As the stars line up to thank their mums at the Oscars, spare a thought for the childless woman

Whatever the reason, breeding is gradually losing its popularity

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The Independent Online

At the Academy Awards on Sunday, some very special guests will proudly walk the red carpet holding hands with their talented children. Increasingly, famous men choose mum, not a partner, as their plus one at high-profile events. Leonardo DiCaprio paid a lengthy tribute to his mother when he won the Best Actor award for The Revenant at the Baftas this year, with Irmelin Indenbirken at his side in a fabulous gold dress. 

The male cult of mum has soared in recent years: Colin Farrell, Justin Timberlake, Tom Hiddleston and Matthew McConaughey are among the huge number of actors and singers picking a parent as their celebrity date. Even male politicians of a certain age feel the need to trot out mum as the barometer of all wisdom. Interestingly, Maggie Thatcher never did; she cited her father, a Grantham shopkeeper, as her inspiration. Maggie once told an interviewer about her mother: “I loved her dearly, but after I was 15 we had nothing more to say to each other.”

At least she was honest. Why do men idolise their mothers in a way many successful women do not? Cameron's mum might have spoken out against the cuts in his constituency, but when cornered in a fight in the Commons last week, the Prime Minister didn't think twice about using her as a weapon to attack Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, claiming she would tell him to “put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem”. 

In retaliation, the Corbyn replied: “My mother would have said, 'Stand up for the principle of a health service free at the point of use for everyone.'” Not exactly catchy. But isn't this use of your mother a sign that both men have lost this particular battle? 

Next weekend, Mother's Day will have the cult of mum reach its annual peak, in a frenzy of sentimental cards and overpriced flowers. There was nothing wrong with the original notion of celebrating motherhood and the family a century ago, with a meal together or a simple gift, but now I find the crass commercialisation slightly repellent. 

In an era of gay marriage, why celebrate mums? Why not honour anyone who looks after children and chooses to shoulder that responsibility, whether they are a birth mother or even possess a womb? 

For the millions of women who can't have children – for medical reasons, or because they left it too late – Mother's Day will be extremely tough. Jody Day has written a book, Living the Life Unexpected, about the pain of not being able to have children, and support groups have sprung up around the country where women in her situation can meet and share their experiences and sense of loss. 

When I grew up, mums put pressure on their daughters to reproduce, but many of my generation chose not to, or opted to have one child. Maybe it was selfish. Whatever the reason, breeding is gradually losing its popularity. One in four women in their forties does not have children – the highest number ever. Many will have chosen their careers over childbirth, but choosing not to be a mother remains the biggest stigma of all. Women have sexual freedom and equality at work, but choosing not to pop out a sprog is still deemed weird.

An Englishman's home is his tiny doll's house 

Architects say we are building homes that are a whole room smaller than a generation ago, and it's bad for our health. I've filmed in new estates so small that nobody can steer the family car in the dinky garage and it's been turned into another bedroom or an office. Show homes are displayed with specially chosen scaled-down furniture, giving a false illusion of space. Normal beds, desks and chairs will hardly fit. 

According to the RIBA, new affordable housing is 10 per cent smaller than existing flats. Although the Government introduced guidelines for minimum sizes for new homes last October, it's up to local authorities to implement them. Small housing doesn't just mean a lack of privacy, no storage and small communal spaces: it feels cramped because we are larger than ever, not just overweight but taller too.

I've been looking at new flats for sale and, although second and third bedrooms are tiny, each one has its own bathroom, because these homes will rarely be sold to a family. The vast majority will be purchased and then rented out for multiple occupancy. A three-bedroom flat will probably have four toilets. Has the world gone mad?

These magical trolls put their internet versions to shame

How could I resist an event entitled Drastic Pants? Norwegian performance artist and sculptor Tori Wranes has exhibited her work in Australia and the US, and now her brand of eccentric genius has arrived in London. 

The Carl Freedman Gallery in Shoreditch is showing her sculptures: rubber and fabric figures which seem to be bursting through the wall, or maybe trying to escape. 

According to Wranes, the exhibition is about “two legs which walk in different directions”, and is inspired by Nordic folklore and trolls, mysterious creatures who live in isolation in remote parts of the countryside who can be benevolent or evil. 

I loved the Norwegian fantasy horror film Trollhunter a couple of years ago, which is now being remade in the US, though somehow I don't think the new version will be nearly as subtle. 

Trolls really don't deserve the nasty reputation they've acquired through internet and Twitter abusers. Wranes gave an electrifying performance to a packed crowd last week, entering through a darkened smoky room, clad in prosthetics which gave her the appearance of an ageing misshapen creature, singing in a mysterious language to a bank of microphones disguised as a branch. Half human, half troll; Lady Gaga with a twist. 

I know it probably sounds horribly pretentious, but take my word for it: this woman is magical.

Licence to turn Britain into nothing but chains

With the relaxation of the licensing laws, it's possible to get a drink all day and well into the night. Now, coffee shops and sandwich bars, such as Starbucks, seeking to expand and attract customers to eat meals and drink in the evenings, are applying for licences to sell booze, which will probably mean that more pubs will close. 

Given the time people spend travelling to and from work, this makes sense in and around big stations in major cities. Workers could eat an early supper with a glass of wine before catching a slightly later (and less crowded) train home. On the other hand, I'd like to see some British companies that are based in the UK and pay all their taxes get the benefit of any extra liquor licences. The domination of these big chains is making our high streets lose their character. 

The fantastic refurbishment of King's Cross and St Pancras has created stations that are destinations in their own right. It's a shame the high rents mean that only chains get a foothold.