The Daily Telegraph - Saturday
The author and broadcaster answers your questions. Write to DearRichard@ telegraph.co.uk
My parents won’t let me go on a micro-adventure
QI am a 16-year-old boy in secondary education. Lately, I’ve wanted to live more adventurously. I started following amazing people who have done amazing things on social media. I learned about “micro-adventures”. I recently asked my parents if I could take a train away, and cycle back home (about 3 hours), with a night over in a field – somewhere legal, obviously – in my tent and sleeping bag.
Immediately, I was bombarded with problems. You can’t fix a tyre, you don’t have enough road experience, you have never done this before, we won’t know where you are. Eventually they just said I was too young.
Now I feel discontented. I feel like I can’t do anything until I live somewhere else, but that seems a long time to wait. How can I convince them to let me do this, and let them know this is how I want my life to be?
– Oliver, via email
Well, you’ve written to the right person: I’m pretty much completely in your corner. Good grief, at 16 you’re old enough to get married and take up a full-time job, let alone go for a moderately long bike ride and camp out overnight.
But you’re going to have to address your parents’ specific worries. If you know how to fix a puncture, make sure they know you know; if you don’t, then learn. (Trust me, it’s a stroll in the park – well, more of a roll in the park in your case. Anyway, I could mend a puncture by the time I was half your age.)
Next, plan your exact route back home from the rail station where you plan to get off, including your chosen campsite, and share it with your parents. Promise you’ll stay in touch with regular phone calls home. (Make sure you’ve got a good portable charger.) Remember that they’re not worried because they think you’re not up to this; they’re worried because they love you.
Then, politely but determinedly, go on the offensive. Ask them how old they think you should be before doing something like this. 17? 18? 21? That’ll focus their thinking.
Perhaps you might consider going with a friend. Your parents would probably feel a lot happier knowing there were two of you watching each other’s backs. I was 14 when I went on my first cycling holiday (around Wales), but I was with a friend and we stayed in youth hostels and recognised campsites. That may not sound as romantic as pitching a tent under the stars, but checking in with some sort of structured organisation might reassure your parents even more.
Nevertheless, I’m solidly behind you, Oliver. As a parent myself, I completely understand and empathise with your mum and dad’s nervousness: it shows how much they care for you. But parents have to learn to let go, just as children have to learn to be independent. And at 16, it’s time you were allowed to begin spreading your wings. This “micro-adventure” is an excellent way to start. Good luck.
Dear Richard My husband is turning into a wine bore Q
Over the past year we have started buying wine by the case from independent merchants, and while I’m basically one of the I-know-what-I-like brigade, I can tell we are drinking better quality wine at only modestly increased expense. My husband has always wanted to know more about wine and it’s definitely been a journey for him.
However he is getting to be a bit of a fusspot about it all, policing what we have with what, insisting on the right glass, decanting left right and centre and even reading to me from his new wine book (a Christmas present from me, I admit) at the dinner table. I feel like a heathen for saying this, but I am starting to feel nostalgic for the simple screw-top days of old. I don’t begrudge him his enthusiasm, but I don’t want to live with a wine bore – how can I keep this in check?
– Laura, via email
Dear Laura A
Your letter reminds me of that Simpsons episode where Mr Burns muses on his personal relationship with art. “I may not know much about art, Smithers, but I know what I hate.” Substitute “wine” for “art” and you and
Burns are on the same page. This is an almost perfect example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. Or in your case, a boring thing.
I’m totally with you on this, Laura. When it comes to wine, all I really want to know is: does it taste all right; is it cold/warm enough; did it cost under £15 a bottle (or, if we’re really pushing the boat out, £20). I prefer convenient screw-tops tops to fiddly corks and I couldn’t care less about the year. As for decanting… please. Just put the neck of the bottle above the nearest glass, tilt, consume.
All of which, presumably, would give your husband a fit of the vapours, with all that new-found sensibility of his and his freshly developed “nose”. Like you, I don’t begrudge him that – it’s a civilised hobby to have – but also like you, I would just want to get on with my dinner without a lecture on provenance.
Just be straight with him. Keep in mind that he’s not yet particularly secure in his new wine lore, so he’s holding forth for his own sake as much as yours. But tell him that you prefer drinking to thinking, and that you’re finding his fussiness and increasing tendency to hold forth at table both boring and, frankly, unsexy. No man likes to be called either of those things.
Hopefully, he’ll put a cork in it.