Adam Lee-Potter on father and daughter bonding
PUBLISHED: 10:56 19 June 2014
Some father and daughter bonding in the great outdoors is on the agenda, but will we have thrilling derring-do adventures or will I fall at the first hurdle?
Among my most treasured possessions is an ancient, dog-eared book my father read to me 35 years ago.
Richard Jefferies’ Bevis tells the robust 19th Century yarn of a boy’s bucolic derring-do: imagine Swallows and Amazons, but before girls and grown-ups were invented.
One of parenthood’s great joys is to share such hand-me-downs with one’s own children. My seven-year-old daughter Dory wolfs them all with relish. Not to be outdone, she’s now given me one of her own.
Even Bevis has been bested in my affections by my brand new copy of The Great Outdoors, a gutsy manual that takes in foraging and skinning, knots and trout tickling.
But my favourite page is the flyleaf, lovingly inscribed: ‘Dear Daddy, soon I would like to have adventures with you. Love Dory.’
Happily, that time has come. And we have been busy planning our maiden foray.
My daughter – sweetly forgetting that her DIY-phobic father can’t even be trusted with Pritt Stick – wants me to start by building a tree house. I would rather – for obvious reasons - cycle 600 miles through the flat and vineyard-studded Loire valley. Dory is less keen: “As far as London and back, twice? On a bike? Yuk.”
And so, after a spot of maternal mediation, we have hit on a nifty compromise: a series of hearty hikes along the South West Coast Path.
We romped through our first trip without incident; until, that is, we spotted a chum below, walking her dog. My wife, joining us for the home stretch, led the way down at an alarming rate.
Our friend, chuckling, bravely critiqued her descent: “You came down that hill like a sturdy pit pony.” I have not witnessed so gnarly a stand-off since – stupidly patting my stomach, which only made it worse – I asked a guest at a recent wedding, “When’s it due?”
The apoplectic woman – and I will remember her words until the day I die – hotly replied: “I’m not pregnant.”
Keen to avoid bloodshed this time, I quickly suggested retiring to The Wise Man in West Stafford. If it’s good enough for Julian Fellowes – a fellow who has no fewer than three rivers running through his estate - it is, of course, more than good enough for me.
There, we met Bill, a splendid old chap who not only stood us a round but gifted me a new top-five quote to boot: ‘One for the road, one for the stairs and one for no reason at all.’
This has, as it should, proved a month of adventure, both real and social, culminating in a dazzling dinner at Lower Bockhampton’s Yalbury Cottage, thrown to celebrate Nino Franco - Mark Hix’s favourite Prosecco, no less, and who am I to argue?
Dorset’s finest were, seemingly, all there and I felt a total fraud. Almost everyone else seemed to be on first name terms with Sir Terence Conran and owned their own hamlet - from Brewery Square’s entrepreneurial Andrew Wadsworth to Burton Bradstock’s Mary-Lou Sturridge, the co-founder of London’s Groucho Club.
Even the toothsome PR, a New Yorker, had a rock star name – Dacotah – and used to teach Italian cookery, to Italians, in Italy.
Needless to say, the evening was a hoot, a well-lit riot of fizz, banter and seared scallops.
As Bevis is so fond of saying: Hududu-blow-fluz.