Discord and favouritism…

Baby photo album

There are many things that get the thumbs up from me when it comes to growing up as the eldest child in a fairly large family.  As the first of three boys, I was lucky enough to always get clothes from a shop rather than a sibling, be the first one to try out all sorts of new experiences, and embrace pretty much every rite of passage before my brothers.  There were some down sides, too, though: I’m not sure I’ve ever quite understood quite why my mum felt the need to keep my umbilical cord in a childhood photo album, for example.  It was only thrown away about three years ago, and I was lucky enough to witness this ceremonial disposing of what looked like a piece of small gristle nestled in between pictures of me as a baby in my cot.  My mum apart, I don’t think any of us mourned the loss of that particular part of my anatomy from the family archives, and nor do I feel its continued presence up to that time will go down as a particular highlight for me when it comes to the benefits of being the first born.

Having said that, I suppose it’s quite nice that my mum kept such a comprehensive record of my first few months.  I’m not sure my brothers can look back on such a detailed account of their early years.  In fact, by the time the youngest one came along, he was lucky to have any photos taken of him before the age of about five, let alone enjoy a chunk of his cord being kept in perpetuity for all to see.  Me and the middle one have often tried to convince the youngest – known to us all as ‘the runt of the litter’ – that this lack of attention stems from the fact that my parents love him much less than they do us.  “You do know you were genuinely meant to be a girl, don’t you?” remains a favourite taunt to this day (only ever in jest, you realise).  And now, I’ve personally discovered how difficult it must be to give all your children the same level of attention, especially in those first few weeks after their arrival into the world.

Since last month, I am the proud owner of a total of three children – and I’m acutely aware that the little one is already being slightly overlooked and forgotten about.  She just seems to have slotted in to life as the youngest one already, and has no option but to go with the Jackson flow.  Just this morning, I parked the car in Tesco and wandered off to do the shopping, only to be reminded by my wife that it might be a good idea to get the baby out of the car.  I’d genuinely forgotten she was there (after all, compared to her brother and sister at that age, she’s a very easy child who doesn’t seem to feel the need to make her presence known every couple of minutes).  I hadn’t even bothered to park in the Parent and Child space because I genuinely thought I couldn’t really justify it without the aforementioned child in tow.  A little later in the day, when booking a holiday on the phone, I panicked when asked what my youngest daughter’s date of birth was, quickly realising that “a few weeks back, when it was quite icy” wasn’t specific enough.  The fact that, by contrast, I could recite not just my eldest’s date of birth but the precise time, too (16 minutes past 7 in the evening, since you ask), made me feel more than a little guilty.

I recently read a quote from a mum who seemed to sum all this up perfectly: “When I had my first child he had his own face cloth, my second child shared his brother’s face cloth and my youngest had the dish cloth.”  In our house, no one has a face cloth – we tend to just tell them to wipe their face on their T-shirt because we can’t really be bothered to go and find a flannel.  But anyway, from now on, I think I should do a little more to make sure that Child Number 3 gets as much focus and attention as Child Number 1.   I’ll be fairly conservative in my approach, though – you know, take lots of photos, go off on the odd day trip with my youngest on her own to make her feel special, and so on.  And when they look back on their childhoods in years to come, whatever they think of my parenting or the levels of favouritism shown towards them, there’s one thing they’ll all share: a distinct, categorical lack of any gristle-like substance in their photo albums.

Grandad’s a dad again…

Peter Stringfellow

 

Ten years ago, if someone had told me that I’d be married with three children before I turned 30, I’d have either scoffed with derision or rocked in my chair with fear.  It’s funny how life turns out: I never particularly expected to have all my kids this young but, now that it’s happened, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

One of the reasons I’m really pleased we started a family when we did is because of how absolutely exhausting it is.  Thankfully, my wife and I are both relatively fit and healthy – but still, being a parent is completely knackering.  Now that I know what’s it’s like, the concept of waiting until I’m older, creakier and more haggard before having children is by no means a more attractive proposition than the situation I find myself in today.

