You Never Stop Worrying…



Tom was two days old. Lying in an incubator. He was jaundiced: the result of a Ventouse delivery.

“He’ll be fine,” the doctor said. Which was no use at all to his anxious parents. We  sat by the side of his cot – quite painfully in my wife’s case, thanks to the stitches – watching, waiting and powerless. And now on first name terms with every parent’s daemon; worry.

But the doctor was right. He was fine. We took him home – and three days later we were pacing the bedroom floor at four in the morning, worrying that we couldn’t get him to sleep. “What the hell have we done?” I said to Jane.

But gradually we learned how to be parents. ‘That’s it,’ I remember thinking. ‘I can change a nappy. Cracked it.’

Tom grew up; a bright, intelligent, curly haired little boy. Then suddenly, he was ill. Really ill. [Read more…]

Boots on the Ground

"Come on, Dad..."

“Come on, Dad…”

I’ve gone through my whole life without being remotely interested in footwear with brand names like ‘Mountain Goat’ or ‘Crag Climber.’  

But this walking lark has changed everything.

With the Pennine Way now just an ominous seven weeks away my thoughts have turned to my feet. And the simple fact that I’ll need something more than my trainers to march up Pen-y-Ghent and pals.

The same goes for Ben. He finished his Duke of Edinburgh practice expedition with his feet inside plastic bags. His boots took a week to dry out. So they’ll shortly be on first name terms with a skip.

He needs new boots. I need new boots. But ‘this walking lark’ is not cheap… [Read more…]

The No Bathroom Blues

The Waterfall Shower. Eventually...

The Waterfall Shower. Eventually…

We’ve all been there. That moment in the relationship when one of you says, ‘Look, I’ve been thinking and…’

We’d been thinking about breaking the bad news to the bathroom for about ten years. But we’ve been through so much together. There was so much we’d shared…

This was where we’d bathed our children. This was where I’d wrapped them in a bath towel and towed them to their bedrooms. And this was where Daddy’s little princess had gazed up at me with those beautiful brown eyes and said, “Daddy, I’ve done a poo in the bath.” And I’d realised that was what it meant to be a Dad: sticking your hand in and finding the damn thing…

But it was time to say goodbye. Time to look for a sexy new model… [Read more…]

The Plague of Bees

"Plagues are locusts or frogs, Dad. Not bees..."

“Plagues are locusts or frogs, Dad. Not bees…”

I must stop drinking at lunchtime.

I don’t remember the bottle of red wine, but clearly I’m drunk.

It’s the only possible explanation.

And I’m worried. I need to see the doctor about this. I’m having hallucinations.

Right now I’m seeing a man in a full bee-keeping suit standing in our drive.

“Do you live here?” Blimey, even worse. I’m hearing voices as well.

Ah, he’s real. Now I look closely he’s not wearing a full bee-keeping suit. He’s wearing a bee-keeping top and Marigold rubber gloves. Spoils the effect slightly.

“Yes,” I say, suddenly aware that our drive is infested with bees. [Read more…]

The Football Family

The days before sponsorship...

The days before sponsorship…

Monday. A text arrives from the Beloved Daughter. Our final bills payment is due this week. Would you be able to transfer me £75? Then it starts again.

Of course, darling, there’s nothing I’d like more. And I’d be distraught if it didn’t ‘start again.’

Tuesday. Another text. Do you fancy going to the play-off finals?

Hang on. Yesterday she needed money to pay bills. Today she has enough to go to Wembley. Or am I’m being stupid? Maybe the text translates as Would you like to take me to the play-off finals?

Not this year, I tactfully reply. You need money: your brother needs money: another year. When it’s Wolves vs. Owls.

Yep, she’s become an Owl. Three years in Sheffield and she’s a Wednesday supporter. [Read more…]

I’m Struggling with Exam Nerves…

Here we go again...

Here we go again…

Seven o’clock. What’s that? Night Owl if I know my iPhone alarms. But it hasn’t got a hope.

I can hear the alarm downstairs. It’s going off right next to Ben’s bed. But with exams starting next week there’s only one way to wake a teenager – a serious shaking. And you learn to live with the inevitable abuse…

I rap smartly on his door. Wait the obligatory ten seconds – when he’s awake, just long enough to guarantee his laptop screen is showing school work – and walk in. I immediately trip over a shoe. Then I stand on a text book.

Yes, yes, I know these are trivialities compared to having younger children. How did the Spanish Inquisition miss standing on Lego in your bare feet? But they don’t make for a dignified entrance.

“Time to wake up,” I say.

“As you’ve just tripped over everything in my bedroom I am awake.” [Read more…]

Natural Selection in the Kitchen

Saturday morning. I was admiring the Swiss Army penknife I’d bought for our walk on the Pennine Way. Ben and I striding across the Dales – and what’s this? A horse with a stone in its hoof – no problem. I congratulated myself on my forward planning and snapped the blade shut. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to remove my finger…

Sunday morning. Jane had bought me a new carving knife and a sharpening steel for my birthday. Just like a proper chef. And blimey, that was sharp. I sliced the bread open – and sliced straight into my finger.

Monday. “Are you in the bathroom?”

“Yes. What do you want?”

“Can you bring me a plaster?”

“Another one? What have you done now?”

“I’ve grated my thumb.” [Read more…]

The Pennine Way: The Die is Cast…

It's lovely: but it's not the Pennine Way...

It’s lovely: but it’s not the Pennine Way…

That’s it, then. No backing out now. Exactly three months from today Jane will decant Ben and I at the River House Hotel in Malham. We’ll eat a hearty evening meal, an even heartier breakfast and then we’ll start walking.

Five days and 80 miles later she’ll collect a bedraggled husband and a what-was-all-the-fuss-about teenager from Dufton – 13 miles outside Penrith and the end of our five days on the Pennine Way.

I’ve booked all the B&Bs. I’ve paid the deposits. So there’s no backing out. Especially as my son tells me he’s “looking forward to it, Dad.”

As I wrote a few weeks ago, I want to do a physical challenge ‘before my left knee decides the only thing it’s good for is a waiting list.’ There’s the small matter of some father/son time before Ben goes to university next year.

But there’s also the rather larger matter of my own fears… [Read more…]

It’s What You Signed Up For…

My youngest son had a problem. He needed to be in Oxford. And Penrith. On the same day.

“You need that thing Hermione Grainger used,” I said helpfully. “A time turner.”

“Try and think like an adult, Dad.”

No way. If I thought like an adult I’d arrive at the only possible solution. And two months later I’d be in a service station on the M6.

Anyway, let me take a step back and explain. And if your son or daughter is seven years old, doing well at school and prone to marching across the moors put a ring round the date. June 2026. Don’t say you weren’t warned… [Read more…]

A Married Man’s Dilemma

A quick glance out of the window confirmed it. All nine planets were in line. Or to put it another way, I had a day to myself on Saturday.

Yep, after 20 years of being a Dad the Heavens have aligned. Tom and Jessica are in their respective university libraries busily revising. (Yes they are – have some faith in the modern student.) Ben is trekking across the Moors on a D of E practice expedition. And my lovely wife is driving her Mother to Manchester.

So I have the whole day to myself.

And there’s the rub, as my old mate Hamlet pointed out. Not that Ophelia had dropped any thinly-veiled hints about wallpaper stripping… [Read more…]