Raising life

At last, as our child plays, I take a moment to read the paper and catch up with what's going on beyond Teletubbyland. Film reviews. Oh dear. Skip those pages for a while yet. I lost the plot in 1996 about half way through Independence Day when the mass bombing of aliens became too terrifying for our baby protesting from the womb about the noise. How about the theatre page then? Mmm. Similar problem. Curtain rises just around bath time.

Never mind, there's always the TV page. Page? Actually a few lines would suffice - a couple first thing in the morning, outlining Children's BBC between waking and finishing shaving. Then a few more covering that brief evening period between silence descending on the home and Trevor McDonald packing me off to bed. I don't need to bother with all that interesting stuff after 11pm, like Film 98. So I'm stuck with a bland diet of soaps, docusoaps and documentaries. Must get a video recorder.

Crash. The impenetrable gaze of Saddam Hussein staring out of the paper is crumpled by grinning child bearing plastic brick. She's just realised that my attention has turned elsewhere. Sorreee! So we sprawl on the carpet, me pretending to be a co-brickie, while furtively spreading the paper across the floor. But she's not falling for that one. A large photo of Janet Street-Porter is quickly obscured by a nappied bottom. "Look, teeth," I say patiently to child as I lift her off and point at the picture. And she smiles, finger feeling for the few teeth she herself has acquired.

Of course, I've been breaking the cardinal rule of baby-caring. You can't drift off and do something on your own. They must come everywhere with you. Yes, even there.

I realise my mistake. We should be reading the paper together. We're in luck. Never mind the front page splash announcing that World War III might be averted, page two has a photograph of two babies at a massage class. We're both hooked. But it's a long haul before anything else proves interesting. Then, at last, we reach the ball pages. A shriek greets a little red ball, swept by Mark Ramprakash past a wicket keeper. There's a tiny white one in a shot of Greg Rusedski, but there is a really large one underneath Jeremy Guscott's arm. It's wonderful. Total excitement at pages and pages of balls.

But the dailies don't rate against the weekend papers in which animals cover the travel pages. And we pore over the horse pages with wild delight. Amid today's fierce newspaper war to attract young readers, I've discovered the winning formula. We're switching to the Racing Post.

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