CHILDREN have a wonderful way of putting the world into perspective, don’t they?

I remember being a week away from my 40th birthday and feeling quite anxious about hitting such a momentous milestone. One minute I was 18 with thick black curly hair, the next I was middle-aged with a thinning grey thatch.

“You know your Daddy’s 40 next week, don’t you, Jack?” I said to our third-born who was sitting next to me in the car as I drove along, contemplating the relentless cruelty of the ageing process.

“I know, Dad,” he sighed.

“Do you mind having a Dad who’s that old?” I asked.

He thought about it for a few seconds, then replied: “No, not really, Dad. You could live another ten years yet…”

Well, the good news is that I did survive another ten years, and another ten after that, because I managed to hit the 60-mark at the weekend.

Our four children – now grown-up – came home to mark the occasion, along with their partners, and, after all the frustrations and fears of the lockdown years, it was wonderful for the extended family to be together again.

My ‘big birthday’ was commemorated in the way I’d wanted: a trip to Saltburn – the place where I was born – for fish and chips and a game of crazy golf. My 90-year-old mum even joined in, as did my five-year-old granddaughter, Chloe, and it was fiercely competitive.

My wife, who doesn’t like to lose, insisted on checking my scorecard and concluded that I’d taken 24 shots instead of the 23 that I’d originally added up. So, instead of being the outright winner, I was unceremoniously demoted to being part of a very disappointing three-way tie with her and my brother. Birthdays count for nothing where crazy golf is concerned, apparently.

Back home, there were some very personal and creative birthday tributes from the “kids” – including a painting, a song, and a poem. And then came my main present, sealed inside a gold envelope.

There was a piece of paper with a picture at the top of a man surfing beneath a glistening green wave and a dazzling blue sky. “My God, I’m going to New Zealand,” I thought to myself, instinctively.

You see, I’ve been hooked on a television series lately that’s set amid the splendour of New Zealand. Called 800 Words, it’s about a newspaper columnist who likes to head for the surf to relax and do his thinking.

“What an amazing present. But will I cope with such a long flight? And what about the sharks?” These were the thoughts racing through my head as I tried to compute the words on the piece of paper.

Then, it slowly dawned on me that I’m not going to New Zealand after all. I’m booked in for a surfing lesson back at Saltburn in the summer and all the family will be back to join in.

I can think of no better way to wave goodbye to my fifties.


CHLOE has also had a busy time during the school holidays.

With her beloved Auntie Hannah staying with us for the week after my birthday, she’s been enjoying all kinds of arts and crafts, baking cakes, and having an exciting sleepover.

She’s even started tennis lessons down the local club and my dreams of her playing at Wimbledon one day have started to take shape.

“Shall we go into the garden and practice your tennis?” I suggested on the day of her sleepover.

“Sorry, Grandad, I’ve got a very busy schedule at the moment,” she replied. “You’ll need to make an appointment – maybe I can fit you in when you’re 100.”