Friday 11/10/2002"Dad?". Oh dear, here it comes. At least when he was younger, it was simple stuff like "Can I have a hamster" or "Everyone else at school has proper PE kit.

Friday 11/10/2002
"Dad?". Oh dear, here it comes. At least when he was younger, it was simple stuff like "Can I have a hamster" or "Everyone else at school has proper PE kit. Doesn't granny want her nightie back yet?" Now it's all streetwise stuff like sneakers with built in Uzis. "If I promise to clean, redecorate and rewire the flat out of my pocket money, can I have a LAN party with my mates?" Obviously his allowances are way too high. I knew it was a mistake to start paying him with decimal coinage. Yet it doesn't seem an unreasonable request: I am immediately suspicious. I decide to use my famed journalistic skills at Being Nice to find out more. "A LAN party? What does that involve, beloved son and heir?" Visions of routers, hubs, Tizer and a three-layer ISO model of trifle composition suggest themselves. It is not pretty. "Just me and a few mates with our computers playing a few online games." Now, other parents might regard such an idea with righteous horror. An Englishman's home is his castle, even if the council made me take the gun emplacements and tank armour down from around the door. You don't want the Hackney Acne Squad descending like a plague of aspirant-challenged locusts and wrecking the place in the name of HalfWit or whatever bit of bloodthirsty pixel bashing keeps them off the streets. But I am nothing if not the milk of human kindness and paternal understanding. "Clean the flat before AND after, pay for a night away for me and the three female companions of my choice in a modest hotel in Cannes, restock the cellar and indemnify me against collateral damage, and I'll think about it," I said, pushing the standard disclaimer form towards him. "In blood?" he said, rolling up his sleeve and reaching for the special leather case containing the scalpels. "Oh, don't bother with that!" I said jovially. "Just pick the scab off from last time." That was last night, and already I have cause to regret my largesse. For today, the story breaks that a South Korean man has died after a two-day online gaming session. OK, so he didn't eat, drink or breath during the period. But two days? Surely my son's party was only going to last a couple of hours? He gave me the sort of withering look that only the infinite wisdom of youth can bestow -- or was it anaemia? "Two days? Lightweight. I was thinking nearer four..." And he wanders off to college, muttering something about needing a sniffer to configure the DHCP server. Oh, for the good old days when the only things a kid would sniff were bicycle seats and glue.