My Inspiration is Leaving…

Inspiration packed and ready to go...

Inspiration packed and ready to go…

What is it with other people’s children? Why do they grow up so much faster than yours?

“What’s Maisie now?” you say to a friend you haven’t seen for a while – as you feel remarkably smug at remembering the child’s name. “She must be nearly ready to start school.”

“She’s eight.”

“Oh…”

It’s the same with pregnancies. Jane’s pregnancies lasted for about two years. Everyone else is pregnant for three months.

“How’s Claire doing? The baby must be due in a couple of months?”

“Leo’s six months. He’s just started crawling.”

“Oh…”

So I wasn’t going to make that mistake when I ‘talked’ to my pal, Frankie – talked meaning Facebook’ed, obviously. [Read more…]

Things I Learned About my Dad on the Pennine Way

"He can't read a map..."

“He can’t read a map…”

“He can’t read a map.”

My wife raised her eyebrows. “Tell me something I don’t know. The only reason we’re still married is the invention of the SatNav. Do you remember that time in France?”

“You mean when he got lost in the supermarket car park and you had that enormous argument?”

I’d rather hoped Ben had been too young to remember that little incident. Clearly not. They spent a happy couple of minutes reminiscing about my failings. “What else?” Jane asked.

“Well…” [Read more…]

Back to School No More

3 for 2? It doesn't matter any more...

3 for 2? It doesn’t matter any more…

‘Back to School.’ Three words in a shop window that used to utterly depress me.

Now, I rather like them – in the same way I’ll like it in the afterlife when Beelzebub tells me he’s going to roast someone else for the next half hour.

Sure, Ben’s going back to college on Tuesday, but so what? He goes in jeans, t-shirt and a hoodie. Uniform? You must be joking – that’s only for the girls, jeans with ripped knees clearly being mandatory.

Tom’s now a grown up and Jessica’s heading back to Sheffield – via a short detour to a music festival in the Isle of Wight. Meanwhile, the shops are ablaze with window stickers – and several social media pals are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Not that I was always so relaxed… [Read more…]

One of my Children is a Grown Up!

Dan - Yr 4When I started writing these weekly ramblings about my children Tom was nine: in Year 4 at school. I’m not sure when the photo was taken – my wife would know – but he looked something like that.

Three years later there was a Grand Prix on TV – goodness knows why as I had no interest in the sport – and Tom wandered in. He started to watch and became fascinated: not by the race or the drivers but by the technicalities – specifically the aerodynamics.

The first time he started talking about it I scuttled off to ask Google for help. Tom was just beginning to suspect that his Dad didn’t know everything about everything. I preferred to delay the confirmation for a few more months…

Then he disappeared to his bedroom. And a few months later they called us into school. “Tom’s falling behind in Physics.” [Read more…]

Geriatrics in Concert

Mick Hucknall. As seen from Row Z

Mick Hucknall. As seen from Row Z…

“Why is everyone in that queue about eighty, Dad?”

I glanced out of the window. “Eighty’s a slight exaggeration, Ben. Older than your Dad, obviously. But not dead yet. Although it looks close in a few cases.”

I was driving him to work in July. Past Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre. Where the queue was enormous and – as my son had noticed – grey.

“Who’s on tonight?”

“There’s your answer, son. Status Quo.”

“Who?”

Precisely. How do you explain a band who had their first hit in the late sixties to someone born in 1998? “They’re a rock band,” I said lamely. “And to mis-quote Churchill, never in the field of musical history will one band have performed to so many replacement hips.”

“Aren’t you and Mum going to see someone there?” [Read more…]

The Man who wasn’t Bear Grylls

A 200 yard climb up the longest waterfall in England...

A 200 yard climb up the longest waterfall in England…

To my son’s intense relief I’d put my shorts back on.

“So you’ve finally dried out?”

“Yep. Told you it would work. Dry as a bone. Let’s have a look at the map. What’s up next?”

Cauldron Snout was up next. A 200 yard climb up the longest waterfall in England. And then 8 0r 9 miles to the end of our Pennine Way journey and the loving embrace of my wife. Unless five days without me had given her a new perspective on the marriage…

We strolled along the banks of the Tees. Malhamdale, Ribblesdale, every other ‘dale’ we’d been through. But Teesdale was my favourite. The countryside was softer, gentler, more welcoming. I felt the sun on my face and knew we were nearly home. Nothing could go wrong now… [Read more…]

Walking the Pennine Way – in my Underpants…

The only way to dry out...

The only way to dry out…

 

“Can I walk in front of you, Dad?”

“In a minute. First you can stand there and take a picture of my bum.”

“Do I have to?”

“Sorry. You have to suffer for my art.”

Twenty minutes earlier Ben and I had realised we were lost.

Day five of our Pennine Way expedition. We’d walked through rain, hail, gales, hill fog, low cloud, more ‘marshy ground’ than the Everglades and here we were. In the middle of a field.

75 miles behind us, 12 to go and for the first time we were lost. Somewhere between Pasture Foot and Cauldron Snout we’d gone wrong.

“Look,” I said in desperation. “We know the river’s down there.”

“And there’s a road up there.”

“I can’t walk up to the road. I can’t wade through any more long grass. And supposing someone offers us a lift? I’m too knackered to resist.”

“But we can’t stay here…” [Read more…]

Polo Shirts and Peer Pressure

 

“Why are you wandering around in your underpants, Dad?”

“I’m not.”

“Actually, Dad, you are.”

“Well, technically, yes.”

“That’s worrying, Dad. When Mum’s assessing patients ‘not knowing you’re wandering around in underpants’ will be right at the top of the list.”

I carefully explained to my youngest son that whilst at that moment I might – technically – only be wearing underpants and socks (sorry if you’re having breakfast) I was actually trying clothes on.

Lots of them… [Read more…]

The Third Child

The Third Child aged 6. Or maybe 7...

The Third Child aged 6. Or maybe 7…

“So why did you have a third child?”

As the third child was asking the question, it seemed to merit an answer.

“I’m going out for a walk,” I’d said to him an hour earlier. “Do you want to come?”

To my surprise he’d said ‘yes.’ And here we were on the cliffs – as always, straight into a serious conversation.

“How long did you and Mum live together before you got married?”

Where had that come from? Jane and I had suspicions that our youngest son’s nights out ‘just with my friends’ were no longer nights out with his friends. But he’s 17; he’s entitled to his secrets – and to ask the questions, apparently. [Read more…]

21 Days to the Pennine Way

Not quite that far: not this morning...

17 miles to Whitby: maybe not this morning…

It was the end of February. Can you come downstairs I texted to Ben. I want to put an idea to you. The idea was a walk in the Dales. Five days, 80 miles on the Pennine Way.

“Sure,” he said. “Why not?” And the die was cast.

…For the beginning of August. Five months to get fit. Five months of planning and preparation. A deadline which – like Christmas to a six year old – would never arrive.

Except it has.

My appointment with hills, more hills and my seven league boots is less than three weeks away. I’ve been training since March. I’d like to tell you that I’m as brown as the proverbial nut. But where our athletes have been for warming up for Rio by sloping off to the Pyrenees, I’ve been on the Cleveland Way. In the fog.

And yes, perilously close to the edge a few times… [Read more…]