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…]

White Whine

Should see us through to the weekend...

Should see us through to the weekend…

Like any marriage that’s rumbled along for twenty years or more we have the occasional disagreement. There are a few bones of contention. My inability to do any form of DIY isn’t a great help. Nor is my perceived untidiness. Or my point blank refusal to move from the sofa if Joe Root is batting… (You may notice a theme developing here.)

But all these pale into insignificance when chicken is on the menu. Or fish.

“I’ll do chicken and pesto tonight. Called at Tesco and bought a bottle of New Zealand wine. Is that OK?”

“I’ve already put it in the fridge.” [Read more…]

Holding Back the Years

Not that I'd keep them for long...

Not that I’d keep them for long…

I gazed lovingly into the bathroom mirror. 38? 39? Definitely not a day over 40. Assuming the light didn’t catch that grey hair…

I rubbed my hand over my chiselled jaw. How had it never happened? Fresh out of the shower, just the right amount of stubble, new moisturiser – surely it was only a matter of time before the perfume ad became a reality? A sultry temptress dragging me into her bedroom as my ship sailed straight to her door. I took her in my arms. Pulled her to me. Found the laces on her basque… [Read more…]

Mum v. Food

Not quite that big...

Not quite that big…

“Mum’s not going to eat a burger that big, Dad.”

“She didn’t have any lunch. She’ll be starving.”

“It’s a waste. Give me a bigger one.”

Ben may have a point. But that defeats the object of the challenge.

We’ve been father/son bonding. That’s to say, we’ve been watching Man v. Food on Dave. And now we’re bringing it to a kitchen near us. Extremely near us.

You may have seen Man v. Food. [Read more…]

Give Us This Day…

The basic ingredients...

The basic ingredients…

“What’s that?”

“Flour. I’m going to make bread.”

“You mean you’re going to make a mess. When are you making this bread? That is, when will we need a new kitchen?”

“The day after Boxing Day. We’ll all be fed up with turkey by then. I’m going to make bread every weekend next year.”

Jane didn’t seem convinced. And rightly so. That was Christmas 2013.

And every holiday since… [Read more…]