Men write columns in Sunday supplements about their ‘walk on parts’ in family life and how exhausted ‘the Mrs’ looks on a Friday night in a house looking like it has been subject to a Viking attack. I hate these smug men. I burn their columns quite ceremoniously in the wood burner, watching their faces crinkle to ash while I empty the dishwasher, cook a meal, answer the phone and moan bitterly about the cliché that men are unable to multi-task. I have watched friends and Brigit my partner, receive honorary degrees, golden handshakes, a position on a list of the ‘most influential people in the city’, and fiscal reward. I get the occasional cheque from the electricity board for having one of their poles in my garden. There is a saying- ‘a little part of me dies when a friend succeeds’. By rights, I should be six feet under!

I left my job to live a ‘different life’. Chloe, our first daughter was born, followed by the twins Ruby, Emma and then Ollie. I was yet to write the great novel or grow the huge carrot. Armed with ‘The Complete Guide to Childcare’ and a fantasy of blissful, puke-free days, I stepped into a world the Sunday supplements described as ‘the new nirvana’; -full-time fathers and families turning the traditional roles on their head. I felt my self-esteem sink like the Titanic, realising that ‘The Complete Guide to Childcare’ was a lie. It wouldn’t even burn. I chucked it in the bin. Now it is probably propping up affordable housing on the outskirts of Wolverhampton.


I’m about to go on stage at Glastonbury and play my Ben 10 guitar in front of thousands of people. I am the world’s best-kept musical secret. I am billed (by myself) as the first musician to bridge the gap between Julie Andrews singing ‘The Hills Are Alive’ and David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’, a gap that should never, for the sake of decency, be filled. I walk on stage and it is worth it for those few seconds of glory where everyone is in the palm of my hand, waiting for the first note… I knock out a handful and stop, look out over a sea of heads and prayer flags with my name on them and I know. I know that after a magnificent set from ‘The Killers’, the first few notes of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ won’t cut it. There are five-year olds in the audience who could do a better rendition on a triangle. I give them the opening riff of ‘Smoke on the Water’. There are three year olds who could do that with a pair of castanets and still look good. A wave of humiliation hits me like a breeze block wall. I wake up. Of course it is a dream. I have neither the barefaced audacity nor the talent. I never did learn the rest of the song. However, in 1981 I did have long curly hair and on reflection before I burnt the photograph, looked like a cheaper version of Dolly Parton. No, I am not a musical fraud. I am a fraud in other ways…

In November, I was interviewed for a program on ‘International Men’s Day’. I was pitched, along with three other men as a ‘role model’ and even a ‘local legend’. Let’s be honest, I am a bloke who has been a ‘stay at home dad’ for 20 years, which I know does sound like someone who simply refuses to leave the house and do a proper job. I am also a writer my literary agent currently refers to as a ‘mid-range author’. It’s all ego-fluffing stuff. I should be buzzing like a bee. I feel nervous that I might be legendary for something I am not yet aware of, which could one day make up a headline and ruin my life.

I arrived on the penthouse floor of a local hotel where a microphone looking like a character from the Muppets was thrust into my face along with a piercing light. It was more like the torture scene from ‘Marathon Man’ than a little chat with a seasoned interviewer who made me feel far more important than I actually am. We chatted about mental health and the disparity between genders and how men are finding it increasingly hard to find roles and titles without Alpha or Neanderthal in the wording. They even put up a picture of one of the covers of my ‘mid-range’ books. Every effort was made to ‘big’ me up. It was a good job I didn’t bring my Ben 10 guitar.

The other interviewees arrived. We only had a sporting hero, a man who runs a charity to support disadvantaged children and a soldier who lost an arm and both legs to a mine in Afghanistan, all with Queen’s honours and rightly so. I thought about saying ‘I’m a stay at home dad, put that in your pipe’. I didn’t because my jaw was resting on the lush carpet.

What I thought was this- ‘I bet they don’t interview women on ‘International Women’s Day’ to talk about being a stay at home mother as if it were some sort of gold medal expedition from which most people never return. They don’t do this because it’s what women do, every day, since time began, without the interviews and the accolades’. My MBE hasn’t yet arrived, but it’s Christmas and there’s a lot of post.

