Letters to our fathers

The father who braved bigotry, the much-missed dad and the beloved stepfather… in honour of Father’s Day, three writers pay tribute to the men who paved the way for them

The dad who made his home in a new country

Dad… As I sit here with my hands rough and covered in soil, looking with satisfaction over my kitchen garden, I smile, thinking about how I watched you tend your vegetable patch in the same way many years ago. I love how you created neat, even rows of ridges in the soil, ready for the seeds. You’d ask if I wanted to help, so I’d reluctantly water the plants and occasionally hold the basket for you to fill with freshly harvested produce. Yet I drew the line at coming into actual contact with mud. (I only wanted mud when it was dressed up as a beauty treatment and slathered onto my teenage skin!)

Who knew that one day, having worked in fashion for years, I’d turn my back on the big city and find a home in the Norfolk countryside, where I’d follow your lead and create a vegetable patch of my own.

Once known for my love of heels rather than wellies, it must make you laugh now to hear that I’ve been called ‘brave’ for making the leap from city to country. I think true bravery was embarking on a journey by boat from the West Indies to begin your new life in England, despite only having read about it in school books or heard about it through the BBC World Service. Yet it was a country you felt linked to by a call of duty, to help fill gaps left by a depleted post-war workforce.

‘You taught me about hard work, determination, resilience and humour’

Bravery is also overcoming the shock of encountering racism and bigotry at a time when these things were an ‘inevitable’ part of life, and still believing that working hard, being positive and remaining committed to carving out a positive space for yourself and your future family would prove worthwhile and fruitful. Thankfully, it was.

Almost 60 years have passed since then and it’s obvious to me that you paved the way for the life I lead today. The unwavering self-belief that life can get better if you’re willing to change is something you have passed down, and which I hold with me. You’ve taught me that hard work and determination, combined with resilience and humour, are the best ingredients for personal growth. And, rather like tending a garden, patience and a willingness to get one’s hands dirty helps, too.

Paula Sutton and dad

Love, Paula
(Paula Sutton, digital creator, @hillhousevintage)


The dad who’s sorely missed

I miss you, Dad… I didn’t expect to blub watching Onward, the Disney Pixar film in which two elves ‘half-magic’ their dead dad back as a pair of walking trousers. At the end, for one glorious minute, Dad Elf returns fully so his eldest son can hug and talk to him one last time. What I’d give for that with you.

One of my earliest memories of you is sitting beside you in your Volvo, driving through the Chiltern Hills with Lionel Ritchie blasting. I was six or seven. ‘Shhh, Gemma, listen to the words,’ you said, as the sun warmed my hair through the open sun-roof.

As a rule, you weren’t openly emotional. Apparently, it was ‘the Yorkshire’ in you – but, especially towards the end, your feelings tumbled out. ‘People live, people die, this is just my time,’ you declared shortly after being admitted to the hospice, five days after my wedding in August 2014. Then you said to Mum that if she found a good man, to marry him. A tear trickled down your cheek. Beneath the matter-of-factness, your heart was in pieces. Mine, too.

Above all, you valued life’s simple things: family, a pint, country walks, Walkers Ready Salted Crisps, Classic FM on a Sunday morning, steak and chips with a side of English mustard (the only thing you could expertly cook). You had a thirst for world news, could have out-debated David Dimbleby and often bemoaned the state of the world via Twitter… to your 17 followers. Bless you.

‘Your kindness, strength, love, intelligence and courage… I’ll be celebrating it all’

Having risen to the top of the telecomms industry, you were my go-to for everything job-related, and – thankfully – I’ve inherited your work ethic. Eventually, you learned the value of work-life balance and once, seeing me under pressure in my first job on a tabloid newspaper, pointed out that I’d never get old and wish I’d worked harder. You were right.

During lockdown, whenever I was frazzled juggling my freelance journalism business with home-schooling my daughter and caring for a newborn – two grandchildren you never met – that wisdom has (sometimes!) helped me keep a level head.

In your speech on my wedding day, you identified parallels between us, including our love of socialising. Like you, I relish quality moments with family and friends and always find an excuse to propose a toast. So, this Father’s Day – my seventh without you – hopefully you’ll be watching as I raise a glass. Your kindness, strength, love, intelligence, humour and courage… I’ll be celebrating it all.

Germma Calvert and dad

Love, Gemma
(Gemma Calvert, freelance journalist, @gemmacalvertwrites)


The stepdad who captured our hearts

Dadrian… It’s been a few years since my sister and I came up with that nickname, but we’ve never asked if you like it. It’s a masterful pun (what with your name being Adrian), but also our little way of saying that you’ve become our ‘bonus’ dad. And, let’s be honest, it’s better than what you gave us: Brat 1 (me) and Brat 2 (her).

When we met 10 years ago, I thought you were a bit quiet, which I find hard to believe now! It can’t have been easy meeting your partner’s grown-up children, but I hope we weren’t too intimidating. I’d been wishing for a long time that Mum would find someone, especially as Dad had already remarried. She’s pretty special, so if I seemed suspicious at first, I was just making sure you were up to the job. Judging by how happy she’s been since you met, I think you’ve proved you are.

We all finally forgot to be on our best behaviour the first time you took us out to lunch for Mum’s birthday. She’d tried to explain a few translations of your Croydon accent already (‘braaan’ is brown; ‘trowsis’ are trousers), but when you loudly ordered the ‘ba’ered ’addock’ (battered haddock), we burst out laughing. The bar was set for affectionate and merciless teasing.

I’m not sure you know quite how much you’ve improved our family unit. It was just the three of us for a long time. And while Mum was so good at filling the boots of both parents, it’s an exhausting job for one person. And even though we were grown by the time she met you, that certainly doesn’t mean we’ve stopped being a source of hassle. As well as loading up your van to help us with several house moves, you’ve put together beds, built bikes and given us countless lifts. And there was that one time I gatecrashed your holiday, tagging along on your trip to Verona – where you’d secretly been planning to propose to Mum – and ruining your plans. Sorry again.

But, despite it all, you never moan (well, a bit, but not convincingly) and you’re always there when we need you. What I’m really trying to say is, thank you, Dadrian, for everything you do. We’re all so glad to have you around.

Danielle Richardson and dad

Love, Danielle
(Danielle Richardson, consumer journalist, @daniellerichardson13)


Show him he’s special

Update his grooming regime with the Philips Series 3000 Wet Or Dry Men’s Electric Shaver. It even has a built-in, pop-up trimmer for keeping that moustache and those sideburns in check.

Looking for a unique gift? With CEWE Personalised Photo Playing Cards you can add a personal photo to the back – he’ll be reminded of how much you think of him every time he plays.

The fusion of mint, rose and grapefruit creates a light, refreshing fragrance. So if he likes a subtle cologne, Boss Hugo Boss Unlimited is perfect for him.

Treat him to the NEW Sony Bluetooth Black WI-C200 Headphones so he can tune in to his fave albums or podcasts as he zones out. He’ll especially love the lightweight, super-comfy earbuds. Available online and in store from 24 May.

Fathers Day Products