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December 16th 2017
When friends of mine have children, I am very happy for them (even if, in 100% of cases to date, they have failed to name them after me). But this happiness is generally rather theoretical in nature. That is, I don't have any especial desire to see pictures of the child, hold the child, or - in the following years - hear anecdotes about how the child has, say, patted a dog or worn a hat (these are fictional examples. Hopefully). When Simon's good friend Mel had a baby, he was very eager to come and see it - sorry, I mean her - which is a desire I still don't really comprehend. I mean, he already knows what babies look like, right?
There are exceptions, though, to my "what exactly is your child for?" demeanour. Basically, any child that asks me to read them a story. Or - as was the case this summer - decides that my name is King Colin. Or, of course, dear reader, your own child(ren), who perfectly resemble(s) - in almost uncanny detail - angel(s) sent from heaven. Obviously there is nothing that can prevent me from taking against any child who gets brought into the office - it's a flippin' place of work, people: I don't waltz into your kid's nursery - but that is happily rare.
It will soon come the time for my annual look back at the year just gone, and one of the highlights of the year involves a friend's kids. I'm not sure what the rules are about playing favourites with your friends' children - as previously mentioned, reader, your own offspring top the pile, of course - but I can think of none better than the younger Clohesies with whom to spend a weekend. Ant was here too, of course, but even that didn't ruin everything. We had a BBQ, we played games, we went to a playground, we had a picnic on the Downs and watched hot air balloons. It was fairly exhausting at times (how do they do it?), and it was great fun. I even managed to rectify a serious deficiency in the children's upbringing by introducing them to the Mr Men books. But there's more.
I don't know how much of this is public knowledge (and I don't know all the details), but when Ant's daughter was born, she was seriously ill. As in, the doctors didn't know if she'd survive the first night. Or the second. And so on. I can't begin to imagine what that feels like for a parent: I felt what I can only assume is a minuscule fraction of what Ant & Becca felt, and I was struggling to get through the workday. Fast forward a couple of years and she is fit as a fiddle, so you'd never know there was anything to worry about. And I am reliably informed that the Mr Men stories have proven to be quite a hit.
So, as I say, I don't have particularly strong feelings about children. But when I discovered that the Mr Men stories are referred to by the junior Clohesies as 'Colin books', you would have struggled to persuade me of that.

While I'm here, let me point you towards today's Times, where I have had a Listener crossword published under the pseudonym 'Twin' - available in all good newsagents, and viewable online (if you subscribe) here. It's really quite something to see it in print - only my second published crossword, the first being in the Warwick Boar when I once filled in for my friend John - and I hope it's not the last. Maybe a non-lucrative second career awaits?

what was I listening to?
Now That's What I Call Xmas - Various Artists
what was I reading?
Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
what was I watching?
Our Souls At Night
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