If I could do the interview again, I would say this- I would say this is one of the reasons there is gender disparity, less opportunity for some women to gain back the ground they might have lost in their careers because they have looked after the children, due to a society still archaically hard-wired to an outdated ethic. So, don’t make me a role model, unless we make every mother one too, rewarding them with the respect they deserve and the commensurate opportunities. So there, I’ve said it now.

I also got a ‘fan badge’ on LinkedIn because so many people liked my interview. I mean, are you being serious? That’s the ‘fan badge’ gone then.


For those who read my last blog about being a stay at home dad, this is my second in the nail-biting build up to the publication of my novel ETERNITY LEAVE in early 2021, in which I lay the facts and accompanying evidence utterly and unashamedly bare. In that well-thumbed first blog, I promised to talk about ‘Blue Cow’…

For those of you who missed this cartoon bovine leaving her field, getting on a red bus and going off on day trips to various parts of the globe, returning on the same bus as the sun goes down, that’s all you need to know.

I believe it was in Corinthians where it roughly said ‘when I become a grown up I put away childish things’ and so on. Don’t quote me, on anything really if you want to remain credible. I think the idea is, that when you put away those childish things, there is other fun stuff in the grown up world to play with, and you only tend to get the childish stuff out on a Friday night. I, on the other hand, was not occupying the adult world. During the day I was in charge of three little girls who did a good impersonation of a drunken trio. I was steeped in a world of gruesome nursery rhymes about petty thefts and commensurate beatings. (Tom, Tom the Piper’s son I believe) and Tubby custard. Instead of being on the super highway of adult experience, I was fast tracking back to pre-pubescence and beyond at sick-making speed.

I became increasingly unable to engage with adults. They understood the economic and political landscape, yet had no understanding of how a tiger can come to your house for a jolly cup of tea without ripping your head off, or that there is an elephant that looks like a Dulux colour chart. To salvage what was left of my self-esteem I walked away from the big people’s world, not without baggage. I am a man, and this is where I begin once again, to extol the virtues of women. Where they seem immune to the issues of roles, badges and standing, or the need to measure their femaleness against the next woman, I was utterly infected. This is where, believe it or not, ‘Blue Cow’ comes in.

One day, when we were watching the said blue beast, the girls grinding their gums on a rusk, me hacking my way through a whole packet of plain chocolate digestives and coffee so strong I could smell the caffeine on the insoles of my trainers, I had an idea. I knew I couldn’t compete with the little boys and their big cars in the adult world, but I could stay stride for stride with Blue Cow. The girls would definitely respect me for that. After all, ‘Blue Cow’ was a TV personality and someone to whom I could aspire and more. This was going to be the thing to fill the chasm where my self-esteem used to reside. This was how far from the land of normality I had drifted in my beautiful pea green boat- I was aspiring to measure up to the daily excursions of a blue cartoon cow.

We were going to go to all the places Blue Cow visited- the super-market, where the meat counter must have come as a bit of a shock, the zoo and the park to name just three. The girls would know that I was equal to if not bigger than Blue Cow. How many people can say that? How many people would even want to say that who aren’t receiving some sort of professional help? Me, that’s who.

I should have realised then the danger of allowing my life to be driven by a blue cartoon cow because she was doing more interesting things than we were. We even made a cardboard ‘Blue Cow’ and took her on our little trips. The girls of course, believed ‘Blue Cow’ was real. To you lot, I look like a grown up and therefore should know this is not the case. Nevertheless, because I had taken out all my childish things once again when I was supposed to be an adult who only looked at them in secret, ‘Blue Cow’ began to find her way inside my unconscious mind until I think her imaginary psychology became wired with my own.

I neglected my adult’s rationale that cows don’t sit on buses where people turn a blind eye, or cows evacuate their bowels everywhere, so the upholstery is utterly ruined, or that a well-nourished Friesian can’t fit between the seats of a double-decker, or carry cash or have a bus pass, or go anywhere other than a field, a milking shed or a slaughter house to become a vacuum-packed jigsaw of itself. I overlooked these incidentals, because ‘Blue Cow’ had taken on a life inside my head and we were fighting for space.

