Tuesday, December 09, 2008


An early Christmas gift

My groanometer tells me that Christmas is getting closer. And, valiantly as ever, we’re beavering away at our tried and tested recipe for a good time. The one that always turns out slightly tasteless, so will need even more extravagant ingredients next year, the one that makes us slightly queasy and glad when it’s gone.

Christmas really is the ultimate triumph of hope over experience. So why do we do it? What’s happened to our inventiveness? We didn’t sit for long in smoke-filled caves before someone came up with the bright idea of a chimney, or endure many seasons growing strawberries that the birds ate before it struck us that a little bit of netting would solve the problem, so why is it beyond us to find a way to have a Christmas we actually like?

So ran a discussion recently, but when it came to exactly what it is that makes and mars Christmas, there was no consensus at all. My loved one recalled blissful Christmases spent with a bunch of friends and a picnic on the beach when he lived in New Zealand, although I doubt if even his optimistic nature would welcome the prospect of a re-run of that on a near-freezing beach in England.

Freedom to do as you like, a stroll down the pub for convivial conversation with friends by a log fire were all mentioned wistfully, while resentment at the hours spent shopping and chopping of food, the noise, the chaos and worst of all, the head-breaking task of finding the right presents for everyone were reasons to be cheerless.

But, obviously there is a common thread - responsibility and that’s what’s so irksome. The years we liked were when we did all the fun stuff and someone else did all the worrying: about what to buy for whom, whether there was enough money to pay for it, the queues in the supermarket and whether Aunt Gwen could be persuaded to bury the hatchet with Uncle Bill long enough to get through Christmas lunch.

So we should take a deep breath and acknowledge that the old Christmas is dead, finished, gone for ever. Things are different - global warming has put paid to the snow, the environment to the real tree, the TV to the carol services, our year-round gluttony to the turkey and presents and cheap booze to our restraint in holding our tongue when Aunt Gwen won’t shut up.

But don’t panic, we can rebuild it, make it nicer, cheaper and fit for heroes. Well, I’ve done my bit - given you a blank sheet to say how you'd really like to spend Christmas.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


"Is you is, or is you ain't my baby"

A news story in Cannes has become more fascinating for what isn’t revealed than for what is. A woman is suing a maternity clinic because she believes her baby was switched at birth. Nothing new there then - we already know that it’s what most mothers suspect when their little darlings turn into monsters.

Clearly the reporter sent to cover the story is no Philip Marlow. He doesn’t have a whole lot of information to impart and zero hunches. The woman is his only source and there’s not a word from the neighbours - what sort of a reporter can’t even get them to blab?

All we know is:

* mother gives birth to baby girl fourteen years ago, who is transferred to special care unit suffering from jaundice

* takes baby home a week later and expresses surprise that baby has more hair than at birth but is told it’s normal

* also notes that baby looks of mixed race, but puts it down to her own Spanish origins.

* ten years and two more children later, husband demands DNA test on first baby, which proves he‘s not the father

* woman takes DNA test which proves that neither is she the mother

* decides only possible explanation is that babies have been switched at birth

* finds her real daughter, with whom she has a happy reunion but afterwards struggles to know what her role is, since her daughter already has a mother

Isn’t the reporter remotely curious to know whether she saw the baby in between giving birth and taking her home, or notice that it looked of mixed race when she first saw it?

Didn’t he ask why the husband demanded a DNA test after ten years, whether he suspected the baby wasn’t his from the start or only when the possibility of divorce and child maintenance approached? And who suggested that the mother should take a DNA test herself?

And how did she find her daughter? There’s no comment from the clinic, which has in any case changed ownership, even though the woman is going public with the claim that they’ve never recognised their mistake, apologised or shown any sign of compassion.

The mother tells us that after the DNA test, her ‘daughter’ was shocked and afraid and needed reassurance that it didn’t change anything between them, although adds that, paradoxically, the ties between them have since become stronger, but what about her real daughter - don’t they see each other any more?

But above all, I want to know what the other mother and father involved think about it all - are they champion swimmers who’ve long wondered why their daughter is water phobic, or are they disappointed that just as life was going along pretty well, this little skeleton should jump out of the cupboard?

The reporter may have asked for interviews from the others and been refused, but come on, isn’t that an intriguing part of the story too?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?