Monthly Archives: March 2014

World “AARGH, how do you make a prince costume?” Day

World Book Day

Last week, I made a new discovery: as a parent, there are few things that can strike fear into your inner being so much as the phrase “World Book Day”.  All across the land, dads and mums were busy trying to enact minor miracles with old bed sheets, charity shop discoveries and PVA glue, as the dreaded day loomed.

For a five-year-old, going to school dressed as your favourite character is a lovely idea.  In theory, that is.  With us parents, though, it’s an entirely different story: when you’ve been at work all day and you’re still up at midnight piecing together a Gruffalo costume, the appeal of World Book Day is far from obvious.

Our son was very clear about what he wanted to be: a “really cool prince”, complete with a red sash.  Relatively simple – or so we thought.  However, we hadn’t bargained on the fact that this outfit apparently needed to be a carbon copy of the one worn by “the prince at school” – who, after considerable interrogation, turned out to be a character in a cartoon his class had watched recently.  Our little boy was very exacting in his demands, and we were left in no doubt that if we created something sub-standard, it would be an unmitigated disaster.

My wife set about making the costume in question: the sewing machine was duly brought down from the loft (we have a sewing machine?  Who knew?), various items of clothing were cut into pieces, and in the early hours of the morning the task was finished.  Or so we thought.

As we wandered up to bed, it was time for that lovely nightly ritual of tucking the kids in and giving them a kiss goodnight.  It’s always my favourite time of the day: even if bathtime and bedtime have been a disastrous combination of misbehaviour, tears and tantrums, when my children are asleep they cannot fail to look anything other than absolutely angelic.  As I rearranged our eldest daughter’s duvet and snuggled her up with her teddies, so my wife tucked our son in and whispered “love you; night night”.  All was calm, all was still – until he sat bolt upright in his bed, looked her straight in the eyes and exclaimed: “is my costume done?  You know, REALLY done, with a sword and everything?”

A sword?  We hadn’t realised he needed a sword.  So, the following morning, having set the alarm extra-early, I found myself at our kitchen table surrounded by various cereal boxes, a roll of tin foil and some Sellotape which would only come off in tiny strands.  The pressure I felt was nothing short of immense: never mind the meeting with four senior colleagues at work later that morning; this was the moment that really mattered.  I kept calm, though, and before long had managed to create this:


My son went out the door very happily, and loved every minute of this special day.  His school was relatively relaxed about it, too: I’m personally relieved that our son’s teacher refuses to give out a Best Dressed Child award for World Book Day.  It’s stressful enough as it is, without the added pressure of having to create something prizewinning.

As for next year, I’m already gearing myself up for a challenge.  Upon seeing her brother in all his finery, our three-year-old – who starts school in September – declared: “when I’m in Year R, I’m going to dress up as James and the Giant Peach.”  Looks like we might be keeping that sewing machine out for the long-term…

Diary of a Desperate Dad: The Book

New year's resolutions

I’ve never been one to go in for new year’s resolutions: primarily because I’m quite lazy, but also because I like the idea of doing good things on impulse, rather than setting a series of annual challenges which will almost certainly result in despondency by 1st February.  At the end of 2012, however, I broke with tradition and wrote myself a list of targets I wanted to achieve during the following 12 months.  It read like this:

  1. Join gym (might be too expensive?  If so, go for a run once a week)
  2. Cook more stuff from scratch (N.B. fresh stuff with veg)
  3. Write a book?

I’ve utterly failed with Number 1: we’ve now lived in our village for well over two years and I still haven’t unpacked the box with my trainers in.  Number 2 has been an ever-so-slight success, if you can count the time I made a really weird vegetable soup with a mixture of parsnips, green beans and parsley.  And as for Number 3, well, against all the odds, I’m astonished to say that over a year after setting myself the goal of writing a book, I’ve actually gone and done it.

The question mark surrounding this particular resolution was included because ironically, I thought it would be the least achievable one.  But over a glass of wine with a publisher friend of mine one evening, I found myself discussing parenting books – specifically, the fact that the only ‘dad books’ I’d ever read all came from the ‘Woah! Your missus is pregnant and you’re going to have a child and now you can’t get bladdered!’ perspective.  Pretty tedious, given that most dads-to-be aren’t like that at all.  Her response?  “You should try writing the book you wish had been around when you were about to become a dad.”  So, never one to disobey orders, I did exactly that.

Fast forward on to today, and I’m both surprised and delighted that this is now a reality:


Diary of a Desperate Dad, published by Elliott and Thompson, documents what it’s really like to be a parent to three little people.  There are absolutely no expert tips here; after all, I’m blagging my way through this crazy parenting journey just as much as everyone else.  And anyway, the idea of ‘parenting experts’ is a slightly dubious one: do you know of anyone who would describe their mum or dad as an ‘expert parent’?

In the book, there’s a chapter on how to prepare for fatherhood, as well as one on what to do when your partner goes into labour.  After that, you’ll find a section focusing on the kinds of things you can expect from your newborn in those early days.  This isn’t just a book about pregnancy and childbirth, though: there are chapters on The Daily Grind (how do you cope with life now that it’s impossible to go to the toilet on your own, and your shoulder permanently smells of baby sick?), another called I’m Going to Count to Three (what’s the deal with disciplining children?), and then the one my wife is particularly delighted I’ve written: No Sex Please, We’re Parents.

The book is based on this blog – and if you have a few quid to spare you can pre-order it in all the usual places, or read more about it here:

It’s a (hopefully) uplifting, realistic and honest guide to life as a dad by someone who, just like you, is muddling on through, hasn’t had a proper night’s sleep since about 1984, and still can’t get the buggy to steer in the right direction when he’s in a hurry.