I SWORE I would never do it, but last Sunday I lost patience with my son when he asked one question too many. It had been a good day. The kids arrived back from church asking if they could go for a walk. Andrew, nearly six, and his older sister Claire acquitted themselves well on the uphill slog from Carluke to the village of Kilncadzow (pronounced Kil-caggie), which features the twin attractions of the Giant Bridie Shop and the Swing Park With the Duck Not Working.
There were a few complaints of tired legs but most of the time the conversation was dominated by Andrew's persistent questioning. "Why do wasps sting people?"; "How can these weeds grow on that cottage roof?" We eschewed giant bridies in favour of sweets at the shop and had a "rest" at the swing park (ride-on duck still not working), returning home in time for Thunderbirds.
"Daddy, why does Brains talk like that? Is Tin-Tin older than Virgil? Why is Thunderbird Three going to crash into the sun? What would happen if someone was in the swimming pool when Thunderbird One took off?"
At times, I was sure he was simply making conversation. Often, he genuinely wanted to know something. Occasionally, I wondered if he was employing a device used by bright but showy ids at school parading their knowledge by phrasing a question ("Does laser stand for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, Mr Steele?").
Through all this I kept my cool and answered each query to the best of my ability. I then tried to sneak into the room where I keep my PC in order to grab a quick shot at Freecell, an addictive card game supplied with Windows. But I was followed. "What'll be on Thunderbirds next week, Daddy?"
"I don't know. We haven't got the Radio Times for next week. We'll get it on Tuesday."
"What page will it be on?" Andrew asked earnestly. "FOR GOODNESS' SAKE! How should I know what page it'll be on? Now can you give me peace just for a minute?" I snapped.
I spent quite some time feeling guilty about this outburst, though it hasn't stopped him asking questions. Would I have reacted the same way with a pupil?
The incident forced me to ponder once again whether being a teacher makes me a more or less patient parent, or whether being a parent makes me a more or less patient teacher.
Does anybody have the answer to that one, and do I really want to know it anyway?
Gregor Steele will remember July and August 2000 as being the Long Summer of the Pokemon.