The Philpotts Letters – 14

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make (The Beatles).

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And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make (The Beatles)

My dearest, darling, wonderful, amazing, awesome Josh and Ella

Hey there. I know, pretty hard-core sentimental for me, eh? Well, there’s a reason, and I’ll get to it in a moment, but first, I want you to be perfectly and utterly sure that you know you are the most precious people in the world to me. You are both, without exception, shining examples of what people should be. Well, OK, sometimes you do smelly farts. And occasionally you don’t reply to my texts within a milisecond of receiving them. And also, your mum could do with a hand with the dishwasher every now and then, and the hoovering doesn’t do itself. But, you know, in general, shining examples and all that.

I just wanted to make sure you know that, because I’m pretty sure I haven’t told you enough, and now I’m not going to get much of a chance to tell you again, because it’s got me, the fucking bastard, it’s caught me, and I think it’s going to have its way with me. I’ve escaped a few times before, but it’s never held on this tightly, and I’m so fucking tired, I haven’t got the strength to beat it off again.

I wish I did have the strength, because I don’t want to miss any of it, of you growing up, having your own families, making me a grandad. Oh I so wanted to be a grandad.

OK, stop it, Matt, this isn’t about wistful hankering, this is about … oh I don’t fucking know. Kids, I’ve barely got the energy to type this, but it feels important that I do. I’m hoping the spellchecker will kick in, because I can hardly see what the fuck these bloody useless fingers are doing to my words.

Right, focus. I guess I want to apologise for leaving you. I know it’s going to be hard. I’ve tried my best to make as much of it as easy as possible, but some things I just can’t have any control over, however much I want it.

I’ve used this, the Philpotts Letters, over the years, as a way of letting off steam, a way of ranting about things I was freaking out about, and a way of thinking through some of the challenges that being a dad has brought. But looking back at it, it’s almost like a verbal photo album, snapshots of your lives, entwined with mine, and I wanted to finish it properly, so it didn’t just stop with me going ‘bloody hell, you’re eighteen, how the fuck did that happen’.

I want you to know you are awesome.

I want you to know how much you are loved by me.

I want you to know how much you have enriched my life.

I want you to know how amazing your lives are going to be.

I want you to know how sad I am that I won’t be there to see it.

I want you to know so much that I can’t say, because I can’t put it into words.

God, kids, I love you so, so much. It is unbearable, the thought of leaving you behind, and I am terrified of it, so scared, but I’m so, so tired, I just can’t go on.

Please, guys, look after your mum, I know you will, you’ll look after each other. If there’s a way, I’ll be looking down on you, or more likely up at you (I’ll be checking you’re not wearing indecent underwear, Ella, so watch it), and keeping abreast of Scott family developments.

OK, that’s me done. I’m falling asleep, and these days I never really know how long I’m going to be asleep for, or what state I’ll be in when I wake up.

Thanks for everything.

I love you.

Goodbye.

Dad xxx

The Philpotts Letters -13

Well I guess this is growing up (blink-182)

Well I guess this is growing up (blink-182)

Dear Adults

You are no longer children. You are eighteen. Bloody hell, eighteen years old. You can vote, and fight for your country, and have sex. OK, so officially you’ve been able to do the last two legally for two years, even though you haven’t been able to have any legal say about the arses who make these kind of rules until now. And maybe, let’s call it ‘intuition’ (yeah, yeah, it’s your mum, she bloody knows everything, and she always tells me what she knows, so it looks like I know everything too), I get the feeling that although neither of you have to my knowledge fought for your country (hmm, does playing for England Under 18s count, Josh? Let’s say it does), at least one of you has had sex. I do not want to think about this, alright? Because it makes me very angry, and want to kick whoever it was in the bollocks so he never does it again. Obviously I am talking about you, Ella. Josh seems more than happy not to just yet, unless he’s way better at hiding things than I think he is.

I mean, yeah, eighteen, of course your kids will have had sex. Possibly more than once. And Ella, you are such an explorer, it was probably a while ago. I don’t want to know. Your mum has started to tell me a few times and I had to put my fingers in my ears and sing loudly just so she’d stop.

I’m glad you’ve both had your mum to talk to about all that. I like to think I’m pretty open with you about shit – I’ll talk about anything with you guys, you’re both a joy to natter to, but this one thing, well, I did the sex chat when you were younger, and have just firmly left everything else to your more than capable mother ever since. I seriously could not deal with the thought of either some slimy git touching my baby daughter, or my baby son touching some unsuitably painted harlot. Because, obviously that’s what they’d be, and not just normal kids like my normal kids.

Except, and here we go back to the headline, you’re not kids anymore. You’re now officially adults. You can tell me to fuck off, and there’s not a bloody thing I can do about it. And both of you have told me to fuck off, literally and figuratively, because I’ve never been able to moderate my language, and now it’s the norm in the Scott household to bandy the fucks about with gay abandon (unless you’re your mother), and that’s my fault I guess, but now there’s not a bloody thing I can do about it.

Oh it’s not really about being able to do something about anything, it’s about you both being considered ‘adult’ by the world at large, when you’re both so young. You don’t know shit about shit, even though naturally you’d like to believe you know everything about shit. Ella, you’re going to sodding university in a few months. Fuck, I can remember what I was like at Uni, once I got going. I really, really don’t want you to meet any Matt Scott or his ilk, or worse than his ilk, but I’m not going to have a choice, because that’s what it means, isn’t it. You’re old enough to make your own choices.

And it’s because of those choices, which I no longer have anything other than an advisory role in, that you’ll grow up and become you, I guess. I know I didn’t become me until I went to Uni. Josh, you may have a different path, but being part of a bunch of rugby players is going to bring you along nicely. And maybe you’ll still be living at home, but at least it won’t be both of you going off into the unknown at the same time. I don’t think me or your mum could bear that, to suddenly just be the two of us – oh, not that we won’t enjoy one day being just the two of us, but we’re going to miss Ella and her own smells and noises, so you’re just going to have to fill the gap with your slightly more manly smells and louder more masculine noises.

You know, kids, I still sometimes have to pinch myself that all this is real, that for the last eighteen years I’ve had just what I wanted – a family. There was a time I didn’t think it was what I wanted at all, and then when I realised I did, I thought it was an unachievable dream, and then it happened. I know it’s not over yet, having kids is never ‘over’, is it? I know I’ll be thinking about you and worrying about you for the rest of my life. It’s just that this is the end of the ‘kids’ chapter, and the start of a new one, maybe even part two of some as yet undefined trilogy. It will be an awesome trilogy though, beginning with King Matt in the Land of Denial, who finally meets his Fairy Princess Lau while he is trying to battle the Fuckinio Bastardius monster, who he manages to tame but not to defeat while at the same time bringing into the world and raising the Prince and Princess – well you know the rest so far. Enjoy book two, guys, it’s all about you.

Thanks for being my children, you have been awesome. I am looking forward to getting to know the grown-up you.

Yours faithfully (because it sounds like a grown-up signing off, and also I hope to be always faithful – a bit like a smelly old Golden Labrador)

Dad xxx

The Philpotts Letters – 11

You worry ’bout growing up, I worry ’bout letting go (Tracey Thorn)

You worry ’bout growing up, I worry ’bout letting go (Tracey Thorn)

Hi Kids

Well it’s been a while from the looks of it. What was I banging on about last time? Being called Daddy? Fuck me, I freaked about the smallest of things back then, didn’t I?

So now you’re teenagers. Holy fuck, two teenagers, a brace of sacks of hormones. I mean – two babies needing changing: challenging. Two schoolkids needing chivvying every morning: a logistical conundrum. Two bright nine-year-olds ganging up on their parents to elicit later bedtimes: needful of concentration. But two thirteen year olds, both shutting themselves in their rooms and playing loud music, barely speaking to us, except to demand more spot cream and look enraged at being addressed by anyone older than them, and needing constant, let’s call it encouragement, not to hang around with the less desirable elements in the park until it’s dark – well it’s the stuff of nightmares.

Where did my awesome, independent but compliant and loving children go?

I must have been a teenager; I didn’t miss out thirteen to nineteen in some bizarre time-travel mix-up. I just don’t remember it being like this. I never thought I’d want to speed up your childhood, it all seems to have gone at a crazy speed, but if I could just fast-forward through this shit, I’d be glad of a few missed years.

Oh I suppose it’s not without its good bits. I mean, you are still the most awesome kids in the universe bar none, but sometimes it would be nice if you smiled a bit, or weren’t just nice to me and your mum when you wanted a lift somewhere.