Each morning we watched Blue Cow to see where we would go next. Weird as it may seem, I felt replete with my achievements in that child’s world full of childish things. I might not have been able to match up to the movers and shakers in the grown up world, but I was giving Blue Cow a bloody good run for her money.

The last day we watched Blue Cow, I remember it was raining and my simple hope was that her trip would be to somewhere dry. We waited with some excitement as Blue Cow left her field and got on the bus with the strange people who think nothing of a cow sitting on the seat in front of them and emptying her bladder without conscience.

I can’t remember which of the girls said “I wonder where we’re going today?” because I was frozen to the spot as I watched that barefaced bovine get off the bus, trot over to a space rocket and go to the moon! I actually think she smirked as she took off.

If you are an adult, please feel free to leave a comment.

Simon x




20 years ago before the birth of our first child, I bought a book – The Complete Guide to Childcare. It made it look as easy as Ikea make banging their weirdly named furniture together because the Scandinavians are better at Lego than we are. I blame this book where there were only women holding the babies, the men relaxing with a glass of ‘Chateaux Smug’ and wearing slacks. Yes ‘slacks’. I should have smelt a rat at ‘slacks’.

I was going to become a literary giant and live off the land. Babies are small and they sleep a lot; a theme in this glossy book, which now resides in some landfill propping up affordable housing on the fringes of Wolverhampton. In truth, my free-range eggs stood me at about a fiver each and rather than the literary giant thing, I became little more than a tall man holding a book. My writing and ‘living off the grid’ time was becoming consumed by a person the size of a bag of Tesco carrots who thought the hands on the ends of her arms belonged to somebody else.

I was a man in a sea of breast-feeding women where the only safe place to look was a poster on a wall of the village hall about ‘Dementia Friendly Parishes’. While I was living on a diet of tubby custard and declining into a similar mental state to Eeyore, my partner, was out running a large teaching hospital brimming with purpose and feeling guilty for leaving her tiny daughter with a man who had never held a child or successfully reared a hamster without tragedy and death. My partner’s days were obviously so much easier than mine. Her clothes weren’t stained with yoghurt or her knees developing calluses as I changed a pile of nappies which would eventually rival the height of Kilimanjaro. I wasn’t sure if I was becoming insane by taking on the task of being a full-time father or whether it was a prerequisite. The tiredness was akin to an acute bout of glandular fever and I knew within the first forty-eight hours this whole thing was going to break me. I am after all only a man, and yes, for any women reading this, I salute you. I salute you because you don’t see child care as a ‘proper job’. It is something that simply ‘has to be done’ and someone has to do it.

I couldn’t leave our daughter you see. No one warns you about the spear-like pain lancing your heart when those first little spiky teeth try to push their way through the gums and you think you know what unconditional love really is until you have a child. Before I had time to come up for breath we had twin girls, and then a son. The die was cast. Despite trying to emulate Ernest Hemingway and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, I was in reality a stay at home dad. No one writes books about that!

One by one, my charges are now leaving to live their lives. I thought I might write that great novel, but the inspiration leading me into the world of literary gigantism wouldn’t come. Whether I like it or not, my expertise lies in looking after people who start off as miniature versions of themselves and morph into adults who largely in my view are carved out by their upbringing. Instead, I have written the only blisteringly honest story I can; about what it really means to be a stay at home dad. I have called it ETERNITY LEAVE. It will be published in February 2021. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my little blogs and the outpourings of my ragged heart.

Simon x



Simon Kettlwell - DDF jacket copy

I promised myself many years ago that one day I would write DEAD DOG FLOATING. I wanted to write the story of a 12-year old boy, his dysfunctional family, his belief that he could somehow keep it together, and a cast of characters that personified a midlands industrial town in the early seventies. I wanted it to be funny, but at the same time hold a story with real depth. I wanted to pay tribute to three dead boys who would never become men, forgotten by all but those close to them. Most of all though, I wanted to write about the boy, his need for a stable family, to make sense of the world around him, surrounded by these people who know little more than he does about life beyond the smoking chimneys.

