Archive for the ‘birthday’ Category

9,497 days

Posted: 2 November 2021 in 2022 minus, birthday, family, life, phil
Tags: , , ,


It’s an important number, you know.

It’s the atomic number of iron for one thing, and where would Tony Stark be without knowing th– what’s that you say? It’s not made of iron? Well, why the hell is he call… no, forget it. I digress.

Well, 26 is also the only integer that is one greater than a square (5² + 1) and one less than a cube (3³ − 1). Did you know that? Moreover, while a 3 × 3 × 3 cube is made of 27 unit cubes, only 26 of them are viewable as the exterior layer.

Oh, and in base ten, 26 is the smallest number that is not a palindrome to have a square (26² = 676) that is a palindrome.

None of which is particularly important or relevant today, or at least they’re of far less importance and relevance than the fact that today is my son’s twenty-sixth birthday.

Yeah, I know. Twenty-six.


I’m not as surprised as I was when he hit 25, to be honest, but I’ll let those of you who’ve known him for some years, especially those of you who met him when he was ten years old, attending his first comics con, take a second or two to do a mental brain-flip while you accept it.

Because Phil is now older than some of my friends – noted comics pros – were when I met them.

Philip Samuel Barnett – known to almost everyone bar his mum as ‘Phil’ – was born on 2nd November 1995, at half past nine in the evening. In 1995, he was 8lb 3oz, and 21½” long. He’s a wee bit heavier than that now, and a whole lot taller.

Twenty-six years old.

I’ve said many times – and it remains as true today as it was the day he was born and every day since – that being a father is the most fun thing I’ve ever done, bar none. Nothing else comes even close to the pleasure, the joy, and the sheer fun of being a father, of being his father.

Now let’s get the obvious one out of the way: anyone who says being a parent is easy is either ignorant, lying or a masochist. It’s not easy, far from it. Responsibilities are not meant to be easy, but this one is a responsibility that I love performing and undertaking, and the reason for that is simple: it’s solely because it’s Philip who’s my son.

As I’ve witnessed, helped (and hopefully not hindered too much) his progress through life, from baby to toddler, from toddler to child, from child to young adult, from young adult to a grown man…

Alongside wonder, my emotions have been, and continue to be, those of pride and pleasure in the man he’s turned into. The credit for an incredible amount of that must go to my ex-wife Laura; she’s a wonderful mother. And I’m constantly filled with justifiable hope and confidence for the adult he’s become, and the life he’ll experince in the next few years to come.

He’s currently living in Cardiff, and I don’t get to see him in person nearly as much as I’d like. But one of the very few silver linings in the aburdity of the past couple of years has been the weekly Zoom chats he, and his mother, and me, have shared and enjoyed. It’s been a continuing surprise to me just how much I’ve liked them, how important they’ve become, and have been, to my week, that I get to see them both, and especially Phil, on a screen.

And to chat, and laugh, and spend time – virtually, I acknowledge – in his company.

As always, however, I have no idea how he went from:







in what as always seems like an astonishingly short space of time.

Appy birthday, Phil. I love you, son. I hope the year to come is one full of fun, and joy, and wonder, and loveliness.


[Feel free to add your birthday greetings and wishes here, or tweet him at @phik_vicious…]

This post is very much not part of the series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. But you can see them by clicking here.

It’s my fifty-seventh birthday today. Which, if it comes as news to you, means you really haven’t been paying much attention at all.

As on previous birthdays, I’ve absolutely no intention of blogging about anything serious, nor about anything on subjects profound.

I’ll merely commend to you the worls of astronaut and Senator John Glenn:

“For all the advances in medicine, there is still no cure for the common birthday.” ‪

But since I don’t want to leave you with that alone, and as it is Tuesday, here are a couple of the creepier fast fictions I’ve written, both dealing with birthdays… of one sort or another.


