Rebecca Tyrrel: 'Gina Ford hasn't so much as a parking ticket to her name'

 

Share
Related Topics

Who knew that Benjamin Spock, the first and perhaps greatest of the child-rearing gurus, won a gold medal for rowing at the Paris Olympics of 1924?

Dr Spock, whom quiz show contestants too often confuse with Star Trek's Mr Spock, despite his lack of pointy ears, green blood and the habit of saying "That's illogical, captain" to William Shatner, was quite the renaissance man of colic and weaning. Apart from that Olympic success as part of the American eight-man crew, and inventing an entire genre of parental advice, Spock was a distinguished political figure on America's liberal left. A fervent opponent of the Vietnam war, he was frequently arrested at anti-war rallies, and in 1968 was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiracy to abet resistance to the draft, though he never served a day and was later acquitted on appeal. Gina Ford, so far as we know, hasn't so much as a parking ticket to her name.

A friend and ally of Martin Luther King, Spock was a civil rights activist and anti-nuclear campaigner. He even ran for President for the People's Party, fighting for the legalisation of abortion, homosexuality and marijuana, narrowly failing to remove Nixon from the White House with an impressive 0.1 per cent of the national vote.

Yet it is as the only childcare expert ever to win Olympic gold that the man described as "a lanky pediatric Santa Claus" must be remembered this summer. Gina Ford's medal cabinet, it is worth recall, is entirely bare.

Spock is not the only doctor, however, to double as a famous rower. Hugh Laurie, Dr Gregory House in the TV medical drama House, rowed in Cambridge's losing Boat Race crew in 1980, and might have gone on to become an Olympian but for being forced to retire by glandular fever (or mononucleosis as House would have it). Hugh's father, Dr Ran Laurie, did emulate Spock by winning a rowing gold at the last London games of 1948 in the coxless pairs.

Dr Spock loved the water and lived mostly on boats until close to his death, when his own doctor instructed him to come permanently ashore. At 84, he rowed his dingy four miles in a race. He came third. It took him two and half hours. He died in 1998 at the age of 94, but the flame of his kindly, laid-back, follow-your-instincts counsel to generations of neurotic parents will, like the Olympic torch itself, never be extinguished.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia  

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Oliver Poole
Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup