Oh, baby, some new parents certainly can wax umbilical


Having eschewed crass social media to be the bearer of his personal happiness, British actor Benedict Cumberbatch chose to announce his engagement to fiancee Sophie Hunter by conduit of the births, deaths and marriages columns of The Times of London.

It put me in mind of an envelope I chanced upon secreted in my mother's desk, which contained a selection of announcements she'd carefully cut from the births, deaths and marriages columns of The Press, having trawled for colourful entries to be kept and read to an appreciative family.

Take for instance this one from the 90s when the vasectomy became a veritable male breeder's badge of honour: "Grant is pleased to announce that Sonja has added one to the score, a daughter which we both adore. She came out quick, now I must get the snip, I can't handle these births any more".

In the same vein, another addition to roll off the assembly line in a household straining at the seams burst into rhyming verse with: "We've been here thrice before, the arrival of daughter four. All okay with baby and wife, husband to go under the knife."

Or this entrant shortly after the turn of the millennium from devout Presley fans: "Elvis has left the womb! With distinctive jet-black mop, inch-long side-burns, and stoutly 8lbs 8oz in build, Elvis was sighted late in the evening of Monday by screaming groupies Jason and Anna. He is rumoured to be joining long time rockers Tessa and Jack for an extended tour in Little River."

Some birth notices still carried the ecstatic highs of the dramatic event, waxing umbilical and accompanied by a vast credit roll of thanks reminiscent of Oscar-winning speeches, such as this one (and it is abridged): "Through a field of stars, You came into this world, And the joy you bring is brighter than the sun And older than the moon. Bless you, little one.

"You my dark haired Prince were born from me weighing 7lb 8oz, length 50cm, at home in our kitchen while standing supported by your father, surrounded and encouraged by friends' and midwives' boundless work and tireless energy with hot towels; massage therapist's magical golden hands relieving the fiercest contractions . . . homebirth midwives who nurtured me with clarity of skill, commitment and dedication."

Many birth notices appeared to be penned by precocious babies blessed with both bodily and verbal diarrhoea and determined to take on their siblings from the get go, as seen from this dispatch: 'Hello brother and sister, hello friends and family. Look out I am here and proud to be here. I may be little weighing 6lb 11oz but I'll make the rest up with a lot of talk - starting now! I arrived one week early giving Mummy something to remember, eleven hours hard, hard labour - if you want me this early you'll have to pay. Poor old Daddy he looked more jiggered than Mummy. Unlike the rest of my family I am very good looking and can't wait to check out the local kindy for babes. Oh no! I've just messed my naps I'll have to go, plus Dad won't be happy when he gets the bill for this column. Oh no, not again! They're really full, gotta go."

Veering from the births, deaths and marriages theme, this poignant notice lodged in Lost & Found brought a tear to the eye with: "Gorbachev our plain ordinary green budgie lost in Somerfield, come home, Raisa and her five eggs miss you."

Finally from the death notice noting the passing of a sailor who: "Threw tails, Slipped the cable - Crossed the Bar and set sail for Snug Harbour at Fiddlers' Green. Proud life member of the Seamen's Union. Remember Joe Hill - Don't mourn, educate, agitate, organise.

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O Lord above send down a dove

With wings as sharp as razors

To cut the throats of evil ship-owners

Who deny seamen of their conditions and wages."

 - The Dominion Post

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