Memories of Dad that made even Parky cry: Michael Parkinson pens memoir of his beloved father which doubles as a portrait of his own fathering skills
- Michael Parkinson has written a sweet, funny and revealing memoir of his father
- Book doubles as portrait of his own fathering skills in chapters written by his son
- Veteran broadcaster, now 85, has been writing about his father for many years
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
by Michael Parkinson (Hodder £20, 236pp)
Old writers don’t retire, their books just get a little shorter. This slim volume comes from Michael Parkinson, a journalist and broadcaster who, it’s fair to say, has been around a very long time.
Now 85, but with all faculties intact, he has written a sweet, funny and revealing memoir of his beloved father, which doubles as a portrait of his own fathering skills in chapters written by the youngest of his three sons, Mike.
Why now? Because Parkinson, who knows a thing or two about interviewing, went on Piers Morgan’s chat show. Piers has a knack for asking the question that will make his victim burst into tears, but Parky is from Yorkshire, where no one ever cries, even if they have been given out LBW when the ball pitched outside leg stump.
Michael Parkinson, now 85 (pictured), has written a sweet, funny and revealing memoir of his beloved father
However, when Piers asked him about losing his father, ‘I didn’t just cry, I sobbed’. It was clear that there was unfinished business here, for John William Parkinson had died more than 40 years before.
A coal miner for 30 years and a registered sports nut, Parky senior was a genuine character, and Parky junior has been writing about him for many years: ‘My mother had not realised when she married my father that she was taking on the Yorkshire County Cricket Club as well.
‘The realisation first dawned on her honeymoon, which Father persuaded her to take in London… What she didn’t realise was that Yorkshire were playing Middlesex at Lord’s and she spent three days behind the bowler’s arm while her husband sat, as he always did at any cricket match, with a huge smile on his face, as if he was the happiest man alive.’
The veteran broadcaster (pictured as a five-month-old baby) has been writing about his father for many years
I had forgotten what a lovely, fluid comic writer Parky can be, for his broadcasting fame has rather eclipsed all else. His son Mike’s prose is not such a thing of beauty, but it turns out he has been doing the hard yards here, researching his grandfather’s life and working out the family dynamics.
So Mike’s impassioned polemic about life as a coal miner in the 1930s and 1940s is followed by Parkinson’s reminiscences of his father’s sporting obsessions, which then segues into Mike and his brothers’ memories of his grandfather, which itself is followed by excerpts of Parkinson’s interviews with celebrities about their fathers.
LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON by Michael Parkinson (Hodder £20, 236pp)
Whenever Rob Brydon does an impression of Parky, he always says: ‘Tell me about your father.’ Parkinson thought: ‘Do I really say that?’ It had never occurred to him before.
What actually pushes this book above the common herd, though, is Mike’s thoughtful writing about his family. You realise that Parkinson, for all his talents, is not introspective. ‘My dad was not always an easy man to be a son to,’ writes Mike. ‘This is not to say he was cruel or uncaring, quite the opposite; he was just, as a dad, difficult to get close to, and at times he behaved as if he was not completely comfortable in his own skin, which made intimacy difficult.’
We so rarely read of the vulnerabilities of the famous, and here Parkinson has allowed himself to be examined possibly a little too closely for his own comfort. You will like him much more after reading this book. That said, this is quite a slight book. And it’s unfortunate that Mike’s name isn’t on the cover, since he wrote half of it.
But caveats aside, this is a quietly impressive book, which does something most celebrity autobiographies shy away from: it seeks the truth and, more often than not, finds it.
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