I need a fishing rod and a bassoon, fast

The name of this new column could hardly be more apt this week, as - even by the neurotic standards of my life, which lead me to regard almost anything, from losing a fountain pen upwards, as a crisis - something has just occurred with the potential to supply me with worries for the next 20 years at least. It's also the most exciting thing to happen to me in my life so far. My wife is pregnant! And, thanks to the wonder of ultrasound (a strange, messy miracle that involves smearing a woman's stomach with jelly, something missing from most of the miraculous happenings in the Bible), we now know that the person-in-waiting is a boy.

It's a boy. I'm going to have a son. A newly minted man will be living the first months and years of his life under my tutelage. I'm going to be a BLOODY DAD. To a SON.

I'm aware that this is the most commonplace of situations, and, thanks to the recent rise of "lad lit", the combination of fear and exhilaration served up by the prospect of fatherhood has never been so well documented. But no amount of bumbling columns, no quantity of well-meaning-but-clumsy
Tony Parsons/Nick Hornby characters can prepare you for the thrill, and fear, of imagining a tiny version of yourself trying to make his way in the increasingly baffling modern world. No recent generation has had to grapple with such a volatile east-west relationship, such bewildering technological progress (which of us children of the Eighties imagined the Nintendo Wii?), or such an onslaught of TV shows about improving your property. Am I - someone who doesn't yet know what a 3G phone is - really a suitable person to lay the foundations for this new life?

The answer is pretty simple: I'm the only dad he'll have, so I'd better get on with it. I've started preparing by watching films about father-son relationships. From what I can make out, raising a son is a matter of going on fishing trips, throwing baseballs, failing to communicate properly for about four decades, and eventually having a tearful deathbed reunion. I reckon I can do at least some of that. I've not mastered fishing yet but there are a few months to go.

Yet I should really be using that time to make sense of things which still confuse me, in preparation for all those "Dad, why . . . ?" questions that fathers bluff their way through. One of these, the Last Night of the Proms, fills me with fascinated horror - the bobbing crowds, the unctuous conductors, the parade of imperialist encores. And yet it's hard to criticise any event where everyone looks as happy as a sandboy. Perhaps I should train my son as a musician so he can make it intelligible to the likes of me. But we still need a fishing rod and a bassoon. I'd better get on eBay right this minute.

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