"If you don't do it, Dad, you'll regret it on your deathbed." This is the argument my son developed over the summer holidays. Its purpose was to persuade me to join him in activities such as parasailing over Fig Tree Bay in Cyprus. Actually, I enjoyed it and it wasn't me who lost his breakfast a hundred metres in the air, was it?
The last time he used his persuasive phrase, we were sitting in our Scamp kit car at the foot of a dirt track that led to a coal bing at a secret location in Central Scotland. A huge puddle blocked our way. "If you don't risk that puddle, Dad ." Eventually, I braved the massive dub and we discovered an area of waste ground, miles from civilisation, where he could safely fling the car about. He did so with relish, kicking up a fine stoor of coal-laced dust that left us looking like auditionees for a particularly gritty adaptation of a work by Charles Dickens. Gregor Scampingtwit and Son. Except that we had big, silly grins over our grimy faces.
Many years ago, I saw a TV report where young car thieves were rehabilitated by giving them the opportunity to build and race stock cars. By all accounts it was a great success, so fair play to all those involved. I was struck at the time, however, by a sense of injustice. The greatest was that sheer luck decreed that, while my parents were not awash with money, by no stretch of the imagination could I claim to have experienced the sort of financial and emotional deprivation of the youngsters in the report.
A smaller injustice was that I would have loved to have had the chance to tool about in cars when I was in my early teens. It did not seem fair that the way to do so involved breaking the law.
I hope I don't sound like the sort of loathsome git who moans about how life was better when friendly coppers gave tearaways a clip round the ear with the Daily Mail before throwing them on an Australia-bound convict ship for grand-theft loaf of bread. If I do, please take care of me with a silver bullet.
My son, unless he is a master of deception, is also law-abiding as well as car-daft. Even my dropping an exhaust pipe on his head as we worked on the Scamp has not put him off. So I put aside a few quid - less than a tenner - every week to feed our daft car habit. My son has just gained a grade 1 in his English, sitting it a year early. I think he deserves a blast round a field for that.
Gregor Steele was also persuaded to go on an eight-loop Spanish rollercoaster by his offspring.