WHEN it comes to boyfriends calling at the house, I’ve always considered it my duty to try to scare them off.

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about my wife here – I mean my daughter’s boyfriends.

Hannah’s my only daughter – my baby girl – so I’ve always found boyfriends very hard to deal with. My protective instincts have flared up whenever they’ve appeared. If I’ve spotted a boy approaching the house, I’ve answered the door wearing my most intimidating face and speaking in a gruff voice.

But there comes a time when every dad must reluctantly accept that boyfriends are probably here to stay, and that appears to be the position with Jamie. I suspect we’ve reached the point of no return.

After three-and-a-half years, I’m having to start considering him as potential son-in-law material and, to be fair, he ticks a lot of boxes. He’s kind, caring, easy to get along with, likes football, has a well-kept beard, and a steady job with prospects. I’ve even come to terms with him having a southern accent.

However, there was one big question about his credentials: Could he live up to my expectations at keepy-uppy?

You see, keepy-uppy is a family tradition. Whenever we’ve gone on family holidays, we’ve played keepy-uppy in the pool. It’s simple enough – we all have to stand in a circle and pat a ball to each other without letting it hit the water, and we’re not allowed to get out of the pool until we’ve reached 100.

 I confess to having been over-competitive at times, turning into a kind of fierce keepy-uppy sergeant major. For example, I think Hannah still bears mental scars from a villa holiday in Portugal ten years ago when we were on 99 and she messed up with a half-hearted dive. I crossly insisted that we started again, and she was shivering by the time we finally made it to 100.

Sooner or later, Jamie would have to prove himself and the opportunity presented itself when he joined us for a family holiday to Center Parcs in Sherwood Forest.

“Oh God, you do realise you’re going to have to play keepy-uppy,” Hannah warned him, while the other three (grown-up) kids and my wife sighed or rolled their eyes.

“And we’ve got to get to 100 – or else,” I told him.

“That’s fine,” replied Jamie with impressive confidence.

So, there we were, in a circle in the pool, and it wasn’t going at all well. After nearly an hour we’d only got to 57 and Jamie had been a bit ham-fisted to put it mildly. I could feel the red mist starting to descend on me when, at last, we discovered a better rhythm. We went past 57 and into the sixties, then the seventies, the eighties, and reached a stage of frenzied excitement as we hit 90.

At 99, disaster struck. Hannah left her dive too late and only just managed to claw the ball upwards in time. Out of control, it sailed through the air, over all our heads, and beyond anyone’s reach.

But then, like a sleek, shimmering dolphin, breaking through a wave in pursuit of a flying-fish, Jamie leapt heroically out of the water and somehow managed to generate enough height to flick the ball with his finger-tips to reach 100.

He’ll do for me.


AT a meeting of Acklam Women’s Institute in Middlesbrough, Dorothy Ward remembered the time her daughter Susan, aged five, was at Sunday school and the teacher asked if anyone knew where tea came from.

Susan’s hand shot up: “China,” she answered.

“Well done,” replied the teacher. “How did you know that?”

“Because my Mum always says she wouldn’t swap me for all the tea in China,” replied Susan.

DOROTHY also recalled how her grandson, Casey Robinson, told all his friends that his grandma was in the FBI. He got mixed up with the WI.