Title: A Birthday Treat
Word: hazel
Challenger: [Livejournal: mrs_karen_bear]
Length: 200 words exactly

On the eve of her second ninetieth birthday, she realised once again that she found old age a great comfort; it allowed her to express herself so bluntly without others criticising that she often wondered at the correlation between age and misanthropy.

The Procedure.

It was always capitalised in her mind, much as her first boyfriend was forever The Boyfriend. The Procedure would return her body to the condition it was when she’d been 29, the deep lines on her face gone, and the vision from her once soft hazel eyes restored. She blinked, twice, and then swallowed.

When she’d had The Procedure the first time, six decades previously, she hadn’t understood everything, but she’d been so hungry to live, so consumed with the urge not to die, that she’d agreed within minutes of it being offered.

Over sixty years of extra life, sixty years of thinking, sixty years of watching the world change. They couldn’t promise any additional changes, of course.

She leaned forward in the chair and sipped the liquid slowly, wondering about another sixty years in the chair she’d been confined to since a teenager.

Quadriplegia. Another sixty birthdays of people waiting on her.

She couldn’t wait.

© Lee Barnett, 2009

Title: Birthday Promises
Word: western
Challenger: [Livejournal: rachieb1807]
Length: 200 words exactly

He shouldn’t have had the file; police records shouldn’t be removed, but he wasn’t the only retired detective to take home copies of unsolved cases, to look at in the empty days after leaving a lifetime’s work.

He opened the file and read her name, studied the picture, noted the date of birth, and did a quick mental calculation.

You’d have been 32 today, hunny.

The press had called him The Birthday Killer, because the girl had been killed on her twenty-first birthday. Well, it was assumed she’d been killed – they’d never found most of her body. Small parts of her body, yes, but not the torso, nor the head, nor all of her limbs.

Just like the others. Three hundred and sixty-six in all over a seventeen year period.

He’d sworn when he’d retired never to forget them. His squad’s biggest failure.

He returned the file to the cabinet, putting it in its correct place, among the almost four hundred similar files.

They’d never found her body. He knew that because he’d visited her grave in the western pasture that afternoon.

Tomorrow it would be another grave and another file.

He’d sworn when he’d retired never to forget them.

© Lee Barnett, 2010


See you tomorrow, with… something new.


Not really part of the series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday today, but if you want to read the series, you can see the posts in the run by clicking here.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

It’s my fifty-fifth birthday today. Which should, and will, I suspect, come as no surprise to anyone reading this.

I’ve absolutely no intention of blogging about anything serious, nor on subjects profound.

I’ll merely a relate a tale I’ve previously told on Twitter… but since it is my birthday and I’m now well into my mid-fifties, I get to retell favourite anedotes occasionally. Or more than occasionally. Look, those are the rules; I didn’t make them up.

So this occurred the back end of 2018, after November’s Distraction Club. On the way back to Richmond, where I was crashing overnight, Mitch Benn and I stop off at an all night shop to pick up some shopping.

I pick up a few items and go outside to vape for a bit while I wait for Mitch to complete his shopping.

A car draws up, playing very loud music; a couple, both 20-somethings in the car. The woman jumps out, and as she exits the car, I catch the very end of the young fella saying “…well, I don’t know! Ask the old man…”

Whereupon she approaches me and is about to speak when the man shouts “NO! IN THE SHOP! ASK THE OLD MAN IN THE SHOP… not that, erm, er, er, young man.

The woman immediately stops short, mouth opening and shutting like a goldfish, struggles a moment on whether or not to apologise, then sort of mumbles a very quiet ‘sorry’ and scoots past me.

I look at the fella in the car.

He looks at me.

I… I… I… Sorry, mate…

“No problem,” says I, hugely and genuinely amused at his embarrassment.

He puts his head in his hands. “Young man. YOUNG man…”

“It’s fine, I say.

We chat for a moment, then Mitch comes out and we leave, while I’m struggling not to double up with laughter.

I just about make it to the car before doing so.

So, from one old ‘young man’ to the rest of you youngsters, here are some quotes about birthdays and aging.

