Busy, busy, buzzzzz

'I'm a very mature student'

‘I’m a very mature student’

I’VE BEEN busy. No, I mean really busy.

At the start of the year, I began a postgraduate diploma. I figured I’ll be working for another 25 years so it’d be a good investment, give me that extra edge.

I knew it’d be hard, especially returning to academia after 20 years. But the Duchess told me: ‘It’ll only be nine months’.

Well, it is hard. Very, very hard. On Monday, I had to hand in two 2,500-word essays. I had just under a month to prepare and I must have researched a dozen books and another dozen journal articles for each topic. Made notes, ordered them, got my head round Harvard referencing.

I barely relaxed for the duration, didn’t watch TV once, studied most nights until midnight. And on the bus, the train, wherever possible. Despite all of this studious study I didn’t finish them until 3am on Monday morning. I’ve spent the time since convincing myself they’re crap, I’ll fail and so on.

I’m now preparing a 5,000-word planning assignment, due in July, and a 6,000-word project due in October. I’ll have to study hard throughout the period of the World Cup, not to mention most of the summer.

There is, of course, also the day job. Two lively, expectant children. Training for the Leeds half marathon and other duties like being a school governor.

Although this year is extraordinarily busy due to the diploma, I do wonder what it is about middle age, being a proper grown up, that causes such busyness?

I know lots of other people running sports teams for kids, training for Himalayan charity events, doing degrees before breakfast, having more than two children.

Ten years ago, most of us would have gone to work, come back, watched Hollyoaks, the Channel 4 news headlines, then eaten, drank, sat. We managed to waste hours watching TV, playing computer games, sitting in beer gardens. We were at the peak of our physical powers, unburdened by real work stress and we barely questioned watching trilogies with the curtains closed or two live footy games and an afternoon of six nations. Before going out properly.

Is it about being useful, as the hour glass turns the over way? Does busyness breed busyness? Do we all fear getting an ulcer if we dare to take our foot off the pedal?

Thing is, I haven’t really got time to think about it…

Forty-one and definitely counting

photo 1I TURN 41 tomorrow. It’s only 12 months since the Big Four-Oh-No but it feels quite different. Last year, my birthday was very special. I got lots and lots of presents. Lovely people joined my London celebration. I went out several times with different groups, acting like Queen Liz and my good wife the Duchess, with their extended birthday galas.

There’s little of that this time. My lovely family will spoil me, of course. Little Buddha seems keen to sing happy birthday to me, and anyone else in her orbit, every day of the week. Boy Wonder, meanwhile, has been itching to disclose my surprises but this year, for the first time, he understands the need for secrecy. I expect the Duchess threatened a cake ban if he’d scuppered her thoughtful plans.

So, I’m not moaning. Honest. It’s just different.

I guess my middle age started the moment my 40th celebrations faded. Only it’s taken another milestone for me to realise it.

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Our children sleep well. Sorry.

Our children sleep through the night


OUR CHILDREN SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT. They always have done. The Duchess and I are understandably relieved and very grateful. But we don’t like to talk about it too much. On account of the hatred we see in the eyes of other parents.

Like when our son, Boy Wonder, was about nine months old and we bumped into a couple from our ante-natal class. We were like four excitable puppies in a bog roll factory talking about the wonders of parenting. Until they had the misfortune to enquire: ‘And how’s he sleeping?’

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Trying to win the parenting fitness race

Trying to win the parenting fitness race

‘In my running prime three years ago. You should see me now.’

This morning, I began trying to win the parenting fitness race once again. I competed in my first 10km road race for two years. Last time, the father of just the one child, I was still fairly fit and managed to claim a personal best of 50 minutes in the Abbey Dash from Leeds city centre out to Kirkstall Abbey and back again. This time, I was six whole minutes slower but it feels like much more of an achievement.

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Bedtime books for a 2-year-old boy

Every night, I get Boy Wonder ready for bed and, while he drinks his warm milk, read him one of the following stories. It goes without saying that it’s the favourite part of my day and any work-related stress is gone by the time we finish the story and I cuddle him to sleep. Most of these books are oversized and illustrated. They typically take 5-10 minutes to read, depending on whether you deploy funny voices and a few theatrics:

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