EDC: The Eccentric Dad’s Club


Photo source: Wikipedia

I first saw him in the kitchenware aisle of Sainsbury’s supermarket, flanked by his family.

He must have been six foot six, and his stance was that of a great Russian bear.

But he had attemped to cloak it with a great long black overcoat so that now, if Boris Godunov had ever been recruited as a member of the KGB, this is almost exactly what he would have looked like.

And on his head was – I think – a beanie. One of those woollen hats beloved of the ski set. But what no-one told the ski set is that if you pull the hat all the way up, so it sits tall, you look a little like a Russian boyar. He radiated differentness. He was taller, and more imposing, and vastly odder than anyone else in the shop.

Photo Source: University of Toronto

Photo Source: University of Toronto

So there he stood, a great Russian boyar, surrounded by his family, sussing out the kitchenware in Sainsbury’s.

I nudged Phil.

“Look,” I said. “There’s another one of your lot here.”

Phil looked puzzled. “My lot? What do you mean?”

“It’s another member of the Eccentric Dad’s Club.”

Phil huffed and puffed.”I have no idea what you are talking about,” he hrumphed, as he stood there in a thirty-year-old vintage sheepskin coat which he terms a timeless classic. Old coats never die, they just go to the dry cleaners. Phil cultivates the air of a 1970’s used car salesman, and he does it with glee.

Photo via the Sunday Times

Photo via the Sunday Times

The 1970s used car salesman eyed the Russian boyar, who had graduated to the chicken aisle. Maybe he was planning a little chicken lapsha noodle soup.

We had drifted to the dog food aisle, and were thinking about the options.

And suddenly we were not alone. There was a chirpy salesman from the supermarket,  interested in interesting us in their store credit card. “Would you be interested in a Nectar credit card, sir?” he inquired.

Phil did not back away, self effacing. He did not quietly and politely refuse. No: he broke into song.

He sang to the salesman about how we weren’t interested, thank you. And the baffled but game gentleman encouraged him, possibly seeing a signature on the dotted line in the near future. I edged as far down the dog food aisle as I could, fighting the need to explain my husband to the credit card salesman. He would find out for himself.

My mind fled to the daughter of an eccentric father. Edith Sitwell. The deeply odd Sir George Sitwell, too, wrote: but on such subjects as The Introduction of the Peacock into Western Gardens, Rotherham Under Cromwell, Modern Modifications on Leaden Jewellery in the Middle Ages and his seminal A Short History of the Fork.

Visitors to the Sitwell household were met with a sign: “‘I must ask anyone entering the house never to contradict me in any way, as it interferes with the functioning of the gastric juices and prevents my sleeping at night.”

Edith knew eccentric, but her father’s antics did not put her off. Indeed, she wrote an entire book about English eccentrics which makes excellent reading, and shows the eccentric in the light I have always percieved him: “Eccentricity is not, as some would believe, a form of madness,” she writes.

“It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics, by the opinions and vagiaries of the crowd.”

Never a truer word. The crowds of Sainsbury’s ebbed and flowed round these two men.

And the good opinion of the hordes could not have mattered less to them both.


24 thoughts on “EDC: The Eccentric Dad’s Club

  1. Hah hah I’d love to meet your Phil. I can’t imagine what fun it would be to hear a man singing in the dog food aisle in Sainsburys.
    Why haven’t I heard of Sir George Sitwell before? Gastric juices eh?

  2. eccentrics are either vastly annoying or sometimes etertaining.

    I have met a few eccentric, but not completely self-absorbed. Such people are rare and to be treasured

  3. I would like to nominate my friend – let us call him X (to spare his long suffering family blushes ) – for membership. Some days he channels Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes , others Pat Troughton as the Doctor. And all this from inside a Stasi Great Coat! He and your OH together would kill the cold call industry: if they hunted together …

  4. Eccentrics are far more entertaining than by-the-book folks. Certainly books and movies show us that. Of course, whether or not it’s easy to live with one 24/7 is a different story. 😉

  5. All shopping trips should be this way – a little entertainment on a Saturday morning 😉 I’ll dig out my camera and spotters notebook immediately 🙂

  6. The trouble with being eccentric is that ones nearest and dearest seem frequently to feel the urge to stop being nearest. As, by your own account, you do. Why didn’t you stay and put in the soprano bit?
    My father was always losing belts, but saw nothing odd in using a bit of old rope or a tie instead. And, yes … in many ways he was a genius.

  7. I am married to big KID! I have told him that he has reached the age where he will be pigeon-holed as the family eccentric! His lack of self-consciousness is at times a bit much to take in pubic, but I have been spared singing to a sales person! That had to be a sight–and sound! 🙂 Does it make me eccentric that I would really like to read the Sitwell books?

  8. I like Sir George Sitwell’s sign. If I’d known about it in time, I would have posted a copy on the door of my classroom.

    Regarding Phil: Bravo! You and he have given me a new method of irritating the people who call wanting my bank account number.

  9. I love the image of Phil in the coat. Having read out of order lately, I’m not sure if he’s yet been to Texas (how’s that for time travel?), but I am imagining him there in that coat (yes, yes, I know you said he was in a suit), and it’s fast becoming a Coen Brothers film.

  10. I love the image of Phil in the coat. Having read out of order lately, I’m not sure if he’s yet been to Texas (how’s that for time travel?), but I am imagining him there in that coat (yes, yes, I know you said he was in a suit), and it’s fast becoming a Coen Brothers film.

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