I do think there’s a lot to be said about adults getting in touch with their ‘inner child’. I’ve never had much of a problem, and my kids call me ‘giant child’. Adults in touch with their child know how to play, have fun, be irreverent without being hurtful, and never get tired of Lego. I found Derek Jackson, and together we told his story- DEAD DOG FLOATING. He told it to me just as it was, and I wrote it down. I scribed Derek’s view on the world, his beliefs, his honesty, and most of all his dreams, hopes and his desperation to believe in his father, despite every indication to the contrary. Derek took me by the hand back to 1972, the time and the place when Rod Stewart sang ‘Maggie May’, and workmen still got on their mopeds and drove to work at Rolls Royce, despite the factory being closed. We walked together down streets of terraced houses where people had sold off their sofas to rent a colour telly, and I felt joy. I felt joy that I was looking through the eyes of a twelve year old boy and how free he was from prejudice and full of often unintentional humour when adults made complete arses of themselves.

I’m not sure I‘ll ever write a character as wonderful, and as beautiful as Derek Jackson age 12 again. He made me happy to write him, and I miss him now we are done. Maybe we’ll meet again, but maybe not. I know he’s there, and perhaps it is because of him that I will always be known to my kids as ‘giant child’. I’d rather that than a boring old fart.

For those interested, I did set up on Derek Jackson’s behalf, his own Facebook page. Do take a look if you have the time.DEAD DOG FLOATING.





A few years ago I saw a snippet of a documentary on relationships. It was a snippet because my daughter was very young, I was the main parent, and for years rarely saw a whole programme in one sitting. In this documentary a very elegant older woman was talking about inviting her husband’s lover to come and live with them in a bid to hold their relationship together. That was it. That was all I saw. This didn’t sound like desperation on the woman’s part to keep a husband to herself, but more a recognition that they were older, and the thought of ending a long relationship and everything that would come with it would simply be too much.

Because I didn’t get to see the whole programme (I’m yet to find out what happens at the end of ‘Noddy and the pot of gold’!), I was intrigued to discover how it turned out. So I thought I’d write the story for myself and see where it went. It became ‘THE TRUTH ABOUT US’.

The woman from the documentary I called Nell Lewis, and her husband-Gordon; a misogynistic, bigoted, retired lawyer. They are both in their late sixties and have been married for 45 years. Gordon begins an affair with Cath, the daughter of a recently deceased family friend. Unable to envisage a future any different to the past she has known, Nell invites Cath to come and live with them. Cath’s personal circumstances are dire and so, much to Nell’s surprise, she accepts the offer.

I don’t feel comfortable when marriage is described as an institution or some kind of club when it seems to me that every relationship is unique in its own way. I do wonder if giving marriage this feeling of commonality bequeaths it a power it doesn’t actually possess. I don’t have a problem with good quality, reciprocal long-term relationships in which respect for one another plays a major part, but marriage for those hung up on it can become I believe, something of a destructive influence with all it’s archaic connotations. For others it works, probably because within they find a happy balance, which probably has nothing to do with marriage at all.

Developing older characters and getting inside their lives proved to be a fascinating exercise; especially through the eyes of this elegant, largely conventional woman who has tried all her life to do ‘the right thing’ and hold onto her marriage vows, despite her husband trashing them from time to time with his sordid and usually brief affairs. Gordon as those who have read the book will see is not Johnny Depp! More Johnny Vegas with hairy ears!

Once I’d written Cath (the lover) inside Nell and Gordon’s house, things begin to get interesting. Nell is able to see for the first time, and at close quarters exactly how utterly crap, cheesy and patronising her husband is with women. This isn’t news to Nell, but to see it so starkly was fun to write, and for her to witness it first hand made it quite clear that she is to an extent complicit in making their relationship what it is.

I thought I’d throw in a ‘curve-ball’ too, so I introduced John Boyd. John is a similar age to Nell and the antithesis of Gordon. This new ingredient gave me the opportunity to reduce Nell’s potential to become a victim as she develops feelings for this gentle, down to earth man.

