Matters of the flesh

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Indy Lifestyle Online
What to do with the cuddly toys? The girls undertook a census of them last week and discovered they had 73. Unfortunately they have given them all names, dates of birth and occupations so the conventional method of keeping numbers down - a midnight cull - is no longer possible. What was once an anonymous, lime-green mutant rabbit languishing at the bottom of the dirty clothes basket is now a shop assistant called Sally whose birthday must be celebrated tomorrow. Plan B was to persuade the children to take some to Kensington Palace as a tribute to Diana, something several hundred other parents have obviously thought of before me - but I could not live with the thought that some poor East European tourist might be sent to prison for three years for succumbing to the plastic, one-eyed gaze of a win-a-prize-every-time teddy bear. On the other hand, maybe it's not such a bad idea to make adult possession of cuddly toys a criminal offence, particularly when combined with broderie anglaise heart-shaped cushions on the bed.

All those smug people who claim to only ever eat fish and white meat and regard your occasional longings for a juicy fillet steak as tantamount to feasting with the devil (or at least terribly unfashionable) will be murmuring "I told you so" over their grilled radiccio at the news of links between red meat and cancer.(Funny isn't it, though, how butchers always look so hale and ruddy while people who work in health shops are invariably pale and emaciated?) A rather more cheering piece of research emerged at the same time - apparently nearly half of all adult vegetarians are secret carnivores. What a cheek - you go to all that trouble of finding something tantalisingly meatless out of the River Cafe Cookbook to pander to your guests' purist tastebuds and then you discover they go straight home and pig out on illicit hunks of flesh.

Good to see in the new women's magazine Frank that being hugely pregnant is fashionable again. Together with the news that having a baby over the age of 40 might increase my chances of becoming a lonely, wizened centenarian, the thought of lolling seductively around in fields, belly button protruding through a skimpy uterus-hugging Dolce e Gabbana is almost enough to make me try for number five. And this time, of course, I wouldn't insist on my husband being present at the birth (I will never forget the humiliation of him asking for a doggy bag as the placenta slipped out) as caring, sharing labour is now deeply uncool - "what, he moistened your lips with ice, oh God, how awfully `Eighties". My own primeval instincts favoured giving birth behind a bush in Battersea Park, but I think women will lose out if men are banished to the waiting room: who else will tell all your friends how wonderful you were?

My book club meeting was a livelier affair than usual this month. It was the annual husbands' event, though inexplicably only four out of 12 turned up: we had given them Blake Morrison's When Did You Last See Your Father? to read, mistakenly thinking it would give them the opportunity to emote about their own filial relationships. To be fair, though, we women neglected our topic, The Persian Pickle Club, in favour of discussing testicles and the news that large ones denote promiscuous, unfaithful bastards. Possibly feeling rather ringfenced, the men adopted studiously neutral expressions and careful reactions, like "Gosh, isn't that interesting?" All the wives, naturally, claimed not to be in a position to be able to compare sizes (this is East Sheen, after all). In fact only I was confident enough to defend my absent husband's magnificent undercarriage: always one to buck the trend he is, I'm sure, completely monogamous. (And if you have any evidence to the contrary, all letters will be received in strictest confidence.) In any case, what sort of man would allow his testicles to be taken between calipers, even in the interest of scientific research? The whole thing is obviously complete bollocks.