“I remember when the candle shop burned down. Everyone stood around singing ‘Happy Birthday.’ ”
‪—‬ Steven Wright

“If you live to the age of a hundred, you have it made because very few people die past the age of a hundred.”
‪—‬ George Burns

“Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up all by itself.”
‪—‬ Tom Wilson

“You’ve heard of the three ages of man – youth, age, and “you are looking wonderful.”
‪—‬ Francis Cardinal Spellman

“You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely.”
‪—‬ Ogden Nash

“What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.”
Harley exec, quoted in Results-Based Leadership

“Never too late to learn some embarrassingly basic, stupidly obvious things about oneself.”
Alain de Botton

“The years between 50 and 70 are the hardest. You are always being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down.”
T.S. Eliot

And, finally, from John Glenn:

“For all the advances in medicine, there is still no cure for the common birthday.” ‪

Have a good Saturday, all… and thanks for reading. You’ve made an old a young man very happy.

Not really part of the series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday today, but if you want to read the series, you can see the posts in the run by clicking here.

I’ve never been a fan of astrology.

My friend Mitch Benn has several routines expressing his mostly gentle contempt for it, and I share his contempt, especially the gentle aspect of it; harmless enough on the whole, but granting astrology any serious consideration? No. Just… no. cf homeopathy, numerology and any number of other -ologies.

And despite my ceasing to actively celebrate my birthdays these days, as opposed to acknowledging them, recognising them, well, that – with rare exceptions – went the way of all things several years back.

I’ll admit the ‘rare exceptions’; as long time readers will recall, I celebrated my 50th birthday in 2014 in Edinburgh, at the Edinburgh Festival. A lovely day, full of fun, laughter, and silliness.

Pretty much perfect all around, to be honest.

Oh, I’m not one of the ‘it’s just another day’ crowd. It’s always been amusing to me that the same people who pull out that excuse to explain their ostensible derision for birthdays never seem to object to attending New Year’s Eve parties. And they rarely – if they’ve any sense – publicly say the same – it’s just another day – about their Wedding Anniversary, say.

It’s just that I’m old enough to note the birthday, without being all ‘whoopee!’ about it. Hell, this year, the main, maybe only, effect of it rapidly approaching had been to trigger this countdown.

However, just because I no longer – subject to caveats above – celebrate my birthday, doesn’t mean that there’s any lack of interest in 17th August as a date. And I welcome cards, and well wishes, and even – from very close friends – small gifts.

Just as long as it’s not a bloody facsimile of a newspaper’s front page from the day of my birth.

Now, this was – some years ago – a common gift to people, especially in the days before half a dozen clicks online can show anyone the events that occurred on the day they arrived on this planet…

And that’s the point, of course; that’s what bugs me about the facsimiles every bloody time; the two things in the previous paragraphs are entirely different. As different as they could possibly be.

Because the newspaper on the day of your birth will show the events that happened the day before the day of your birth.

And why would anyone want that? Why would anyone want to know what happened the day before they were born?

A war ended? Lovely, it had already been over for roughly 24 hours by the time you got here. The pop charts that week? You’ve a one in seven chance (all right, it’s not quite as evenly spread as that, Tuesdays and Thursdays are more ‘popular’ days) that they’re inaccurate and they’re the charts for the week before you were born.

Depending upon your birth date, there could be even greater differences. Born on the day of a general election, then the papers could well have the previous Prime Minister or President in office. I genuinely don’t understand why anyone would want that.

Looking back in history though, taking some satisfaction in learning at what’s changed since you were born, that I understand. Looking at the events that occurred on the exact day or your birth, who was born, who died on that day, yeah, that I appreciate is interesting. Even when the events occurred, or they were born, or died, on the same day in a different year.

That I understand.

So let’s do that.

Obviously what follows is a very short version; I’ve included only those that genuinely interest me, for one reason or another.


