The Dad and #TeenageSon annual pilgrimage

I’ve written about football before, a common interest for me and #TeenageSon, sharing the positive whilst also turbulent joys and woes of success and failure (Click here for more Footie banter). During the last few months I’ve realised,  I am where I am, I dreamt of this moment many times over the last 18 years, me being forty years old and my son eighteen.

Over many a glass of wine I’ve mused over what it would be like, what my relationship would be like with my #TeenageSon at this point in our lives. Would he hate me, admire me, look up to me, love me, want me when he’s feeling low, talk to me about his deepest worries. I’m sure every parent goes through this angst year after teenage year.

I made it, unscathed, with my son wanting not only to be in the same room as me but go down the pub with me and more importantly wanting to go on what now has become our legendary, annual pre-season Derby County tour, our pilgrimage, that we have vowed will happen every year from this point forward.

As a parent I have experience of the fact that the teenage years can be a turbulent time, let’s start with secondary school, kids grow from little seedlings, the new kids on the block, new to the big wide world and then progress to being the king pins in the latter years and sixth form. The rapid developments in social media over the last ten years consequently means getting the attention of today’s teenager in this digital age is no easy matter and can have both positive and negative effects on the father and son relationship. Don’t be too concerned if you find yourself ‘blocked’ from accessing their profile!

Alongside these complex interactions there is the rebellion and a passion for a teenage boy to excel, to be different and be his own man. I should know, I left home at sixteen! As my son turned eighteen, my greatest worry was that suddenly, I become less like a superhero and less interesting, more of a disappointing hassle, this is where a mutual interest became our saviour – football, more specifically a sense of shared adventure, a long weekend every year to watch Derby County in their preseason friendly football games.
This year the pilgrimage took us for two nights to the Algarve and I left the organising entirely in my son’s hands, (payment excluded!). From the off there was no way the weekend was going to go without a hitch. We drove up to the ‘Meet and Greet’ barrier of the car park at the airport, which I have to say confidently opened once the camera had recognised our number plate. As we drove into the designated lanes, quickly boxed in from all angles, we grabbed our hand luggage and walked to the office to hand in the car keys. (I muted, ‘bloody hell that was easy’, to my peril). Once at the car park desk the computer really did say no, we hadn’t booked ‘meet and greet’ and why would we need it! Once the initial panic was over, we created havoc in the car park to retrieve our car and parked again in the much more convienient short stay car park.

After an eventless flight and reliable transfer from airport to hotel thats when the fun started.

‘We have had some internal problems and have no room for you…however we have transferred you to an apartment in our 4 star sister hotel’

Following a 15 minute taxi ride (gratis) we rocked up at a very plush spa hotel with a dramatic sea view. We were apologetically welcomed and taken to our private detached villa with gardens, sea views and own private pool. Unfortunately we didn’t open the back door (non-sea view) to reveal the private pool until it was too late towards the end of the trip, rookie mistake!

I have to mention the football as that was the reason for the trip: Benfica 4 – 0 DCFC enough said about that. And then there’s the partying, thank god it’s an annual thing, a free shot with every pint, I don’t think I could cope with any more often.

Call me a bad dad but we started the ‘pilgrimage’ last year when #TeenageSon was only seventeen, I took him to Amsterdam by virtue of the Derby County pre-season football match in Utrecht – trust me that was an experience! Oh and if anyone from the the Derby County crowd has any influence – a pre-season week in Vegas next year please 😉

This is my story of my 18 year adventure of fatherhood so far with my son through the prism of football. I’m sure there are millions of other hobbies and interests fathers share with their sons (and daughters) that are equally or more rewarding. I know I am lucky, fortunate and blessed to have these memories. On the news you hear of teenagers dying in tragic accidents, children who have terminal conditions, which I cannot begin to comprehend the impact of this on parents lives for which I am sorry.
If you are a parent, whether birth, step, foster or adoptive parent, make the most of it… me, it’s been the fastest eighteen years of my life!

Sugar be gone. 


