It’s What You Signed Up For…

"Actually, Ben, I signed up for a bottle of red wine and some exciting sex with your Mother..."

“Actually, Ben, I signed up for a bottle of red wine and some exciting sex with your Mother…”

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

Just what I wanted to spend Saturday with...

Just what I wanted to spend Saturday with…

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

Like this. But more complicated...

Like this. But more complicated…

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…]

A Piece of Lego Changed my Life…

The piece in question was much smaller...

The piece in question was much smaller…

March 2003. Tuesday night. Dark, cold, raining. Football on TV.

So like many of the events that change your life, I very nearly didn’t go.

But I hauled myself off the settee, dodged the puddles in a sodden car park and went to a meeting of the local Writers’ Circle.

The speaker was Paul Napier, the editor of the local paper.

Paul was talking about the mechanics of newspaper production. I started to drift away…

Then: “We’d quite like a humorous weekly column. If anyone thinks they could write one.” [Read more…]

The Mother’s Day Deputy

"The best Sunday lunch you've cooked, darling..."

“The best Sunday lunch you’ve cooked, darling…”

A lie-in. Cup of tea, slice of toast. A husband prepared to brave the elements and go to the corner shop; who’ll struggle back to the house under the crushing weight of a Sunday paper…

Yep, it’s a day to show the mother of my children how much we all love and appreciate her.

Thank goodness she finished filling the walls and hanging the wallpaper yesterday.

I’ll be expelled from the Real Men’s Union but it’s true. As the children get older Jane and I are specialising. She’s a remarkably competent decorator. My talents extend to putting the wallpaper paste on and making tea. I can, however, spatchcock a chicken.

Not a skill I’d be needing this week… [Read more…]

A Dad, his Son – and the Pennine Way

One of the reasons we're going...

One of the reasons we’re going…

It may be the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.

Or it might just be the best…

I’ve invited Ben out for a walk. Quite a long walk…

Ben, I texted, can you come downstairs when you’re ready. I want to put an idea to you.

Let me explain. I need to do something physical. I want a challenge. And I want to do it before my right knee decides the only thing it’s good for is a waiting list.

So I’ve had an idea… [Read more…]

The Bread from 20,000 Fathoms

What I was expecting...

What I was expecting…

I tell you, that Mary Berry’s got a lot to answer for. Wife away, football on TV and what am I doing? Baking. Not a sentence I ever thought I’d write: but never say ‘never…’

The seductive smell of freshly baked bread to greet me as I stumble downstairs tomorrow morning. But only two slices for breakfast: must remember my diet and the iron will-power I’m famous for.

And what a treat for Ben – home alone with a perfectly baked loaf. Should keep him going until at least lunchtime… [Read more…]