I took advice from a number of women of varying ages with this book to create the character of Nell. I did this so that I could accurately reflect her age, her generation, and also the authenticity of her situation. I was surprised how the younger women could also relate to her dilemma and the age-old patterns and pitfalls that can perpetuate an intractable set of circumstances where no one gets what they want.

I called the book THE TRUTH ABOUT US because I wanted the characters to face the uncomfortable truths about themselves, and in doing so create choices, equally hard to face, but with the potential for liberation. We should all feel liberated in life. It is too short to be otherwise.



If I ruled the world

 Okay, we’re not messing here. I’m in charge. Right! The first law is ‘no whistling’. On with the Cabinet- John Lydon (Sex Pistols) for PM. Straight-talking, tells it like it is, and no matter how clever we think we all might be, reminds us that we can at some crucial moments be ‘Pretty Vacant’- (fill in your own examples here, but for a kick off- Millenium Dome). On the Environment, we’ve got ‘The Wombles’. For Health there’s Keith Richards, continuing his excellent work on re-defining the term ‘well-being’, and on Transport, Guy Martin with his spanners. Minister for Foreign Affairs, Human Rights and everything else that is about being an incredible human being, it must be Malala Yousafzai. I will look to the young as my chief advisers to ensure that our policies are free from politics, prejudice, inequality, lack of imagination, oppression of the poor, and anything that impinges on basic human rights. You may be wondering why this is different from the rhetoric of previous governments. I’ll tell you why- this isn’t rhetoric, and furthermore we’ll waft this through the no longer existent Parliament faster than Bono can knock out a charity single, and oh yes, we will make this look good!

Now where were we? Ah yes- The capital city. Don’t need one. Plymouth and Exeter are as great as London as Manchester as Birmingham. It is the people who make a place, and we shall make the people proud. Proud people make happy places, and happy places thrive. I like that. I’ll get Ed Sheeran to knock up a tune, and we’ll recover the national debt by Christmas. Think on Mr Cowell!

On the issue of migration, I have a long-term plan. This will run like an exchange scheme where it is possible for people living in a safe, ‘I’m all right jack, keep your hands off my stack’ environment, to swap with those living in places where there is a constant threat of danger. We do this in the hope that those people who currently don’t, might see the other side of the argument and realise just how lucky they are. And you are all very lucky, because you’ve got me, Johnny Rotten, Keef, the Wombles, Guy and Malala for your government!

Of course, you won’t have any of this if we don’t get elected, so the voting system needs to be changed. The voting age would be lowered to 14, no, let’s say 12. The reason for this (and you can see that we are spontaneously flexible) is that some grown-ups make too much noise (particularly the ones in the stripy suits!), and often drown out the sound of youth, which is not wasted on the young, as those who are no longer spring chickens would have us believe. Much of young noise is good and important, and joyously free. Give them a vote, let them elect some flamboyant pop star to raise the plight of those in need. It worked with Geldof and Jimmy Osmond, it can work again. Remember Live Aid. I can’t. I mean, I was there. I just can’t remember it! I think I was with Keith Richards! We will also hold Glasto’ every three months should you still be ‘a floater’, and we’ll throw in a couple of Wombles to pick up the litter.

The stance on equality. There will be no policy, laws, large documents, so-called experts, spouting academics, campaigns, leaflets, special days or anything else that pays homage, but does little to eradicate the problem. Equality is a human right. It is as vital as the air we breath. Without it we are undone, and rather than fighting the problems of the world, we will continue to fight ourselves until we are finished. We’re lucky of course to have Malala Yousafzai, and those who have gone before- Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi to name but three. We will not let them down and we will thrive in the only way possible; together.

Okay. What would we ban? Well, it goes without saying: – whistling, and smacking children (please see our equality policy). What would we make legal?- The right to choose to die.

I don’t rule the world of course, but if by a quirk of fate this does happen I will declare a national holiday until I can locate the Wombles. You can also rest assured that there will be no coffee cups that look like glass vases, saucers where the dip isn’t in the middle, and yes you’ve got it- whistling!!!!!

Pause for Thought- 7 ‘Got to keep the loonies on the path’.


Got to keep the loonies on the path.

