My Father’s First Love
My Father, Peter John Nash was born in Reading, the same town as my Mother. His parents met in Germany at the end of World War 2. They returned to England to live with extended family in a small house in the village of Sonning-On-Thames, now the home of George and Amal Clooney. He was an only child.
My Grandmother was German, her name was Edith. She was meticulously turned out, a classy lady who worked hard to send my Father to private school. My Grandfather, Roy was working class, a Londoner, he was a painter decorator.
Growing up, I heard the name Sally Bennet, but I never met her. Sally is still in contact with my parent’s friends. So I managed to get her email address, I was excited to speak with her about who my Father was all those years ago. She sounded friendly and open through our email exchanges.
When we started the call, Sally began telling me how she knew my Father from a very young age, they lived in the same village, rode their bikes everywhere and had a very idyllic childhood. She had fond memories of my Grandparents and Great Grandmother, who was a matriarchal scary figure. She talked about their strong faith in the Christian Science church and if Sally complained of having a headache, Gran would ask her about any wrong doings and tell her to pray!
Sally and my Father dated on and off from the age of 15, for about 5 or 6 years, a long time. I was amazed to hear how Sally had been on family holidays with my Father at the age of 16 and that she would share a bedroom with my Gradmother, Edith! She talked very highly of my German Grandmother and pronounced her name correctly, ‘Edit’ She said how she had some class and high standards. She remembers delicious food and biscuits being shared and how she used to wash Peter’s shirts and get them so perfect and white.
And my German Grandmother was like this, a true perfectionist. Everything was incredibly clean and organised in her house.
Sally referenced different trips she had taken with my Father, I was surprised how adventurous they were all those years ago. She said they took a trip to Paris once and she had cut her hair short. She said, your Father hated so much that he her bought her a hair piece to clip on while they were there. Interesting, I thought, my Mother always had short hair!
Sally described my Father as being kind and thoughtful, he was empathetic, at times she would get uspet about her Father leaving her when she was 5 years old. Peter was very good at consoling her in these moments. She remembers him being very charming and her Mother adored him. He had a cheeky side and would say things like, ‘Sally, your Mother has wonderful tits!’ and she would say, ‘Peter, you can’t say that!’
He was protective and could be jealous, there was a time in a nightclub when another man was flirting with Sally and he got into a fight with this certain someone. She said, ‘he definitely had a temper, I wonder if that was his Germanic side?’
My Father looked very German and Sally agreed, she said ‘he looked so like your Grandmother.’ He had very blonde hair and blue eyes. Later in his life he was a little over weight, stocky. But back in the days of dating Sally he was young and slim with a full head of hair.
He sounded very much like a young man full of testosterone and ambition. He loved cars and Sally told me that he had won a ‘Young Driver of the Year Award’ and they had gone to the award ceremony up in London together. She could see that he was very ambitious and wanted success.
My Dads best friend, Tony, said that he and my Father were from quite ordinary families, but they had social graces and an education that introduced them to other families who were a notch above them and they got a taste of that and wanted it for themselves.
My Father left school with bad grades and went straight to work for a Ford Dealership called ‘Gowrings’ He sold cars and was good at it. Tony told me that my Dad would always drive to meet Tony and pick him up in a new car and take him for a spin. He would drive so fast it would scare the hell out of him!
Sally said my Dad wanted to marry her, settle down and have a family. She said she didn’t want that. ‘I was so immature, I couldn’t mash a pototato! I had been to a boarding school and they told us, you won’t need to cook, you will have staff for that!’ She said she wanted to live in London and spread her wings, ‘I wanted to explore a different side to life, I didn’t want to stay in the town I was raised in.’ She felt both my Grandmother and her Mother were sad that they did not marry, but she feels sure it would have been a disaster!
She said that one day she had a phone call from Edith asking for Sally to meet her in Heelas, which made me chuckle. Heelas was a department store in the town I grew up in and was always a staple meeting spot throughout my childhood. She said, I sat down and Edith burst in to tears and started saying that Peter was sleeping with a woman working on the petrol pumps at the Dealership. She was saying how she was so cheap and common with these enormous boobs and she was twice his age! My Grandmother was absolutely beside herself that her son was fraternising with such a woman! Sally soothed her and suggested she spoke with her Mother who advised her to tell my Father how she felt.
Sally and I were laughing, ‘I’m sure the sex must have been good!’ Sally giggled and then apologised if that was too much information!
I thought it was a brilliant story.
The way Sally spoke with such affection for my German Grandmother was so different from the tone my Mother would talk about her. The tension between my Mother and Edith was palpable, I don’t think Edith ever confided in my Mother as a friend. It was really lovely to hear through Sally’s experience, this more vulnerable and open side of my ‘Nanny’.
I couldn’t help but wonder, did Edith always wish Sally had been her daughter-in-law? One consolation was, the big titted tart on the gas pump did not become her daughter-in-law!
Sally said, ‘you Father changed a lot as he got older.’ He became very materialistic and a real show off. She often wondered what that was all about, was he insecure? She felt he had lost the sweeter side he had in his youth.
My Father ended up marrying my Mother and working with his new Father in law, my Grandpa Stan who had a small garage fixing cars and selling Austin Rover. My Dad joined and took the reputation of this reliable family business and transformed it into a big Dealership. He was a man with a vision and was able to achieve success early in his life with these sturdy foundations from our Grandpa Stan.
I always attributed the ambition and social elevation more to my Mother, but after speaking to Sally, I realise they were both mutually ambitious.
Speaking with Sally was such a wonderful exchange, we talked for an hour and 30 minutes. I couldn’t help feel like she was a kindred spirit, I related to her father abandonment, her resistance to marriage earlier in her life, that she wanted to leave her hometown and experience living in London, she married a divorcee and had a step-daughter and she did not end up having children of her own. And on that note, she said, the only real regret I have about not having children of my own is that I have a lot of lovely things and wish there were more children to hand them down to.
And then she said, I have a little gold heart locket that your father gave me when I was 16, would you like it Tara? I would really love for you to have it. It would mean nothing to my step-daughter. I was so touched, and it arrived in the post a week after we spoke along with an Ivory Love Dove that he had also given her.
And I held that little locket and thought, wow, my Dad could be alive right now, with the same amount of energy and vitality as his friends who I am getting to know him through. And I can’t help wondering how my relationship with him would be or how different my life would be today.
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