THERE is no lesson in life my dad insisted on teaching me so well as the lesson that it is important to be frugal.
He was an accountant – still is, he’s not dead or anything – and had an accountant’s view of the world.
That is to say, a view that the world is too expensive.
If you have to pay for something, a motto might be, you’re probably paying too much.
To wit: his approach to giving pocket money was like his approach to paying the utility bills.
Wait until the third reminder and then cough it up grudgingly while asking for a receipt.
It was all about teaching us the value of money, so he said.
And, God bless the old fellow, he taught it well.
And so every Father’s Day I meticulously honour him and his lesson by studiously not wasting any hard earned on something as superfluous as a card.
Indeed, I extend the courtesy even to his birthday.
“But don’t,” she asked me on Sunday, “you feel bad?”
And I blinked. And then I said of course I don’t.
Because on the contrary what actually makes me feel bad is when I spend a fiver buying her a Valentine’s card or my mother a Mother’s Day card.
Because it’s then I realise I’m supporting and feeding the horrible, crass commercialisation, sticky sentimentalising and over-hyper-mass-marketing of celebrations which should be the exact opposite of all those things.
In short, my dad’s life lesson aside, it disgusts me to see an entire (recession-proof) industry built on exploiting people’s basic good nature and most humane emotions.
And I am tired of feeling, each February 14 or whatever Sunday it is when the olds are supposed to get the goods, like a hostage to society’s demands; feeling that unless I spend £20 on some crappy picture frame/teddy bear/gastro-pub meal/ supermarket port I am not a good partner, son, or human being.
It’s orchestrated extortion and it’s a nonsense.
If you need an established day of the year to do something nice for those you love, you probably don’t really love them that much.
Or you’re not the kind of person who likes doing nice stuff.
And yet, the paradox is if you throw a curve ball and surprise them in, say, November, these national celebrations have become so embedded in the national psyche, you’ll simply be viewed with suspicion...
“Chocolates?” she asked me in January. “Are you having an affair.”
Pfft, I wish.
Fair play, I’d got them free at work but that’s not the point, is it?
But it seems we, as a society, are so in thrall to these capitalist-constructed days, they actually change our expectations of the people we cherish.
Odd indeed that we have become so shackled.
Of course I don’t feel bad for not getting the old man a card.
I feel grateful. To him.
For instilling in me not just the value of money but also the worthlessness of some of the clichéd stereotypes and hypocricies that pass as excuses for our national celebrations.
But I won’t tell him that of course.
That’s not the British way.
But he knows, because that card still isn’t in the post.