The Pig Detector


Tell me, dear reader: do you know how often the humble pig is depicted in popular culture?

I do.

Can you say with certainty that you will detect any such depictions whenever and wherever they cross your path?

I can.

Now, you maybe saying to yourself, that seems unlikely.

Our modern world is crammed full of competing stimulus, bursting at the seams with colours and sounds and live broadcasts and brand messages and 24/7 information feeds.

How could a mere man be certain, were he even to want such certainty, that no porcine reference would elude him?

The answer is simple. I have acquired a Pig Detector. An infallible Pig Detector.

The process of detection

As a user of the Pig Detector (AKA my son, David) my experience could not be simpler. I need only to carry him with me, occasionally pausing to perform simple maintenance work such as producing food, diluted fruit juice and fresh nappies. His hyper-sensitive pig-detection algorithms will do the rest.

A typical detection event will run as follows:

  1. Carry David into a new area, such as a room of the house, street, retail location, visitor attraction, etc.
  2. Hear David emit his signature Pig noise.
  3. Cease all activity.
  4. Patiently scan the entire area for the Pig image you know is present.
  5. Eventually find the image. Point at it.
  6. Hear David emit his signature Pig noise.

You want proof?

My son can detect a Pig anywhere, no matter how obscure the depiction appears by comparison to a real pig. If this sounds like hubris, allow me to present the evidence.

Name: Piglet

Location: Retail display, Mothercare



Name: Peppa, George and Daddy Pig

Location: Casually lying on top of a fixture, Morrisons

Peppa and family


Name: Digby Pig

Location: Inside David’s buggy

Digby Pig


The Gameplan

Leveraging this remarkable ability might be somewhat challenging – it is, after all, a pretty niche specialization – but I’m optimistic that we can find a way. As the continued success of supercar sales during the world economic downturn has proved, people are always willing to pay for quality.

Alternatively, it proves that rich people simply have more money than sense, but if anything that bodes well for the launch of commercial Pig detection.

I’m currently still at the information-gathering stage, by which I mean I’m hanging around in public places such as cafes, restaurants and soft-play venues, hoping to overhear conversations which contain key phrases like: “…if only I could track down that damned PIG!”

Over to you, pig-seekers

In 2011, a crack Pig Detection professional was sent to Broxburn, West Lothian, with his parents, purely because they lived there.

This individual promptly escaped the traditional, stereotyped lifestyle of a toddler, into the underground pursuit of swine-tracking. Today, still supported by his parents, he survives as an elite hog-locator.

If you have a problem (related to missing or hidden pigs), if no one else can help, and if you can find him….maybe you can hire… The Pig Detector.


Fatherhood is filled with fun noises: the night-time scream which heralds a day of falling asleep at one’s desk, or the wet, convulsive sound of a full-bottle milk vomit spring to mind.

But if you’re in the market for unironic, grin-inducing noises, it’s hard to beat a child’s interpretation of a roaring combustion engine.

Chicken or Egg

The truth is that I’m not sure which came first: a prompt from me, in the shape of a half baked engine noise made whilst playing with his toy cars, or an honest-to-goodness-impersonation-of-the-vehicles-passing-the-house from David. But I do know that he ‘got’ the connection between his tiny toys and the great metal beasts rolling around on the road almost instantaneously.

The process began on David’s first birthday, when both sets of grandparents presented him with automotive gifts.

A gaggle of wooden vehicles

A gaggle of wooden vehicles

A thumping great dumper truck

A thumping great dumper truck

I’m sure they were working on the basis that boys get cars, girls get dolls or something similarly traditional; sentiments I would disagree with in principle, but which I think are relatively harmless and commonplace. What none of us could have predicted was how strongly David would respond to this particular kind of toy.

Within a few weeks, wooden cars were the preferred source of amusement in the house. This quickly escalated to a love of the wooden truck, closely followed by anything else with wheels.

Note the subtle pursing of lips which indicates engine noise emission.

