They’re Gone. And so is the Wine…

Tom's gone back to university...

Tom’s gone back to university…

Warning: The following post does not contain flashing images, violence, strong sex scenes or offensive language. However, readers of an alcoholic nature could still find it distressing, especially if they may have teenage children one day.

Yep, they’re gone.

Tom went back to university on Wednesday – just the 400 mile round trip to keep me amused – and Jane took Jessica on Saturday. I stayed at home and loaded empties into the recycling bin. Thank the Lord we don’t have to go to the bottle bank any more. The humiliation would have been too much.

So there’s no wine left. The wine rack – despite regular reinforcements – fought a valiant rearguard action, but in the end it was simply overwhelmed. A sustained onslaught – led by crack troops believed to have spent months at a secret training camp known only as “uni” – proved too much for it. The official surrender came just after New Year. The Budweiser Battalion was also wiped out, while the Fosters Platoon didn’t even survive Christmas Day.

While I’m reporting casualties I may as well also mention that we’re completely out of decent coffee. And we’ve no toilet paper. God knows what my children do in the bathroom but the lorry load of Andrex that arrived just before Christmas has completely disappeared.

So sod the New Year’s resolution and my tightening waistband. I’ll console myself with some cheese.

Actually, no. I won’t.

See wine, coffee and loo roll.

I know what you’re thinking. ‘Buy some more.’ Clearly you don’t have teenage children yet. Here’s how The Nights Before Christmas play out when they’re older.

December 23rd. A family meal. Nothing spectacular. Parmesan chicken. The talk turned to Christmas dinner.

“Are we having sweet potato mash?” the Beloved Daughter asked.

Let those six simple words sink in. They should be a consolation to parents everywhere. Your lovely daughter not eating the peas/carrots/cauliflower you’ve just put in front of her? Don’t worry. She will.

Had I suggested sweet potato mash to Jessica when she was 14 or 15 she’d have given me specific and very graphic instructions on what I could do with the said sweet potato.

Now her Christmas dinner would be ruined without it…

“No,” I said. “Your mother’s already doing 114 vegetables. There’s a limit to what we can buy.”

“Well that’s mean,” Jessica replied.

Or words to that effect. Whatever they were, they sent me straight into ‘full rant’ mode.

Think Basil Fawlty attacking his car.

“Now you listen to me. There are five adults sitting round this table. How much do you think this meal cost?”

“I dunno…”

“No, you don’t. Because you didn’t pay for it. Well, let me tell you. Three chicken breasts. From the butcher. Not supermarket crap full of water. Proper big, fat chicken breasts from a chicken that’s run round a farmyard, not caught a fleeting glimpse on its way to get slaughtered. Twelve quid. Spuds and salad. You’ll demand a pudding. Tom will finish the cheese. What’s that? Sixteen pounds? Seventeen? Add on the two bottles of white wine we appear to have drunk – and yes, I freely admit I may have had a small glass myself – and it’s over thirty quid. Thirty pounds! For one meal. Times seven while you’re all at home. That’s over two hundred quid a week.”

I stopped.


What? Over £200 a week? I went back over the meal. Replayed the scene in the butcher’s. Checked my mental arithmetic.

I’d underestimated. I’d forgotten breakfast, lunch and the running buffet Ben needs to survive the day.

“Have you finished, Dad?”

Sadly, I had. And there was no wine left to console me…

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


  1. Great. It’s bad enough that our 8-year-old has turned in to a non-stop food comsumption machine. Things get worse?!? Now where did I put those After Eights? (I’m so classy …)

    • Tim – I can only put it like this. Your wife goes into labour with your first child. You think, “I’m really going to love this baby.” Child is born. You take how much you thought you’d love said child, multiply by 10,000 and you are nowhere near.
      So it is with teenage boys. Take how much you think they’ll eat. Multiply by 10,000 etc etc.
      You’re a good virtual mate, Tim. Here’s a tip. Tesco currently have a big box of Cheerios at £1.30: go and buy 600. Store them for 5 years. Best investment you’ll ever make…

  2. Stuart Swann says:

    Come on Mark. Get a grip: teenagers make marauding Vikings, Goths and Huns ( not to mention the odd swarm of Locusts ) look like amateurs. You can’t fight them so you’ve got to learn to hide stuff. Get devious or get tee-total!

    • Don’t worry, Stuart the really good stuff – and of course, the wife’s copious gin supplies – was well hidden. The problem is, us writers have to suffer for our art. “I hid all the good stuff and the kids had to buy their own” isn’t a very entertaining blog post. Unless you’re my bank account…

  3. You’re coping better than my Father did when we visited in Summer 🙂 You’ve got until February to restock, and no rubbish now.

    • Think I may well have until Easter, Barry. Both in their final years and tell me they’ll be working right through Easter. I may have all my wine to myself – and wife, obviously – until April Fools’ Day…

  4. I know how you feel, Mark. My son has gone back today and my daughter went back last week. The house will be quiet without them, but it will also be nice and tidy, and we’ll have clean glasses and cups – yippee! Yet I’ll still miss them. 🙂

    • Heather – you are so right. Eldest two have gone back and suddenly we can’t fit all the glasses/mugs in the cupboard! Used to have to launch a commando raid on Tom’s bedroom over Xmas so I had something to drink out of… And like you, we’re now embarking on a significant tidy-up exercise. Happy New year to you – hope the writing is going well.

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