Christmas Festivities, Long John Silver’s leg (the missing one) and Gove-bashing

Christmas Festivities, Long John Silver’s leg (the missing one) and Gove-bashing

Good news – Sophie’s back! First: New Year’s Greetings to all my loyal fans. Well what a start to the New Year it’s been: Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink as that poet said. Haven’t been able to contact you because we’ve been flooded out for the last few weeks – yes, that’s right, even in Tunbridge Wells.

‘I’m going to complain,’ said Mummy.

‘Who to?’ said Grandad. ‘Thames Conservancy? It won’t have any effect.’

Mummy smiled indulgently. ‘No – to the very top. The Queen.’

‘What? Little Betty Windsor? (Grandad always calls her that)

‘The very same,’ answered Mummy. ‘I know when she hears about the plight of the poor, deprived folk of Tunbridge Wells, a genuine plight – unlike those scroungers on Benefits Street – she’ll be moved by compassion to get something done about it.’

‘I mean, it’s not just the floods, last week that top dress designer shop was forced to close.’ She sighed. ‘I blame the scroungers, again,’ she said. ‘Enough money to fritter away on wide-screen TVs and take-away meals, too mean to support British entrepreneurial spirit and award winning designer dresses. Sooner save a few hundred pounds and go to Primark! And what do they replace Fiona’s Fashions with? Another Charity Shop.’

‘Stop’, said Grandad, rubbing his eyes and doing his mime of crying uncontrollably that he does regularly with little Sebastian. Mummy gave him a dark look. She’s never sure when Grandad is winding her up but I know: – it’s most of the time!

‘Oh come on, ‘ he said consolingly, ‘you’re still my favourite daughter.’ This winds her up even more: he has only two children – and the other one’s Uncle Simon.

Anyway there’s been little cheer in this house lately. I don’t know about you but my Christmas was pants. What with Grumpy Gramps banging on about kids being given far too many presents and the true meaning of Christmas being lost – at which point Mummy blew her top.

‘Oh, yes. We all know about what the true meaning of Christmas is for you. Lots of lovely food which I have to spend hours slaving over a hot oven to prepare. And it’s all washed down with booze leaving you in a more senseless state than you normally are.’ I thought Daddy might be moved to defend his father-in-law in the face of this withering attack but he was asleep.

Mummy was warming to her task. ‘It’s the same every year. You neither of you (here she glowered at Daddy – oblivious to her anger) lift a finger to help me in the kitchen. You chomp your way through an enormous lunch, settle down in front of the TV to poke fun at her Majesty who probably does more work in a week than both of you manage in a year, and then leave me a mountain of dirty plates for me to wash up. After that I have to endure fractious children (hey, hang on a moment, I thought. leave us out of it) and the noxious fumes of your combined farting, and belching, and burping. A nauseating blend of vile sounds and smells.’=

‘Why don’t you tell us what you really feel about Chistmas,’ said Grandad – hastily dodging the cushions and slippers aimed at his bald head.

This scene of domestic bliss (not) would have been bad enough but then there was the present-giving. More sensitive (adult?) readers will know that for children this is the true meaning of Christmas. Admittedly, Sophie and Sebastian didn’t come off too badly – more of that in a moment.

The grown-ups (that’s a laugh) didn’t seem to be ecstatic about their presents. Daddy gave Mummy 2 presents: one was a slow cooker. He joked about her being pretty slow in the kitchen generally so this would enable her to go the whole hog – though that might be better spit-roasted he added. Mummy clearly failed to appreciate either the present or the jokes.

The other present was a Dyson. Mummy told him where he could put the crevice tool attachment – a service she’d be very willing to perform for him. Oh dear, they’ll be tears before bedtime I thought.

Mummy gave Daddy a big box of chocolates and promptly eat them all.

I gave Sebastian a lovely Barbie doll. Sebastian gave me a bat and ball and a pair of boxing gloves. That’ll come in useful for punching your lights out I thought.

Mummy and Daddy gave Grandad M&S vouchers. He seemed chuffed to bits with those. He pleaded poverty for his presents to the family: ‘They’re largely things I made,’ he explained. Mummy got a vase he’d made at pottery class. Actually it wasn’t bad and I could tell Mummy was quite pleased with it. ‘It’s the thought that matters,’ she said – and I don’t think she was being sarcastic. He’d knitted Daddy a sweater with Santa and reindeer embroidered on it. It was several sizes too big for Daddy – perhaps Grandad’s pattern was for a bigger man, I thought. Again it was nicely made with good quality wool but I think Grandad enjoyed Daddy’s obvious embarrassment at having to wear it all over Christmas.

He gave me a decorated pin board on which I could put all my photos and, for Sebastian, a kind of board game which he said Sebastian and I could play together.

Grandad had already made it clear the only present he wanted from Seb and me was big cuddle and a kiss. Of course I was happy to oblige. In fact – like Seb – I’d already got him a jumbo box of Maltezers: he’s addicted to these but was rather conflicted by reports of sugar being ‘the No 1 Public Health Enemy as far a obesity and life-threatening diseases were concerned’. So he had to consume them secretly when he thought we weren’t watching.

Seb wasn’t at all happy about the kiss and cuddle. He’s going through that stage of being embarrassed about bodily contact so after kissing Grandad he ostentatiously wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Grandad told me my Uncle went through the same phase. Mummy giggled and I heard her whisper to Daddy: ‘We weren’t too worried about political correctness then and little bruvver used to say after kissing him, “Good night poofter”. He obviously thought that made it OK.’

*****************************

Grandad’s been very absorbed in a book he’s reading and wants me to recommend it to the thousands of people who read this blog (and that includes Katie and the royal baby George – she has to read it to George, of course). Rather than me tell you about the book, How Did Long John Silver Lose his Leg? and Twenty-Six Other Mysteries of Children’s Literatureby Dennis Butts and Peter Hunt, I thought I’d hand over to Grandad. So here we go:

Thank you, Sophie. Well, one of the authors of this book is an old colleague of mine but I wouldn’t let friendship interfere with objectivity. It’s a rattling good read, and explores the mysteries thrown up by famous books older readers will remember with affection from their childhood. For example: how did Long John Silver lose his leg and acquire a parrot? And how Big was the Little House on the Prairie in the Laura Ingalls Wilder ‘Little House’ series? There are also chapters on whether Bobbie would have been able to stop the train in time in ‘The Railway Children’, and exactly how many adults were there in Winnie-the-Pooh?

The authors carry their learning lightly: in the chapter on Long John Silver, Dennis Butts speculates about the likelihood of Silver’s leg being amputated on board a ship (after a sea battle perhaps?). This leads on to fascinating – if gory – insights into the nature of surgical operations carried out on board a ship, sometimes in stormy conditions. Similarly, in Peter Hunt’s discussion of Bobbie’s flag-waving efforts to stop the train in the climax of ‘The Railway Children’, one is struck by his detailed knowledge of Great Western railway engines and the stopping distances of express trains weighing over 200 tons (could it really be less than 500 yards?) It raises suspicions he was once a youthful train-spotting nerd!

