Welcome back winter, we’ve missed you.

The road outside our house has been resolutely un-gritted by Herefordshire Council for the previous two weeks. So when I saw a snowplough bundling plumes of head high snow into the verges, it became clear that travelling to London on a Six AM train was something I could contemplate from the warmth of my bed.

Snow Business! Snow Business!

The snow started yesterday afternoon and never really stopped. Last night, there was more than adequate for building a rather emaciated looking snowman with the traditional nose-y carrot and more contemporary Kiwi fruit eyes. This scary looking ice effigy stood guard for only a couple of hours before the sheer volume of snow tumbled it horizontal and entombed the remains under a fresh covering of the white stuff.

Snow Business! Snow Business!

Obviously the kids are out there right now building version 2 which has major structural improvements and a new carrot since some enterprising ground mammal made off with a free breakfast this morning. And while many animals must find all this snow a bit trying, our dog isn’t one of them. Never happier than chasing snowballs, eating ice or exploding in a spray of snowy rooster tails from fresh powder.

Snow Business! Snow Business!

Of which we have much in the local fields although a good portion of it now is in the kids’ hair/jackets/wellies after a snowball fight so violent, I thought we were going to have to call in the UN.

Snow Business! Snow Business!

It is snowing again now, and although the forecast calls for it to stop this evening, that same meteorological doom mongering predicts sub zero temperatures for at least another week. Which – I feel – is likely to transform this winter wonderland into something bloody annoying for anyone, say, wanting to go and ride their bike. Or, and significantly less important, getting to their official place of work. Or buying food, but hey we’ve been fattening up the kids all Christmas.

Snow Business! Snow Business!

Tonight, I’m dusting down the old Kona and taking it for an old school ride in the local woods. I expect this to end in a litany of sequential disasters involving trees, dug in tyres, comedy endos and concussion. Other than that, hard to see what can go wrong.


As all parents of pre-teen children secretly know, it’s vital to squeeze the few remaining drops of offspring obedience when the rare opportunity presents itself. In this case, Christmas presents were held as collateral blackmail until wellies, warm clothes and outside inserted themselves into the kids’ otherwise gleeful assault on innocent wrapping paper.

Christmas Day Walk (10) Christmas Day Walk (12)

It’s worth recording that my wrapping skills haven’t improved one jot in the last few years. This can be simply proven by noting that all the seasonal offerings were neatly arranged and identified with a colourful tag. Except my stuff which lay abandoned in a brutalised state after thirty minutes of frenzied boredom eventually gave way to cursing, tearing and the application of gaffer tape.

I think Carol’s got use to it now. Or possibly the word I’m looking for is resigned. The dog however hasn’t got used to snow and ice at all, and treats the whole experience as geographical catnip. Even with four-paw drive and a low centre of gravity, Murf still only sustains forward motion while the legs are scissoring sideways.

Christmas Day Walk (22) Christmas Day Walk (24)

And even this potentially lethal combination of crossed limbs doesn’t seem to bother him much. Not enough to baulk at the opportunity to crash through a semi-frozen pond to retrieve a iced in stick. I’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again, I don’t think this is because he is particularly stupid*, but because as a breed, retrievers see a stick and just can’t help themselves.

Christmas Day Walk Christmas Day Walk (9)

A little later the house was full of shredded wrapping paper and happy children, although we were a little disappointed at their lack of noticeable admiration for the MONSTER Scalextric we’d built for them as a Christmas surprise. First eBay, then a desperate assembly job between shoving them back to bed for the third time and falling asleep ourselves, brought forth this sprawling masterpiece of loops, jumps and dangerous curves.

More on this later, but it’s fair to say that there was a tinsiest little bit of buying it for ourselves πŸ™‚ I wasn’t expecting any gifts really since I’ve had one new bike already, and another one is on order. But Santa unloaded his sack** in an entirely unexpected manner by bringing forth a shiny helmet***. A roadie one at that which was both keenly priced and styled to transform the wearer into the Mekon from the neck up.

