The trouble with Boycotts…

…is that they can be so difficult to do properly.

I first started thinking about this some weeks ago, when a colleague chastised me for eating a KitKat.

“Nestle, Dave?” she remarked. “I thought you were better than that.”

This throwaway line was something of a rude awakening for me, as I’m quite happy to make proclamations on the moral suitability of various behaviours to anyone who’ll listen. This time, I was in the cross-hairs. It was uncomfortable.

  • Firstly, I realised that I was oblivious to the origins of my biscuity snack. A cursory examination of the wrapper would have revealed a Nestle logo to me, but of course, I had made no such examination.
  • Secondly, I realised that I didn’t clearly understand what was wrong with eating a Nestle product. I had some vague awareness of wrongdoing around infant formula, but couldn’t produce a single specific.
  • Thirdly – and most disturbingly – I realised that despite considering myself a principled person, I was shopping with my eyes closed and potentially enriching exactly the kind of organisations I would publicly decry.

Of course, I subsequently did a little research on good ole Nestle. The list of misdeeds attributed to them range from violating World Heath Organisation codes on the promotion of infant formula, through supporting rapacious deforestation in South America, to the purchase of supplies from plantations which use child labour. It’s pretty substantial stuff, but none of it is particularly new. I was simply ignorant of it.

I let this information percolate in my brain for a while, before deciding that I was going to give Nestle a wide berth in future. I was pretty sure it would be a simple task – I don’t really drink coffee anymore and I could live without KitKats. Job done.

How wrong I was.

This handy little list of Nestle brands, courtesy of Wikipedia, divulged the true scale of what I was attempting. The company produces multiple products which I buy regularly or on occasion, all without ever noticing anything beyond the marquee brand plastered on the outer packaging.

  • Much as I love the idea of wholegrain cereals, Shredded Wheat is now off the menu – as are Shreddies.
  • A host of mineral water brands, many of which I’ve grabbed from petrol forecourts during one road trip or other, are now forbidden: Buxton, Perrier, Vittel to name a few.
  • In the ‘fat man’s indulgence’ category, Haagen Daz, After Eights and Smarties are among a long list of casualties.
  • Perhaps most painful of all, I can no longer purchase Go-Cat for the wee man. How will I explain to him the ethical pitfalls of his beloved salmon-flavoured biscuits?

I’m still coming to terms with the lifestyle shift which lies ahead of me.

This is, I realise, a symptom of the world we live in, where vast mega-global corporations hoover up popular brands, in order to multiply the routes our money can take to their bottom lines. There are other companies with track records just as ignominious as Nestle’s; even if I strike every one of the products I’ve mentioned above from our household shopping list, how can I be sure I’m not lining the pockets of some other corporate monstrosity?

It was time for some more research. Some quick searching of da intarwebz produced a handful of sites dedicated to helping us make informed choices, the most prominent of which was www.ethicalconsumer.org. It works on the principle that brands can be scored out of 20 on the basis of their ethical value, measured against five key areas:

  • Environment
  • Animals
  • People
  • Politics
  • Product Sustainability

The user simply navigates to the particular category of products in which they are interested, whereupon they will be presented with a live-updated list of brands in scoring order, from highest to lowest. If one values a particular key area more highly that the others,  it’s possible to increase the weighting of that area in the scores being displayed: so if you only care about Environment and Animals, you can tweak the scoring to reflect only those things. I’ve only played around a little with the site’s features, but it seems pretty simple to use.

It’s much easier to work with a ‘safe list’ of brands than to try and mentally run-through a screed of prohibited products every time one walks into the supermarket. I am a relative newcomer to the idea of ethical purchasing – but I’ll be using tools like www.ethicalconsumer.org to inform my choices in the future.

Ultimately, our best recourse when we oppose the actions of corporations is to hit them in the pocket. My custom alone is small beer to such faceless giants, but I’ll feel 100 times better for having withdrawn it.

Bag it Up

No, this is not a column about Geri Halliwell’s (frankly dubious) former UK number 1 single.

This is a column about preparation, my friends. It’s about getting down to the serious business. It’s about packing a bag – and packing it like a goddamned champion.

Popular culture has been a constant reference point for me throughout our pregnancy experience. Since I was but a nipper, I’ve been conditioned by hundreds of spoken, written and televisual narratives to develop certain expectations about this epic journey. Some of the ideas which emerged from this process are buried in my unconscious, but some are front and centre in my mind… like the Hospital Bag.

