New Man – same old Dad!

Have you seen the TV advert about the fell runners who wash their muddy white t-shirts, in washing machines lined up in the middle of nowhere, using a well-known brand of washing powder? Anyway, John was watching said advert and retorted, at the end when the runners show off their beautifully clean white t-shirts: ‘They’re never just out of the washing machine, they’ve been ironed.’

This from a man who some months ago wouldn’t have known what a washing machine was and laughs at my antics in constantly talking about ‘the washing’ and fretting about if the weather was fit for drying clothes outside or not.  But this is symptomatic of the ‘New John’.

He has been transformed into a ‘new man’ who strips beds, washes dishes, puts the washing machine on, has been seen pressing linen and towels; and even, occasionally, puts clothing out on the washing line! And, a year ago he would not have known one end of a frying pan from the other. Yet now he is Head Breakfast Chef preparing wonderful cooked dishes to order.

It all sounds so modern and ‘new man’ but underneath the surface lurks what the kids call – ‘DAD! However, as invaluable as his help is, it is always on his terms. He insists on being the ‘leader’ of everything, even with no knowledge base and invariably he becomes an ‘expert’ after the most perfunctory of training. So now he proffers advice on the best ways of frying an egg – despite the fact I have been performing the task for over forty years! And – yes he presses linen, but not ‘duvets’ as they are ‘too difficult’. In fact, he is often a hindrance when his idea of hoovering seems to be switching the machine on and playing with the dogs by chasing them around the room for a minute and job done!

He is not really a ‘new man’ he is just the same old Dad. He is still wearing shorts and its now 5 October despite a frost the other day. It’s a ritual that the kids have been forever embarrassed about. Every year, usually early March, he decides its time to get into summer apparel and then the shorts stay on until the end of September and has been known to last into November! Also, he still is obsessed about cutting the grass. This was not a problem when he tended to our small garden lawn in Edinburgh. But now – he has acres to cut! This task takes precedence over every other chore. Every Sunday our kids skype us from Mexico and London. The first question they ask to set up the call is’ has Dad finished mowing the lawn?’ Invariably, they have to rearrange the call if he is still out there!

The other thing that makes him unreliable and not quite the new man, is that everything is secondary to Boo and Mabel. When I ask, ‘Can you take the rubbish down the drive?’ He often has an excuse, ranging from’ ‘I am…. taking the dogs a walk; bathing them; trimming their nails; playing with the dogs; or just plain, I am cuddling them’!

But he has worked very hard to help and learn new skills for which I am truly grateful. At least now when he comes in after cutting the grass for four hours, pouring with sweat, he showers and brings his dirty shorts and T-shirt to the washing machine and puts the machine on. I only find this out when he asks for the hundredth time, ‘where is the fabric conditioner?’ Yes, he is a new man, but not so much that our kids would notice!