Sophie Morris: Children and alcohol: tough rules required

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The Independent Online

You're right: this chill January morning isn't the most sensitively chosen of dates to start banging on about booze. But at least it's a topic those of you who enjoyed seven tipples too many last night will feel a certain kinship with, albeit one of complete revulsion if you haven't had a cup of coffee yet (if you're thinking of giving up caffeine as part of a New Year's health kick, may I recommend waiting until tomorrow? Ditto carbs).

Still, a morning when half the country is nursing sore heads, fluffy mouths and somersaulting stomachs is as apt a moment as any to give our drinking culture some serious consideration. Two stories involving children and alcohol have come together this week, which show that drinking, even within the sanctity of your own home, is a not always a wholly private matter and merits a degree of public scrutiny.

The first is that of Mark and Kerry Tyler, arrested in September after a seven-hour drinking binge while looking after their baby, Callum, then four months old. The second is the announcement that the Government is working on a new set of recommendations for parents about letting their children try alcohol at home.

The latter has been met with cries of "nanny state" by opposition MPs. Surely they, if anyone, should be reading the small print? The plan is simply to issue recommendations to parents about the amount of alcohol it is physically safe for youngsters to drink, and given it is legal for children to try alcohol at home from the age of five, this is no bad thing. There are still parents out there who believe that bottles beat breast milk and packets of crisps is breakfast; a few hints on how much peach schnapps a 14-year-old can drink before passing out is not the same as being forced to fit CCTV in your drinks cabinet.

A further worry, raised by parents, is that of Sod's Law – would putting government limits on the amount children and teenagers are allowed to drink at home encourage them to rebel and drink even more than the recommended amount, just for the sake of breaking a rule? This questions who young people are more likely to listen to, and trust, when it comes to advice and guidance. Their parents, or the state? I'd go for the former, at times, and neither, most of the time.

And what are the parents worried about, exactly? That someone will burst in and arrest them just as they're breaking it to Jack that he can't have a third can of Special Brew with his spaghetti hoops because Gordon says so? Plans to take parents to court for letting their children drink too much at home have already been abandoned. If you don't like the guidelines, and are happy to let your child binge drink at home and not just in the Spar car park, you won't be guilty of any crime. Except, perhaps, of raising another generation of alcoholics like Mark and Kerry Tyler. The Tylers had planned to enjoy a drink or two on the day that they were detained when "looking after" their young son while on a lengthy drinking session. But for alcoholics there is no such thing as "just the one", which is why they ended up with a 24-month community order, narrowly escaping a jail sentence.

Guidelines are intended to point people in the right direction, but so often miss their mark because they are lost amid other conflicting advice. Fifty per cent of 15-year-old girls have admitted to being drunk over the past month. Perhaps we should be considering something much stricter. Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, needs any pointers when he's drawing up his plan, I can help out with some first-hand experience on the how-much-peach-schnapps-is-too-much conundrum.

Message to Special K: happiness rarely comes in a size six

The news that 14 is the happiest size for a woman to be has been reported as if it were the second coming. Like: stop the whining all you size-14 fatties, our survey says that at least half of you are happy with your career, a third have a great love life and – wait for it – a quarter of you even like your appearance.

This quarter must include Nigella Lawson and her beautiful curvy figure. If you're one of the other three-quarters of size-14 women who doesn't like your appearance, there's a little succour on offer in the knowledge your size-six friend is probably even less happy in her skin than you are. After all, 48 per cent of all women quizzed said they were not happy with their weight.

The startling thing about this survey is that it comes from the same people who have been bombarding us with images of toned beauties in red bikinis for years. No, not the Baywatch producers. It's those folk from Special K, who are still on their crusade to help women "drop a jeans size" by skipping two meals a day and replacing them with lighter-than-air cereal flakes, which need a good soaking in full fat milk, by the way, if you want to have any hope of finishing a full serving. "It's great that curvier women are happier," said a Special K spokeswoman (presumably through gritted teeth), "but we know that many women still find it hard maintaining their ideal shape."

No wonder, attempting to fill up on bowls of sugary cereal is enough to have anyone reaching for a bacon sarnie come 11am.

Trig, Track, and baby Tripp

Did Sarah Palin help her daughter Bristol name her new baby son Tripp so that it would co-ordinate with her own sons – Trig and Track?

While everyone else is tittering over the daftness of the name, I'm aghast at the amount of money the homedown Palin clan pulled in for the first pictures of the baby. The US celebrity rag People eventually shelled out $300,000 (£208,000) for snaps of the newborn following a fierce bidding war with other weekly gossip magazines.

I know there was a lot of fuss over the Brangelina offspring, but at least those two can name more countries in Africa than just "Africa". And there's no sign of the Palins donating their booty to charity as the Pitt-Jolies did.

Finally, a radio star we can be proud of

Does Jenny Abramsky's DBE mean that all has been forgiven over at BBC Radio, or is it a stern reminder that the broadcaster was in fine shape until her departure from the post of head of radio earlier this year?

Since then, Sachsgate has broken amid other, smaller, scandals, and Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas has stepped down as a result. Would it have happened on Abramsky's watch?