Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Yes, dressing as a rodent is a man skill

So what usually happens when a minor celebrity does the move into a country house thing? What follows is normally a terrible quad bike accident that leaves them brain damaged or a long, slow descent into heroin addiction. When I first moved away from London 10 years ago, I went a bit Ted Nugent and bought loads of guns – paintball, air rifles, pistols … the sort of stuff I thought was illegal in London but, like fox hunting, seems to be OK outside the capital as long as you don't tell anybody.

I like guns, but don't like shooting living things. Yet I soon got bored with hitting tin cans and tennis balls and my armoury disappeared into my basement.

But now that I've moved to a farm with lots of land surrounding me I'm on the lookout for new toys. I am terrified of quad bikes because everyone I know who's had one has come a cropper. It doesn't matter how sensible you are – someone pops round, you have a couple of ciders, then you're suggesting that we go off-road. Two hours later, you're in A&E, apologising ….

I decided to go for mini motorbikes – motocross bikes for kids. I know this could go terribly wrong, but they are beautiful little machines and, were I still a kid, it's just what I would want to zoom about on. It's all a cunning plan to get my boy off this video game called Minecraft. It looks like something from the Seventies, graphics-wise, but he's addicted.

So the bikes arrive … and obviously they are not assembled. They come with a piece of paper that has about five lines of instruction on it, and that's it. I think bike people assume that everyone is a bike person and that we can all strip an engine and build things with our eyes closed. I can't even change a light bulb – Stacey does the DIY, much to the amusement of any workmen hanging about.

So, the bikes remained unassembled for a while until I manned up and rang my friend Harry who can do all these sorts of things. Harry turned up in his battered old car full of tools and equipment that I couldn't even plug in, let alone use. Within half an hour, he had put the bikes together and was draining them of oil and tuning them to his liking. This should have been a huge bonding moment for me and my kids – tinkering around in the old barn before roaring off on an adventure up the hill while Stacey shouted "Be careful!" to our dust. Instead, it was me and my kids watching Harry put everything in place. He was the elephant in the barn.

Eventually, Jackson, my eight-year-old boy, broke the silence. "Dad, why does Harry do these things and you don't?"

There was an embarrassed silence around the barn, save for a low chuckle from Harry. "Because … everyone has different skills … and … this is not one of them for me, whereas Uncle Harry is good at it," I said. Then I tried to change the subject, but Jackson was like a dog with a bone. "What are your skills, then?" I pretended not to hear and took a big swig from my flagon of scrumpy. How can I explain that dressing as a squirrel is not as easy as it looks?