Wednesday 24 June 2015

Mummy says: "It's only weather"

Among the blizzard of emails from online retailers last week was one that boldly proclaimed, “Dads never stop being dads”.

I felt compelled to reply, pointing out that the fatal heart attack he suffered in February 1982 seemed to have stopped my own dad playing his paternal role quite effectively.

Never a highlight of the Hann social calendar even before that unfortunate turn of events, Father’s Day then slipped into total obscurity for a full 30 years until my own children were old enough to take an interest.

For a time at least I shall never go short of handmade cards and shop-bought mugs proclaiming their devotion.

Modern, bogus, commercial, American invention though it is, I cannot deny that there is something rather pleasant about being the family’s centre of attention for a day – all right, for an hour or so in the morning – even if my place as an old and wise voice has already been supplanted by our just six-year-old budding Einstein.

“They’re very dangerous, you know,” he observed the other day when his younger brother became mildly hysterical following the discovery of a daddy longlegs in his bedroom. “Look, it’s already started building a web!”

We tried pointing out that daddy longlegs construct webs about as often as elephants practise macramé, but it did no good.

Not made by an elephant to the best of my knowledge

Events followed a similar course a couple of days later, when the boys returned home from nursery and school just as the sky was darkening.

“This is actually true, Jamie,” the Sage informed his brother. “When it goes dark like this it means there is going to be an actual storm. It really does.”

Jamie howled. Though like Greece leaving the euro or the UK quitting the EU, the threatened storm never actually arrived. Jamie accordingly perked up, and was heard observing, “Mummy says it’s only weather, Charlie.”

Naturally and appropriately, Father’s Day was but a footnote to the main event of the weekend, a “Knights and Princesses” birthday party for my elder son and heir, luckily held at a local soft play area rather than at home.

This avoids all the embarrassment of stress-related drunkenness leading to the sort of behaviour likely to result in one’s children being taken into care.

Even better than that, when I asked whether my presence was required at the party, I got the response, “You can come if you want, Daddy, but you wouldn’t like it.”

I was impressed to find so much wisdom in one so young, though slightly less bowled over when he approached his mother the morning before the event, after she had been up half the night baking, and announced, “Mummy, someone’s eaten a bit of my birthday cake.”

Looking and sounding innocent is quite difficult when you also have chocolate crumbs around your mouth. This tends to focus suspicion, in much the same way as walking into a police station to report a murder while clutching a blood-drenched knife. Luckily Mummy discovered that it is amazing how much damage you can conceal with icing.

While they were out at the party I applied myself to setting up the travelling post office on the boy’s model railway. The sort, long since vanished from real main lines, that picks up and deposits mailbags as the train goes around.

I always wanted one myself as a child, and envied the cousin who did. Bearing in mind that this is a toy designed for kids, and came with a reasonably comprehensive set of instructions, I suspect that the two and a half hours it took me to get it working may be some sort of record.

Still, it was worth it to see his face when he got home.

You may wonder why I am waffling on about my family when Europe’s currency is on the brink, extremism and terrorism are rife, benefits are being slashed and many thousands are marching against austerity.

It’s because I can do little to influence any of those and because, as David Cameron once said (though it is hardly an original thought), “Nothing matters more than family.”

Being a parent is the single most useful and important thing any of us is ever likely to do. I recommend it.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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