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Do Your Own Thing

By Mark Jefferies
July 2004, south east Wales
A digital story from Capture Wales

Something understood

Mark and his father-in-law are poles apart with very different personalities, but they do have one thing in common...

"It's an odd expression - father-in-law. The two severe dashes like the fine print in a contract, binding the two of us together, for better, for worse. There ought to be caveats and clauses, signs pointing out the hazards. It was a sign my father-in-law needed going south for our first time driving on the continent. I wanted it to go well, the accomplished son-in-law taking care of maps and logistics.

He went for a pint, the night of the holiday conference, so while we were fretting, waiting in Portsmouth, he was in Southampton asking a bewildered dock worker, "Where's the boat for France, but?" But that's just him, facing the other way, pulling in the opposite direction, doing his own thing.

His bloody-minded individuality was always more attractive than my conformity, always doing the polite thing.

He was born in the Valleys, a miners' son but won't dwell on all that famous 'sons of the Rhondda' stuff. "It's all in the bloody past", says the butcher's boy who refused to go down the pit, says the man who loves the light and the stars.

It's ironic, now he's getting older I sometimes resent him of letting go of that which used to rankle with me most: his defiance and salty otherness. Now he's fascinated by his grandchildren and makes us smile with random acts of kindness.

My father-in-law has bought me another hammer, I think it's the fourth, a heavy one for his lightweight son-in-law. We are building a garden wall. Like him, I knew a hammer cares little for finesse but is strong and steadfast. A token of tacit love and respect, and we'll both settle for that."

Mark Jeffries

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Originally from Bristol, I have lived and worked in south Wales for the past 25 years. I am an assistant head teacher at a local Boys' School and enjoy working with students from Year Seven to Year 13.

What is your story about?
Being a son-in-law. In choosing our life partners we have to take what comes with it. This is about the relationship between a father-in-law and a son-in-law and the love and respect that often goes unsaid.
My father-in-law is a complicated person. At one and the same time he is: proud, stubborn and single-minded - loving, generous and sensitive. He believes that people should do their own thing, challenging easy conformity and feckless adheres to social convention. He's a maverick, going his own way.

What did you find most rewarding about the workshop?
The workshop was a memorable experience. It was exciting to work with young students as an equal participant rather than as a teacher. The team from the BBC was made up of hugely talented people who worked patiently and supportively with all of us.

Your comments

"I love the way you capture the contrast between your personalities and your grudging respect for each other. I also appreciate the irony in how, as you both grow older and mellow, you regret the passing of his 'salty otherness'." Christine Harrigan from Sydney.

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