Right must get on, now we’ve had a whole day off it’s time to pick up the paint brush again to ensure incoming relatives are not aghast at our ongoing renovation project. Only one of the two adults in the house cares about this, while the other is wisely keeping his mouth shut πŸ˜‰

* Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a shining beacon of intellectual light but compared to other dogs, he’s not entirely clueless.

** Not sure the kids believe in Santa now, it may be all the rude jokes I’ve been telling them πŸ™‚

*** I could go on for ages, just say the word.

A new bike and some proper riding.

Obviously the first statement is very me, but the second inaccurately describes my associations with bi-wheeled transport. Except in my head, and you don’t want to be in there. I have much to say on a new hedgehog premise that shall be used to judge future experiences, and most of a post sensationalising how the Aldi powertool designer has a direct line to the man who developed the Trebuchet. Languishing behind that are some further words on commuting in the cold, dark world we hardy Brits inhabit for the next six months.

Abi's new MTB Abi's new MTB

But somehow none of this matters. Abi had her new bike this week and we jumped through a couple of weather windows to try it out. There’s much to like; 26inch wheels, proper hubs, rims and tyres, disc brakes, lovely frame made of the stuff they used for race bikes a few years back and contact points and forks specially modified for the gentler gender.

Abi's new MTB Abi's new MTB

But that’s largely irrelevant because the crux of all this is how much fun she (and her sister now upgraded to Abi’s old 24 inch Spesh) had riding it. We’ll be back out in the woods tomorrow if the rain stays away where mud, smiles and proper parenting shall make the most of a snatched couple of days holiday.

Abi's new MTB Abi's new MTB

I’ve said before that any father who confuses being vicarious with being a good dad is a bloody idiot. But there is something rather special about hearing your kids laugh while being splattered with mud. It’ll probably all wear off as new bike syndrome becomes old hat, but until it does I am going to make sure every opportunity is taken to go and be silly in the countryside.

Abi's new MTB Abi's new MTB

Last week was horrible for all sorts of reasons. It throws the good stuff into sharp relief. And not even I can be grumpy about that.

Interrupt Driven

There are many scientific studies postulating the theory that men cannot multi-task. I am here to tell you today they are absolutely right. But you can keep your expensive research and large group studies, because they are not needed to illustrate this essential truth. All that is required is to ask a bloke to perform a simple task, and then continue to interrupt him until he explodes.

All that stood between me and something far more interesting was schlepping a few barrowloads of earth from one end of the garden to the other. I was ignorant of the logic behind such soil redistribution, but happily so – engaged in that manly, physical act of the rude mechanical.

However I had barely turned my spade in anger, before being informed my selection of soil was from the wrong pile. Since our garden currently has the landscaped aspect of a set from “attack of the giant killer voles“, this is an easy mistake to make. So moving onto a second pile of brownish, parched dry, rock hard ground – that looked EXACTLY THE SAME as the one I’d be shooed away from – I applied some pent up energy to the job.

Half way through the first barrow, no.1 daughter sidles up and wonders if progress can be made on the “Menace Sledge“. A quick review of the languished project signals some creative work required before further painting can commence. Verbal is dispatched to the barn to do her worst with a roll of masking tape and a copy of my last appraisal.*

Barely a further spade had been turned before no.2 child demands some bike based action. Grumpily downing tools, I release the ickle pink one – steady – from its’ hooked prison, furnish Random with gloves and helmet and wheel her out into the garden.

Believing now that nothing can divert me from my primary task, I attack the pile with gusto only to be told that in fact it is stones that we need, not soil. So – grumbling darkly – I upend the soil back from whence it came and begin to replace it with rocks strewn into our garden’s moonscape. On presenting these, I find they are the wrong type of stone.

Beginning to sizzle gently, I am not even allowed to correct my mistake because suddenly a sledgehammer, some nails, long bits of wood and an owl** were now gazumped onto the critical path. Now as a bloke, I can deal with multiple tasks, but only in serial form. Whereas this kind of multi-threaded scenario turns me into a cross between a headless chicken and one of the extras from the movie Scanners.

