Motes, Beams and Top Trumps

The view from Denis Malcolm Kendall...

The view from Denis Malcolm Kendall…

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Or in this case, thy son’s…

You may have noticed there’s been a little political excitement of late. Tom and I were discussing it over the dinner table last week. I use the word ‘discussing’ in its loosest possible sense.

“Did you really vote Leave?”

“Yes, I did.”

“So you wanted to be on the side of the racists?”

“Race had nothing to do with it. I voted on the grounds of sovereignty. Are we in charge of our own country or not?”

“So you want the racists to be in charge of the country?”

“No, I want the democratically elected government to be in charge – ”

“Made up of racists?”

Eventually, of course, I snapped. It was Paxman vs. Michael Howard and I didn’t have the patience. Or a safe seat in the Commons to worry about. I said the wrong thing, Tom stormed off in a huff and I started ranting to my wife.

“What is wrong with the boy? Four years of education at one of the world’s top universities and he can’t discuss anything. All he can do is call me a racist. God’s teeth I am the most liberal person on the planet.”

My wife seemed to be having a coughing fit. I ignored it. “And another thing. He’s pompous.”

“Plank,” my wife said.


“Plank. First remove the plank from your own eye.”

“Beam,” I said. “It’s not ‘plank,’ it’s beam. Cast out the beam out of thine own eye.”

My wife smiled to herself. She had that smug, self-satisfied, I-rest-my-case look. And what was that she muttered under her breath? It sounded suspiciously like ‘pompous arse…’

Not a bad way to be remembered...

Not a bad way to be remembered…

“Could she be right?” I asked the dog as we marched along the cliff top an hour later. The longer I walked, the longer I thought the answer might be ‘yes.’ I sat on Denis Malcolm Kendall and gazed out to sea.

What was I like when I was Tom’s age? The answer was simple: a spectacularly unpleasant Top Trumps card…


Arrogance – 10. No more needs to be said on that one.

Vices – 8. Numerous. Nothing major, but numerous.

Appearance – 6. I had an earring before earrings were mandatory. Main reason for wearing it? To annoy my Dad. Two tasteless rings. And so much low-grade tat round my neck it’s astonishing I didn’t dislocate something.

Fashion Sense – 4. All pictures have been destroyed. With luck. Otherwise you might see those patched jeans. And that satin jacket…

Attitude – 3. Selfish, opinionated.

Opinion of my Dad – 2. Low to non-existent. And by the time I realised how much he loved me and what he’d done for me he was dead.

Girlfriend – 0. Don’t. I don’t even want to go there. Was I clinically insane?

“Not good,” I said to the dog. Not good at all. So maybe I needed to relax where Tom was concerned. No, I definitely needed to relax.

I thanked Denis for his help, said goodbye and started the long, reflective walk home.

Maybe what we all need is a spot of time travel: the chance to hop in the Tardis and meet our 22 year old selves. Come face to face with those long-buried attitudes and opinions.

Or maybe the answer’s much simpler. Maybe we should all keep a diary from the age of 13.

Then your children would have ultimate Top Trump. “Come on, Dad, read your diary out. What were you really like in 1938? Or was it earlier than that…”

Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and “very, very funny” 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

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