ONE of the main reasons for writing this column for the past 28 years has been to place on record what a hard time us dads get. And I’m now on an extended mission to underline why grandads deserve more sympathy too.

Take our recent trip to Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest…With typical foresight, my wife booked it two years ago when our first grandchild, Chloe, came into the world. Our four children have such lovely memories of family holidays at Sherwood that “Gandma” – as she’s become known – wanted to recreate the magic for Chloe when she reached her second birthday.

So, there we were, split between three log cabins: me, my wife, our four children – Christopher, Hannah, Jack, and Max – Chloe, Chloe’s mum Lisa, Hannah’s boyfriend Jamie, plus my wife’s sister Hazel and her husband Kevin. The Von Trappe family have nothing on us.

We had a wonderful time all over again as the wheels turned full circle. One of my best memories of being a grandad so far came when we took Chloe for a ride on a pony called Freddie. When she first saw him, Chloe actually began to tremble with the sheer excitement of her first pony ride, and it was enough for my eyes to go all misty.

That said, one of my worst memories of being a grandad so far came when we were going home from the pony ride. Chloe’s dad needed to get something from the shop, so we swapped bikes. The problem was that his bike had one of those little carriages attached to the back, so Chloe could sit in it and ride along like The Queen at Royal Ascot.

The rain was sheeting down, it was very hilly,  my asthma was playing up and, above all else, I’m getting old. By the time I made it back to the log cabin, I was completely knackered, feeling dizzy, and in need of several puffs of my inhaler.

The physical challenges were bad enough, but it also opened mental scars from three decades ago. Back then,  I was riding a bike through the forest, with our oldest two children squeezed into a carriage. (It should be pointed out at this juncture that, at the time, they were desperate to have a pet kitten but weren’t allowed because I’m allergic to cats.)

Anyway, as I pedalled up a particularly steep hill, the sweat was pouring out of me, and my heart was pounding like a Phil Collins drum-kit. My wife was at the top of the hill, with no-one to pull behind her, telling me to hurry up.

It was then that I heard Christopher say to his sister: “Hannah, do you realise, if Daddy dies now, we’ll be able to get a cat.”

Whether you’re a dad or a grandad, you just have to grit your teeth and appreciate where you stand in the pecking order.

A POSTSCRIPT to the last column about my embarrassment in hospital when I referred to being recognised by a nurse in my paper pants, minutes before having a camera inserted “where the sun doesn’t shine”.

Terence Fineran, from Darlington, responded with two questions: “Mr Barron why were you putting a camera in the cupboard under the stairs? And what was a nurse doing in there?”

HAVING been pretty inept with women in my younger days, my heart goes out to a lad called Dan who was doing his best to surprise his girlfriend, Tam, recently.

Dan decided to buy Tam some giant balloons for her birthday so was in the queue in a Darlington party shop. When he got to the front, he explained to the assistant that he wanted to buy two of the big birthday balloons.

“Will you be OK?” she asked, “it might be quite a weight.”

Dan looked nervously behind him at the lengthy queue and asked: “How long do you think it’ll be?”

The assistant had to explain that the balloons had weights attached to stop them floating away.