Archive for April, 2010

Top 5 activities for a visiting Pope

Monday, April 26, 2010

The reporting of jokes contained in a Foreign Office memo about an impending Papal visit to Britain has been pretty po-faced. The memo did indeed feature suggestions that Benedict XVI could open an abortion ward, launch a brand of condoms and bless a gay wedding, but it also contained less offensive and funnier jokes about him doing forward rolls to promote healthy living and apologising for the Spanish Armada.

It may be worthwhile to celebrate this inspired piece of memo-drafting with an alternative top five activities for a visiting Pope.

1. Visit a Portaloo in a wooded area. Possibly with a Catholic bear, if available.

2. Receive a rapturous welcome in Camden from purveyors of witty T-shirts lionising his attested recreational drug use.

3. Have his bottom bitten by a flea, thus vindicating the mawkish song Little People in Les Miserables that makes the point that humble creatures can affect grandees.

4. Burn Protestants. Health and safety advice suggests burning only dead ones at a crematorium.

5. Put up a tent, go on a bicycling holiday, and other activities that may remind him of his formative years in the Hitler Youth.

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Baby talk

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I met a new father at a party last weekend who declared: “One of the best things about having a baby is that you can do nothing but sit in silence, just transfixed by her.”

This, I thought, is the worst thing about babies; their ability to suck away conversation. I don’t dislike babies themselves. I think they’re quite interesting, often amusing, and I get why, if they’re yours, they are a constant source of wonder.

What I tire of quite quickly is talking about them. Baby conversations with new parents are, I fancy, much like weather conversations with meteorologists. Diverting for one person, fascinating for the other. The non-meterologist is left wondering, after ten to 20 minutes,  what he can say that is a) insightful, b) creative or c) will change the subject to anything else.

I think some new parents are aware of this, and do their best to change the subject, but not all of them.

I was at a wedding last year at which everyone on my table except my girlfriend and me had children, some of whom were interspersed between us in high chairs. It was a beautiful wedding in the Italian lake district, but the only time the parents were not talking about their children was when they were talking to them. I had to excuse myself after 45 minutes, ostensibly to go to the loo but actually to avert a spontaneous outburst of primal scream therapy.

The only time I’ve been at a social occasion with a more prolonged conversational topic was a teenage house party full of orchestral musicians. Minutes, then hours went by as cellists and triangle players spoke in minute detail about where and why various sections would come in early or late during this or that concerto. I tried exchanging glances with other people as if to say, “boy, do you think they’ll start talking about something more inclusive soon?”, but they were all in on it. It was the most boring party I’ve ever attended until, hours later, I found the one other person at the party who wasn’t a musician and lost my virginity to her.