Ritual Roast of Keith Dunn (on his 40th birthday) by Karen (his better half)

Published: 13th October 2004

I know Keith rather well.

I know all about his likes and dislikes. I know all about the unfortunate incident in 1990 when I learned why the words 'playdoh' and 'microwave' should not be used in the same sentence in the presence of a man who never left his first childhood let alone entered his second.

He's a good guy.

Okay, so his sons are more mature than him the majority of the time; he doesn't understand football and won't even attempt to learn the offside law; he gets cross with anything electrical when it won't do what he wants and he falls over embarrassingly quickly when left alone with a bottle of cider.

But besides those obviously critical character flaws, he's an all round good egg.

Which is ironic really as, over the years, his lemming-like hair has left his head so quickly it is looking more and more like an egg.

I met Keith back in the deep, dark days of the mid-1980s and learned two things about him straight away:

1. He didn't know how to stand a full round and missed me out, thus necessitating the ingenious use of linked straws to steal his drink from the other side of the table. The fact that he just pouted like a kicked puppy and said 'Oy!' in a very hurt voice instead of hurling me bodily out of the bar stood him in good stead.

2. He thought nothing of starting a paper aeroplane fight in the middle of Wimpy with people whose names he couldn't remember.

A good guy.

He is also a man of courage.

Not flexxy-muscles, pick-a-fight, stand-at-the-Arsenal-end-cheering-for-Man-Utd kind of courage. (I would say he's a runner not a fighter but his knees tend to do their own thing if he breaks into an amble so running would be a very bad idea.)

His courage showed itself when he met his future father-in-law just days after said father-in-law had discovered he was to become a grandfather at the ripe old age of 41...

The scene played thus:

I and my pregnant bump had gone home to see the parents. Cradle snatching Keith was to follow after work.

Hours past and Keith did not show - train delays and the like.

Being pregnant and knackered I went to bed, as did the future grandmother, leaving future grandfather to face the virtual stranger who had knocked up his baby girl.

My dad is a prison officer.

He knows how to hurt people, has to flex his muscles every day and has been given by HM The Queen a great big, solid oak truncheon to protect himself from the nasty convicts.

I think I forgot to mention this to Keith.

When he finally fell through the door, speeches at the ready, hand out-stretched for a firm, manly handshake between men, like men do, manly-like, he was faced with the future father-in-law in full uniform, complete with riot gear.

And a very heavy, very shiny, lovingly polished, head-cracking truncheon made of the finest English oak hefted in one hand.

And a smile on his face.

Now, I could have warned him about that smile.

It was the 'boy, are you in trouble' smile that normal people run a mile from.

Keith did not know this.

And he smiled back.

But, as we all know, Keith is incapable of a sane smile. It's all teeth and eyebrows, his eyes looking in different directions, his hair (he had more of it in those days) standing on end.

This was a new reaction to the future father-in-law, who invited the poor sap to take a seat at the glass-top dining room table.

'Well, what a jolly decent chap,' thought Keith as he sat down.

And then the future father-in-law dropped the truncheon onto the glass-top table making it and the room shudder.

Looking up, somewhat startled, into the piercing eyes of the man before him, Keith discovered what shirt tails are for.

And wished he was wearing some.

But did he run? Did he quake with fear? Did he break down into a blubbering mess on the floor?

No. Not he.

He said, 'Can I have your daughter's hand in marriage?'

'Well you've had the bloody rest of her, so you may as well,' said future father-in-law sensing before him a fellow man of courage. A stout soul who would protect his daughter and future grandson. A bloke not afraid to stand face to face with adversity...

...a jellyfish who had been hiding in the pub for the last four hours knocking back alcohol to make himself brave and bold.

And so life moved on and Keith matured...

No he didn't, he just got older.

And when his first son was born it was only the steady arm of his buddy that ensured he got home safely (Thanks Mitch). If not for that fine fellow the new dad would have staggered to the lakes and just kept going.

He would have floated to shore the next day with the same half-smug, half-terrified look on his face (The one all new fathers get).

As it was when his mum woke him up hours later to find out what the new arrival was, he muttered, 'It's a baby,' and slept for 48 hours.

Poor lad.

I suppose the birth really took it out of him.


And now the baby is almost a grown man - a fact that terrifies Keith more than he likes to let on. He is, let's face it, galloping towards middle age. If his knees would hold him up, he'd be running.

If you want to see a funny sight just mention to him that he could be a grandfather in a few years' time and watch his face.

Keeps me amused for hours.

On the whole he has coped with turning 40 really well.

No midlife crisis, no squeezing the flab into tight trousers to impress the ladies. Although I have noticed that his Star Wars Galaxies character is young, sexy and very, very rich.

We can dream...