However, these essays escape all charges of nerd-ishness: the 26 short chapters of this book provide an entertaining, and quirky investigation of some of the enigmas posed by these perennial children’s favourites. Though it’s clearly targeting an audience of children’s literature teachers and students, the book willl also appeal to ordinary readers wanting to re-visit much-loved childhood books. And yes, it’ll allow them to revel in a bit of nostalgia.

Back to you, Sophie.

Thanks Grandad. I just dropped off for a while, but hopefully my ‘wrinkly’ readers stayed awake. How much commission are you on Gramps? [really, Sophie, that question is beneath contempt. I'm deeply offended]

Sorry Gramps.

*******************************

Okay fans, now for a spot of Gove-bashing. Grandad’s made me realise the profound effect ‘The Poisoned Dwarf’ aka Michael Gove can have on my education – not just now but in the future.

Fortunately many of Mr Gove’s favourites (or ‘teacher’s pets’ as Gramps called them) are beginning to rebel against their evil master. A bit like those fallen angels rebelling against Satan, a voice in my ear suggests.

First: Ian Livingstone – who is ‘close’ to Michael Gove, and convinced him to redesign computer science lessons – attacked exams as ‘random memory’ tests:

‘People are forced to learn a multitude of facts, which are largely irrelevant, in order to pass these random memory tests which are basically a lottery – far more to do with league tables than learning,’ he said. ‘This was fine for the Victorian era but not now.’

Livingstone thinks if you don’t know something ‘you can always Google it’.

He believes primary schools are often better learning environments because they fit the way children “learn through play”. ‘When you get into secondary schools it all changes. You’re all required to sit still, work as individuals, no team work, no collaboration, no projects that can be assessed as a group – all doing the same thing. That’s out of touch with where kids are today.’

Grandad was jumping up and down when he read this, whooping ‘Three cheers for Dr Livingstone’.(Livingstone was recently awarded a CBE and wrote the very popular Fighting Fantasy gamebooks in the 80s, says Gramps)

Then the following week, another former ‘blue-eyed boy’ and Gove ‘big-hitter’, Sir Michael Wilshaw the Chief Inspector of Schools (!!!) was taking a swipe at his Master. He said education was being threatened by a ‘right-wing Blob’ (this sounds like one of those scary science-fiction films!) which wants ‘children to be lectured for six hours a day in serried ranks.’

‘Such rote learning is not enough to produce successful learners in the 21st century. ‘ Have Wilshaw and Livingstone been swapping notes in the exam room?

‘Kids in the Far East get good exam results but all the captains of industry come from the West’, he pointed out.

Kids don’t just need the skills and knowledge to pass exams, they need to be ‘given the opportunity to think for themselves, work in teams, and co-operate with others.’

Grandad and I looked at each other and came to the same conclusion: They’d been caught copying each other’s work in the exam! They were cheats!!

Then we did high fives, chanting: ‘We like cheats!’

Now if you’re thinking: Sophie is too wise and mature and knowledgeable even for a very precocious 5¾ years-old girl, I have to admit that Grandad does sometimes alert me to various items in the newspapers, and occasionally makes helpful suggestions about the wording of ideas. But basically, it’s all brilliant me. And he may be helpful on educational matters but he’s pants when it comes to the Royals!

For example, I think he envies the way Katie M. confides in me. Only the other day she texted me to say she was very worried about HM (the Queen). Poor Betty Windsor’s at her wit’s end trying to save money on her household bills. We’re all in this together, she told Katie, and it’s only right I make sacrifices too.

Apparently those mean MPs have told her she’s got to make cuts in her household allowance or ‘face an eviction order’. And nobody wants to see her thrown out of Buck House, do they?

But she broke down in tears when Katie visited her. ‘I’ve switched to shopping at Lidl, booked our next holiday at a Travel Lodge, and changed my energy provider,’ she wailed. ‘What more can I do?’

Ooh, bless. I’ll swear there was even a tear in Grandad’s eye when I told him.

Well, that’s all for now, folks! Tune in soon for my next blog.

Love,

Sophie xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

PS From Daily Mail’s ‘Quotes of the Year’:

‘Lager, Aga, Saga, Viagra, Gaga’ (Agony aunt Virginia Ironside describing the new 5 ages of man)

 

 

 

PISA league tables and culinary Goddess Nutella

Hello Fans

Sophie’s been overwhelmed by all the pleas for the next episode of her blog (well, OK, pleas from Petronella and my ‘Auntie’ Hilda who lives next door) and so – despite my busy Xmas schedule of shopping… and more shopping – I’ve bowed to the pressure and Here We Are. Exciting isn’t it?! Or as Gordon Ramsey’s daughter would say: A-MAZ-ING or maybe: INCREDIBLE!!

Now although Grandad has taught me to appreciate the virtues of Palma ham, I wondered what it was about Palma ham that defies credibility for Gordon and his sprog. Like every other TV celebrity chef, he seems to get so excited about this or that culinary creation I almost expect him to start peeing himself on the spot.

The PISA league tables

Last week I got SO bored. Mummy, Daddy, and Grandad never stopped talking about PISA league tables. Now Sophie didn’t even know Pisa had a football team in the Serie A league. Honest, I didn’t. I knew they had a leaning tower which they were constantly trying to prop up and (according to Grandad) a magnificent cathedral.

But Daddy explained it was to do with EDUCATION and a table of how well schools in lots of different countries perform in reading, maths and science. Apparently we didn’t do very well: ‘firmly lodged mid-table – or lower’ according to Daddy. ‘Symptomatic of the decline in standards and values of our schools,’ he continued, warming to his subject. ‘It’s all down to these namby-pamby, wishy-washy, arty-farty, left-wing trendies running the education system and the BBC. They couldn’t organise a p*** up in a brewery!’ [Mummy told me to put in those asterisks]

I could have sworn Grandad whispered ‘poppycock’ or something under his breath, but then he seemed to agree with Daddy. ‘You know, you’re absolutely right. Which countries were top of the table? China, South Korea, and Singapore. People are saying we’ve got to pull up our socks so we can bend up at the same level as those countries. But why be satisfied with that? We don’t want to be at the SAME level. We want to be MUCH BETTER than them. The Koreans only used to be famous for copying our products. And what has Singapore given to the world apart from noodles?’

‘Easier said than done,’ said Daddy. ‘Just how do you propose to bring about this miraculous transformation?

‘Simple’. It was then I spotted the twinkle in Grandad’s eye and that little smile at the corners of his mouth. Sure signs he probably means the opposite of what he says. I could see Daddy  was delighted Grandad was agreeing with him.

‘You saw that TV documentary last night,’ said Gramps. ‘Korean children only attend school for 13 hours a day. Luxury! In my day, they sent you down t’ pit at 7 years-old and you worked a 20 hour day. We don’t want to send our kids to skool for 13 hrs a day – we send them there for 18 hours. That still leaves 6 hours for them to play and sleep, and do the housework, so Mum can get some rest.’ He winked at me.

‘Oh, Daddy,’ I said. ‘Surely, even you could see that coming!’

