The best thing about the journey North is Terry Terry’s delighted face when he spies me striding along the platform towards him, then being enveloped in a big Barbour hug.
Mrs Terry proposes a shopping trip as, “You always seem to do much better for shopping when you come home, Sweetheart.” That, I think, is because you always pay, Mum, but decide to keep this to myself.
Shopping with Terry and Mrs Terry is a delight. Far from attempting to curb my tendency towards outlandish numbers, Mrs Terry positively embraces it, telling me at one point, “That’s not jazzy enough for you, sweetheart,” then strongly encouraging the purchase of a playsuit that Floella Benjamin would be proud of.
Terry is also pleased with the suit and goes off to find a matching belt. Terry is a man remarkably at ease in women’s clothes shops and will gamely wander the aisles, look for shoes in a very specific colour, hosiery etc. I suppose he’s had enough years of practice with the three women in his life. Have I mentioned he’s taken to calling the dog, “Son”? Poor Terry.
Terry acts up on the train platform to Liverpool and I tell him sternly, “Dad, this is my limit. Don’t push it any more.” Feel a parent/child line has been crossed. Mixed feelings.
Philly Terry has bought tickets for a family trip to The King and I at the Liverpool Empire. Terry fortifies himself with a stiff G and T before we head in, even sucking the lemon to extract every last bit of gin.
Have a weird moment (possibly gin-based) when, for the first time in my life, I say words aloud that I thought were only in my head. The words were, “I wish I’d gone to Poundland,” which fell out when Mrs Terry was telling a story about her time working at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
It’s true, I do wish I’d gone to Poundland, but this isn’t an appropriate time to say. Fortunately, all Terrys find it funny, although Mrs Terry does not resume her story.
Today is quite an auspicious day in Terry history as Will is making his first trip to the family seat. After making sure a squiffy Terry and Mrs Terry have got on the right train back to El Porto, Philly takes Will and I on a tour of Liverpool, including a stop for baked bean tequila.
I don’t think I like baked bean tequila very much.
Terry Terry enquires what Will and I plan to do for the day, then proposes something he’s clearly been giving some thought: he wants to take Will on a driving tour of the town.
Obviously, I insist on going too.
Highlights of Terry’s tour include: the vet’s (“Sam spends a lot of time there”), Terry’s old school (demolished in 1978) and “the whore house” three doors down from MacDonald’s.
Terry concludes his tour with a drive past the gypsy camp, then pulls up at the boat museum and makes us get out for a better look at the oil refinery. As we stroll down the Manchester ship canal, Terry points out a South African restaurant he’s been to a few times.
“What do they serve there, Dad?” I ask.
“Oh, you know, just food,” Terry dismisses.
“ But what kind of food?” I persist.
“Nothing special, steak, that kind of thing,” Terry claims.
“I’ve never had South African food, Dad. What have you had?” I’m now wild with curiosity.
“Just ostrich, alligator, that sort of stuff,” Terry shrugs nonchalantly as though alligator is standard fare to a man of his experience, “I prefer the Indian really.”
Sammy Sammy No Balls, Terry’s pride and joy, has not performed very well this visit. Before Will arrived, I’d asked Terry to run through all Sam’s tricks with me so I can make sure he’s up to scratch.
“He can high-five,” says Terry. I know this as I taught him to high-five within days of Terry and Mrs Terry arriving home with him from the rescue centre, and still have the bite marks to show for it.
“And he’s very sly,” says Terry but refuses to be drawn on how the slyness manifests itself as a trick.
I begin to fear that Sam is just an overweight Labrador and not the wonder dog I’ve always claimed to Will, when suddenly on Monday morning, Sam runs around the sofa, writhes on the floor flapping his empty ball sacks about and nips me on the bottom. His status as probably the best dog in the world is restored.
Return to London. Mrs Terry rings to check we’ve arrived back okay.
“Are you and Will still together, sweetheart?” She asks, nervously.
I reassure her that we are.
“Only there was that boy who broke up with after meeting your dad.”
And that is a story for another time.