The Lost Samurai

The Lost Samurai

Ben’s plan for next year…

Flashback six months. Ben and I are walking past Malham Tarn. We’re a couple of miles into our 5 days/90 miles Pennine Way epic. And I’m feeling good.

“We should do this every year,” I say.

As I say, feeling good. At the time I hadn’t walked for eight hours soaked to the skin. I hadn’t been so exhausted that I couldn’t speak. I hadn’t slipped on the rocks and broken two fingers. I hadn’t fallen in a bog and had to walk a mile in my underpants to dry out.

“As long as you’re up to it, Dad.” Back in August I thought he was being considerate. Now I realise he had the gift of foresight.

“Where shall we go next year? Southern Ireland? Bologna to Florence?”

“Why don’t we walk across Japan?” [Read more…]

And Then There Were Four…

And then there were four

Just the four plates this year…

“Is it alright if I work on Christmas Day?”

I’d been half-expecting the question. The hotel had decided they couldn’t be without their star waiter on Christmas Day. And it looked like the star waiter wanted to work…

“Well… In a perfect world we’d have you all at home.”

“Yeah, I know,” Ben said. “But I sort of feel I owe them one for last year. And it would be interesting to work just once on Christmas Day.”

And who can’t see that? Work means commitments. And in a busy hotel, one of those commitments can easily be Christmas Day.

Ah, well. We’ve known the day was coming… [Read more…]

The Christmas List Goes Missing

The Christmas List goes Missing

Come on, Tom. Help us out…

In the olden days it was simple. And I must be getting old because I find that particular phrase tripping off my lips all too frequently these days.

But it was, damn it.

“What do you want for Christmas, Tom?” we’d ask as November waved goodbye.

“I’ll send you a list,” he’d say. And a few days later, said list would drop into our inboxes.

“Can you understand it?” my wife traditionally asked.

“Well, I can understand one of the games. And I can understand it costs a lot. But basically, no.”

We didn’t have a hope. It was full of F1 technical details, go faster stripes for computers and various devices that would consolidate his hold over our home internet. It was also full of links. [Read more…]

The Poor, Brave Soldier

The Poor, Brave Soldier

The wife when I was hallucinating…

That’s how it starts. The sudden need for your wife to soothe your brow and call you her ‘poor, brave soldier.’

Technically, it starts with the ominous shivering. “I just can’t get warm today,” I said last Saturday lunchtime. And three hours later I wrapped myself in my dressing gown, crawled into bed and pulled an extra blanket over me. Then I asked – very weakly – for another blanket.

But when the shivers and shakes start, nothing keeps you warm.

“Maybe I’ve eaten something,” I whispered. “I’ll be OK tomorrow.”

“Good,” my wife said, “Because Ben says he’s bringing Chloe round.”

What? He was finally bringing her round? No way could I meet her in this state. I had to get better… [Read more…]

Walking Out

Walking Out

No caption required…

As my Granny would have said, he’s ‘walking out.’

A delightful phrase – which doesn’t mean that our youngest son is leaving home. It does mean that he has a girlfriend.

And ‘walking out’ is exactly what he’s doing.

“I’m just going for a walk.”

“I’m just popping out for an hour.”

“Just going into town. Can you give me a lift?”

We smile and say “that’s fine” and maybe we reach for the car keys. And then we have a talk with him… [Read more…]

Nietzsche Stole my Will Power

It was all his fault…

Here’s a simple question: one that goes right to the heart of the human condition. And married life as well…

Does a man’s will power only exist while his wife is in the same room?

In my case, the answer is simple. And obvious.

Thursday night. I’ve spent the day at work locked in a sweaty embrace with 2,500 words on Philip Hammond’s Autumn Statement. But that’s what I do for a living: all stress levels are normal.

But my beloved is away. And 90 minutes later I’ve destroyed the kitchen and drunk far too much red wine.

Whose fault was it? Another obvious answer… [Read more…]

I Need a Hygge

I Need a Hygge

The view I won’t be seeing. Not yet anyway…

Hygge. Pronounced ‘hue-gah.’ Unless you’re in our house, in which case it’s ‘hug.’ Or ‘higgy.’

It’s the Danish concept of living well, living simply and being good to yourself – and no ‘wellness’ guide can exist without it.

As far as I can tell I’ve been good to myself for several years. Too many, according to the waistband on my grey trousers…

But I’ve always been good at home. I’ve never set foot in Denmark. It’s on my bucket list: one of the countries I really want to visit. Copenhagen, and then a jaunt up the road to Aarhus (see above: pronounced ‘our house,’ obviously…)

And last week, for thirty glorious seconds, I was on the plane. [Read more…]

First World Problems

First World Problems

Another appalling first world problem: the eggs should have been on the toast…

It can only be a matter of time. I’ll hear the sirens any minute. Social services must be on their way by now. Ben will be taken into care.

We’ll be filed under ‘failed parents.’ And quite right too.

What have we done? Two things. Sit down, because the scale of our neglect will horrify you.

Number one, the internet has been off for three days. Our early-Victorian router has been diagnosed as the problem. A new one is in the post. Until then we’re back in the Dark Ages (or, in my case, sneaking off to the office at six in the morning.)

That alone would be bad enough. The shame our son will have suffered at college…

But we’ve compounded the felony. We’ve run out of coffee pods. [Read more…]

Keeping Secrets

Keeping Secrets

Could he possibly keep a secret from his Dad…

“I’m going out for a walk.”

“What? On a Tuesday night?”

“Why not?”

“Well where are you going?”

“Just out.”

“Are you meeting someone?”

No reply. Ben’s face is so blank he clearly has a future as a poker player.

“How long are you going to be?”

At which point my son shrugged, smiled and walked out: keeping his secrets…

And quite right too.

A virtual pal of mine wrote a blog post the other week. It was about secrets: specifically, about teaching his two boys that “we don’t have secrets in our house.”  Spot on: sound parenting. But his children are six and three. Add ten years and that rule needs to be flying through the window. [Read more…]

The Nightmare

The Nightmare

The bed I crawled under…

As I reported last week, Ben is now 18. And determined to ‘go-out-where-nowhere-special’ at every opportunity.

The first time was a fortnight ago. It coincided with Jane and me being away for the night. So no need to worry…

“Send us a text,” I said. “Whatever time it is, let us know you’re safely home. Otherwise I’ll wake up worrying and ring you.”

“I’ll be fine…”

True to his word, Ben sent a text.

It arrived at 3:12am. [Read more…]