Grandad wasn’t finished. ‘And Korean children have the highest rates of suicide in the world, are the least happy at school. Brilliant. We kill 2 birds with one stone, as it were. Not only do we come top of the PISA tables, we keep down the population figures.’

‘What we don’t want to do,’ he continued, ‘is follow the example of Finland. Finland who came… what was it? Oh, yes, 4th in the tables, just behind those Chinese and Korean child slaves. The Fins positively encourage laziness and indolence in their young. They don’t begin formal schooling to age 7, they’ve the least selective, most comprehensive education system. They take no exams before they are 18 years-old, they’ve no schools inspectors, and their national curriculum is confined to broad outlines. Clearly all those mad Fins are bent on going to Hell in a handcart as fast as they can’.

Something told me Grandad didn’t really mean any of this! Once again, Daddy had walked obligingly into Grandad’s trap.

‘Thank you Sophie.’ Grandad made an elaborate bow to me.

Maybe NOW I thought we can get onto something interesting … like Justin Bieber, or the Saatchi children’s pocket money (more about this later). But NO – Grandad was on a roll and determined to bore us witless.

‘Now let’s take the Swedes,’ he continued [no, not the Swedes, I mentally pleaded]. ‘They have sensible sweaters, eat meals of smorgasbord and soused herring that no-one in their right mind would want, and drive cars so safe you’re guaranteed to fall asleep at the wheel.

Sorry,’ he said. ‘I came over all Jeremy Clarkson there’ – and with that he shuddered, and made the sign of the cross. ‘So it’s the Swedes’ example we want to follow. Now Govey likes Free Schools and that’s what they’ve introduced. Only trouble is: ever since the Swedes did that their educational tresults have gone down and down.’

Suddenly there was silence. At last. Grandad had wound down and it wasn’t long before he was asleep.

Alas, it didn’t stay that way for long. He awoke – and was off on a rant about this article he’d read in the Sunday Times by Nicola Horlicks which he claimed said exactly the same as he had in his book Grandad’s Tips for Bringing up Kids. Apparently parents were spending too much money on mountains of presents for their kids at Christmas time – money which was wasted because the kids quickly tired of playing with plastic battery-operated toys or digital devices. And these kinds of presents kept them indoors rather than running around outside.

I took an instant dislike to Nicola Horlicks. You see, there’s this battery-operated, talking Barbie doll I’ve got my eye on. And I certainly don’t want to be running around in the park catching all kinds of horrible diseases of all those working class kids I’ve seen playing there, do I?

Mind you … they DO seem to have lots of fun. And their Mummies and Daddies (‘and Grandads,’ murmured Grandad) do too.

Kitchen Goddess Nutella’s favourite Rum n’ Coke recipes

These’s been a lot of talk in the newspapers and on TV lately about Nutella, this celebrity TV chef – ‘Good enough to eat!’ called out Daddy. ‘I’m on team Nutella!’ he shouted, jumping up and down and licking his fingers in what Grandad described as a ‘lascivious’ way.

‘You would,’commented Mummy sourly. I don’t know why – or why she had such a sour look on her face. ‘It’s a shame you just take her cookery book to bed with you – to… read rather than actually cook any of the recipes from it. In the kitchen – that place you’d need a sat-nav to find!’

‘I don’t care what you say,’ replied Daddy. ‘I’m still on Team Nutella.’
‘Well, you shared her predilection for High-Tella’s coke cookies as a student. Just a shame you never looked at me that way when we shared a joint,’ snarled Mummy.

What were they talking about? Poor Sophie was getting very confused. Why was Mummy getting upset about coke cookies? I love Coke and I love cookies. I must ask for this recipe, I thought. And why was Mummy obviously getting upset about sharing a joint with Daddy. She often shares a joint with all of us – Sophie, little brother Sebastian, and even Daddy – when we have dinner. Does Nutella have a SPECIAL recipe for her joints?

‘What do you think Grandad?’ I could see he looked conflicted. He loves anything to do with food but I don’t think he quite approves of The Culinary Goddess. He’s the only reason we call her Nutella. Everyone else calls her Nigella. ‘Cos Nutella was a rich and sticky food – like what she is,’ said Grandad.

Grandad told me all about this court case. He’d said it was a waste of money because the Wicked Sisters would never be found guilty. It would be just one person’s word against another’s. ‘In fact,’ said Grandad, ‘a starring role for the Wicked Sisters was quite appropriate. The whole thing’s rather like a Christmas panto.’

‘And everyone , said Mummy, ‘including the PM and your Daddy – sprang to Nutella’s defence because she looked as fragrant as Lady Archer when she got Jeffrey off the hook with his “prossy”.’

These grown-ups were at it again. Jeffrey (whoever he was?) had a ‘prossy’. Mummy must have meant ‘pussy’. I expect this man Jeffrey loved ‘pussies’. Most of us do, don’t we?

When I spoke to Petronella about it later she was very nasty about the Goddess. ‘Do you know what I heard, Sophie. I heard the mean old cow only gave her kids £80 pocket money a day. I ask you: what self-respecting child can get by on that sort of allowance. My Mummy and Daddy will probably try to reduce my pocket money now!’

And with that, she began to cry. I put a consoling arm around her. I didn’t tell her when I got home I’d be negotiating an 800% increse in pocket money.

Well, that’s all folks. Like Daddy I’m worn out with all these Xmas preparations. He’s snoozing in his favourite armchair.

‘He’s had all those Christmas cards to write, presents to shop for, then wrap, mince pies to make, clothes to wash and iron for ‘the big day’, food to prepare, tidying up, dusting and hoovering. Not forgetting the office parties he couldn’t escape from, the dilemma of being unexpectedly caught under the mistletoe. It’s enough to tire anyone out.’

I think Mummy was being sarcastic.

Happy Christmas everyone – and especially Grandad … even if he’s often a boring old fart.

Sophie xxxxxxxxxxx

 

Justin Bieber, Mr Gove, Toys and Anger Management Problems

 

Justin Bieber, Mr Gove, Toys and Anger Management Problems

 

Hello Fans!

 

Sophie’s back. Once again, sorry you haven’t heard from me for so long but I’ve been so busy with Twitter and Facebook (that’s not true – I just like winding Grandad up) and doing my Christmas shopping. Still, that’s enough about Grandad for a while – let’s talk about ME!

 

I went round to see my best friend Petronella the other week. Found her on the doorstep, crying her heart out. Did my best to cheer her up. Y’know, told her her problems couldn’t be as bad as mine – she didn’t have to put up with her Grandad all the time. That only seemed to set off even more.

 

Then I remembered. Her Grandad died last month. ‘It’s alright, Pet,’ I said (I often lapse into a sort of Geordie accent when I shorten her name)

 

However, when the tears subsided, I learnt this was not about Grandad. it was about the Beaver (this is what I call Justin Bieber – for some reason it makes Grandad giggle, he mutters something about Naked Gun 2 ½ and Priscilla Presley’s ‘beaver’). ‘What’s Justin done to hurt you, Pet?’ I asked – though I guessed what it was. Then it all came rushing out: how he’d been caught sneaking out of a brothel and to make matters worse, a Brazilian brothel (hey, nice alliteration). Aren’t there any good English or American brothels I thought. Why does he have to go all that way? Actually, er… what is a brothel?

