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I don’t need an advertising campaign to make me want to have a baby

Thanks for the thought, though.

Does the television presenter Kate Garraway make you want to get pregnant? Or, more specifically, does a mocked-up picture of a wrinkled and “old” Kate Garraway with a huge bump? As things stand I’m not feeling too fertile right now. Show me a photo of a young Bruce Springsteen and perhaps I’ll change my mind, but the Get Britain Fertile campaign, an initiative to “remind” women of the existence of our biological clocks (and boy, do we need reminding – it’s a veritable media wasteland as far as commentary on female bodies is concerned), just isn’t doing it for me.

Others are similarly nonplussed, not because fertility isn’t something we think about, but because when you’re reminded at every turn of your decreasing worth as a woman as the ravages of age consume you and the time bomb that is your reproductive organs ticks on, one more voice barely adds to the resounding chorus of: “Why aren’t you pregnant yet?” It’s a cry always uttered in such a shrill soprano that some women can magically tune it out, rather like those anti-loitering devices outside shops that only teenagers can hear.

You can see the campaign’s rationale, the bald attempt at shock tactics, the marketeers’ belief that the only reaction a young woman could have to a fecund old lady would be disgust, but it’s counterintuitive. What with advances in medical science, the image has the reverse effect. When I first saw it my initial reaction was: “Well, if you can get pregnant at that age, then what the hell is there to worry about?” Not the angle they were going for.

I’m being flippant. We are seeing a rise in late pregnancies, and the initiative comes from a good place. Some have accused the advert of being anti-feminist. I disagree, not because it’s supposedly targeted at both men and women (this I don’t buy for a second) but because, at base, it has women’s best interests at heart. Or, at least, the best interests of those who would like to conceive.

While I’m wary of anyone or anything that tries to tell women what they should be doing with their bodies, it’s difficult in this case to dispute the medical evidence that time does indeed run out. And I’m wary of how modern feminism sometimes seems to make it feel as though any remark about women’s bodies is off limits.

Of course, women are aware of their own physiology and may find Garraway’s little reminder patronising. A straw poll of friends and acquaintances demonstrated that fertility is certainly on our minds. And yet, if the IVF statistics are anything to go by, the previous generation had a startling ability to bury its head in the sand.

Unsurprisingly, the most anxious friend is a doctor with all the facts. She describes herself as “scared shitless”.

The constant media memos on the condition of our wombs are almost certainly a response to women in their forties who are struggling to conceive now. We’re used to hearing “Don’t leave it too late” with such frequency that it’s only natural those of us who want children will feel a tad anxious, though not, it has to be said, anxious enough to raise the issue with our partners unless we are drunk. The drunken fertility row essentially involves a young woman slurringly harassing a man about his intentions re: childbirth to the point where he is basically crying, then promptly falling into a sleep reminiscent of the baby she so wishes she had (“Not now, but at some point in the future. I just need to know”).

Not that all young women are fussed about fertility (or drink as much as I do), though most of those who said they felt relaxed about their childbearing potential also admitted feeling so-so about the idea of kids in general. It’s those of us who know we want children one day who seem to find the scheduling issue (as I will euphemistically refer to it from now on) intimidating.

When you’re in no position to look after a child, certainly not financially, and, thanks to the recession, have only just got your feet on the bottom rung of the career ladder (if at all), being told to “get fertile” is a bit of a joke. Bearing fruit just because you might not be able to have a baby later on isn’t a great reason to bring a new person into the world, especially one you’d probably have to abandon your job to look after, as you couldn’t afford the childcare and your partner isn’t willing to join the ranks of househusbandry.

And there lies the other barrier: your partner. While some of my peers insist they’ll get a donor, or freeze their eggs, others say “finding a relationship with a decent human being” is more of a worry, or that the person they’re with now isn’t ready, or right. “I worry about rent, boob exposure/strapless tops, my sleep deficit, the decline in broadband coverage in my area, my job, too many chips, and wine headaches,” said a friend. “But I also worry that if my boyfriend isn’t ‘the one’, then he’s stolen all my best years.”

