Sibling harmony is a rare skill

 

Share

I never thought I'd feel sympathy for geeky David Miliband, but I do. Sibling rivalry is a nasty canker that quietly eats away at a relationship. It starts off as a bit of harmless fun; then, before you know it, you're not speaking and it can take decades to repair the damage. My younger sister and I had a horrible relationship, which was finally patched up when our mother was dying.

Pat was clever, attractive, much nicer than me, with loads of friends (I never knew) and people skills (which I completely lack). Yet she thought I was my dad's favourite (he wanted a boy and I would accompany him to football matches) and she decided not to compete at secondary school, failing most of her exams as a protest. She thought I was stuck up, snobby and sneery, and she was right. I was thrilled when we finally moved to a semi in suburbia and I could have my own bedroom. Naturally it was bigger than hers. Things were made worse when our parents argued, as each of them claimed a child. My mother ran off for a week at one stage, taking my sister. Sick of the lot of us, my sister ran off for another week (claiming afterwards she wanted a holiday – but the truth was that she was sick of being compared to me) and stole my savings book.

It's easy for me to understand David Miliband's mindset: why pretend you get on with your brother or sister when they are doing well, have a job you wanted and now you are seen as a failure in comparison? David's solution is radical: not only leaving his chosen career, but quitting the country for somewhere he'll be judged on his own capabilities. Two children can have a close bond, but when both are talented and work in the same profession or family business, it can be disastrous.

The old idea of a close-knit nuclear family with two kids is going out of fashion. New research from the Office for National Statistics shows there's been a huge increase in the number of only-child households, and, based on current trends, they will be in the majority within 10 years. The reasons will be a combination of financial and practical: time-poor professionals and career women who have decided that one is best because that's all they can cope with. Any more could have a detrimental effect on bank balances and job prospects. When Pat was suffering with brain and lung cancer I did everything I could to help, and when she died I deeply regretted all the decades we had fought so bitterly. David and Ed say they are friends. I know that's not the truth. One day, I hope they will be able to resume their relationship again.

Brucie does well

With over 30 years of conducting television interviews, there are few people I genuinely find awesome – and last week it was a real treat to meet Bruce Forsyth. At 85, he's astonishing, sharp as a pin and outrageous fun. He hinted he's thinking of stepping down from Strictly, taking a lesser role in future. What does he have to prove? He's hosted 10 series.

Bruce reminded me that I provided the commentary for a charity tennis match he played in at the Royal Albert Hall at least 25 years ago – his memory is phenomenal. Brucie was the first person I saw on television. When we finally got a set, my family silently gathered around it for Sunday Night at the London Palladium, about the only time we stopped bickering! On The Generation Game, he mastered the polite insult, mocking contestants as they struggled to master simple tasks. A genius! And he is back on the road this summer with shows in Manchester, Birmingham and London.

Chocs away!

Easter at my house is not complete without Lindt chocolate bunnies in their distinctive gold foil. For 12 years, the Swiss firm has fought a bitter copyright battle with a German company, claiming their gold bunnies are illegal. Last week, after spending a fortune, Lindt (which dates from 1840) was forced to admit defeat, as the German rivals claimed their bunnies were at least 50 years old (these chocolate animals live far longer than the real thing) – so there could be two gold bunny families on sale in future.

Easter eggs have become fashion statements, with salted caramel, hideous milky animals and bouquets of sugary icing flowers. Last year I received a "modern" egg that looked exactly like a lump of granite. The humble Easter egg is no longer a sugary treat, but a chance to make a political statement: eggs are ranked for their use of palm oil, whether they carry the Christian message, and if their ingredients are organic and ethically sourced. Please! It's just an egg.

Snow business

In the Yorkshire Dales this weekend, the snow is piled up to depths of 15 feet, and many lanes in remote parts of the Pennines and County Durham are still impassable. So why do people still try to walk through frozen snow in our national parks, without any training and without the right equipment?

Avalanches and ice have seen six people die within a month this year in the Cairngorms and Glencoe, and yet this Sunday hundreds of macho men and woman will be setting out and hoping Mountain Rescue teams will come to their aid if they get into difficulties. In Snowdonia, rescuers recently went to the aid of a woman and her son who were walking at 3,000 feet in unsuitable clothes without crampons and ice axes in a blizzard. They ended up trapped on an ice shelf above a 1,000ft drop.

Bitterly cold temperatures, high winds and snow means conditions will be treacherous, with avalanche warnings out and park wardens saying they want people to explore the lower slopes. I slipped and broken my ankle in a downpour walking in Glencoe a few years ago. I crawled back down the mountain, forded a river and drove myself to Fort William to get it set – painful but not a burden on others. Trekkers are charged if they are rescued in the Himalayas; that should happen here.

Blumen cheek

The gorgeous Waitrose television advert for Easter lamb features a cute ginger-haired boyhood version of Heston Blumenthal "discovering" a taste sensation on holiday – roasted Provençal-style with garlic, rosemary and studded with slivers of anchovies.

Anchovies are presented as something daring and different, but meat and fish have been cooked together in Britain since medieval times, long before Heston invented "molecular gastronomy". The ad has been so successful that sales of tinned anchovies have rocketed 400 per cent in a week. I can remember cooking unctuous roast lamb stuffed with crabmeat at least 20 years ago, stewed rabbit with apricots and shellfish is delicious, and oysters are great in a steak pie.

Heston is a great chef. I wish he wouldn't claim to have discovered something that has been around for ages.

React Now

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

HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...

Assistant Marketing & PR Manager

£16 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Systems Developer Technical Lead

£65000 - £70000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Day In a Page

A selection of 'Pro-Choice' badges are displayed on the coat of a demonstrator during a march from the Garden of Remembrance to the Dail (Irish Parliament) in Dublin, Ireland  

Ireland's refusal to provide a safe abortion to a suicidal rape victim is a national shame

Peadar O‘Grady
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment