Below is my column six days late which much be a record, even for me. SORRY. Just a long and emotional week culminating with a big charity fundraiser, organised by my friend Fran in aid of MS, which her husband was diagnosed with a few years ago. It was a celeb quiz hosted by Clare Balding, who I now think should be our next queen. You can read about the evening HERE (although it’s mostly about Game of Thrones), but the main point is that it raised over £355,000 for the MS Society. I was personally v overawed that people bid in the auction for the right to have a character in my next book and got so drunk that I promised all bidders they could be in there, irrespective of whether they won or not. ‘How do you manage to be so professional all the time?’ nobody has ever asked me.
Lovely thing, a new baby. But people get competitive about them. A bit like jostling for a decent pew at a wedding or funeral (must have a good view), many of us want to be first to report that we’ve held it. The strange human compulsion to claim proximity to someone when they depart from this life – ‘I saw him buying Anusol only last week in the chemist!’ – apparently also grips us when they slide into it. ‘Adorable,’ we say smugly to a mutual friend who hasn’t yet found time to visit. ‘Although she’s got her father’s nose.’
Meghan and Harry will be discovering this. Doubtless the family WhatsApp groups have been pinging with messages about who’s popping into Frogmore Cottage when, along with offers to pick up fresh milk and nappies. Almost inevitably, however, I have a few rules to issue should you be in a similar situation with a relative or close pal who’s recently ‘been delivered’ of a child, as the formal notices declared last week.
First up, with the possible exception of the baby’s grandmother, do not assume that you are the most important visitor and need to rush over as soon as they’re home from hospital. Newborns are fairly inert beings. He is unlikely to spout his first word or start juggling any time soon. Let the shell-shocked parents get used to him before you invite yourself round and demand multiple cups of tea.
Try not to be tiresome in any way while there. A friend with a six-month old hints that it’s a kindness to take a present for the mother instead of yet another Sophie the Giraffe for the babe. Flowers are all very well but I’ve dropped in on friends with babies whose sitting rooms resemble Kew greenhouses, tulips drooping from jam jars because they’ve run out of vases to stuff the bouquets in. Perhaps a bottle of bath oil or a decent pot of moisturiser instead? If they’re anything like my friends, they’ll be gagging for a drink, so champagne also works.
I’m sorry to admit that I’ve previously made a nuisance of myself by demanding new mothers take 382 photos of me holding their baby so I can Instagram it later. The baby often wakes in the process and this seems to go down badly. Avoid. In fact, check what their photo policy is which sounds headmisstressy, but some parents don’t want their new bundle anywhere near the internet. My mother also advises that you don’t say ‘Oooh, isn’t he looking suntanned?’ because he might have a touch of jaundice which everyone is attempting to remain calm about. Make sympathetic noises when they talk of how tired they are or how traumatic the birth was. This social call is not in any way about you.
Know when to leave (an hour is plenty) and, ah yes, I nearly forgot about breast feeding. Obviously it’s a capital offence to admit any feelings of awkwardness about a nursing bra being unbuckled in front of you these days. But say you blanche ever so slightly at the sight of a nipple, don’t shriek ‘Oh my god, they’re the size of conkers!’ as a male friend once managed. Nor should you goggle at the breast pump box, like another confused male chum of mine, and say ‘But why would you want them to get bigger?’ It’s the sort of line one can imagine Prince Philip trotting out to poor Meghan if he swings round in the next few days, so we must hope he reads this first.
You know those irritating people who boast about their holidays? ‘We just had the most divine week in Mustique,’ they say airily, which makes you want to boot them in the shins. Well, I have a solution. You can now stay on Prince Charles’s Scottish estate for £160 a night. A ‘luxury’ B&B has just opened within the Castle of Mey grounds (the castle right up on the skullcap of Scotland, once owned by the Queen Mum). It’s overlooking the sea and you get chintzy bedspread and photos of the Royal family on the walls. The same applies to other Royal residences – there are cottages on the Balmoral and Sandringham estates for rent, as at Prince Charles’s other estate in Wales, Llwynywermod. If you can pronounce it properly, you get the first night free. Just joking. But I still think worth considering this summer for the bragging rights.
A frilly purple washing machine cover went viral this week. I didn’t know we needed such a Victorian item in our lives but a Chinese site is offering the item for a mere £18. The idea seems to be you throw it over your Bosch to hide the nasty white plastic with something that looks like it’s tap-danced its way out of Danny La Rue’s dressing up box. Even Kirstie Allsopp, who has strong feeling about washing machines (she once said it was ‘disgusting’ to keep them in the kitchen), has declared the lacy cover de trop. This makes it an ideal present for your mother-in-law, or anyone else you really loathe.