Others are concerned that as they never got pregnant by accident while displaying a youthful and lackadaisical attitude to contraception, it must mean they’re infertile – something to which I confess. From worrying about being too fertile to worrying that you’re not fertile enough, I’ve got it covered, Kate. I don’t need Get Britain Fertile to make me want a baby; a small child in duffel coat will do that. Not now, obviously. At some point in the future. (I just need to know.)  

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is one half of the Vagenda Magazine. She blogs for the New Statesman at The V Spot

Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is a writer for the New Statesman and the Guardian. She co-founded The Vagenda blog and is co-author of The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media.

This article first appeared in the 27 May 2013 issue of the New Statesman, You were the future once

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The players make their mistakes on the pitch – I make mine on the page

I find that if I watch three live games in a weekend, which often happens, I have totally forgotten the first two by the time the third comes up.

I was a bit humiliated and ashamed and mortified last week because of letters in this magazine about one of my recent columns. Wait till I see the Correspondence editor: there must be loads of nice letters, yet he or she goes and prints not just one, but two picking me up on my mistakes. By the left.

But mainly, my reaction was to laugh. Typical, huh, I’ve gone through life spelling things wrong, with dates dodgy, facts fictional – will I ever learn?

John Lennon did not use a watch. He maintained that he had people on the staff who would tell the time. I don’t wear a watch, either, but for different reasons. I want to get my wrists brown and I hate carrying anything.

By the same milk token, I don’t worry about my spelling. Like Lennon, I expect others to clear up after me. Surely the subs should have spotted it was a typo, that it is 64 years since 1951, not 54 as I wrote? What do they do all day? The other mistake was about replays in the League Cup: too boring to repeat, you would only yawn.

I usually try to get the spelling right the first time I use a word, then bash on, letting it come out any old way, intending to correct it later. Is it Middlesbrough or Middlesborough? Who cares? I’ll check later. Then I forget.

I was so pleased when Patrick Vieira left Arsenal. I found those ten seasons a nightmare, whenever I realised his surname was lumbering into vieiw (I mean “view”). Why couldn’t I memorise it? Mental laziness. The same reason that I don’t know the phone numbers of any of my children, or the correct spelling of my grandchildren’s names, Amarisse and Siena. I have to ask my wife how many Ss and how many Ns. She knows everything. The birthday of every member of the royal family? Go on, ask her.

I might be lazy on piddling stuff such as spelling but I like to think my old brain is still agile. I have three books on the go which are hellishly complicated. I have the frameworks straight in my head but I don’t want to cram anything else in.

It can be a bit embarrassing when writing about football, though. Since sport was invented, fans have been making lists, trotting out facts, showing off their information. As a boy, I was a whizz on the grounds of all 92 League clubs, knew the nicknames of all the clubs. It’s what you did. Comics like Adventure produced pretty colour charts full of such facts. I don’t remember sitting down and learning it all. It just went in, because I wanted it to go in.

Today, the world of football is even madder on stats than it ever was. I blame computers and clever graduates who get taken on by the back pages with nothing else to do but create stats. And TV, with its obsession with possession, as if it meant anything.

I find that if I watch three live games in a weekend, which often happens, I have totally forgotten the first two by the time the third comes up. Not just the score but who was playing. When Wayne Rooney or whoever is breaking records, or not, my eyes go glazed, refusing to take in the figures. When I read that Newcastle are again winless in their first seven League games now, I start turning the pages. If I get asked who won the Cup in 1923, my immediate answer is HowthefeckdoIknow. Hold on, I do know that. It was the first Cup final at Wembley, won by Bolton Wanderers. I remember that, having been there. I don’t know the dates of any other Cup final winners. England’s World Cup win? That was 1966 and I really was there.

I love football history (I’ve written three books about it) but it’s the players and the history of the clubs, the boots and strips, development in the laws, that’s what I enjoy knowing. Spellings and dates – hmm, I do always have to think. Did the Football League begin in 1888 or 1885? If I pause for half a second, I can work it out. Professional football came in first, which must have been 1885, so the Football League came later. Thus the answer is 1888. Bingo. Got it.

But more often than not, I guess, or leave it out. So, sorry about those mistakes. And if you’ve spotted any today, do keep it to yourself. 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 01 October 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Tory tide