 

I asked Grandad. He said it was a type of shoe. People in his day used to talk about brothel-creepers. Shoes worn by Teddy Boys, he said. They must have been emotionally retarded young men, I thought. To still be so attached to their Teddies. I told Grandad they should grow up. Then I remembered the Mirror headline was ‘BROTHEL CREEPER’. ‘What’s wrong with the Beaver wearing retro shoes?’ I asked . He explained Justin had been ‘consorting’ with ‘ladies of the night’.

 

Hmmm … I thought. Don’t ask. Don’t worry, folks. Petronella soon brought me up to speed on that. Her Daddy’s an aristocrat: yes, a real-life drug baron. And had been a friend of Paul Raymond. The things Pet told me about Paul Raymond made my hairs curl – more than they already do, I mean. Everyone says I look like Shirley Temple (see my photo at the top of 1st blog).

 

I’m afraid my sympathy for Petronella was limited. Although Justin succeeded in worming his way back into my affections after the disastrous gig earlier this year when Mummy and I had to wait AGES for him to appear on stage, he’s been a naughty boy lately! For a start, there was that urinating in a mop bucket of a New York restaurant. ‘Maybe the waiters had been peeing in his soup’, Grandad suggested. Then there was abandoning that poor monkey in Germany. ‘He should be put down – not the monkey, Beaver’, said Grandad. I can never be sure whether he’s being serious.

 

Grandad’s been more than usually grumpy and miserable lately. He wrote a piece of Swiftean satire, a letter to the Times about the Mekon (his name for Mr Gove) and his latest ‘half-baked’ idea. Grandad was very upset when the letter wasn’t printed. My withering sarcasm wasted, he moaned. Later, he discovered he’d sent it to feedback@the Times instead of letters@the Times. So to cheer him up – and extract a fiver from him I said he could post it on my blog. You should have seen his little face light up. If you’re not interested in Govey or education, just switch off for a few minutes.

 

It seems the Mekon wants to introduce SATs and testing for 4 and 5 yr-olds as well as ‘cracking down’ on ‘cheating in primary tests’. Presumably primary school teachers are not to be trusted with invigilating kids in their school. Instead senior school teachers will be employed to monitor those primary schools that act as ‘feeder’ schools for the Big Skools. ‘We all know senior teachers never cheat by helping their pupils (thus bigging-up their results and performance tables) don’t we?’ said Grandad. Once again, I’m not sure he was being serious.

Here’s the letter:

 

Sir,

 

3 cheers for Mr Gove. It’s time we got tough on these primary school kids (‘Senior school teachers may check on cheating in primary tests’ Times 11/11). Can I suggest invigilators/guards with machine guns patrolling every aisle in exam rooms, and a battery of overhead cameras focussed on each child? In addition, perhaps GCHQ could act as consultants in maintaining the secrecy of SAT test papers, and G4S supervise the transportation of those papers? High time we cracked down on little cheats, and jailed offenders – along with teachers found guilty of aiding and abetting them.

 

Dudley Jones

 

Well, at least it was short.

 

Even Daddy agrees with Grandad about Mr Gove. I think I’ve already told you, Daddy’s a TV producer. A ‘loony leftie’, Grandad’s brother Chris calls him. Great Uncle Chris believes everyone who works in the BBC is a ‘loony leftie’. And Grandad is a ‘loony leftie’ ‘cos he worked in Higher Education. But G.U. (Great Uncle) Chris was inclined to side with Daddy and Gramps because the CBI chief had criticised Gove’s school reforms for focussing too much on exam results and producing ‘robots’ who lacked a ’rounded education’.

 

‘What’s a rounded education, Grandad’, I asked.

 

‘Well, Sophie, according to this report in the Times yesterday – 20 November – it means placing “more emphasis on character-building to foster qualities such as determination, and emotional intelligence”. They’re focussing too much on academic results, it says here, shifting focus and resources within schools away from sport, performing arts, trips and clubs.’

 

Poor G.U. Chris was conflicted. It all sounded a bit arty-farty, wishy-washy, namby-pamby, liberal do-goodery to him. And yet… as a businessman he felt bound to support the CBI.

 

 

TOY STORIES

 

It’s almost Christmas so it’s time to think about toys. That’s what Mummy said. Hang on, I thought, my suspicions immediately aroused. Mummy raising the subject? Something doesn’t seem right. And then she played me a clip from ‘You and Yours’, a radio4 programme that was on last week. Soon as I started listening, I knew what her game was. Saturation advertising was designed to create false ‘wants’. Big deal – even kids know that. Or do they? Suddenly I wasn’t quite so sure. And parents were somehow made to feel their love for their kids could be measured by the amount of money they spent on toys.

 

The result? A mountain of plastic, battery-operated toys that engage children for 5 minutes. And younger children end up playing with the packaging rather than the plastic rubbish they’d been given. Someone emailed to say their kids got the most excitement from a cardboard box which they cut holes in, decorated with marker pens, and turned into a castle, spaceship etc. The greatest gift was something that excited the child’s imagination.

 

By this time, I’m feeling distinctly nervous. A cardboard box? Is that what Sebastian and I can expect in a few weeks time? However, when Oliver James, this child trick-cyclist, was asked what the solution was, I began to perk up (apparently things might not be so bad in this brave, new world as I thought). You simply had to ask the child what they really, really wanted (sounds good to me). It might be very expensive like a bicycle or some ballet lessons but then you got the parents and/or relatives to club together to buy it. This would give far more lasting pleasure than the plastic, battery-operated rubbish that was almost instantly abandoned.

 

I still fancy all those pink, glittery, girly things they advertise on kids TV programmes but maybe….

 

Grandad’s comment was typically grumpy: ‘I’ve said all this in my book, Sophie’ (Grandad’s Tips for Bringing up Kids – £4.99 available from selected bookshops, or http://www.positiveparenting.co.uk, or as a Kindle ebook:£3.49) ‘And I’ve said most of the things in Prof Tanya Byron’s double spread in the Times last Saturday (16 Nov): Tutor, clubs, piano lessons: are you pushing your child too hard. But I’m not a well-known paediatrician, with fancy letters after my name. No, I’m just an ordinary bloke who’s…’ By now, I could see Grandad had gone into Rhod Gilbert mode. He was foaming at the mouth, and I was afraid I’d have to have a word with Mummy about getting him committed. And when I said to him ‘Calm down, dear,’ he really lost it big-time. Serious anger management problems.

 

So that’s it, folks. I know you pine for my reflections on life and stuff and I will try to blog more. But it might have to wait until Grandad comes out of that home.

 

Sophie xxxxxxxxxxxx

 

Harry and Cressida, Halifax BS, Nicky Clegg, and Gorgeous George

Hello Fans!

I’m back a little sooner this time. You may recall my last blog was delayed for 3 weeks by Grandad’s pathetic attempts to post a new blog. He assures me everything will be better now he’s had a brain transplant. At least he’s responded promptly to my request for a new funkier font.

