Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The Best-Laid Birth-Plans

Did you have a birth-plan? I certainly did, and very careful and prescriptive it was too. No inductions, no epidurals, no cutting, no shaving, no interventions, just lovely, healthy, natural birth.

I was very happy with it. And then the baby came along, and the plan went right out the window. Instead of lovely and natural I got out-of-control, terrifying and very, very painful.

Despite ending well – adorable, healthy baby, no major physical traumas – I found the experience difficult, and all the more so when I contrasted it with what I had expected and hoped for.

I know I am not alone in this, because I heave learned that just mention the word 'birth-plan' in a room full of mothers, and half will laugh ruefully, while the other half shudder.

Here is a piece I wrote for, on birth-plans, why we have them, and what happens when they go wrong:

Thursday, 12 June 2014

My Hero Likes My Book!

This is really a boast disguised as a blog... but hey, I'm excited and cannot help bragging a little.

Oliver James, psychologist and author of many really excellent books, including They F*** You Up, Affluenza and The Selfish Capitalist, has long been the psychologist I admire the most. I used to read his column in the Guardian many years ago, before I had children, and I warmed to his sane, clear, kind approach to human relations, particularly families.

Once I had children, his books became a lifeline. Because they were without hysteria, very well written, and because they are full of hope. Instead of telling me that my mistakes had 'ruined' my child forever, James's belief has always been that, although the first two years are very important, they are not the only chance we will ever get to do this right.

Thanks to Oliver James, and my mother, I learned to do my best, and to expect the best of myself, but also to get over it when I had a bad day. Put it behind me, don't dwell guiltily on my failures, get up the next day and try all over again.

So when I wrote my own book, How To Really be A Mother, I finally, after many months, nerved myself up to send him a copy.

And you know what? He read it. And he liked it! Here's what he said:

"I have read innumerable other books trying to do the same job but this is really excellent: well done! A splendid book. If I get a chance to recommend it I shall take that chance..."

Here's what I said: 'YEAY!!'

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Surviving The School Gates

It's not just your children who go to school, it's you too. And while the whole 'School-Gate-Thing' may not be quite as fraught as a thousand articles about what Claudia Schiffer is wearing to drop Clementine and Caspar off, or the best healthy muffin recipes for lunchboxes might suggest, it's not simply a matter of being on time and not forgetting the schoolbag, either.

Here is a piece I wrote on navigating the politics, style stakes and playdate planning, for the excellent

Monday, 26 May 2014

Doing It Our Own Way!

The instinct to help mothers – especially new mothers – is a great one. But too often it comes with an awful lot of 'You Should...' attached.

Here is a piece I wrote for the jolly good US site on the subject, as part of their 'Supporting Moms' series:

‘I know she means well, but she’s driving me crazy,’ a friend said recently about her mother. The friend just had her first baby – the first grandchild too – and her mother was being wonderful; cooking, cleaning, constantly offering help. Unfortunately, she was also constantly offering advice, mostly of the ‘you should…’ kind. ‘You should bath her before the evening feed.’ ‘You should supplement with a bottle at night.’ ‘You should put her down for a nap when she’s still awake, not rock her to sleep.’

Sometimes it was ‘you shouldn’t…’ just for a change. ‘You shouldn’t feed her so much. I’m sure she can’t be hungry’. ‘You shouldn’t use that detergent, it’s too harsh for her skin.’
‘I know she’s trying to help, but she just makes me feel I’m doing everything wrong,’ the friend, close to tears, eventually said.

... to read the rest, go to

Thursday, 15 May 2014

What Kind of Mother Does Society Want Us To Be?

Society has considerable expectations around women as mothers; the kind of mother we will be, the things we will do and, therefore, the sort of children we will produce – these are matters that Society, like a strict and judgmental Aunt, has strong views on. And to make it easier, Society likes to give us little labels, quite as if we were Spice Girls: Tiger Mother, Routine Mother, Hugger Mother, Sancti-Mother, Hipster Mother, Slacker Mother and so on. And hey, who cares that the labels don't actually fit anyone?

In one way, we cannot blame Society for this – after all, our children are part of the story. The way they grow up, the sort of people they will become, will influence the shape of Society in the future. The few who are extremely brilliant or extremely dysfunctional will have, perhaps, a direct impact – by inventing a new type of energy, or killing a president, for example – the vast majority will simply be an organic part of a constantly-shifting mass, gently moving it minute distances in one direction or another.

