This soldier no longer fires blanksWith the birth of my baby daughter, my father-in-law can stop comparing me to England footballers who cannot score neil'sworld ________________ Neil Humphreys When I first met the woman who is now my wife, her father treated me with all the respect and dignity that I deserved -- had I been a chicken molester. On our first date, I was allowed to take her to the cinema on condition that I got her home by 11pm. I had bought tickets to Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard, so you'd think I'd already been punished enough. Spending an evening with a girl who needs to be rushed home and Kevin Costner's alarming crew cut was not the ideal first date. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I can still hear Houston screaming I Will Always Love You. When I took my girlfriend home, I was allowed to say goodbye on the doorstop for no more than five minutes, which was a stroke of genius on her father's part. It was the middle of the English winter. Stand on a doorstep in sub-zero temperatures for more than two minutes and it is impossible to raise anything other than a smile. Sumo wrestlers can reportedly withdraw their private parts to protect themselves from an eye-watering kick during a fight. I've been able to do that since I was 17 and freezing outside my girlfriend's house. Eventually, her father relented and I was allowed to sleep overnight on the living room sofa because I had slowly gained his trust and I was in the first stage of hypothermia. Unfortunately, my girlfriend's father turned into Batman whenever I stayed. Ordinarily, he couldn't hear the football TV commentary without turning up the volume, but he could detect the cotton friction generated by a quick cuddle from behind two closed doors. "Time to go to bed now," his voice would echo around the house. "You know I've got to be up early to knee Neil in the groin." And he did. My sofa bed was in front of the curtains. The man of the house could've walked either side to open them, but he claimed that the only way he could reach them was to climb across the sofa. Have you ever woken up to find a middle-aged man in a towelling dressing gown kneeling on your groin? It is not a liberating experience. "Oh, sorry, Nei, did I wake you?" he would ask, as he stretched out to open the curtains, using my reproductive organs as a launchpad. "Do you fancy a cup of tea?" "No, I'm fine, thanks," I'd croak in a barely audible whisper. "You sound like you're sick. Did you drink too much last night?" "No, it's not that. You're kneeling on my testicles." Over time they healed, as did our relationship, and we eventually became father and son-in-law. That's when everything changed dramatically. Before my wife and I got married, her father pulled us apart like a referee in a boxing ring. We moved in for a clinch before he ordered us to break it up and sent us back to our corners. But the moment I placed that ring on her finger, our boxing referee transformed into a sex guru. Chastity was no longer an option; creating grandchildren was the order of the day. My father-in-law turned into a gaggle of aunties at a reunion dinner. "So, what's going on, then?" He'd ask bluntly. "Where are the grandchildren?" "These things take time," I'd say, blushing with an intensity that could stop traffic. "It's not that easy." "What's difficult about it? Do you need a diagram? Do you want me to draw you a picture?" There's a Freudian nightmare no one ever wants to contemplate. "No, I'm fine, really," I'd say quickly, desperate to change the subject. "Did you see the football last night?" "Yeah, they never hit the target, either." "Wait, you see, the thing is..." "They say England's strikers can't score and need more shooting practice. Maybe you should join them." Even though he delighted in our respective careers, there was always the same admonition. Whether it was a business trip or a writing assignment, he always reverted to the same gripe. "So, you're writing a book, are you? Hope it's a dummies' guide to making babies." "Ah, you're interviewing David Beckham? He's got three kids and his wife calls him Golden Balls. Get some tips." "You're trying to arrange an interview with Elton John? ... Don't you think you've wasted enough time?" Like those jabbering aunties over Chinese New Year, he never eased off. The banter was usually playful and never particularly serious, but we appreciated that our parents were eager for us to start a family while the biological clock was still ticking in our favour. On June 10, I made the call I'd been waiting for, I telephoned my father-in-law and shouted: "I have finally hit the target." Our first child, a beautiful baby girl, came into the world. But that's a story for the next column. In the meantime, I can dismiss my father-in-law's claims that I belong in the British Territorial Army. I have stopped firing blanks.