He went away for a short holiday and has been catching up with interesting items from old newspapers. Two from the Daily Mirror particularly caught his eye: one was about Prince Harry’s desire to marry some ‘Aussie totty’ as he put it – Cressida Bonas. ‘I hope they’ll be very happy’, said Grandad (Mummy looked suspicious – I think she sensed one of Grandad’s ‘jokes’ coming). ‘Now we’ve finished our mentoring stint with Kate and Georgie Porgy* perhaps we’ll get asked to Harry’s reception. I expect they’ll have egg and Cressida sandwiches’.

Mummy groaned and threw a cushion at him, and Daddy grimaced. I thought it was one of Grandad’s better jokes. Mind you, he shouldn’t have added, ‘If Cressie gets him to go and live in Australia it will be a “bonas” – especially when he added, ‘do you want me to go on for ‘bonas’ points!

The other story in the Mirror was even better. When a young couple rang their Halifax bank to correct an error on a savings account they’d set up for their 6-month-old son, Harry (not relation) they were told that this could only be discussed with ‘the account holder’. Naturally, the couple thought the Halifax official was joking. Jenny, the wife, said, ‘He’s a baby, he can’t talk’. The bank official (he sounded bonkers to me) repeated he couldn’t talk to Jenny over the phone, only the account holder! Sounds reasonable – I can just hear him saying ‘Ga, ga, ga, wibble wobble wussy, is banky interest on issums account nicey-wicey?’ And Harry responding appropriately with ‘sod off, you big plonker’.

When we told Daddy, he said this was unbelievable. ‘No it’s not,’ maintained Grandad. ‘I got a buildings insurance quote on the house from Halifax the other day. It was £418. On the same day, another company rang and quoted me £270. Well, Halifax were very good when we had a large subsidence claim in 1982, but that’s a big difference. So I rang Halifax to see if they’d reduce their quote and they put me through to Dave in Retentions. He said to update their records could I answer some questions. 1st question: when was the house built? But this must be on your data- base, I said’. [Grandad loves impressing people with technical terms like 'data-base']

‘Next question was: what type of house, how many bedrooms etc, etc? I kept saying surely this is on your data base? “Simply a procedural formality,” he replied, “to see if there’ve been any changes to the house” (there hadn’t). Then he said as a result of updating their records, my insurance had gone up to £506! And that they’d been under-charging me all these years! In total, I spoke to 8 Halifax employees over 2 days – including 3 Managers. Most of them didn’t know their arses from their elbows. Oops, sorry, Sophie. [I tactfully pretended I hadn't heard]. The next day the quote was back to £418 and they offered me £75 in compensation. I took the compensation and accepted the £270 rival quote. So can I believe wanting to chat with a 6-month-old baby? OH YES!’

I know Grandad was telling the truth ‘cos I heard him on the telephone. His blood pressure was going through the roof as he threatened them not only with ‘Which’ (he’s a member of course), but also consumer guardians on the Times, Sunday Times and the Guardian – and the Ombudsman. It turns out when Halifax merged with Lloyd’s Bank in 2001, they’d lost all their records in a computer melt-down, so they’d been insuring Grandad for the last 12 years knowing nothing about the house he lived in.

Grandad said that nice, cuddley, Nicky Clegg had showed a bit of backbone (just a little bit) in challenging Big Dave over his Free Schools plan. Apparently BD had said they didn’t need to follow the National Curriculum, employ qualified teachers, or stick to any school meals policy. I agree with Grandad about school meals. Though Jamie’s mockney speech irritates Grandad beyone measure – ‘bloody “Mothership” main dish, he growled. ‘Why is it always “whop” it in the oven and “pukka”?’ (I just feel he sounds common and lower class – though I suppose it’s good to be reminded of how quaint and silly common people can sound.

On the other hand, being a foodie, Grandad admires what Jamie did to raise the standards of aschool meals, and provide economical meals for hard-up people – and, in his latest series, show how we can avoid throwing away so much food. ‘That man should be revered’, he said. ‘He stands alongside Saint Delia. The twin Deities of the culinary world.’ He paused, wiped away a tear. He’s a very emotional man is Grandad. Inside that stony exterior, there beats a heart of gold – well, at least, where food is concerned. Bless!

Of course, he’s wrong about qualified teachers. My friend Petronella goes to a Free School and she says their games teacher is SOOO dishy! She says he works part-time in Stringfellows as a bouncer and when she sees him in their local Costa, he’s always got a fag hanging out of the corner of his mouth. Of course, he can’t teach for toffee but who cares? The girls just stand around and drool over his manly torso and gorgeous legs! Her science teacher, Petronella discovered, was a former inmate of HM prisons – he’d been part of a gang of bank robbers. He was the one who blew bank safes and Petronella says his experiments were a real hoot: they blow things up a lot while he entertains them with Michael Caine jokes from the ‘Italian Job’.

‘Surely to God they have to go through CRB tests,’ yelled Grandad when I told him.

Big news today, Georgeous George (as we’ve now got to call him – hmmm, perhaps he will be when he stops producing all those stinky nappies I had to deal with) has had his godparents named. Godfather – it’s a funny name, isn’t it? When I mentioned it to Grandad, he put these wads of cotton wool inside his mouth and started speaking in a funny voice. Like an American gangster. I can’t think why.

Grandad said he was very, very disappointed in the Daily Mail. Why? Because they’d only devoted 15 pages to news of Georgeous George, he said. It was disgraceful. I think maybe Grandad was being…. sarcastic?

I was pleased Mrs Mike Tyndall (Zara to you and me) was a godparent. Grandad agreed. She’ll be able to tell wee George how to pick up blondes in New Zealand bars, he said. Now what on earth did he mean by that? Grandad’s move and think in mysterious ways.

That’s all, folks! Speak soon,

Your loveable Sophie

PS Sebastian’s fed up. Why can’t your readers hear from me, he moans. Frankly, dear reader, I hear too much from Sebastian already – but perhaps he has a point.
Next time, I promised. As long as he gives me all his pocket money. I’m very fond of him really.

Sophies Parenting Diary

YOU ALL SAY: SOPHIE’S BEEN AWAY TOO LONG!!!!

I’ve had so many fans contact me (well, two actually) desperately begging me for the return of Sophie’s blog and YES, I’m sorry to have left you like this, distraught if not suicidal. But Grandad and I have been very busy. It’s all to do with wee baby George – you remember? Kate&Will’s Royal Sprog.

Well, I have to tell you: he’s been a royal pain in the … aspidistra.and I’m getting sick of it. It’s been a full-time job, changing his nappy, coping with the projectile vomiting, bottle feeding him (that Kate, she’s SO lazy – flying off for a skiing weekend in the Alps, phot-shoots here, there, and everywhere). As a result Grandad’s ben rushed off his feet, trying to entertain him with his reportoire of tips from Grandad’s Tips for Bringing up Kids (available from selected bookshops, Kindle or direct from http://www.positiveparentingpress.co.uk) – and on one occasion I even had to break off from listening to Coldplay and the Grateful Dead to help him out.

