MAN’S WORLD: Row, row row your boat, gently down the bar...

It is some time since I wrote about my beloved daughter.

The feisty, determined, opinionated little angel who barely 10 minutes ago was in the Nativity play and is now – unbelievably – in her first year at university.

Well you’ll be pleased to know she’s fine. Absolutely fine.

Did you play hockey yesterday?

Yeah, we drew. Won the league now.

Whoop! Brilliant. Congratulations. How’s your knee?

Knee’s fine. But took a ball to the ankle which is very swollen now. And a ball to my head which is bruised.

A hockey ball to the head! That happened at school once. A lump on her forehead the size of six eggs. The PE teacher still talks about it.

Are you OK? Should you go for an X-ray?

Ha-Ha. No, I’m fine. The ball ricocheted off my stick. Nutted it back down and continued no worries.

“Our daughter says she ‘nutted’ the hockey ball back down,” I told my wife.

“She ‘nutted’ it?” my wife said. “At least the year at finishing school in Switzerland wasn’t wasted…”

By the weekend Jessica’s head was fine, thank you. And we were discussing a new topic. I’ve got this essay to do. What do you think?

Readers with long memories may need to sit down at this point.

‘Hang on,’ you’re thinking, ‘when she went away to uni they weren’t speaking. Raised voices, slamming doors… And didn’t he throw a sandwich at her once?’

All that is true. But things are different now. If distance lends enchantment to the view, then 103 miles completely alters the father/daughter relationship.

So she’s been away for five months, and our relationship has never been better. Put simply we appear to be – well, ‘friends’ is the word that comes to mind.

True there was one difficult period of about three weeks – which oddly coincided with the Christmas holidays – but other than that we get on like a house on fire.

And yes, Jessica asks for my advice. I offer my opinion and she considers it.

Sometimes she actually agrees with me.

Those hundred miles have transformed me from a hopeless fuddy-duddy, barely bright enough to be admitted to an old people’s home, to someone who’s worth listening to; who has wisdom, experience – possibly even a gramme or two of common sense.

Five months ago a teenager who’d have been a shoe-in if door slamming was an Olympic sport left our house. Now there is a bright, charming, funny young woman on the end of an email.

I loved her to pieces before because she was my daughter and that’s what you do. Now I love her to pieces because I like her.

And if you have teenage children you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

But back to our text exchange. What was the score? 3-3. We won the boat race tho so really we won.

Boat race? Jessica never told me she’d taken up rowing…

“Jessica says her team won the boat race,” I said to Jane. “They must use it instead of a penalty shoot-out. But I didn’t know there was a lake on the campus.”

“I think you’ll find that a boat race is a student drinking game at the social.”

I sighed. Clearly my wife didn’t know how our daughter had changed.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. “Jessica tells me she’s so busy working in the library she doesn’t have time for the socials.”

My wife rolled her eyes and sadly shook her head…