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…]

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…]

I Need a Hygge

I Need a Hygge

The view I won’t be seeing. Not yet anyway…

Hygge. Pronounced ‘hue-gah.’ Unless you’re in our house, in which case it’s ‘hug.’ Or ‘higgy.’

It’s the Danish concept of living well, living simply and being good to yourself – and no ‘wellness’ guide can exist without it.

As far as I can tell I’ve been good to myself for several years. Too many, according to the waistband on my grey trousers…

But I’ve always been good at home. I’ve never set foot in Denmark. It’s on my bucket list: one of the countries I really want to visit. Copenhagen, and then a jaunt up the road to Aarhus (see above: pronounced ‘our house,’ obviously…)

And last week, for thirty glorious seconds, I was on the plane. [Read more…]

The Nightmare

The Nightmare

The bed I crawled under…

As I reported last week, Ben is now 18. And determined to ‘go-out-where-nowhere-special’ at every opportunity.

The first time was a fortnight ago. It coincided with Jane and me being away for the night. So no need to worry…

“Send us a text,” I said. “Whatever time it is, let us know you’re safely home. Otherwise I’ll wake up worrying and ring you.”

“I’ll be fine…”

True to his word, Ben sent a text.

It arrived at 3:12am. [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…]

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 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…]

The No Bathroom Blues

The Waterfall Shower. Eventually...

The Waterfall Shower. Eventually…

We’ve all been there. That moment in the relationship when one of you says, ‘Look, I’ve been thinking and…’

We’d been thinking about breaking the bad news to the bathroom for about ten years. But we’ve been through so much together. There was so much we’d shared…

This was where we’d bathed our children. This was where I’d wrapped them in a bath towel and towed them to their bedrooms. And this was where Daddy’s little princess had gazed up at me with those beautiful brown eyes and said, “Daddy, I’ve done a poo in the bath.” And I’d realised that was what it meant to be a Dad: sticking your hand in and finding the damn thing…

But it was time to say goodbye. Time to look for a sexy new model… [Read more…]

Natural Selection in the Kitchen

Saturday morning. I was admiring the Swiss Army penknife I’d bought for our walk on the Pennine Way. Ben and I striding across the Dales – and what’s this? A horse with a stone in its hoof – no problem. I congratulated myself on my forward planning and snapped the blade shut. Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to remove my finger…

Sunday morning. Jane had bought me a new carving knife and a sharpening steel for my birthday. Just like a proper chef. And blimey, that was sharp. I sliced the bread open – and sliced straight into my finger.

Monday. “Are you in the bathroom?”

“Yes. What do you want?”

“Can you bring me a plaster?”

“Another one? What have you done now?”

“I’ve grated my thumb.” [Read more…]

A Married Man’s Dilemma

A quick glance out of the window confirmed it. All nine planets were in line. Or to put it another way, I had a day to myself on Saturday.

Yep, after 20 years of being a Dad the Heavens have aligned. Tom and Jessica are in their respective university libraries busily revising. (Yes they are – have some faith in the modern student.) Ben is trekking across the Moors on a D of E practice expedition. And my lovely wife is driving her Mother to Manchester.

So I have the whole day to myself.

And there’s the rub, as my old mate Hamlet pointed out. Not that Ophelia had dropped any thinly-veiled hints about wallpaper stripping… [Read more…]