MAN’S WORLD: It’s time to prove you have got the bottle

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Tom came back from university last week.

What’s this? The fifth time he’s come home? The pattern is now well established…

5:31pm: Tom enters house;

5:32pm: Kitchen floor disappears under tidal wave of dirty washing;

5:33pm: Food supplies declared inadequate. Dad despatched to corner shop ;

5:34pm: Home broadband collapses under weight of two boys.

Let’s take the last point first. You may have been seduced by the words ‘unlimited broadband.’ There ain’t no such thing. Take a lesson from Best Dad’s Law of Internet Capacity.

Whenever two boys are simultaneously on the Xbox and Facebook whatever site their parents want to look at doesn’t work.

Save yourself the anguish.

Plod round the corner shop looking for those yellow special offer stickers instead.

University holidays are long and expensive: you’ll be buying a lot of breakfast cereal.

But our son is back – and you know what? He’s growing up. And I have the emptywine bottles to prove it…

Last Wednesday: tea time and I was still in the office. I’d been working on the damn Budget since seven in the morning. What time are you coming home? my beloved texted.

Possibly never. This is complicated. Just open me a bottle of red wine will you?

Boys and I having Southern Fried Chicken

Go ahead

Southern Fried Chicken? No thanks. Just a bottle of wine and some bread and cheese. And maybe some of that nice pate I’d hidden from my wife and children.

I got home just as Jane and the boys were sitting down to eat. “I didn’t do you any.”

“I didn’t want any. I’m exhausted. A glass of wine and a bit of bread and cheese’ll do.”

“You mean a bottle of wine,” my youngest smirked.

“Ben, how many times have I told you - ” And then I saw it. Next to Tom’s plate.

“Tom, what’s that?”

“A glass of wine.”

“That is my best red wine, Tom. Only for use in times of stress. And you’re drinking it with Southern Fried Chicken.”

“Mum opened it.”

“Yes. For me. I don’t mind you having a beer - ”

“There isn’t any. I finished it yesterday.”

I sat down and grumbled. I grumbled even more when Jane offered Tom a top-up. At least my wife was drinking gin. Thank goodness for small mercies.

Finally they finished. I cut myself some bread and a manly hunk of cheese: retrievedthe pate from its hiding place. And there was two-thirds of the bottle left. Maybe life didn’t look so bad after all…

“You having some cheese, dad?”

“I am, Tom. All I’ve got energy for.”

“Mind if I join you?”

Well this was pleasant wasn’t it? Sitting at the dinner table with my son. Just the two of us. Once upon a time you couldn’t get a word out of Tom. Now we were chatting like old mates. “Another sip of wine, son?”

“Thanks, dad.” He reached out and poured himself a glass. Quite a large glass. That would be his mother’s genes at work…

“Is that pate, dad?”

“What? Yes. Quite rough though. You probably wouldn’t like it.”

Fat chance. My son cut himself a slice of bread and annexed a large chunk of the pate.

“This is nice, dad.”

“Yeah, it’s good to talk like this.”

“Not talking to you, dad. The wine,” he said, topping his glass up again. I glanced at the bottle. The almost empty bottle. I poured the pathetic remains into my glass.

“This is really good wine, dad.”

“Yes, it was,” I said sadly.

“Why don’t you open another bottle? You don’t want people to think you’re mean…”