So, I accept that Society has a vested interest in what we mothers do and how we do it. The problem is, Society’s views on the matter are quite contradictory.

On the one hand, and starting at the beginning, Society wishes us to behave like the High Priestesses of a temple during pregnancy, ensuring that we carefully optimise our chances of producing a perfect baby, because Society likes to work with good raw material. Society wants us to form strong bonds with our babies, because that way they are more likely to be emotionally stable and less inclined to riot or throw rocks at the police. Society likes us to breastfeed, because that will limit the likelihood of obesity in later life, and instill good early eating habits for the same reason. Society wants us to listen and respond to the needs of our children, because this gives them self-confidence and makes them less likely to become alcoholics or drug-addicts.

Society, you see, is a complete catastrophist, and incapable of nuanced response, always dealing in crazed disaster headlines, never shades of grey. Things going wrong, for Society, always result in fire! Famine! Dread! never just a bit of a shame.

But – don’t think of getting over-excited and taking all this attachment stuff too far, because Society does not like it when it gets too extreme. Hugger Mothers are too hippy, too free-flowing, too resistant to consumerism, and therefore likely to produce children who may opt out of Society in order to start a commune, or become irritatingly alternative about things like the emotional need for a new kitchen or car. Breastfeed for too long – anything over a year, really – and suddenly it becomes, not a benefit to mother and child, but something weird and a bit off.

Refuse to discipline your child on the basis that you believe in complete tolerance, and Society, just like that strict Aunt, will get very finger-wagging about the need for boundaries. Tend constantly to the needs of your child rather than your own, and Society will tell you that you are raising a monster. Fail to dress nicely and have your hair done regularly while you go about this business of raising children, and Society will silently accuse you of Letting Yourself Go.

Yes, Society is utterly inconsistent in its expectations around mothers, and sending out hopelessly mixed messages.

The real question is, how much should all this matter to us? Of course, it’s nice to feel in step with our world, to bask in the light of social approval around our ‘choices’, but does it really matter a damn what Society thinks?

Well, yes, I would argue. For me, anyway. Because I am not at all immune to the need for general good opinion. Perhaps I lack the courage of my convictions, but I still like a little pat on the back from time to time, the feeling that I am doing the right thing in the eyes of Society. And so when I let my children sleep in my bed for too long (until about three months ago actually, in the case of the three-year-old), I find myself hiding this information from those around me, because I know they are going to say sternly, ‘that child needs her own bed, you’re just encouraging her to be needy.’ When I breastfed the eldest until he was nearly four, this was a dark secret, known only to my very closest. When brisk friends asked ‘are you still feeding him?’ I would mutter something about ‘not really,’ and turn the subject.

You are probably all thinking what an almighty wimp I am, and you’re probably right. But such, I confess, is the weight of social disapproval.

And so, when I see Society getting every more prescriptive about the ‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’ way to bring up children, this bothers me. There is so much judgement now around everything mothers do – from the type of car seats we use, to the food we buy, to the kind and amount of exercise our children get and the schools they go to – so much scrutiny and advice, that it is quite head-spinning.

A friend who had her first baby recently asked me, in all sad seriousness, if I thought she was seriously jeopardising her baby’s future if she didn’t buy a flat-lying pram, even though she couldn’t fit it into her car boot, ‘because the books say its bad for his back if he doesn’t sleep lying flat.’ I said I truly thought he would be ok, and then I thought how mean Society is to put mothers under extra, totally unnecessary pressure. But also how Society is fundamentally decent, and would undoubtedly back off it only it knew how unhelpful all this stuff is.

So, I thought I would tell it: Society, back off! Stop watching and judging us. We will do our best, and it will be good enough. The things we don’t do are because we cannot reasonably accommodate them within our lives. As the old saying has it, anything that gets past us, wasn’t meant for us. So leave us a alone and go and peer critically at someone else for a change.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Cruelty of Contrast

A recent visit to an orphanage in Russia, with superb Irish charity To Russia With Love, showed me clear as day something I already knew, but in a murky, confused sort of way.

All the agonising that I do, endlessly, over whether I am doing enough to ensure my children's happiness and success in life, is self-indulgent waste. My guilt over the small things – do they watch too much TV? Eat enough green leafy veg? – is unnecessary.

