7.15 in the evening. A knock on the door. The dog goes ballistic.
That can only mean one thing – her deadly enemy, the window cleaner.
I rummage around in my pocket, find seven quid and trudge to the door…Where remarkably good news awaits.
It’s not the window cleaner, it’s a case of wine.
Specifically twelve fine, manly reds from my new best friends at Naked Wines.
I scribbled my signature on one of those hand-held things that guarantees you can’t scribble anything remotely resembling your signature and carried my trophy into the hall.
“That’s a bit stupid isn’t it?” my wife said.
“Why? I told you I was sticking to red. I can’t possibly buy a case of white, even if it is seventy degrees.”
“Tom’s coming home tomorrow.”
“Oh.” In my moment of triumph I’d completely forgotten.
Just the 400-mile jaunt up and down the M1 to bring our eldest back from his summer job.
But Jane was right. The teenager who drank bottles of Bud with his mates has gone.
Don’t get me wrong: I love the fact that he’s matured from someone who couldn’t wait to finish a meal to an interesting young man who’ll linger over a dinner-table conversation.
It’s just that I’ve paid a high price for it – especially in wine and cheese.
As Tom would confirm…
Thirty minutes after Jessica and Ben had rushed off to their bedrooms he was still with us.
Which was more than you could say for the first bottle of Languedoc.
I’d been rather hoping Tom wouldn’t notice the second one. Oh well…
“Are you sure there’s no more cheese, dad?”
“You’ll have to make do with that, Tom. We’re feeding five adults now.
“And speaking of cheese, could you cut me a larger piece? One that I can find without the Hubble Telescope?”
Tom sighed, and cut a virtually transparent piece of cheddar.
“Blimey, Tom,” I said. “I can’t wait to come round to your house in 10 years’ time. Make sure you’re well stocked up.”
“Yes, dad,” he said quietly. “I want you to come round to my house in 10 years’ time.”
“Well I will,” I said. “And no £4.99 bottles of wine - ”
And then I stopped. Because I realised what Tom had said – what he’d really said.
The dining table fell silent.
Another rite of passage moment. One of the children acknowledges that the old boy isn’t going to be here for ever – but he’d rather it didn’t happen just yet.
I remembered the first time Tom pushed me to one side, took the screwdriver off me and explained – as gently as a 12 year old boy can explain – that he’d fix whatever needed fixing because I was useless.
Eight years on his message was rather more stark: Don’t eat so much cheese and drink so much wine that you die a premature death, dad.
This is the little boy whose hand I held when he started school about 10 minutes ago. Now he’s worrying about my fragile mortality. It didn’t bring tears to my eyes when I realised what Tom had said. I was too busy worrying about the cheese.
Two days later and I’m writing about it and I can’t see the laptop screen for tears. In case you haven’t realised from reading these columns over the years I love my children beyond all human measure. And it appears they might just love me back.
Sorry to be serious for once. I’ll be back to my frivolous self next week. But I’ll be eating a bit less cheese…