Finally I’m back where I belong on the barrow. For about two seconds before Verbal wants me to approve the paint template – which I hurriedly do -before declaring that she’s been promised a pound if she washes Carol’s car. Fine, just get on with it. Oh you can’t? No, because muggins here is suddenly 2nd Helper assigned to hosepipe duties.

Deep sweary sigh. Drop Spade. Find hosepipe. Find bucket. Fill Bucket. Send child to turn on hosepipe. Stomp around garden looking for spraying attachment. Receive admonishment regarding lack of correct soil/rock/hammer/owl. Begin to rotate on spot in manner of organic drill turned up to 11.

At which point smallest child demands some satisfaction on bike related problem. Deciding this is a job only I can do and so be freed from minutiae of family life, grab spanners and skulk in workshop cursing the non linear world I live in. Fix bike, feel the happy, blokey glow of finishing something before being drawn back outside by sound of swearing.

Verbal is one of only two people in the world who can make Carol swear publicly***. She’s a bright kid, but sometimes has the legendary stubbornness of a mule crossed with a camel. Convinced she cannot actually turn the hose off – having turned it on some ten minutes earlier – a cross garden debate ensues focusing on exactly which way anti clockwise is.

The last couplet went something like this: Wails” I don’t have a watch” Shouts: “Oh for FUCKS SAKE“. I decide to step in before social services to, only to find myself involved in another maelstrom of requests. I very nearly put both kids in the barrow, threw the bike on top, chucked in the hammer, nails and wood, filled the lot up with dead birds and wheel them outside to the cry of “FOR GOD’S SAKE I AM A BLOKE, ARE YOU TRYING TO DRIVE ME MENTAL?”

I remember watching those endless sitcoms where hen-pecked middle aged men would listen wearily to the incessant requests from their spouse, and answer only “Yes Dear“. I used to think this was spineless and stupid. Now I’m seeing it as some kind of coping strategy.

I did eventually – in case you’re even slightly interested – finish the task I’d started some hours before. At which point I locked myself in the barn and muttered my way through some pointless tasks. All of which I lined up behind a large mug of tea and in an order that could be quickly and simply worked through. At no point did I think “tell you what, I’ll put this bolt down and go and refelt the roof“.

I’m coming to the conclusion that men, like life, are simple. It’s the women that make things complicated. My next step is to try and explain this to them, for which I’ll need to understand them first. I’m 42 years old, and I’ve no idea where to start on that one.

* it got off lightly. I had it earmarked for chicken shitting duties.

** I made that up. But I wouldn’t have been surprised if such a request had been followed by “Oh come on, I’ve TOLD you why we need the owl loads of times”

*** Obviously I am the other one.

Small is beautiful

No, this is an excuse for the size, or otherwise, of certain manly parts. Although having ridden my little ol’ jump bike on some not really trails at all today, I believe I may be searching the Internet for some bigger ones anyway,

Those of you not on the strongest of medication may have noticed that photo is composed to a skewed horizon. I’d like to say that’s exactly how I planned the shot, and it has much to do with accentuating the angle of the bike, the verticality of the little rock, the bigness of the sky. It’d be an artistic untruth though because iit is the result of an photographic technique known as “desperately trying to fit everything in”.

Size again you see. Maybe it does matter. Certainly did on this wall.

Malverns September 2009 Malverns September 2009

I looked at that in a very manly fashion, while some random XC whippets embarrassed the entire MTB genre by repeatedly riding down a couple of steps in a manner that’d mince you straight onto Strictly Come Dancing. Anyway after a few looks and a run in, I ran out of bottle and went to look for less scary things.

None of which were on offer on the final run of the day. On the upside, it was all downhill which – after much winching up the ol’ DMR on flats and a rear axle pedalling position – was a relief. Also in need of relief was my arse, ruined by a cheap saddle I never expected to sit on much, so standing up on wobbly muscles trumped lowering the throbbing chaffed appendage back onto that torturous perch.