You know the scene:

Our favourite sitcom characters are expecting a baby, which could arrive at any minute. Lady character wakes up in the middle of the night – her contractions have started!

She shakes awake her hapless partner, Male character, who tumbles comedically onto the floor, popping back into view with wild eyes filling the screen. “Get the Hospital Bag!” Lady character exclaims with rising alarm.

Male character stumbles around the darkened room, ramming clothes haphazardly into a canvas holdall. An incredulous Lady character yells: “You haven’t packed the bag? WHY HAVEN’T YOU PACKED THE BAG??”

Ladies and Gentlemen, let us be clear: there is no way on Earth that I am going to be that clown.

With the ignominious fate of Male character haunting my dreams, I have spent a significant amount of time obsessing about getting the preparation right. I’ve gotten pretty deranged at points, to be honest. At my worst, I announced to my partner that I intended to drive the route to our local hospital 15 times before we reached the 8th month; thankfully, her withering, tearful laughter was always at hand to keep such insanity in check. Still, as a person more accustomed to leisurely disorder, it probably does me good to err towards structured thinking.

As it turns out, driving the route 5 times was enough. With that cracked, I thought it high time to start work on the bag. Imagine my horror when I discovered that the Mother of my child had packed the damn thing already.

Of course, when I examined my feelings of surprise, of failure, even of jealousy, I started to realise how stupid they were. My baby bag would have looked like this:

  • A nightie
  • Some random clothes

My partner’s real life bag, according to www.babycentre.co.uk, should look like this:

  • Birth plan
  • Maternity notes
  • Dressing Gown
  • Slippers
  • Socks
  • …a nightie (I got that much right, folks)
  • Massage oil
  • Lip balm
  • Snacks
  • Isotonic energy drinks
  • A hairband
  • Books and Magazines
  • Extra pillows
  • Toiletries
  • Music

Pretty clearly, the experts in this scenario are the expectant mothers and their predecessors, not dads-to-be with a chip on their shoulder about looking like a twat. In fact my partner, diligent as she is, had already taken a range of preparatory steps – the hospital bag was only the start. Sitcoms, it turned out, had maliciously misrepresented my part in the birth of my child. I was pretty miffed.

Pop culture having failed me again, I went looking for some practical ideas: what preparation could I actually do to make a difference for us on the big day and beyond?

There’s a lot of mum-centric advice out there, but not a lot for Dads. Eventually though, I was able to create an action plan for myself, based around three central pillars:

  •  Things my partner would find annoying
  •  Things my partner would find difficult
  •  Things my partner would find too tiring at an advanced stage of pregnancy

First up, I can learn in advance to change a nappy.

This might sound daft to some people who can’t imagine why it’s worth mentioning – but my investigations indicate that it will sound equally daft to a large number of men who take no part in nappy changing and can’t imagine why they should. From a personal perspective, I’ve never relished the idea of changing dirty nappies, but my other half will have a huge amount on her plate once bump emerges. If I can’t manage the basics without coaching, it will do her head in.

For that reason, I’ll be seeking out an opportunity to practice on a live baby ASAP. Then, I’ll be reinforcing the lesson by practicing on dolls, soft toys and whatever else I can source (cut to shot of Dave desperately trying to attach an expensive, highly absorbent diaper to his writhing, wailing cat).

Second in line, I can work out how to operate the pram.

My partner has already raged at the baffling nature of the pram. She has growled, stormed from room to room, assaulted it… her unhappiness is well stated at this point.

I know she doesn’t need this kind of stress; I know that, between us, I’m usually the one with a knack for building things. So in the next few weeks, I’m going to work out how to build the pram, then practice putting it up and down a couple of times each week. This way, I can hopefully skip the traditional new-parent stage of struggling with the equipment and go straight to the effortless proficiency stage when baby arrives.

Thirdly, I can fit the bloody car seat.

I am reliably informed that some hospitals won’t let new parents take the baby home, unless they have a properly fitted car seat into which the little one can be snugly plugged. We have such a car seat – but we haven’t really thought about how it needs to be set up. Furthermore, the process of attaching it will probably involve lots of crouching, lifting and straining in the back of our new car – not exactly work for a pregnant lady.

A chance for me to make myself useful, then.

And that, in a nutshell, is what it’s all about. Some of the specific actions I’ve decided on will translate to other expectant fathers, whereas other elements will be entirely peculiar to us – and my little list is hardly exhaustive – but I reckon that the three basic rules above are pretty sensible, if not rocket science.

