Yesterday I went to the town of Battle, where a group of historical re-enactment societies were planning to celebrate the 940th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings with a 2000-strong recreation of the conflict. It was a great day and the battle was spectacular, but my own personal highlight was seeing two women in medieval costume using a cashpoint machine...
I bought my eldest son with me who was bored silly and just wanted to play computer games. We spent half of the day sitting in a damp field waiting for something to happen.
Sadly, when it did happen, my son had lost all interest. The hand-to-hand fighting and cavalry charges failed to distract him from his sacred mission of exploring all of the ringtones on my mobile phone.
However he was temporarily distracted by a wonderful volley of arrows from the archers and uttered some annoying American superlative that he'd picked up from a television programme, before returning to the phone. I wondered why he was so unmoved by the spectacle of a couple of thousand people in authentic armour staging a battle and tried to remember how I felt when I was seven. But I was over-complicating things: he just wanted someone to play with and looked longingly at the gangs of young boys staging sword fights.
When I knew that I was going to be a father, I had visions of idyllic days spent exploring castles, beaches and museums together. The reality is a seven-year old boy who spends half the day asking me 'Are we nearly there yet?' and the other half wanting to know when we're going home. I know what makes him happy: computer games, ice cream, sweets and, most of all, other children. Maybe I should bring one of his friends along next time.
I had a lovely day, mainly because I did have someone to play with. I met up with two old friends from university, one of whom donned his armour and joined the battle while his wife and I watched two thousand accountants, sales managers, postmen, teachers and every other profession you could imagine charging across a field in costume. It was wonderfully English: grey skies with the constant threat of rain, sitting in a damp muddy field waiting for something to happen. I shall be back for the 950th annivesrary.