The trail down was barely discernible, dropping steeply between still high bracket and gorse. When it did finally open out to something that might once have been a path, the improvement in visibility was mitigated by the loose yet fat rock garden that created an experience best thought of as a pinball game caught in a washing machine.

The DMR was a lot of fun though. Easy to get the scarred buttocks way over the back wheel, the small frame giving it fantastic maneuverability and the big forks ploughing through when my fear based dithering threatened to pop us into the undergrowth. It’s so unlike the Cove – more brutal, more direct, sharp angles forcing weight over the fork, pushing elbows out and grins higher.

All the parts on it are old or second hand or cheap, the frame cost buttons and it’s entirely the wrong bike for – well – most things really. But it has one feature that cannot be fashioned from fancy metals or accessorised bling. It made me feel about 12 years old again.

And that’s becoming important. More important than supposed progression or fitness or riding in new places. Because it’s become apparent to me that flying gliders on a slope – obsessive and much fun as it is – seems to be a an old mans’ game.

I’m not ready for that yet. I want to be twelve again. Best reason to ride a bike? You becha.

Mud in your eye…

… and in every other orifice as well. Think about that for a moment, while I confirm it was EVERY orifice be it covered with clothing or not. A festival of mud laid out the sloppy stuff front, centre, up, down, in and out of every bodily crevice I had inadvertently placed in the line of fire. This was not – as some of my more pervy* readers may hope – an introduction to the Malvern Hills Dogging Experience**

No the reason for my homage to a swamp monster was a ride in Haugh woods that left me 75{45ac9c3234d371044e23e276755ef3a4dde8f1068375defba7d385ca3cd4deb2} man, 25{45ac9c3234d371044e23e276755ef3a4dde8f1068375defba7d385ca3cd4deb2} slurry. Reasons abound for such muckiness ranging from a month of rain where summer should have been, and some careful harvesting of trees using nothing more than multi tracked twenty ton earth movers.

Tim – a recent innocent comet gravitationally pulled into the slightly bizarre, often drunk orbit of Planet Hedgehog – was regaling us with stories of how, under this foot of oozing nastiness, fantastic singletrack was desperate to get out. After two hours, so were we having destroyed my legs, a very expensive wheel and most of a previously pristine drivetrain.

On the upside, it wasn’t my wheel and the “Chiltern Experience” was rapidly put behind us as an old friend turned up with an even older bottle of Brandy. That ended as well as expected, and put paid to a navigationally challenged attack on the Long Mynd planned for the following day.

My riding pals have known me long enough to interpret “fellas, one thing, I’ve no idea where the fuck the start point is, never mind the route, my GPS is merely LCD candy ,and the only available map marks this region as ‘here be dragons‘” as a cry for help. In that vein they helped themselves to more alcohol and a drunken plan hatched a slightly less epic Malvern Hill Romp.

Which was – and I’m going to appeal to the common man here – fucking fantastic. It didn’t start well with hangovers, faffing and car parks full of red socks. But once 10 minutes away from the sour faced, ski-pole*** mountain bike haters, we bagged a large number of peaks stopping only to inhale vast quantities of cake and the occasional funny turn.

Some of these were my rubbish route finding, some my friends’ need to have a little lie down until Fantasia stopped playing behind his eyes. He’s not been riding much, but I was in awe of his riding approach which was to start slow and maintain that same pace for four hours plus. Not for him some ego straining push for the front – well not until I outed the cake from my Camelbak anyway.

It was ace though, still winter muddy but warm and not the Flanders experience suffered the day before. So impressed was I with the utter bloody joy of bicycles, I rocketed out of bed at 6am this morning to ride another one to work. The rain didn’t stop me, although an absence of four weeks’ commuting nearly did. So disappointed with my energy levels on the way back, I decided the best thing would be to extend the ride up the huge sodding hill summiting at the radio mast.

Nearly needed that to signal for help and possibly an ambulance. Eight minutes out of the saddle with a few hundred feet of sweaty grind, before switching gradients to a bonkers flat out descent into the valley bottom on a bike with shit brakes, thin tyres skidding over damp mud and a pilot wondering what the hell he might do for kicks when he can’t do this.