Being what was once memorably described as a ‘Red Sea Pedestrian’, I wouldn’t be interested in when a Pope began his term other than that next to Pope Urban, which tickles me, Popes named Leo must have been almost irresistible to the local satirists of the day. How the hell they avoided ‘lion’ caricatures is beyond me. Oh, they’d have been killed for the blatant disrespect? Yeah, ok, that would do it.

I have no idea why this hugely amuses me, that it happened on my birthday… but it does, enormously.

I’m mildly curious about the history of Roanocke, about what happened to them. And every time I read a story that even vaguely alludes to it, my interest goes up a notch. I really should research it properly at some point.

I know this first occurred on my birthday, August 17th, but for some reason I’m always sure, absolutely certain, that it happened in the late 1700s. Always a surprise when I [re-]discover that it was as late as 1836.

  • 1896  Bridget Driscoll became the first recorded case of a pedestrian killed in a collision with a motor car in the United Kingdom

The first of, sadly, so many. Not, however, the first to die as the result of a motor car. That ‘honour’ belongs to Mary Ward, who was thrown from a car in 1869, and fell under the wheels.

Ah, now this one I remember very clearly… watched it live and knew, at that moment, that for the rest of my life, I’d be seeing references to the date whenever a president got involved in a sex scandal, hell, any serious scandal.


Certainly the earliest-in-history person I’ve heard of, and know something about, who was born on 17th August. Plenty of others earlier, but I know bugger all about them. Of course, with Crockett, what I know is almost certainly inaccurate, more legend than fact.

I’ve included Woolley merely because of The Man Who Came To Dinner, one of the very few movies I remember watching with my maternal grandfather… and the pair of us enjoying the experience.

  • 1893 – Mae West, American actress, playwright, and screenwriter (d. 1980)

Ah, how could I not include Ms West… again, a woman whose life was as much myth as truth, and to whom so many quotes are misattributed and misquoted. One of the accurate ones I have always enjoyed though is: She’s the kind of girl who climbed the ladder of success wrong by wrong.

I discovered Watergate when doing my A-Levels (US folks, they’re the exams you take at age 18). I can’t honestly say it was the catalyst for my resulting almost obsessive level of interest in US politics, but I can’t honestly say it’s not. Mark Felt, of course, was Deep Throat, Bob Woodward’s secret informant… his identity was apparently well known long before his death. However, as with all such examples of “everyone knew it”, I’m less than convinced, since so few said it before he died. Some did, but far fewer than the dozens, hundreds, who later claimed they knew… I’m rather pleased for no rational reason that Felt and I shared the same birthday.

  • 1943 – Robert De Niro, American actor, entrepreneur, director, and producer

I’m equally pleased that De Niro and I share 17th August. Again, no reason at all. I just like it a lot. (And not for nothing, I’m very pleased that a new audience have discovered De Nero though his portrayal of Robert Mueller on Saturday Night Live.)

A few years ago, I’d have been equally delight that Humphrys and I also do. Less delighted these days; he should have retired from radio 4’s Today show some years ago. I met Humphrys once, when I did Mastermind. The warm up guy for the show was also named Lee Barnett… Humphrys was very amused.

There are people still wincing at my attempt to once sing Heaven Is A Place On Earth. I’m sorry!

I don’t really know any of them, but they were born on the same day as me, so…


Four people who’ve all had some effect upon my life. My father loved Gershwin’s lyrics; I grew up listening to the songs he wrote with his brother George.

Hess? Well, yeah.

Bill Deedes was the first person in the UK to have been both a cabinet minister and the editor of a major newspaper, but he also supposed to be the addressee of Private Eye’s Dear Bill feature (mock drunken letters from Denis Thatcher).

And Yvonne Craig was Batgirl. No more need be said.

Something very different, tomorrow. See you then.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I’m sticking birthdays in quotes in the title of this blog entry because usually when you – or at least I – mention someone’s birthday, it’s to wish them a happy birthday.

