say that he had got me a ticket. Of course, not appreciating what Ian and Debra had gone through, I opted to go with my dad. This didn’t go down well and so I went with my mum, uncle Ian, Debra and whoever else came along. The day is still vivid in my mind; We met at the Duke of York, Croxley, before heading to the tube station and making our way to Wembley. It was possibly my uncle Ian who gave me a beer on the train (I was only 14 at the time.) It had already been arranged that the following day, regardless of who won, my dad would pick me up from home and take me to see the Watford Football Club players, on their parade bus, down St. Albans Road. And, sure enough, he did. We stood in the R.A.C. offices, where he worked, and watched as the triumphant losers slowly passed us on the street below. (It turns our that it was fortuitous that I didn’t go to the match with my dad, as he was running late and missed much of the first half.)
Now, before we go any further, I was a fussy eater. If ever my dad, or mum, took me out for lunch it was difficult for them. If we went to McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Huckleberry’s, then I had to have a plain burger. That meant no onion, gherkin, special sauce, lettuce or tomato. I would only eat the burger in a bun. Forget Chinese or Pizza, too. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them. I hadn’t even tried not them not to like them. In 1986, I began taking Karate lessons under the tutelage of Sensei Andrew Moss. It was with him that I would try my first pizza. And it was lovely. Obviously, once my mum found out, I tried everything. Mum took me for a Chinese and suddenly my world opened up. Suddenly, Cream of Tomato Soup (Heinz, by the way) was not the only flavour! There were a myriad of foods that I tried and thoroughly enjoyed. So, you can imagine on a visit with my dad, soon after this, that when it reached lunchtime, my dad suggested a burger, to which I replied, ‘I would rather have a pizza.’ I can still see the look on his face, even now. We did go for a pizza that day, too.
Most trips, with my dad, ended up in London, which is probably why I love visiting the city so much. My first proper walk around London was from Aldgate to ‘The Blind Beggar’ pub. My dad had always been interested in the Kray’s and other aspects of East End London. But, we would also go to the Duxford Air Museum, Hendon Aviation Museum or one of the many museums in London. There were also occasions when I would spend the day with him at work. Sometimes I would sit in the cab office, making sure that the drivers had enough coffee and biscuits. Other times I might be out with him for an entire day, doing a multi-drop courier route, in a delivery van. One thing was always certain. We would invariably end up in a pub. Be it the Railway Arms, The Red Lion, The Tantivy, The Bedford Arms, The Coachmakers Arms, The Three Tuns or all others in between.
Sometime in the mid 80s, my dad, being a member of the MCC, suggested going to see a match at Lord’s. We chose one of the one-day internationals and we had a great day out. I met him in the Warner Stand, and it was from here that we watched the first half of the day’s play. During the lunch break, dad took me into the Pavilion itself, where I got to look at all the memorabilia, before he took me into the Long Room. It was while we were in the Long Room that the teams came out for the rest of the days play. It was a great moment, watching the England greats passing me, on their way to the field. We watched the rest of the match from the Tavern Stand. To make the day even better, we were seen on the highlights show, the following morning on BBC2.
In 1986, I had been out with dad for the day when he suggested going to the cinema. Having a look through the listings he suggested ‘The Fourth Protocol’, with Michael Caine, but he could tell that I wasn’t too interested in that. I suggested ‘Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’, to which he agreed. I know that he wasn’t in the slightest bit interested and had no idea about the previous movies, but it was a chance to show him what I liked. This was the first and last time we went to the cinema, together.
My dad had always had an interest in computers and worked for the Burroughs Corporation which, in 1986, bought the Sperry mainframe company. The two companies merged, becoming Unisys. He wrote programmes and software, for Unisys, until he was made redundant in the early 90s. I remember two of the buildings where he worked. The first was Astronaut House in Feltham, Middlesex. The second was the Octagon, in Slough. When Unisys first moved in to the Octagon, my dad was in charge getting the building ready to be occupied. This included the layout of the desks and tables. Partitions and offices. Power points and phone lines. One weekend we went to the Octagon, so that he could show me how it was shaping up. Seeing the open-plan floor gradually turning into a working office was quite cool. So-much-so that I got to set out an entire room, the way that I would like it. It takes some skill to create space from an empty room, while filling it up with furniture. But it was fun.
Like many people in the 1990s, my dad had trouble finding work, so he left the UK and headed for Prague, in the Czech Republic. He was soon working as a reporter for the Central European Business Weekly, before becoming the assistant editor for the Daily Sun, an 8-page glossy English language newspaper for ex-pats.
He visited me in 1995, when he came to see my daughter, his granddaughter, Alysha. In September of 1997 I travelled to Prague, with Alysha, to visit him. Although he spent most of the week working, he still spent time with us, showing us the sights. Charles Bridge, Wenceslas Square, Old Town Square, Prague Castle, Prague Zoo and more. Getting around Prague was fairly simple, as it only has three underground lines and a great tram and bus system. I think Alysha and I must have walked through the majority of the city, as there was no point in taking the train as we would miss everything. There were many pubs and bars that you could take food into, so feeding Alysha was no issue. My favourite pub, that we found, was O’Che’s. An old Cuban bar that had been bought by an Irish couple. The only change to the décor was the changing of a mural of Che Guevara. They simply repainted his shirt from red to green, Then we would go and explore, while he disappeared off to edit the paper. To fill up column space my dad wrote a few articles, throughout the week, about Alysha, which were amusing. I think my mum still has copies of these issues, which I will have to borrow. A couple of times we visited his office, which was small but, was more than enough for him and his colleagues.
A few years later, my dad moved back to England, staying with us for a while, before moving on. He took a job as a milkman, before going back to working for Luckett’s Taxi’s. I was working as a bouncer in Rickmansworth, at the time, and would travel to the Luckett’s office, after work on a Friday evening. My dad would be up in the office, while I was downstairs taking the bookings and making sure that the right passengers went in the correct order. It was fun and something different to do.
Pretty soon my dad moved to Bratislava, in Slovakia, to work on a number of newspapers, These were the Slovak Irish News (Editor), Slovak Irish Business Network (Executive Director) and Business Slovakia (Managing Editor). He conducted many sports interviews and reported on other areas, outside of his expertise, which led him to be part of the Press Tech. Staff at the Bush / Putin Summit in 2005. I did get to see him, on the occasional visit to England, but not very often.
In June, 2009, my dad suffered a heart attack or stroke, while in Bratislava, but was unaware of this himself. It was a friend of his that noticed that something was wrong. He flew back into East Midlands Airport in the middle of June, where he was taken, by his sister Deirdre, to A+E at the Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham. On June 25th, I travelled to Nottingham to see him. He had been given an operation to remove some blood clots near his heart and legs. He was scheduled for an operation to remove his legs, as the tissue had become necrotic, but his health had deteriorated too much to risk surgery. He was given antibiotics to help him, but this didn’t seem to work. I travelled to Nottingham, at least once a week, to see him and find out what his options were. The diagnosis wasn’t looking good. I went to see him on Saturday 11th July, where we discussed the double amputation, of his legs, that was scheduled for the 13th. Unfortunately, his heart wouldn’t stand the strain of a double amputation, so there was nothing that could be done for him, except to make him comfortable. My dad passed away on Sunday 19th July, with his mother and his sister Deirdre, by his side.
There are other memories that I have forgotten or omitted, but, in the end, I do have good memories of him.
Joseph Anthony Gerard Morrissey
January 31, 1951 – July 19, 2009