Dad Dancing In The Dark

You can’t be cool as a Dad. You just can’t. You check any coolness that you may once upon a time have had in at the maternity ward when you leave to take your newborn home for the first time. You grin like an idiot as you carry the surprisingly heavy baby in her shiny new car seat that’s built like a small tank through the hospital, smiling at passers by – ‘Yes, she’s mine, I fathered her’ you think, secure and happy in your absurd posturing  masculinity.

But despite technically becoming a Father the moment that your first child is born, which in my case was just over 6 years ago now, when do you actually become a ‘DAD’? Because, and it’s taken me completely by surprise, I am emphatically becoming one right now. My Wife has noticed it, and takes great pleasure in pointing it out, and I am suddenly hyper-aware of it.

I have begun, with comical regularity, to unconsciously repeat myself. Only last week as we drove past a village pub not so far from here, I commented ‘we should go there one night.’ Apparently I have said this the last 4 times we’ve gone past said pub. I have no memory at all of this.

I have a chair. A CHAIR! The most Daddish thing of all time. It’s in our living room and the kids have strict instructions not to jump up and down on it. (The little shitbags do anyway of course, but not when I’m around. I conducted a full interrogation recently when I found biscuit crumbs on it). I never had any kind of chair strategy I should point out; not once when my Wife was pregnant with our first child did I think ‘Yes! Now I’ll get my own chair’, it just somehow inexplicably happened.

Next to DAD’S CHAIR on a given night, might be a pair of well worn and comfortable suede leather moccasin-style slippers that I just happen to own and love these days. (Oh that feeling of kicking off your boots after a long day and putting them on!) I had no slipper game at all until recently. I had nothing against them, they just weren’t my bag. They were for old fellas. DADS. I don’t even know where these slippers came from, they just magically appeared one day. And I love them as much as my Children. Maybe more.

I laugh at my own crap jokes. Manically. Hysterically. Both when I post them on social media, and in real life when i say them out loud. I vividly remember my Dad doing this on a regular basis. Splitting his sides as my sister and I groaned at another weak effort. Now I’m doing it too. WTF is happening to me?

I have a got a ‘Dad voice’. A DAD VOICE! It actually changes on it’s own when I’m telling the kids off for some minor infraction of the house rules. It drops several octaves until I sound like a Welsh version of Barry White. And I address them with both their first and middle names when I do this too. Who does this? DADS, that’s who.

I dance like an absolute Dickhead. Vigorously and often. But to be fair, I’ve always done this. It’s just that becoming a DAD has completely legitimised it. This, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the very best things about being a DAD.

I’ve never been particularly competitive. I’ve always been a bit laid back to get worked up about these things. Until now. At my eldest’s first sports day last Summer I was momentarily tempted to take out the 4 year old who was beating her by a yard in the egg and spoon race. I compromised by shouting encouragement at my Daughter so loudly that I distracted her and she dropped the bloody egg and came in 3rd. I didn’t speak to her for a week. (I’m joking obvs. It was only two days).

But even after all these giveaways, it’s the things I’ve started to regularly say that are the real killer. The DAD phrases and pithy soundbites that my Dad before me used, and his Dad before him too.  Handed down from Father to Son through the generations and mists of time like sacred relics, and now in 2016, it’s my turn. It’s. My. Turn.

‘Because I said so’ was the first of course. It just came out of my mouth one day a few years back to my great shock, when my Daughter had asked why she had to put her toys away. That’ll teach her eh?.  I say ‘Less talking, more eating’ to them all as they jabber away like monkeys at dinner time. On an almost daily basis I rampage around the house turning down radiators, switching off lights, and closing doors whilst yelling ‘Were you Kids born in a barn?’, and I give advice in the form of specialist Dad idioms like ‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’. Jesus wept.

I haven’t used my own Dad’s personal and oft-repeated favourite ‘This isn’t a holiday camp y’know’ yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Because this is the frightening thing of course. I’m not just turning into A DAD, i’m turning into MY DAD. And not only in character either; I’m starting for the first time to look like him. I’ve always been more like my Mum’s side of the family. Fair hair and blue eyes. But now at the age of 38 and rapidly going grey, I’m physically starting to morph into him. I can tell you that it’s quite the shock at 3 in the morning when half asleep and semi-naked you stumble into the bathroom and see your Dad looking at you in the bloody mirror.

But you know what? Despite all these things; the repeating myself, the jokes, the dancing, the voice, the competitiveness, the sayings, all that stuff – It’s all good. I’m at peace with it. I’m fine. Because being a Father (and now a DAD too) is without a shadow of a doubt the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. Nothing in my life has ever come close to the unbridled happiness it brings me on a daily basis.

Except for maybe sitting in my own chair after a long day on the farm, with my slippers on.



