I am a little late to this and I am conscious that many readers of this blog might not be aware of Clive James, the writer and broadcaster who died very recently – but I am happy anyway to add my tribute and memories of a great man.

Many of his eulogies use the word ‘genius’ which I happen to think is a little excessive. In general, I think genius is over-used in the arts and is better reserved for the sciences where very clever people create technology for satellites and drugs that can tame cancers.

Not that Clive James was not a very clever man. The testimonies are unanimous; he was a great wit, writer and broadcaster.

I appeared twice on his TV chat show – (so, a man of impeccable taste, also) – but there is another more ingrained and personal reason why I held him with such affection.

As a boy growing up, I was always in awe of the people who could make my dad laugh. Tom Sharpe, the author. John Cleese, Ronnie Barker, David Jason the actors and Clive James the wit and writer.

Clive James’s famous book, Unreliable Memoirs had my dad in raptures and I imagined at the time what a gift Clive James had, being able to write such a book. A book that gives so much pleasure he will never meet and this must have had a bearing on my very odd choice of career. Not that I claim to write like Clive James you understand nor to have written such a book. As I have said on this blog before and in my book, Eclipsed, I failed English Language at school and none of my teachers would ever have endorsed my career choice.

So given this context, appearing on his television show – the unimaginatively titled, The Clive James Show – was a surreal experience for me. I appeared twice and he was always very kind to me and I regret not having the time to explain the impact that he’d had on me via my dad.

This blog post is poignant because my dad also died this year and I write this post on Friday, 29th November which would have been his 85th birthday.

The nuclear family – mum, dad and two kids – might be a relic of the past. Families are much more fractured now. Marriage is out-of-fashion and in my opinion, far too many dads are absent from their children’s lives. And stating that this absence is a great disadvantage to their children is not a criticism of the mums left with the workload and responsibility.

I am unashamedly old-fashioned on familial matters and what is best for children. I am big advocate of dads and especially so for boys – which is my only sphere of experience, given, I was a boy myself and we only have boys in my own family.

And boys need dads because I think on a sub-conscious level, boys have a need for their dad’s approval. A hard wired desire for affirmation which has the effect of spurring on a child to achieve and thereby gain such approval. This is only my opinion and I might be wrong but this was certainly the case in my life and the time that I had to impress my old man.

And whatever is made of my output to date – my books and my stand-up – much of it was achieved with this objective in mind – not-to-mention the six mouths to feed also, obviously.

And as such, this might make me a little fretful now…

Because, if I was chasing patriarchal approval all my life – and this accounted for my ‘successes’ – then I worry that my children might strive less in their lives because in the case of Tom at least (and for now) he must know already that I am proud of him and time therefore to ease off the gas, perhaps?

I hope not. And I suspect not also.

And finally, this post is poignant again, since the great Clive James died of leukaemia, or blood cancer and The Brothers Trust is about to republish Open Links, my novel that was first published in 2014 and with all proceeds going to the Anthony Nolan Trust.

The hope is to have copies available ahead of Christmas this year. And this hope remains with the printers in London (Catford Printing) doing their level best at this frenetic time of the year.

For now at least, Open Links will be available as a paperback only and sold via and we will print as many as are required – to help grow Anthony Nolan’s register of bone marrow donors with the ultimate prospect that someone, somewhere and at some time will be saved from blood cancer.

And this is something that we can all be invested in and proud to help achieve.




26 thoughts on “Dads…

  1. Paul says:

    Another excellent blog.. as they say ‘it pulls at the heartstrings’ in many way. Boys always need their fathers and fathers need their boys – not intending to diminish the always vital roll of Mom! And don’t ease up on the gas pedal any any of your children or yourself. Everyone needs guidance and support. Pride is a two way street – showing pride in someones accomplishments or wanting to someone you care about proud.

    Looking forward to the updating of Open Links (hopefully signed?)

  2. Ellen L says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your Dad and also for your loss of Clive James. I completely agree with you about the important of parental presence in a child’s life. My Mum has been constantly there for me and my sisters our whole life’s and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her. I want to be just like her in every way because she is truly the most amazing woman I know. It’s difficult because obviously parents need to work in order to provide for their children but that often comes at the cost of not having a lot of time with your children and sometimes marriages breakdown too. It’s really sad. My parents got divorced last year, it was a rocky relationship and the day they decided to get divorced started the worst 2 years of my life and has been quite difficult since. So many parents get divorced that I think it’s often hard for young people to want to get married because they haven’t had a good relationship to look up to. I have so much respect for you and Nikki with your relationship, you clearly love each other so much and have set an impeccable standard for Tom, Harry, Sam and Paddy. They all seem like respectful, hardworking and kind people who are all also incredibly talented. I really look up to you and your family and I just wanted to say a massive thank you to you all for showing me the beauty of family and that a happy family does in fact exist. For showing me that hard work really does pay off, giving me hope that I can make it in the film industry and for just making me so much happier over the past couple months. I’ve bought 2 of the Brother’s Trust t-shirts, I’m hoping to buy all of your books and I hope to one day attend one of your events. I couldn’t go to The Spies in Disguise event so I’m hoping if there’s one for Onward I’d be able to do that. It’s an amazing that you’re all doing and I can’t wait to help support that. Again, I’m so sorry for your loss.
    All my love,
    Ellen xxxx

