It’s not often I get the chance to spring a big surprise on my children or to feel like the best dad in the world, even if only for one day. But I managed both on Sunday.
Our boys are huge Top Gear fans, as I may have mentioned eleventy thousand or so times before. So when the opportunity arose to book tickets for Top Gear Live – or Clarkson, Hammond and May Live as it was subsequently rebranded – for the weekend before Isaac’s birthday, I jumped at the chance to secure some as a secret pre-birthday treat.
It’s possible I may have been quite keen to go too.
I had planted an initial seed by mentioning to Isaac and Toby a few weeks in advance that I would be taking them in to London under the guise of a boys’ day out to have some fun on the tube and buses and take in the Christmas lights. A couple of days beforehand, I suggested we might go for a trip on the Emirates Air Line cable car, which just happens to go across the Thames right next to the O2, where the show was taking place.
And so an elaborate web of deception was woven.
By the time we had transferred from car to tube, the boys had excitedly mapped out an itinerary that I knew would never be completed. Cable car. Trafalgar Square. Leicester Square. Christmas lights. An early dinner in Chinatown. Then home.
Ultimately we arrived at North Greenwich and casually/deliberately meandered in to the O2 so that Toby could use the toilets. We were just on our way back out when I suggested that we join the queue that was forming outside the arena, at which point I showed the boys our tickets and the penny dropped. It’s fair to say their reaction was … enthusiastic.
The show was great: loud, action-packed and full of the kind of supercars that are the stuff of seven and five-year-old boys’ dreams. They gleefully identified every car as it appeared – Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, Porsches, Bentleys, McLarens – with eyes that were practically out on stalks. It reminded me of how I felt when I went to my first football match.
As an adult you can easily become blasé about attending big live events. As a child, though, it’s a thing of wonder to be in the midst of a big crowd in a big arena seeing things live that you’ve only ever seen on TV. It takes your breath away.
We filled the rest of our day with a detour to Canary Wharf (Toby’s request), a wander from Piccadilly Circus to Trafalgar Square (Isaac’s) and finally a ride on a double-decker bus along the length of Regent Street and Oxford Street to check out the Christmas lights. As luck would have it, we managed to secure the front row on the top deck immediately – the perfect vantage point. Bonus.
Some days you know you’ve done well. But it doesn’t make it any less special when your sons turn round to thank you and tell you with a beaming smile that they’ve had the best day ever.
I know I’m not the best dad in the world – far from it. But for just one day I was in the boys’ eyes. And that’s good enough for me. It’s days like this you live for as a parent, that make all the mundane days and the bad days worthwhile, right?