I was at a Hampstead dinner party the other evening with some Australian and South African friends enjoying a magnificent spread of dried fish and exotic branches, and talking at length abite the hideous cruelty my father inflicted upon us all. A monocled neighbour, invited out of misguided politeness, was gnawing at a leg of lamb.
'My dear girl, your father sounds perfectly ordinary to me.'
I was shocked, not because the lamb was still alive, but because he was right. His substantial wife kicked him under the table so his monocle fell into the mouth of a stuffed lion, but it made me wonder whether in fact my father was just like any other father.
My earliest recollection was of him bouncing me on his knee. During traumatic regressive hypnotherapy, this was revealed to be a ploy he used to subject me to appalling abuse, although my mother always denied it. I knew he was abusing her too, but later when we settled in India, I discovered that fathers do indeed bounce babies on their knees, and my father was jest like any other father.
The betweeded Michael Winnerish man was tearing into a live pheasant, and teasing me:
'You gals like to think of yourselves as a little bit downtrodden nowadays. It's the frightful modern way, my dear, all this inverse supremacy.'
His frigid wife stabbed him to death with a fork, but this made me think. Was I making it all up? One of my earliest recollections of my beastly father was of his love of rugby. How he would chant at the TV long before anyone else in Rhodesia had one, and then one day, England played South Africa, and he resorted to chimp noises when certain players touched the ball. I stormed out screaming:
'Daddy, you're a racist pig. I will never speak to you again.'
But when I returned some time later having wiped the floor with a servant, he was still making monkey noises, and watching the Antiques Roadshow.
We returned to post-war England because it was inexpensive, but he carried on making chimp noises till his dying day. Worse was to come. My young South African friend, Charleze DeValkerie, pointed her ivory cigarette holder at me:
'That's neffink, darlink. My fadder was in the Sarf Efrikaaan Police Force and beat me to death viz a dead slev. He med me recite the speeches of Edolf Hitler.'
I was outclassed by this tale of downright ugliness, and vowed to be politically correct to counteract my European ancestry which directly led to the holocaust.
'Yes,' my blonde, blue-eyed, South African friend continued. 'You are all to blem for the holocaust.'
'Now steady on,' said the man on the shooting stick. 'At least we knew which side of the war to be on from the very start, unlike you South Afrikaans.'
'But you had the misfortune to join the wrong side,' said DeValkerie, biting the head off a live baby. 'Hitler was a visionary.'
'Just the wrong vision,' said Michael Winner, laughing until his wife cut off his head.
Ms. DeValkerie stood up, flung back her mink stole, and announced to the room.
'My father's dog was called Mengele.'
I silently wept, and grabbed the hand of my insignificant and silent husband under the table. Was this the future? To be outclassed on my own soil by descendants of yeoman farmers returning to claim what was theirs before the English Revolution created democracy and forced them to search for new land to rule unconstitutionally. I looked up. I was not going to be defeated by a South African.
'Just go away with your perfectly horrid father,' I screamed. 'And leave me to my dear racist, child-beating, sex-fiend, molester daddy whom I love dearly in spite of the white woman's burden.'
The young South African woman, whom I wasn't very well acquainted with, left slamming the door threatening to feel the skulls of the world, bringing down a vast African mural splattered with dingo excrement.
The man in plus fours grabbed his fat wife:
'Darling, I think we should be going.'
A man with corks round his hat opened a tinny, and tilted his hat back:
'Strewth, let's celebrate Warne taking five for nought last night.'
I found myself making chimp noises. I was turning into daddy.
'Get out all of you. You know we English rule the world with our dodgy daddies.'
But in the corner, I heard a muffled cough, and a man stood up wearing a stetson.
'Now listen hear, liddle lady, this is ma house, and I say who leaves and who stays, now get on your horse and drink your barbiturate. Ma daddy is the bastard daddy of them all.'
There was no arguing with that. I put my husband under my arm, and I left.
By Libby Haughty