Father and Son

There comes a time in your life when, if you are lucky enough to have a son, you recognize he has become a man. And of course to you, a very special one.

It isn’t easy being a father, and it is no easier being a son during those long and often difficult years of childhood. Altercations and quarrels are a right of passage and the father is as often at fault as the son. The pressures of providing and paying the bills take a toll on the father, and the endless drudgery of preparation for that task on the son.

And then suddenly he is 25 and on very special days you may be lucky enough to get him on his own for a while so that you can do “stuff” together.

“Stuff” is often enough a long walk and lunch out. It was all a bit more exotic when he was a youth and in those days it was likely enough a day in the mountains, walking or skiing, with lunch in some remote hut.

But all seasons have their gentle pleasures, autumn and winter among them. And nowadays it’s a quiet walk along a wintry beach, listening to the gulls and watching the waves.

And yesterday was a glorious five mile plod along golden sands, at low tide, between Dickensian Broadstairs and plebeian Margate. Chalk cliffs laced with fine layers of flint, coves and bays and arches of chalk. Smugglers caves and deep chasms up which farmers used to cart seaweed on donkeys to spread on their fields.

And Margate – who could resist it? The cold has banished the seaside postcards, candy floss and knotted handkerchiefs on reddened scalps. The wind howls and the waves crash against the harbour walls. Antony Gormleys’s stark statue stands tall on the rocks in front of the turner Gallery.

Who is he, that metal man? A latter day Canute perhaps? Or simply Everyman, you and I facing the vicissitudes of a seemingly barren universe. The cold North Sea and biting wind he faces are certainly that: austere in the extreme. At least in December.

And lunch in a seafront cafe, what of that? More gentle banter and a day well spent. There are some days in my life that have stood out so far above the common run of things I have never forgotten them. I suspect that yesterday will be one of them.

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