J is for JOBS... the sooner the better.

Well no, you can't send boys up chimneys or down pits at a young age these days. Bit of a shame really. The adolescent male has so much energy that he looks for things to do with it - a 12-hour shift underground would sort him out nicely.

And it's not that long since 14-year-olds were doing just that. Ironic really, that children have never been stronger, healthier, more sturdily built, yet do less hard work than any of the weedier generations before them and stay tied to the parental purse strings for much longer.

Denied such opportunities in our more enlightened times, I set Senior Son onto a path of crime. A vacancy came up for a free newspaper distributor. You had to be 13. He was 12. I lied.

As he was six foot tall and built like an ox, walking round the village with a sack of papers wasn't exactly stunting his growth. In any case, being him, he devised a cunning plan.

This meant he divided the papers, like Gaul, into three parts. He started off with one and I had to leave the others at houses of friends in the village. Senior Son would drop in, have a drink, a chat, watch a bit of television, play a bit of football, then shoulder his burden and continue on his way until the next stash, where it would be time for another little break.

On this basis, a simple paper round could take him an entire day.

He graduated to a milk round (good money, horrendously early start), washing up (money alright, puddings brilliant), proper paper round (six days a week but he got to read the papers and ogle the Page 3 girl as he did it) and bar and restaurant work (reasonable income, limited social life).

From all that lot, he learnt an invaluable lesson - that every job has its perks and drawbacks. Nothing is perfect. He also learnt how long it takes to earn enough for a pair of designer trainers and that magic moment of independence when he realised that I couldn't criticise his choice, because they were HIS trainers that HE had worked for. The connection between money earned and money spent is priceless - you don't get that doing the photocopying on work experience.

And when he dropped out of university, he got a job in the pie factory. Now that was a steep learning curve. So much so that he dropped back into another university as soon as he could and hasn't eaten a pork pie since.

Now, like increasing numbers of students, he has a job in term time as well as holidays, working in a hotel in central Manchester doing everything from running the bar, the restaurant or cooking breakfasts (don't think about it). He worked split shifts all last weekend in that glorious sunny weather.

"Don't feel sorry for me," he said with disarming honesty. "I'm just doing all these shifts this weekend to get the money to go partying in Leeds all next weekend."

It was bad luck that I had some more news for him. Greater Manchester Police had a picture of him doing 60mph through 50mph roadworks on the M62. They wanted to put some pretty points on his driving licence and give him a £60 fine as well.

"Oh no! I'll have to work two extra shifts just to pay the fine." he groaned.

"Serves you right, " I said, without a tremendous amount of sympathy, because there's another lesson to be learnt here - J is for JUSTICE too.