All­sopp’s iPad rage is a nor­mal dis­play of parental de­feat

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - John Crace’s Di­gested week, di­gested The spire of Sal­is­bury Cathe­dral is 123 me­tres high


The TV pre­sen­ter Kirstie All­sopp has re­vealed that dur­ing the sum­mer she got so fed up with her two chil­dren, aged 11 and 9, us­ing their iPads when they weren’t sup­posed to that she smashed them – the iPads, not the chil­dren – against the kitchen ta­ble. Pre­dictably, this has brought the thought po­lice out in force, with many chip­ping in on Twitter to com­ment on All­sopp’s lack of par­ent­ing skills and how dam­ag­ing it must have been for the chil­dren to see their mother lose her tem­per. I dare say even All­sopp wouldn’t rate this as her finest hour, but – the ex­pense apart – I can’t re­ally see that much harm has been done. It’s no big deal for a child to see a par­ent lose it from time to time and, af­ter the ini­tial sur­prise, All­sopp’s kids prob­a­bly chalked up the whole ex­pe­ri­ence as a vic­tory for them­selves.

My own chil­dren al­ways liked to test our pa­tience and see if they could drive a wedge be­tween my wife and me. And as they grew older their meth­ods be­came ever more so­phis­ti­cated. Their high­light came a few years back when we were all in the car and I hap­pened to ask who they felt was the moral com­pass of the fam­ily. They both said I was and my wife was first in­cred­u­lous, then fu­ri­ous. She has still never for­given them and the fam­ily dy­namic has never been the same since.


There are times when it’s sheer heaven to be a po­lit­i­cal sketch writer. Just imag­ine be­ing in­vited to an event where a dozen or so of the peo­ple you would least trust to run even a neigh­bour­hood­watch scheme com­pe­tently try to ex­plain how they would run the coun­try af­ter Brexit. The occasion was grandly en­ti­tled Economists for Free Trade but the sec­ond “s” in economists was com­pletely re­dun­dant as there was only one in the room.

Pa­trick Min­ford – a man whose strong­est sell­ing point is that he is in­vari­ably wrong – was keen to share the good news that he had seen into the fu­ture and guessed that Bri­tain would be £1tn bet­ter off from telling the EU to sod off with­out a deal. At which point Boris John­son, who had sham­bled into the room five min­utes late, promptly ap­peared to doze off. The nar­colepsy ap­peared to be catch­ing as it wasn’t long be­fore I no­ticed that a cou­ple of other mem­bers of the Pro­vi­sional wing of the Euro­pean Re­search Group were snor­ing away con­tent­edly. Oth­ers merely held their hands in de­spair. It was a mo­ment of re­al­i­sa­tion and hubris. A time when the hard­core Brex­iters re­alised that none of their num­bers added up and that their leader-in-wait­ing was a straw man. And a time when Boris re­alised both that he had staked his ca­reer on the los­ing side and that even his com­mit­ment to his own am­bi­tion was wa­ver­ing. Happy days.


The ac­tor Mark Wahlberg has re­leased de­tails of the daily regime he put him­self through in prepa­ra­tion for his role in the forth­com­ing film Mile 22.

Each day he would wake at 2.30 in the morn­ing and no minute went un­ac­counted for – time spent mainly in the gym or hav­ing qual­ity time with his own ego – be­fore he took him­self off to bed at pre­cisely 7.30pm. There were a few anom­alies in the sched­ule. He man­aged to take a 90-minute shower be­tween 6am and 7.30am – some­thing that’s al­most im­pos­si­ble for most or­di­nary house­hold heat­ing sys­tems, un­less he spent 75 min­utes of that time un­der a stream of cold wa­ter. He also man­aged to get his golf done and dusted in just 30 min­utes – the time it takes most pro­fes­sion­als to get out of the car and make it to the first tee.

But all in all there was noth­ing you wouldn’t class as en­tirely nor­mal for some­one who has spent the past 20 years liv­ing in LA. Ex­cept for one thing. Where was Wahlberg’s time with his shrink? Doesn’t ev­ery self-re­spect­ing Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ter have a ther­a­pist? Per­son­ally, I would con­sider it a must. My own day would start rather dif­fer­ently. Wake up at 2.30am. Un­able to get out of bed be­cause I am feel­ing too anx­ious. Get more anx­ious about feel­ing anx­ious. At 3.00am, ad­mit to my­self I have failed at the day al­ready.


The Labour party has been quite pro­tec­tive of Diane Ab­bott since she got all her num­bers hope­lessly wrong in a ra­dio in­ter­view about polic­ing dur­ing last year’s gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign, so I wasn’t en­tirely sur­prised to re­ceive an email say­ing that the broom cup­board that had been hired for her speech on im­mi­gra­tion was over­sub­scribed and that I wasn’t in­vited af­ter all. I was more taken aback when a lobby col­league later tweeted to say there were at least 20 free seats at the event.

It seems that Diane’s maths still isn’t all it might be. Though it wasn’t just Labour that was be­ing a bit clue­less. Ques­tions in the House of Com­mons for Penny Mor­daunt, the women and equal­i­ties min­is­ter, were de­layed for eight min­utes as the Tory whips tried to work out ex­actly where she was. Even­tu­ally a sheep­ish ju­nior min­is­ter had to ad­mit that Mor­daunt wasn’t go­ing to bother to turn up as she was at­tend­ing an emer­gency cabi­net meet­ing on Brexit. This might have been a rather more cred­i­ble ex­cuse had not Liam Fox, the in­ter­na­tional trade sec­re­tary, found time to leave cabi­net for his de­part­men­tal ques­tions just half an hour ear­lier. The thought oc­curred that pos­si­bly Theresa May had con­sid­ered Mor­daunt’s con­tri­bu­tions to cabi­net rather more valu­able. With Dr Liam Fox, par­lia­ment’s loss has been the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion’s gain.


One of the high­lights of the aca­demic year – if I’d been bright enough I’d have loved to be a uni­ver­sity lec­turer – are the Ig No­bel awards, whose pur­pose is to pub­li­cise re­search that had mys­te­ri­ously slipped un­der the radar of other more high-minded or­gan­i­sa­tions by “hon­our­ing achieve­ments that first make you laugh and then make you think”.

Last night the 2018 prizewin­ners were an­nounced and proved as en­ter­tain­ing as ever. Among other things, we learned that hu­man flesh isn’t that high in nu­tri­tional value – bad news for can­ni­bals; that chimps like to im­i­tate hu­mans just as fre­quently as hu­mans im­i­tate chimps – chimps in Africa are pre­sum­ably glued to Body­guard, imag­in­ing it to be a new se­ries of Liv­ing Planet III; and that the best way to pass a kid­ney stone is to take sev­eral rides on a roller­coaster. Who knew kid­ney stones could be ter­ri­fied into com­ing out?

My favourite was the pa­per from four aca­demics at the Queens­land Uni­ver­sity of Tech­nol­ogy in Aus­tralia who con­firmed what I had al­ready sus­pected. That most peo­ple feel com­pletely de­feated by large in­struc­tion man­u­als, sel­dom bother to read them in full and thereby fail to make the best of their new giz­mos. My ex­pe­ri­ence with my own TV backs this up. I never use more than three but­tons on my three re­mote con­trols. I live in ter­ror of ac­ci­den­tally press­ing a dif­fer­ent one, be­ing con­fronted with a new screen and not be­ing able to get back to the pro­gramme I want to watch.

‘I’m giv­ing you all the week­end off to visit Eng­land’s many fine cathe­drals’ ‘On the plus side, house prices are only go­ing to fall by 30%’


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