This has not been a good winter. I have not been sleeping well.
I keep having a recurring dream. It’s about the cricket. England are 147-1. The Aussies are on the ropes: victory is certain. Then I wake up.
I roll over in bed.
Reach for my phone. Fumble my way to the LiveScore app. Check – and find that England are 88-6. They’ve collapsed again. Staring defeat in the face.
Then I try and get back to sleep…
So it was on New Year’s Day. 4.30am when I woke up. Damn it, I’d missed almost a full day’s play. I reached for the phone. Then I realised the game didn’t start until Thursday. And Thursday night at that…
But no chance of going back to sleep. Might as well get up and do the work I should have done before Christmas.
The lights were still on in the hall. Which meant one thing – no Tom.
Eldest son late back from his new year revels. Well, what could be a nicer start to the new year than seeing his dad when he finally came home?
But when? And then, like most parents, I asked myself an interesting question.
At what time do I start worrying?
Clearly not now. 4.30am is late for Tom, but not that late. And it was new year.
But you’re a parent, so you’re genetically programmed to worry. Six o’clock, a voice said. Yes, I thought, that would be a reasonable time to start worrying.
And by seven you can be frantic.
It was all academic. He crashed through the front door – you probably heard the noise – at 5.15am.
“Hi Tom, happy new year. Did you have a good time?”
“Hic,” my eldest son replied. I took that as a ‘yes.’
“Had a bit to drink? Want a glass of water?”
An unpleasant thought struck me. “You’re not going to puke are you, son? ’Cos the Christmas tree’s standing in the bucket…”
Tom looked at me with disdain. Or as close to disdain as however-many-bottles of whatever-it-is-he-drinks would allow. Clearly being sick after a night out was for children of 16 and 17.
“No, I’m not, dad.”
“Shall I get you some water?”
“Hic.” I took that as another ‘yes.’
“Did you get a taxi home?”
“Twenty quid,” Tom replied. That would be ‘no’ then.
I put my hand on Tom’s arm. He was frozen. Small wonder – because nine hours ago he’d gone out in just a T-shirt.
“You haven’t walked home in just a t-shirt?”
“It was fine.”
“But it’s freezing cold.”
“Dad, no-one wears a coat.”
“Well Ed did when you all went out the other night. He had a jacket on and a scarf.”
“And he regretted it all night.” Then Tom gave me the same pitying look he uses when I ask him a question about computers. “You can’t pull anyone with a coat and a scarf, dad.”
Can’t you? Angela Miller found a wide variety of ways to reject me but I don’t ever recall hearing, ‘I’m sorry, you’re wearing a scarf.’
But times have clearly changed. Apparently there are no cloakrooms in nightclubs any more. I say apparently as – and this may astonish you – it is some time since I set foot in a night club.
My children now go out at the time I used to come in and they’d rather die than take a coat.
With that Tom took his glass of water and stumbled upstairs, hopefully to get warm. Was he smiling?
Drunk or not he certainly looked pleased with himself.
Maybe dicing with hypothermia had been worth it after all. Not that he’d betelling his dad…