Because simply by being born where they are born, is better than half the battle. Brought up by parents who love them, in a country that is kind to them, means they have what they need to flourish.

The children I saw in Russia, aged between 10 and 17, have such a difficult, uphill battle that it forced a sense of perspective on me. I didn't go there to feel better about my parenting – I went to hear their stories and ultimately turn these into a book that I hope will raise money for the charity – but a welcome byproduct has been coming home and finding that I obsess far less about my children's lifestyle and my own shortcomings.

Here are more thoughts on the trip and aftermath, written for

Saturday, 12 April 2014

When 'Good' Parents Go Bad

It is the mark of 'good' parents that we care for our children, think about them, plan for them, protect them, encourage them and teach them. All of those things are wonderful. But, like anything else, there is such thing as too much, even of the good stuff.

Too much protection, too much care, thereby stifling the child's instinct to make his or her own way, usually through the medium of his or her own mistakes.

I am as bad as anyone – afraid to let my kids out of my sight, unless it is into the deliberate care of another watchful adult – but I am starting to think that it may be time to pull back. A little, anyway.

Here is a piece, written for, on the subject:

Friday, 28 March 2014

Motherhood, Guilt And The Fantasy of 'Choice'

Is there anything in the world of parenting quite as awful and contentious as the debate over working and stay-at-home mums? All that talk about the 'choices' we have apparently made, and the impact these might and might not have on our children... As if choice had anything to do with it, for most of us.

But even though necessity, not choice, is what drives us, we still feel manage to feel guilty. We all know about the guilt of the working mother – many of us have been there – but there is plenty of guilt for stay-at-home mothers too I have discovered. Equal quantities for all, just differently allocated.

Which means, more than ever, that we need to be kind to each other!

Here is a piece I wrote on the subject that seems to have sparked off some fairly hot debate, for the excellent

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Surviving The First Three Months

'The higher they come, the harder they fall.' Its a motto that is just as true of expectations as it is of financial markets and big guys with glass jaws. Which is why the first few months after your baby is born, instead of being a delirious dance of joy, can be difficult, awkward and even a little bit miserable.

Because you have waited for this, longed for it, and most of all, built it up in your head into a cross between graduation day, your birthday, Christmas and Oscar night, with perhaps a dash of last-day-of-school thrown in. And so, when finally it happens – They hand you your baby, and actually let you take him or her home – you may very well find that, once through your own front door, all that Expectation suddenly comes up against Reality, and the result is a mighty crash.

Its a bit like the irresistible-force-unmovable-object equation, except with more snot and tears.

Exhaustion you were expecting – everyone busily warns you about that bit – but probably not some of the other emotions that can come with a tiny baby. Yes, you are in love like never before, but you may also be frustrated, lonely, bored and obscurely deflated. These feelings may bother you, because they are not part of the official mantra of The Wonderfulness of Motherhood, and because they feel like a betrayal of your adorable baby. Actually, they are perfectly normal, in my experience, and will wax and wane, like the moon and your waistline, for the next year or so.

But in the meantime, here a few tips to help make those first few months more bearable, written for my favourite US site: Quick and Dirty Tips

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Horrors of Homework

I think I hate homework now even more than I did when I was a kid and actually doing it. The daily misery of sitting with my middle child as he stares into space, fidgets with pencils and starts conversations that have nothing to do with the worksheet or book in front of him, while I feel my own impatience mounting until I am choking back the words 'Just concentrate!', has reached gasket-blowing proportions. The daily torture shows up all that is worst in my personality: Impatience, intolerance, downright snappishness.

Here is a piece on that misery written for the wonderful Irish parenting site

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Are We Too Quick To Make Them Use Their Words?

My six-year-old son came home from school the other day saying that he had been in trouble for fighting in yard and had been put on the steps. I asked him why he had been fighting, and he said ‘because I love it!’

Now, the other kid may not have loved it, and of course the school were right to take the action that was in line with their rules and principles. I do not dispute that. But, it did make me wonder, have we taken too much of the rough-and-tumble out of our children’s lives?

