My Father – The Cockney Barber & ‘Tall Tale Teller’! (Free of Charge)

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My father was an illiterate barber from the East End of London. He was a ‘street kid’, as a child, and, therefore, never formally educated – yet, despite this, he was naturally gifted in being able to ‘tell a tale’, ‘spin a yarn’ and make his customers laugh in a way that transformed him into a local legend who is still talked about today – three decades after his death! Please feel free to read some of his stories…

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I never once saw my father read any type of book or magazine, except for Playboy and Mayfair, and, even then, he only ever looked at the pictures! Therefore, when I informed him, as a young teenager, that I had started reading a biography about footballing legend, George Best, his instant response was, ‘Don’t waste your time, son! He’s just a drunken, Irish, waste of talent!’ Then, having thought about it for a split second longer, he added, “But, if you really want to know about ‘life’, then read Jack London!” Now, my father stemmed from Irish immigrant stock – three generations, all of whom had been employed in the Woolwich Arsenal manufacturing weapons to defend the furthest outposts of the British Empire. So, his referring to George Best’s nationality was hardly surprising, as, relatively speaking, they had been cut from a similar cloth. But, when it came to Best’s drinking habits, my father was being somewhat hypocritical as his love of Teacher’s Whisky over a weekend was the stuff of family legend and he would have made a pretty packet if he’d only been able to afford the price of a few hundred shares in its Glasgow-based distillery! But, I was puzzled by his third criticism. Was George Best really a ‘waste of talent’? Manchester United legend (1963 – 1974), European Footballer of the Year (1968) ‘The Fifth Beatle’ and a fashion and style icon – how could my father dismiss those types of achievements and tell me that, in actual fact, it wasn’t Best who knew about ‘life’, but Jack London? And also, I asked myself, “How could my father, then in his early fifties, a man who could barely read or write – and, by his own admission, had been made to wear a dunce’s cap in class at infant school – know enough about a long-since deceased American journalist and writer to say that it was he who really knew about ‘life’ and not a more recent and popular footballing genius?”

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