My dad doesn’t believe in heroes really. Heroic acts maybe, but heroes? No. I consider him heroic though. His whole life has been a series of small heroisms. He bugged out of Taunton at 16, ditching the promise of factories and falling out of the same old pubs for new pubs and the Navy. He got on the train with some changes of underwear and a couple of Mars bars. His dim memories of childhood would be sketched out by someone more self-obsessed – me, for instance – into a misery memoir. His father left when he was young, his sister was killed on the road, he was one of four brothers scrumming for the attention of his put-upon mother.
As grim as Taunton in the early-70s was, leaving was still heroic. He was jumping from familiar tedium into the unknown. He’d quit the army cadets at school after one session because he wasn’t going to have an acne-splattered adolescent telling him what to do. Now there he was on a train, headed for the Navy and real orders from grown up men, so young that when he got there and they expected him to shave, he had to pretend.
My mum was in the Royal Navy too and met my dad when he was dancing in a night club with a cardboard cut-out of a Babycham girl. “Wouldn’t you prefer a real woman?” He did. And they’re still together now, having raised one son (that’ll be me) and given a home to a string of beloved rescue dogs. The latest being Barney, a big, boisterous Dalmatian who my dad has spent the summer teaching to swim.
I don’t think I could make some of the decisions my dad has in his time. When he and my mum returned to their married quarters one day in 1982, they were greeted with a message on the door – he was to report to his ship immediately and get the medical bay ready for war. The Falklands War was about to begin and, having returned early from his trip, my dad could have ducked it. He didn’t. He went and while he was there several of his friends were caught up in the tragedies on the Antelope and the Ardent. Dad came back unscathed more by luck than judgement.
It’s my mum and dad who taught me to stand up to bullies and to be kind and generous. Dad has always encouraged me to write and also does me the kindness of telling me when my work isn’t up to scratch. A compliment from him is always genuine. When he’s critical, I know he’s doing it for the right reasons.
I’m proud to say my name is Michael Wright. It’s my dad’s name too
(Mic Wright is a writer and journalist. He tweets too much as @brokenbottleboy. He lives in Dublin.)
(Michael Wright is a consultant, chef and retired Royal Navy Medic. He lives in Bollington.)