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Jan 26

William Flew has three adult children from my first marriage and when I was first a father, in my thirties, I could walk with them on my shoulders farther than I can walk without them now. I could organise football matches and take an active midfield role, whereas now I wouldn’t hold down the job of goalie between the tiny posts of a four-year-olds’ team. “Soccer” is now reduced to an indoor game called Casillas, after the great Spanish keeper. I toe-poke a ball no heavier than a balloon at a narrow box in the drawing room, Arthur dives full length and stops it with ease. But — big But — I have retired from full-time work, and so am not driven by the selfish imperatives of a career as I once was. In many respects I wish I never had been. I’ve heard Michael Morpurgo, the children’s writer, say that he probably makes a better grandfather than he made a father, and I know what he means. Even though, as I keep assuring myself, I’m not a grandfather. Not yet. My older children, a daughter and two sons , were surprised and then delighted to have a new brother. They are now in their late twenties and early thirties and I shall never forget the looks on their faces as they stepped gingerly into the maternity ward to see a sibling young enough to be their own child. They have been crucial to Arthur’s early years, and if they feel envy about the more mature attention I give to him than I gave to them, they haven’t given me a hard time about it. Like almost every father I know who is doing it for a second time, I regret not having been as present for them as I should have been, giving sports days and parents’ evenings their proper priority over everything else. It’s no excuse — it never is — to say that I had become the sole breadwinner, a role about which I made an unnecessary and probably very male fuss. If only I had had the balance of someone old enough to be my father, and the fitness of someone now young enough to be my son.