For those of you out there who, like me, want to feel useful as the due date approaches – and for whom the act of simply getting stuff ready will be therapeutic – I reckon they’re a decent place to start.

Until next time, may your Pram be simpler to arrange than a Rubik’s Cube.

Cause and effect

Be careful what you wish for, they say. You just might get it, they say.

By ‘they’ I’m obviously referring to the Pussycat Dolls – and for once, those provocative pop vixens were right. In last week’s column, I ardently wished for a child who could share my geeky passion for gaming; days later, I had been catapulted almost a decade into the future and found myself gaming with approximately a dozen 9-year-old boys.

As I primed my measuring tape and prepared to lay waste to an opposing force of Space Marines and Eldar, I found myself wondering how exactly I had arrived there. Thereby, Ladies and Gentlemen, hangs a tale…

Back in August, during the Edinburgh Festival, I was conversing innocently with a colleague about her weekend. She had been to see some shows and, at some point, had been joined by her parents, who had been babysitting for her up to that point. She remarked that this had obliged her son to leave the house with them – something he hadn’t been pleased about because it meant he ‘…had to stop playing Warhammer’.

“Well,” came my throwaway reply, “If someone forced me to stop playing Warhammer, I’d probably have gone bananas too.”

We talked a few minutes longer, discussing and recommending festival shows, before I returned to my desk. I thought no more about it.

A few days later, I was returning home at around 8pm when my phone buzzed. I had received an email, which, for the purposes of this article, can be considered fateful. It was a missive from a 9-year-old boy I had never met.

Now, before you start imagining the plot of some gruesome asian horror film or overblown Hollywood thriller, the boy was neither a vengeful ghost nor a kidnap victim. He was my colleague’s son and he was concerned purely with Warhammer 40k, to the extent that his message contained no preamble or pleasantries of any kind. It simply launched into an impassioned list of questions and enthusiastic proclamations about the world of tabletop war. Other adults might have found such a message bewildering or rude, but for me, it simply signalled the existence of a like mind: someone who recognised that a second spent typing polite introductions, when there are wargames to be discussed, would be a second wasted.

This email was followed quickly by a message from my colleague, frantically apologising for the unannounced contact and reassuring me that her son was not a deranged stalker. I responded congenially that all geeks were young once and I had no issue with encouraging the next generation of gamers.

Fast forward a few days and several more exchanges: it was agreed that I would meet this chirpy young man on the field of battle. A date was eventually found, some weeks distant, which would work for both of us. So it transpired, on that fateful day, that I found myself at Games Workshop in Edinburgh with a large cardboard box full of alien creatures, awaiting a 9-year-old opponent. I got more than I bargained for, by a long chalk.

Once the young warrior arrived and I had chatted with his parents for a few minutes, it became apparent that there was no playing space reserved for us. In fact, this was beginners day, so our only option was to partake in a massive group game with a horde of other young  players. My new acquaintance was entirely unfazed by this turn of events, at which point I began to feel foolish for having assumed that a youngster would have made the necessary logistical arrangements. Rather than be a killjoy, I agreed to take part in the group game. I made my way to the ‘bad guys’ edge of the table (apparently rampaging alien beasts are considered bad… who am I to question the moral judgements of primary school kids?) and prepared to deploy my forces.

“What’s the points limit?” I asked the GW employee who was supervising this whole affair. For the uninitiated, points are a means of keeping the games fair. Each unit in the game has a points cost; if two armies face off and are worth the same amount of points, it should theoretically be an even game.

“Oh, no points,” he replied jovially. “Just pick an HQ unit, a troops unit and one unit of your choice.”

I gaped at him. “B-but that’s degenerate,” I protested. “I have unbelievably points-heavy units with me. My army could be 3 times as good as the others. That’ll be terrible for the kids.”

His answer was a sage smile and a pat on the shoulder, before he departed to address the clamouring horde of excited children.

So here we are again, come full circle. I was poised at the table, measuring tape in hand, unsure of what to expect. The ‘good guys’ (in the background stories, Space Marines are fascist racial purists, so this is a loose description at best) won the roll and started first.

Put simply, it was absolute carnage.

I have seen and heard things no honest, humble gamer should see.

  • I have witnessed boys rolling large numbers of dice, two at a time, concealed behind their own tanks and then proclaiming that their results were an overwhelming, statistically improbable success.
  • I have watched children gleefully moving models without regard to the rules, lumping them forward haphazardly and gaining huge ground in the process, shuffling them behind buildings during their opponents’ turns so they couldn’t be fired at.
  • I have wept for the want of earplugs as twelve pre-teens yelled and screeched their shooting intentions, demands for saving throws, ad-hoc rules negotiations and straight-up primal challenges across the table.

