Mum, do gays have sex? No, was my frank and open reply

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Indy Lifestyle Online
"Do gay people have sex?" asked my 10-year-old the other day. "Umm," I prevaricated, trying to give myself time to think of something suitably open, frank and responsive in reply - and then suddenly, in a flash of inspiration, the answer came to me. "No," I said. Easy. I know I should feel ashamed of myself - I acted like an unreconstructed ostrich instead of the well-balanced, open-channelled, Miriam Stoppard-style parent I am supposed to be. But I'm afraid that at the time it felt right. He went back to his Pro-Match football cards and I went back to the newspaper (must have been The Daily Telegraph, there can be no other explanation for my behaviour), sure in the knowledge that he would pick up the technical details in the playground, and have a good snigger with his friends instead of having to keep a straight face while I told him about penises and anuses in the manner recommended by Miriam Stoppard in her new book, Questions Children Ask. A quick straw poll of friends left me in the minority; even my devout Roman Catholic friend (is there such a thing as a devout Anglican?) said she would have replied: "Yes, up the bum, but it's not a lifestyle I would recommend," an answer which is direct and child-friendly but adheres rather too rigidly to the spirit of Clause 28 to appeal to the libertarian parent. Anyway, to cut a long story short, my son now knows the truth and I feel a lot better, though, judging by the expression on his face, I'm not sure he does. Stoppard isn't quite so good on the more existential questions, by the way: I couldn't find an answer anywhere to "Why is sugar called sugar?"

Tony Blair obviously doesn't need Miriam Stoppard to tell him how to talk to his sprogs. I can't remember Margaret Thatcher ever bringing her children into global politics, like he did last week at the Earth Summit, but then Carol and Mark were too old to have been turned into eco-prigs by the national curriculum. Of course it's wonderful that the children who are inheriting the earth we have messed up are clued up on ecology, but it's hell for parents whose children are doing the recycling topic this term. They sneak around the house waiting for you to commit some dastardly eco-crime, like dropping ring pulls - "a badger could choke on that" - checking out wastepaper baskets for illegal drop-ins, and weighing the contents of your dustbins. Thank goodness my eight-year-old has moved on to the Egyptians this half-term - it'll be nice for her to see some mummies that are even older than hers.

Evidently the Prime Minister is hoping that Euan and his siblings will have such a cool time pushing buttons inside the Millennium Dome that they won't ask any awkward questions about it not being able to go to the bottle bank when they've finished with it. The Government is treating anyone who casts doubts on the wisdom of this ghastly-sounding millennium "experience" like grumbling old killjoys, party poopers on a national scale. The nation wants to celebrate, says Mandelson - an extraordinary presumption on his part. He could be safe to say that the nation wants a decent health service, that the nation wants school buildings that don't leak, but some of us - puritanical though we may be - actually feel a little uncomfortable with the idea of partying when there are still people sleeping on the streets and single parents bringing up children on pounds 60 a week.

I hate to be the one to say this because I still get a warm glow every time I think of election night, but doesn't this Millennium Dome also smack of "jobs for the boys"? I bet Gordon Brown - the sexy old skinflint - doesn't approve. Blair could easily have pulled the plug on this Conservative scheme, but Richard Rogers has a cosy relationship with Care Blair: they were celebrating together, and well Rogers might at 3 per cent of the contract cost - that night at the Royal Festival Hall. Something about feeding the monstrous egos of architects on public money makes me feel distinctly uncomfortable. Of course we should be commissioning modern architecture - some new schools would be nice - but monumental stuff has an unfortunate history. Adolf Hitler liked it too.

I'm having my own deeply unfashionable celebration this week - my 20th wedding anniversary. "Fancy remembering the date you got married - I can't remember any of mine," is typical of the response I get from people who regard 20 years in wedlock as being as incomprehensible as having a crush on Val Doonican. Getting married is quite a Nineties thing to do - staying married is not. But what about Gordon, eh? Rumours that he might announce his nuptials this year should put the fuss over Colin Firth's wedding into proportion. After all, Firth was only acting Darcy - Gordon Brown is the real thing.

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