July 2013 issue

Date:26 June 2013 Tags:, , , , , , , ,

Let’s hear it for our dads

My dad was a meticulous man. He stored screws, nuts and bolts in neatly labelled tins or bottles, always returned his tools to their designated places, and would never, ever guess at measurements: before picking up a drill or screwdriver, he had to know exactly where it was going.

A former draughtsman, he designed the house in which I spent my teenage years, and I can still recall the builders’ awe at his attention to detail. He wasn’t at all boring, though, and was always willing to listen to new ideas – even if the source was a brash youth who thought he knew all the answers.

A case in point: when I was a very young journalist, a colleague gave me a “hot” share tip and advised me to commit my life savings immediately – a slightly weird suggestion, considering that I hadn’t paid my rent that month and had zero knowledge of the stock market. I immediately picked up the phone and called my father, interrupting him in a board meeting.

He listened politely, then said he would think about it. Several months later, a cheque for R1 000 arrived in the mail, together with a note of thanks; apparently my investment tip had been freakishly good. Years later, when I asked my father – a financial conservative who rarely if ever took chances – what had prompted him to follow the advice of a self-confessed financial ignoramus, he confessed that he’d “had a feeling”. Personal experience suggests it was probably a dad thing.

This is by way of introduction to PM’s first “fatherhood” issue, a compendium of good advice, useful information and life lessons passed on by generations of fathers like mine – some of them warm and approachable, others irredeemably grumpy, all of them dads to the core. MythBusters co-star Adam Savage has fond memories of the old man: when he was seven, his father made a glass fibre racing car for Adam’s teddy bear, Gus. Singer Willie Nelson’s son, Lukas, remembers his dad teaching him to build tepees.

Also in this issue, we offer a useful primer on “The Great South African Road Trip”. Remember when our dads used to hang a canvas water bottle on the family car’s front bumper in preparation for that long Karoo crossing? And the threat to turf us out if we didn’t stop fighting? (In most cases, we’re told, it never happened.) We hope our “fatherhood” issue will trigger a few happy memories of your own youth.

Finally, we introduce Hannah Smith and Diarmaid McDonald, a distinctly adventurous couple who recently arrived in Cape Town after an epic 14 000 km cycle trip from London. On the road for 286 days, they travelled all the way down Africa, experiencing some very harsh conditions indeed. They also encountered what they refer to as “the incredible kindness of strangers”.

Full disclosure: Hannah Smith is my niece, and I couldn’t be more proud.

* FutureTech is back! PM’s annual conference happens at the Expo Centre, Johannesburg, on 24 October. If you care about your techno-future, you need to diarise the date right now. We’re also inviting submissions for our 2013 Inventors Competition. Keep a look out for entry details.

– Alan Duggan (aland@ramsaymedia.co.za)