Horseshoes, ploughs and beer bottles

In 1819, John Keats wrote the poem ‘To Autumn’, where he described it as ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’ And although I’m certain that this wonderfully evocative description will never be bettered, for myself and most of my fellow farmers, this time of year is anything but mellow. Because the Autumn is sowing season.

And for me, that means ploughing. Lots of ploughing. Turning over the earth to make a seedbed for next year’s crops. Driving up and down large flat fields on your own for days on end until you turn into a slightly less manic version of Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver (‘You talkin’ to me?) might not float a lot of people’s boats, but I’ve always found it evocative, comforting, and yes, kind of romantic. Let me try to explain..

On many days from mid September to the end of October I kiss my Wife and Daughters goodbye and leave the farm in the misty early morning, lunch box and flask of strong coffee in my hand, and I’m in the fields ploughing as the Sun rises in the East, and I’m still there as it sets in the West. In the hours in-between, with mostly only seagulls & the odd hare for company, there’s plenty of time to think. To contemplate.

I often turn up Horseshoes, and sometimes old clay beer bottles. Physical connections to the generations of ploughmen who’ve come before me. The last people to touch these things were the village smithy who shoed the Shire Horse or Clydesdale, or the farmer who carelessly tossed the bottle away after his thirst was quenched. Earlier this year, a man with a metal detector found a Roman silver denarius from 68bc here. I ploughed that field just last week. Has it been worked for over two millennia?

I think about these men as I drive. I think of my 94 year old Grandfather who started ploughing as a 15 year old with a horse before the War. He often tells me that back then he’d do an acre a day – hard physical work tramping through the clay in all weathers, and then marvels when I tell him that now I do 30+ without breaking a sweat from my air-conditioned cab.

As a boy in the early 1930’s he and his best mate knew that his hard of hearing neighbour had trained his horse to stop on his whistle whilst ploughing. They’d hide in the hedge and give the same whistle so that the horse would stop suddenly half way up the field, causing a kink in the previously arrow straight furrow and laugh uproariously between themselves when the confused neighbour turned the air blue. I think about this, and smile.

During my own childhood I’d sit on the tractor with my Dad for hours whilst he ploughed with our Massey Ferguson 290. Eventually I’d fall asleep on his coat behind the seat. If I close my eyes I can still smell it. I can hear the perkins diesel engine. I can feel the vibrations underneath my small body. Happy & content just to be in the presence of my hero.

This year it’s my 3 year old Daughter’s turn to ride on the tractor with me whilst I plough.  As I drive I look at her beside me, resplendent in her shiny wellies and overalls, her beautiful tiny button nose wrinkled in thought as she pauses before asking me her 347th question of the day, and I feel comforted. This has happened before, over countless generations, and it will happen again.

My family have always tilled the earth, since time immemorial. It’s been fertilised with our blood, our sweat, and yes, sometimes our tears too. There’s a connection between us, and a fierce determination to leave this land in better condition for the next generation to work on. If you ever get the chance, get down on your hands and knees and smell freshly ploughed earth. I’m not literate enough to describe it well, but to me it smells of both the past and the future yet to be written.

Technology, is moving rapidly in Agriculture. It has to, we’re going to have to feed a hell of a lot of people over the coming years, and with far less resources too. We’re going to see innovation and advances that our forefathers could only have dreamed of. Driverless Tractors aren’t far away. We’re going to have to look at less tillage to help to preserve the carbon in the soil, and reduce erosion. There’s going to be big changes on our own farm, and across the industry. I know this, and accept that that’s the way it has to be.

But despite all this, I hope that the simple pleasure of turning up lucky horseshoes continues. And I pray with all my overly-emotional celtic heart, that the romance remains..




An Introduction

I’m going to briefly introduce myself here, as it feels rude not to do so. My name’s Will, i’m 38, and i’m a Farmer, Husband, and Father of 4 little Girls currently aged between almost 1 and just 6.

I’ve thought about starting a blog for a while now. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s a particularly boring form of mid-life crisis. Some men buy a Harley, some run off with  their 19 year old Secretary, and some start a blog. Well i don’t have a motorcycle licence, i’m crazy in love with my Wife, and well, i’ve always fancied writing something.

I’ll be honest with you. I’m nervous about this. VERY nervous. It feels like i’m putting myself out there. Leaping outside of my comfort zone. Exposing myself, if you will.

Well anyway, i’m going for it, and here it is.

Mostly i’ll be writing about my life on our Family’s farm, the every day adventures of raising 4 little Girls here, and the life lessons i’m learning along the way. I may also throw in an occasional post on running, history, or my undying love for Bruce Springsteen. I haven’t decided yet. Which in an odd way, is kind of exciting for me.

Throughout my life i’ve generally  been a slow starter, though i like to think i usually get there in the end. So i hope to greatly improve these blog posts as i go along. Please bear with me in the meantime, and maybe, just maybe,  i can make you laugh a little along the way..