The Joys Of Modern Life: 40. The Anywayup Cup

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PARENTS GET used to violence - both the casual, spontaneous kind and the nastier, premeditated strain. You learn either to anticipate and take evasive action or simply to take the pain. The worst kind of assault, however, entails no pain. Yet it is as pernicious a form of parent-baiting as you can imagine, a manoeuvre that is executed quietly in the dead of night while you sleep, and is cloaked with kindness - the sort of benevolence you would instinctively show to any worm or beetle. What happens is this.

You are in oblivion. The night is deep. The plumbing mute. The car is being silently robbed outside. Somehow you become aware that two gimlet fingers have been inserted into your nostrils, driving your head back into the pillow and causing your mouth to gape. A cold imperative whisper follows: "Daddy, drink!" And panic engulfs the sleeping senses as you struggle to the surface of night's black water only to be met by a tide of Tesco's orange juice coming in the opposite direction. Ears, eyes, nose and mouth fill up, the bed turns into a bog and small child casts himself on to the floor howling.

Ah-ha. Not anymore. For we have discovered the Anywayup Cup. This is a marvellous thing. It is a grail: a yellow plastic beaker with a lid that, no matter how hard you try to upset it, will not let its contents go without a good hard suck on the softly contoured, gum-friendly, spouting protuberance on top.

How does it work? Simply. First, and most important, the lid is designed not to come off without gelignite. Second, there is a sliver of slitted plastic set into the throat of the spout which functions as a valve. It's primitive but it works. The valve gets silted up every three months or so with bits of orange and other non-specific oral gunk, and then you have to buy a new one. But it's worth the expense.

There appear to be two sorts of Anywayup Cup. One is small and has two symmetrical handles, which is ideal for weeny ones. It's not so good for parents, though, because even Semtex won't get the lid off. Less humiliating for grown-ups is the larger size cup, which goes without handles and holds at least half a pint. You need only spend a few minutes each morning whacking the edge of the lid against a door handle to get into it. And because it's made of a softish, textured plastic, the spout can be jabbed in your eye all day and you'll only suffer moderate bruising.

Keep one primed by your bedside, a weapon in waiting for any nocturnal assailant. Also, when the time comes in the small hours for your pre-hangover headache to kick in, there it will be. You can reach out, grab, tip, suck and sigh without shifting an inch. And if that isn't an unqualifiable joy, I don't know what is.