Babies are over-rated, I said to Grandad. He agreed: ‘Dead boring, okay when they get to 6 months old’. ‘That’s nice’, commented Mummy when I told her, ‘coming from a man who’s written a book on child-rearing.’ Gramps winked at me.

And, I mean, it’s a bit much, isn’t it? Kate&Wills swan off without so much as a wave goodbye or ‘Do you mind if…?’ and leave the fridge bare. Just a mouldy piece of foie gras and a piece of Primula cheese that looks as if it’s been there for yonks. Even worse, according to Gramps, was the empty drinks cabinet. Not even Red Bull – or a vintage Port left over in case Phil paid a surprise visit. Royals! Who’d have ‘em. We thought about expressing our disapproval in the time-honoured, working-class way. Ignoring the 5* toilets and … but good breeding prevailed.

Apparently, MPs have been debating getting Georgie a christening present. Well, he’s got so few presents, hasn’t he? What with parents on benefits (from the tax payer), and HM eyeing up a nursing home for Phil (long-term care doesn’t come cheap you know) they haven’t got two pennies to rub together. Anyway, the avuncular Tory, Tony Baldry – or Long John Baldry as Grandad immediately called him – suggested a whip-round of MPs. I don’t think that’s a reference to Tory ex-public schoolboys’ penchant for a spot of SM. And Baldry came up with the idea of a ‘really good cricket bat’. He was immediately interrupted by the Speaker, little Johnnie Bercow, who countered with a ‘tennis racket’. All this patriotic – and generous – sentiment must have warmed the cockles of Georgie’s heart.

Grandad thoroughly approved of Bercow’s suggestion. He likes little Johnnie. Partly because he enjoys the way Johnnie gets up the noses of Tory grandees but mainly because he’s mad keen on tennis and the Speaker in his youth was a very talented tennis player who was almost considered turning pro. The Tory faithful probably thought it was a pity he didn’t.

Oh and also Grandad likes him because he’s married to the long-legged divine Sally (‘yup, Long Tall Sally’, said Grandad). You know the one? The controversial socialist who ruffles everyone’s feathers. Grandad has a soft spot for mischief makers.

How stars’ kids learn to mind their manners

This was an item that caught Sophie’s eye in the newspaper. Faye de Muyshondt founded a New York-based company that ‘teaches children social skills and etiquette and has fast become a favourite with celebrity parents’. OMG!! Faye believes, for example, that children should be taught table manners.

Basically Sophie, and Grandad, agree with her. Sophie – with Grandad’s encouragement – has always taken a keen interest in schooling and educational matters. Everyone keeps telling me: I’m wise and mature beyond my years. One of Grandad’s friends commented, ‘It’s hard to believe she’s only 5¾’.

Mummy’s always been hot on table manners. Sebastian and I always have to sit at the table until we’ve finished our meals. We’re not allowed to eat watching TV with a meal on our laps (‘quite right’, grunted Grandad). And we mustn’t slump over our food or put too much in our mouth at one time.

However, I’ve sometimes been appalled by some of my peers’ behaviour when we’re having a party meal in a top class restaurant. It’s embarrassing. The other day, for instance we were in Macdonalds in Tunbridge Wells. Mummy was horrified when I suggested we have a party meal there. She’s right snob, by the way. ‘I wouldn’t be seen dead in a Macdonalds’, she said (that can be arranged, thought Sophie).

I could turn a blind eye to my school friends not knowing which spoon to eat their peas with or spitting out the odd bit of gristle, but even Sophie drew the line when it came to climbing over seats, swinging on light fittings, and throwing food at other children. If they didn’t behave, I warned, there’d be no balloons and pressies at the end. That worked for the adults. But it needed further dire threats before the kids started behaving.

The issue of children’s social skills, or lack of them, made the headlines recently, when Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society said it was the reason why more than a million British 16 to 24-year-olds are out of work. Grandad fell about when at ‘Minister for Civil Society’. ‘Does that mean ensuring everyone says ‘please’ and ‘thankyou’? Another bl**dy useless Minister!’ he thundered.

Faye and her staff offer workshops at Socialsklz (‘typically stupid American name’ – Gramps) to ‘children aged 4 to mid-teens based on communication, friendship, confidence and stress-management skilz’. Further on in the article, we realised, kids were certainly subjected to LOADS of stress.

The children are made to walk into a room, smile, stand up straight, and make eye contact with the other children. Fair enuff – Sophie can manage that. But then again, not all children will have a radiant smile like mine. And I don’t just smile at my friends but lower class people as well!

Next up is role play. This is where the ‘etiquette’ comes in. Gramps wasn’t sure about ‘etiquette’ – neither was I. ‘Is it something you eat?’ I enquired. Grandad said his touchstone was a lady called Jane Austen. She believed ‘good manners’ meant acting with sensitivity and consideration towards others. But she had no time for ‘etiquette’ that simply amounted to meaningless conventional formalities: you pick up this knife rather than that one for the second course etc.

Generally, though, Gramps was happy with role play activities. He likes drama and going to the theatre and he approved of the role play where children are invited to a party and then were hosting their own. There were some nice ideas here: the kids have to pretend arriving at a party with a present, introduce themselves; later they have to say ‘goodbye’ and thank their host for a lovely party.

What Grandad hated (and I think I would) was the exercise where kids had to give a timed 60 second speech about what they aredoing this summer. Every time they say “um”, “like”, or “you know”, the other children buzz them. “I’m um, like, going to Disneyland in Los Angeles…” says a shy, soft-spoken little girl of 10 as the others sqeal and buzz her. Everyone gets ‘frownie’ cards to match the number of times they lapse.

Oh Faye, please. You’d have been great as a Nazi Ssinterrogator. How about auditioning for Rosa Klebb in the next Bond remake?

Sophie who’s always nice to everyone, (even her inferiors) knows if you invite kids to criticise others, they’ll turn into Simon Cowell wanna-bees. They take a sadistic pleasure in reducing each other to tears. Grandad said he couldn’t think of anything more calculated to turn a shy, sensitive child into a neurotic wreck, destined to spend the rest of his or her life in an asylum.

So your skool (sic) has some good points, Faye, but your child assessment stinks.

Grandad says I ought to end with a joke so here’s one that’ll have you in stitches.

You go up to an adult and say (with serious, enquiring face): ‘Which hand do you wipe your bum with?’

They usually agonise, wriggle with embarrassment, but in an effort to answer honestly and directly, reply either ‘with my left hand or my right’. It doesn’t matter which.

Then you say: ‘Really? I always use loo paper!

Honestly, I laughed so hard at Grandad’s expression, I almost wet myself.

That’s all folks!

Bye,

Sophie xxxx

Trolling, Pregnant Mummies, and Philip Pullman v. Mr Gove

 

Trolling, Pregnant Mummies, and Philip Pullman v. Mr Gove

In a moment, I want to talk about something VERY serious but to get your attention, dear Sophie fans, I’ll begin with a bit of Royal gossip. I know how addicted many of you are (like Mummy) for news of Prince Georgie and Mummy Kate in serious magazines like Hello, and OK and Grazie.

