Lisa Markwell: Desperation in the face of a child's death

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As always, it is the details that are the most poignant. A family-sized bag of peanuts on the dashboard, a toy tractor dangling from the rear-view mirror. It adds a layer of recognition among parents to the at-first bewildering, unbearably sad story of the Puttick family: no one sets out for a family jaunt without snacks in the car, or fails to find said car embellished with toys, stickers, Lego bricks and other juvenile ephemera.

But the last, sad journey of the Puttick family was made with a sombre intent, for the parents of little Sam to join him in death. The chatty little boy, so cruelly disabled by a car accident at just 16 months, was now dead from meningitis and one can only imagine the quiet determination with which Kazumi and Neil Puttick drove the 140 miles to Beachy Head, to throw themselves and the body of their beloved son off the cliffhead.

There are, of course, unanswered questions about whether Kazumi's Japanese heritage had anything to do with their decision to commit suicide (Asian culture has been said to be more tolerant of suicide, deeming it a morally responsible action.) Until the contents of the "extremely emotional" letter they left behind are known, we can only speculate as to what led them to their heartbreaking decision in the 48 hours between Sam's death and the discovery of their bodies on Sunday night.

Perhaps the idea of having to live every day in a home designed for a family member no longer there was too painful. Perhaps the help and support of friends who had helped and supported them for the last five years seemed too much to ask.

Sam Puttick certainly could not have hoped for more devoted and attentive parents during his short life – and their devotion in death, while baffling to us, must have made some sense to them. David and Samantha Cameron spoke of "a hole so big words can't describe it" in their lives after their severely disabled son Ivan died in February.

We all know that parenthood is all-consuming and changes everything – not least the marriage it is intended to enhance. (Indeed, when adopting my two children, a social worker warned me that they would "drive a coach and horses through your marriage".)

Sacrifice is a word often used in relation to families; whether it's as mundane as giving up that trip to the cinema, or as profound as moving to another part of the country to best serve your children's educational needs. One suspects from the little we know about the Putticks that they wouldn't have used that word: their friends talk of their joy at finding new ways to entertain and educate Sam, the world of work left behind willingly to better attend to him.

Perhaps on Friday night, when the doctor who gave them Sam's death certificate had left and the couple were alone to contemplate their future, the questions became too loud and too unanswerable. What now? What are we for, if not to be there for Sam?

Caring for a seriously disabled child requires reserves of mental and physical strength, as well as steely determination and courage. In the most positive of ways, Sam had driven a coach and horses through the lives of Kazumi and Neil Puttick, and by dying had left them without, as they saw it, purpose. Because once a couple become parents, their relationship shifts and changes forever. It's not possible to go back to the carefree days of "just the two of us".

It is a thought that weighs heavy on the mind, just now.

Exposed bras? This summer's shocker is all Gwen's fault

I hate to sound like a killjoy, but what is it with exposed bra straps? A sartorial no-no for the rest of the year seems to become a prerequisite for sunny days. This is not a peek of lacy black beneath a sleeveless dress, or a fuchsia band hinted-at under patterned chiffon.

This is all-out visible scaffolding. Indeed, there's an unspoken rule that seems to promote "racer back" (ie scooped out) tops layered over bra and often vest-tops straps or – heaven forfend – two bras (see Amy Winehouse).

I blame Gwen Stefani, singer and fashionista. With her platinum hair and alabaster skin she makes the inelegant edgy. Stefani was championing scarlet bras and white vests back when the rest of the world was buying into those ludicrous transparent plastic straps that just weren't as invisible as billed.

Where Gwen went, Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue et al followed. Now everyone wants the world to know they're trussed and tethered. For wearers, the result of the seemingly unstoppable strap attack is a veritable Clapham Junction of elasticated lines. If the summer's as long and hot as currently being predicted, I can hardly bear to think of the tan marks.

Little glamour in mid-life crises writ large

Love triangles, squares and – in the case of the young Martin Amis – hexagons are becoming boring. Barely a day passes without some (usually middle-aged, usually plain) bloke 'fessing up to having a wife, a mistress and assorted others on the side.

New Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti is this year's Sven-Goran Eriksson (what a legacy). Are these men aware that to the general public, their lifestyle is less glamorous and more, well, exhaustingly complicated. We don't envy them, just pity them their lack of decision-making (isn't this something you would expect of successful businessmen, managers and authors?) Woman A or woman B? Oh shut up and make up your mind.

*Women, meanwhile, are "taking over" the health service. Sorry, run that past me again? The news from the Royal College of Physicians – that by 2013 women will make up the majority of GPs and that, by 2017, hospitals will have more female than male doctors – has been greeted with concern bordering on hysteria.

But that's hardly taking over, just redressing an imbalance, and will be seen by many patients as good news. Foolishly old-fashioned it may be, but many of us prefer to discuss medical matters with a physician of the same sex. I can only speak from personal experience, but give me a doctor who understands that hair loss is the most debilitating result of cancer treatment any day.

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