A child is fol­low­ing me wher­ever I go. Yes, it must be the sum­mer hol­i­days

The Jewish Chronicle - - Features -

ONE OF the great things about be­ing sin­gle is, you don’t have to put up with any­one moan­ing at you. And yet some­how I still man­aged to get told off this week by a vir­tual stranger, a young lady in a pub who ap­proached me to com­plain that lately I’ve been com­ing across as “too bit­ter” in this col­umn. Well, I can as­sure you that this month’s one is go­ing to have an ex­traor­di­nar­ily low BQ (Bit­ter Quo­tient). How could it not? It is, af­ter all, the school hol­i­days, a pe­riod sin­gle dads all over the world wel­come as an op­por­tu­nity for fun, fri­vol­ity and ex­treme plea­sure.

OK, so if I can’t be bit­ter, can I at least be ironic?

One of the great things about the sum­mer hol­i­days is that you get to spend more time with your kids. Right? And now for peo­ple who aren’t mil­lion­aires and have to ac­tu­ally earn money for food and shel­ter and other essen­tials like the Sky At­lantic chan­nel, that sen­tence should read: the an­noy­ing thing about the sum­mer hol­i­days is that ev­ery­thing you nor­mally have to do in your daily rou­tine has to be ac­com­pa­nied by your chil­dren.

Or rather, in my case, child. I’m not say­ing I’ve sold the other two to help fund my cable TV ad­dic­tion. No, I’ve still got three. It’s just that my 13-year-old son is now old enough to be left at home where he can en­ter­tain him­self, and by “en­ter­tain him­self” I mean sit in a dark­ened room, in a sullen slump, fid­dling with one of the many elec­tronic gad­gets he got for his bar­mitz­vah. As for my 11-year-old, he can nor­mally be re­lied upon to find the house of a friend from school to trash, sorry, where he can hang, at which point he be­comes the mother of an­other boy’s prob­lem.

That leaves my eight-year-old daugh­ter. She can’t be left for long pe­ri­ods with any­one. That would be bru­tal, not so much for her as the peo­ple who’d be look­ing af­ter her. You know Veruca Salt, the at­ten­tion­hun­gry one in the Willy Wonka movie? Well, imag­ine that char­ac­ter af­ter be­ing dipped in E num­bers, then force-fed what­ever it is that teenagers take these days to make them bounce off walls. Talk­a­tive? Yup. Hy­per­ac­tive? You’ve got it. Un­able to re­sist push­ing any sane adult to the edge of rea­son? That’s my girl.

She’ll be com­ing with me ev­ery­where I go over the next few weeks. This wouldn’t be so much of a prob­lem if I worked in an of­fice — I could find her a spare room in the build­ing in which to play. But I don’t. I in­ter­view mu­si­cians, in pubs and bars across Lon­don. And they don’t al­ways serve Robin­son’s squash in those.

Last week she joined me for a heartto-heart en­counter in an East End cafe with a ris­ing but trou­bled fe­male singer-song­writer. And she amazed me by sitting there beau­ti­fully through­out — I’m talk­ing about my daugh­ter here of course, al­though I have to say the mu­si­cian also sat quite nicely — and do­ing a lovely draw­ing, with some crayons given to her by the pop artist’s press of­fi­cer, of her dad in which I re­sem­bled a par­tic­u­larly ro­tund He­ston Blu­men­thal.

Still, what price van­ity when you’ve got peace of mind, or to be pre­cise, peace? Even when we dis­cussed the star’s dif­fi­cult up­bring­ing and the em­pa­thy that she had for poor Amy Wine­house, my daugh­ter car­ried on qui­etly cray­on­ing, obliv­i­ous to all the heavy chat­ter. It was only when talk turned to the mu­si­cian’s favourite au­thors, Vir­ginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, that she be­came a bit rest­less.

“Daddy, what’s a bell jar?” she won­dered, in­ter­rupt­ing the flow. And then, hav­ing over­heard our con­ver­sa­tion about Ms Woolf and her mooted an­tisemitic ten­den­cies, my daugh­ter, bless her, posed the ques­tion that all chil­dren even­tu­ally ask: “Daddy, what’s a self-loathing Jew?”

Ah, out of the mouths of babes…

Varuca Salt: not some­one you’d re­ally want to spend the sum­mer with

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