Note the subtle pursing of lips which indicates engine noise emission.

All the time, as his passion grew, David’s play was punctuated with that signature sound: BrrrrrRRRRMMMM!

The Next Level (or ‘How I learned to stop worrying and love the Reversing Alarm’)

I have a much clearer recollection of the young man’s next milestone. It started with me trying to be a smart-arse and ended in almost intolerable cuteness.

Ordinarily, our play would work like this:

  1. David would pick up a car, then drive it back and forward exclaiming: BrrrrrRRRRMMMM!
  2. In 50% of cases, I would take one of the other cars and join in, to his delight.
  3. If I didn’t immediately join in, David would pick up another car of his own accord and present it to me with an urgent grunt.
  4. I would then consider myself ‘told’ and join in, making engine noises of my own.

Sitting on the rug, playing with his wooden truck, I decided to mix it up a little. I drove the truck forward in the customary manner then, after a few seconds, stopped and began slowly reversing it whilst projecting a steady beeping in my best sing-song voice.

If I’d known just how quickly David would seize on this new and enthralling detail, I might have paused for a moment before introducing it… but probably not.

Beep... beep...beep

Beep… beep…beep

Within minutes, he was alternating enthusiastically between growling acceleration and the high-pitched metronome of the reversing alarm. This habit has not left him since; endearingly he makes no distinction between forward and backward motion when deploying either sound.

Why stop at Trucks?

At some point during an unsettled phase, I hit upon the idea of streaming videos of vehicles on my phone to entertain a very tired and ratty David. The ploy was an instant hit.

Searching for new videos to show him, I happened upon a cache of clips featuring plant machinery: from the official promo videos produced by JCB, to the shaky, hand filmed footage of an earth mover which someone had recorded in their own street. David’s reaction was incredibly enthusiastic, particularly when one of the diggers so depicted began to emit a reversing alarm.

“Beep! Beep! Beep!” he responded, as if he had finally encountered something with which he could have a sensible conversation.

Over the following weeks, toy diggers rose to the top of his playtime food-chain. His favourite, from the Early Learning Centre, even makes its own (oft-copied) engine sound at the push of a button.

These guys are particularly noisy.

Reaching the Pinnacle

A few weeks ago, my partner emailed me a picture which represents perhaps the high point of David’s life so far – at least in his opinion.

"This is what I was BORN TO DO," proclaims the stunned expression.

“This is what I was BORN TO DO,” proclaims the stunned expression.

After months of admiring and coveting the vehicles of others from afar, David finally found himself behind the wheel. Admittedly, this particular model had all the technical sophistication of Fred Flintstone’s favourite drive, but that mattered little: a landmark had been reached.

Reports suggest that David, for once in his life, made very little noise whilst in the car. He simply beamed, rolled it around and beamed some more.

So he likes cars. What’s your point?

My point is this: I have no special affection for motor vehicles or plant equipment – but I have, for the first time, been able to appreciate what it is like to encourage my child in an interest I don’t share.

Often, I’ve wondered if I would be disappointed should David fail to share my love of say, Science Fiction, or tabletop gaming. What I’ve realised is that it’s completely lopsided to think about his interests in those terms.

It’s not my job to notice and react to the ‘gaps’ in David’s spectrum of enthusiasm, because as human beings our passions aren’t concerned with what we don’t care about. They’re affirmative statements about the things that seize our attention, that grab hold of us and stake a claim to territory in the landscape of our brains.

I won’t have time to worry about the places where our interests as Father and Son don’t overlap, because I’ll be too busy marveling at the things which do excite him and thinking about how to help him milk the most enjoyment from them. David’s happy, roaring engine sounds make it irrelevant whether, in the future, he cares about Star Wars or not: right here and now, his eyes shine at the sight of Haulage yards and Fire Engines, Tractors and Fiat Puntos.

I’m going to focus on eliciting more and more of those happy reactions… and I already know where I’m heading next.

Truckfest Scotland



They do say, young man, that leopards don’t change their spots; but they talk rubbish and we all know it. How long has it taken (with your help) to change every part of my life?