I felt, by the end, like the veteran of a real and visceral war. The Games Workshop gent must have been laughing to himself as I worried about the book-keeping aspects of this process; he knew, as I now do, that my theoretical advantage would never have time to tell. In 90 minutes, we managed a grand total of 2 turns. I barely engaged the enemy before we were packing up, with the ‘good guys’ (or Space Nazis, make your own call) declared the winners on a pretty arbitrary basis. I can’t really complain about this, though, as it meant my new pal was a winner and therefore delighted. Honestly, it made me feel pretty good about the whole affair.

In fact, despite failing to resemble the table-top gaming I know in any meaningful way, I began to feel quite positive about my experience as the dust settled. My inner-tournament player might have been horrified by the anarchic nature of the game, but I frequently found myself laughing with genuine amusement and surprise at how the kids interacted. They were having great fun – and as a result, so was I. Just not the exact kind of fun I expected…

In closing, I’d like to salute the bloke who ran this event on behalf of Games Workshop. In a later conversation, after the kids had packed up and toddled off to regale their parents with tales of glory, he told me that he has been holding these sessions every Sunday for six months. After just one 90 minute game, I was exhausted. This man is a true hero – and unknown to him, has played his part in showing me the patience and tenacity I’ll need to display as a Dad.

May the Emperor be with you, soldier.

Playing the game

We all have nagging fears, don’t we? Niggly little voices at the back of our respective minds, asking difficult questions, lobbing great big stones of doubt into once tranquil ponds of certainty?

If you’re answering No, you’re probably the author of a popular but ultimately vacuous self-help book. Fuck off. Your kind aren’t welcome here.

The threshold of fatherhood is a rich soil in which nagging fears are prone to thrive. A quick google search will confirm this: men on the cusp of baby-ville regularly report the same central concerns to all manner of surveys and studies:

  • I won’t be able to provide for my family
  • I’m not really the father
  • I’m going to die one day
  • Something terrible will happen to my partner/baby
  • I’m never going to have sex again

Casting an eye over this list, we see some heavyweight dread staring back at us: death, cuckolding, bankruptcy. As the gravity of that triumvirate hits home, it makes me terribly self-conscious about the embarrassing and selfish addition I’m about to make to the roster:

  • I won’t be able to stay up until 3am gaming anymore

Yes, yes, I know. How trivial. Stop your tutting at the back.

I, ladies and gentleman, am a geek. More than that, I am a loud, proud geek. It defines, to a great extent, who I am. My geekery takes many forms, from Star Wars to Spiderman, but the most dominant of these is a fundamental devotion to gaming: I live and breathe games.

I’m not talking Sonic the Hedgehog here, although that blue rodent and I have had some pretty intense flings (Emerald Hill Zone 1, 00:24, boo-yah!). I’m talking tabletop wargames, like Warhammer 40k; I’m talking PC strategy epics like Sid Meier’s Civilisation series; I’m talking an enduring and unshakeable love affair with the empress of trading card games, Magic: the Gathering.

I’ve frequently been asked what on earth I see in such pursuits. I struggle to answer such questions, not because I lack justifications, but because I fear overwhelming the questioner.

I love the sci-fi and fantasy flavour of the games, which has so much overlap with favourite novels and treasured comic-books.

I love the community they generate, the strength of connection that can be achieved with a complete stranger as they ‘click’ that you also like to play with toy soldiers.

But most of all, I love the challenge.

I love facing off against other players, trying to outwit, misdirect and just plain beat them in a complex and interesting arena. I have an extremely competitive edge, one which can only be sated by breaking out a deck and flicking cards back and forward in my hand like a maniac.

(An aside, for those who find the idea of competitive instincts driving a man to trading card games ridiculous: one of my great friends would regularly accompany me to tournaments on one weekend, then focus on his other pastime the next… being a racing driver. If a guy who puts his life on the line every other week can still get his kicks gaming, I don’t feel so daft.)

At any rate, I’ve been a happy geek for many years, making a huge number of friends through the lifestyle and even managing to secure a lady who tolerates my devotion to dice et al. But now, things are poised to change.

The feelings I’m starting to experience, while highly indicative of my geekiness, are actually parallels of the fears that many other men from the ranks of the great un-geeked will face. Yes, I might be afraid of not being able to play Magic into the small hours with my friends anymore, but that isn’t so different from worrying that I might have to give up Sundays in the pub watching Premiership games. I’m concerned that I won’t have enough time to attend 40k tournaments; is that so far removed from wondering if I’ll still be able to play in my local pool or darts league?

Like any man faced with an upcoming seismic shift in his social life, I don’t know how things will ultimately be rebalanced. I don’t know if I’ll be waving goodbye to my hobbies entirely, or if I’ll be carrying on almost as normal, or anything in-between.

What I do know, however, is that I don’t want my baby to be cast as the person who made me give up the things I’m passionate about. I’d much rather they were someone I could share my enthusiasm with, someone I could teach about the joys of having hobbies… and for myself, I want to be a person who models the benefits of being socially and mentally active in life, so that my kid can see first-hand that diverse and engaging interests make life a more fulfilling journey than it might otherwise be.

…yes, yes, I may also want to have someone in the house who’s always up for a game of Magic. Sue me.

Serenity: only a ferry ride away

One of the great hallmarks of any self-respecting club or interest group is its bizarre terminology.

Expectant parents are no different in this regard from SF geeks, hobby gamers and the myriad other associations I have belonged to: once you join their number, you will encounter expressions which have no precedent or purpose in the world outside.

Today, I’d like to discuss just one example of this strange, cryptic lexicon: the Babymoon.

For the uninitiated, a Babymoon is the expectant parent’s counterpart to a Honeymoon. The idea is that, after discovering we are pregnant, we schedule some kind of celebratory break; a holiday which follows the subject of celebration. This is where the similarity with a Honeymoon ends.

Where a Honeymoon might take a couple to lavish lodgings at a luxury destination, the Babymoon is rather more ‘affordable’ in nature. It is a holiday planned in the knowledge that expensive things are soon to occur; perhaps a week of fine-dining in Gay Paris isn’t really feasible when one is about to start buying disposable nappies by the hundred-thousand. A Babymoon might begin its conceptual life as a slap-up city-break in Barcelona, but it will soon be redeveloped into a weekend caravanning on a small Scottish island.

The next notable difference from Honeymooning comes in the tone of a Babymoon. This isn’t a holiday which simply celebrates new possibilities and the optimistic beginnings of a life together, but a bittersweet affair: the Babymoon accepts within its premise that the freedom of the babymooners themselves is about to undergo a very serious curtailment. We’re going to enjoy some time away together, because it’s the last unmolested time we’ll get for a great number of years.

I recently embarked on our Babymoon, mere weeks after learning that such a thing existed. As expertly foreshadowed earlier in this post, our destination was a caravan park in Millport, on the isle of Cumbrae.

This might not sound incredibly glamourous and honestly, it wasn’t. We were caught in back end of a hurricane, which had danced across the Atlantic to share its wet and windy joy with south and central Scotland. This meant that much of our time on the island was actually spent inside the caravan. But in the words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want: but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”

What the caravan offered in spades was peace.

Peace to read the books I had been meaning to get around to; peace to watch films we had missed in the cinema; peace to sit up late, chatting with my partner and discovering Geordie Shore for the first time (I have rarely laughed or cringed so much in the space of a few hours).

Importantly, peace for reflection. I did quite a bit of thinking on our Babymoon, about the bar I wanted to set for myself as a Dad. My impression of fatherhood is that it resembles a Presidency: one can make Grand Plans about how one will raise children, but much of it will be sacrificed once the hectic reality of just getting through each day kicks in. The trick, therefore, is to work out what the key policy pillars are – the redlines, the things which must be delivered – and fight to make the time for those crucial things if nothing else.

For me, some of those redlines are conventional (teach basic morality, prioritise education) and others are less so (do my damnedest to give our child the joy of geek life). But I’m glad I got some entirely quiet time to think about what they were – and to take a metaphorical deep breath ahead of the next few crazy years.

So for those of you in a similar life position, allow me to recommend the Babymoon as an ideal way to charge batteries and take stock ahead of the big day. Unlike a lot of the pregnancy vocabulary you may encounter, this word comes with a relative upside: one last chance, for a good long while, to feel like your own person.

The awkward truth about automobiles

Time was, a man could pick the goddamn automobile he wanted. *gobs like lightning into spitoon*

He could find his way to the sleekest, sexiest, most aerodynamic sum’bitch in that whoooole showroom… and he could make it his own.

