We have encouraged our girls to have a good work ethic by having either a part time job or signing up for some voluntary work. Our two eldest daughters both had paper-rounds and discovered the joys of carrying packets, heavy laden with Saturday supplements, to people with little time to read them.
For the most part they were successful in their new found working lives; however, there were a number of days when dad had to come to the rescue. A torrential downpour or a more than light dusting of snow meant I was woken, far too early than the law allows for on a weekend morning, to drive a daughter around the locality so that she could earn half of what it cost me in petrol. What made matters worse was that the paper-round that includes our house was already taken by someone else’s offspring meaning that we had to travel to another part of town to begin the mornings work.
Most of these times were bearable because the paper-round didn’t take long to complete and, being Saturday, I could drop on to the sofa on my return and slumber for a few hours. There came a day, however, when I knew the whole thing had gone too far. One dark autumn morning daughter number one woke feeling the effects of a rather nasty sore throat. It was obvious that she would be unable to fulfil her duty but, because we lived a little way from the newsagents, the papers had already been delivered to our door for further distribution. Partly because I wasn’t fully awake and partly because my daughter wanted to collect all of her wage for the week I agreed to do the paper-round. On this particular day our car was being repaired so the only other form of transport I had was my daughters 3/4 sized bike. I know! I know! Any right thinking, self respecting man would have flat refused and told the newsagent to collect the bundle. Well I didn’t; I got dressed and jumped on the undersized two-wheeler.
I was comforted by the fact that it was still dark and that I was wearing bobble hat suitable designed for fathers with a need to be incognito. After fighting my way through a seemingly endless numbers of garden gates that didn’t work, and extracting my fingers from letter boxes that must have been designed by sadists, I headed towards my last few deliveries. Every householder should be forced to try putting a Saturday edition of a national newspaper through their own letter box, after holding their hand in the freezer compartment of their fridge for twenty minutes, so that they understand the plight of paperboys and girls, and postal workers.
I finally realised that all of my self respect had vanished when I arrived at a road junction to be met by two other dads looking equally embarrassed. One of them seemed to have the edge as he was doing the work from the relative comfort of his car, but it was obvious from the bright yellow glare of his satchel that he too had lost the argument. The other one was on his ten-gear mountain bike looking for all the world like he was doing a spot of exercise. Although he tried he could not hide the extra weight he carried in his unsociably orange bag.
I knew what was going through their minds as we passed each other with the faintest of nods; firstly, they were thankful that they had spotted someone who looked even more ridiculous than them, namely me. Secondly, they pleaded through tired eyes that we should never speak of this incident again. The fact that I am writing this now constitutes a breaking of trust between male parents that will probably see me barred from snooker halls, pubs and curry houses the length and breadth of Britain.
I returned home with my manhood affected; both emotionally and physically given the bike’s uncomfortable seat. I sat down with my toast and morning drink to find that OUR newspaper hadn’t been delivered because another local child had rung in sick and their dad had had enough courage to stay in bed.