The Journal of Lynton Charles, Chancellor of the Duchy of Durham

Saturday I escape from home to work - it's handy, sometimes, being a minister. There's no arguing with the car that comes to get you and whisk you away on national business. It makes you a sort of modern equivalent of the Three Musketeers.

It's flee or go mad. The in-laws are still with us, on account of Cheryl Senior's bad hip. What was it Yeats said: "Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart"? Too bloody right. It's not just all that frowning at whatever we give the twins for Christmas, or whatever we feed them, or however we admonish them. All grandparents do that. Nor even the constant implied criticism that we spend too much ("So, I suppose you won't need Lorelei much longer, Lynton, with the twins at secondary school?").

What is so unbearable about this situation is that it gives Cheryl a constant trump card in any argument that we have. She can take it to a certain pitch and then - when I want my say - abruptly tell me that my raised voice will upset her father, or that whatever plans she has just landed me with, and which have caused contention, are actually the only ones compatible with her mother's mobility problem.

I, however, have my own trump card - affairs of state. So, in case there is a euro referendum, I amuse myself for several hours at Whip House by constructing a list of pros and antis, based on junior whips' reports. Good fun. Those that are out of the closet at the moment will, of course, be tolerated. So long-term sceps like little Frankie Field and Denzil Drynker will have the benign hand of blessing waved over them. And, actually, there's nothing much you can do with them. But woe betide others who get any funny ideas. Sure you can campaign against the euro should The Master and Mr Brown recommend a vote in favour, but then how can you expect to be invited into government where you will have to help administer the new dispensation?

So I am much cheered up by the time I arrive back at the Charles mansion. Only to find that something remarkable has happened - Mr Brown is Mr Brown no more. He is now Father Brown, and is to be discovered in the TV news bulletins, standing outside a hospital somewhere in Caledonia with a grin the size of a slice of watermelon on his face - a grin that will not go away. I swear I have never seen a man looking so happy. A child, yes, but a man, no. It strongly suggests blood and veins and a heart and stuff like that.

I am just marking Blind Lemon down from 5-2 to 6-1, when I become aware of a strange and rather terrible noise emanating from the sitting room sofa. It is part the high-pitched warble of the pigeon, and part the sound that small children make when they see a particularly winsome and fluffy puppy. It is cooing and it is aaahhhing and it is coming from Cheryl and her mother. And they haven't even seen the bloody baby yet.

New Year's Eve Sure enough, we are raising our glasses to the New Year, and my mother-in-law has just toasted the prospect of us all being together again next year, when Cheryl clears her throat. I am firmly expecting this to be a toast to the end of American imperialism, globalisation and war. But no. To my incredible surprise, she invites us to drink to the Chancellor, his wife and to little Jennifer. They embody, she says, "all the hopes that socialists have for the New Year". I drink to Father Brown, but later, in the kitchen, express my bewilderment that a red-green activist like her should be so keen on the man. What about the Socialist Alliance, I ask.

"A load of boring men making unrealistic speeches to each other," she says. "Too patriarchal." Whereas Father Brown . . . ?

8-1 against Blind Lemon, and rising.