And – not to put too fine a point on it – you can only do that when they’re… you know… alive.

Alfred Cooke was born 105 years ago today. You probably don’t recognise the name, because when he was 22 he changed his first name to what he became known as, literally worldwide: Alistair Cooke. Cooke died in 2004, weeks after he recorded his final Letter From America, and I still miss tuning in every week to hear his voice. Yes, I have the CDs, yes, I have the books (his collections, his histories, his America, and his biography by Nick Clarke, also sadly gone) but it’s not the same. It really isn’t.

I was introduced to Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America by a college tutor named John Ramm. He taught me a subject entitled “Government and Comparative Political Studies”, and as part of that we spent a year on British Government and politics, and another year spent 2/3 on America and 1/3 on China. Of course, the final exam was designed to get the student to compare and contrast the different ways different countries did things, whether it was how to get legislation passed, or the history of politics in that country.

Tuesday morning, we had ‘double politics’, and John would always start of the lesson by playing us a recording of that week’s Letter from America. This was in 1982, so the show had already been broadcast for the BBC for almost forty years. From then until 2004, I doubt there were more than half a dozen editions I didn’t hear, either on broadcast or within a few days afterwards.

One of the pleasures of listening to them now is undoubtedly the strange way that his own recollections of fifty or sixty years past triggers similar memories of mine. It’s not going too far to say that I’ve had memories sparked by a listen to the show that I’d genuinely forgotten happened. I still miss the show.

As far as I know, Cooke had no great love of comic books, but he was a fan of the comic strip, as anyone who heard his tribute to Charles Schulz could not have missed.

The other man? He was born 51 years after Cooke, on 20th November 1959; he also died before Cooke did, on 9th January 1998. He’d have been 54 today. As far as I know, he was never a huge fan of Cooke’s; I have no idea whether or not he knew of the coincidence of their birthdays – I never asked him. He’d probably have just shrugged and said something like “well, there you are – just shows to go, doesn’t it?”

Moreover, to be honest, he never had much interest in comics, commenting more than once that he just didn’t ‘get’ them. Not once though, in the thirty-three years I knew him did he even once denigrate comic books or those who read them. He just regarded reading and understanding them as skills he lacked.

248His name, as you’ll probably have guessed by now, was Michael Barnett and he was my brother.

As people who have been readers of this (and the previous) blog will know, I don’t tend to have a good 9th January; people steer clear of me, and I’m grateful for it. In my day job, when I had one, people communicated with me by email that day, and my staff went above and beyond by keeping everyone else away.

But unlike my parents, I have no problem at all with his birthday. It’s a day I relish, revelling in good memories (there aren’t that many bad ones) of the years I was privileged to have him as my “big bruvver”.

I often regret that he never got to know Phil, who was a shade over two years old when Mike died; he’d have enjoyed Philip’s bar mitzvah, and would have further enjoyed watching Phil grow up into the young man he’s become.

But since I’ve already mentioned comics, it seems fitting to mention that there’s a comic book that I cannot read without thinking of my brother.

Small digression: the very first published story I wrote was in the first issue of a short lived anthology entitled Trailer Park of Terror. The story, entitled, It’s Murder Out There had in the final panel, in the gutter, the single lettered line “For Mike, LB”.

Michael may not have ‘gotten’ comics, but he was never anything other than wholly supportive of my writing efforts, and took great satisfaction and pleasure in any success I had.)

Digression over. It’s Sandman #43, the third book in the Brief Lives arc.

An explanation is required, methinks.

Shortly after Mike died, at the tragically young age of 38, I really wasn’t much in the mood for comics. The family were still trying to make sense of what had just happened, and were still saying, in response to those who those who said “we don’t know what to say”, “no, we don’t know what to say to each other either”. Sure I read some comics, some old favourites, but I was just getting through the day.

At around this time, my closest friend, who’d emigrated to America three years earlier, invited me to visit, just to get out of the UK for a few days. It was with genuine gratitude that I accepted the invitation, and went over to stay with Ian and his family in Forest Hills.

