Belfast Telegraph

It's so much easier being a godfather than a father

By Andrew Martin

Tony Blair, it transpires, is godfather to Rupert Murdoch's nine-year-old daughter Grace which, as they say, explains a lot. There is no higher compliment than to be asked to be a godparent, as I used to reflect in my long years of not being asked.

This was a painful interlude for me, since it coincided with my years of also not being asked to be a best man. As my so-called friends married off without choosing me for that role, I became progressively more disillusioned to the point where I couldn't even muster a titter at the best man speeches.

I would though, frown malevolently at the lounge-suited idiot as he shuffled his cue cards and said: "Now, I'm under orders not to talk about the groom's drinking habits, but..." What's he got that I haven't? I would fret, suspecting that he was probably a godfather several times over, as well.

In the early years of my own marriage (and I jolly well didn't have a best man), my wife was asked to be a godmother on an almost monthly basis.

In fact, she would have been well advised to have a cyclostyled card printed so she could delete where applicable, 'Lisa accepts with pleasure/is sorry to say that she is unable to accept your kind offer of being godmother to Master/Miss . . .'

But when an offer finally did come my way, it compensated for all the years of disappointment, because it came from a friend who's a vicar.

To be asked to be a godfather by a vicar is like being employed as a chauffeur by a Formula One driver. You would assume it's an informed decision.

Anyway, I chose to dismiss the possibility that the Reverend had approached several other men beforehand, all of whom had turned him down because they had too many godchildren on their plates already and I set about trying to be the perfect godfather.

I had no direct role model, not having been equipped with a godfather. My father was rabidly atheistic and I recall his violent lurches towards the radio 'off' switch as the continuity man blithely intoned 'And today's Morning Worship comes from . . .'

If the Jehovah's Witnesses came to our street, I would try, out of simple humanitarianism, to answer the door before my father did. "Look," I'd say to the smartly turned-out individuals optimistically proffering copies of The Watchtower, "I don't want to be rude, but could you just go away as quickly as possible because . . ."

However, the role of modern godfather is simple to master compared with that of the modern father. The latter is beset with crisis.

It seems there is this thing called parenting, in which men are somehow implicated, but they must abandon all previous norms of fatherhood, which begs the despairing question: "You can't hit, you can't shout, you can't smoke, you can't have it off with the nanny. What can you do?"

The role of godfather by contrast, is easily defined. It involves sending a good present every Christmas and birthday, and by 'good' I mean expensive.

Later, it may become necessary to actually meet the godchild, in which one's role is not to inculcate morality, but immorality, and here my role model will be my racy Uncle Peter, who introduced me to wine when I was 13.

He poured me a glass of a decent red and sat back watching me sip. "What do you think?" he asked. "Good," I said, "but it needs more sugar." (Because I'd expected it to taste like cherryade). Uncle Peter took that in his stride and has often supplied me with bottles of decent red ever since. I propose to do the same with my godson.

It's easy to be a godfather, providing you have plenty of ready cash. In that sense at least, Rupert Murdoch chose well.

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