Real men must talk the baby-talk;Sideways Look;Briefing;The week in education

17th September 1999 at 01:00
IF you see a man in loose-fitting clothes on his knees, murmuring sweet nothings to his partner's pregnant tum, the chances are he has been reading a new Home Office-approved guide on how to become a good father.

The guide encourages prospective fathers to talk to their unborn babies - foetuses, it says, hear fathers' low-pitched voices more clearly than mothers' - and suggests loose clothes for hot delivery rooms.

Wisely, given Tony Blair's pledge to pursue fathers as young as 13 who evade their responsibilities, it also advises unmarried dads on how to deal with the Child Support Agency.

The Prime Minister may be a perfect father in almost every respect but he revealed himself this week to be a babe-in-arms when it comes to computers.

He confessed to a conference in Cambridge that he looks on, humiliated, while Cherie and the kids surf the Internet. He did learn enough during his day in Cambridge to master the essential skill of sending flowers to his wife via the Net (but why begonias?).

Let's hope he gave himself a fillip by travelling home to London along the rural byways of south Cambridgeshire, which emerged this week as the most moral place in Britain. Teenage pregnancies, abortion rates, crime, drug use are all among the lowest in the country; people cycle more, the old are healthier and - yes! - the churches are full on Sunday.

Tales of students using their loans to play the stock market have lost their power to surprise but this week brought news of one who had used hers to streamline her bust.

Now reduced from a miserable 32F to a happy 32C, Louise Howell resolved to go under the knife while studying literature and history of art at Buckinghamshire College in High Wycombe. She took out two pound;1,000 loans in her final two years and then a pound;2,000 graduate loan from Lloyds to pay for the surgery.

She still owes pound;1,500, but says it was worth it. "It is certainly an unusual use of a student's money," said a Lloyds TSB spokesman.

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