Tag Archives: no regrets

Boomerang Dad

We know all about Boomerang Kids, that growing section of the population who, having ‘left home’ (which often amounts to no more than having gone to University to get an expensive degree which carries no guarantee of employment) come back to live with their parents. This has many advantages:  it’s cheaper than paying rent, it’s comfortable, and if you play it right you can behave like a kid again while having all the freedom of an adult. But what about their parents? This growing section of the population, the generation whose unblocked access to bathroom, sofa and TV remote has proved  to be no more than a passing illusion (like being given a Freedom Travel Pass for a couple of months only to have it snatched away), doesn’t even have a name. ‘Boomerang Parents’ just doesn’t sound right and surely should be preserved for old age, when, Lear-like, we throw our senile selves on the mercy of our offspring. ‘Empty Nesters’ is clearly wrong, as it transpires that the nest has never truly emptied –  we’ve merely been keeping it warm. ‘Thought-it-had-emptied-nesters’ is too long, so I humbly suggest an appropriate acronym – BERKS – Both Enduring Returning Kids. That’s it. It’s what they called us in their teenage years and now that’s what we’ve become.

Not that I mind having the kids around again. And it’s not as though they wouldn’t prefer to be fully employed and living in a place of their own just as comfortable as their parents’. So why, then, do I feel compelled to go public on the matter? Simple. At the bus stop the other day a friend said ‘Reading Rory’s stuff about being a boomerang. Hilarious!’ And later the same day someone said ‘Your son’s thing about being back home really cracks me up!’.  Further investigation unearthed this:

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So. Should I embark on a war of words? Possibly. Words, as a couple of anecdotes might illustrate, have always been important in our family.

Some years ago we went to France leaving our seventeen-year-old son home alone for the first time. We had the usual range of parental worries, from whether he would forget to feed the cat or lock himself out, to the possibility of his throwing a Facebook party (on balance we’d have preferred to return to a hungry pet or to find him on the doorstep than to a demolished house). When we arrived I decided to send him a text. As an English teacher I find it very difficult to use text language or textspeak. I’m uncomfortable putting down any of those acronyms or shortened spellings –  in my eyes it’s not making it easier, it’s making mistakes. An English teacher using textspeak is like the Pope buying condoms or a vegetarian sneaking off for a Big Mac. It might be what everyone else does but you just know, deep down, you shouldn’t be doing it. So when I text my kids, much to their amusement, I tend to spell everything in longhand. The text I sent him from France said ‘Is everything OK?’ Perfect spelling. Perfect punctuation. He sent a quick response. ‘Unecessary text,’ it said. I looked at it and the English teacher in me just couldn’t stop himself. ‘Two n’s in unnecessary,’ I pointed out in my reply. My son texted back almost immediately:  ‘Only one in wanker’.

When my daughter was ten she played her first Scrabble game. I can still remember the glow of  paternal pride as she set up the game with her eight-year-old brother. No computer. No Playstation. No exposure to inappropriate sex or violence. Just an old-fashioned, improving board game. What a great parent! How I wanted all those pushy school-gate mums to make an unexpected visit. Their kids would be doing all kinds of terrible things. Their kids would be sitting in front of the TV, stuffing their faces with E-numbers. Their kids would definitely not be playing Scrabble.

When I put my head round the door to see how my two wonderful, so well-brought-up children were getting on my daughter beamed at me and pointed at the board. And there it was – her first ever Scrabble word, straddling the pink square for a double word score. It had four letters. The first was a C. The last was a T. My daughter beamed. But she could see I was horrified. And I was horrified. I was outraged. How could she do such a thing? How could she let me down so badly? There, on her rack, was an ‘H’, and if she’d put down ‘HUNT’ she’d have scored two more points.

That’s it from the Boomerang Dad, pleased to have them back, pleased to have brought them up so confident in their use of English swear words, and pleased to have derived from one of those incidents the inspiration for a scene in my first novel, No Regrets.

Not Going Out

 

 

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Someone very wise –it may even have been Homer Simpson – once said; ‘why bother going out? you’re going to end up back here anyway’. Some might still be living the kind of exciting life where this is not always necessarily the case, but for the majority, and certainly for me, those words are wise indeed. Why go out? Why put yourself through it? Why not cut out that awkward bit between being at home and coming back home later?

It’s difficult to tell when, exactly, Not Going Out started (yes I know there’s a BBC sitcom of that name which started in 2006), but it was probably a very short time after the arrival of kids. With young children going out becomes such a nerve-racking experience that the post-traumatic effects can last well into your children’s adulthood. First there’s finding a babysitter (together with the small fortune needed to pay them), then there’s worrying that your kids won’t behave or go to sleep, then there’s the worry that your evening is likely to be interrupted by a phone call (and for those of us old enough to remember pre-mobile days such a call involved public embarrassment), then there’s the thought that you’ll return to find your kids running around the house and the babysitter demanding danger money.

The idea is that once the kids get older, once the function of babysitters becomes nothing more than meeting legal requirements and ensuring that you don’t get arrested for neglect by leaving under-age children alone, you start to go out again. And then when the kids start going out themselves and then when they leave home you go going-out crazy, enjoying your new liberation in a spree of socialising which would tire and embarrass the most party-hungry teenager.

But some, like me, just get stuck.

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Other things came along. The Sopranos. The Wire. Mad Men. Breaking Bad. The West Wing. Friday Night Lights. The Gilmore Girls (no really, check it out). And that’s not mentioning Seinfeld and Frasier and all those shows you missed because you were reading bedtime stories and being a fantastic all-round, hands-on dad. DVD box sets became my new babies and I would stay at home watching their progress with a loving parental gaze. When I finished each series I felt strangely bereft, as if one of the children had just left home.

