A Piece of Lego Changed my Life…

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.”

Blimey. I could do that. How many times had I read those ‘day in the life’ pieces in the Sunday supplements? How many times had I thought, ‘I could write that?’

There’d been that time Tom had sniffed Lego up his nose. He’d been about four. It had got stuck. I’d taken him to A&E. Surely I could get something funny out of that?

I could. I e-mailed it the next morning. They liked it. I was hired.

“Give it a go for six weeks,” Paul said. “If you can do it for six weeks you can probably do it for a while.”

That was 13 years ago this week. I’ve been writing ever since. Around 650 columns – latterly on the blog as well – and something approaching 400,000 words.

There’ve been a few changes along the way…

We’ve gone from party bags, nativity plays and the sheer hell that’s a family changing room at the swimming pool to teenage angst, slamming doors and leaving home.

Gulp. The little boy who gave me the initial inspiration by so thoughtfully snorting Lego is about to leave university and start a proper job.

My Beloved Daughter – the source of so much early material as she pronounced her party bags inadequate and sank her teeth into her brother to keep him under control – has one more year at uni.

Any visits they make to home these days are fleeting. Their lives are elsewhere.

Which means, gentle reader, that I’m in trouble.

And so is my youngest son…

Ben has to do or say something funny every week to give me a subject to write about.

Either that – or we have another baby.

Not a suggestion I’ll be making to my wife…

When your children are 9, 7 and 4 – as they were when I started – finding something to write about each week is ridiculously easy. The problem is what not to write about.

When they become teenagers it’s completely different. Firstly, rather more subjects are off limits – assuming you want to keep a relationship with your children. The pace of change slows down: they do or say the same thing every week. And they live in a place called ‘Out.’

So as I said, Ben’s under pressure.

“What are you doing?”

“Waiting for you to finish cooking.”

“No you’re not. You want me to drop this egg on the dog. Or say something really funny. You haven’t got anything to write about this week.”

“That’s not strictly true…”

“Yes it is. You told me once. That time you took us conkering. You wanted one of us to fall in the stream so you’d have something to write about.”

“It wasn’t deep…”

“Try telling that to ChildLine. Anyway, I’m done. I’m sorry to disappoint you but my egg is on my toast. Not on the dog.”

He marched off to commandeer the TV. “As if,” I muttered to myself. “As if I’d want one of my children to fall in a stream. Just to get something to write about.”

“Come on, Pepper,” I said to the dog. “I’ll distract him. You steal his toast…”

Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and “very, very funny” to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here



  1. What an extraordinary record – 650 columns and still very funny. I wonder if the recent trend towards food (& drink) related posts sets a direction for BDICB in empty nest mode: BChefICB?

    • Almost certainly, Chris. ‘Ben’ goes to university in October next year: by that time the elder two will be proper people with proper jobs so yes, I’ll probably slant much more towards wine, food and travel. I’ve got the Pennine Way walk coming up in the summer http://bit.ly/1VPGdRk but wife and I are away next weekend staying at a boutique B&B in the Dales, so that will see the start of me writing about something else – although it will hopefully still be funny: that’s just the way the words come out. (Then again, the blog may be about what’s happening at home while we’re away…)

  2. I’m surprised any of them have let you carry on this long – though more because I’d expect them to be saying “You can’t share that, dad!” If I ever want to post anything about my teen, I have to have her permission first!

  3. It’s funny how the most unlikely of events or meetings, and the most random ‘happened to be in the right place at the right time’ are always the bits that ultimately are the most important 🙂
    Teenagers are hellish to write about – they do funny stuff constantly, we just can’t really share it and remain on speaking terms 😀

    • Think you’re absolutely right. How many people are married to someone they met when they didn’t want to go somewhere? And yes, you’re right re teenagers: I’m going to address that question on the blog next week.

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