Magazine article The Spectator

Mum's the Word

Magazine article The Spectator

Mum's the Word

Article excerpt

Sharon's chucked in her job as a child protection officer and gone to live in Birmingham. She's met a chap there who measures up to her ideal, and she wants to have lots of his babies. She had to come back the other day, however, for a hospital appointment. Sharon's barren, and her only hope of having lots of babies has been to persuade NHS doctors to have a hand in it. They've agreed to this - as long as she gives up smoking. It was only a flying visit, she assured me on the phone. But as we haven't seen each other for ages, would I like to come over for a spot of tea with her and her brother and their new lodger?

Her brother was standing on the front doorstep smoking as I pulled up outside the house. He was just standing there in the mellow 5 o'clock sunshine, peaceful and accepting: a Bench-wearing Buddha with sideburns. The guess was that he was taking refuge on the doorstep from Sharon, who is an alpha male and likes to reassert her dominance over the household, even on a flying visit.

I got out of the car. 'You should see our new lodger, ' he said, squinting ferociously, as though blinded. Now Sharon's brother is famously good-looking - the whole family is. I have yet to see him out with a sexual partner who didn't make me stare in disbelief. So if he rated her that highly, then she must be something. 'She's 20, ' he added, as if it was an outrage. 'Go and have a look.'

I went inside. In the kitchen were three very striking blondes, each with a glass of wine to hand. Sharon was wrestling the cork out of another bottle. Her brother's latest eye-popping girlfriend was at the long pine kitchen table, studying a laptop screen. And there also at the table was the new lodger: petite, baby-faced, her straw-coloured hair spilling out from under a badly judged trilby hat. She was speaking with an Australian accent into her mobile phone.

Sharon's hugs are either dismissively cursory or it's like being caught in the death grip of a predatory spider. It depends entirely on how much she's had to drink. Either way it's amazing how insubstantial she is for somebody who has such a devastating effect on civil society.

I disentangled myself and looked at her.

Her eyes were bright and tragic. She held out an upraised palm for my inspection.

There were three main points of interest.

One, the longest fingers I've ever seen on a woman. …

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