You’ve changed so much I barely even recognise some of your baby pictures; I’ve changed completely, because now I’m someone who likes to look at baby pictures.

Let me show you:

Less than a week old

Less than a week before your birthday

The same guy? If I hadn’t seen you grow with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it.

When I sat down to write this little note, I had only the haziest idea of what it would look like; I knew I wanted to leave you another little milestone for the future, so that the time around your first birthday would be as accessible for you as the time of your birth, but beyond that I had a blank page.

I finally settled on borrowing a tradition from the office of the US President: please consider this the first annual State of the Next Generation Address.

A grand upheaval

I’m not sure it’s possible to convey just how enormous has been the change to my habits, desires and priorities your arrival prompted; but I’m a game guy, I’ll have a bash.

In the very early weeks of your life, your mother and I had to deal with two major tremors in the fabric of our lives.

  • On the Emotional level, we had to get our heads around just how precious you were to us and how big/scary/downright unwelcoming the world was for a little person. That meant many moments of worry, of dizzying responsibility-related panic, of beating ourselves up over small mistakes in your care… it also meant many moments of quiet communion with you during late night feeds, or soppy tears and husky voices as we read you stories. It’s a big, big love to have drop into one’s lap and it took a while to get used to it. Honestly, there was a time in the hospital when I thought I’d never be able to hold you without tears… a granite-jawed, stoic frontiersman your old man is not.
  • On the Practical level, we had an incredibly complex, time-intensive routine to incorporate into our normal functioning. Speaking only for myself: I’m not good with chores and maintenance-type tasks. Getting on top of the feeds, changes, sleeps, sterilisations, baths et al that you brought with you was pretty challenging. There were a lot of actions and they were required very regularly; it was a thorny process, involving many raised voices from all three of us.

The primary factor in achieving comfort with these changes was a simple one: confidence.

A very good friend (and one of your many uncles) expressed it best to me when talking about bringing his second child home: “Well,” he shrugged, “You know they’re not going to blow up… so it’s fine.”

That’s the truth of the matter. As each day passed and nothing awful happened, we started to become less stressed; at the same time, you began to space out your sleeps and feeds as your own rhythms settled down. We became slicker at doing all the maintenance jobs; at the same time, your level of demand for those jobs began subtly dropping off.

In the months leading up to your half-year, my memory becomes a bit of a blur. I know there was a lot of lying around, combined with a fair amount of hilarious fashion decisions into which you had no input. Luckily, you don’t have to rely on my hazy descriptions, as your mother has a host of photographs:

You appear terrified, but that bear suit is nonetheless one of my fondest memories.

This is from a coffee shop in St Andrews, I believe – part of a long tradition of photos in which we’re largely chopped out. You’ll be used to it by now, I suppose.

At the time of writing, this is the closest you’ve ever been to PJ in your life.

I included this one just for laughs. Sorry, mate.

As you can see, these were some good times. You had moved on from being a tiny, largely unresponsive baby to a bubbly wee guy with recognisable features and an interest in the world.

One of my most treasured memories from this stage is of carrying you around in your baby harness:

I will never get tired of these pictures. If you ever feel like shrinking so I can fit you back in that thing, just let me know.

Once we reached the half-year mark, you really started to up the pace. Firsts arrived with the regularity of Scottish raindrops.

  • You started wriggling around a whole lot more – we’d find you in all sorts of bizarre, sprawling positions when we walked into your bedroom in the morning.
  • You began sitting up of your own accord, which seemed a revelation at the time, but was quickly dwarfed by your other spiralling achievements.
  • Your risk-taking nature started to assert itself (or your Mother’s – a matter of interpretation) as you began taking to swings, ballpits and the garden.

As ever, these moments are preserved in glorious technicolour:

Nap? I thought you said ‘gymnastics’.

Move the bottle, son, it’s undignified.


You were always this good-looking; even my DNA couldn’t hold you back.

