Much to my wife’s bemusement I have spent the best part of my life avoiding the need to eat breakfast on a regular basis. I just don’t wake up hungry. Even when the girls were young, and I had the pleasure of arranging four different bowls of cereal, I was never tempted to join them.
I suppose it is because I have certain beliefs about the first meal of the day that have been, up until now, unshakeable.
Firstly, breakfast isn’t breakfast unless it contains bacon. I once heard someone in a hotel ask for a Full English without bacon. I wanted to walk across the room and tell them that they were asking the impossible.
Secondly, I have never heard a conversation about cereal that had the word ‘tasty’ in it. My wife has tried to convince me to try muesli and other cereals but she talks about them being ‘healthy’ or ‘good for your constitution’, none of which makes me want to get involved in such morning food.
The other phrase she uses, as if it has any serious meaning, is that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’ to which I reply ‘well if it is it should definitely include bacon then’.
So it is that I very rarely have breakfast; except on holiday or special occasions when I will have a proper Full English.
For years I have maintained that I have seen no detrimental effect due to missing this morning nosh session. Then one day my wife returned from a training session as part of her job as a Practice Nurse; the subject, Healthy Eating.
I always fear these occasions because she will come home with ideas that she wants to test on me. I have had blood taken, diabetes tests, my heart rate monitored, breathing capacity tests and now I was faced with a survey of my eating habits.
After she had again ‘tutted’ at my avoidance of breakfast she quizzed me about my dinner habits.
‘I eat my sandwich at 9:15am’, I said not realising the significance of my words.
‘But that almost makes it breakfast’, uttered my bride in desperation.
‘No it doesn’t because I don’t have bacon with it’, I offered with impeccable reasoning.
Things went further down hill when she asked about my fruit intake for the day. She seemed all too eager to discount banana milkshake and a chocolate orange.
Eventually convinced that change was needed I agreed to start the redevelopment my eating plan by trying a number of cereals. The type I liked the most (either chocolate covered or sugar coated) were immediately banned as if my enjoyment of food was unhealthy. The variety I didn’t like all seemed to be made of wood shavings but were apparently good for me.
I finally found one that was bearable and decided to try it every day in an attempt at keeping my wife happy and hopefully losing a few pounds. One week in and I can report that it is just so very boring and I have come to the conclusion that I need more variety in order to sustain my interest.
Daughter number two (who had spent almost a year in the States) had informed me that it was not unusual for breakfast to include sausages AND maple syrup on the same plate. Now if it had some additional bacon it might be a good alternative.
Daughter number four added that in France they tend to just have croissants and jam as a lighter alternative, but this just seems like pretending to enjoy food; surely it is just posh jam and bread.
So what am I to do; I don’t really like cereal but my wife says that I need to eat breakfast every day in order to be healthy. What about bacon in a croissants; now I like the sound of that; OK its not a Full English, more a Part English, Part French.
As you might imagine we have had our fair share of children's birthday parties. How things have changed over recent years; when I was a kid it was tradition for Dads to get off to the pub during such occasions and only return when the vacuum had been switched off and the last balloon had been burst. In this present climate all fathers are honour-bound to, not only be present at the celebration, but to take an active part in the entertainment.
I remember, on the occasion of our youngest daughter's fifth birthday, having to set up a make-shift disco unit in an old village hall. This community building had seen its fair share of nonsense during its 65 years of existence but I added to the collective sense of Dad embarrassment on this occasion.
The music had been selected and the two bulb light-set that I had bought for the party, was making zero impact on the brightly lit, early evening, magnolia walls. Balloons had been blown up and sandwiches had been covered in cling film to keep them 'fresh'. Our girls were already buzzing with excitement due to too much fizzy pop and the promise of party games.
Eventually some parents arrived to drop off their children each one having that same knowing look; a mixture of pity for us who were left behind and joy that it was not they who had to hold together such a major event. I offered one or two of the Dads a drink in the hope of bribing them to stay but they were all too wise to fall for such a ploy.
We started the party games with a cheer from all the children who were now reaching fever pitch; the noise level getting beyond bearable. Pass the parcel went off without a hitch and I managed to arrange it so that every child had a turn at ripping off the paper; I am not sure if this amounts to fraud but it makes for less tears. My own sadness with the game was that the kids cared little for the time and energy it took to wrap the parcel in the first place, such a lack of gratitude.