And what have I missed in these stay-at-home years? Cinema? Why cope with rustling sweetmunchers, loud teenagers and afternoon OAPs when you can watch it in the comfort of your own home? Theatre? Don’t make me laugh – it rarely did. Music?  Huge prices, huge venues. Dinner parties? You’re joking. Football? Well, OK, I did still go to football, but as this involved watching QPR I regarded it as nothing more than further proof that going out led only to pain and disappointment.

 

 

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It’s a book!

For all those who couldn’t make the launch last night in Barnes Bookshop here’s what I said in my speech – with all hesitation, deviation, repetition and audience participation removed

‘It seems entirely appropriate that my novel should be launched the day before my birthday because many people think that producing a book is just like giving birth.

For obvious reasons I find it difficult to tell exactly how true this is, but if giving birth is a mixture of pain and joy then writing and publishing a novel might be a similar process. That thrilling, joyous, exciting moment of conception is followed by many months worrying about what you’ve done and whether it’s a good idea.  And then there’s always that haunting and terrifying question at the back of your mind – what the hell am I going to do when it comes out?

Looking at an ebook is all very well, but, let’s face it, it’s just the equivalent of a scan – you can see the shape on a screen but it’s not real. You can’t hold it.  But as soon as I heard the words ‘It’s a book!” and as soon as I felt the cover and the pages in my hands I realised the enormity of what I had managed to do. And here it is!

What you feel on these occasions is an enormous sense of relief but also an enormous sense of gratitude. And I think it’s entirely appropriate for me on this occasion to give a few thanks

I’d like to start my thanks with Jo.   Without you, Jo, none of this would have been possible. So thank you for all your support. If you were a book I wonder what I would write on your cover? How about – ‘Beautiful. Brilliant. The best book I have ever read. My all-time favourite’.

And thank you as well for what you have managed to produce. Even if ‘No Regrets’  won a  prize, even if it won several prizes, even if it were picked up by Richard and Judy, even if it were stocked in Tesco’s it would be absolutely nothing compared to the  two perfect volumes you have managed to bring into the world.

One of those volumes is here tonight.

Thankyou Caitlin. If you were a book I wonder what I would write on your cover? How about ‘kept me up all night?’. Certainly the case in your early years. Or maybe ‘Unputdownable’? Certainly the case in your later years. Or perhaps we should just settle for ‘Fantastic’ and, just like your mother, ‘Brilliant and beautiful’

Thanks also to Caitlin for sending me my first review –a text I received while shopping in Sainsbury’s – I think I can still even remember the aisle I was in. It said . ‘Just finished the book. Brought a tear to my eye…. I like the Joycean reference at the end. Very readable. Really enjoyed it. Can you remember to get some prawns?’

The other volume is currently out on a two-week loan in the Caribbean. Rory had a difficult choice to make between tutoring in  Mustique and hanging around in Barnes for his dad’s book launch. A tough decision. He spent some time thinking about it – then after five seconds his mind was made up.  Funny how he’s taken after me – educating the offspring of the well-to-do. Funny also how he gets to do it on a sun-kissed beach in Mustique and I get to do it on a building site by Hammersmith Bridge.

If Rory were a book what would I write on his cover? ‘Laugh-out-loud funny’ perhaps. Or maybe ‘Warning. Contains explicit material.’  Or how about ‘ the QPR of the literary world –you never quite know what he’ll do next’.  I think I’ll just settle for ‘Magnificent’ and thank him in his absence for his considerable support, not least in being my Facebook marketing manager.

I’d like to thank my mum– great to see you here, 89 and still going strong. So thanks to you and of course to Dad who I am sure is up there reading an advance copy of ‘No Regrets’ specially delivered by the angels. Thanks to you both for what you have brought into the world – me of course, but also my brother and sisters, Mary, John, Monica and Clare  who are all, I know,  at this moment worried that I’m going to give each of them a cover blurb. They’ll be relieved to know I’m not.

Equally relieved will be the members of the St Paul’s English department who will have realised that my book blurb motif is by now beginning to look a little tired. But thanks to you for coming –  and thanks for putting up with me for nearly twenty years.

Thanks also to those from Ellison Road – thanks for putting up with me too, and just to let you know that if you see me strolling up the road over the next three weeks I haven’t been fired  – I’m just on holiday again.

Thanks to those  who I know from St Osmund’s. Thanks to those from the Harrodian and all of you – friends and acquaintances and anyone who’s wandered in because they liked the look of the orange poster in the window.

Thanks also to Leila and Ali from Acorn Press for helping me through all the stages of this and answering all my silly questions.

And of course final thanks must go to one person without whose help nothing would be happening this evening. I mean  Isla and the fantastic Barnes Book shop for allowing me to have the event here. Isla has been a tremendous source of advice and support over the last few weeks and I am very grateful. We are incredibly lucky to have a shop like this in Barnes and there aren’t many of them left so please, please do support it.

That’s it.

I began with birth and I’ll end with birth.  Here it is. My baby.

All I ask you to do is treat it as you would any friend’s new born – smile, coo, and say nice things if you think it’s lovely, keep quiet if you think it’s ugly.  And if you do like it please spread the word and give it the helping hand that all new borns need in those difficult first few weeks and months.

And what this new born needs is probably reviews. So if you like it please post a review on an appropriate forum – or even an inappropriate one.

So  thanks to everyone for showing up. Great to see you all here.  And thank you all very much.’