As we closed in on your first birthday, every day was a surprise. You’ve never been quiet, sunshine, but your chatterbox nature really started to exert itself:

  • You had favourite words and sounds which you would repeat, over and over. At one point, you said ‘Bob’ so frequently that we assumed he must be a close personal friend; later, you would spout ‘sugoi’ in long, gurgling chains. I’m told it means ‘awesome’ in Japanese, which indicates that you were already an optimistic cosmopolitan even at this early stage.
  • A range of ear-piercing shrieks and deafening bellows were deployed, to indicate your impatience with our failure to feed or amuse you sufficiently well or quickly. If you ever complain about someone else being demanding, forgive me when I laugh blackly in your face.

You weren’t just getting louder, either: you were becoming mobile.

  • At first there was the rolling; you would stretch yourself into a crude spindle and tumble sideways toward nearby objects. This was hilarious to watch, but heralded the end of that precious period during which we could set you down in  one spot, nip to the loo and expect you to still be there when we returned.
  • Then came the commando crawling. Whenever I was called upon to describe the pained, desperate way you would drag yourself forward an inch at a time, I could only compare it to watching Sean Connery’s grim struggle after taking an abdomen full of lead in action classic, The Untouchables. Watch it and see if it brings back any memories.
  • Latest in the developmental line is your full-throttle crawling. As I type, you are perhaps the fastest thing on four legs in our house – and trust me, the cat is no slouch. It is both exhilirating and terrifying to watch you barrelling around the domestic environment, finding specks of dirt to eat, hinges in which to jam your fingers and cat food to decorate the kitchen with; how close I feel to each end of the spectrum is a function of how likely I am to catch up to you before disaster strikes.

Here are a few of your highlights from the run-up to your first birthday. Please note: you spent a lot of time at the swing park!

With your good pal, Music Bunny

With your good pal, Music Bunny




Photogenic doesn't really cover it.

Photogenic doesn’t really cover it.

You were no stranger to the Seven Seas, even at an early age. YA-HAAAAAARRR

You were no stranger to the Seven Seas, even at an early age. YA-HAAAAAARRR

In short, you’ve come a long way from eating, sleeping and involuntary muscle movements. You’re a proper little guy – and watching you grow is proving to be more fun than I could ever have imagined.

Lifelong learning

More eloquent people than I have remarked on the double-life a parent is obliged to lead, as both teacher and student. All I can add to their insight is an extra, assenting voice.

You came into this world knowing almost nothing, David, but you weren’t quite the blank slate I had imagined you would be. It wasn’t so much what you had to learn that surprised me, but what you didn’t – the mannerisms and attitudes which were written into your DNA, but which I had always assumed would have been the product of nurture over nature.

I’ll give you the perfect example: when you are tired, you roll your head from side to side. You do this whether sitting up or lying down, wherever you happen to be. When I first saw you doing it, I presumed that you were irritated and struggling to be free of my interference. Your mother corrected me; when I asked her how she knew, she replied that she did the same thing.

“No you don’t,” I retorted, to which she responded by demonstrating her version of the motion. I was immediately struck by a feeling of having seen, but never recognised a fundamental pattern – it was obvious in that second that I had seen her roll her head a thousand times, but had never connected it with tiredness or, latterly, with your behaviour.

It was a wonderful moment. Your mum was demonstrating for me the unbreakable bond that will always exist between you; without words, she was telling me that on a fundamental level, you were made of the same stuff. I knew intellectually that this was true, as I knew it was true for you and me, but this was the first time I felt it. Every time since, when you exhibit a behaviour of yours which reflects one of ours, I get the same little thrill.

Of course there are many things we do need to teach you – and let me be clear, you are a quick learner. Having seen you explode forward from the start line of total helplessness to your current milestone of exuberant exploration, I know just how quickly you can push back your own horizons. I promise you that I will never underestimate your potential having seen the leaps already made.