The game that caused the most fuss was the one where children were paired up in a three legged race style with the addition of a balloon attached to a child’s legs by means of a string. The aim of the game was to pop everybody else’s whilst retaining your own. I foolish agreed to partner daughter number three and as soon as the music started we were off on our popping mission.
The problem that I have is that I get far too competitive for my own good; or the good of anyone else for that matter. With a look of manic delight on my face, I lifted my six year old by the arms and dashed around the floor bursting innocent children’s balloons. With neither favouritism nor mercy I aimed for every piece of inflated coloured latex I could see whilst flinging my daughter in every direction. My daughter laughed in delight, my wife sighed in embarrassment, the other kids cried in defeat.
I am pleased to report that we were the winners but our victory was ruined by the tears of the other party goers and the look of disappointment on my wife's face. I tried to justify my actions by saying that I was teaching the children a valuable lesson about losing but my bride would have none of it; she tried to tell me that the party was for smaller kids not bigger ones.
I was made to watch the incident back on video in order that I might understand how strange I looked as my need to win overtook my need to be nice. My wife had shown the video to some of her female friends and they had concurred with her assessment of my immaturity. In defence I showed it to a number of mates to see what they thought of the whole episode. To a man they all laughed and cheered my efforts recognising that I had indeed taught the children a valuable lesson; don’t let Dad’s join in at parties.
There comes a moment in every parent's life when you realise that you are turning into your own Mum and Dad. It comes when you catch yourself saying a stock phrase used by your parents; one that you swore you would never utter. It could be something like, 'don't come running to me if you break you leg' or, the one my mother aimed at me regularly in desperation, 'Do you look for every puddle to jump in on your way home'. What fun days; when finding a puddle of mud meant adventure and not avoidance!
My wife and I overheard a young mother saying to her four-year old son 'Do you try to find every possible way to annoy me when we are out shopping'. As if rational discussion is possible with the naughtiness of a child.
I am sure that other saying will immediately spring to your mind, most of which will seem to revolve around some common truth. Firstly, they are usually born out of frustration and therefore rarely produce a change in the child’s behaviour. Secondly, they are often an exaggeration and as such impossible to defend. Thirdly, they are often more of a commentary on the parent's lack of joy than the child's free spirit.
Either way, once you have offspring of your own, the urge to say them is irresistible and is indeed one sign that you are becoming like your own parents.
There was another instance when I realised that I was turning into my father. I was sat on the sofa, in that Saturday afternoon post lunch, half dream state that seems to be so much a part of my life these days, when I spotted my dad's hand in my peripheral vision. I recognised it straight away and then immediately knew it could not be his. Firstly, he was 48 miles away across the Pennines and I felt sure that his Post Office training didn’t include warp speed travel. Secondly, the hand was connected to my arm at the wrist and I could operate it by simply thinking. Before this moment it had never occurred to me that I was looking more and more like dear old dad; but then in a split second I was faced with this obvious truth.
So what other changes await me as I surge onwards on life's conveyor belt. Will I start to miss whole portions of a film because I am distracted trying to remember what I have seen the actors in before? Will I start to read the obituary column just see if any old school chums have passed away?
Will I spend the best part of the day looking for my glasses case just because I want to use the pen stored in it?
I am not sure what brings about this change and at what age you count as being old. I was on a bus not too long ago when two teenagers stood and offered me a seat. I wanted to be so very proud of them in what was a great example of how young people are good at heart. I calmly asked them to sit down and never offer me a seat again as, at half a dog year under 50, I was not ready to be accorded such a dubious honour. They understood the humour in my comments and I thanked them for the sentiment.
I know that some things are true about the aging process. Firstly, there is an invisibility with age. The bus example not withstanding, it is general true that I can walk through any public place unnoticed because I just look like anyone of the other middle aged, well-rounded, slightly balding men.
Secondly, youth has such energy, passion and attractiveness it seems that even when teenagers wear all black they appear to living in full colour, therefore I want to say that youth is NOT wasted on the young; they seem to do their best to enjoy it. Perhaps it is just that old age is wasted on the old.
Anyway I am off to watch a Black and White film on TV, after all they are so much better than those in colour. They don’t make them like they used to.