CITY DAD

IT’s like this Noel. Daddy, well, daddy’s friends, at work, they think they can make something better than the people who are making it already. And so…”

I look down at my son, six next month, wriggling expectantly in the half-light, his Spiderman duvet pulled up beneath his chin. He’ll repeat all of this tomorrow morning, during show-and-tell. While the media kids bring in Oscars and BAFTAs and tell of premieres and red carpets, Noel will struggle through an explanation of annuity factors whilst brandishing a bond calculator.

“And so…” I’m stuck.

“You mean, like me and Billy at school today daddy?” Noel beams.

“Yes, yes, just like that darling.” I’m playing for time. I’ve never met Billy and have only the slenderest notion of what goes on at school.

And my feeble attempt to explain leveraged finance suggests I’m not too hot on my specialist subject either. The subject, I realise as I look around Noel’s room, which keeps us in Spiderman duvets and well, just about everything else… Then I realise that such expertise is not what matters to Noel. Unless all of this were to disappear.

Bedtime’s a lot more complex than when I was six. My dad loved Jim Reeves. Still does. I remember ol’ Jim singing sweetly at bedtime: “Your world was so different from mine don’t you see… That's what happens when two worlds collide.”

Jim’s worlds were merely those of star-crossed lovers. He had it easy. I’m perched on the edge of my son’s bed. Might as well be the edge of a cliff. In a gale. Treacherous rocks and churning seas far below.

I loosen my tie and undo my top button. Suddenly it’s very hot in Noel’s bedroom.

Noel picks his nose, thoughtfully.

“So when you go away” he says, contemplating a bogey whose magnificence suggests it must have been lurking up his nose all day, “that’s when you do due diligence, isn’t it daddy?”

Due diligence. I turn the phrase over in my head.

A few minutes later Noel is asleep. The middle lines of Jim’s first verse come back to me. “We just couldn’t be close though we tried. We both reached for heavens but ours weren’t the same.” What was my dad thinking of? It’s hardly a lullaby. I resolve to make it home for Noel’s bedtime more than just a couple of times a week.