Dad Diaries : Father’s Day?
Father’s Day! I’d been given the all clear, this was to be MY weekend. I could do whatever I liked! The plan was kept deliberately simple, go to South Shields on the Ferry. Go for an ice-cream. What could go wrong?
Luke of course needed a full rundown of the transportation itinerary before we could depart. “Are we getting the train?!”, “Are we getting the bus?!”. Once he’d signed this off with various bribes and lies we were on our way.
The North Shields Ferry held fond memories for me as a child, a time to take stock of the progress made on the banks of the river Tyne from the panoramic view of the upstairs deck, to savour the freedom in the wind as we slowly edged closer to the South Shields landing. I wanted to pass this on this unique feeling.
The reality was, all five of us huddled downstairs at the back, Luke was a bit weary of it all, clinging onto mum while the twins slept and missed out completely. At least I tried.
Undeterred, I pressed on with ‘my’ day. A visit to the guitar shop would be nice I thought, surely not too much to ask? Around five or so completely unnecessary cloth changes, toilet and drinks breaks later though, the stark reality was the guitar shop was no more. I took my first deep breath of the day and compensated everyone with a promise of the park.
As the boy raced around like a Duracell bunny, we homed in on a perfect spot of wide open grass. No distractions, clear lines of sight. Slumping down, we enjoyed our first family picnic almost completely unflustered, apart from the obligatory picture-taking session of course.
TRAIN! The miniature railway could be heard faintly in the distance, and our moment of peace was over as Luke promptly demanded we leave. Handily we used this opportunity to have him clear up our litter at the prospect of a train ride. That ice-cream I’d promised myself seemed a long way off now as we played our next card, the diversionary tactic of a visit to the fairground.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire! The train-ride was now temporarily but happily forgotten about, and we were now on-route, but firstly we had to negotiate the issue of depriving the fairground from its biggest fan. I dutifully exchanged my hard-earned for a collection of ride/subdue tokens, a price worth paying, as again I could relive my childhood. This is one of the best things about being a Dad, as you get older you stop doing all the fun things you used to do when you were young. But right now, days out at the fairground were an acceptable reality again as we took turns taking Luke on all the rides while the twins, both good as gold, took it all in. Fairground / Traveller types have a bad name, but I realised whilst sitting out on the dodgems action that, really, they’re just a polite, friendly, family orientated community making a living for themselves, and good luck to them.
At the back of my mind however, we knew we were always just one wrong move away from the next day-ruining tantrum. We were managing the situation, keeping ourselves inline, and careful not to veer too much away from a three-year old’s demands. This was all going well until a delayed wee-wee dance left me with seconds to get from one side of the fairground to the toilets at the other. Dragging Luke like a rag doll through the crowds of tattooed, bare-chested gypsies, we made it with moments to spare.
This was our chance. Minchellas ice-cream parlour was now visible in the distance as we stood on the promenade. It was a blazingly hot day. Sneakily we went for it without a word. No chance! Luke was either going back on the rides or hitting the deck. I glanced down the promenade to our destination and fantasised a little about what life used to be like, place one foot in front of the other to get to somewhere without delays or obstacles. Back in the real world, the boy needed calming down, distracting. We were well practised in this now though, simply conjuring up fictional, fun things in the distance, “The rides are this way!” we claimed, to the confused looks of the locals. Anything to get him moving.
Another unnecessary sun-tan lotion top-up stop later, and we were still tantalisingly only half way along the promenade. The dawdling had commenced in earnest as progress slowed almost to a stop. Worse still, in all the excitement, Luke hadn’t eaten, and so the gloom of a lunch stop-off also beckoned. We stopped again so Luke could have some chips.
The frustration had almost turned into resignation by now. Normally I could have walked the promenade in five minutes, but an hour in, and we’re waiting for the chips to be eaten, slowly and deliberately, one by one. Thoughts went back to the guitar shop, I was gutted it was closed, all I wanted was new nut, something to mess about with when I got home, but in this situation, the mild disappointment had almost turned into tears. Is an ice-cream on father’s day too much to ask for?
Chips and ‘tomahta” sauce finally consumed, the last agonising steps of the normally not agonising at all boardwalk were all that stood between me and my only remaining wish. Incredibly, the pace had slowed again; a few steps, interspersed with regular distractions, stops and backtracking. I marched on ahead and waited, close to defeat by this time.
Eventually we arrived at the oasis of Minchella’s. I’d spotted some seats overlooking the pool & fountain, with panoramic views of the coastline. With gleeful anticipation of a fruit sundae I barged through the tables of the walkway with the twin’s double buggy, only to have my path blocked by a wheelchair. “Excuse me”, I enquired with the slightest hint of urgency. There was no response from the disabled woman. Subconsciously I offered to move her out of the way, reaching for her frame, before realising my compete lack of political correctness as people looked on. “Ok, no problem” I reassured her as I gave up, again to no response and a slightly scared expression.
Mrs H and Luke had eventually caught up, to find me pacing around the perimeter of the cafe, frantically looking for twin buggy access to the table i’d spotted. None to be found. She did try to move the disabled person again though, much to the disgust of the lookers on. And so instead. I sat outside at a table by the road with the twins, while my pre-father’s day wish was being ordered.
Peace and quiet at last! I lent back, my head touching the cooling stone wall behind. I couldn’t drifted off just then if I didn’t have to keep one eye on the girls, looking as innocent and angelic as always. Eventually the ice-creams arrived and all was well with the world again, even if the day was almost over by now. Just enough time to take Luke on the miniature railway on our way home.
Father’s day arrived, and my wish of staying in bed until around 2pm undisturbed was granted. The best present I could ever have wished for.