Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

IT was a rainy and somewhat sticky Saturday morning.

Ciara wasn’t long out of bed and she needed to get ready for the day we had ahead of us. 

The boys, and in particular Luke, aged 2, were pestering her.

“Mummy, can I have this? Mummy I want that.”

She was taking it all in her stride but she needed a shower and was, I felt, entitled to a bit of time alone. 

At any rate, the right wheel on our long- suffering double buggy needed a new tyre, Luke was beginning to get cabin fever and I was craving a frothy cappuccino. 

It was time to get out.

I managed to sell it to the boys as a morning adventure for coffee and cake. They gave a little cheer and off we went.

First up was the buggy. I parked as near as I could to the bike shop and switched off the engine. 

Due to the rain, I didn’t want to take them out of the car, and, it being really early, I figured there wouldn’t be many people around. Before I got out, I left them instructions.

“OK,” I said. “I’m going to put on your favourite music.”

“Ziggy Sargus?” interjected Fionn, mispronouncing David Bowie’s alter ego.

“No,” I said. “Pat-a-cake.”

“Awww,” said Fionn frustrated.

“Yay!” shrieked Luke.

“Anyway,” I continued. “That’s on there now. I’m going to lock the doors…” 

And then I said them — the words I thought and promised myself I would never say: “Don’t speak to strangers.”

There was a pause. I knew that Fionn had heard it and I could almost hear his incredible mind churning it around, trying to make sense of it. 

I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw the arch of his nose scrunch up and his brow tighten in confusion.

I regretted it straight away.

“Why not Daddy?”

There was no way I could lie my way out of this. And to be honest, I didn’t want to either, because I was wrong.

“No,” I said, “Sorry, do speak to them, not a problem, but just make sure you tell them where Daddy is.”

“The bike shop,” confirmed Fionn.

“... just over there,” I said, finishing the sentence for him and pointing to the shop.

I jumped out of the car, hauled the buggy out of the boot, brought it to the bike shop — a great place run by Venezuelans — told them what I needed, left the buggy with them and within three minutes I was back at the car. 

The boys hadn’t moved.

“Let’s get a coffee!” I said.

“Yay!”

While in the coffee shop, the boys spoke to everyone. They charmed the waitresses with compliments. They said hello to customers leaving and to those coming in. 

Fionn asked a man with grey hair if he was a grandad. The man smiled and confirmed Fionn’s suspicions. 

“But you’re not my Grandad,” replied Fionn.

When the coffee and the boys’ two scones arrived they both said thank you and at the end of it all when I went up to the cash register I handed the money to Fionn and he handed it to the lady, getting the change and a lovely smile in return.

Walking out the door, Luke turned and blew his trademark kiss to the staff. Naturally enough, they were delighted.

“Smooth operators,” I said to myself.

We went next door to pick up the buggy. 

“Do you own all these bikes?” Fionn asked one of the Venezuelans.

“Yez, I do,” said the man.

“They’re really cool,” said Fionn.

I handed over the €10 for the new tyre, grabbed the buggy and headed towards the door.

“Say gracias boys,” I said.

“Grass-is-ass,” they said in unison, Luke sticking his little chest out to give it a bit of volume.

The Venezuelans laughed.

Imagine if children never spoke to strangers.


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