And I can’t imagine it getting much better, really, for the next few years. Before I know it, and maybe already but I don’t know it yet, there will be girlfriends, and boyfriends. Oh God. Ella, I’m not ready for you to be snogging anyone. And Josh, although the sexist part of me wants to say go for it son, and I recognise the hypocrisy, it’s too bloody soon, alright? If you could both just wait for all that until you’re completely grown up and know what you’re doing and aren’t likely to be experimenting with anything or being all overcome with things in the heat of the hormonal moment or anything … oh who am I kidding? I guess I’m just going to have to reiterate that fatherly talk, aren’t I? I can see the eye-rolling and hear the melodramatic sighing and ‘OMG Dad, like, I know‘ from both of you.

Your mum is so chilled about the whole thing, it’s like she doesn’t notice you both being sullen and uncommunicative, like it doesn’t upset her, but I know it does, because we talk about you. And the conclusion we’ve come to, although it pains me, is that you are no different from any other teenager, and it’s a difficult time, and as we are the grown ups, we just need to provide support, love and guidance, and be good role models. Yeah, right, like that’s going to happen. Oh, that sounds familiar, maybe I never quite stopped being a teenager myself …

I worry, you know. I worry that this is what it will be like for the rest of ever, and my lovely children will never emerge from the chrysalis. It’s irrational, I know that, and everyone with kids goes through it. Can’t help freaking, though, it’s what I do.

I know you’re in there somewhere.

Yours hopefully

Dad xxx

The Philpotts Letters – 10

Well you can call me papa and I’ll call you baby, don’t forget your momma’s my baby too (Donovan)

Well you can call me papa and I’ll call you baby, don’t forget your momma’s my baby too (Donovan)

Dear Hippo and Squeaks

So, maybe you noticed that I used your nicknames? Kind of like, you know, special names, family names that me and your mum call you because we love you? Just saying.

So, you know what, I’m freaking, because that’s what I do, although not as much as I used to, to be fair, or maybe I freak so much about small things that it’s only the bigger things that get through. Nope, I really think I don’t freak as much as I used to. Hey, that’s progress, isn’t it? Your mum’s sortedness must be rubbing off on me.

Now, this might not seem like a big thing, but when I realised, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. You don’t call me Daddy anymore. Neither of you. Always Dad. When did you stop? I can’t remember. I wish I could remember the last time you called me Daddy, so I could cherish it.

Your mum thinks I’m being ridiculous – oh, not that she said that exactly, more along the lines of ‘most children call their parents Mum and Dad by the time they’re eight or nine’, in her sensible let’s-try-some-freak-limitation way, but I could hear her thinking how ridiculous I was being.

How about if I bribe you? Chocolate every time you say Daddy? That’s not wrong is it? Really? Bloody hell you’re tough.

I’m sure it’s because of your friends. If you hadn’t gone to school, where I reckon all the little bastard gits have some kind of Mafia thing going on where you get pummelled if you call your parents Mummy or Daddy, you’d have been fine. It would have seemed like we could have held on to you being little for longer.

Because that’s what it’s about, really. You’re seven. Seven! Nearly eight. Jesus, that’s, like, middle-aged in kid terms. It still seems like yesterday you were toddling around with nappies round your knees, and I knew more than you and could beat you at hide and seek. Nowadays, hide and seek is, like, so not cool, Dad, and I have to be on my guard at all times to avoid being bested in an argument about eating broccoli or cartoon watching.

I guess losing ‘Daddy’ is just a sign of things to come. At least you still let me cuddle you and tuck you in at night, and bathtime is still OK. I have no idea how long that will last, but I fully intend to hang on to it all as long as possible.

Don’t stop cuddling me, kids. I can just about cope with being Dad, but more rejection would be too much.

Your needy parent

Daddy xxx

The Philpotts Letters – 9

Days disappear and my world keeps on changing, I feel you here and it keeps me sane (Dream Theater)

Days disappear and my world keeps on changing, I feel you here and it keeps me sane (Dream Theater)(although strictly speaking it should be Dream Theatre, but hey, they’re American, maybe they’ve suffered enough)

Dear Awesome Children

Well this is a doozy. Really wasn’t expecting this one, at all. You know how sometimes, something is just there, but you so don’t want it to be that you kid yourself that you’ve completely forgotten about it, as if forgetting about it means it’s not there, and possibly never existed? Maybe I’m not making any sense.

So, I’ve got this thing, this fucking enormous bloody huge thing, in my head, or my nerves, or just somewhere in my body, and it’s always going to fucking well be here and I hate it, I just hate it so fucking much, that even though it’s fucked me up twice in my life already, I decided to ignore it when it went away last time, as if that would ensure it never came back.

It’s not even like it’s something physically there, like a tumour, that I could have cut out or, I don’t know, shrunk with fatal doses of radiation or some such shit. No, this fucker lurks around, waiting until you’ve got complacent, then it comes back and takes your legs from under you. Literally.

