Some­times what he taught you isn’t as im­por­tant as what he didn’t

Some­times, a man’s most valu­able lessons are the ones he learns on his own

Men's Health (South Africa) - - HEALTH - BY TU­DOR CARADOC-DAVIES

To Do DIY. It just wasn’t in his skillset. Try as he might, he would lose screws, hit his head and lose his shit. Then he would call in the pros. This taught me to un­der­stand my lim­i­ta­tions – to this day, when I know my time is bet­ter spent on things I am good at, I’ll out­source stuff that takes me too much time, or that I’m likely to mess up. That said, I still like to take apart the odd gizmo.

To find the G-spot. Granted, dis­cussing vagi­nas in depth is not some­thing you re­ally want to get into with your old man. Sex ed at school, the in­ter­net and over­heard con­ver­sa­tions from guys who had “done it” pro­vided the the­ory. Prac­tice, well, came with prac­tice. With my dad, he was al­ways there at the awk­ward mo­ment in Red Shoe Di­aries when the kit came off.

To dance. Learn­ing to cut a rug was some­thing I learnt the hard way, usu­ally boozed, bust­ing out the sprin­kler to the Rene­gade Master, re­ly­ing on the strobe to make me look half de­cent. I still can’t re­ally dance, but I’m bet­ter at pre­tend­ing when I have to and I al­ways have some rock ‘n roll moves down pat for wed­dings. The Oc­to­pus? Child’s play.

To cup­cake a vic­tim with a fart. I learn that on my own, at Wiz­ard School, De­fence Against the Dark Arts class.

To gauge the dif­fer­ence be­tween a friendly chirp and an out­right in­sult. I was a de­fen­sive teen, prone to see­ing of­fence in ev­ery com­ment. It took leav­ing my home­town and go­ing into res at univer­sity to teach me that the vast ma­jor­ity of stuff is said in good hu­mour. As for the rest? Who cares?

To tackle and be tack­led. No­body can ever re­ally teach you how to take the full im­pact of some­one else’s charg­ing torso at­tempt­ing to oblit­er­ate you. Sim­i­larly, I needed to learn how to do it my­self through trial and er­ror, and by just throw­ing my­self into it.

To fun­nel beer through a dead bar­bell so that you have a spike in your hand for years to come. My dad had days of ex­cess for sure, but sys­temised, or­gan­ised drink­ing was not part of the scene.

To tweet and spend time on Face­book. He was too busy do­ing real-world things with real-world friends. I have a kind of nos­tal­gia for a time I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced; a time where a com­puter screen or phone did not dom­i­nate my vi­sion on any given day.

To ac­cu­mu­late so much stuff. Sports gear, shoes, elec­tric gad­gets, hard drives full of mu­sic. At my stage my old man had just what he needed. Even to this day, though suc­cess­ful, he will only ever buy him­self some­thing when ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary, like when a shirt has too many holes. I’m work­ing on that: need­ing less.

To boo op­pos­ing teams at sports games. He comes from the gen­er­a­tion where postscor­ing histri­on­ics did not ex­ist, where pun­dits were mea­sured gents like Bill McLaren, where the man­u­fac­tured emo­tion and out­rage of sport had not yet been dreamt up, and where the crowd re­spected both teams and the ref. Some­how, over time, boo­ing and abus­ing sports stars and refs has be­come a thing that is funny or vaguely okay to do. I can’t stand it – though at home I might throw a Nik-Nak at the TV when the Boks im­plode again.

To be­come fi­nan­cially lit­er­ate. He’s an ac­coun­tant by trade, a num­bers guy who can scan a bal­ance sheet and no­tice a mis­take in sec­onds. That’s just not me. I have al­ways leaned to­wards words and images. For some rea­son sit­ting down to do maths home­work with him, I could nei­ther un­der­stand his lan­guage nor con­trol my tem­per. I wish it was oth­er­wise.

To do ab­so­lutely any­thing with com­put­ers, phones or any other tech. For an in­tel­li­gent man, I still can’t work out why he can­not grasp the ba­sics prin­ci­ples of copy, paste. In­stead it’s al­ways, “Go to X web­site and look at the ar­ti­cle.”

To be flash. When it comes to money, my old man has al­ways gone for the dis­creet over the loud, to favour sub­tlety over shout­ing.

To drive like a hooli­gan. For as long as I can re­mem­ber, my old man has driven a car care­fully and with­out ego. As I get older and closer to hav­ing kids of my own, it’s dawned on me why that is.

To ex­pect too much from any­one. It’s not that my dad was ever overly neg­a­tive about other peo­ple, but he al­ways pre­ferred to tem­per re­al­ity with op­ti­mism so when things work out, he is pleas­antly sur­prised rather than ex­pect­ing the world and be­ing let down. His favourite say­ing is “throw your bread out on the wa­ters and it might come back sand­wiches,” which I’ve adopted, and to this day it has stood me in good stead in busi­ness, friend­ship and love.

MY OLD MAN AND THE SEA The au­thor’s dad in­stilled in him a love for fish­ing.

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