And so it’s with a sense of bizarre fascination that I viewed the news that Peter Stringfellow, already a grandfather four times over, is to become a dad again – AT THE AGE OF 72.  If I find it exhausting to get up and change nappies at the age of 29, how on earth is this septuagenarian going to cope?  Well, according to an interview quoted in today’s papers, he’s not too concerned on that front: “I know it’s going to be tough so, of course we’ll have nannies – a night nanny and a day nanny and a holiday nanny and an aeroplane nanny.”  Well, quite.  We’ve all been there, Pete.

On second thoughts, maybe the challenge of having young children isn’t anything to do with age.  Perhaps it’s actually down to how much help you can afford.  But still, when you have a young baby, there’s only so much you want to pass on to others – don’t you think?  Even if I had the wealth of Mr Stringfellow, I’m genuinely not sure I’d want to use it to pay other people to look after my kids (although I do like the idea of an ‘aeroplane nanny’).  Admittedly, it’s completely exhausting getting up in the night with a child who’s in urgent need of a glug of Calpol, but it’s also all part of the journey of having little ones.  You haven’t really done the whole being a dad thing until you’ve had to give a presentation to a load of your colleagues despite only having 90 minutes’ sleep.  And when, two minutes before that presentation, you realise that your two-year-old evidently covered your arse in Weetabix before you left the house, it’s even more of a challenge.

Peter Stringfellow isn’t alone when it comes to famous older dads: Paul Weller fathered twins at the age of 53, David Jason became a dad for the very first time at the age of 61, and Des O’Connor also had a kid at 72.  It must be odd for your child to start growing their own teeth at the same time that you’re losing yours, and there’s something strange about having a baby in the full knowledge that you almost certainly won’t live long enough to see them into adulthood.  But who am I to judge, eh?  All I’d say is that I’m very thankful to have had kids in my 20s.  I still feel woefully unprepared and horrendously under-qualified – but I doubt I’d feel much different if I was half a century older.

Easy as 1, 2, 3…

Jackson 5

 

Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael: move over.  There’s a new Jackson Five in town and, although this bunch doesn’t yet have the same back-catalogue of chart hits to its name, it’s definitely headline news – well, in our house, at least.  The reason?  This time last week, “the present Mrs Jackson” (as she’s always delightfully referred to by a colleague of mine) gave birth to a beautiful, slightly shell-shocked baby girl.  A girl who, according to my mum, looked like a frog when she was born (nice).  To be honest, she wasn’t wrong – but then, who’s ever looked their best whilst having their photo taken close-up on a mobile phone, 13 minutes after appearing from the womb?

 

Having had two kids already, both of whom took many hours to arrive, my wife was in no hurry to get to the hospital last Sunday evening.  She understandably didn’t relish the chance of whiling away most of the night in the Royal Surrey, so we stayed at home for the first couple of hours of labour.  By the time we actually arrived, I was mildly concerned that we may not get any further than the car park.  Thankfully, though, we did make it to the delivery ward, albeit no thanks to an unruly wheelchair that clearly wanted to lead us down the adjacent corridor to, rather alarmingly, the Chapel of Rest.  But all was well in the end and, an hour later, Daughter Number Two (a.k.a. Child Number Three) was on the scene.

 

Over the last week, I’ve been reminded again of some fairly key rules about childbirth – and even made a few new observations along the way.  In no particular order, my Top Ten are:

 