Well, that gave me a problem of a different sort. Although I usually have no problem sleeping on airplanes, I knew that this flight would likely be different. I wanted to take something that I could enjoy reading, but was something I’d read before, but something that would take my mind away from the dreadful events of the previous couple of weeks. Sandman seemed perfect. I picked up the first collection and put it in my bag. Then I took it out… remembering the final story in the collection: The Sound of Her Wings, a nicely crafted tale, but one in which the character of Death shows her necessity in the cosmos. During the story, you see the deaths of several characters, characters that you only met for a couple of pages, but with Gaiman’s and Dringenberg’s skills, you actually cared about.


Even in the state I was in, I knew that was too close to home. Which wiped out The Doll’s House as well, since the story was included there as well, for some reason.

So I grabbed my copy of Brief Lives (the meaning of the words completely slipped past me, I’m afraid) from the bookshelf and packed that, as well as some others.

A few hours later, I’m on the aircraft, we’re pulling away from the terminal, then we’re in the air… and after reading the newspaper, I pull out the first of the books to read.

No, it wasn’t Brief Lives. As I recall (and for reasons you’ll understand in a paragraph or two, I remember this flight very well), it was my collection of Howard Chaykin’s Twilight. I finished it, and then picked up Brief Lives.

I’d forgotten how #43 starts, and I’d forgotten the character of Bernie Capax, a man of some 15,000 years of age. And how he dies in what he thinks is an accident, buried under a collapsed wall. His spirit, however, doesn’t realise he’s dead and he stands by the remains of the wall, in delighted surprise: “Not even a scratch.” When Death arrives, he’s, you’ll forgive the word, crushed. Then, in an attempt to convince himself that he didn’t do too badly, the following happens:

And you know…?

It helped. I have no idea why. No idea at all… but it helped.

I thought of what my brother had achieved in his thirty-eight years, and for a moment, just for a moment at that time, but later for longer, I was comforted by the line.

Mike lived what everyone gets: a lifetime.

Neil Gaiman was a friend back then, but not as close a friend as he became. It’s been one of the pleasures of our friendship that I’ve been able to tell him about this over the years, and how it mattered, when it mattered that something mattered.

So, on Mike’s birthday, raise a glass with me to his memory, eh? And if you have good memories of your family, or of friends who’ve passed on, then take a minute, and revel in them.


Posted: 17 August 2012 in birthday, fiction, writing
Tags: , ,

A short story. I wrote this exactly a year ago, and published it on a different blog. Time to show it here, I think.


I knew that it was midnight.

Though I carried no timepiece, I could tell that it was midnight, and I carried on walking.

Past what had once been busy shops, and what were now empty houses I continued my trek, walking.

Sometime before, I’d lost the need for sleep. Or had I? I no longer remembered sleeping, but sometimes, occasionally, I seemed to start suddenly as if waking from a light slumber. But the memory faded soon enough.

It was midnight.

I shifted the small backpack until it was more comfortable, and strode forward, kicking up dust with every step.

I slowed as I approached a large piece of rubble in my path, and then stepped around it. There was a brief moment of surprise at the lightening of the sky as the heavy clouds parted for just a moment and an unaccustomed feeling of warmth struck me before they closed again, and the world darkened once more.

A grunt of acknowledgement from my own mouth mildly surprised me as I rounded the edge of the building and saw the clock tower ahead, its hands permanently moulded to the clock-face.

The nuclear weapons had struck at precisely twelve o’clock, and every clock, watch, and electronic time-keeper had frozen at that moment.

I turned and looked behind me. Another town where no-one had survived.

What was that? A hundred and seven?

I paused at the town boundaries, muttered the usual regrets, and walked on. The next town was ahead, somewhere in the distance.

I knew I’d get there by midnight.

