IT has been an order directed at children for generations: "Eat your crusts." I was always told to eat my crusts or I wouldn't get curly hair. I didn't particularly want curly hair but ended up with hair so curly that, as a child, I used to secretly go to bed with Sellotape wrapped around my head under the covers to try to make it straight.

Now, I eat my crusts in the vain hope that curly hair will start to grow on the bits where my head's becoming more and more visible.

Our Max - number four and by far the naughtiest - has always had a problem eating his crusts. And that has led to Mum stepping up her "Eat your crusts" campaign.

Always delivered in her serious voice, it became a personal obsession, alongside the infamous "Don't leave you socks in balls" directive. And, just like the socks, her 'get tough' approach seemed to do the trick.

For the past month, it has been noticeable that Max has indeed been eating his crusts. His plate's been coming back empty and the birds in the garden have been looking distinctly thinner.

"I think we've cracked Max and his crusts," Mum confided to me with a self-satisfied smile.

A few days later, I was tidying up in the dining room. We have a lovely old church pew along one wall and I pulled it out to vacuum behind it.

There was the usual assortment of rubber snakes, bits of Lego, Dolly Mixtures, and Pokemon cards behind it. But that's not all. To my horror, there were also piles of old crusts waiting to be discovered - enough to keep a flock of starlings going all winter.

"Max, have you been putting your crusts behind here?" I asked him.

"No Dad, I've been eating them a-a-a-all up!" he lied without diverting his gaze from the television.

I've starting watching his deceit unfold through the crack in the dining room door. He eats the bread in the middle of his peanut butter sandwich, looks round to make sure no one is watching, and then chucks the crusts over his shoulder.

Since the church pew discovery, we've started finding crusts all over the place: under the table, on the window ledge, in his bed and down the side of the settee cushions.

Needless to say, he doesn't have a single curl on his head. But, there are some crumbs of comfort - the birds have had a feast, we never run short of Sellotape, and at least we know he's capable of using his loaf . . .


Our Max, just turned four, had come home from nursery with a special Mother's Day present, a necklace made out of pasta tubes.

"Oh Max, it's lovely," gushed his Mum. "Was it made with love?" "No, pasta," replied Max firmly...

As a little girl, Marjorie Rippon (now Dollin), of Castle Eden WI, was downstairs looking after her little brother while her dad - a Horden miner - was in bed after a hard shift.

"What time is it?" her Dad shouted after a while.

Marjorie replied that she didn't know how to tell the time.

"Where's the big hand?" yelled her Dad.

"It's on the 12," responded Marjorie.

"And where's the little one?" her Dad persisted.

"He's playing on the kitchen floor," Marjorie called back, helpfully.

Tickets, priced at £15, are on sale now for "An Evening With Dad At Large" at the Hall Garth Golf and Country Club at Coatham Mundeville, near Darlington, on May 30 to raise money for the Butterwick Children's Hospice. Three-course meal and Dad At Large after-dinner talk. Peter Barron will also be signing copies of the new Dad At Large book. Call in at one of our offices or telephone (01325) 505240/505290.

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