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…]

The Christmas List Goes Missing

The Christmas List goes Missing

Come on, Tom. Help us out…

In the olden days it was simple. And I must be getting old because I find that particular phrase tripping off my lips all too frequently these days.

But it was, damn it.

“What do you want for Christmas, Tom?” we’d ask as November waved goodbye.

“I’ll send you a list,” he’d say. And a few days later, said list would drop into our inboxes.

“Can you understand it?” my wife traditionally asked.

“Well, I can understand one of the games. And I can understand it costs a lot. But basically, no.”

We didn’t have a hope. It was full of F1 technical details, go faster stripes for computers and various devices that would consolidate his hold over our home internet. It was also full of links. [Read more…]

The Poor, Brave Soldier

The Poor, Brave Soldier

The wife when I was hallucinating…

That’s how it starts. The sudden need for your wife to soothe your brow and call you her ‘poor, brave soldier.’

Technically, it starts with the ominous shivering. “I just can’t get warm today,” I said last Saturday lunchtime. And three hours later I wrapped myself in my dressing gown, crawled into bed and pulled an extra blanket over me. Then I asked – very weakly – for another blanket.

But when the shivers and shakes start, nothing keeps you warm.

“Maybe I’ve eaten something,” I whispered. “I’ll be OK tomorrow.”

“Good,” my wife said, “Because Ben says he’s bringing Chloe round.”

What? He was finally bringing her round? No way could I meet her in this state. I had to get better… [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

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…]