My Father’s Day gift that ended all others
Happy Father’s Day weekend to all the dads out there; I hope you’re all being spoilt rotten by your adoring kids! I’m finally back in Belfast after having spent most of the year so far looking after my 85-year-old dad in England, so I won’t be seeing him this weekend. However, there are seven other offspring to take over where I left off, so he’s in good hands. When I told dad I’d be away for Father’s Day he said: “Well, every day is Father’s Day when you’ve got eight kids caring for you!” Bless him.
He’s certainly enjoyed the week so far though, without even having to move from the comfort of the sofa. On Tuesday night it was world-class football in the form of France v England and five fantastic goals. Of course, being English, dad was supporting England so the end result was a disappointment. I didn’t dare tell him who I was hoping would win though, because — like many people from Northern Ireland — I was rooting for France!
Next up was the start of the US Open golf championship which dad always watches intently every year. He hasn’t played golf since his hip replacement operations but nowadays he’s happy to simply watch it on the telly and, to be honest, so am I if it means I don’t have to endure another episode of Flog It with the volume on full blast.
Then on Thursday evening there was a fascinating programme that we both really enjoyed — Britain’s Greatest Invention on BBC2, in which seven celebrities were asked to make a case for seven different inventions that have transformed the world we live in, including antibiotics, concrete, the fridge, the jet engine, the mobile phone, the steam engine or the television.
This reminded me, coincidentally, of the greatest Father’s Day gift I ever gave my dad. Here’s the story of it, in a nutshell.
Until the aforementioned hip replacements, dad not only played golf with great enthusiasm, but he was also a keen walker. After his retirement, he and a group of friends would meet every Monday morning and go walking together at a different beauty spot in the Lake District. Like a proper rambler, he’d take a knapsack on his back filled with a packed lunch and a flask of tea. Then when the group reached their destination they’d take a well earned rest and tuck in to their picnics. Anyway, on one such day, dad returned home chuckling to himself about a joke one of the group had recited whilst they were having their tea break by the shores of Lake Windermere.
A teacher asks her class: “What do you think was the greatest invention of the 20th century and why?” The first kid puts up his hand: “I think it was the jumbo jet, Miss. It is so vast it can carry hundreds of people around the world non-stop and at incredible speed.”
A second child suggests: “Well, I think it was the mobile phone, because now you can keep in touch with everyone you know and from almost anywhere in the world.”
Then a third child answers: “Miss, all of those are good, but I think that the greatest invention of the 20th century was definitely the thermos flask.”
The teacher looked puzzled.
“Well, you see Miss, a flask keeps your hot drinks hot in the winter…and your cold drinks cold in the summer… but how does it know?”
Dad roared with laughter when he got to the punchline. He then proceeded to tell the joke to everyone he saw for the next few weeks — always belly-laughing at the end — until the telling of it became a family joke in itself. All of which gave me a brilliant idea for that year’s upcoming Father’s Day.
I bought him a new thermos flask, one of those traditional no-nonsense stainless steel ones, but with one difference: I’d had it engraved with the words “How does it know?”
Dad’s reaction was utterly priceless. It was well worth the 10 quid it had cost altogether.
I only wish I’d been there to see the other fellas’ faces when he showed it to them on their next walk.