  1. It’s never right to share with anyone the details of how many stitches your wife had to have after the birth.  No, honestly: DON’T.
  2. Unless it’s your own child, a baby is a relatively boring thing.  To quote our four-year-old son, “Dad, is she ever awake, or does she just sleep the WHOLE time?”
  3. When considering if and when to make small talk with the midwife, you should apply the Taxi Driver Rule.  In the same way that it’s clichéd and inadvisable to ask a taxi driver if he’s “had a busy night so far?” or “just started your shift?”, so it is futile and pointless to pose similar questions to the woman who, at that moment, has most of her forearm inside your wife because she’s trying to ascertain whether or not she is fully dilated.
  4. No matter what your politics, everybody should love the Labour government at least a little bit for the fact that, in 2003, they introduced paternity leave.  For dads, a world without paternity leave does not bear thinking about.
  5. The smell of a baby’s head is, without question, the finest smell in the entire world.
  6. When you have a newborn baby, you should completely lower your expectations of what you can manage.  Frankly, if you remember to put clothes on at all, you’ve achieved something, let alone actually getting round to washing, drying and ironing anything.
  7. No matter how funny you may personally find it to refer to your wife’s “breasticles”, now is really not the right time to make that joke.
  8. Despite what other people may tell you about it being a lovely moment of bonding with your newborn child, the dad-based ritual of “cutting the cord” is a completely gross experience that should be avoided at all costs.  Ask yourself: have you ever enjoyed cutting a bit of gristle?  Quite.  It really is no different.
  9. In the first few weeks after the birth, you may well wonder whether you’ll ever get another night’s uninterrupted sleep in your lifetime.  Don’t worry: it does happen.  But it takes about two years, at least.
  10. Becoming a dad is, without doubt, the most humbling, scary and “wow, what’s the meaning of life really all about?” moment you’ll ever experience: guaranteed.

 

On Wednesday, the joys of paternity leave become nothing more than a memory for me – almost certainly for the very last time.  So, before the madness of work returns, I’m going to enjoy these next two days.  And, much as I have high ambitions for my kids, I think I’ll leave it until next week before I get them to rehearse our tribute versions of I Want You Back and ABC.

 

Hand

A new-found love of the office…

Me and the kids

In the nicest possible way, I’m looking forward to Monday morning already.  Does that make me a terrible dad?

All day, I’ve been trying to work from home.  And I can confidently conclude that it has been a disaster.  With the snow affecting my trains and the bad weather only due to get worse during the course of the day, I concluded first-thing that I really would be better off staying put.  After all, I had a stack of award entries to write along with a script for a big concert we’re putting on at work in a few weeks’ time, so it wasn’t as if I didn’t have enough to do.  What’s more, with the eldest child at school, things would be fairly quiet at home, and with my wife now very pregnant I really didn’t relish getting “the call” in the midst of London transport chaos.

So, up I got, bright and early, ready to make a start before the kids had even had their breakfast.  I was just about to get cracking, when my phone went off.  “Upon advice from the local education authority, the infant school is closed today.”  Right.  Okay.  Well, I’ll quickly get him out of his school uniform (he’s quite keen on school at the moment and was dressed and ready to go before 7am) and find him something else to do.  Then, I can get started.

For the next two hours, I sat at my Mac with a two-year-old clambering on my shoulders and a four-year-old asking “can we build a snowman yet?” approximately seven times per minute.  Then, my wife took them out for a coffee with a friend.  “Great,” I thought.  “I’ve got an hour and a half to get stuff done.”  The front door had barely been shut for a few seconds when the phone went.  It was my mum.  Wanting to speak to me.  On the home phone.  She didn’t even know I was at home (“Oh!  Why aren’t you at work?” was her first question), so why on earth she’d phoned me here at 11am remains a mystery.

Once my quick chat with her was done and dusted, it was time to truly crack on.  And I did make some progress – honest.  So much so that at lunchtime, I even managed to stop for 20 minutes to try and build the much-requested snowman with the kids.  We had a lovely time at first – although it very quickly went from this:

Happy kids

To this:

M nearly crying

To this:

M crying

Afterwards, I attempted to take various phone calls from the office and elsewhere, all the while trying to give the impression that everything was calm and focused here, and that the emails I was sending hadn’t been typed with one finger.

A typical Friday night in our house will involve a curry, Homeland and a bottle of wine.  Tonight, after my complete failure to do the working from home thing, it’s going to have to involve a Mac, a pile of award entries and a to-do list of stuff I was hoping I’d have tackled by now.  Ditto Saturday night.

Much as I love being with my family, right now I’m quietly looking forward to Monday morning.  If nothing else, I can at least be pretty certain that no one in the office will try to climb on my back while I’m writing an email.

