Saturday, 27 February 2010

Age is wasted on the old

Good thing that I’m grumpy now because I can’t imagine why I would be when I get older. I’m not entirely sure what all the codgers have to complain about.

I actually can’t wait to attain codger status because I imagine it to be akin to the portrayal by Jenny Joseph in her wonderful poem Warning.

I’m looking forward to experiencing the pleasure that must come from tutting and complaining about the insolent youngsters who have the audacity to sit in one of the precious front seats of the bus. A feeling that can only be improved on by bluntly declining any audacious offer of a seat on the basis that “I’m not that old!” Outrage hurts so good.

It must be such a delight to start conversations with random strangers, fully expecting them to engage in chat about the weather, my dog’s bad leg, my bad back and/or the price of Spam. I can’t wait to give people advice that they don’t ask for merely because I am older and wiser – I’d have seen it all and know when someone was making a mistake. Codger status will come with the knowledge of the correct way to do anything and everything.

It’s this comprehensive knowledge that will give me free reign to berate anyone who crosses my path if they have done wrong – my opinion of what constitutes ‘wrong’, of course – and point out where they have fallen short. In view of it being for their own benefit and because of my age, I’ll go in all guns blazing and expect no comeback no matter how horrendous I am perceived to be (merely perceived because, in reality, I’ll be a harmless old lady).

I’ll pull my wheeled trolley round after me wherever I go, especially when I choose to ignore designated crossings for the sake of shuffling across the road wherever I feel like it, forcing traffic to stop and wait for the time that it takes for me to get to the other kerb. I’m so looking forward to using said trolley to rumble along in the middle of the pavement, failing to make way for anyone attempting to pass by me. They have to wait – what have they got to hurry for anyway?

And despite me not being in a hurry, that won’t stop me from fulfilling my right to queue jump, pushing in on the basis that “I’m old and can’t stand for long periods on account of my bad feet”. This will be one of several ailments that I’m afflicted with, but I’ll gain great pleasure in complaining about them at every opportunity, including the random strangers I just love to engage.

Trips to the Doctor’s office are fun and will be so numerous that I’ll get my very own seat in the waiting room.

I think it will be a lot of fun complaining about the good old days when everyone spoke English, but see no irony in going abroad and shouting at people in order to be understood.

Ahh, the life of a pensioner – expecting instant respect for no reason other than their age. They don’t know they’re born. Read more by Shermaine.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Why do kids want to grow up to be WAGs?

I had a toy farm when I was a kid – a scale toy farm. It was my pride and joy. I’d meticulously construct haynets from bits of cotton, pitchforks from twigs and safety-pins, fill the sheep dip with water and the stables with straw (or sawdust for housing those with a dust allergy). It was the bane of my parents’ lives; my mum lived in fear of knocking livestock over with the Hoover and my dad didn’t hear a news report or game of rugby that wasn’t interspersed with animal noises for a good 18 months.

I would declare: “When I grow up I want to be a farmer. No! I want to be a vet who’s married to a farmer and has lots of horses and dogs and I can sing to them!”

This was a few steps on from the initial “When I grow up I want to be a pony.”

These days, however, it seems that little girls’ aspirations are not quite so ... childlike. They want to be somebody, not in the sense of an astronaut or a teacher, but famous. And rich. I recently read that most girls now dream of pop stardom or being a WAG. I’m not arrogant enough to dismiss being a chart sensation as a career but it and WAGdom (and the sentiment behind the aspiration) have two common factors: fame and money. The talent element doesn’t seem to feature as highly as the desire for big hair, an even bigger house and enough jewellery to give B.A. Baracus a run for his money. Kids still want to become the people they look up to; it’s just that the objects of their admiration have altered somewhat.

Celebrity gossip magazines and Big Brother et al put a bit of a nasty taste in my mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a snob, and in fact furtive glances at the Daily Mail’s online TV and showbiz section are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine (and apparently of my sister’s although this took much gentle coaxing for her to confess) but I really object to the fact that becoming well known can take little more than a seedy kiss-and-tell or falling out of Mahiki flashing your bits after a stint on a low-rent reality show.

The part that I don’t simply object to but find, quite frankly, upsetting is that young girls look at those women, that lifestyle and want a part of it without realising that, by and large, it’s ... well, kind of skanky and, over and above picking one’s preferred shade of nail varnish/ tan, not exactly brain-taxing.

