Tuesday 19 March 2013

My cloned son: already let down and never getting better

Have you noticed how the most vehement opponents of the hereditary principle never seem to hesitate about giving their own kids a leg-up in their careers?

I’m thinking of the sort of bien-pensant lefties who line up to sneer at TV programmes like Sunday night’s heartwarming two hours of “Our Queen” on ITV, yet curiously ensure that their favoured professions of acting, broadcasting, journalism and politics are stuffed full of their own sprogs.

The same individuals are usually full of praise for the comprehensive school system, and quick to condemn those who seek to opt out of it. Except in the case of their own children, whose needs must always come first, and who would suffer so terribly if they were sent to the local state school.

I should say right away that I do not condemn their actions, merely the hypocritical disjoint between their words and deeds.

I can also understand how they come to feel that little Tristram is peculiarly suited to following them into a TV studio or the House of Commons if they chance, like me, to have a child who appears to be a perfect clone of themselves.

Firmly ticking the box for 'no publicity', as usual

Charlie Hann, aged 3¾, is currently experiencing a severe dose of his first proper childhood illness, all the other major horrors of my own infancy having been more or less eliminated by vaccination. The NHS website helpfully advises that “Chickenpox in children is considered a mild illness, but expect your child to feel pretty miserable and irritable while they have it.”

This could not be more spot on (no pun intended), but Charlie adds to it a quality of existential despair that is surely quite unusual at his age. So every attempt by his mother to dispense some helpful medicine or soothing lotion is rebuffed with a firm assertion that it is not going to work.

Similarly, her repeated assurances that he will soon be well again, like his convalescent younger brother, provoke a shake of the head and the bleak certainty: “Mummy, I’m never going to get better.” 

A statement capped only by his recent sad pronouncement, in response to his mother’s guarantee that she would keep a promise: “The thing is, Mummy, you’ve already let me down.”

In this context as in so many others, my wife assures me that it is spookily like talking to me. Indeed, the only difference she can discern is that Charlie has yet to obtain an encyclopaedic grasp of the major dread diseases, and so does not tack on the words, “It’s cancer, I know it is,” as I am prone to do when contemplating anything from a small spot to a mild cough.

Meanwhile Mrs Hann herself has been ill with an infection that four courses of antibiotics so far this year have failed to shift in the sense of eliminating it, though they have been quite successful in moving it around a bit between her sinuses, throat and chest.

Suggesting that there might be more than a little truth in the Chief Medical Officer’s recent suggestion that we can all stop worrying about terrorism and global warming because the thing that is actually going to kill us is our growing inability to cure infections because of antimicrobial resistance.

Though within a couple of days of that chilling warning a report from the House of Lords, whose members know a thing or two about old age, predicted that half the children born in 2007 would live to be 103. It is hard to avoid the feeling that both these forecasts cannot be correct.

Perhaps, if Charlie defies his own predictions and overcomes his current brush with disease, he will indeed live for a century. But it will be 100 years of acutely argumentative pessimism, in which a red cross will regularly be painted on his front door and an undertaker placed on stand-by.

Unless, that is, I can somehow divert him from my own career path of bumblingly amateur attempts at historical research, public relations and journalism, and persuade him to become a funeral director instead. Because, on the evidence to date, no one since Walmington-on-Sea’s Private Frazer has been better qualified to pronounce “We’re all doomed!”

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

1 comment:

CC said...

Poor Charlie and POOR Momma!!
Hoping both are back to feeling well again