      • Ellen L says:

        Oh absolutely, I’m incredibly fortunate to have both parents in my life. I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to come off as ungrateful for my Dad, I love him very much.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks, Dominic.
      A thoughtful piece and I am pretty sure that Clive would have been pleased to know your Dad was a fan.
      As someone in their mid-60s I hugely enjoyed Unreliable Memoirs and his TV criticism. Dig out his Observer column on the night that ABBA won Eurovision. It is hysterically funny.

  3. Derek Shakespeare says:

    Sincerest condolences about your father Dominic. Never an easy time,especially if you were close to him.Having lost mine 8 years ago,on Christmas day 2011,I am painfully aware of the loss at this time of year.
    I recall now fondly your appearances on the Clive James show,way back in your career,amongst other TV appearances you’ve made. Still slowly reading I’ Gabriel at the moment,when I find some downtime from a busy work schedule. All the best

  4. Rach says:

    I totally agree with what you’re saying here. I unfortunately don’t have my Dad close to me anymore. I miss him dearly but he has chosen to live away with his girlfriend. I hear from him 4 times a year. My birthday, both my daughters birthday and Christmas. And that’s just a text. I haven’t seen him since my wedding in 2017. I used to be such a Daddy’s girl growing up, I was his sidekick. But he didn’t form a bond with my brother and it’s been awful. I’m drawn between loving my Dad because he’s my Dad and feeling guilt for this because I feel loyalty to my brother. He should have been there for him, my brother wouldn’t have suffered. Luckily I have not repeated history and have a husband who absolutely worships our children (his daughter and his step-daughter who he’s been there since she was 2).
    I respect your family for being a unit. You don’t find that much these days, sad as that is. So many children have been messed up because of their parent’s decisions.
    Sorry for the rant!!

  5. Pamela says:

    Sorry for the loss of your dad and your friend, Clive James. I lost my second dad last year to cancer. It’s very hard losing a parent and I have lost two dads. My dad was killed deer hunting when I was 7, leaving my mom a widow with 3 very small children. My mom remarried and the new man I would call dad become a man I could look up to along with my siblings (my parents went in to adopt 2 boys and 2 girls from Korea. What’s amazing is we adopted the boys first and then each one’s sister later. One sister unfortunately left behind in Korea. She was too old by this time. We have visited her and brought her family to America. Actually reconnecting with her through a television program in Korea!). Your relationship with your boys is proof of the importance having a dad present in their lives. There are pretty amazing young men. Anxious to hear when the book will be ready for purchase!

  6. Nicole says:

    I am a single mother of 2. An 8 year old boy and a 5 year old girl. There are times that I wish I had more masculinity to me, because my son clings onto and craves it.

    My son looks to men like Tom and Harry, Chris Evans anyone that can give him a draw of masculinity that I can not and bring that to him. Thank you for speaking about this

  7. Michelle says:

    I thought of you when I heard the news of Mr. James’ passing. I am also very sorry to hear that you lost your father recently. I might upset some feminists by completely agreeing with you about boys needing a dad. I am a single mom, raising a 17 year old boy and a 13 year old girl. While I think I am doing a decent enough job, I look at my son and I know he desperately wants and needs a male figure in his life. I can only hope that his experience serves to make him a better father when the time comes. Finally, from someone who has a significant family history of Hodgkin’s, I want to thank you and your family for supporting the registry. My cousin recently benefited from a transplant and is now in remission. I look forward to buying Open Links in order to support a very worthy cause.

  8. Claudia Amezquita says:

    I always love reading your blog, but this has been just great.
    I think he is very right, children need the support and approval of our parents, we need to know or at least feel that they are proud of us. I have never felt that of my father, he never speaks to me and has always been there, although he has never felt this way and that is very sad.
    I hope with all my heart to be able to buy Open Links and contribute a little to give life expectancy to those who need it.