Any day now…

Car

Tonight’s starter for ten: is there a good time to have a baby?  By my reckoning, any new arrival in your family is a hugely exciting prospect – but would it be wrong to suggest that having a newborn in the summer is an easier option for all concerned?

Our two kids were born in July and August respectively.  On both occasions, the conditions weren’t exactly Mediterranean but there certainly wasn’t any need to de-ice the car before driving to the hospital.  Now, though, as my wife approaches the 38-weeks-and-counting stage of her third pregnancy, we face the prospect of navigating that journey in positively Arctic conditions.  The other day, I rang her and shouted “The Daily Mirror’s got a headline that says THREE WEEKS OF SNOW!”  It probably wasn’t the most caring way of flagging up the impending weather conditions but, to be honest, I think her main concern at that moment was that I’d become a Daily Mirror reader.  Since then, the reality of the situation has hit home.  This morning, we woke to a blanket of the white stuff in our little part of Hampshire.  To say that my wife looked fairly unimpressed at the idea of doing the school run in the snow with two kids under five, both of whom wanted to travel there via the universally-loathed mode of transport known as the scooter, would be putting it mildly – especially when Child Number One suggested building a snowman on the way.

Anyway, if its daily somersaults and kickboxing in the womb are anything to go by, our baby is itching to make its presence known as soon as it can, even if its official estimated time of arrival isn’t for a fortnight yet.  So, I think I need to be a bit more prepared, not just for the journey but for the fact that I’m about to become a dad again.  But so far, all I have is an old cassette box to scrape the ice off the car windscreen and a packet of Minstrels in case my wife is hungry on the journey to the hospital.  She, meanwhile, has packed her hospital bag and washed about five loads of baby sleepsuits that were already clean anyway (I didn’t question her logic, honest).  I know there’s a mountain of books about how to prepare for the arrival of a baby – but they remain on the shelf, untouched (except for the chapter about what sex is like during pregnancy which, without a shadow of a doubt, is the one every man turns to first when picking up a parenting book.  And if your husband says otherwise, he’s LYING).

I’m not going to panic too much, though.  You see, I might not quite be there yet with the car maintenance, but the experience of having had a couple of kids already has taught me a few basic dos and don’ts when it comes to how to behave when your partner is pregnant.  The first is to never, ever tell her that she’s massive.  The line “Wow!  You basically resemble Mr Greedy from the Mr Men now!” is never, ever advisable.  No, really.  Equally, if you’re ever tempted to suggest that, at the late stages of pregnancy, you give her…lady garden…a trim, don’t do it.  Obviously, you’re trying to be caring, considerate and very 21st Century Man, but it’ll only end in tears.  Believe me, I’m never going to attempt to pursue a career in horticulture after that particular experience.  And finally, as I may have mentioned before, when you finally make it to the hospital, try to avoid walking into the wrong delivery room.  Having to deal with your own wife’s labour is challenging enough, without having to inadvertently witness someone else’s.

Anyway, those are my little tips.  Yours are very gratefully received – and if you know anywhere in rural Hampshire that’s open 24 hours a day and has plenty of de-icer in stock, do let me know.  It might come in handy sooner than expected.

Like father, like son?

Like Father, Like Son

 

As any parent of young children knows, it is entirely normal to spend your days in a permanently sleep-deprived haze.  Lie-ins can quickly become the stuff of legend; either that, or their definition changes so dramatically that uninterrupted sleep until 7am is the post-kids equivalent of waking at midday and watching ITV3 crime drama repeats in your pants for the rest of the afternoon.   So, one of the things I love the most about staying with my parents – something we’ve just done as we saw in 2013 with them both – is their willingness to get up with the children at the crack of dawn.

 

On New Year’s Day, there is really nothing sweeter than being able to say to two under-fives when they appear at your bedside, “Go and see Grandad.  Goodbye.”  What’s more, the fact that my dad doesn’t appear at 8am and consider that to be enough of a lie-in, purely because he’s been up with the kids for a couple of hours by this point, is something for which I’ll be eternally grateful.  If and when I have grandchildren (a ridiculous thought, I know, given that I sometimes wonder whether it’s even legal for me to have kids of my own yet), I hope I’ll show the same consideration to my brood and happily rise in the middle of the night to watch the 2050 equivalent of Abney and Teal.

