Bringing up children is not easy these days, and one pair who have documented their domestic dramas and difficulties more publicly and frequently than most are Times restaurant critic and columnist Giles Coren and his wife and fellow journalist Esther Walker.
Take this, from a Coren column last September: "For the past three years [I] have worked Tuesday to Friday, mornings only. The rest was childcare." Walker, too, has written variously of the stress of "wishing my unborn baby wasn't a beastly boy" and how "babies might be lovely but they are oh so boring".
And, by book and by blog, Walker has also charted her journey from "Bad Cook" to the point where "cooking started being deadly serious. There was suddenly a toddler and husband to feed". Then, last week, in another Times article on motherhood, it appeared that Walker had finally cracked it. "Please don't think I am asking for help with my life or asking for anything about it to change," she declared adamantly.
So it came as something of a surprise to come across the following advert, the day after that article appeared, in a newsletter for the Tufnell Park Parents Support Group: "AFTERNOON HELP wanted, Monday to Friday. Duties include entertaining my son, cooking simple kids' teas, helping to clear up at the end of the day and generally being an extra pair of hands! Please contact Esther Coren on …."
On the cards
Much joy was spread last week at the expense of Guangbiao Chen, the Chinese tycoon who recently tried and failed to buy The New York Times, and whose business card has been labelled "the most ridiculous ever". Among the titles Chen's card lists are "Most Well-known and Beloved Chinese Role Model", "Most Charismatic Philanthropist of China" and "Foremost Environmental Preservation Demolition Expert". But Chen is not alone in trumping up his achievements for work purposes. Here are five real-life job titles as seen on CVs sent to the recruiting consultancy Coburb Banks.
1 Retail Jedi
2 Wizard of Light-Bulb Moments
3 Grand Master of Underlings
4 New Media Guru
5 Marketing Rockstar.
Gwyn and bear it
The advice for surviving January to be found on Gwyneth Paltrow's website Goop makes Pippa Middleton's party planning tips look positively insightful. "Wear warm clothing", and "If you have a fireplace, use it", to give you just a glimpse of the words of wisdom on offer.
Better still is the January detox diet, described as "warming, filling and doesn't feel like a sacrifice". "Here's what we're avoiding," Paltrow declares, before listing "dairy, gluten, shellfish, anything processed, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, condiments, sugar, alcohol, caffeine and soda". So what can we eat? Day One's menu reads: "7am: Glass of room temperature lemon water. 8am: Herbal tea. 10am (breakfast): Chai Gingerbread Shake [essentially another herbal tea]. 11am: Mug of hot lemon water. 1.30pm (lunch): Chickpea Soup [one cup dry chickpeas and six cups of water]. 4pm (snack): Walnut Lentil Pate. 6pm (dinner): Quinoa Stuffed Kabocha [a squash]." Yum and, as Paltrow points out, "no sacrifice at all".
How addicted are you?
It is difficult to escape the growing trend for the online survey/quiz. Who among us can truly say they haven't been tempted to click on the occasional link titled "How Middle-Class Are You?" or "How Much Does the Daily Mail Hate You?" But should you be worried that you might be a little too keen to click on these time-wasting teasers, might I draw your attention to Psych Central, "the internet's largest and oldest independent mental health social network". There you will find the "Are You Addicted to the Internet Quiz". Which is surely the equivalent of holding an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a pub.
Hero of the week
Big Brother, you are an evil genius. You may well have been exiled to the Siberia that is Channel 5, but last week you returned to something of your former glory. Because now that the posh papers and the box-set brigade have turned their attention elsewhere, this year's Celebrity Big Brother is turning into something of a classic. First, the idea to handcuff housemates together threw up some memorable scenarios. Because while it's difficult to think of a punishment to fit Liz Jones's columnistic crimes, being chained to Dappy for a few days will do for now. Elsewhere, there was a love triangle to match Jules et Jim, the visual feast of Lionel Blair's 50 shades of beige wardrobe, and the expectations-confounding realisation that the series's "successful businesswoman" was actually something of a bimbo, while its "glamour model" most certainly was not. Drama provided, entertainment endless, and stereotypes smashed. What more do you want from a television programme?
Do not open until 2063
Last Thursday, to mark the end of the 150th anniversary of the London Underground, a time capsule was sealed in the forecourt of Tottenham Court Road station, to be opened on 9 January 2063. In it was a "Baby on Board" badge, an Oyster card, and so on. Were there any items that the people wanted to put in but couldn't? "Yes," says Rachel Craddock, the capsule's curator, "digital technology used on the Tube such as iPads and iPhones, because they won't switch on after being in a box for 50 years". Fair point, the battery on mine dies after a few hours.
For no rhyme or reason
Another in an occasional series of limericks based on recent events:
Oh, the havoc that this weather wreaks!
All the floods and the storms and the leaks
But though winds they do lash
We can lead with a splash
And thank heaven for headlines for weeks
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