“Hey kids, get fake tits, shag a footballer and live the dream!”

What’s wrong with wanting to be a brain surgeon or SpongeBob Squarepants? Read more By Chess.


Saturday, 20 February 2010

OMG: down wth txtspeak b4 I PMSL. LOL!!!


Text language in general is a source of constant irritation to me. Any action that demonstrates laziness immediately gets on my nerves. The concept that life is easier in a world of barely comprehensible English, all for the sake a saving a few seconds, is nothing short of plain wrong.

However, I know the tide is going against me. I can no longer uphold my policy of refusing to reply to messages or emails written in pigeon - sorry ‘text’ - English. I might now acknowledge it, but I don’t have to like it.

My real gripe centres on how moronic it makes the user sound. Every time I see “C U l8r” I imagine someone in a padded cell munching on a crayon. Contrary to what many older people think, it’s not an age thing. Some of us younguns are card-carrying members of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to English. But we’re in the minority.

Despite my best intentions, I find myself sometimes writing BRB, NP and so on. On the flipside abbreviated swearing does at least have the handy benefit of sneaking past email filters. I can safely type: “WTF was so and so doing? FFS!” to my friends’ work email addresses without fear of getting them into any trouble with the profanity monitors downstairs in IT.

“I don’t think I actually involuntarily laugh out loud more than once a month.”

All of these linguistic infractions are minor irritations which pale into insignificance compared to the most annoying of them all: LOL.

I didn’t realise that the internet, along with completely revolutionising how we obtain information and communicate with others, also made every single thing in the entire world funny. Not just mildly amusing, bring a smirk to your face, or even a gentle chortle but LAUGH OUT LOUD funny.

I’m not an especially miserable person but I still don’t think I actually involuntarily laugh out loud more than once a month, at most. Maybe I’m moving in the wrong circles and need to urgently start associating with people so titillating that once around them I am totally incapable of controlling my desire to guffaw.

So, it amazes me that everyone else, according to their typing, is perpetually in a state of rolling around the carpet, tears streaming down cheeks, because life is just that bloody hilarious.

Then a few days ago, somehow, it actually got worse. Through my favourite social networking site I started to see, along with the veritable plethora of LOLs, a smattering of PMSLs - always written after statements that were in no way comic. It slowly but steadily increased. Finally curiosity got the better of me and I looked it up on the miraculous internet.

PMSL = Pissing My Self Laughing.

New lows, people. It wasn’t bad enough to give the world the mental image of the masses permanently impersonating hyenas. No, now we have widespread incontinence to add to that. The executives at Tenna are probably reserving brand-spanking new Caribbean villas in gleeful anticipation.

I know we’ve all been guilty of thoughtlessly using language. Who hasn’t gone out on a Friday night and got ‘shit-faced’? Think about that picture that conjures up in your mind’s eye for a moment. At least a loss of bladder control is marginally less disgusting.

What really irks me is this totally over the top habit, which seems to have infiltrated our English, of exaggerating everything. Now, even the most mundane of statements seems to require an exclamation mark! It makes any old sentence more exciting and shocking! So for something slightly genuinely exclamation-worthy you’ll need three of them!!! Followed by a capitalised OMG in there too - just to make sure you got the message across!

It’s got so bad that now the sight of the triple exclamation mark fills me with such disgust that I can feel my angry vein twitching in my temple. Highly unbecoming, I can assure you.

Why don’t people realise that hyping up every syllable we utter only serves to devalue the words themselves? What are we now supposed to say for those rare and beautiful moments in life that are incredibly, almost-to-the-point-of-beyond-words funny? All the usual terms have been used up and worn out on a bunch of stuff which at best was only mildly amusing.

So please, for my sake, let’s keep laughter special. We’re not a nation of laughing gas addicts so can we kindly stop communicating as though we are? Read more by Rosie.


Friday, 19 February 2010

The Friday Night Ordeal


It’s Friday night. You’re slumped in your squalid bedsit, dunking semi-frozen fish fingers into semi-fetid cottage cheese, your gaze flickering between some tepid sitcom and the lumpy bits on your wall.

The fish finger thing may sound like a terrible euphemism, and yet, sadly, it is not. You are alone. So very, very alone.