These days, if children begin an altercation – over a toy, a game, some name-calling, whatever – every available adult in the vicinity seems to immediately rush forward and diffuse the situation, urging them to ‘use your words.’ Equally, if a child complains that another child has done something mean – and children can do very mean things to each other – there is a good chance the complaining child will be encouraged to look at the situation from their aggressor’s point of view and consider whether that child might have had a bad day or be upset about something. They may even be asked ‘but what did you do to him? (Or her)’

Now, this might mean that we are raising a bunch of highly empathetic, soul-searching, ‘Indigo’ kids who will view all sides of a situation and merrily walk a mile in each other’s shoes. (And of course it might not – children can be notoriously perverse about efforts to mould them).

But, we may also be weeding out the natural urge to push back, to grab back the toy that was taken, or say ‘so are you!’ to the kid who calls them an idiot.

We may be teaching them to be afraid of their own aggression – so busy forcing them to empathise with others, that they are losing sight of their own entirely natural responses.

Of course the spectacle of small children attacking or insulting each other is not an edifying one, and as a society we have done tremendous work in taking violence out of the playground, and encouraging our children to find other ways of expressing dissatisfaction and upset. This is a good thing. But, I wonder, have we perhaps gone a little too far? Is there a place for aggression that we are not acknowledging? Are we now too quick to make them use their words, rather than react physically?

When adults attend self-defence courses, the very first thing they are taught is to respond with aggression to an attack. To yell – loudly! – and do something; hit, shove, throw. Often, it takes a while to get this response out of them, because by adulthood, we have all spent so many years suppressing those reactions, squashing down the instinct to greet like-with-like because ‘its rude to shout,’ or ‘ we don’t hit,’ that they are deeply buried and cannot be activated without a struggle. When the world takes a toy away from us, or pushes us, instead of demanding it back or shouting 'stop!', we tie ourselves in verbal knots, telling the world how that makes us feel and trying to second-guess why the world would want to do such a thing to us.

This might be a mistake. Life is a long and difficult business, that needs to be treated delicately, sympathetically and empathetically at times. And at other times given a good shove and told to back off!

Now, I am not suggesting that we raise our children to be monstrous Wall Street trader types, who think they are Masters of the Universe and that the world is a jungle they must fight their way through. Of course I’m not. Those are the people who destroyed financial stability for millions through their greed and arrogance. And they are generally not known for their subtlety of mind or sense of humour, either.

But, I do think the ability to swing a punch where absolutely necessary, or at the very least to know that we could if we had to, is vital.

And I believe this for girls too, who are even more likely than boys to be discouraged from giving physical expression to their feelings of anger, hurt and humiliation. Boys aren’t allowed to hit girls (despite the fact that we are ostensibly an equal-opportunities society, and little girls are often just as strong as little boys) and girls aren’t allowed to hit each other. Which means no hitting at all for girls.

I grew up, second eldest of six, cheerfully fighting my brothers and sisters. I fought the boys in my class, when that seemed necessary, up until the age of 11 or 12. I don’t mean King of the Travellers-style bare-knuckle boxing in a ring of whooping spectators, just the odd thump or kick. There were never any hard feelings, in fact those exchanges were usually perfectly good-natured and swiftly concluded. So it is difficult for me to feel properly outraged when I hear that my son has been fighting. There is a part of me that thinks, ‘well so what?’ And a part of me that, when my daughter cries and says ‘he took my dolly,’ thinks, ‘well take it back!’ even as I rush forward busily to say ‘now children, no taking people’s things, that’s not nice. You made your sister feel sad. How would you like it if someone took your things…?’

Mumsnet Blog of the Day 7/03/2014

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Advice About Advice

Short of standing on a tall building with a megaphone and shouting 'does anyone know the best way to get red wine out of a tablecloth?', you are unlikely to ever experience an onslaught of advice quite like that which having a baby brings.

Relentless, confusing, undoubtedly well-meaning but often too-bloody-muching, one of the greatest challenges post-baby is learning to sift through this stuff, taking the good, leaving the rest. Like a discerning gourmet at a cruise ship buffet.

Here is a piece on doing just that I wrote for the excellent US website Quick And Dirty Tips:

Monday, 24 February 2014

Can I Choose My Child’s Friends?