Now, I find it hard, even after all this time, to name my old nemesis. I call it the fucking bastard. But its real name is multiple sclerosis, and it really is the fuckingest of bastardy bastards because it visits for a while, then it buggers off, but it always takes a little souvenir with it, like your ability to say ‘it’, or some of the strength in your right knee, or a bit of your vision.

Anyway, I’m sure if you’ve lived with me for any length of time, which by the time you get to read this, if I ever deem it appropriate, you will have, you’ll know all about the fucking bastard. You’ll probably know more than me, because I am bloody great at not thinking about it, not finding out about it, not wanting to know.

This is very unlike me, because I want to know about everything. I am always looking up words I don’t know when I read, or Googling things that catch my interest, and I research the fuck out of everything before I make any major decisions. But this, this is different. I feel like it knows me from the inside out, and I do not want to get any more acquainted than I already am. It scares me bloody shitless, it’s as if I’m being stalked from inside my own body.

Anyhow, though, cathartic as these ramblings are, they’re not really getting to the point – the point of all the freaking. The point is you guys.

See, the fucking bastard is back. It made its entrance pretty spectacularly this time, and it nearly broke me. Thank God for your mum – she sorted me out, as she always does, and as long as I have her to hold on to, I’ll be alright, you know, in relative terms.

And if it was just me and your mum, I’d be OK, I think. I’d have nothing to freak about (but I probably still would, just for old times sake). However, there is the two of you (or should that be ‘are the two of you’? A bit shaky on the old grammar) and I’m just thinking about how this is going to affect you, what it’s going to mean to you to have a fucking cripple as a dad.

I mean, all the things I might not be able to do in years to come – Father of the Bride speech at your wedding, Ella. My unintelligible bollocks could well fuck that up. Playing football in the park with you, Josh. Possibly a bit closer on the event horizon than Ella’s wedding, I grant you. You both having to explain to your friends, and maybe their parents, what’s wrong with me. I want to protect you from all that, from everything, from people thinking I’m shit-faced, and you being embarrassed to be seen with me (I mean more embarrassed than just because I’m your dad, because, obvs, being seen with your dad anyway is, like, sooooo embarrassing – do you like the way I’m channelling future teenage you guys, even though you’re only five, and still think I’m cool?).

If there were anything I could do to shield you from this, I would. I can’t think of a single fucking thing. Well, I did think of one thing, but it would have done for me, and your mum didn’t even let me consider it. I could have left you, so you could get on with it without me. I offered, you know, nobly, but your mum just got pissed off with me, for which I was mightily grateful and not a little relieved. But sometimes I just wonder if it wouldn’t be better for all of you if I was just … not here.

But then, I lived all my life without my dad, and I can’t say that did me much good, so maybe it’s better for you to have a fucking cripple rather than nothing.

I love you guys. You are my life, and I will do everything in my power (which is currently akin to an almost discharged triple A battery) to be the best dad I can be. At the moment, it doesn’t feel like my best will be anywhere near good enough.

Yours in the fucking bastard

Dad xxx

The Philpotts Letters – 8

Think for yourself ‘cos I won’t be there with you (The Beatles)

Think for yourself ‘cos I won’t be there with you (The Beatles)

Hey guys!

Yeah, freaking again, wouldn’t you know it. What is it this time, Dad? I hear you ask. Well, I’ve just realised (albeit belatedly) that now you’re at school, you are subject to influences beyond my control; that you might learn things I haven’t taught you, and that I might not even agree with. Not that your teachers aren’t fine and dandy, but your friends, and their bloody parents – what I’m getting at is this.

Before you started school, even though you had playgroup and all that, I kind of knew what you were thinking, because it was mostly what I was thinking, or what your mum was thinking. You’d even use it against us if you were feeling particularly clever.

But now, you could come out with anything, any old racist or sexist shit, like today, when you, Joshua James Scott, told me that you didn’t have to clear your plate away after dinner because that’s what mummies are for. Or the other week, Ella Elizabeth Scott, when you told me that Kyle’s daddy couldn’t get a job because of all the sticks. You meant Poles, and I’m glad you didn’t really know what you were saying.

Both of you were just repeating what you’d heard, but it’s fucking scary, because now you’re out there, in the world, all sorts of bastards are going to be filling your heads with all sorts of shit, and I’m not going to be there to help you sort out what’s shit and what isn’t. I’m going to have to trust that you are good people who can work it out for yourselves.