I can’t round off a section on learning and teaching without stressing how much you have taught me. Thanks to you, I’ve learned:

  • That even a man who hates domestic chores can change nappies and clean bottles like a pro when your welfare is at stake.
  • That it is possible to have more fun sitting on our living room rug with you than cube drafting.
  • That I could love you more today than the day you were born, an idea I would have laughed off at the time.

Bring on Chapter 2

I’m told that children of two are ‘terrible’ – but I’m quite happy to find out for myself. It’s been great fun hanging around with you this last year, so I can’t believe that your company over the next 12 months won’t be worth swallowing a few tantrums for.

I’ll be back, once the dust has settled on this next stretch of our journey, to document it all for you once again. I hope we’ll read this together one day and share some laughs, when you’re taking your first steps into the big bad world, or perhaps even when you have kids of your own. I also like to think that, even when I’m not around to talk to, your childhood will still be here for you to explore and to wonder at as I did first time around.

I love you, bambino. Until next year…

10 reasons why Bane is a great role model for my son


Polite notice: if you haven’t seen the Dark Knight Rises, not only will this article probably spoil elements of the film for you, it just won’t make any sense. You have been warned.

My partner and I had a slight disagreement about the Dark Knight Rises.

It was the kind of disagreement which sees one of us sitting, rapt, in front of the cinema screen while the other leaves in disgust after 2 hours, with nary a good word to say about the film.

However, the one thing we both agreed on was that Bane, god bless his cotton socks, made a real impact on-screen.

After several weeks of intermittent Bane references and at least one wedding celebration dominated by Bane impressions and an Usher highly reminiscent of the great man, I arrived at a singular realisation: Bane is a fabulous role model for a growing boy.

Here, as succinctly as possible, I’m going to lay out the reasons I think my own beloved son can learn important lessons from “Gotham’s Reckoning”:

1. He promotes physical fitness

Let’s start with the obvious: Bane is a monster. He appears to be about 9 feet tall whenever he’s depicted on screen, but the real impact the man makes is with his incredible physique.

I’d like David not to emulate me in terms of his physical condition – god knows I could use 6 months on a treadmill – but instead take a lead from the B-Dogg. I want him to realise that if he keeps himself in shape, it will be easier to realise many of his ambitions; say, completing a charity triathlon, or “breaking the Bat”.

2. He knows how to handle himself

This is really a two-sided point.

On one hand, Bane illustrates the importance of and advantages conferred by a familiarity with Martial Arts. This is a good thing for David to learn – maybe it’ll encourage a lifelong interest in Judo, or something. That would be nice.

On the other hand, Bane reminds us that the correct course of action when facing a potential confrontation with an 18 stone psychopath is to run like fuck. That’s pretty important, too.

3. He’s focussed on his goals

No one can really accuse “Big B” of pissing around. He isn’t ever depicted sitting on the couch, ignoring calls from Talia, squeezing in ‘just one more game’ of Minesweeper.

When he wants something, like the attention of a full crowd and national TV audience currently watching an American Football game, well… He bloody well goes out and gets it.

4. He inspires loyalty

In some moments of quiet reflection, I like to think that some of the people I work with would gladly plummet to their deaths in the wrecked fuselage of a plane simply because I asked them to.

That said, I’m not convinced.

I think David probably has more to learn from Bane on this front.

5. He recognises the importance of discipline

It will be much easier for me to sell David on the concept of ‘tough love’ if he is already intimately familiar with the phrase, “Your punishment must be more… Severe.”

Granted, I’ll be talking in terms of a week’s grounding rather than existential torture in a geographically indistinct, underground prison. But the point still stands.

6. He shows that losing your hair isn’t the end of the world

I’m not sure whether David is terribly likely to succumb to early male pattern baldness, but if he does, I don’t want it to shake his confidence.

Bane doesn’t have any hair, but by god that didn’t stop him from executing a daring and complex stock market fraud, then dragging an entire city to the brink of self destruction.

I’ve even heard one young lady describe Bane as ‘sexy’ and although that’s a stretch, it still comfortingly reinforces the ‘bald is beautiful’ lobby.

