After six long weeks of unrelieved parenting, we’re on our knees | Lucy Mangan | UK news




Bank holiday! During our summer holiday! During the school summer holidays! Theoretically, this should be a triple whammy of delight, no?

I pause for the hollow laughter of a hundred thousand parents who know where I’m going with this. Because no, you have no holidays that are worthy of the name after having a child – even if you keep it to the singular, as I have, and don’t go popping out more ruinous infants thereafter. Much like sex, you keep trying for a few years – until the weight of resentment of the fact that nothing is like it was before breaks you and you begin to acclimatise yourself to the new reality. A wise friend of mine advised me to start measuring it against a work trip instead: “Then it becomes quite enjoyable.” She was actually talking about sex, but it applies equally well to holidays.

A bank holiday at the end of a holiday simply compounds the injury. To have both come at the end of the summer holidays when, after six straight weeks of unrelieved parenting, you are both on bleeding knees, crawling your way towards term-time freedom, is merely the final insult. Triple whammy indeed.


Home to host another set of removal men. That is my job now. They come round, look aghast at our home, refuse to give a quote, and leave. The problem seems to be the 11,000 books lining our walls in 22 double-stacked bookcases.

“It’s a problem,” said the first surveyor of our plight.

“I know,” I said.

“It’s a real problem,” said the second.

“I know,” I said.

“I think it’s going to be a problem,” said the third.

“It is,” I said.

“Real problem here,” said the fourth.

“So I understand,” I said. “Do you think you might be able to find a solution?”

“No,” he said. “It’s a problem.”

“We’re not asking you to solve it for free,” I said to the fifth. “You know that, right? We understand it’s a big job. We are prepared to pay.”

“It’s a problem,” he said, and left.

But, sixth time lucky. We finally have a quote. And we have looked at the figure and decided to build an extension for the books and stay here. No problem.


The Queen has assented to the prorogation of parliament. I know she’s obliged to – constitutional monarch and all that. But come on, your majesty! You’ve had 90 years of doing the right thing and good for you, but now’s the time to blow your brownie points, you know?

Yes, you’re the fulcrum upon which an impossibly delicately cantilevered accretion of checks and balances rests – so just think what fun it would be if you blew the whole thing sky high! It’s not as if there are many people left who are playing by the rules. This is your moment, Liz!

Nationwide protests as Boris Johnson suspends parliament – video

Summon a footman. Tell him to tell Boris you’ve changed your mind. Handbag-sandbag him. Go, “Fark you, De Pfeffel” and then swan off to enjoy yourself at the races. A lifetime of dutiful service to Britain and the Commonwealth and where has it got you? Standing as the nominal head of a country that’s the laughing stock of the world. Put the national salvage rights on the steeplechase at Newmarket or something and laugh yourself daft at the thought of No 10 in meltdown. Let your cackling ring from Land’s End to John o’Groats. I promise you, it will feel great.


A divorce lawyer friend of mine is being brought to the edge of a nervous breakdown by the increasing number of “pet-nups” crossing her desk; the agreements covering who gets custody of a couple’s cat/dog/terrapin in the event of an acrimonious breakup.

“I can’t decide if it’s the peak of civilisation or a sign – another sign – of the end of days,” she cried, clutching her hair and burying her face in a giant glass of Château This Might Help.

It did. During some well-lubricated discussion, we weighed the relative merits of people wishing to do the best by their pets versus very rarely making such detailed provision for any future or present children. We delved into the psychical depths of how humanity at once can prepare for the worst, hope for the best and at neither point trust each other to do the best by the dependents they have created or brought into the familial fold, without the wet-nosed, limpid-eyed, wholly innocent creature – fur-clad or no – having any say in the matter whatsoever. We decided that it was another one to add to the end of days pile. And moved on to whisky. Because that always helps.

Volunteers work to repair and refresh the Cerne Abbas giant in Dorset.

Volunteers work to repair and refresh the Cerne Abbas giant in Dorset. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA


But lo! A new day dawns and a new weekend looms and some good news rises to greet us. The Cerne Abbas giant, owner of Dorset’s finest phallus (as far as I’m aware – please feel free not to send me any pictorial or descriptive evidence otherwise), has been fully restored to glory. Eleven years after he was last spruced up, National Trust rangers, archaeology experts and an army of volunteers have reset his edges, dug out the weathered rocks and rechalked him.

People’s hard work and devotion to such causes always makes the heart sing, but now more than ever there is something tremendously moving about people banding together to ensure that a figure certainly centuries and possibly thousands of years old, whose origins are lost in the mists of time, will continue to endure, and in as fine fettle as they can make him.

As Larkin wrote, what will survive of us is love. And an enormous cock and balls carved for perhaps no reason at all on a hillside.