Here I am the night before I’m about to go ‘cold turkey’ and withdraw from all refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, carbs and gluten; I’m staying on dairy because I reckon as a veggie it might leave me with little option and for this to work I need to be fully committed and have a decent variety of food to choose from. The reason I’ve chosen to give up sugar, I’m concentrating on this as it’s the most harmful on my list and has been my nemesis since I was weaned on to solids, is due partly to my desire for optimum health and mostly because I need to finally kick the habit. The sugar habit. The added benefits are hopefully weight loss, better mood regulation (sugar interferes with hormones) and most importantly steering away from the roller coaster ride toward the usual health problems that can rear their head around…

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My Commute To Work

It’s January 2016 and as an avid BBC Breakfast viewer I have been watching the daily feature this week about the trials and tribulations of the morning commute to work. Initially the content was very ‘Londoner’ focused and as I only ever travel for pleasure down south and being a self diagnosed geographobist, (aka fear of map reading), I’m aware that, for me, commuting into and across London would fill me with dread feeling like a military operation is required. It doesn’t take much of an Internet trawl to discover that the London commute correlates with a number of worrying health concerns including increased risk of obesity, neck pain, stress, worry, insomnia and even divorce. This made me think about my commute to work which I can happily say is poles apart from the above. ‘Research’, (don’t ask me for the reference), tells us that the average UK commute is approximately 54 minutes, if commuting to the top six major cities this causes this average time to increase dramatically. My commute is from Belper to Derby and can, on a bad day, take me over an hour, so I more or less fit into this category. My commute in the winter months consists of a ten mile car journey, which can take between 20 and 50 minutes and a walk of between 9 and 14 minutes depending on a number of factors. Unlike for others my commute to work is a blessing rather than a curse
The Car Journey

There is something quite calming and therapeutic about the mundane routine of my car journey to work, from the six minutes it takes for the heating to rise to a cosy twenty four degrees, (and I know exactly at what point early into that commute I can unbutton my coat and ditch the gloves). Especially, comforting is on those frosty mornings when the car is already up to temperature when I get in after it has been defrosting itself on the drive for ten minutes with the engine on, (this is the cue for car thieves to visit!).
Every weekday morning when I press the ‘Start’ ignition button in my Prius the speakers jump into life, almost at the same point in the radio program every working day. The same presenters on the same radio features during the sacred period feel almost like they are sat next to me, I am sat in isolation floating to work in my own metallic warm bubble, listening to music, just enjoying life, that is until that is a car roars past me and the promptly, almost deliberately, cuts me up, oblivious to anything but their own bubble.
My thoughts are often diverted from Chris Evans Breakfast show to why said driver is in such a hurry. Nowadays, rather than hitting the horn and flailing my arms in the air, I find myself rather than hoping I come around the next bend and see the guy’s car off the road with a flat tire or, even better, pulled over at the next lay by by an unmarked police car, I wonder why he/she is in such a hurry. Perhaps it’s a husband whose wife is about to give birth and he wants to be by her side, or a worried son/daughter whose father just had a heart attack and they need to get to the hospital to see them, more likely it’s just someone being flipping rude.

When you’ve done the same commute for more than a couple of years you begin to notice the familiarity of the same cars and their owners. There is the young lad who I can hear coming before I see him, his bass tuned to a level he can’t possible hear any other tone. Then there is the cool guy in the Aston Martin, with the personalised registration plate that clearly spells out his initial and surname or the not so cool girl who’s name is obviously ’Gemma’ but her personalised registration reads ‘GAMMY’

Over time I have found three alternative routes for my drive to work depending on a number of factors: 1) There’s the standard route, as the crow flies, when I just want to listen to the radio and subconsciously, mentally prepare for the day ahead. 2) There’s the scenic route, this route takes me through the countryside, narrow lanes and a lot less traffic. This route is especially rewarding for that ‘Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning’ Instagram/Twitter shot, there are plenty of lay-bys to pull over and get that perfect, filtered shot. 3) Finally there is the alternative route, this is if I am pre-warned about an accident, it’s a lot further, but generally quicker and a pleasent change from the norm.

The Walk

The second part of my commute is a walk of approximately twelve minutes into the centre of town, this way I get free parking! My walk to work is the most rewarding and refreshing part of the journey, I pass St Marys Church as her bells break into the 8:45am dance and Derby Cathedral at 9am as her chorus of larger bells deliver a symphony of harmonious delights.

A walk does however have it’s down side, the risk of bumping into colleagues and being forced to break that tranquil period of iscolation knowing that they have free access to me for the rest of the day. This is when I pray for rain or wind, that way the hood or the umbrella can go up acting as a barrier from the attack on my personal space, my time, they can do that for the next eight hours, but not before I reach my desk.

The pulling up of the hood, or that dip of the umbrella means I can avoid all contact, I become almost impossible to reach and they would have to physically touch me to get my attention. The hood or umbrella creates an obstacle to make it hard to reach me thus protecting my valuable time checking my Twitter timeline or updating my follows with the mornings commute observations in less than 140 characters.

Those precious commuting minutes allow me to live exclusively in the present, the thought of the future days work pales into insignificance as does the conflict and confrontations of the previous working day. The morning is a time to relax and your commute is an extension of that.