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This man thought I might like to contribute to the magazine and would drop in a dummy issue. It was obviously a ruse to get into my house and measure our charisma rating

Very worried about the children's charisma this week, following telephone conversation with a man who is starting up a smart parenting magazine. None of the really good children's photographers will work for any of the parenting magazines, he explains, because the children in them aren't "charismatic" enough. He himself is the father of a four- month-old, so of course he has a good few years of charisma ahead of him while the infant will go along with being dressed up in adorable little items from Gap. We dressed our first born in clothes that were three sizes too big for him - big baggy rolled-up trousers and big baggy jumpers with rolled-up sleeves. Sweet. Looking back, of course, we now realise that this was why he didn't walk until he was nearly two years old: his trousers kept tripping him up.

Anyway, this man thought I might like to contribute to the magazine and would drop in a dummy issue. Complete panic - it was obviously a ruse to get in to my house and measure our charisma rating. I looked afresh at my children. Pyjama bottoms topped with grubby T-shirts, drinking chocolate moustaches for the little ones, a real one for the 13-year-old. How have I let standards slip so far? And since when was it OK for five-year-olds to eat whole packets of cough sweets before breakfast? When I confiscated them she said she "100 per cent hated me", which rather cheered me up - I mean five is very young to have grasped complex mathematical concepts. My sense of failure and general pre-Christmas gloom is heightened by pictures in magazines of angelic children in clean white T-shirts making iced biscuit decorations to hang on the tree while their gorgeous mothers, also dressed in white, string dried red chillis on to thin gold wire to festoon from the mantelpiece. I am resolved not to give in to the red chilli aesthetic. I laughed at them two years ago and lusted after them last year, so feel sure that with a little help from my Martha Stewart Living magazines I should be able to come up with something a little more next year, a little more - yes, charismatic. Aubergines tied with gold ribbon? Too heavy. Popcorn sprayed to look like gold nuggets? Possibly. Potatoes? I always loved that fairy-story about a family who were so poor they only had potatoes to hang on the tree. The children were so humble and thrilled that a fairy came along and turned them into diamonds. Feel sure there is a moral here - or at least a decorating idea. Baby new potatoes, soil still clinging to them, dusted with gold leaf? You saw it here first.

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