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…]

Scouting for Dads

"Stay alive," I said to my wife. "I will find you..."

“Stay alive,” I said to my wife. “I will find you…”

One part holiday: one part scouting mission for the Pennine Way expedition. My beloved and I were in the Dales for two days, the house – and the continued survival of the pets – left confidently with Jessica and Ben.

Everything’s fine. Stop worrying, they texted.

Sadly, the scouting wasn’t going as well.

“Where’s the OS map?” Jane asked as we said a damp goodbye to Hardraw Force  and headed further into the wilds.

Oh. That’s why I’d had a nagging, something-left-behind feeling all morning…

“In the bedroom.”

“You’ve left it behind?”

“As it’s not currently hanging round my neck, yes.” [Read more…]

Pretentious? Moi?

Photograph my food? What's he talking about?

Photograph my food? What’s he talking about?

“I’ve got an idea,” I said to my beloved. “We’ll go into town and go to the market. Then I’ll take you for coffee.”

Clearly I’d been hit on the head. Or maybe I’d inhaled something. Maybe I thought I was still in France…

At least twenty years since I’d set foot in the local market and now I realised why. There was a butchers and a fruit and veg man – and three stalls selling old Superman comics. Presumably to each other.

Anyway, we needed vegetables. Jessica was on her way home from university. She’d sent a text demanding fresh vegetables. I still have trouble squaring this with the seven year old girl who forced me to say, “I don’t care how long it takes, you’ll sit there until you’ve eaten your sprouts.” Words I vowed would never pass my lips… [Read more…]

Speaking with my Son

On the night...

On the night…

“Are you going to watch football with me, Dad?”

I was tempted. Sorely tempted. The red wine was open. A seductive selection of cheese was waiting. My eldest son was home from university. My wife was at a conference: my conscience 120 miles away at the other end of the M62…

The bookies stopped taking bets. Surrender was inevitable. The fat lady stepped confidently on to the stage.

But no.

There was work to be done.

“Sorry, Tom,” I said. “Duty calls. I’ll see you for the second half. You can finish the wine – I’m off to rehearse with Ben.”

“You ready?” I said thirty seconds later. “Public speaking rehearsal. Less than a week to go. Let’s do this.” [Read more…]

Into the Vortex

Am I not a good parent? Is my children’s welfare not at the heart of everything I do?

“Is there anything you need to take back to uni?” I asked Tom.

“No, I’m good.”

“Coffee? Biscuits? Notebooks?”

I glanced over his shoulder. My son was simultaneously working on two computer screens. ‘Working’ may have been a relative term for one of the screens – it was showing the Bayern Munich game – but the other one was full of graphs and wavy lines and the sort of equations that make Stephen Hawking nervous.

So he’s probably moved a little bit beyond ‘notebooks.’ But as a parent, you want to help. He’s 22. He’s doing a Masters in Engineering. But I’m his Dad. I still feel like I should be helping with his homework. So from time to time I ask what he’s doing. [Read more…]