You can’t cut to the chase and start slitting skin as there are still loads of books huddled in the corner that you’ve yet to enjoy and/or endure. Except that you’re not reading them; inertia is all-consuming in your little vacuum of gloom. Its power is firmly and calmly in place, just like you, in your little room. Just you, the books, and the rectangular slices of mashed up fish.

Sometimes the books weep softly at night, untouched and unloved. Other times they simply watch over you, as if biding their time. They know they’ll outlive you; when your corpse is stewing in the last dregs of its untasty juices, they’ll sit tight and await their release. It may take a while before anyone finds them, but they know that. The books accept their fate and are happy to watch events play themselves out with grim predictability. They have, after all, probably seen all this before. Don’t go thinking you’re their First.

Perhaps you should go outside. What’s your local film box offering tonight? Oh. Shit. Never mind, if you’re feeling really desperate you can always trek down to Lidl and wander around in an aimless daze with an empty trolley until a concerned shelf stacker throws a tin of chickpeas in your path. It’s a futile gesture; veteran shop drones all know it takes more than tinned goods to shake the loners out of their trance.

Failing that (what if you go crazy and buy loads of ice cream like some wimpy girl? No thanks), you could pretend to be a Situationist and try your hand at Drift. Since it’s dark out, you could don a fedora and pretend to be all mysterious and up to something sexy and Noir. But none of that’s going to happen this time as, truth be told, it’s rather nippy out and you’d rather remain marooned and moronic and wrapped up in your tear-stained duvet. For now, at least.

The walls are humming your name, or someone’s name (it’s difficult to be sure; despite your best efforts to coax proper vowels from within the folds, their enunciation is still shaky). You might want to start thinking about sorting it out and bartering for some chums soon, snap up a bit of wholesome fiendish folly. It’s okay; the walls and their secrets will still be waiting for you when you return, sodden and rejected.

The cycle of desperation is almost complete. Just be glad you don’t have any yellow swirly wallpaper. We all know how that sort of thing ends. Read more by Sam.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Knit one, trounce one


New year, fresh start, and what better time to take up a new hobby? But of all the possibilities, what should you go for?

Well, I like old fashioned things. In a discreet kitchen drawer I keep a stack of dollies for serving biscuits and I’m on the Past Times mailing list. So, when I came across knitting lessons I couldn’t help myself. It seemed like such a nice, ladylike activity, presumably filled with other genteel women making pleasant chit chat while learning something new.

Due to the phenomenon of ‘hip knitting’ there was actually a waiting list, but finally it was time for my first class. A little nervous about my left-handedness and general issues with brain-hand coordination (I only mastered catching aged 22), I arrived early and made small talk with the other early birds. The students were all female, thirtyish, dressed in office wear and being nice in a suitably English self-deprecating way.

Before a needle was lifted from the table my new classmates were all competing to persuade the group that they in fact would be the worst knitter, infinitely more hopeless than the girl next to them at learning new things. Due to my persistent habit of telling the truth, I believed them. That was my first mistake.

Within minutes it had descended into the tedious aggressive rubbish which finally made me abandon the gym. Why do people say things like “I’m just here to enjoy myself and meet new people” when that is a barefaced lie? They’re only there to engage in some sick game of one-up-manship with the unfortunate person who made the mistake of sitting next to them.

Miss “I-learnt-as-a-child but-have-forgotten-it-all-now” had practically finished a scarf while I was still fighting with the basics of casting on. Across the table one of them has dropped the facade as she rapidly throws stitches on her needles, in the continental fashion. “Well actually I can already knit,” she announces smugly. I wish I had so much extra money I could afford to take pricy classes in things I can already do.

There’s something genuinely uncomfortable about this scene. It makes me wonder: are we all so painfully insecure that validation must be sought at every waking moment? I’m starting to crave some as I realise I’m in real trouble. The teacher is nice enough to call my work ‘interesting’ when really it looks like it might turn into a woollen map of Britain complete with big holes for the major cities. I can’t help but envy the neat squares the competitive knitters are producing effortlessly while throwing the odd glance at me to check how far behind I really am.

With real venom I imagine what these creatures must be like in the offices they’ve come from. They’re the girl who urges you to leave 10 minutes early promising no one will notice, and then stays an hour late herself making sure she booms at the top of her voice that you’ve gone home and left her in the lurch. The office bitch. And now I’m stuck in a room full of them, all knitting me into the ground.

