Here’s what I like to do on a Friday night. Most parents will tick these boxes…
Come in. Dump my notebook on the dining room table.
Walk smartly to the wine rack. Select a bottle of red wine. Open it. Let it breathe. Not for long, obviously.
On the off chance that I’m wearing anything formal – or tight – take it off.
…And spend the rest of the evening with my wife, eating something someone else has prepared (‘dine in for two for ten quid’ is just fine) and watching something mildly amusing that doesn’t tax what’s left of my brain: Blacklist, for example.
Here’s what I definitely don’t like to do:
Hear the words, “Can you take me to a party, Dad?”
Eight simple words. Which completely change a Friday night. Because you don’t take your beloved offspring – Ben in this case – to a party at 7:30 and then come home and revert to the list: drink wine, loosen clothing, wonder if wife secretly fancies James Spader…
Nope. Because – and really sorry about this if your angelic children are four and six and you’re still in dreamland – no party starts before ten o’clock.
Even later if table four carry on talking…
Ben finally rings me at 10:30. “They wouldn’t stop talking.”
“That’s how it is when you’re a waiter. Sometimes people like to talk.”
“Well why don’t people just finish their meal and go home to talk?”
I patiently explain the joys of lingering over a meal; carrying on the conversation; how the mood is broken once you leave the table…
He’s not listening. “Did you get me some beer?”
“Not Grolsch. Please say you didn’t buy Grolsch.”
“Budweiser. You’re saved.”
My son dashes into the house, jettisons his black-trousers-black-shirt uniform. Jeans, rugby shirt, a quick visit to the bathroom – that smells suspiciously like my new after-shave, young man – a carrier bag full of Bud and we’re good to go.
“Where are we going?”
“Again? Have his parents moved out?”
But Charlie’s is fine. It may be too far away for a taxi, but at least I know where it is. I approve of Ben’s friends. They all know where they live.
Tom’s were an entirely different matter.
“Which is your house?” I asked having foolishly offered one of his mates a lift home.
“It’s along here somewhere…”
“OK. That’s narrowed it down.”
“I think we’ve got a blue door…” The young man in question is now training to be a doctor: that should give you some confidence.
But the parties were even worse. They all seemed to be held at the end of long country lanes. In places so inhospitable Macbeth’s witches would have turned them down. Where the friendly Irish guy on our satnav waved the white flag and said, ‘You’re on your own, pal.’
“Where the hell is it, Tom?”
“It’s along here somewhere…”
“Tom. Everywhere is ‘along here somewhere.’ It’s eleven o’clock. I’m cold, I’m tired and I’m fairly certain we just passed a werewolf. Ring Jake on your damn mobile.”
“I can’t get a signal.”
Finally we’d find it. And I’d start the long, lonely drive home. Still, at least I knew where it was now. Handy when I went back to collect him in the morning…
…Which brings us back to Ben.
What time do you want collecting? I texted.
Great. Do you want a bacon sandwich when you come in?
‘Not sure’ translated as smelling strongly of alcohol, not having the energy to speak and going straight to bed as soon as he was through the front door.
So at least one of us enjoyed Friday night…