Not coming to a bookshop near you – Martin Freeman's good parent guide
I HAVE an idea for a book. And if you promise not to steal it, rush into print and become fabulously wealthy, I'll tell you more.
Right, on we go.
I'm going to write a big book on how to be a good parent.
It's going to be called The Big Book Of How To Be A Good Parent.
That's a bit of a cheat. In fact it won't be big, it'll be small.
But nobody would buy a book about such a hugely important subject if it were called The Little Book Of How To Be A Good Parent.
Nobody who has struggled for years in the role of bringing up a little monster or two wants to be told that the answer is so simple that it doesn't need a big book to fit it all in. At least not until they have read it.
The title is only a bit of a cheat, though.
The book will only be little in terms of its number of pages.
The book really will be big for two reasons.
One, by making the front cover twice the size of this newspaper, I won't be sued. Nobody can deny that the book really is big.
Two, the book will virtually market itself – every sale will be extremely visible, because the book will be a true coffee table book because it will be the size of a coffee table. It will also have fold out legs so that it can actually be used as a coffee table. Or – get this – a changing baby coffee table (if the child concerned is still in nappies).
I don't anticipate the lawyers coming knocking over the "good" bit either.
Go on, Mrs Sue Forallitsworth, define good; if the child gets to adulthood in one piece who can deny that the parents have done some good?
Now that we have covered the title and the format, on to the contents.
P1 will be the title page.
It will also be the index.
In fact it will be the entire book, including being one of those irritating Notes pages to be found at the end of books that masquerade as big but aren't nearly as big as you think they are when you start reading.
The only time I can recall almost enjoying reading a book that had lots of Notes pages at the back was a history volume at school.
The pleasure in discovering that I'd got to the end of the dull, dull, saga of kings fighting each other for centuries on end sooner than I'd feared was spoiled because it was a school text book and you weren't allowed to write on the Notes pages because, well, duh, it was a school textbook and writing on a school textbook when I was of that age was a crime one below genocide in severity.
The temptation to scrawl "Ignore the first 250 pages 'cos you never get asked any of that in the exam. Just read the Conclusions chapter endlessly and you'll be sorted" was resisted only by the thought that it was pointless giving advice if the upcoming year couldn't be sure whether it was worth following because they had no idea who had written it as it was unsigned for fear that a terrible beating would follow, and those who decided that giving anonymous words of wisdom was better than nothing suffered anyway because sneaky Mr Hamilton did a handwriting analysis, identified the scribbler and handed him over to nasty Mr Furlong immediately. And they got an extra whack for using sentences that were too long and unintelligible. And another one for using abbreviations such as "cos". And yet another one for starting sentences with "and".
All other times Notes are pointless additions because by the time you have come across them it is too late (you have written any notes you needed to make on little yellow stickies placed throughout the book) and although you are now fully grown up and the book is your own so you can do what you like to it, you still can't bring yourself to write on a book because of the fearful association with school beatings.
With that in mind, I am quite sure that neither Mr Hamilton nor Mr Furlong were Good Parents.
Or, if they were, they kept it to themselves and did not write books about the subject.
I will tell you now that in my book you will be quite free from any beating if you decide to write in the Notes section such things as "Genius!", "What a brilliant book!" and "Amazing succinct, advice".
In fact the urge to do so will be irresistible after you have read The Big Book Of How To Be A Good Parent.
Here, then, is what the book says:
"Don't give in. Yes, it would be easier to train a chimp but remember one day your chimp will be trained and will fetch you all the bananas your heart could ever desire."
PS I have just heard that you have posted my book online in its entirety. Expect a threatening call from Mrs Sue Forallitsworth pdq.