Underwater Shakespeare

TimonWhen shall we three meet again?

In thunder, lightning or in rain?

When the hurly-burly’s done

When the battle’s lost and won.

In truth, there wasn’t a lot of hurly-burly. Only 13 people in the audience: not quite your Hollywood crowd scene.

Because it wasn’t Hollywood. It was Cambridge. Our annual trip to the Shakespeare Festival. University gardens, an improvised stage – and rain. Lots of it. Definitely not Hollywood.

Fortunately my wife was prepared. [Read more…]

The Weigh-In

No. Those are not my feet. Too many years of football, alas...

No. Those are not my feet. Too many years of football, alas…

I have made one of the most stupid decisions of my life.

I have bought a new set of bathroom scales.

The old scales and I were pals. I could trust them. If you want to be pedantic they were broken. But like a broken clock is right twice a day, the bathroom scales were right whenever I stepped onto them. “Close enough,” I’d mutter, and skip cheerfully downstairs for a bacon sandwich.

But I’ve finally cracked. Yet another night of red wine, red meat and the wretched cheeseboard and I’ve stabbed my mate in the back. [Read more…]

Gin and Scotch Eggs

What Jessica's looked like. Apparently...

What Jessica’s looked like. Apparently…

Ben is 16. It naturally follows that he’s been buying his Mother gin for the last five years.

Birthdays, Christmas, our youngest son has never failed to deliver a litre bottle of Gordon’s. (And a large Toblerone: she has many vices…) But as his 17th birthday approached it seemed appropriate that he should go the extra mile. No, not follow in his sister’s footsteps and get a fake ID. Learn to make his Mum a G&T.

“Come on, Ben,” I said as I cheerfully covered myself in sausage meat en route to homemade Scotch Eggs, “Time to learn one of life’s essential skills.” [Read more…]

Flying the Nest

Nope, not jealous at all...

Nope, not jealous at all…

Last Sunday. And another Rite of Passage moment. For Ben – and us.

Our youngest son was flying the nest. Literally.

Sixteen years and 284 days old he was off on the first holiday with his mates. Italy: a bungalow for four of them at Marina di Venezia.

Mate 1 was already there – with parents and extended family on the other side of the campsite. So Ben wouldn’t be totally cast out into the world. He would, however, be cast out into East Midlands Airport. With mates 2 and 3 he’d be negotiating check-in, security and boarding and – hopefully – ending up in a taxi from the Aeroporto di Treviso.

But not before a lot of instructions had flowed under the bridge… [Read more…]

The Audition

Much more fun than the cricket...

Much more fun than the cricket…

“So if you’re OK with that,” I said, “I’ll spend the afternoon watching the cricket.”

“No problem at all.”

My beloved wife smiled sweetly. Too sweetly. After twenty years of marriage I should have realised…

“You know we’re babysitting don’t you?”

Lauren – an angelic seven year old – arrived half an hour later. Just as England started their second innings.

It was ten years since I’d last been in charge of a seven year old. [Read more…]

The Boy who Understood Women

Mars VenusBen and I are in the woods. Another dog walk, another roll in fox poo. If only they’d given me the part in Apocalypse Now: ‘I hate the smell of fox poo in the morning.’

But enough of my troubles. Here comes a fellow dog-walker. With wife and disappointingly well-behaved Labrador.

“Morning,” I say.

The fellow dog-walker looks at me. He clearly wants to say something. The concentrated expression on his face suggests it’s going to be profound. Am I about to learn one of life’s great secrets? Is God compensating me for the fox poo?

He looks at his watch. Time passes. “No,” he eventually says. “It’s afternoon.”

“I hate that,” Ben says when Confucius and his wife are safely out of earshot. [Read more…]

The Devil is in the Dishwasher

SpineI’m lying on the bedroom floor. I’ve been here a while. Fifteen minutes? At least.

My face is about three inches from my wife’s white sandals. The stitching is starting to fray on one of them. Behind them is a picture of Tom and Ben: the one from Christmas. It’s lovely. Why haven’t we hung it yet?

Anyway, I’d better try and get up again. There’s a chair about two yards away. That’s what I’m aiming for. Just need to roll over onto my side first…


The pain is quite remarkable.

Regular readers will be familiar with my back… [Read more…]

The Augean Garage

He hadn't even started...

He hadn’t even started…

“There you are, Tom, if you want something to do in the summer holidays you can clean out the garage. It would be a fantastic help and we’d obviously pay you.”

What an offer. And Tom reacted exactly as you’d expect him to react. He went up to his bedroom and spent the summer designing Formula 1 cars. Which explains why Jane delivered him to Brackley last week – and why there are parts of the Amazon jungle that have been visited more recently than the back of our garage.

Bluntly, it’s full. It’s full of junk and it’s needed emptying for years.

But it’s a Herculean task. In fact, it may be more than that…

[Read more…]

Father’s Day Detour

It was worse than this...

It was worse than this…

“It’s a bit dry, Dad…”

“Tom’s right,” Jessica said. “It needs a jus.”

“Or some sauce. But it’s better than I thought it would be. Mum just said you were doing sausages and vegetables.”

“It definitely needs a jus though…”

“Well I’m truly sorry,” I said. “I’m sorry my cooking isn’t up to the standard you’ve become accustomed to. Clearly student life has changed since I scrounged God-knows-what from Hull market. But give me two minutes. I’ll zip into the kitchen and knock up a red wine reduction.”

“There’s no need to be sarcastic, Dad. Real men can take criticism. We’re only trying to help.”

Yep, Tom and Jessica are home from university. [Read more…]

Like Father, Unlike Sons

Apple Tree“Aye,” as I frequently say when I’ve lapsed into Professional Yorkshireman mode, “’Appen t’apple don’t fall far from t’tree.”

One of the apples came downstairs last Saturday, mournfully made his breakfast and trudged back to his bedroom. Another weekend with his Physics text book…

“Not long now,” I said cheerfully. “Your last exam isn’t far away.”

“Not for you. But you’re not doing the exams, Dad.”

A fair point. And given the half term break in the middle he did seem to have been doing GCSEs for about two months. Maybe breakfast would console him… [Read more…]