Got home. Got dog. Got kids who wanted to ride their bikes. Got another bike out and rode that with them. Well you would wouldn’t you? First day back at work was rubbish but sandwiched between wheels, I think I’ll do it again tomorrow.

* Based on what I know, that’s all of you. Except for my mum who is currently disconnected from the Internet due to youngest son’s complete failure to remotely troubleshoot a broken wireless connection. I shall be sending her up my special hammer in short course to remedy the problem once and for all.

** Which is the second highest search vector to this site. The first being “sex with hedgehogs“. I wish I were making that up.

*** “Are these the lower slopes of the Alps?” / “No” / “Then WTF?


… is usurping “stiction” as my favourite bridged bit of alliteration. This mix of “Stay” and “Vacation” is a timely reminder of what it means to be a Yorkshireman. “Ah well, tha knows, could’ve got to foreign parts, but they’ll speak funny and there’s nowt to be found of basic staples such as burnt-whippet-surprise*. Anyroad up, God’s country is right tha, so why would you want to risk bloody frenchies y’soft lad?

So this week, surrounded as we are by sparkies, plumbers and the like – serious men sporting eared pencils under beetling brows – we’re holidaying right here at ground zero of the previously cherished budget. So far this has involved much the same activity as one would undertake somewhere rather more expensive, although I’ll concede with more floors, foreign parts

Swimming, cakes, exploring muddy forests, cake, swapping depressing rain for amusing films**, eating out, eating more cake, wine, sofa and TV following tired kids heading bedwards, and much more of the same tomorrow.

Which in a further cost cutting move, I’ve decided thatΒ£50+ for four of us to drown in the fast running Wye is money for nothing. I’ll merely re-cast one of the old baths into a makeshift kayak, and head off downstream onto what used to be the road outside. Stunning idea I thought, typically British man with own shed thinking outside the tub, and providing decent, low cost family entertainment.

Three pairs of rolling eyes tells me I am alone in my love of the idea – even the dog looked sceptical and he’ll try anything once. Honestly it’s not until you’ve seen a Labrador eat a spider – with apparent relish – that you realise quite how hungry they must be ALL THE TIME. He’s even had a nibble of one of my biking socks of doom which are essentially lethal to any land going mammal from ten feet or less.

Talking of bikes, of course there has to be some of that later in the week. Parental care morphs to parental abandonment as I attempt to impress a man I’ve never met with my riding skills. That’ll not take long then – probably all the time a crash-bang-wallop plunge down the vertical trails recently discovered on the scary side of the forest.

Assuming any sort of multi limbed survival, the next day is all mine to lead a glorious day long ride over the Long Mynd bathed in summer sunshine. Let’s examine that last sentence shall we for possible inaccuracies; basically it’s all of it – more likely I’ll be getting a few old friends lost in the rain for hours on end before a random trail source shall lead us to a pub. Where we shall stay.

Sounds good to me. The way things are going, we might rent out the garden to tourists πŸ™‚

* in times of hardship, rat or ferret was substituted. The surprise wasn’t that it tasted like chicken, more it tasted like shit.

** Ice Age 3. Fully expected it to be a tired re-run of an exhausted franchise, but found myself giggling along with the kids. But the nut gag has really been done to death now.

Rush Hour

I have one hour. Exactly sixty minutes to switch life modes, exchange drudgery and bug eyed stress for stolen pleasure. It doesn’t matter why or when – only that the clock is ticking, and I need to feel fast air in my lungs, dirt under my tyres, joy in my heart. I have to go and ride my bike.

First of too many problems is the dearth of any proper good muddy stuff from our door. Sure with the Malverns on one side, and the Forest of Dean on the other, I am only a short drive from stonking trails, and not much further to the wilds of Wales. But there isn’t time for trailers, parking and faffing when you’re a mere hour from needing to be back here.

