IF it hadn’t been for the lockdown, we’d have had lots more horseplay on Chloe’s fourth birthday.

We had grand plans for a bouncy castle in our garden, and the lovely little friends she’s made at nursery were going to be invited. But the coronavirus put paid to that – just like it’s got in the way of so many other things in this rotten year.

It can’t be easy trying to understand a pandemic when you’re only four, although our little granddaughter seemed to deal with the disappointment of her cancelled party philosophically: it was because of the “cowonaviwus”.

Having said all that, there was one big consolation as far as I was concerned – I got away with having to go back to being a bucking broncho.

Donkeys’ years ago, when I was still a relatively young stallion, I always had to get down on all fours in the bouncy castles we frequently hired for our children’s birthday parties. Then, one by one, a posse of junior cowboys and cowgirls would queue up to see how long they could last on my back while I reared, bucked, neighed, snorted, and sweated profusely.

Decades on, as a grey gelding carrying a fair bit of overweight, I’d been lined up to reprise my equine role. Chloe had heard all about how I’d done it for her Daddy, Auntie Hannah and Uncles Jack and Max, and she was looking forward to it being her turn.

You may well wonder at this point why one of those big strong boys hadn’t volunteered to wear the saddle instead of me. Naturally, it was a question I asked, and the only answer I was given was: “Well, you’ve got the experience.”

Indeed, I have. Before the second lockdown, when Chloe was allowed to visit our house and hopes for the party were still alive, she’d been getting plenty of practice in. Horsey rides would start in the lounge – on the thick new carpet – and follow a trail into the dining room, where there’s a hardwood floor.

“Gee up, Gandalf,” she’d shout, and I honestly did my best to trot on. But time waits for no horse, and I quickly realised that – with my dodgy knees – I definitely show my best form on soft going.

OK, so a bouncy castle would have been plenty soft enough, but then there’d be the question of whether my poor old back would last the course. So, no, I definitely wasn’t looking forward to that aspect of Chloe’s birthday.

Happily for me, but sadly for her, it wasn’t destined to happen anyway. The party, the bouncy castle in the garden, and the bucking broncho will have to wait until she’s five.

I’ll be hurtling towards 60 by then – another year closer to the knacker’s yard.


ALL of which reminds me of the time when I was a week away from my 40th birthday and driving along with our third-born, Jack, beside me in the car.

“You know your Daddy’s 40 next week, don’t you, Jack?” I asked.

“Yes, I know, Dad,” he replied.

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

“Not really, Dad…You could live another ten years yet!”

THEN there was the time our youngest, Max, asked: “Daddy, in the olden days, were you a Roman Centurion?”

AND to cap it all, our oldest, Christopher, piped up with what he thought was a bit of reassurance: “Don’t worry, Dad, you’re not going bald – it’s just that your heads getting bigger.”