But those days are gone, stranger. Gone…

When seeking earthy wisdom, there are few better people to approach than Creepy Old Man from Western. In addition to vague, menacing warnings about, “…a storm comin’, Mister”, he will also sometimes produce a pearl of dialogue related to current events in one’s own life. If only I didn’t need to ply him with whisky and listen to his ramblings about long-dead horses for hours first, he’d almost be a religious figure to me.

In any case, casting aside the entirely random film trope I’ve chosen to employ, cars have been on my mind in recent weeks.

One of the ‘perks’ of my employment is the ability to select a company car every three years. Until recently, I’ve had the pleasure of picking my car free of any outside influences, based solely on my own whims. Typically, this meant I’d pick the smallest, lowest-emitting vehicle on offer… in black.

You see, unlike Creepy Old Man from Western, I don’t really lust after powerful engines, sculpted bodywork and low-profile tyres. Instead, I celebrate the opportunities afforded by the most basic cars on the market: cheapness, efficiency and… well, cheapness. Without the need for a boot which will accomodate golf clubs (don’t get me started on golf), or more than 2 doors (3, if you follow the ridiculous industry convention of counting the boot), I could repeatedly pick the Fiestas, Corsas or Robin Reliants from the list offered to me, before proceeding to run that bad boy into the ground for 36 months. Bliss.

But that eerie, whiskered frontiersman was still correct about one thing: that incredible liberty to suit myself on the road has suddenly vanished.

My partner has recently passed her driving test. All at once, she has an intimate interest in which vehicle I’ll be selecting. With just this single development, my criteria list has changed from this:

  • Must be cheap, cheerful – and black, since I’m rarely going to wash it and want to disguise the dirt

To this:

  • Must be a ‘smooth’ drive
  • Must be a size which is ‘comfy’ to parallel park
  • Must have the ability to liberally adjust seating position, since the same one will never be comfy twice
  • Must have the ability to liberally adjust steering wheel position – see above
  • Must have a loud horn – I like to toot people and I like those toots to count

To compound this seismic shift in priorities, we have another major factor to consider: the micro-human we are currently brewing up, who will bring with them a whole new set of requirements:

  • Must have a boot large enough for my pram
  • …and my buggy
  • …and my changing bag
  • …and a selection of portable meals
  • …and things you can’t even dream of yet
  • Must have a good safety record
  • Must be easy to clean seats: we’re not talking crumbs, here, we’re talking foul-smelling bodily expulsions
  • Let’s be honest, this doesn’t even scratch the surface

When confronted with all of these things, it’s no longer good enough to make my selection on Autopilot. I have to do a little bit of thinking and a whole lot of negotiating.

We’re going to need something bigger than the tiny run-around I’m currently operating. But how big? My list offers 3 viable choices (alongside whizzy little numbers that will no doubt be leapt upon by colleagues embroiled in a mid-life crisis):

  1. Focus
  2. Mondeo
  3. Grand C-Max

Each of these is, in theory, a family car, but they are designed to serve very different families. Applying our criteria above, we managed to eliminate the Grand C-Max on the basis that it was as easy to parallel park as a sherman tank. The choice between the others is less simple, as it requires a bit of crystal-ball polishing.

A Focus will likely be fine if we have a single child. On the other hand, we have this car for 3 years; are we likely to have a second child within 3 years? Neither of us are really sure about this, having only just adjusted to the thought of the first one. Should we decide to breed again in that time, the Focus goes from well-positioned to potentially overcrowded… rammed full of even more stuff, suspension creaking ominously.

I decided to do a bit of research. Surely, after our baby got a bit older, they wouldn’t need as much gear to be lugged around whenever we jumped in the car?

A good friend – and father of my Godson – was quick to correct me. The stuff only multiplies, read his terrifying text. This is not a joke.

This threw me into a rising panic. It would have to be the Mondeo – for starters. Then, in 3 years, we’d need to upgrade to the tank, in case we were destined to be buried under an avalanche of our own progeny and their innumerable accoutrements… It eventually took some more wise words – this time from my partner, rather than a broken-down fictional cowboy – to bring me back to reality.

“Do we even know if we’re having another one yet? Why don’t we just see how we go?”

The words rang true, like a clean shot into the spitoon. I worry too much about future permutations – and that worry manifests itself in car anxiety, or an unhealthy fantasy life populated by tired, spaghetti-western character archetypes. Besides, I’m told if we get the new Focus, the bloody thing can parallel park itself…