Daddy Daycare visits the smile exchange with Cliff

By Keith Newbery

Published on Friday, December 14, 2012 - 11:15


Daddy Daycare visits the smile exchange with Cliff

Keith’s grand-daughter, Betsy, smiles for the camera.

THIS ISLAND LIFE BETSY Barry and I were having a little conversation. She said: "Oogoolawahwahgah," and I replied: "Aahgaahdoorahboo" — or words to that effect.

It must have sounded like one of those conversations between Randolph Scott and a Sioux chief in a B Western.

Though neither of us was entirely sure what we had just said to each other, that precious connection had been established between a four-month-old and her grand-dad.

We were spending the day together while her mum and grandmother (who refer to me respectively as 'Mrs Doubtfire’ and 'Daddy Daycare’) were having some time off.

Consequently, my baby-sitting duties were of the 'both ends’ variety and, as I did the deed with the nappies, it occurred to me parents today really don’t know they are


I hadn’t been on ablution duties like these for about 30 years and in those days we were lumbered with the dreaded terry nappies, which had to be fixed into place with safety pins resembling medieval duelling weapons.

Nowadays (courtesy of Huggies and Pampers) changing a nappy is about as difficult as wrapping a batch of cheese sandwiches.

It’s the same with milk (or 'formula’ as it has now become known).

I spent many an evening pounding dollops of Ostermilk into a fluid capable of forcing its way through the end of a teat. These days you just spoon the stuff into the receptacle, give it a bit of a shake and it’s job done.

Anyway, after Betsy had been fed, watered and changed, we entered my favourite place — the smile exchange.

She flashed her gums at me and I flashed my crowns at her, as mutual delight was duly conveyed.

I enjoyed the moment while I could, well aware that little lips tilted in happiness can suddenly be transformed into a fretful pout for no apparent reason.

When the inevitable eventually happened, I remembered my wife’s theory that fractious infants often respond favourably to music.

So I flicked through the channels and found one which had the top 40 Christmas hits on loop.

My logic was impeccable. If relentless exposure to Wizzard, Slade and Bing Crosby didn’t send her to sleep, nothing would. After all, it had worked on the rest of us for years.

But it was dear old Cliff who did the trick, as he stood on those wind-swept cliffs in his ankle-length, white coat chirruping Saviour’s Day, and looking for all the world like an evangelical lab technician.

"Many have come from the valleys and many have come from the hills," he warbled and, as the faithful began to drift into view, it suddenly occurred to me many may also have come from the IW.

The coastline looked oddly familiar, especially when Cliff engaged in a bout of winsome miming in front of what appeared to be the old Arch Rock in Freshwater Bay.

As Betsy’s eyes flickered to a contented close, I immediately began to scrutinise the assembled throng for one face which would have proved conclusively whether Cliff Richard really had filmed his video on the south-west coast of the Island.

If he had, Den Clare would undoubtedly have done everything in his power to thrust his way into the front row of the extras — but of his delicate, airbrushed features there was nary a sign.

That settled it for me. No Den, no deal — and definitely not filmed on the Island.

Unless you know better, of course.

Put name to the familiar writing

WHEN you have spent the best part of 45 years working with words, you come to realise that some writing (and I don’t just mean that produced by famous people) has a style all its own.

It possesses a cadence and content which marks it out as immediately recognisable to those who have encountered it on a number of occasions.

This is why I was able to identify the sender of an anonymous letter I received last week.

The basic characteristics and underlying tone made it unmistakable, which is why, when the author reads this column, he will know that I know who he is.

The letter contained some interesting observations on a matter which has preoccupied this corner of the Weekender supplement in recent weeks, and if he (it’s definitely a he) can muster up the courage to confirm his name and address, it will be taken further.

If not, it will go the way of all anonymous material.

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