 

All this has made me wonder: is it really true that eventually, we basically become our parents?  If so, I don’t know whether to feel delighted or terrified.  After spending the new year with my folks, the idea that I’ll one day be exactly the same as my dad fills me with a bizarre mixture of serene contentment and what can only be described as paralysing fear.  Because although I love my dad’s considerate nature and his eagerness to ensure that my wife and I relax whenever we stay there, there remain some things that deeply panic me about the prospect of becoming more and more like him.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have him any other way and he is, of course, the best father anyone could ever have, but it’s surely okay to have at least a few quibbles, isn’t it?

 

His ability to get his words confused, for example, isn’t something I want to emulate in a hurry.  When planning the New Year’s Eve festivities, he heartily announced to the assembled throng that we’d be having “a lesbian meal – all together.”  Just your average December evening in the Home Counties, then.  (Upon further enquiry, he begrudgingly admitted that he had, in fact, meant ‘Lebanese’ – but it’s an easy mistake to make.  We’ve all been there.)  Similarly, his choice of attire is never less than interesting.  My dad remains the only man in the world who believes it to be entirely normal to wear a large green bumbag when shopping in Sainsbury’s (“why would anyone want to have to reach into their pocket for a wallet when you can access all your money via one zip?”) and he resolutely refuses to remove his jumper when eating, even if he’s practically dying from the heat (“I just don’t believe in taking my pullover off at the table – and anyway, it wouldn’t make me any cooler; it simply doesn’t work like that”).

 

Before we left to head home, I mentioned to my dad that I was writing a blog about parenting.  “You?  Parenting?  What on EARTH do YOU know about parenting?”  It’s a fair response – but then, I guess the beauty of muddling on through as a dad is that none of us has a clue how to do it.  If we’re honest, we’re all attempting to find our way and do our best, whether that be as a dad to a toddler or a dad to a father of two kids himself.  Which is a relief, really, because if it required anything more than that, I don’t think any of us would qualify for the task.

 

Now then, where on earth did I put the lesbian peppercorns?

The most…exhausting time of the year…

Most wonderful

“It’s the most wonderful time…of the year.”  Andy Williams wasn’t wrong – but for a more accurate Christmas song, he should have added in a few extra lines.  It’s all very well to have the whole “kids jingle belling and everyone telling you, ‘be of good cheer’” bit – but surely, it needs to be followed with something about it being exhausting if you’re trying to keep two under-fives entertained all day, track down a shop that sells non-alcoholic mulled wine for your pregnant wife (isn’t hot Ribena good enough?) and sort out a few last-minute near-nightmares at work.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas: not just for the wonderful story of that night in Bethlehem but also for the HUGE Radio Times, the tins of sweets, and the frankly disgusting foodstuffs that it momentarily becomes entirely normal to consume (sticky date stuffed with gharishly-coloured marzipan?  Why, I thought you’d never ask).  But if you’re not careful, all this expectation and excitement can only lead to disappointment.

As with most Christmases, ours began with the traditional trip to the soft play centre up the road.  We had some of our best friends staying over for the night, breaking up their five-hour journey to Southampton.  The feverish excitement about a) the fact that J and B would be STAYING FOR THE NIGHT IN OUR ROOMS AND WE CAN HAVE STORIES TOGETHER AND IT WILL BE SO, SO FUN, WON’T IT DAD; b) the realisation that Christmas Day was now only three sleeps away; and c) the general carnage that’s created whenever you cram two families into our house, meant that it was only logical to escape momentarily to the land of multicoloured balls.  But for my little girl, it was already all too much.  She’d been grinning for about a week at the idea of her friends arriving, and her heart rate had been further increased when she met “scary Father Christmas” in his grotto one afternoon (“I run away, Daddy.  I not like him in his house”).  By 22nd December, she’d evidently had enough of all this frantic seasonal activity, as I found out when I discovered her eschewing the delights of the soft play and opting instead for a quiet kip round the side of the inflatable rollers:

 Soft play

Since then, we’ve managed to pack in a trip to the in-laws, a flood-ridden journey to a wedding in Wales (I remain disappointed that the woman at the Severn Bridge toll wasn’t the same as the one from the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special) and a few other journeys here and there.  It’s all been lovely – and we’ve had some brilliant moments along the way with great family and wonderful friends.  But next year, we’re staying at home.  The conclusion from the Jackson family Christmas of 2012 is that it’s probably best to always try to take this time of year at your kids’ pace.  And if your two-year-old’s already hit the wall three days before the most wonderful time of the year, you really should consider taking it easy in 2013.

Rock ‘n’ roll Saturdays…

Gin and tonic

It’s 7.30pm on a Saturday night.  Usually, my wife and I would have just completed the marathon that is kids’ tea and bedtime – always a mixture of loveliness and hideousness in pretty much equal measure.  This time of the day tends to involve picking fishfingers up off the floor, slowly emptying the bath of 52 different plastic toys, or having a debrief on what the reasons might be for our son freaking out at the presence of a leek on his plate, or our daughter suddenly deciding that the world has come to an end because her Peppa Pig cutlery is still in the dishwasher.

But tonight, the children are staying with the grandparents, the house is calm, and we can drink gin and play our own music and not watch Iggle Piggle making a tit out of himself in the Night Garden yet again.  The problem is, I think we’ve forgotten what normal, grown adults do on a Saturday night.  We used to be able to relax, have a drink, and get ready to go out.  But now, four-and-a-bit years on from having kids, my wife is currently busy making chutney as a Christmas present for our son’s teacher (she probably hates the stuff), while I reply to work emails and mess about on Twitter.

This has to stop.  NOW.  Time for another gin, and dinner in a really nice restaurant that doesn’t have any highchairs, AND A LIE-IN IN THE MORNING. A full eight hours of blissfully uninterrupted sleep is such an unbelievably exciting prospect, there’s a real risk I won’t be able to sleep tonight.

The birds and the balls…

The birds and the bees

“Why do boys have balls?”  It’s a good question.  It’s a question I knew was going to be posed in some form or another before too long – after all, my son’s four, he’s got a sister, and she thankfully doesn’t have a scrotum.  It’s hard not to notice such differences at bathtime, even if you’re not a particularly observant child.  Admittedly, the specific nature of the question took me slightly by surprise – in particular, my boy’s focus on the whole “balls” thing.  Surely, that’s not what you notice first.   You only get on to the age-old “what’s the point of your bollocks” question when you’ve well and truly come to terms with the willy – don’t you?

I don’t remember what conversation, if any, I had with my parents about procreation.  To be honest, I think there must be some kind of evolutionary function that ensures we banish such memories from our minds.  But I knew I’d have to have an answer up my sleeve for if and when I was asked a question along those lines by one of my kids.  The only problem was, I hadn’t yet even begun to formulate that answer in my head.  Hence my answer to the question, which went something like this: “Er…for the tadpoles.”

THE TADPOLES?

Even I didn’t see that one coming.  Inevitably, the discussion couldn’t end there.

“There are tadpoles in your balls, Dad?”

Right, I can get out of this one.  I really can.  It’s easy.  I’ll explain it clearly and calmly; after all, it’s no big deal.

“Yes!  That’s right!  Yes!”

“Why, Dad?”

Would it be wrong to ask his mum to continue the conversation from here?  Of course it would.  Of COURSE it would.

“Well, it’s so that…well, look at Mum – she’s got a baby in her tummy, and that baby started growing when I gave her a tadpole.”

The look of utter confusion on my son’s face at this point is something I’ll never forget.

“You gave Mum…a tadpole?”

“Yes!  And then it grew even bigger into the baby that’s in Mummy’s tummy!  That’s lovely, isn’t it!  Now, do you need a hairwash tonight?”