In this country it is believed that at least 1 in 4 people will experience some sort of mental health problem in their lifetime. This could be post-natal, due to grief, redundancy, isolation or childhood experiences and many more. It is all around us, it intrinsic to the human condition. Where there is stress, be it physical or mental, there is illness in consequence. So why is it so hard to deal with? Why is there such stigma? There are mental health days aimed at raising awareness of this problem. Do they? Even if awareness is raised what are we expected to do with it? I don’t know for sure. There are charities working tirelessly to plug the gaps in services where the demand is so great. There are working groups, users forums, conferences, thick documents charting the challenges faced for people with mental health problems and their impact on society. There are good things happening all the time, perpetuated and initiated by well-intentioned people. Yet, we still have a problem with mental health.

Perhaps we need to get to the baseline, clear the decks and begin again. If it is such a big problem, then we’re not getting it right. Obviously. Stigma is still there and often distrust of someone who might have had an ‘episode’, which deviates from the norm. Well don’t we all one way or another.

As this is my final ‘Pause for Thought’ this week, I’m going to share something with you. My heart is beating hard as I say this, a sign that I recognise even in myself that the stigma is still strong. I will say I don’t care, but we’ve got to know one another over the past week, so I can tell you that I most certainly do. It seems to me that people who suffer with mental health problems have one thing in common. WE often feel like outsiders. If you noticed at this early hour, yes, I said WE. I have experienced significant mental health problems since I was a teenager. That was some time ago. In the recent years I was given the label of having ‘Bi Polar Disorder’. There are different types, but suffice to say an episode as it is called, swings you round like a mouse in the jaws of a cat, and sets you down when it’s had enough, whenever it likes, leaving you and the people you love exhausted and bewildered, until the next time. There is always a next time. I was lucky, I had people around me who tried to see through the wall of madness and hang on to the person beneath. I wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t.

Pink Floyd on their album Dark Side of the Moon said ‘got to keep the loonies on the path’ Do you mean us? Syd Barratt, schizophrenics, depressives and so on? Why? We’re not loonies. That’s the trouble. You can’t herd people, because they’re not cattle, they’re different. I have spoken to you every morning this week, I’ve turned up and enjoyed it, and hopefully we’ve engaged. I listened to one of our wonderful paralympians talking about her disability resulting from one of the train bombings in London. She said, had that not happened to her, she wouldn’t have become an Olympic Gold Medal winner, and would never have achieved such a wonderful thing. How’s that for courage. It’s another example why we shouldn’t judge. I became a writer because my life was turned on its head. I always wanted to write novels. I’m not sure I would ever have found the courage or the drive to do so if my life had been different. I wanted to express myself, finding it increasingly hard to do so in what we might call the conventional world. Though I end with cliché ; something I assiduously avoid in my fiction- it is sometimes wise ‘not to judge a book by its cover’.







Pause for Thought-6 (Devon Radio) ‘Mothers are unemployed!’


Mothers are unemployed!

For the last 16 years, I have been the main carer for our 4 children. Men looking after their children are still a significant minority. Of course there are lots of good reasons for this. As a writer, I have been lucky to have this opportunity. It has been a privilege to share this time with my children, and they have probably taught me far more than I have them. They have helped me to become patient and tolerant, and to see the wonder in the little things that as adults pressurised by this fast-paced world, we often miss. I know nursery rhymes I would never have recited again, I am familiar with the pecking order of Moshlings, the plight of Ben 10, and the technicalities of a variety of complex Lego structures. I know that the welfare of a stranded beetle matters, and that rodents, despite their reputation hold real fascination for the young mind. In short, my children helped me to rediscover my inner child. They helped me to learn how to play, and never to decline a football game instead of a domestic chore. On my last day on this planet I won’t remember the unwashed dishes. That’s for sure. I’ll remember the delight on my son’s face when he tackled me and won the ball. That happens most of the time I have to say!

All of these positive things far outweigh any downside such as the type of fatigue that generally accompanies a bout of Glandular Fever. When they were little I remember thinking of that sign on the motorway, which says ‘tiredness can kill. Take a break’. Fat chance!

