Into the Vortex

Am I not a good parent? Is my children’s welfare not at the heart of everything I do?

“Is there anything you need to take back to uni?” I asked Tom.

“No, I’m good.”

“Coffee? Biscuits? Notebooks?”

I glanced over his shoulder. My son was simultaneously working on two computer screens. ‘Working’ may have been a relative term for one of the screens – it was showing the Bayern Munich game – but the other one was full of graphs and wavy lines and the sort of equations that make Stephen Hawking nervous.

So he’s probably moved a little bit beyond ‘notebooks.’ But as a parent, you want to help. He’s 22. He’s doing a Masters in Engineering. But I’m his Dad. I still feel like I should be helping with his homework. So from time to time I ask what he’s doing. [Read more…]

Dad Control to Major Tom

This is Dad Control

To my son Tom

Would you kindly answer this short text from me?

Now it’s time to leave the bedroom

For your tea

’Cos here, am I cooking up a Spag Bol…

With sincere apologies to the memory of David Bowie: and even more sincere apologies to my wife for a week’s off-key wailing of All the Young Dudes

Back here on Planet Earth it’s coming up to ten years since Tom disappeared into orbit. [Read more…]

The Wings to Fly

Dear Tom

I am pleased to be able to confirm in writing our offer of employment…

I’ve said many times on this blog that parents go through ‘rite of passage’ moments every bit as much as their children. Your wife shows you a stick with two blue lines on it. You hold your son’s hand and take him to nursery. Thirteen years later he rolls through the front door and throws up on your carpet…

Four years ago we dropped Tom off at university. This morning he e-mailed me – with an attachment from a Formula One team.

I ran down the letter. [Read more…]

I Would Drive 2,000 Miles

What do we know about the Proclaimers?

They made a record: they were prepared to walk a long way.

What else do we know?

They didn’t have teenage children.

Because if they did, they wouldn’t have time for some silly fantasy about 500 miles. They’d be too busy. Driving the car: the length and breadth of the country. And every night between Christmas and New Year.

If your children are four and six you should look away now. If the phrase ‘Dad’s taxi’ is still a novelty you may need a stiff drink. [Read more…]

Watch and Learn. And Visit A&E…

Just ordered a skateboard for a (nearly) six year old, tweeted a virtual pal of mine. This isn’t going to end well…

It’ll be fine, I reassuringly tweeted back. Unless, of course, your OH jumps on it and says, ‘Watch and learn…’

Says the voice of experience, she replied.

Sadly, she’s right. And I have the scars – and the stamps on my A&E loyalty card – to prove it.

Twenty or so years ago – the years when I didn’t fall lovingly on every pair of trousers with an ‘athletic’ waist – I played squash.

Jane and I had been living together for four days when they phoned from the sports centre. “He’s crashed his head into the wall. We think he may need to go to A&E.” [Read more…]

“Can You Take Me to a Party?”

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: [Read more…]

My First Love

She was old. She was full of holes. She was rusty. And I loved her.

LYL.

LYL 676D to use her full name. But ‘Lyl’ to me. My first car: my first love.

Lyl was a white mini. I bought her with the fruits of a summer spent calling bingo numbers. Then I drove her proudly back to university. Would any girl be able to resist me now I could whisk her off to the seaside at a moment’s notice?

I suggested as much to Amanda Jowett. “Frankly,” she said, “I’d rather take up stamp collecting.” [Read more…]

“I Don’t Want to Play Cricket, Dad…”

I’m sorry about this. Feel free to never read the blog again. But I’m going be serious this week. Yep, I know you come here for five minutes’ mild amusement. Sorry. It won’t happen again.

But just for this week I’m going to desert Ben’s sarcasm, the intricacies of married life and my pathetic failure to cope with carrier bags costing 5p. I’m going to offer some parenting advice.

Two weeks ago a fellow-blogger asked me a simple question. What have been your most rewarding experiences as a Dad?

Blimey. Where to start? Could I finish inside 4,000 words? And what would Jessica say if she didn’t have the most entries on the list? [Read more…]

Dining on Lemons

How to describe my wife’s face?

Carefully, obviously.

But pert, pretty, provocative. All of those. And one other…

“Blimey,” I said lovingly, “You look like a bulldog chewing a wasp.”

“No, I don’t,” she replied, “I look like a woman being forced to eat a lemon. Which is exactly what I am doing.”

“Yeah, Dad…”

My sons joined in enthusiastically. Once their pained expressions had returned to normal. [Read more…]

Tape Measure, Tape Measure…

Tape Measure, Tape Measure on the wall

Who is the tallest of them all?

Dad, obviously.

That’s how it is in a family. The natural order. Dad, Mum, Tom, Jessica, Ben.

Until it starts to change…

Every family home has one. A patch of wallpaper with heights, dates, pencil marks. Ours is in Ben’s bedroom – which badly needs re-decorating. But how can we?

“Look at this one. Tom when he was eight…”

“And here’s Ben. Four foot, four inches. When you could reach down and pat his little head…” [Read more…]