At that moment, my son turned to his little sister, raised his eyebrows, and gave me a look that clearly said: “We’re not done with this yet.  Be in no doubt: this conversation will continue.”

In my head, I’m a dad who’s always going to be completely at ease with my kids.  I’ll be happy to talk to them about anything.  I’ll merrily discuss the menstrual cycle with my daughter (I’m sure she’ll be delighted when that wonderful day arrives), I’ll maturely and supportively highlight the dangers of internet pornography to my son before he hits puberty, and I’ll read up on some really good ways to share the facts of life with my kids at the appropriate time.

In reality, however, it doesn’t quite work like that.  After a tough day at work and a long commute home, all the good intentions go out the window when faced with a left-field question from an inquisitive four-year-old.  As for that moment when the conversation with my son continues, so long as he doesn’t ask me any more details about that lovely moment when I handed over the tadpole to his mother, I think we’ll be fine.

Breaking news: woman falls pregnant…

Photographers outside King Edward VII hospital

So, the world has officially gone royal baby mad.  Poor Kate is only a few weeks’ pregnant, yet there are already enough column inches devoted to her not-even-visible-yet bump to stretch round the world and back again.  As I saw someone observe on Twitter today, if you thought the Daily Mail’s coverage of Suri Cruise was excessive, wait until you see what they’ve got planned for this little one.

In my line of work I receive a fair few press releases on a daily basis – and today’s collection really did plumb the depths.  Everyone seemed to want to jump on the back of the royal couple’s news with a tenuous reaction, often linked to shamelessly promoting some kind of product or another.  No sooner had Kate’s pregnancy been announced than Paddy Power was sending out details of what they reckoned the future heir would be called.  Apparently, John, Charles and George are the favourites for a boy, but a girl’s bound to be called Mary or Victoria.  And remarkably, they’re offering evens when it comes to whether or not it will be a boy or a girl.  Funny, that.

TV and radio networks across the globe have gone into overdrive about the news, too: outside the hospital where Kate is being treated, there are now crews from Australia, America and most European countries, many of which ran this as their lead story for much of yesterday.  24-hour news channels in the UK, meanwhile, faced that dilemma of having to cover a story that isn’t really a story, once you’ve got beyond the fact that a woman is pregnant.  Cue all sorts of royal biographers and other hangers-on, paid to witter on about whether it’ll be twins, or what Charles probably thinks of it all, or what the doctors will be doing right now, or whatever.

Amidst all the chaos and attention, how will the parents of our future king or queen be feeling tonight?  Discovering you’re going to become a mum or dad for the first time is a daunting experience for mere mortals like you and me, so goodness knows what it must be like when your first trimester happens in the glare of the media spotlight.  Back in 2007, I remember going to Boots with my wife to buy a pregnancy test kit (we could have got one from Sainsbury’s – it was much closer to our flat – but there’s something quite comforting and reassuring about buying that sort of thing from Boots.  Or is that just me?).  Anyway, I couldn’t understand why they were on a ‘Buy One Get One Free’ offer.  Surely, I thought, it’s not the kind of accessory you need twice in quick succession – unless you have the gestation period of a gnat.  And then I realised: seeing the blue line once is never enough.  You simply HAVE to do another test, just to make sure that the enormity of what that little white stick is telling you really is true.

So, back to those royals.  Understandably, all the media attention is on Kate this week – but what about William?  He might well be entirely used to the photographers and the protocol, but he won’t be any more prepared than you or me when it comes to how to be a dad.  There’ll no doubt be a whole host of doctors, nannies and advisors around him, all of whom are bound to cost a fortune.  But will that really increase his chances of always reacting calmly when his toddler throws their food on the floor AGAIN?  Will being second in line to the throne make it easier for him to not have a row with his wife when they’ve both been up all night?  And will his child always behave politely with his great granny, especially given that she’s really rather important?  No chance.

I hope everything works out okay for them.  It’s still far too early for the world to know she’s pregnant.  I also hope that when the baby is born next May, they give it a really random name (Princess Shaznay?  Prince Dean?), if only to cause outrage in the Daily Mail – and to make me a fortune at Paddy Power.