Sunday morning. The two eldest children away at university, the youngest one fast asleep. My beautiful wife next to me in bed…
Very gently, I start to kiss the back of her neck. She sighs in her sleep. Moves closer to me. I trail my hand lightly over…
Tough luck. Fantasy over, mate.
You’re a Dad. That’s all there is to it.
Think about something else and get on with making those sandwiches.
There I was, banging on the door of the corner shop while it was still pitch black. But two large cheese and ham later I’m ready. And so is my youngest son…
“Have you got everything?”
“Water bottle? Waterproof trousers? Your phone?”
“Dad, [insert lengthy sigh and pained expression] how many expeditions have you been on?”
“Well, technically, none.”
So I keep quiet. And hand Ben his pack-out. The aforementioned sandwiches, fruit, a week’s supply of chocolate. That should keep him going until lunchtime.
“Let’s go, then.”
And at 7:30 on Sunday morning, we set off. Out into the wilds for the first practice expedition. Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. And as it’s a new school they need to check that the kids can walk in a straight line.
It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s drizzling.
My wife? Standing shivering on the doorstep bidding me a tearful farewell. Or still asleep in a warm bed. You decide…
We head off towards some woods. The drizzle turns to rain. The early morning mist turns to fog. Or low cloud. Civilization and its trappings – warm bed, bacon sandwich – are a long way behind us. But we finally arrive…
“Look for a lay-by before a bridge, Dad.”
…And here it is. Miraculously the rain has stopped, the fog has lifted. Ben could be in for a lovely day.
“See you at four,” I say, and head back home. Back into the fog. As it’s the Gold Award, there’ll be plenty more expeditions in desolate places. ‘It’s best to rely on parents for lifts’ trills the school handout. Thanks for that.
Damn it. There should be some recognition for Dads. 18 months from now my son will be at Buckingham Palace eating cucumber sandwiches and discussing ordnance survey maps with HRH. I’ll be at home totting up the mileage.
So here it is. My five point plan. The D of E for Dads. It exactly matches the boxes that Ben needs to tick for his Gold Award. So do a few more sarnies, Your Maj. There’ll be one more for the garden party…
Volunteering: a ridiculously easy one to start with. Do I not take my wife a cup of tea every morning? Could there be a finer example of good work in the community? No, I didn’t think so.
Physical: despite the increasing trend towards screw caps plenty of wine bottles still have corks. I must pull out three a week.
Skill: for the last two Saturdays I’ve done home-made bruschetta. Excellent; just excellent. The recipe is available for the next state banquet, sir.
Expedition: No problem. There’s a particularly pleasant pub about three miles up the coast. I could stroll there for Sunday lunch. In the summer, obviously.
Residential: Ben has to live away from home for four nights and work away for five days. I can do that. Laptop, boarding pass, short flight, lie on the beach, glass of wine or two at lunch. Close my eyes. Some creative thinking…
Four o’clock came. Once again I was rudely jolted back into the real world. The rain and the fog were back. I went to collect my son. For no award at all…
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.