The following week they’re moving onto more complicated techniques while I carry on trying to master what we did the previous week. Practice during the week turned Britain into France but at least I am a bit more confident in the fundamentals. However, the damage is done. I’m now clearly the remedial student of the group. Judgemental, self-satisfied giggles greet the painfully unfunny humour I have resorted to using to cover how awkward I feel.

The week after that I stoop to new lows and, in a fit of self-loathing, bring the class homemade cookies. I want them to like me, I want them to know I’m better at life than I am at knitting and I want to be able to comfort eat my way through the whole horrible experience. Mouth filled with buttery, sugary pain relief and hands battling with my big tangled knot of misery, I wonder if there’s a way of banning people like this from any activity labelled as fun.

Have we become so obsessed with achievement that even something so simple at learning to knit turns into a way of beating somebody else? Someone actually brought in a finished project they knocked up during the week in between holding down a job, looking great and probably saving the planet all at the same time. Looking at my nemesis across the table I continue trying to knit one, purl one while resisting the temptation to scratch her eyes out.

I took this class in the nostalgic hope that as a nation we longed for a simpler, kinder time where people made things with their own two hands. Instead of a warm glow of sentimentalism, I’ve been left with a nasty case of post modern melancholy. Read more by Rosie.

Is pretty parking too much to ask?


I’m the first to confess I get a bit het up behind the wheel of my car and choose to release this tension by muttering darkly at anyone or thing that dares cross my path. In spite of this vehicular bile, though, I am actually quite a considerate driver.

I’m definitely considerate when it comes to parking my little silver chariot, making sure I leave any cars near mine enough room to manouevre and get out of their parking space rather than causing drivers to sit frustrated and unable to move, waiting to be released from their parking prison.

If the other people who park near my office were as considerate, my weekday mornings would be much less stress-inducing. It drives me to potty-mouthed distraction when I see how badly they park, inconsiderately dumping their cars before walking the two minutes into the office. It grinds my gears to such an extent that it regularly leaves me teetering on the brink of becoming one of those women who leave expletive-soaked notes written in eyeliner on people’s windscreens.

Adding insult to injury, it’s not even primarily the staff members where I work who park like imbeciles; it’s the students who can’t be bothered to walk the mile from the local student ghetto to their lectures and so jettison their shiny new cars and strut off in their ubiquitous Ugg boots and messy hair (male and female) to spend an hour asleep at the back of a lecture theatre.

There are, of course, other spaces to be had, spaces that are just as good as the ones closer, but sadly they lie a half an hour’s walk away from the office and, when it’s raining, freezing and pitch black, the last thing I want to do is schlep through the rain when, actually, if people were more thoughtful there would be room for everyone in the cushty spaces close to the office.

I can’t see an end in sight because every morning I clamber out of my car and imagine a world in which I could get some little business cards printed up that say this: “Look, dickwad, park more prettily so we can fit more cars here.” And I’d slip one under the windscreen wiper of every offending car. I’ve got it all thought out, and would even leave one on my own car so that nobody would go postal and smash my windscreen with a bottle of de-icer, a Mika CD or some other car-based detritus.

Unfortunately I think that would tip me over from Grumpy Young Woman territory into the realm of Neighbourhood Mentalist and so, sadly, my little dickwad business cards will remain a fond product of my imagination. Read more by Alice.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

You can keep your Valentine's Day pity


It was only when displays of red decorative tack appeared in my local supermarket that I even realised that the dreaded day was approaching. I bet you’re thinking: “Poor girl!” Well, hold that thought, because you don’t actually have to feel sorry for me.

The day is a dreaded one, not because I’m a sad and lonely singleton, but because everyone expects me to be one. It’s the anticipation of the sympathetic looks that will inevitably follow my answer to the question “What did you do for Valentine’s Day?”

Is there some sort of legal requirement that says you must be in a relationship at all times, especially on 14th February? If so, the cupid coppers better slap on the handcuffs (as long as they’re not heart-shaped). I’m likely to end up getting additional time.

I suppose I could better understand all the hoo-ha if all of us could literally only express our love on one day in the year, but that isn’t the case. Oh, hang on, maybe someone better versed in relationships should confirm that. Anyone? The question is: what do couples do for the rest of the year? Are they all stony-faced automata who reveal no emotion at all? If so, all I can say is that 15th February must be highly depressing. If not (which I suspect is the case), then what is the big deal? We’re all individuals so I’m not quite sure why many expect everyone to do as they do.

