“It’s a bit dry, Dad…”
“Tom’s right,” Jessica said. “It needs a jus.”
“Or some sauce. But it’s better than I thought it would be. Mum just said you were doing sausages and vegetables.”
“It definitely needs a jus though…”
“Well I’m truly sorry,” I said. “I’m sorry my cooking isn’t up to the standard you’ve become accustomed to. Clearly student life has changed since I scrounged God-knows-what from Hull market. But give me two minutes. I’ll zip into the kitchen and knock up a red wine reduction.”
“There’s no need to be sarcastic, Dad. Real men can take criticism. We’re only trying to help.”
Yep, Tom and Jessica are home from university. And in Tom’s case not without a few bumps along the way.
“So you can collect me on the Sunday…”
“But that’s Father’s Day, Tom.”
“Well I’m going to a ball on Saturday night. And I’ll need some sleep before I wake up to watch the Grand Prix.”
Negotiations ensued. We finally agreed that Tom could watch the start of the Grand Prix: then we’d listen to the Mercedes procession in the car.
So a simple plan. Arrive at Tom’s front door. Load the car. Watch the start of the race. Leave at 1:30. Back home for 5:00. Dinner, red wine, presents from loving children, Father’s Day salvaged.
And at 9:30 on Father’s Day my plan was working a treat. Early start, no traffic, safely in Cambridge and the dulcet tones of a Full English calling my name.
I idled the morning away. Soaked up the warmth from the strange yellow orb that rumour says was once seen back home in the Northlands.
And then it was time to collect Tom…
Enter stage left Rabbie Burns and his irritating insight into best laid plans.
“I haven’t got anything packed, Dad.”
“What? Why not?”
“I didn’t get in from the ball until six. I’ve only had about an hour’s sleep.”
“Six o’clock? Good God, I was twenty miles down the road by then…”
Oh well; calm, reasonable parent and all that. “Right,” I sighed. “Shall I empty your wardrobe?”
Blimey. I should have been on the valet’s training course. Sir had a fine selection of suits in his wardrobe. And what’s this? “Two dress shirts, Tom? I’ve only got one and that doesn’t fit me.”
“I’ve been to three balls this week,” he said defensively.
Quite so. The calm, reasonable parent kept quiet and got to work – and tried not to mind that Tom’s room was up four flights of stairs. Or that we finally set off an hour behind my carefully-calculated schedule.
We eventually made it home. Thanks to apocalyptic roadworks on the A1 I was orbiting Lincoln when I should have been opening a bottle of wine. Obviously much more fun.
“I’m exhausted,” I said to Jane. “We’ll have to postpone Father’s Day until tomorrow.”
“No problem,” she said. “I’ll transform myself into the understairs scullery maid and make a start on His Lordship’s washing. Two dress shirts?”
“Yep. This is the boy that went to his interview in jeans – and a jacket he kept on his bedroom floor.”
The scullery maid finally turned back into my wife 24 hours later, just in time for the sausages and roast vegetables. Previously it had been a resounding success: clearly it was now far too dry.
‘University hasn’t changed my children,’ some fool had written the previous week. Come and meet mine, mate. Little Miss Masterchef, the UK’s best dressed man and neither of them slow to share the ‘constructive criticism.’
And both more than willing to share a bottle of wine with me. What more could a man ask…
Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and moderately humorous to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here.