Father, Son and the Pennine Way

Confident Dad, hopelessly confused son. Or the other way round…

They say that writing a book is the closest a man ever gets to giving birth. Well, after far too long in the delivery room, I’ve finally delivered the baby. Father, Son and the Pennine Way has now been published, and the e-book is available on the Kindle. Here’s the link to Amazon UK. For those of you that prefer something you can touch, hold and spill coffee on, the paperback will be along shortly.

The book is the story of the walk I did with Alex, my youngest son (and ‘Ben’ in the regular ‘Best Dad’ posts) in the summer of 2016. 5 days and 90 miles on the Pennine Way, the UK’s ‘toughest national trail.’

It’s the experiences we shared, what we learned about ourselves and each other – and the sorry tale of how I became perhaps the only person in the world to walk a mile of the Pennine Way in my underpants… [Read more…]

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…]

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…]

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 Drinks Machine

The Drinks Machine

Ben’s rubbish bin. No, I’m joking. Honest…

There are certain disadvantages to your children turning 18. For starters, this conversation…

“I’m going out on Saturday night.”

“Where?”

“Into town.”

“Whereabouts in town?”

“Around…”

“Who with?”

“Just friends.”

“What time will you be back?”

“Dunno. I’ll take my key.”

At which point you have to wave the white flag. You’ve invested 18 years in your children. You have to trust them, however vividly you remember your own nights ‘just in town, just with friends…’ [Read more…]

Empty Nest Alert

Empty Nest Alert

Here we go again…

“I’ve had acknowledgements from Exeter and Edinburgh, Dad.”

“That’s great, Ben,” I say, outwardly smiling.

But inside I’m a mix of emotions. Pleasure, panic, relief, sadness.

Twelve hours ago our youngest son pressed ‘send.’ And that was that. His university application was hurled into cyberspace.

Clearly it’s landed safely. At least in Exeter and Edinburgh. And I’m pleased for him. Ben’s ready to go. He’s ready for the next step, ready to leave home.

But does he need to be quite so far from home?

“What about York?”

“Much too close.” [Read more…]

The Coffee Snobs

The Coffee Snobs

Acceptable to the boys. Just…

Really sorry if you got caught in a traffic jam on the M1 this week. It was almost certainly my fault. A virtual pal of mine was in trouble. I had to help.

Panic! he tweeted. Our coffee machine has broken down. We’re having to drink instant Followed by every ‘terrified face’ emoji on the app store…

Now, if you’re in Barnsley or Bolton or Barrow you’d just shrug and carry on. You’d reach for the warranty or your screwdriver and drink instant.

But this poor bloke doesn’t live in any of those beauty spots. Sit down, because this is serious stuff: he lives in the South.

So no coffee machine – having to drink instant – is as bad as it gets.

When the news leaked out the value of his house plummeted faster than a pound coin faced with a Far Eastern trading algorithm. Social isolation was inevitable. “Drinks instant,” they whispered as he walked past… [Read more…]