TWENTY-SIX years have passed in a blur since we waved goodbye to our first-born on his first day at school.

His Mum had spent the week lovingly sewing his name into his smart blue sweat-shirt, big boys’ grey trousers, white shirts, vests, pants and socks.

“I look like a real schoolboy, don’t I Dad?” said Christopher, proudly, as he modelled his uniform round the lounge.

He took no persuading when the time came to set off. He got dressed faster than ever before, strapped on his Power Rangers haversack, and ran on ahead as me, his Mum, little sister and baby brother followed on solemnly.

I’d been warned to make sure I had plenty of tissues – because my wife was certain to burst into tears. It was just a matter of time before she cracked, but I’d be there, ready to dry her eyes and give her a cuddle.

We walked across the playground and into the cloakroom, where his very own peg, with a picture of a king, awaited. We filed into the classroom, along with the other parents and little ones, and the unmistakable smell of crayons was as strong as in my own first memories of school.

Christopher introduced himself to his teacher, and handed over his dinner money, before happily settling into a corner with a book. I had the tissues ready as his Mum went over to say her farewells but, to my surprise, she managed to keep a stiff upper lip. Then, she turned to me and said, matter-of-factly: “You’d better go and say goodbye.”

I bent down and whispered: “I’ll see you soon, son. Be a good boy.”

He gave me a hug, looked me in the eye, and said: “Don’t worry, Dad – I’ll be OK.”

A lump came to my throat, and, within seconds, I was walking home in tears. I knew those tissues would come in handy…

WELL, last week, in the blink of an eye, it was the turn of Christopher’s little girl, Chloe – our first grandchild – to start school.

On the morning of her first day, she came round our house, proud as punch in her little-bit-too-big, bright blue sweat-shirt and little-bit-too-long grey skirt.

“I’m a schoolgirl now, Ganma and Gandalf – I don’t go to nursery anymore,” she declared before giving us hugs, waving goodbye, and walking up the road with her Mummy and Daddy. I watched them disappear round the corner and that familiar lump returned to my throat, and it was a bloomin’ good job there was some kitchen roll nearby.

Chloe’s first day was just a short, gentle introduction to school life, and she came home at lunchtime. “It was really good – but I didn’t learn to read yet,” she reported, as if expecting it to magically happen overnight.

Then she sighed and added: “I’m really tired – I’ve had a very hard day.”

Before we know it, she’ll be off to university…


MY mum – in her 90th year – telephoned last week with an 'urgent' question: 'What's your neck size?'

“Seventeen - why?” I asked.

“Because I've got you a pack of three white Marks & Spencer's shirts for Christmas,” she replied.

No surprise there, then.

CHLOE finds it hard to understand that she has a Great-Grandma, so she makes do by calling my mum “Great Margaret”. And that’s what we all call her these days. It’s a perfect fit.

ONE from the archives…Nora Lee, a member of Darlington Tangent, once told me how her nine-year-old cousin, Richard, had described his day at school.

“We played football all afternoon. It was brilliant – I constipated on the ball right through the game,” he announced.