“DAD, what are you doing?”
“I’m cutting some cheese. What’s it look like? And before you ask, it’s my first piece of cheese. And my first glass of red wine.”
“I didn’t mean that.” Then what can she mean?
Jessica is wearing her I’ll-organise-your-life look. It’s never good news...
“Why don’t you just cut the cheese straight? Why do you have to hack it to pieces?”
The world starts to spin. I hold on to the work-top for support. Call my wife.
But it’s too late. I’m regressing...
“Dad, you don’t need to cut the cheese in a straight line. It’s so much easier to chop the corner off. And it tastes the same...”
My dad doesn’t bother replying.
Just cuts another dead straight piece of cheddar which he lays neatly on his Jacob’s cream cracker. Then he sighs.
How will his son ever amount to anything when he can’t even cut cheese straight?
Ever since I left home, I have ruthlessly massacred the cheese. Deliberately cut it at the silliest angle I could.
Broken pieces off with my fingers. And been enthusiastically joined in the rebellion by my wife and sons.
And yet here’s Jessica. Cutting precise little pieces of cheese and putting them – I’m sorry: I’m so ashamed I can barely type – into her bacon sandwich.
Given my daughter’s obsession with packing five weeks before she goes anywhere we’d always assumed she was DNA’ed on her grandma.
Now my dad seems have come back to add his six penn’orth to the mix...
But I needn’t worry – at least for three weeks. She’s off. Well, just about. With the trans-Europe trip planned to the smallest detail – departure Venezia Mestre 09:37 arrival Bologna Centrale 10:50 – British Rail naturally did its best to scupper the plans on day one.
The train to Glasgow – and eventually the ferry – was late. And getting later.
Someone had parked on a level crossing. As Harold Macmillan would have said if he’d been a travel blogger, “Delays, dear boy, delays”.
It all worked out in the end though – and as I write she’s sitting in a Belfast Starbucks, updating her blog and sheltering from the drizzle.
Best mate Lisa in tow and train tickets safely in bum-bag it’s seven countries in three weeks.
Northern Ireland, Eire, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and wherever else the wind blows them.
How do I feel about the trip?
First off, deeply envious. I spent my summer holidays calling bingo numbers and chasing girls from Newton Aycliffe – neither of which are hugely impressive entries on your CV.
Why did I not spend a summer going from Greek island to Greek island? I don’t know.
Now I can never be more than 20 yards from a blood pressure tablet I regret it. A lot.
So for Jessica I don’t even begrudge the shares I seem to have bought in Stena Line and Trenitalia.
Her memories will remain long after the cost has been forgotten.
Am I worried about my daughter’s jaunt across the continent? Not after I bumped into Ben’s best pal. Niall put it all in perspective. “I just saw Jessica at the station,” he said.
“Yep. She’s setting off round Europe.”
“Cool,” he said. “I’ve always fancied doing that. Maybe Ben and I could do it.”
“Absolutely. Brilliant idea.”
“The Trans-Siberian Railway really appeals to me,” Niall said. At which point I got cold feet.
As you would in Siberia. No thanks.
There are certain countries that I’d rather not receive a blog update from, and Russia’s right up there with the best of them.
Actually, I’ve always thought Ben would make a good bingo caller...