IT is a well known fact of family life that dads make mistakes and mums don't. Us dads have to accept our mistakes, even when we're not really to blame.

Mums find mistakes hard to own up to, even harder to forget.

It was months before I was forgiven for handing a taxi driver a £20 note, thinking it was a fiver. I was in the doghouse for ages when I accidentally set fire to our first-born's Thomas The Tank Engine pyjamas while making pizzas. Of course, it was me who forgot to pack the passports when we went to France. And, naturally, it was entirely my fault that we had a fourth baby when we thought we'd stopped at three.

My wife, on the other hand, doesn't make mistakes. She is a perfect specimen of blamelessness. She has a monopoly on common sense, always makes the right decisions, and is in complete control. That's how she likes it.

Which is why the disaster at the beginning of a family break to Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest will be remembered for a long, long time...

We'd just arrived and were having lunch in a restaurant. Mum took an envelope out of her bag containing £30.

"Auntie Hazel's given you £7.50 each to spend," she announced to the smiling, tomato sauce-smeared faces before us.

A swim followed, then a trip to the supermarket. We were in the checkout when the colour drained from Mum's face: "Didn't I put that £30 in my purse?" she asked, looking at me. "It's not here. Oh my God, I must have put it back in the envelope without thinking."

Without thinking? Mums don't not think, do they? She remembered scrunching up the envelope and leaving it on the restaurant table.

I was out of that supermarket faster than Superman zooming to the rescue of a baby falling from a tower block.

The staff in the restaurant couldn't have been more helpful. They emptied every bin but there was no sign of the envelope.

"It must have gone into the main bin and that has a compacter which crushes everything," explained the manager.

"I'm really sorry," he said, as if it was his fault. An instinctive apologiser - he must be a dad, I thought to myself.

But he didn't need to be sorry. Despite the fact that we'd lost £30, I couldn't help feeling a strange sense of excitement. You see, although we had to cough up the missing £30, I consider it a very worthwhile investment. The day Mum chucked away three crisp £10 notes will be kept up my sleeve as collateral for years. Every time I make a mistake, I can refer to the day she made one too. Oh joy.

I raced back to the supermarket and broke the bad news, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"I can't believe I could be that stupid," she muttered, disconsolately. "These things happen," I replied, from a rare position on higher ground.

Later that evening, the kids were debating what to spend their money on. Mum looked up from the paper and I swear on the Bible she uttered these words: "Don't go throwing your money away on a load of old rubbish."

Oh yes she did.


THE Dad At Large Roadshow enjoyed a wonderfully warm welcome at two church groups in Darlington last week - St Herbert's Wednesday Club and the Elm Ridge Methodists Thursday Group...

Wednesday Clubber Margaret Garrett, who taught for 25 years at Gurney Pease Primary School in Darlington, recalls a note sent in by a parent: "I'm only sending three days' dinner money because David's going into hospital for a little operation. He's having a circum... I can't spell it but I know it'll make a new man of him."

JESSIE Bland, also of St Herbert's, was in a car with her son-in-law Colin who's mother hadn't been well. "How's your Mum?" she asked. "She's had some blood taken," he replied.

Grandson Thomas Harcourt who was sitting in the back seat, piped up: "Will they give her it back?"

THURSDAY girl Anne Metcalf recalled how her grandson Ged, three and a half, was introduced to his auntie who'd flown in from America.

"This is Auntie Lori," he was told.

"No - big truck," he replied.

P.S. THE assorted dads and lads of Darlington Round Table were let off the leash for a convivial meeting at Blackwell Grange Golf Club last week. Honorary President Mike Challands - top dog, so to speak - was proudly wearing his chain of office on which his predecessors are remembered by engraved gold bars.

The 1974-5 bar bears the name of David Hardy who, legend has it, owned a labrador. Somehow, the unfortunate brute managed to swallow the chain - past presidents, the lot.

"It was some considerable time before we got it back," said Mike.


"MY Dad was the most incredible man in the world and universe, and I love him. I will always remember my Dad as a funny, jolly man and he always used to call me his little princess. Goodbye, my amazing, awesome, superb Dad."

A letter written by Corinne Oake, 12, which was read out at the funeral of murdered Manchester detective Stephen Oake last week.

Published: 30/01/2003