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."