And that’s the crux of it, really, isn’t it. What being a dad is all about. Knowing when to let go and when to hold on tight. If I make you think like me, I’m as much a bastard as Kyle’s daddy who blames people from another country for him being unemployed, in front of his kids. God, it’s so bloody hard being a dad sometimes. It’s fucking awesome too, but wow it’s bloody mindblowing at times.

Your parentally challenged father

Dad xxx

The Philpotts Letters – 7

I’ve found a reason for me to change who I used to be (Hoobastank)

I’ve found a reason for me to change who I used to be (Hoobastank)

Ella and Josh. It’s your dad here, your shamefaced dad, who is finding all his pigeons coming home to roost and not knowing what the fuck to do about it. Oh, ha, it’s probably a little ironic to put it like that, under the circumstances. See, I’ve got this thing, maybe I’ve got some kind of Tourette’s or something, but I like a good swear. ‘Fuck’ this, ‘bollocks’ that, ‘shit’ the other, it’s great at relieving tension, and it really winds your aunty Beth up so, you know, has to be done kind of thing.

Before you were around, I didn’t much think about the effect all of the expletives might have on the younger members of the family, even though I was reminded ad nauseam at every opportunity, and it never seemed to do anyone any real harm, although Cal let rip with some choice expressions at a fairly early age, I suppose. But that wasn’t just me; his dad and Dec are just as bad, and – oh who am I kidding, it’s at least partly down to me.

Anyway, the pigeons home to roost thing. Yeah. I have just heard my four year old daughter say bollocks. That is so not something you ever want to hear your daughter say, but four years old? And Ella, you just came out with it, as you are apt to do, while we were on our way back from a great day out at the country park, we were chatting about ducks, and I was kidding you both about baby ducks being called duckittens, and you just said, ‘That’s bollocks, Daddy’, and I nearly crashed the car, and your mum’s eyes went the size of saucers, but neither of us said anything straight away, me because I couldn’t think of a single bloody thing to say, and neither could your mum because she was too busy trying to laser blast me with her eyes.

Oh, the times I’ve promised no more swearing when I’m with you, I’ve even promised no more ever a few times. I like to think I’m a man of my word, but this tends to prove otherwise. Well, maybe there’s no point in making any more shallow promises; me and your mum have had some words tonight, as I’m sure you can imagine, and I totally accept responsibility for it.

It’s not like I ever intentionally swore while you were around just so you’d learn the words and say them yourselves, it’s like it just comes out, something’s stupid so it’s bollocks, someone winds me up so they can just piss off, and fuck – fuck is such an awesomely versatile word; it covers so many situations. You can compose entire sentences consisting almost wholly of variations of fuck (fuck me, that fucking fuckwit fucked the fuck out of the fucker and fucked off so I’m fucked, fuck him); it can have different meanings depending on what other words you put with it (fucked about = had a bit of a laugh; fucked around = was rather promiscuous). It can be a verb (go fuck yourself), an adjective (it was fucking awesome), an exclamation (holy fuck!), a noun (you fucker), and many more – if you are at a loose end, try searching the internet, that depository of all knowledge, for more grammatical fuck lessons. Oh, don’t Google ‘fuck’ though, the parental controls will probably notice.

However, that isn’t really the point, and it’s easy to sidetrack myself when I’m trying to avoid the fact that having heard Ella say ‘bollocks’, I never ever want to hear either of you say another bad word, and especially not ‘fuck’. I concede, though, that it is probably too late and four years of being unable to tone my language down has probably sown more seeds that I would like.

I’m so sorry guys. It’s not like I can even tell you off when (I can’t say if) it happens again, because I’ll just get ‘but you say it Daddy’ thrown back in my face, and then I’ll get a look from your mum, and I’ll just have to hang my head and take it. If only it wasn’t so natural to say ‘for fuck’s sake’ when something or someone pisses me off, if only it wasn’t so cathartic, more so than, oh I don’t know, ‘for goodness’ sake’. Maybe I should just practise, start saying ‘whoops’ instead of ‘fuck it’, or ‘oh bother’ instead of ‘oh bugger’, ‘that’s a load of old tosh’ instead of ‘what a load of bollocks’.

I’ll give it a try, kids. Only time will tell if I manage it. While we’re waiting for the outcome, maybe Ella you could just not repeat anything I say? I’m usually spouting bollocks anyway, so just ignore me. You can call it practise for when you’re a teenager.

Yours in profanity

Dad xxx