Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Happy 200th Birthday Charles

During my early childhood, I remember my father as a no frills rather stern Yorkshire man. If you have seen Wilfred Pickles' portrayal as Tom Courtney's father in the 1963 film Billy Liar you will get the picture of what my father was like. Keith Waterhouse's Billy Liar was about a young man Billy Fisher who wanted to follow his dream. The problem for him was he had so many dreams he got badly lost not knowing which one to follow and eventually dreams and reality got somewhat blurred much to the disgust of his father who thought his son was 'going soft in the bloody head.'
When I got older my father drummed it into me to get a proper job. A proper job, by definition, meant 'get a trade behind you.' A trade meant only one thing, a 'factory job.' During and after the industrial revolution, when mill owners reaped a king's ransom elevating their status to that of the ruling class, in contrast to the post war years when skilled workers were able to earn money beyond what was needed for basic needs.
Dad enjoyed a good book. He read Harold Robbins' novels like 'A Stone for Danny Fisher' which I loved, and Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer series and all of the James Bond books which really didn't do anything for me. I have no idea what he thought of the writers. I can only hazard a guess that writing would not have been a 'proper job' by his estimation.
But going back to my earlier years, I have fond memories of Dad reading to me. I can only ever recall him doing this twice, on consecutive Christmas Eves. He read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Sat in a dimly lit room by the coal fire, my sister and I were transfixed by Dad actually reading to us. I doubt if he would have read more than a chapter or two, but the magic of Dickens has never left me.

Dickens will live on to take future generations back in time to his era. He was a great social historian that understood the plight of the poor at a time when social deprivation was considered a scurge on the nation and paupers were treated like criminals. 
David Copperfield, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations were amongst  my personal favourites.
I try to imagine going to see the man perform at his public readings to packed houses, wherever he went. A true Rockstar Superstar of his time, and will remain so for many generations to come.
Happy 200th Birthday Charles Dickens.