Like father, like son. But less than you'd think (3): He's my best mate, not just my dad: The son

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The Independent Online
ANTONY ALLEN, born in 1975, is at college studying for A-levels.

'My earliest memory is of driving to the hospital with my dad when my baby sister was born. Shortly after that my dad moved away for a few months as he had got a new job.

When we lived down south, my dad had to commute, which meant he left early in the morning and returned late, often past our bedtime. He was normally really tired when he came home.

I remember our talking sessions. We would sit down together. We'd each take a turn of about 10 minutes to talk about ourselves, anything - school, work, friends or whatever.

I was quite angry as a young child. The talking sessions helped me become more open about my feelings, instead of bottling them up. And I remember a session when my dad was particularly emotional about my great grandad dying. We sat there for an hour or two just talking and crying about how we felt.

After we moved up here to Rotherham, at first my dad wasn't around any more than before. In fact he was working longer hours. We had been used to seeing him every day but now he went away for days at a time. He would leave on Sunday night or Monday morning and we'd all be crying at the door because we knew we wouldn't see him till Friday. Gradually we came to accept that, but it was very difficult while it was new.

Business colleagues would stay over the weekend with us, so we had even less time with him. Louise and I were both settling into new schools and trying to find new friends. My mum found making friends difficult and that often came up in our talking sessions.

We talked about our sadness over dad's absences, and he shared our upset about his being away. He had wanted to go into business for himself because he wanted to see more of us - and he wasn't. But as he became more settled he started spending more time with us and we had fewer weekend visitors.

I remember our first trip to the Millmoor football ground to watch Rotherham play. We followed them for the rest of the season, when they got promoted, and have been going ever since. We usually arrive an hour early to get a good place. While we wait, we talk about anything. I think football has drawn us together.

It's definitely better having my dad around, although sometimes when he returns home, he's quite stressed.

I used to think it was natural to be that close to my dad, but having seen my friends with their dads there's quite a difference. My dad is my best mate rather than my dad. There are times when he is my dad - if I've done something wrong, say - but when we play football or squash he's my friend.

That doesn't seem to happen with my friends. When they come round I give my dad a kiss or a hug but they'd sooner run a mile than do that to their dads when I'm round at their houses. I think their dads are more father figures than friends.

I don't know why that is. It could be the talks, it could be his line of work, it might be because he has tried to learn from possible mistakes my grandad made. Also, my mother's got three brothers and sisters and her dad left her mum before the last one was born. As a result she doesn't want to see Louise and me drifting apart from our dad.

I'm not sure what work I want to go into, but I do know, if I have a family, I'd want to spend as much time with them as I could.'