Dear Sir Partridge
My husband and I have 10 children. Should we have another one so we can field a complete cricket team? Or should we get a pet? If so, which species and breed? Seven of my children want a border collie; two want a cheetah; one wants a meerkat to feed to the cheetah.
Yours in desporation (desperation and adoration)
It’s funny you should mention this, Beatrice, because of late my legion devotees have been hounding me to breed (usually with them). “Do it for the sake of humanity!” they wail. But I refuse. Here’s why: my cleaning lady told me she once walked into her bathroom to find her two-year-old ‘cleaning’ his teeth with the toilet brush. She took this incident in her stride; I have entirely failed to do so.
Yes, having children passes the baton of your title and/or surname to another generation in the great spiralling relay race our DNA makes us run. But in exchange there is much to be endured. One analogy is that children are hugely demanding, wildly expensive pets it takes years to house train. Another is that they are helpless, fickle, merciless, deranged masters who are as unwilling to pay you as they are unable.
Kiddy-winks are diametrically opposite to how they should be. These are the phases a child, in an ideal world, would pass through:
- 0–12 months: lounging about in their cot, sleeping more or less constantly and making charming gurgling sounds when required
- 1–5 years: impeccably behaved, self-vaccinating creatures of delight who excel in all sporting and quasi-academic endeavours, putting all your friends’ kids to shame
- 6–12: perfectly capable of managing your tax and other financial affairs, mixing you a decent cocktail, and capable of and inclined to cook and clean without any expectation of payment
- 13–18: never surly, sullen or in any way inclined to interact with the wrong type of boy/girl or express any interest in becoming an actor, dancer, poet, artist, writer etc.
There is also a need to interrogate your ancestry and ask yourself what it really has to offer. I am the eldest of the Gormley mass spawning and neither I nor my six siblings are terrific advertisements for passing on our genome. They are all in varying degrees deranged, profligate and perverted:
- Pemmican – buffoon, male palm-reader, thinks he’s a hipster
- Petunia – the brains of the outfit but a bit dry and tiresome, truth be told
- Puddock – amateur mortician and professional taxidermist (or possibly the other way round), Internet troll and general shit
- Plenitude – psychopath and femme fatale (sorry, Plenny dear, but it’s true)
- Prunella – lady drunkard; cockatiel-fancier; psoriasis-sufferer
- Picaroon – diminutive gigolo and all-round Queenslander
So, my dear, ditch the Beatrice XI idea and opt for a pet. Forget the border collie though. Offer your kids either a stick insect or an orang-utan. If they plump for the former, your troubles are over. If they select the latter, don’t be dismayed. These excellent apes are fantastic animal companions for two reasons: a) they make cheap, if mediocre, butlers, and b) when the time comes, their pelts make exceptional throw rugs.
Sir Partridge Gormley’s emissions are rendered as coherent as they can be by the ever-patient @ConanElphicke. If you are confused and bewildered, and we suspect you are, by all means send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.