7. He doesn’t stand on ceremony

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s needless formality. Events with stifling dress codes, the insistence of some people that they are addressed by a particular title, etc.

Seriously, what a pain. Luckily, Bane feels the same way, “…Mr Wayne.”

8. He has great spatial awareness

The ability to clearly visualise one’s own surroundings, those depicted on a map or even a complex set of blueprints is invaluable in any number of pastimes and careers.

With a quality like this, David could excel at everything from orienteering on a school trip to the establishment of a career in town planning, or architecture. It would also stand him in great stead if he ever wanted to construct a subterranean stronghold directly beneath the armoury of his mortal enemy.

9. He believes in thorough planning

When Bane wanted to raze Gotham to the ground, he didn’t just rock up and start asking around the bars for people interested in a spot of casual anarchy.

Instead, he took his time, kidnapped the only nuclear scientist in the world capable of transforming a wholesome, clean energy source into a Neutron weapon, faked deaths, established an army of desperate men and extremists in the tunnels beneath the city, targeted his greatest enemy for an elaborate financial, emotional and physical destruction… etc, etc.

It’s good to think ahead.

10. He reminds us of the importance of good diction

In life, it’s hard to get anywhere if 50% of the people who hear you speak don’t have a scooby what you’re actually saying.

David will have to pass the ‘Bane test’ in our house as he grows up – just one hint of his speech descending into a garbled hybrid of aristocratic pronunciation and a distorted mobile phone call will result in him being packed off to an elocution specialist.

I’m certain that my partner will agree completely with me on this point, if not on some of the others.

A golden fortnight

“Left holding the baby, were you?” chuckled an elderly lady at the table adjacent to ours. Her partner continued his in-depth study of the cafe’s menu, either oblivious or determined not to be drawn into conversation with yet another stranger.

I straightened slightly, from my hunched posture in front of the high chair, before responding. While I was certainly looking after David, I didn’t feel the sense of panicky abandonment which the cliche implies. I tried to communicate this subtle distinction in the language of friendly seaside discourse.

“Och, I think it’s great,” my new acquaintance continued. “Back when we were having weans, your husband wouldn’t lift a finger!”

She raised her eyebrows and nodded knowingly at a point behind me. At once, another voice piped up, another elderly lady animatedly concurring: “Oh god, no – this one still doesn’t know how to change a nappy!”

I glanced back at David, who was staring at me with the calm but curious expression of someone who thinks it’s terribly nice that you’re making new friends, but wonders why you have stopped spooning pureed apple into his mouth.

They had flanked us, I realised: the proxy-grandmother brigade. I couldn’t turn my back to one without meeting the other’s gaze. I had brought a chubby, hungry, eye-contact-making little person into their midst and they were going to exercise their ancient right to offer advice, tell me how times had changed and generally speak at us for an extended period of time. I would have to engage, or be scorned by everyone else in the establishment as ‘that kind’ of younger person.

While I had been frantically assessing our plight, both ladies had been settling into their rhythm. “My husband didn’t change a nappy for any of ours,” proxy-gran A was explaining, “or for the grandchildren! But it’s all different these days.”

I decided to bite the bullet and opined that it was just part of the job for me; it would never have occurred to me not to take my turn with nappies, baths, etc.

“If I’d done that, I’d have been a laughing stock.” Proxy-gran A’s stoic partner spoke slowly and carefully, eyes still never leaving the menu, voice dripping with contempt for the feminised whelps to whom he must needs leave the mantle of manhood.

“Oh, yes, that was just how it was!” called proxy-gran B from behind me. As I turned politely to face her, I caught sight of David’s face and immediately changed course to recommence feeding. There are few things more menacing than the features of an 8-month-old who is visibly losing patience.

“A man couldn’t help, or he’d be shunned,” she continued. “So we just had to get on with it! It’s much better now, of course – much better.”

Her own husband gave a bleak laugh.