Can I choose my child’s friends? I would certainly like to. Particularly the six-year-old’s. He is a boy, and a boisterous one, and he is drawn to kids with similar personalities – who like fighting, wrestling, rough-housing. Now, I am not misguided enough to think his friends are leading him astray – they aren’t leading him at all, they are simply fellow-travellers along his chosen path of mayhem – but they are definitely Not A Good Influence, in that they encourage his already-pronounced tendency to get himself into trouble at school.

I wish he would hang out more with the thoughtful, quiet ones. It’s not that he isn’t interested in books, and animals, and history, just markedly less so than in pretending to be a superhero fighting a dastardly super-villain and aiming a series of precise killer blows. When these quiet, thoughtful boys do come on play-dates, I am charmed to see how long my son can sit with an atlas, locating the countries through which the Amazon passes, or making complicated Lego structures. ‘See,’ I think smugly, ‘he’s really very intelligent and sensitive. He just needs the right peer group to develop that side of him.’

The pity is, when offered a choice between the ‘right’ peer group and the wrong one, there is no contest in his mind. He would merrily knock the nice kids out of his way to get to the raucous ones and raise a bit of kiddie hell. So, given that his inclination does not lie in the direction I think best for him, should I intervene and try to reshape his path?

Does interfering in this way make me a hopelessly controlling, uptight, Wanna-Be Alpha Mum? And if so, how much does this matter?

Perhaps I should just make peace with it? After all, I pretty much control what he eats (at least I try, unashamedly), what he watches (again, I try. There are always a few episodes of the Simpsons that sneak through and provoke awkward questions – ‘what’s sex and why are Marge and Homer having it?’), even what he wears, in that I buy the clothes, even if I don’t dictate what combinations he chooses. So, maybe its time to stop agonising over his freedom of choice, and simply promote the matches I approve of, and freeze the ones I don’t?

There are mothers who do this, blatantly. One of them even said to me recently, as we walked back from dropping our boys to their class, ‘X (her son) wants me to invite Y (cheerfully aggressive kid, very popular with his classmates, box office poison with mums) over, but I’m not going to, because I think he’s a terrible influence, and every time he comes round, X behaves like a thug for days afterwards.’ At least she was open about it. Other mothers are more subtle – regretfully tied up for any engagement that involves certain children, endlessly free for certain others. They are quite clearly skillfully manipulating their offspring’s friendships, carefully cultivating those they approve of, cauterising those they don’t.

And yes, I have noticed that the pre-selecting sort of mother doesn’t much invite my son around, so I do see the way it works, and the potential it carries for one or two kids to be left right out, if everyone adopts the controlling-mother stance.

And then I think back to my own childhood, and my enduring fascination with the ‘bad’ kids. The ones who were exciting, unpredictable, always in trouble. The ones with whom I got told off, sent to the headmaster’s office, even suspended once. With whom I had my first sneaky cigarette and other rites of childish passage. And I look at them now, and see how upstanding, resolute and impressive they are as adults, and I think – ‘hold back a while, maybe the kids are better judges than we think…’ Blog of the Day Mon 24th Feb

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Making The Best of Musical Beds

Those of you who read this column last month will know I have been trying to move the three-year-old into her own bed, for the first time ever. It wasn’t easy, but patience paid off and she now happily sleeps there. Every night. Til morning. Its something like a miracle, and happened almost without trauma in the end. You see, first I played the waiting game, lying quiet in the long grass. Then I said idly one day, ‘Maybe if you don’t want the room, one of the boys will like it.’ Suspicious pause. ‘No, that is my room and I will sleep there.’ And she has ever since.

When all else fails, I recommend appealing to the basest instincts: sibling rivalry and territoriality.

The trouble is, nature abhors a vacuum. So do the inhabitants of a four-bed semi-D. When little B moved out, she created the conditions for my husband to move back in. This is the first time in almost a year that the poor man has been able to go to bed, in his very own bed, with his very own wife (I should clarify, for his sake at least, that we are not one of those couples who believe in separate beds; this was a move born of necessity only). But it hasn’t been easy. When I say ‘almost without trauma’, I do mean ‘almost’. The trauma, such as it has been, was mine.

When you are used to sharing a bed with a cute little toddler, re-entering the world of adult co-sleeping is very tricky. A grown man, who snores, hogs duvets and takes up an adult amount of space, is a very different proposition to a sweet little cherub. Even her habit of lying sideways across the entire bed at first seemed endearing in comparison with the giant form now beside me. 

