One of my Children is a Grown Up!

Dan - Yr 4When I started writing these weekly ramblings about my children Tom was nine: in Year 4 at school. I’m not sure when the photo was taken – my wife would know – but he looked something like that.

Three years later there was a Grand Prix on TV – goodness knows why as I had no interest in the sport – and Tom wandered in. He started to watch and became fascinated: not by the race or the drivers but by the technicalities – specifically the aerodynamics.

The first time he started talking about it I scuttled off to ask Google for help. Tom was just beginning to suspect that his Dad didn’t know everything about everything. I preferred to delay the confirmation for a few more months…

Then he disappeared to his bedroom. And a few months later they called us into school. “Tom’s falling behind in Physics.” [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 Man who wasn’t Bear Grylls

A 200 yard climb up the longest waterfall in England...

A 200 yard climb up the longest waterfall in England…

To my son’s intense relief I’d put my shorts back on.

“So you’ve finally dried out?”

“Yep. Told you it would work. Dry as a bone. Let’s have a look at the map. What’s up next?”

Cauldron Snout was up next. A 200 yard climb up the longest waterfall in England. And then 8 0r 9 miles to the end of our Pennine Way journey and the loving embrace of my wife. Unless five days without me had given her a new perspective on the marriage…

We strolled along the banks of the Tees. Malhamdale, Ribblesdale, every other ‘dale’ we’d been through. But Teesdale was my favourite. The countryside was softer, gentler, more welcoming. I felt the sun on my face and knew we were nearly home. Nothing could go wrong now… [Read more…]

Walking the Pennine Way – in my Underpants…

The only way to dry out...

The only way to dry out…

 

“Can I walk in front of you, Dad?”

“In a minute. First you can stand there and take a picture of my bum.”

“Do I have to?”

“Sorry. You have to suffer for my art.”

Twenty minutes earlier Ben and I had realised we were lost.

Day five of our Pennine Way expedition. We’d walked through rain, hail, gales, hill fog, low cloud, more ‘marshy ground’ than the Everglades and here we were. In the middle of a field.

75 miles behind us, 12 to go and for the first time we were lost. Somewhere between Pasture Foot and Cauldron Snout we’d gone wrong.

“Look,” I said in desperation. “We know the river’s down there.”

“And there’s a road up there.”

“I can’t walk up to the road. I can’t wade through any more long grass. And supposing someone offers us a lift? I’m too knackered to resist.”

“But we can’t stay here…” [Read more…]

Polo Shirts and Peer Pressure

 

“Why are you wandering around in your underpants, Dad?”

“I’m not.”

“Actually, Dad, you are.”

“Well, technically, yes.”

“That’s worrying, Dad. When Mum’s assessing patients ‘not knowing you’re wandering around in underpants’ will be right at the top of the list.”

I carefully explained to my youngest son that whilst at that moment I might – technically – only be wearing underpants and socks (sorry if you’re having breakfast) I was actually trying clothes on.

Lots of them… [Read more…]

Pokemon Gone

Let me introduce my two eldest children…

Tom: Master’s in Engineering. Jessica: very shortly to be awarded an honours degree in Journalism.

Both currently at home pending a) going off to design formula one cars and b) going back to uni to do a Master’s.

Both intelligent; both with a great work ethic. And both currently wandering up the road in search of Pokemon.

I vaguely remember Pokemon from when Tom was 11 or 12. Peekaboo? Pikachu? Something like that…

Anyway, they’re back. And apparently the most important thing happening in the world. Failed coup in Turkey 1.54m results on Google. Pokemon Go 33.9m results.

Clearly it wasn’t just a passing fad. And clearly – as an engaged Dad who has his finger on the pulse – I need to show some interest…  [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…]

21 Days to the Pennine Way

Not quite that far: not this morning...

17 miles to Whitby: maybe not this morning…

It was the end of February. Can you come downstairs I texted to Ben. I want to put an idea to you. The idea was a walk in the Dales. Five days, 80 miles on the Pennine Way.

“Sure,” he said. “Why not?” And the die was cast.

…For the beginning of August. Five months to get fit. Five months of planning and preparation. A deadline which – like Christmas to a six year old – would never arrive.

Except it has.

My appointment with hills, more hills and my seven league boots is less than three weeks away. I’ve been training since March. I’d like to tell you that I’m as brown as the proverbial nut. But where our athletes have been for warming up for Rio by sloping off to the Pyrenees, I’ve been on the Cleveland Way. In the fog.

And yes, perilously close to the edge a few times… [Read more…]

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?” [Read more…]

A Perfect Father’s Day

Father's DayFather’s Day. 8:30 in the morning. I was back from walking the dog. Six weeks to go until the Pennine Way and the wretched training schedule had demanded ten miles. Ten foggy miles…

Never mind. My loving family would be in the hall to meet me. Jane with a cup of tea and a slice of toast, two of my three lovely children with beaming smiles and ‘Best-Dad-Ever presents.’ And somehow Tom would have arranged a special delivery from Cambridge, cajoling Yodel to deliver a case of amusing Shiraz on a Sunday morning.

No.

They were all still asleep.

I scanned the hall.

And nothing from Tom.

Ah well. I hadn’t been expecting much… [Read more…]