  9. Luisa says:

    This is a touching blog. It’s interesting that it takes losing someone to realise how much influence they have in your life, sorry for your losses.
    I always felt that I’ve needed my parents approval but over different things – Dad in terms of academic achievement and Mum in terms of being able to do those ‘women’s’ roles like cook and run a house.
    I’m very conscious that my son should learn, in this ever changing and diverse world, that there are no gender roles. So in our house Daddy also cooks and does the shopping, Mummy goes out to work and plays sports but we try and do something together as a family whenever we can. Family represents love and that’s is what children should always get from their parents, as anyone can see your boys do. Thanks for sharing with us

  10. Alexandra says:

    I love reading your blogs, you are an exemplary father, just like your wife, I greatly admire the achievements that your whole family is getting, I agree with their thoughts on several of their blogs, I am very happy to know that they are a united family , they are different from others and that is very good, they are my role model, they also taught me that I can achieve my dreams.
    Blessings from Peru for Nikki, Tom, Harry, Sam, Paddy and for you.


  11. Emily says:

    Hello, Mr Holland,
    I originally started reading your blog a couple months ago because I’m a fan of your son, Tom. But I’ve discovered I really enjoy your writing and the routines of yours that I can find on YouTube. You have a unique and interesting perspective on life and it’s one that I believe is valuable. So keep up the good work, and I’ll keep reading and watching. 🙂

  12. Shaina D says:

    Dear Dom,
    This is a very moving piece about your father. Your point about trying to get parental approval really resonates with me. Sometimes I get to thinking about whether the things I am doing in my life as my will, or am I simply living out the live of my parents desire? Parents sometimes live through their children and the actions of their children, wronging their rights through their kids. So naturally, kids want to live up to these standards that the parents imposed on them.
    Dom, I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time now. I have been working on some fan art and should be done soon. I’d love to share it with you once it is complete.
    Shaina D

  13. Emilie says:

    You are right and you say it so well. The love in a family is sooo important.
    I am a woman but I am very close to my father and I totally understand what you write about books that change people life.
    In ma family, songs are part of my family. My grandpa sung a song and when I hear it, I’m about to cry because it remains him so much. I am lucky I still have my father.
    But believe it or not but you’re father are still with you. Maybe you look like him a little. And still, the way he teached life, how to raise your kids…they are parts of him through you now. I wish you the best and hope today is anyway a beautiful day for you. Happy birthday to your dad

  14. Paul J. G. says:

    I’m the father of two boys myself, ages 22 and 25 and I can say from the bottom of my heart that I’m absolutely glad we didn’t have a girl. I’m the uncle of 26 nieces and nephews, about half of each. And my nieces were terror compared to my nephews. So, on that note, I’m grateful for my sons.

    I vowed to my wife the day we moved in with each other that I would not be like those who I couldn’t idolize growing up. I was the baby of seven and three step sisters and I was absolutely left behind by the time the lessons from boy to man came around.

    When my oldest son was born, I was immediately given the chance of a lifetime to give to him everything I lacked. By the time my youngest son was born two years later, I was able to look back at those that didn’t pave my way and proudly say, I’m not like you!

    To this day, I stuck to my vow to never become the man they wanted me to become. And I proved to my own two sons that the word, “hereditary” is fictional!

    Here is a poem I wrote a few years ago to my sons…. I hope you like it.

    ~To My Sons, Thank You God~

    We waited for years
    for that bundle of joy
    God’s the one who blessed us
    and made it a baby boy

    It was him who changed me
    as Daddy I became
    it was at that moment I realized
    life wasn’t going to be the same

    All the special moments
    of looking into the eyes of my life
    And everyday I spent around him
    And constantly thanking my wife

    it was just over two years
    before God added to my clan
    another beautiful baby boy
    now I had one for each hand

    Every moment I spent holding them
    I will remember for the rest of my life
    And I will always thank you God
    for blessing my life – twice

    So to my sons,
    here is my plea
    I did my best in raising you
    so please forgive me
    it could have been worse
    I could have been gone
    and left you and your mom
    with wondering what went wrong.

    But, I am a true man
    I made that solemn vow
    I never thought about leaving
    and I am still here now

    So again, I say I love you
    and it comes from the bottom of my heart and soul
    this is my only way
    I feel I could let you know
    the two of you are my everything
    my sun, my moon, my stars
    and just because we don’t have everything
    including fancy cars
    we will always have each other
    and enough love to reach to Mars

    And now you two are getting older
    my boys growing into men
    I hope that one day
    you too will do the best you can
    because God is going to bless you
    like he did me
    and one day you will remember this
    and be the best dad you can be

    Oh yes, God is going to bless you
    and trying times will follow as they do
    it’s the strengths of your love for your children
    that will help you make it through
    so please listen to my words of wisdom
    in what ever you say or do
    it’s the strength and love of your family
    that truly defines you
    I am so proud of both of you.
    Daddy loves you

  15. M. says:

    I enjoyed your comments about being Old- Fashioned about the family. Have you ever read the document: The Family – A proclamation to the World ? There are parts in it you might like.

  16. Geri says:

    You’re a great blogger Dom. Never fail to crack me up. Placed an order for Eclipse beginning of this month via Book Depository. Can’t wait to read it. Your dad must be very proud of you. Well done.

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