Steve Canavan: Playing Where’s Wilf nearly spoiled my beef casserole

An open front door is never a good idea when a two-year-old is left alone (even only for a little bit)...

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 7:56 am
Updated Thursday, 25th March 2021, 7:58 am
The preparation of the beef casserole was going so well...

This week’s column will almost certainly result in my child being taken off me by social services, but I’m going to tell the story anyway in the hope they won’t see it and none of you will report me.

So keep this to yourselves, okay.

It relates to an incident that happened on Sunday, while I was – and here comes a sentence that just smacks of middle age and the end of all ambitions and hopes – making a casserole (beef with a Colman’s packet sauce – my culinary skills know no bounds).

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Wilf, my two-year-old son, was sitting watching TV in the adjoining room with his sister Mary, so I left them to it and went to the kitchen to chop carrots, fry onions and drink a glass of wine ever so slightly too large for 3pm in the afternoon.

I did this for around five to 10 minutes before popping my head into the other room to check the kids were okay.

Mary was on the sofa, eyes glued to the tele. I looked around, expecting to see Wilf in the midst of one of his two favourite hobbies - pulling a glass flower vase off a shelf or scrawling on the wall with an array of felt-tips (our wallpaper looks like it’s been designed by Jackson Pollock). But he wasn’t there.

“Where’s Wilf?” I said to Mary (she’s four).

‘Don’t know,’ she replied, without taking her eyes off Paw Patrol (in fairness to her it was a very exciting episode; a chicken called Carla had accidentally eaten a magic seed which had transformed her into an evil giant chicken and she was systematically destroying the town, while a team of seven puppies each with a superhero power rushed to save the day… I think what I most like about children’s TV are the realistic plot-lines).

“You don’t know?” I said to Mary.

‘No,’ she replied. I’ll give her her due – she’s remarkably succinct and to the point in conversation.

I rightly deduced that Mary was of no help whatsoever but, looking past her, noticed the kitchen door slightly ajar.

I wandered over to it and out into the hall, at which point I saw the front door was wide open.

Now I’m not normally one to panic. Even when Bury went three-down to Tranmere in the Auto Windscreens Shield quarter finals in February 1988, I stayed calm and knew a comeback was on the cards (I was wrong - they got beat 7-1). But I must confess the sight of an open front door did send a wave of unease washing over me.

“Liz,” I shouted, for that is what Mrs Canavan is called.

‘Yes,’ she said.

“Is Wilf upstairs with you?” I said, trying not to let any sign that anything was untoward enter my voice.

‘No,’ she shouted back.

This wasn’t good.

“Erm do you know why the front door is open,” I hollered.

‘No,’ she said.

Oh. My. God.

The realisation hit me that my child was not in the house.

Worse still he had gone missing on my watch and if he were never to be located or to return it would always be my fault.

Mrs Canavan and I would argue, grow apart and divorce, and I’d end up living in a one bedroom flat in a dubious part of town, only venturing out once daily to buy an eight pack of extra-strong lager from the local off-licence to get me through the day.

I sprinted out of the door and onto the path. Wilf wasn’t in the garden.

I carried on into the road and looked to my right. No one there, except the Doberman belonging to the couple at number five (Worryingly, the Doberman looked very pleased with himself and was licking his lips, which led me to briefly fret that Wilf was currently located in its stomach).

But then I turned to my right and saw, a good 40 yards in the distance, my two-year-old happily sitting in the middle of the street playing with some stones.

He must have been outside for about five minutes and had wandered down the centre of the street. Fortunately, we live in a quiet cul-de-sac as opposed to an A-road otherwise the outcome of this story may have been very different.

I sprinted toward him and cried, half in anger, half sheer relief, ‘Wilf, never do that again’. He looked up at me quizzically, and as though slightly cheesed off I’d disturbed him, then continued playing.

It took around an hour and four tablets for my blood pressure to return to normal. The front door will now remain locked at all times, and I’ll be slightly more alert next time I make a beef casserole.