Kylie and Donna go babysitting

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I've always thought the vicarious reading of tabloids through second-hand reporting of them in the broadsheets a very good idea: that way you retain your intellectual credibility while not missing out on any of the week's juicy stories. Unfortunately my upbringing prevents me from doing your dirty work for you (my mother used to switch the television to BBC even when it was turned off, ITV being considered the television equivalent of a tabloid), but instead I can offer you The Daily Telegraph by proxy. With reckless disregard for my own blood pressure, I bring to you readers coddled in the lukewarm waters of liberal journalism a few of the more choice right-wing gobbets. "This is a Budget for Sharon and Tracey," wheezed the Telegraph last week. "They will now be paid to look after one another's babies, while Darren and Kevin, the putative fathers, are up in the loft pretending to do up granny's insulation. If they stumble on an old silver teapot, they may regard it as a windfall. Gordon Brown has set them an example." Which all goes to show how completely out of touch the Telegraph is - everyone knows that Nineties' single parents are called Kylie and Donna.

Induction day for my youngest child, who starts school in September, was a depressing experience. Having quickly scanned the list of children in her class against a Telegraph-approved selection - "ah, lots of Alices and Amys, that's all right now" - I surveyed the parents, only to find they were all at least 15 years younger than me: some of the fathers were barely out of short trousers. This is the trouble with having too many children too late. My sister, who sometimes works as a dinner lady at her youngest child's school, said that the other day one of the children came up to her and said "you're not like a mummy at all - you're more like a granny". Having failed to construe this as a tribute to her warmth and kindness, my sister then ate her up.

Sadly I missed Gordon's performance in Parliament (but never mind, the BBC is bound to offer repeats when Gordomania really kicks in - would a Radio Times cover be too much to hope for?), but caught his political broadcast later that night. Someone who evidently has no understanding of the dour appeal of the man has instructed him to smile - a manoeuvre that is obviously as painful for him to achieve as it is for us to watch. He uses a method which can only have been perfected by weeks of gruelling training in front of the mirror - lifting both corners of the mouth upwards and holding it for the duration of one word, usually at the end of a sentence. Like performing bears, it's a cruel and undignified practice that should be banned. Blair smiles quite enough for both of them - Gordon was put on this earth to glower.

The death of Robert Mitchum last week reminded me that I have always had interesting taste in men. As a child, my heart was divided between Mitchum's cleft chin and Cliff Michelmore's double chin. So I should not be surprised that one of my daughters harboured a secret passion (not so secret any more, I suppose) for Ian Lavender in Dad's Army. But her first stirrings of passion at the age of seven were for a teacher at school. "I don't know why," she confided one day, "but when he is on playground duty, my brain just tells me to fall over." Because she was so genuinely puzzled by her own irrational behaviour, I suggested that it might perhaps be because she hoped he would rush over to carry her into the sickroom and tend to her wounded knee? "Yes, that's it!" she cried, amazed at my perspicacity and obviously relieved that she was not suffering from mad calf disease. I only recognised the symptoms because several of the school gate mothers shared them - only in their case it was more like sad cow disease. Developing illogical crushes on figures of authority is, of course, something I grew out of a long time ago.

This new climate of apologising could be dangerous. Ever since Blair said sorry for the potato famine, and Clinton for slavery, everybody seems hell-bent on doing dreadful things, like biting people's ears off, just so that they can issue a fashionable apology. I can think of no other explanation for my imagining the local vicar would be amused by my murmuring "the body of Christ" when I proffered him a Pringle at a party recently. Thank goodness he is more forgiving than the Ayatollah; instead of excommunicating me he felt obliged to apologise himself for not being religious enough to take offence. I may have to convert to Catholicism - they do a very attractive line in penitence.

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