Those who impose their issues and insecurities on me imagine me to be desperately lonely and craving a man because I’m not doing anything special on Valentine’s Day – Bridget Jones has a lot to answer for.

It can’t possibly mean that I’m just fickle and get bored within mere months of being in a relationship – no, I must be desperately hoping for a knight to arrive on a horse. I reckon it’s some sort of conspiracy that involves the Tories and their proposal for tax breaks for married couples. Of course, the rest of us don’t deserve tax breaks because we contribute nothing. But, I’m not bitter, as the discount is far from substantial. Certainly not enough to comfort the likes of Mrs Tiger Woods and Mrs John Terry.

Some of us don’t get the appeal of long-term relationships and others would do well to simply accept that and move on rather than trying to convert people like some unhinged evangelist. Maybe I should start retaliating with my opinion on serial monogamists and then we’ll see who comes out unscathed.

Although, I can’t really be too critical: the chat shows I love so much would be nothing were it not for dysfunctional relationships. “My best friend’s cousin’s mother took my man so I stole her dog.”

And poor divorce lawyers would be twiddling their thumbs.

So, I won’t be doing anything special on Valentine’s Day and feel no compulsion to conform. If I want to get into a relationship, I will. In the meantime, I am perfectly capable of cooking meals for myself and buying my own jewellery and could do without a cheap supermarket card that will end up in the recycling bin. Thanks all the same. Read more by Shermaine.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Little fill up?


Let’s get straight to the point here. I’m in my twenties and I like to drink sherry. I’m thoroughly tired of feeling that this is not acceptable and thus being reduced to secret sherry drinking at home to avoid the cruel mockery of others.

I keep several bottles in the house, ostensibly for cooking, but really it’s because I love tucking into them. Once upon a time a lady’s tipple of choice, the fortified wine has experienced a decrease in the trendy stakes over the last 20 or so years. In fact, probably almost all of my lifetime. So why then do I enjoy glugging it down?

The attraction is probably due to the fact it’s super, amazing and great. Much like wine, which everyone now knows about and supposedly understands, it comes in many varieties depending on your palate from very dry to pudding wine sweetness. Tasty either cold or at room temperature, it’s also relatively inexpensive. I’ll concede that after consuming an entire bottle the flavour could become cloying, but what doesn’t get less tasty when drunk in such massive quantities?

Thankfully I have some friends who understand its beauty and total deliciousness. Even so, to date, we only dare order in public when out for a night of tapas. Two small glasses act as a prelude to several bottles of Rioja and even then we make a noisy point of announcing to the surrounding tables and disinterested waiting staff that we want it for the full ‘Spanish experience’. This is of course a lie; we love the sherry but are still too intimidated by its stigma to drink it openly and proudly.

I relish invitations to an older person’s home for dinner as there I know it will be offered, quite correctly, as an aperitif. For the uninitiated that funny word means a drink before dinner whether it be sherry, a G & T or a pint of Stella depending on preference, occasion, weather and level of general chaviness.

It fills me with immeasurable sadness that instead we feel obliged to quaff cheap and nasty pinot grigio in order to be normal, trendy girls in our twenties. I drink it at times as it’s the easiest thing to say at that awkward moment when someone asks a tittering group of you “what’s everyone drinking?” But really it’s the Topshop of drinks and, much like their clothes, never fits me perfectly.

I’m genuinely perplexed as to why people are so quick to sneer and deride my chosen tipple. Does it bring back previously repressed painful memories of dangerously boozy trifles served at childhood Christmases? Revulsions to certain foods based on school dinner trauma are not uncommon and moderately understandable. However I can’t believe that the masses were pinned down as small children and against their will forcefed a nip of Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

The more broad minded have agreed to taste some, all in the name of science, of course, and many have been surprised by how good it is. So I say, let’s bring it back to bars! Someone ring up the MD of JD Weatherspoons and get the mighty pub chain selling it. Within the year it might just be the latest fad with sherry bars popping up all over London and sherry tasting events becoming standard fodder for corporate entertaining.

Before I get truly carried away with that particular fantasy I must point out countless numbers of people frequent expensive coffee houses only to buy hot chocolate and just as many who 10 years ago would have squealed at the prospect of scoffing raw fish but are now regularly seen in hip sushi restaurants. Fashion goes so much further than clothes; it seems to have an almost autocratic grip on the minutiae of how we live our lives. Isn’t it crazy that we’re all eating stuff we don’t like and missing out on delicacies and delights because someone’s dictated it’s out of style?