The very local woods offer nothing other than an excuse to lose the dog in the overgrown footpaths. Head a little further out and a huge expanse of forestry should roll out a million trails, but it doesn’t because of too many horses, to few bikes, too little traffic and my apathy based exploring routine. I’ve driven out there a few times, and come back disappointed vowing to carry on next time to stuff I know is good.

Much of this is because I’m a rubbish explorer, no sense of direction, and yet blessed with a gift to divine rubbish tracks. If you’re in the market for a six foot wide ruined trail full of horses hooves, red Herefordshire mud, viscous shrubbery and a dark heart from which there is no obvious escape, I’m your womble.*

So it’s a bit crap for mountain bikes, and I’m completely unable to find any of this mythical singletrack I’ve heard talked about. But it’s close, 3.3 miles and that’s less than 15 minutes to a man who has 3 week unridden legs, and the need to unwind a million wrongs visited upon him.

Big Ring. Stand up. Ignore wheezing lungs and unexercised muscles. Forget that road riding is dull, blot out the threatening clouds and incessant headwind – there are many things worse that this and most of them are inside.

I’m still attacking everything when I first hit the dirt, diving under the trees on a trail I’ve jealously eyed up on numerous dog walks. Which already goes against the plan of riding just 4 known tracks to the valley bottom and then sprinting home on the fireroad.

But every mountain biker has a Pavlovian attraction for snaky singletrack, and it’s not long before I’m clearing deadwood from a little used trail and thinking happy thoughts on improvements if only I’d remembered my spade. But time doesn’t stop, and neither can I – sweating a bit now – switching to a favourite rooty trail that’s way drier than expected and twice as much fun.

God I’d forgotten how great this is. And it has nothing to do with the bike. Oh sure, the Cove is perfectly balanced, razor sharp without being twitchy, taut without being painfully stiff, fast without being fragile but that’s not what matters right now. Because right now I’m not inside with a pile of work, or outside trying to make sense of ongoing house devastation.

No time to gloat, time to ride, pick another trail and spend minutes I don’t have trying to jump a rooty set. Twice I cock it up, so go for a dumb brakes off approach that ends as well as you can probably imagine. Still, since I was lying down, this seemed a perfect time to break out a lunchtime energy bar and surreptitiously check e-mail. No Signal? That’s fate. Time to go.

Not enough of that to ride a cheeky trail around the lake. Walked loads of time with dog and family, it’s root strewn, off camber, damp today and sure to be rubbish. But I ride it anyway, and it’s bloody brilliant of course – not as it offers some kind of singletrack nirvana, or great speed but because I shouldn’t be here, and nobody else is.

Flick of the wrist shows bad numbers so I quit while I’m just a little behind my rush hour schedule. But not so fast that I cannot mentally mark a myriad of possible trails which peep enticingly from behind summer growth.

My hour is nearly up and some cad has laid an extra mile of tarmac between my fading legs and the demands of being a grown up. The headwind has even strengthened** but a main road short cut deemed to be less risky than the hilly back roads*** bought me enough time to make a sub sixty possible.

Being two minutes late didn’t matter unless you’re the type of person who stokes his competitive gland every time bikes are involved. So that’s me on a final charge which brought the house into view, and a moto style entry over the frictionless pea shingle impressed exactly one person. And that person read 59:48 on their stopwatch.

Don’t get me wrong – the trails aren’t fantastic, at no point did I carve successive corners or jump some monstrous double. The bike and I are splattered with smelly mud, every exposed limb has been brutally slashed by vegetation with attitude, nothing has changed here other than an Inbox close to explosion, and it’s just started to piss it down again.

But I don’t care. Because for a while there I forgot just how bloody great mountain bikes are. That’ll not happen again.

* Remember Womble’s picked their names by blinding pinning a map. If I were really a womble my name would be “For Fuck’s sake, the map is over there, that’s my HAND”

** Out and Back on the same road. Both into a headwind. Ask any cyclist, they’ll tell you this is always the case. We don’t know why but when we find out someone is in for a bloody hard time.

