THERE was a time when size really mattered. With four children born within seven years of each other, we needed a big house.

The bungalow we started out in was no longer fit for purpose, so we took a deep breath and stretched ourselves to the limit. After a couple of moves up the property ladder, we turned the attic into a bedroom, and are very fortunate to have ended up in a five-bedroomed house with a large garden.

But, one by one, the children flew the nest and, before we knew it, my wife and I were like rattling around like the last two Smarties in the tube. Unnerved by only having each other to talk to, we started desperately inviting friends and neighbours to Sunday lunch to fill the void.

Almost anyone would do. People we hadn’t seen for years were dragged, kicking and screaming, off the streets.

Then, reluctantly, we began to use the “D-word”. “We need to think about downsizing,” sighed my wife. “This place is too big for us now.”

And so, in the back half of last year, we began to look around, mainly at bungalows with more manageable gardens. It’s funny how life turns full circle ­– you grow, then shrink – and it’s all a bit scary.

Christopher, our eldest, has never ventured very far and lives in our village. The middle two, Jack and Hannah, both live in London. The fourth, Max, is more complicated. He took his drum-kit to Manchester in search of fame and fortune but has now moved back home because it’s cheaper, although he keeps heading off to gigs with his band.

Anyway, they all decided it was time to come home for a family reunion at the weekend and – for the first time – they all had partners in tow. Chris has long-term girlfriend, Lisa. Hannah is nicely settled with Jamie. Jack wanted to introduce us to his new girlfriend, Kitty. And Max has Jas.

Suddenly, our big house was bursting at the seams more than ever. We just about had enough bedrooms, but Sunday lunch was like the feeding of the 5,000. When my wife’s sister and her husband decided they’d like to come too, they were told they’d have to bring their own chairs.

And, of course, in amongst the crowd, we had our two-year-old grand-daughter Chloe. She loved having so many people paying her attention, although she was visibly disappointed when Kitty turned out to be a young woman and not the cat she’d imagined.

“Hello, Chloe – I’m Kitty,” said Jack’s new girlfriend.

“NO! This is Kitty,” replied Chloe, pulling a face and grabbing the cuddly toy cat that lives in our house.

It was a challenging weekend for my wife, who coped admirably with all the sleeping arrangements and cooked a wonderful Sunday lunch that included a mountain of roast potatoes and what seemed like 100 Yorkshire puddings.

Somehow, she managed to cater for meat-eaters, vegetarians, pescatarians and vegans, and the weekend was such a success that they all want to come back soon.

I think we’re going to have to upsize.


  • MY son Christopher has been explaining to two-year-old daughter Chloe that it’s polite to say “Pardon me” when she burps. But no matter how hard he tries, she still says “Parakeet”.


A few more from the Dad At Large archives…

  • ASA, aged three, had just come home from nursery and turned to his mum to ask about a new song he’d been learning: “Mum – who’s Dougie Hokey Cokey?”
  • KEITH and Lucy Teasdale told me in Bishop Auckland about how their son, Craig, had reacted when his expectant mum asked if he wanted a baby brother or sister: “Can’t we have a rabbit?” he asked.