I have experienced though, over the years, a bombardment of cliché.- Here are a few:

‘Got the kids for the day? The wife doing something nice?’

‘Bet you’ll be glad to get back to work’.

‘Not as easy as it looks is it’, said the lady on the till at Tesco.

No it’s not, that’s true. But so are many things.

It’s not the hardest job in the world, but it does require many skills. Here’s a secret- Women can multi-task because they learn how to do it when they look after children. I know because I learnt it too! We can cook a meal, answer the phone, grab a falling toddler and open a drawer with a foot. They are skills. They come with the job.

Yes a job!

A year or so ago, I had reason to state my occupation to a young woman in her late twenties. It was an insurance policy or something. I can’t rightly remember. What I do remember though, are her words.

‘What do you do?’ she said.

‘I look after our children’

‘You don’t have a job then’.

‘I’ve just told you, I look after our children.’

‘But it’s not on the list,’ she said. ‘I’ll put you down as unemployed.’

I could have told her I write novels for a living. I wondered if her response might have been-

‘It’s not on the list. I’ll put loitering with intent.’

So it’s not a job. Helping to bring rounded, morally balanced people into a difficult world isn’t a job. I know there are terms such as house husband and house wife, but what do they say; that the person doing the child-care is an appendage, a supporting strut? I have met many men who would relish the chance to spend more time with their children. Mothers too, but circumstances have prevented it. I have been fortunate. The clichés and sometimes the isolation of being a man in what is still largely a woman’s world no longer bother me like they once did. I worry though that this might still be a measure of how far equality between the sexes has to go.

To any men who have the chance to play a larger part in the care of your children, give it a go. I guarantee once you find that child inside yourself you won’t look back.

Pause for Thought 5 (Radio Devon) – ‘The Demise of Hope’.


The demise of hope

I can recall as a child my unshakeable belief in a whole host of magical things: kingdoms in the sky, underground cities, yetis, and so many more we know and love. There comes a point though when that belief turns to doubt. For a while, there lingered; or at least it did for me, a strand of hope; a belief that the world was more magical than my developing logical brain was beginning to tell me. I have a suspicion too, that this stage might last longer than most of us care to admit. Hope keeps us going, gets us up in the morning, gives us something to cling to when things aren’t going well. What’s wrong with that?

Stephen Hawking is a remarkable man. He has endured the most extreme physical challenges with great courage and dignity. He has given us insights into things hitherto unknown. The universe is expanding. Into what, I’m not sure. I guess if I asked him, Stephen could tell me in great detail. We are I understand, a product of a series of explosions creating matter. There may be as I speak, scientists shaking their heads at my limited knowledge, but I’m sure you get my point. I’m not advocating that we shouldn’t strive to understand more. But is there a threshold where our understanding of the universe, the mathematical principles that allegedly govern it, their assumptions and the brilliant minds behind them, take away the possibility of hope? How ridiculous is that I hear you say. Yet I wonder if the vast equations that most of us don’t understand, give our existence no more than an empirical basis, a quadratic on which stand our fragile lives.

I will be the first to agree that medical advances have given people enormous reason to hope. Just last week, the pioneering work that can now eradicate mitochondrial disease in certain children gives hope. Our understanding of genetics has taken us further along the road to discover the origins and the subsequent cure for many life-threatening diseases. This is all good, and continues to support the case for further investigation.

I know it sounds a bit daft to suggest that ignorance is bliss; especially when Hawking’s findings might save the planet from imminent demise. But aren’t all theories based on assumptions? When the assumption is disproved, then a new one must be found using the knowledge learnt from the first. The margins are becoming narrower, and eventually that little flicker of hope for the magical could be so tiny that we might no longer be able to see it.

I personally don’t believe that consciousness continues after death. I’d like to think it does, as long as we aren’t trapped inside our mortal bodies. There are those who tell us of ‘after life’ experiences. Maybe soon we will know for sure that this isn’t the case. Perhaps not. I’m not advocating the cessation of our investigation into the origins of the universe. After all we are human and we are curious. But curiosity has consequences, and I wonder if our hunger for ultimate knowledge and the eradication of any sense of magic, might leave us all a little less hopeful.