Have I found a new maturity in my later years? No, I'm just turning into my father
Ever since I mixed up Antonioni and Fellini at Dave Spier's 40th birthday bash I've had to watch myself whenever the conversation turns to film. Somehow I never seem to have the same philosophical purchase on auteur theory as I do on early Marx or middle-period Foucault.
None of this, though, can quite prevent me from referring to a scene from a recent film which has so stuck in my head that I'm almost incapable of making it through a single day without a mental re-run. The film is Paul Schrader's Affliction, and the telling moment occurs when Nick Nolte has finally been driven to kill his brutal, domineering father (James Coburn). As he kneels down beside the body, his hands wander gently over the shape of his father's face. And then, with a movement so fleeting that my companion at the ABC swears it never occurred, he moves his fingers to his own skull and traces the identical contours. In a film that depends upon Nolte's stubborn inability to recognise his father in himself, it a sudden and shocking moment of truth.
I hardly need an analyst to know that my preoccupation with this scene derives from my own much more banal realisation that instead of gradually reaching a new self-actualising maturity in my later years, I'm turning, slowly but inevitably, into my own father.
More evidence was on hand at last week's dinner party to celebrate Mike Chadwick's prostate all-clear. After the saumon en croute plates had been cleared, Jayne appeared bearing a large, irregular cake. "All my own work," she proudly announced. I could hardly wait. Even as she began to cut the first slice I was shouting out, with a vehemence more suited to the imminent offer of a slug of strychnine, "Not for me, Jayne. Not for me."
What, after years of happy munching, had suddenly come between me and home-made cake? Only on the way home did I remember all those childhood years when I'd been sent up the road to Satterthwaites, the confectioner, to collect cake bands which my mother would then slip over her own home-baked efforts in order to deceive my father into believing that he was eating a properly commercial product.
I could even recall the traumatic occasion when we'd turned up one afternoon at Auntie Hilda's for a birthday party and were presented with a splendid pink-iced sponge. What a treat! My mother, though, had already spotted the absence of a proprietary band. Before you could say "knife" she was in with her pre-emptive strike. "You'll have to excuse Stan," she said as the plate hit the table, "but he only eats shop cake."
There are other signs. I already insist on stirring my caffe latte with the same slow, rotating paintbrush movement of the spoon that my father used on his Typhoo, and have recently taken to wandering round the living room every evening with palms extended towards windows and doors in a relentless search for what were known in our family as "dad's draughts".
I'm now nervously waiting to develop a relish for Cadbury's Milk Tray, Josef Locke singing "Hear my song, Violetta", and to the time when I can spend lazy evenings at home pasting Phillips Stik-a-Soles to the bottom of my brogues. There's also the more immediate prospect of incorporating particularly appealing parts of my father's vocabulary into daily life. Next week, for example, I'll be endeavouring to persuade my current partner that my affection for her is inadequately conveyed by such familiar terms as "darling", "love" and "princess". Would she mind awfully if, from now on, I routinely referred to her as "duck"?