Well, as Grandad would say it’s still ‘early doors’. Yes, he’s still with me, ensconced at the Palace, ordering room service and then complaining there’s no caviare and smoked salmon on the brunch menu. Actually I agree with him about the nosh here. Give me Frankie and Benny every time. Grandad makes a growling noise, and a look of demented fury crosses his face. He’s just so into his cordon bleu food, utterly obsessed. Mummy says he’d ‘sooner have a Michelin star meal on his own than eat a simple take-away with the family’. ‘There look, there’s the proof,’ said Mummy. ‘See the conflicted look on his face!’ Grandad was silent. For a long time. I began to feel quite sorry for him, bless, and gave him a quick cuddle.

I’ll return to beaking news from Kate, George, … and Sophie, in a little while. You know I love prolonging the suspense. But now for the SERIOUS bit.

There’s been a lot of talk on TV and radio, about TROLLS and how wicked they are. Well, of course, even little old Sophie knows that. So the wicked Troll wants to eat the Billy Goats Gruff. ‘What’s the big deal Grandad?’ I asked. ‘I mean, wicked Troll gets his come-uppance.’

‘You’ve essentially summarised the essence of the tale,’ said Grandad. And then he paused … and finally said he felt he needed to have a word with Mummy and Daddy before we all sat down together for a chat.

‘Oh no,’ I said, miming a big yawn. ‘Not the “Birds and the Bees” again. Been there, got the T-shirt, OK Grandad? So there’s no need for all the Drama Queen stuff… duh.’

Anyway, next day, Mummy, Daddy, and Grandad sat me down for a GROWN-UP talk. It seems there are some very nasty people who pick on people who have gone on Facebook, or Twitter, and write terrible, abusive things them. ‘Even worse, than saying “Prunella can be a bit of a cow sometimes”? ‘Even worse than that,’ said Grandad and Mummy, and Daddy nodded gravely. ‘Now we know there are some girls as young as you, Sophie who go on Facebook and Twitter, so you need to know how dangerous these social media sites can be,’ said Mummy, holding my hand.

Mummy and Daddy won’t let me go on these sites and they’ve some kind of giant lock with a key hidden away. They don’t want me exposed to what they call ‘cyber bullying’. I don’t think they need worry. I’m not one of those airheads who’s obsessed with what other people think of them. All my friends know how superior I am – and always defer to me so why would I worry about anybody else? I’ve already told them how wonderful I am and what a style guru I am (even Kate asks my advice on what Royal dress she should wear for this or that function). I don’t need to put it on Twitter.

Another thing I can’t get my head round, is why people want about 1500 ‘friends’ they’ve never seen.. Grandad says Sue Maushart’s book The Winter of our Disconnect makes the same point. He’s quoted her in Grandad’s Tips for bringing up Kids. Social media, Grandad says, is taking over our real lives in favour of virtual reality and virtual friends.

****************

Mummy says Sebastian and I are SO adorable (well, obviously I am) that she’s thinking about having another ‘sprog’ (that’s Grandad’s word – Mummy says it’s an ugly word, and Daddy agrees: that would make him the ‘Sprogfather’ he says). Perhaps Mummy’s been influenced by my role in ushering the Royal Baby George into this world – I’ve become a bit of a role model for Mummy. Mummy says it’s more to do with a newspaper report she read last week about pregnant women not having to give up alcohol. Apparently this women Emily Oster analysed all the evidence from different research projects, examined all their data (and statistical errors/flaws) and concluded ‘women should feel happy with one or two drinks a day during the first trimester, and up to one a day in the second or third.’

‘And therafter,’ said Mummy with a big grin on her face, ‘you can get completely bladdered every day!’

Grandad was skeptical and advised caution. ‘Medical evidence seems to change each week. 9 months isn’t that long. Play safe and restrict it to one or 2 drinks a week, ceasing altogether in the last few months.’

*****************

Grandad was cock-a-hoop about another report in the newspaper on Saturday. The lovely Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials, Clockwork) has been ticking off the nasty Mr Gove. A good thing too – the nasty Mr Gove is already making my school life a misery.

‘Children should be introduced to language through stimulating stories rather than being told to focus on its mechanics by concentrating on correct spelling and punctuation.’

Philip also said teachers should put much more emphasis on reading good children’s books and nursery rhymes with children from a young age, ideally from the foundation stage. Grandad said 3 cheers for Philip! Grandad says his book Grandad’s Tips stresses the importance of nursery rhymes for young children with a whole chapter on rhymes and stories as well as an annotated list of books for children at the end. Apparently, the lovely Michael Rosen (We’re going on a Bear Hunt) agrees with Philip 100%.

Grandad – with a mischievous twinkle in his eye – said Mr Gove MUST be right. ‘After all, like Philip Pullman and Michael Rosen he’s been a teacher, he’s written loads of award-winning children’s books, all the teaching/lecturing unions agree with him. OH, NO, wait a moment. HE HASN’T, and NONE of the teaching/lecturing unions agrees with him. Give Mr Gove a job he can do, like Minister for…? Anything as long as you don’t let him write a regular column in the Times like he used to….

‘I know, he’s supposed to be very brainy. Make him co-minister (along with the famous Mr ‘Two-Brains’ Willett) in charge the USELESS BRAINS Department.’

Grandad seemed very pleased with that idea – so much so I was able to tap him for a £5 note. I’m off to the sweet shop now to gorge myself. Don’t tell Grandad: he’s a staunch supporter of sweet rationing. Unless it’s himself, said Mummy, ‘every night he has half a mini-Snickers bar with his cup of coffee .

Right – that’s it fans. Been to the sweet shop, ready to throw up any second. Projectile vomiting coming up!!!

Sophie xxxxx LOL

PS – more about the ROYAL BABY next time. At the moment, I can’t stop his bl**dy crying!!

 

Sophie’s Special Mission and Prince George

 THE ROYAL BABY – A SOPHIE SPECIAL COMMEMORATIVE EDITION!!!

 Hello Fans

 Once again apologies to all those who’ve been waiting with baited breath for the next instalment of my diary. Inevitably there was a delay during Wimbledon because my IT consultant (Grandad) was watching TV non-stop: he spends most of his life watching or playing tennis. But that still leaves a gap of 3 weeks or so. SO – what have I been doing? 

Well, dear fans, your Sophie has been engaged on a SECRET MISSION – that can only NOW be revealed.  It might give you a clue if I say it involved an affair of immense pubic (Grandad says I missed out an ‘l’ in that word ?) interest. Have you guessed yet? 

That’s right, Sophie received a summons from the Palace. They wanted me to pack my bags and move in with Kate and Will to advise them on the birth of their baby. Because I don’t know if you’re aware of this but the Duchess of Cambridge has been pregnant. YES, it’s true, and now the sprog’s been born, and my job’s done, I can be released into the community – as it were.  There’s hardly been a thing about this pregnancy and birth in the newspapers, has there? 

Anyway Sophie (I’ve got used to speaking about myself in the 3rd person, just like the Royals) found Kate charming company, but a bit limited intellectually. Obviously it’s difficult keeping up with a sophisticated style guru like me.  

