I read reference to a very saddening piece of social science research in a newspaper the other day. The gist of the article was that the family relationship most likely to break down is that between father and son. Mothers and sons, fine. Fathers and daughters, fine. Brothers and sisters generally knock along well enough while the husband/wife connection is sound more often than not.
However, the researchers were convinced that dads and their boys are all too liable to fall out. The press story gave a brief summary of the results from years spent delving into the ties that bind us (or not, as the case may be) to our immediate clan.
My first reaction was that, if true, this alleged tension between the males of different generations in a household may be explained. It could be that father and son are competing for the attention and regard of the mother figure in the family.
My second reaction was that no such competition exists in the case of Eldrick and me regarding where each of us sits in sweet Hermione's esteem. Suffice it to say that I know my place.
My third reaction was that, whatever the social scientists may have noted as a trend, it does not apply to me and my son. Eldrick, I pondered, is absolutely my best buddy, a sound companion, a valued confidant and rock of good sense. Why, only the other day, we sat down together to watch the soccer on the telly. That is traditionally what fathers and sons are supposed to do in harmony to underline the strength of their masculine togetherness…
'That's no foul! Referees should cop on to themselves! Ah no, not a card. Just because yer man is rolling around does not mean it's a free.' I love watching the soccer on the telly and a live match is best for re-creating the atmosphere on the terraces of my youth.
'Da, I think it was a foul, actually. In fact, he may have seriously damaged yer man. Look.' The slow motion replay serves to confirm that the tackle was late, clumsy and high, so that 'yer man' is lucky to be able to continue his involvement in the match with both kneecaps intact. The referee and Eldrick are right, not that I would be bothered saying as much, not out loud.
'In my day, that would scarcely have been a foul,' I mutter to no one in particular. The game continues and the ball is worked into the box where one of the attackers crashes to the turf with melodramatic abruptness. My laughter at this piece of inept theatre turns to outrage as the referee awards a penalty kick in favour of the now horizontal player.
'That is ridiculous! He was barely touched.'
'Da, I think you will find that it is called going to ground. It is standard practice for the striker to fall down when nudged by a defender and for the referee to award the penalty. We are no longer living in Dark Ages when a forward had to risk compound fracture of the femur in order to earn a spot kick.'
He sounds like a feckin' civil servant reading a policy statement, thought his analysis accords in every last particular with that of the ref and of the TV commentator, not to mention the pundits back in the studio. A stone cold penalty, they all agree.
It strikes me that, though I love him dearly, my son is very different to me. He is neat while I am scruffy. He prefers steak while I opt for fish. He is a natural forward while I was always a mullocking full-back in my playing days. Worst of all, I have come with considerable reluctance to accept that Eldrick is happy to cheer for Manchester United while his father is unalterably of the Anyone-but-United persuasion.
Another collision, another overpaid prima donna is left clutching his left ankle in a great show of histrionic agony. The replay shows that he was kicked half way up his well-padded right shin.
'That's scandalous,' I rage. 'I am turning this off.' Eldrick turns to look at me. He sees that I have the zapper close at hand. He sees that I am making no move at all to turn the telly off.
'Da, you stay there and enjoy the rest of the game,' he says in that infuriatingly calm way of his. 'I am off upstairs to study my organic chemistry. That should be more interesting. Anyway, I prefer the rugby.'
He leaves me gobsmacked. The rugby! What have we reared?