Empty Nest Alert

Empty Nest Alert

Here we go again…

“I’ve had acknowledgements from Exeter and Edinburgh, Dad.”

“That’s great, Ben,” I say, outwardly smiling.

But inside I’m a mix of emotions. Pleasure, panic, relief, sadness.

Twelve hours ago our youngest son pressed ‘send.’ And that was that. His university application was hurled into cyberspace.

Clearly it’s landed safely. At least in Exeter and Edinburgh. And I’m pleased for him. Ben’s ready to go. He’s ready for the next step, ready to leave home.

But does he need to be quite so far from home?

“What about York?”

“Much too close.” [Read more…]

The Coffee Snobs

The Coffee Snobs

Acceptable to the boys. Just…

Really sorry if you got caught in a traffic jam on the M1 this week. It was almost certainly my fault. A virtual pal of mine was in trouble. I had to help.

Panic! he tweeted. Our coffee machine has broken down. We’re having to drink instant Followed by every ‘terrified face’ emoji on the app store…

Now, if you’re in Barnsley or Bolton or Barrow you’d just shrug and carry on. You’d reach for the warranty or your screwdriver and drink instant.

But this poor bloke doesn’t live in any of those beauty spots. Sit down, because this is serious stuff: he lives in the South.

So no coffee machine – having to drink instant – is as bad as it gets.

When the news leaked out the value of his house plummeted faster than a pound coin faced with a Far Eastern trading algorithm. Social isolation was inevitable. “Drinks instant,” they whispered as he walked past… [Read more…]

Your Son is Two: 4 Things you Need to Do

So cute. Maybe it's not too late to have some more...

So cute. Maybe it’s not too late to have some more…

Rachel – a virtual pal of mine – wrote a blog post last week. 10 Things being a Parent has Taught me. Respect for my mum, makes you a better person, discover patience you never knew you had… And, of course, 3am no longer means alcohol.

Nope, it means vomit trickling down your back and a knacker-whacking from your lovely wife.

“You’ve woken me up.”

“I’m frozen. I thought cuddling you would – ”

“Well it won’t. Go and freeze in the spare room.”

Rachel’s son is two. As my eldest is now 22, I thought I might offer a little advice. Just in case she thinks she’s got this parenting lark licked. Four things you need to do now your son is two… [Read more…]

The Food Rant

Not good enough: needs a salad garnish...

Not good enough: needs a salad garnish…

It must have been all that fresh air on the Pennine Way. I started ranting about food on the first night and I haven’t stopped since.

“What’s on the menu?” I said to Ben. Jane had decanted us in Malham and we started walking in the morning. But first some delicious Yorkshire home cooking in the pub.

Or maybe not…

“Award winning Malhamdale sausages,” my son said.

“Awesome, I’ll have those. What about you?”

“Rabbit pie. And it says the rabbits were ‘locally shot by Dave Parker.’”

“Well let’s hope the vegetarian society doesn’t have its AGM in Malham. Dave’ll have to go into hiding.” [Read more…]

My Inspiration is Leaving…

Inspiration packed and ready to go...

Inspiration packed and ready to go…

What is it with other people’s children? Why do they grow up so much faster than yours?

“What’s Maisie now?” you say to a friend you haven’t seen for a while – as you feel remarkably smug at remembering the child’s name. “She must be nearly ready to start school.”

“She’s eight.”


It’s the same with pregnancies. Jane’s pregnancies lasted for about two years. Everyone else is pregnant for three months.

“How’s Claire doing? The baby must be due in a couple of months?”

“Leo’s six months. He’s just started crawling.”


So I wasn’t going to make that mistake when I ‘talked’ to my pal, Frankie – talked meaning Facebook’ed, obviously. [Read more…]

Things I Learned About my Dad on the Pennine Way

"He can't read a map..."

“He can’t read a map…”

“He can’t read a map.”

My wife raised her eyebrows. “Tell me something I don’t know. The only reason we’re still married is the invention of the SatNav. Do you remember that time in France?”

“You mean when he got lost in the supermarket car park and you had that enormous argument?”

I’d rather hoped Ben had been too young to remember that little incident. Clearly not. They spent a happy couple of minutes reminiscing about my failings. “What else?” Jane asked.

“Well…” [Read more…]

Back to School No More

3 for 2? It doesn't matter any more...

3 for 2? It doesn’t matter any more…

‘Back to School.’ Three words in a shop window that used to utterly depress me.

Now, I rather like them – in the same way I’ll like it in the afterlife when Beelzebub tells me he’s going to roast someone else for the next half hour.

Sure, Ben’s going back to college on Tuesday, but so what? He goes in jeans, t-shirt and a hoodie. Uniform? You must be joking – that’s only for the girls, jeans with ripped knees clearly being mandatory.

Tom’s now a grown up and Jessica’s heading back to Sheffield – via a short detour to a music festival in the Isle of Wight. Meanwhile, the shops are ablaze with window stickers – and several social media pals are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Not that I was always so relaxed… [Read more…]

One of my Children is a Grown Up!

Dan - Yr 4When I started writing these weekly ramblings about my children Tom was nine: in Year 4 at school. I’m not sure when the photo was taken – my wife would know – but he looked something like that.

Three years later there was a Grand Prix on TV – goodness knows why as I had no interest in the sport – and Tom wandered in. He started to watch and became fascinated: not by the race or the drivers but by the technicalities – specifically the aerodynamics.

The first time he started talking about it I scuttled off to ask Google for help. Tom was just beginning to suspect that his Dad didn’t know everything about everything. I preferred to delay the confirmation for a few more months…

Then he disappeared to his bedroom. And a few months later they called us into school. “Tom’s falling behind in Physics.” [Read more…]

Geriatrics in Concert

Mick Hucknall. As seen from Row Z

Mick Hucknall. As seen from Row Z…

“Why is everyone in that queue about eighty, Dad?”

I glanced out of the window. “Eighty’s a slight exaggeration, Ben. Older than your Dad, obviously. But not dead yet. Although it looks close in a few cases.”

I was driving him to work in July. Past Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre. Where the queue was enormous and – as my son had noticed – grey.

“Who’s on tonight?”

“There’s your answer, son. Status Quo.”


Precisely. How do you explain a band who had their first hit in the late sixties to someone born in 1998? “They’re a rock band,” I said lamely. “And to mis-quote Churchill, never in the field of musical history will one band have performed to so many replacement hips.”

“Aren’t you and Mum going to see someone there?” [Read more…]

The Man who wasn’t Bear Grylls

A 200 yard climb up the longest waterfall in England...

A 200 yard climb up the longest waterfall in England…

To my son’s intense relief I’d put my shorts back on.

“So you’ve finally dried out?”

“Yep. Told you it would work. Dry as a bone. Let’s have a look at the map. What’s up next?”

Cauldron Snout was up next. A 200 yard climb up the longest waterfall in England. And then 8 0r 9 miles to the end of our Pennine Way journey and the loving embrace of my wife. Unless five days without me had given her a new perspective on the marriage…

We strolled along the banks of the Tees. Malhamdale, Ribblesdale, every other ‘dale’ we’d been through. But Teesdale was my favourite. The countryside was softer, gentler, more welcoming. I felt the sun on my face and knew we were nearly home. Nothing could go wrong now… [Read more…]