My Fa­ther’s Day gift that ended all oth­ers

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - COMPETITIONS - Frances Burscough francesaburscough@hot­

Happy Fa­ther’s Day week­end to all the dads out there; I hope you’re all be­ing spoilt rot­ten by your ador­ing kids! I’m fi­nally back in Belfast af­ter hav­ing spent most of the year so far look­ing af­ter my 85-yearold dad in Eng­land, so I won’t be see­ing him this week­end. How­ever, there are seven other off­spring to take over where I left off, so he’s in good hands. When I told dad I’d be away for Fa­ther’s Day he said: “Well, ev­ery day is Fa­ther’s Day when you’ve got eight kids car­ing for you!” Bless him.

He’s cer­tainly en­joyed the week so far though, with­out even hav­ing to move from the com­fort of the sofa. On Tues­day night it was world-class foot­ball in the form of France v Eng­land and five fan­tas­tic goals. Of course, be­ing English, dad was sup­port­ing Eng­land so the end re­sult was a dis­ap­point­ment. I didn’t dare tell him who I was hop­ing would win though, be­cause — like many peo­ple from North­ern Ireland — I was root­ing for France!

Next up was the start of the US Open golf cham­pi­onship which dad al­ways watches in­tently ev­ery year. He hasn’t played golf since his hip re­place­ment op­er­a­tions but nowa­days he’s happy to sim­ply watch it on the telly and, to be hon­est, so am I if it means I don’t have to en­dure an­other episode of Flog It with the vol­ume on full blast.

Then on Thurs­day evening there was a fas­ci­nat­ing pro­gramme that we both re­ally en­joyed — Bri­tain’s Great­est In­ven­tion on BBC2, in which seven celebri­ties were asked to make a case for seven dif­fer­ent in­ven­tions that have trans­formed the world we live in, in­clud­ing an­tibi­otics, con­crete, the fridge, the jet en­gine, the mo­bile phone, the steam en­gine or the tele­vi­sion.

This re­minded me, co­in­ci­den­tally, of the great­est Fa­ther’s Day gift I ever gave my dad. Here’s the story of it, in a nutshell.

Un­til the afore­men­tioned hip re­place­ments, dad not only played golf with great en­thu­si­asm, but he was also a keen walker. Af­ter his re­tire­ment, he and a group of friends would meet ev­ery Mon­day morn­ing and go walk­ing to­gether at a dif­fer­ent beauty spot in the Lake Dis­trict. Like a proper ram­bler, he’d take a knap­sack on his back filled with a packed lunch and a flask of tea. Then when the group reached their des­ti­na­tion they’d take a well earned rest and tuck in to their pic­nics. Any­way, on one such day, dad re­turned home chuck­ling to him­self about a joke one of the group had re­cited whilst they were hav­ing their tea break by the shores of Lake Win­der­mere.

A teacher asks her class: “What do you think was the great­est in­ven­tion of the 20th cen­tury and why?” The first kid puts up his hand: “I think it was the jumbo jet, Miss. It is so vast it can carry hun­dreds of peo­ple around the world non-stop and at in­cred­i­ble speed.”

A sec­ond child sug­gests: “Well, I think it was the mo­bile phone, be­cause now you can keep in touch with every­one you know and from al­most any­where in the world.”

Then a third child an­swers: “Miss, all of those are good, but I think that the great­est in­ven­tion of the 20th cen­tury was def­i­nitely the ther­mos flask.” The teacher looked puz­zled. “Well, you see Miss, a flask keeps your hot drinks hot in the win­ter…and your cold drinks cold in the sum­mer… but how does it know?”

Dad roared with laugh­ter when he got to the punch­line. He then pro­ceeded to tell the joke to every­one he saw for the next few weeks — al­ways belly-laugh­ing at the end — un­til the telling of it be­came a fam­ily joke in it­self. All of which gave me a bril­liant idea for that year’s up­com­ing Fa­ther’s Day.

I bought him a new ther­mos flask, one of those tra­di­tional no-non­sense stain­less steel ones, but with one dif­fer­ence: I’d had it en­graved with the words “How does it know?”

Dad’s re­ac­tion was ut­terly price­less. It was well worth the 10 quid it had cost al­to­gether.

I only wish I’d been there to see the other fel­las’ faces when he showed it to them on their next walk.

It was well worth the 10 quid it had cost al­to­gether

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