*** Risk assessment went something like “may get run over by a mad trucker heading to Ross, but almost certain heart attack if I have to go up there


Finally. Only three months later than promised due to a pace of life issue. In fact, at twelve weeks past deadline, this monstrous delivery is – in Herefordshire terms – marked as “on time“. I was wrong about the 10 tons though. But only by a factor of 25, as endless trailers deposited huge elephant turds on the wasteland of our garden.

To many people, this looks like merely a start; to us it’s feels more like the home straight. Unless any of the 400 metres of buried pipes springs a leak. In which case, we’ll have no heating but a rather fetching water feature.

Progress is remarkably brisk inside as well. Most of the ground floor now has a floor, a scud missile has landed in our utility room accompanied by electronic cleverness that somehow eeks free energy from the ground. It just needs connecting together through a complex fusion of plumber and sparky, which – assuming we’re on Herefordshire Mean Time – should happen just in time for Autumn. 2010.

Summer digging That's nearly finished

We’re so sick of the whole house rebuild thing*, my extended weekend was only partially scuppered by being unable to leave the premises when the first load of elephant dung had been carefully placed behind the cars. Still we fashioned an escape of sorts, and it was absolutely the right thing to do.

Heading west was an inspired move as a family full of the holiday spirit decamped to Techniquest in the surprisingly lovely Cardiff. I broke the mould of your standard male by both showing much interest in the kids attempting to re-configure the exhibits in a way that was way outside of their operating parameters, and surreptitiously refreshing the tiny phone browser until a final confirmation of the crushing of the Australians at Lords.

Good day that. Tomorrow isn’t. London calls as the Clash once said, but I wager they didn’t have to find a 5 O’clock in the day to get there. My train is broken for six weeks, leaving me little option but to drive most of the way there. I expect it to be dreadful. Don’t worry, you’ll be the second to know.

* Dangerous use of the word “We” here. I’ve done two thirds of sod all on the grounds that a) I’m working and b) I’m a lazy bugger with time consuming hobbies. The important thing about being a selfish bastard is being honest about it.

“Dad… you embaressed me”

You know it’s coming. When you’ve nurtured human shaped DNA clones from resembling a half eaten Mars Bar to a height close to their mums’, it’s only a matter of time before they cast you off for cooler things. And as a father there’s conflicted emotions polarised between a sense of sadness that they’ve escaped your parental orbit, and a naughty little voice shouting “C’MON, THAT’S WHAT WE WANT

So it wasn’t unexpected, although the source was – it being the Random child who has only recently been rotated through eight planetary rotations*, and the jury is still out if she’s actually ever been made a member of this one. The venue for this perceived slight was the school Sports Day where – true to form – the cross country race saw our kids bringing up last, and second last place.

This is not only because they’ve inherited their father’s legendary athleticism, but almost as contributory is the phenomenal fitness of the other children. These genetically modified little humans clearly sprint twenty acres each day before a strength session juggling tractors. And that’s before breakfast.

Since our school refuses to saction the Dad’s race on the grounds it always ends up as mortal combat driven by fading testosterone and probable heart attacks, I channelled my competitive gland into encouraging my own offspring by running with them. On reflection, it seems that such fatherly concern for their welfare was deeply uncool, and downright embarrassing.

Although when I quizzed the Randomster on exactly what she meant, it became clear that her understanding of the word “embarrassed” was a little vague. I believe her third explanation somehow linked the emotion as being similar to a poorly lettuce. However, knowing her as I do, there’s probably some truth in there somewhere, hidden behind a view of the world which is as wonderful as it is exasperating.

Anyway, here it starts I guess. Skulking in shadows when their friends are in attendance, hiding behind lamposts on the taxi run, and being banished to a different room when a critical mass of not-so-smallness meets in the house.

I think NOT. There is much pleasure to be had embarrassing your kids. My only mistake was to put them in that situation accidentally. Now I’ve thought about it a little more, I see my opportunity as legion. So where’s that invite to the School Disco?

The time for the Dancing Trousers is upon us.

* I find Random’s eighth birthday was, in fact, some six months ago. I should worry less about my kids growing up, and spend significantly more time hunting down the time thief whose stolen half my year.