“A laughing stock,” repeated the proxy-gran A’s partner, his intense gaze milking every last drop of meaning from the succinct descriptions on the cafe’s tariff. Reflected in those eyes, Egg and Chips took on a new and portentous meaning; grim and sinister, full of misanthropic loathing.

The proxy-grandmothers beamed at my son, oblivious to that simmering hatred. For my part, I threw that apple down David’s neck as if I was using a trebuchet.


Several things have contributed to making the last two weeks fabulous for our little family, albeit exchanges like the one above won’t make the leaderboard. Instead, I’ll give credit to the experience of taking our wee man on holiday for the first time; and even better, doing so during the Olympic Games.

Since we’re as cash-rich as any set of new parents might expect to be, we decided to repeat our extremely cost-effective babymoon and take David to Millport, on the isle of Great Cumbrae. This time we were blessed with far better weather, which opened up all sorts of possibilities to us, like allowing David to enjoy his first ferry ride as nature intended: from the deck.

Life on the open wave, etc.

In case you can’t tell, he thought that the wind in his face and the bracing sea air was bloody marvellous.

Once we reached Millport, the sun revealed a host of nice family activities which driving rain and howling winds had obscured during our last visit.

Why, of course we should take a turn along the seafront, bathed as it is in golden light!

Certainly, we should eat outside and revel in the warmth (although I should think that several minutes of audibly worrying about whether David was wearing enough sun-cream would play a pivotal role in that experience)!

Let there be no doubt, we should visit Crocodile Rock, where in accordance with tradition we will take David’s photograph!

Wandering along the promenade, I found myself becoming excited at the sight of children’s rides, trampolines and even crazy golf. Obviously, at less than a year old, David wouldn’t be partaking in any of these delights during our visit; my mind was racing ahead, though, to all the visits of the future. I suddenly understood the excitement of my parents each Christmas, as they watched us unwrap each gift, in a visceral way that I hadn’t before: anticipating David’s delight at discovering these things gave me a sense of giggly elation.

I mentioned earlier that taking our holiday in the midst of the Olympic Games had enhanced the whole affair – and I wasn’t simply asserting that to sound topical.

Perhaps my partner and I were helplessly caught up in the national euphoria which erupted with Danny Boyle’s brilliant opening ceremony – although that’s unlikely, because one of us retired to bed after 20 minutes, decrying it as ‘bollocks‘ – but the games really gripped our imagination throughout our break.

It certainly helped that as we arrived, the Athletics programme was just beginning. I’ve always found that iconic red running track the most compelling image of international sport – and London 2012 has only cemented my perception.

We picked up the thread on Friday, as Jessica Ennis was blazing an unsubtle trail through the heptathlon events. From the off, there was something about the crowd’s reaction to her that foreshadowed the excitement of the event’s closing stages. As she blasted from event record to personal best, I found myself updating the BBC sport feed on my phone during coverage of other events, eager to know as quickly as possible how ‘our Jess’ was doing.

It’s implausible how quickly we as a nation can take sporting figures to our hearts; I was no exception. On Thursday, I couldn’t have told you the name of the young lady who was gracing the games partnership banners of BP filling stations and the Team GB posters plastered across the country. By Saturday, as her final event approached, I felt as if I’d followed Jess for years.

Even as I recognise my own sporting fickleness (except in the case of football, naturally), I am happy to testify that the closing 800m race of that Women’s Heptathlon has become one of my life’s sporting highlights.

As ‘our Jess’ rounded the final bend, she lay several places behind the leader, but ahead of her nearest challenger in the points table. There was no sporting requirement to do anything but cruise professionally across the line and collect a Gold medal; sometimes, though, it’s not enough to do the safe and professional thing.

So instead, Jessica hit the turbo and overtook all her competitors on the home straight. It was a remarkable sight: all of these women had been competing for two days in a gruelling multi-discipline event, which had surely left little room for stockpiling the energy required to pull off such a superhuman manoeuvre. Instead, the necessary strength appeared to flow from the desire to create a moment which, for Jessica and for her country, would stand apart in athletic history.

