CHILDREN are more confident than they used to be. We had ‘Declan’ round to play this week.

I’d heard Declan say he was streetwise for a six-year-old due to his older brother. And then he strides in with gelled spiky hair, designer jeans and a Chelsea shirt on, saying: “Hey guys!”

Or to quote mam’s extensive re-telling on the phone later to disapproving relatives: “He just come in the house without knocking. I thought he was American. Turns out he’s from Tebay.”

Declan takes the remote, sits down next to the eldest daughter and goes: “Aw this is childish. Let’s watch MTV, it’s awesome.”

I gripped the cushion as he told us that his: ‘18-year-old big brother has it on till midnight’. The lad is going to go far, just a bit too quickly.

Dads are programmed to protect their children’s innocence, particularly girls’. I was flashbacked to my big sister inviting ‘boyfriends’ round at the age of 13.

Dad interrogated them like he was Bodie out of The Professionals. The point being to make them so uncomfortable they didn’t come back.

He took a dislike to one thin and sallow youth in particular. The one ‘with the earring who was never off his Grifter.’

Det Sgt Dad: ‘Where do you live, then?’

Suspect friend: ‘Over the way.’ (Awful answer. Evasive and mildly effeminate.)

DS Dad: ’What’s your father called?’ (Pronounced fath-er).

Suspect gave him a name that Dad didn’t know. You could see his mind whirring.

After Dad’s grilling, sister’s friend would sit transfixed by whichever tv programme was on.

Their standard conversation:

Her: “Where’ve you been?

Him: “Up town.”

Her: “What doing?”

Him: “Nowt. Just bodding.”

Her: “Oh right.”

Then the programme would end and he’d leave immediately.

Mam remembers him. In that more slightly cruel and coldly evaluating way of hers.

“Always had a bad cough and a big red nose. Wore half-masts and his step-brother’s coat.”