Grandad had also been invited as a sort of chaperone and because he’s an international authority on child rearing, and author of Grandad’s Tips for Bringing up Kids 

Grandad soon won over Will, putting him right on a few educational matters, and sympathising with him about his philistine of a father. I did my best to keep Grandad off politics, especially his views on the abolition of the monarchy – and failed.

 Kate wanted to know what she could expect from George in the early years and things like should she send him to a private school or a pubic one?  I said definitely a pubic one because he had to learn to mix with girls, and the common people.  I mean Royals have to have the common touch, don’t they?  How else was he going to learn all those swear words – like Prunella and me. The ones that all those common people use? And, of course, he needs a grounded education in sex, drugs and rock n’ roll (like Uncle Harry). 

He’ll be OK for fashion advice ‘cos he’s got Camilla, and Becks.  Perhaps he’ll adopt the Becks sarong style when he grows up? 

Natch, I congratulated her on naming the baby after Peppa Pig’s brother.  I like the name George but I thought she could have gone for something posher. Wayne or Shane perhaps? Jason maybe? Or Justin (as in Justin Bieber – I’ve forgiven the Beaver, he’s back in favour [see earlier blog]). 

As I sat by Kate’s bedside, holding her hand, and urging her to push harder (Wills was nowhere to be seen, frankly he’s a bit of a wuss) I thought: Why me? Why did she summon little old me in her hour of need.  And then I thought it’s obvious.  She’d clearly heard about my sympathetic, empathetic manner.  You see, I do DO empathy.  If it’s empathising you want, I’m your girl (Mummy keeps saying, ‘I’m old beyond my 5¾ years’).  

And, of course, there was no-one else she could turn to – apart from Kate Burley [Sky News] and who’d want La Burley manically screaming, ‘IT’S A BOY, IT’S A BOY!!!’ 

It was nice having Grandad’s company.  Mind you, he had to embarrass me, didn’t he?  You see, he’s a great fan of 50s musicals, and when George finally entered the world, kicking and struggling, mewling and puking, Grandad – with a silly smirk on his face – leans over Kate’s bed and says, ‘Kiss me Kate!’ 

You can’t take him anywhere.  Next, he’ll be trying to sell his story to Hello magazine, taking all the credit from me, saying it was all down to him – and then posting a derisive letter to the Guardian deploring all the media hype! 

One question remains: How did Kate get to hear about me and my famed EMPATHY? Mummy wondered if Grandad (my hopeless IT consultant) had somehow hacked into Kate’s Facebook page. 

‘Grandad?’, I hooted. ‘Grandad? He couldn’t hack into a Jiffy bag with a carving knife!  I had to explain how you turn the computer off. ‘What?’ he said, disbelievingly. ‘You click on the START button?’  

‘Well, I admit, it’s counter-intuitive, Grandad, but that’s Microsoft engineers for you’. 

You would think with all these Royal duties to distract Grandad and me, we’d have no time for more serious matters.  You’d be wrong.  Grandad found he didn’t have to visit Waitrose and spend £5 a day to get the Times, Guardian, Telegraph, and Mail free. He just put them on Kate and Wills account. 

‘You get the Mail, Grandad?’ I said skeptically. 

‘Yes, Sophie – in case Kate and Wills run out of loo paper.’ 

Last week he was cock-a-hoop over the ‘wonderful’ 6th form boys at Whitchurch High School, Cardiff.  They’re the ones who wore skirts ‘cos the headmaster banned them wearing shorts!

‘They’re brave lads,’ said Grandad. ‘In this unexpected heat-wave, taking a stand against high-handed, autocratic tyranny.   Reminds me of the Reverend George Whitfield, that hypocritical bastard of a headmaster who made my school life a misery!!’ 

Hello, I thought, Grandad’s off again.  I think he was a bit of a rebel at school. 

‘They’re very brave. They should be given the George medal [very appropriate for this week, Grandad] not hauled over the coals.  As they said, if girls can wear skirts, why can’t they wear shorts?  They’re also brave,’ he said, ‘because when I was at school, I’d have been a laughing stock if I’d worn shorts in the 2nd year let alone the 6th.  It was a badge of shame.’ 

I was with Grandad on this: if boys wore skirts – or shorts – we’d be able to admire their legs and wolf whistle.  Assuming they had nice legs, of course.  If they didn’t we’d just giggle at them (girls don’t laugh, they giggle).  Perhaps the ones with nice legs could give Becks’ sarongs a twirl? 

A report in the Times and the Mail also had Grandad going mental.  

‘Packed lunches lead to childhood obesity!!!’ screamed the headlines. 

‘No they don’t!!!’ screamed Grandad.  ‘Packed lunches packed with fatty, sugary food lead to childhood obesity – and if they’d said that after the headline, it would have been OK but they didn’t!  School meals have certainly improved thanks to Saint Jamie, not any Government initiative.  And they sacked Jamie because he said they weren’t spending enough money.’

I agreed with Grandad – it’s easier.  

‘My Mum,’ said Grandad, wiping a way a tear, ‘Bless her cotton socks, used to send me to school with a packed lunch every day full of nutritional food, fruit, greenstuffs, eggs, meat.  And that was from the 3rd year right up to the 6th.  Mind you, I had to nag at her for a couple of years, complain about how bad the school food was. For ‘elevensies’ she used to give me 2 slices of cold toast with Marmite and I’d be the envy of all my classmates. They’d try and bribe me to get a slice of toast.’ 

Even at a young age, Grandad was quite a gourmet.  As he reminisced, a misty look came over his eyes. 

He also praised a report in the Times by John Naish about how scientists had discovered that ‘speed-eating’ – described as ‘endemic’ – was leading to obesity (‘rather than packed lunches,’ said Grandad).  It claimed we (not Grandad and our family) eat our meals nearly twice as fast as we did a decade ago.  This is at home, as well as those fast food outlets like MacDonalds.  Half the 2,000 Britons surveyed said they wanted to do other things ['there are more pleasurable things than eating a meal?' said Grandad incredulously]; a third said thay could barely taste what they eat ['in that case, go the whole hog, and starve,' growled Grandad]; a fifth said they never ate at a table ['off a plate with Fido on the floor?' enquired Grandad].  And many, of course, regularly eat in front of the TV.   Grandad said they should read his book, Grandad’s Tips for Bringing up Kids, where he talks about the benefits to family life (and kids’ educational progress) of turning the TV off and eating together at the table.  

‘As long as all discussion of politics is banned when Grandad’s brother joins us for a meal,’ said Mummy.  There are always heated arguments when they get together – so it’s certainly not speedy eating for them!!  Grandad says his brother is right of Ghengis Khan and his brother accuses him of being a wishy-washy, namby-pamby, bleeding-heart, Guardian-reading, liberal do-gooder. 

We just sit on the sidelines and laugh. 

Well, that’s all folks. I’ll update next time on all my continuing Royal commitments.  I know how starved you must be for news of Kate, Wills and Georgie-Porgie.  

LOL 

SOPHIE – do you like my funky font? Specially for James!