The first night, I missed little B terribly, and barely slept because I checked on her so often. I also kicked my husband viciously every time he moved, and hissed ‘stop that!’ at him. I held on to the covers for dear life in case he wrest them from me, and when he did start to snore, I elbowed him furiously in the side. Secretly, I longed for B to wake up and decide to be scared of foxes, so I could reverse the swap and switch bed mates. With typical contrariness, she slept like an angel.

‘I’m sorry,” I muttered in the morning. ‘I’m just not used to you.’ He looked a bit withering. And bruised. After that, I settled. I rediscovered the joys of a large, warm, solid figure beside me, someone to chat to in the middle of the night if I feel so minded, and we even reached an accommodation over duvets. All good.

There is another problem though. The heat-seeking missiles that are the two older boys regularly torpedo themselves from their own beds into ours in the middle of the night. When husband and I were a divided force, this worked out ok. One of them would thunder into him in the spare room, the other could take his pick, and no bed had more than three people in it. This seemed like a pretty good result. Now though, because we are once more united in the marital bed, that’s where everyone heads. Which can mean five people on a disordered night. Which is ten elbows, ten knees, ten feet, God knows how many toes. And still just the one duvet. Clearly, like the complicated formulae I was never good at in school, there is more than one possible permutation here. Perhaps I’ll move into little B’s room…?    

posted to 

Monday, 17 February 2014

Back to Bed

The three-year-old has never had her own bed. The boys slept in my bed ‘til they were about one, then moved easily (ish) into their own rooms. Little B reversed the process. A brilliant sleeper at first, she had a Moses basket, then a cot in which she slumbered peacefully. But at six months she started waking all through the night, and so started coming into our bed. Soon it became ‘mine and mummy’s’ bed, while long-suffering husband moved into the spare room. ‘This is where me and mummy sleep,’ she tells visitors busily. If they ask where Daddy sleeps, she looks bored.

But now it’s time to gently steer her towards the next stage of her development – the mighty independence of her own room. So, a trip to Ikea. ‘You can pick your very own bed. Any bed you like’ (me, trying to whip up an atmosphere of enthusiasm). ‘Can my new bed go in our already room?’ (her, suspiciously). ‘No love, this is for your very own room’ (hysterical cheery inflection on ‘very own’). ‘No thanks, I’ll just stay in our already room’ (her, losing interest, wandering over to examine a plush velvet carrot with eyes and smiley mouth); ‘can I have this though?’

We bought a bed anyway, and a new duvet cover and pillow case, and a kind of collapsible trunk to go under the bed and store stuff in. My inner Arab Grandmother (I really do have one, I’m not being racist) fought with my more pragmatic self over the size of the bed. The inner Arab Grandmother was horrified at the extravagance of buying a cute little bed that the child would grow out of in a couple of years, and wanted to get something she could have until she leaves home at the age of 38, and squash friends into when they get old enough to need to hide out in each other’s houses because they are too drunk on alco-pops to go home. But the pragmatist reasoned, ‘no, it needs to be cute and little and appealing, because that way she might actually sleep in it.’ The success of the mission clearly depended on acceptance of a certain impracticality.

Bed home and assembled (it took much longer than that in real life of course). Three-year-old delighted with it. She put so many dolls and teddies into it, there wasn’t a scrap of room for her, said she loved it ‘and I will sleep here every night.’

Bedtime. ‘I don’t want to sleep there. I want to sleep in our bed, with you mummy’ (pitiful wail). ‘But this is such a lovely bed, why don’t you want to sleep here?’ (me, faking calm reasoning voice). ‘Because I’m scared…’ long pause, eyes casting around desperately... ‘I’m scared of…’ more pause. ‘I’m scared of foxes’ (triumphantly).

So that’s it. She’s scared of foxes. Although I’m not sure she’s ever seen one. We’ve tried the expert tips: make the child’s room inviting, put her favourite toys in there, encourage her to play in the room … all of which works just fine, by day. Come night, like a nervy racehorse, she will not go into that bed from any angle, nor subject to any bribe or cajolery. I may eventually have to blindfold her and lead her in. Meanwhile, I’ve decided to shelve the move for the moment – any mention of ‘sleeping in your own bed’ is beginning to provoke hysteria – on the basis that discretion is the better part of valour. But this is a strategic retreat, mind, not an admission of defeat.