If I was having this rant in a pub, I’m sure some platitude-spouting pain in the arse would pop up now, saying: “Well, it’s all a matter of personal taste.” Yes, it is. So please have the common courtesy to accept mine even if you’re too narrow minded to try it yourself.

And what’s more, try silencing your inner small child that shouts ‘EEERRRR DON’T LIKE IT!’ at unknown substances. Embrace the novelty and remember that constantly being outside your comfort zone is an integral part of finding the next big thing, a quintessential pastime of all super cools and über trendies. Read more by Rosie.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Everybody needs good neighbours


Surely one of the payouts of living out in the ridiculously uncool ’burbs is the old fashioned community spirit which everyone who lives in London proper whines so much about missing out on. Well that’s what I hoped when I moved in, full of expectation. Four and half years later those high hopes have hardened to bitter resentment. Contrary to what every sitcom would have us believe, I’m not best friends with my neighbours, we don’t endlessly pop in on each other à la Birds of a Feather or The Good Life. Instead, we all do a truly spiffing job of point blank ignoring each other.

Here I must mention that I had a small amount of building work done not long after I arrived and it did upset people. I apologised, I grovelled and I pleaded they understand how much worse it was on me having the western hemisphere’s worst builders turning up each day to tear my home limb from limb.

Christmas provided the opportunity to leave nicely worded cards, wine and chocolates in porches all in the hope of making amends. In return I got a frosty wall of silence. About then it started to sink in: this was not Desperate Housewives and I had not moved into Wisteria Lane. Instead I lived in a place where people turned their heads as I passed, rather than saying hello.

It wasn’t a total write-off. My opposite neighbours did once invite me over and, on discovering I was not at all religious, never repeated the invite. I was the only guest not from their ‘church’ and not exactly distressed at the prospect of not going back.

However, in the other half of my semi lives a couple I’d guess are no more than five years older than me, making them the front runners. However, my smiling and saying “we should get together” every time they rang the bell to retrieve endless Frisbees hurled into my garden by one of their children didn’t seem to make any inroads, and nor did my overly jolly Christmas cards.

Several years of non-creepy observance taught me one thing: they are incredibly sociable. During the summer months every other Sunday their garden is filled with friends noisily chattering over glasses of wine, while man of the house flame grills meat. Never once did the invite extend over the garden fence.

Of late, parcels and packages delivered while I’m out have been signed for by them. What a perfect opportunity to go over and ingratiate myself. The first reception was less than enthusiastic. When I got the next missed delivery card I resolved to tackle this the only truly English way: small talk, starting with the weather. I wasn’t banking on man of the house passing the package with one hand and slamming the door in my face with the other. How neighbourly of him.

The third time no one was at home when I called round. I then forgot about it until lady of house brought it round on Saturday about 12.30 with a face like rolling thunder. My babbled justification-stroke-grovelling-apology pitifully petered out, somehow ending with “I’m terribly sorry that I’m also still in my pyjamas.” Well, why shouldn’t I be? It’s Saturday after all, and I am in my own home. “I can tell you don’t have children” she spat out before turning on her heel and storming down my driveway.

“As a child I knew my neighbours. If anything had ever happened to incapacitate my parents I was confident going to the nearest responsible adult ie. the person next door.”

Clutching my package, I wondered what the hell had just happened. Is that what this was really about? Have I inadvertently done something offensive to the point of sacrilegious? Or is it my total lack of a dependent small snotty human being that makes me unwelcome there?

I hope that if and when I do have my own children I somehow manage to maintain the ability to converse with other childless adults and avoid the clandestine brainwashing programme clearly going on in maternity wards across the country. I understand that young children are exhausting (said neighbour usually looks shattered), messy (I’m basing this on the toys strewn around their garden) and noisy (we share a wall). But they should not be totally and utterly all-encompassing. A parent should have some sense of themselves as the person they used to be before their bundles of joy arrived.

What’s more, it seems less than clever from a practical point of view. As a child I knew my neighbours. If anything had ever happened to incapacitate my own parents I was confident going to the nearest responsible adult ie. the person next door. I would have thought these two, so totally obsessed with their little darlings, would want to make a similar such provision in case they were both struck down by a freak giant Frisbee or any other such domestic misfortune. Read more by Rosie.