© Lee Barnett, 2011

With all the fuss about Doctor Who’s first episode airing forty-eight years ago, it’s fair – I think – to remember that at least one other major world event occurred on 22nd November 1963 that had lasting effects on millions and created arguably one of the longest lasting conspiracy theories in the past hundred years.

(Yes, by the way, I’ve already mentioned to me that it was almost exactly nine months before I was born. I was due on 22nd August 1964. I was born five days early. The arithmetic isn’t that difficult to calculate.)

Almost twenty years ago, I was writing for BBC Radio’s Weekending show with a lady called Kim Morrissey. This week, eighteen years ago, the following was broadcast: our tribute to thirty years earlier, and a world-changing event:

    WHO SHOT...?



    Thirty years ago this week an event happened that changed the world. Tonight, we on WEEKENDING pay tribute to a man. A very special man. A man with millions of admirers around the world. A model for a whole generation. There are few who moved so many so strongly so long. We asked a few people how that event thirty years ago affected them:

    MAN 1

    Well, I couldn't watch. I mean, it was just too terrible.

    WOMAN 1

    I couldn't watch. I had to cover my eyes.

    MAN 2

    We all watched - it was unreal...


    This man, whose career was so cruelly cut short by powers beyond his control. Some say assassination... some say conspiracy... All agree he was a man out of his time. Thirty years on, the question on everybody's lips is still, and will always be: "Where were you?" "Where were you thirty years ago... in November 1963... when you first... heard... this...


5,844 days

Posted: 2 November 2011 in birthday, family, personal, phil
Tags: , ,


It’s an important number, you know.

For example, you presumably know that the number sixteen is a composite number, and a square number, being 42. But were you aware that it’s not only the smallest number with exactly five divisors, but that because it’s a power of two, it also has an aliquot sum one less than itself, fifteen?

And never underestimate the importance of sixteen as a quantity, either. There are sixteen frames in the moving image to your right. Just sixteen.

Sixteen is also the age at which many things of import occur, including – of course – having to suffer Neil Sedaka’s Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen being sung to you on your birthday.

Yeah, I’ll take care of that later; for today, you see, is my son’s sixteenth birthday.

Yeah, I know. Sixteen. I’m having some problems processing that fact myself, and I’ll let those of you who’ve known him for some years take a second or two to do a mental brain-flip while you accept it.

Philip Samuel Barnett – known to almost everyone bar his mum as ‘Phil’, and to one friend who corresponds with both Laura and me as “Phil(ip)” – was born on 2nd November 1995; at half past nine in the evening if you’re curious. And today, it’s 2nd November 2011.

In 1995, he was 8lb 3oz, and 21½” long. He’s a bit heavier than that now, and a whole lot taller, currently a shade over 5′ 9″, and yes, it won’t be too long before he’s taller than me. That’s cool. That’s good. A son should be taller than his father. That’s natural. That’s how it should be.

(Readers are solemnly invited to remind me of those lines when, in years to come, I have to reach up to him to pass him the requested car keys.)

Sixteen years old.


I’ve said many times – and it remains as true today as it was the day he was born – that being a father is the most fun thing I’ve ever done, bar none.

Now let’s get it straight: anyone who says being a parent is easy is either ignorant, lying or a masochist. It’s not easy, far from it. It’s not meant to be easy, but it is a responsibility that I love performing and undertaking, and the reason for that is simple: it’s solely because it’s Philip who’s my son.

As I’ve witnessed, helped (and hopefully not hindered too much) his progress through life, from baby to toddler, from toddler to child, from child to young adult, alongside wonder, my emotions have been, and continue to be, those of pride and pleasure in the young man he’s turned into. The credit for an incredible amount of that must go to Laura; she’s a wonderful mother. And I’m constantly filled with justifiable hope and confidence for the young adult he’s become, and the adult he will become in the next few years.

As always, however, I have no idea how he went from:






in what seems like an astonishingly short space of time.

‘Appy birthday, Phil. I love you, son.


[Feel free to add your birthday greetings and wishes here, I’ll make sure he sees them…]