If that was her goal, she achieved it handily.

More history was made that night and, in a way, it probably spoiled us. Any one of the three golds we collected on ‘super Saturday’ would have been cause for jubilation; part of me wishes they had all enjoyed their own moment in the sun. Perhaps, though, it was better to enjoy one spectacular gilded evening.

There are several reasons this febrile atmosphere of success and national unity was important to our family holiday.

For one, we all enjoyed the Games in our own way. I lapped up the athletics; my partner marvelled at the Men’s diving (no sniggering at the back, please); David, particularly, was transfixed by all manner of things throughout the fortnight. His open mouthed attention to doubles badminton, triathlon, dressage, rhythmic gymnastics or indeed anything which involved highly coordinated adults doing complicated things was total.

Beyond that, it chimed with my excited anticipation of days to come. In four years time, I’ll watch the Olympics with David and explain ahead of the 100m final just how it felt to watch Bolt run 9.69 the first time. Someday, he might take part in athletics himself (an outcome which with decisively settle the nature vs nurture debate in favour of the latter). I can’t wait to enjoy these and other things with him.

When I look back on this break, it will always be tinted with gold: for the sunshine, for the medals and for the moments we shared with our boy. Roll on next summer… more holidays and the World Championships in Moscow await!

Soothing the savage beast (or otherwise)

If I continue to sing in the house, there is every chance that my partner will behead me.

Taken in isolation, this statement could well make the poor woman sound like a shrew of uber-Shakespearean proportions; frankly, that conclusion would be misguided, the result of missing information.

You see, until you have lived in our house, it’s difficult to appreciate just how much time I spend singing.

At any hour of the morning or evening, I am but a chance remark away from breaking into song.

  • You used a phrase which appears in the lyrics of a song I know? I’m singing it.
  • You spoke about a TV programme, a film or a computer game I know? Get ready for the theme music.
  • You – foolishly – mentioned an actual piece of music? Strap yourself in… I’m singing the whole thing, including my verbal approximations of any interesting instrumentals or percussion. WITH ACTIONS.

It takes a person of peculiar patience to tolerate this. Once that patience is exhausted, decapitation is the inevitable consequence. It serves me well to remember this fundamental truth.

There is an argument, of course, which asserts that if my partner has reached the stage of co-habitation and child rearing with me, she has had plenty of opportunity to sever my head already. It follows that, if she hasn’t done so by now, she likely never will – or even that she no longer has any right to complain.

As a fair-minded person, I have to argue in response – and apparently, bafflingly, in favour of my own execution – that the river of domestic song has grown wider in recent days. I lay the blame for this development, predictably, upon my seven month old son.

Why should this poor child carry the can for yet another one of my idiosyncrasies? It’s because the little mischief-maker encourages me, that’s why.

He laughs, you see. His mouth spreads into a crude, half-moon shape, his eyes crinkle up and a primal, half-roaring-half-exhalation sound spills out of him. It doesn’t matter if I’m making up rhymeless nonsense on the spur of the moment, or doing my utmost to precisely recreate a beloved album recording… he laughs. It’s the most rewarding sound I’ve ever heard.

He’s also something of a singer himself. Each morning between 5.00am and 6.30am, as light streams into his room, David begins to serenade us. He emits a lilting chain of vowel sounds as he rolls back and forward, batting at his mobile and closely examining the tiny scratch mitts which prevent him from tearing out his eyes in the night. My partner and I will often lie, giggling quietly to each other, as our heir darts up and down the vocal scale like the needle on a lie detector.

Having observed her reaction to the wee man’s putative warblings, I now have a stratagem to keep my skull affixed to my spine. I’m going to encourage David to sing as loudly and as often as he likes… hopefully, by the time he’s about five, my positively demure spells of crooning will slip by unnoticed in his bellowing backwash.

Keep your fingers (and tonsils) crossed for me.

Follow @daveshed