Bernard Capper by Andy Capper


My dad is very much a “my way or the highway” person, which is apt in this case, as this story is about a highway, and how our failure to navigate one together brought us together in a spectacularly painful fashion.

It was a clear bright evening, in late Summer 1989 and it was time for me to learn to drive, he’d decided.

Our house in Southport, Merseyside was in a nice road near the sand dunes. It was a quiet collection of streets near to where Kenny Dalglish lived. My dad was friendly with him, and a few other people who worked at the club and we’d all gone together to those surreal memorial services at Anfield in the months since April.

It’d been a bad few months for everybody we knew. And on top of that I guess my relationship with my father was pretty strained because I was in 16-year-old punk rock skateboarder mode and he hated all my friends and everything we did together.

We were drifting apart quite rapidly as fathers and sons do at that age and I guess that the only thing that we loved doing together — going to the match — had become a thing that we weren’t going to do for a long time now, possibly ever again.

And I guess the driving lesson was something he’d come up with to try and bring some communication / bond between the two of us back.

I was a real dick who’d avoid spending any time with him whatsoever, mainly to avoid being yelled at about what I was doing with my life and being asked awkward questions.

But I couldn’t get out of this damn driving lesson as he’d sprung it on me with no prior warning and so I was in the car, half-bewildered at what was transpiring, concerned with not being questioned about my lifestyle choices, which were mostly based on reading interviews with people from Southern California in Thrasher Magazine and Minor Threat lyrics.

This could have explained my lack of concentration as we drove the Toyota Corolla gently around the corner from my house, not really paying any attention to which pedal did what.

Shortly before encountering the 90-degree bend in the road, I remember starting to enjoy the experience of driving and this made my attention to detail wander even further, feeling bolder and more carefree as I felt the car speed up beneath me.

I remember thinking that the house with the large tree in the front garden was coming up pretty fast in front of me and mild panic set in as my dad urged me to slow the car down “using the gears”. I had no idea what that meant.

As the house with the large tree in the front garden came ever closer, a sudden panic hit us both as it was clear I had no idea how to slow the car down “using the gears” and so he told me, quite urgently now, to “hit the break. HIT THE BRAKE.”

Looking down clueless at my feet was one of the last things I remember. I took a chance on what I thought was the brake pedal but hit the accelerator instead.

My dad tried to stop the car using the hand brake but our car smashed head on at around 40 miles per hour into the house with the large tree in the front garden’s front wall.

The impact was pretty bad and my face smashed clean through the windscreen. My dad was luckier, but nonetheless had blood pouring from his head as we both came to a couple of seconds after we crashed.

We both stumbled out of the car, and I remember mumbling epithets of pain and “I’m sorryyyy Daaaad” as he helped me across the road. Our car a total wreck in the front garden of some poor fucker’s front garden, smoke billowing from the crushed vehicle.

We rang the nearest door bell and a nice woman gasped in horror but then kindly let us into her kitchen whereupon I promptly fainted on her kitchen floor, my face a bloody mess, my clothes dripping with blood.

I remember awakening to her feeding me a glass of Ribena and feeling so, so sorry that I had totally ruined her day, my dad’s head, my own face, the car and the stranger’s front garden.

I had to have reconstructive surgery on my face shortly after the accident and I remember my dad tearing up as they led me away on the trolley to the operation room. Such was my worldview at the time, I remember thinking: “What’s up with him? This is pretty cool actually”.

But dad was so torn up with guilt at what he perceived he’d put me through he can’t even talk about it today without getting emotional. It kind of worked in my favour as he gave me a bit of a break for about three months.

Dad: if you ever end up reading this, don’t worry. I should have paid more attention. It was not your fault. The whole thing was on me.

Everything, even all the stuff I said and did in the following years to ruin your life; it was all on me.

Andy Capper is a journalist and film-maker who was born in Southport and now lives in New York City.