Refreshing look at baby-raising issues

17:00, Aug 24 2012
jaquie brown
PARENTING ON SHOW: Keep Calm and Carry On presenter Jaquie Brown.

When it comes to having babies, I've always been happy to leave it to Mrs Brown.

While that may seem to be an obvious statement, given the biological advantage she has in performing the feat, I'm talking about the bits that happen afterwards.

To put it into today's bureaucratic babble, Mrs B is the one contracted to deliver the outcome - something she's done three times - but just who takes responsibility after that is not quite so clear-cut.

If our place was a hotel, she figured she's provided the womb, but other duties, such as providing food, drink and entertainment, were to be divided, delegated and done, once she'd decided. For example, she'd always said the baby was half mine, and obviously it was my half that cried at night, so therefore it was my job to get up to it.

While that was a matter of some ongoing discussion, there was a refreshingly irreverent look at some of these very issues on prime-time television on Wednesday night. Keep Calm and Carry On (TV One, 8pm) stars Jaquie Brown (no relation to either Len or me) and quite simply she is the show. She has that rare knack of being able to gently take the p . . . out of herself and has a good time while she does it.

She first came to prominence in the Jaquie Brown Diaries, which was a clever attempt to send up New Zealand's radio industry in a mildly David Brent way. Jaquie made her way from TV3 to TVNZ and this series is refreshingly different, and, dare I say it, funny.


It's self-deprecating humour and that, allied with an irreverent look back into time and what passed for best practice in the 1950s and 1960s is actually a treasure trove of silliness.

"I'm documenting the process of becoming a mum," Jaquie tells us early on and, fortunately, she bypasses the conception bit and it's more concerned with mother and baby.

When Mrs B insisted we watch this, I was a little dubious. After all, as a bloke the first thing I do whenever I am watching telly and some woman starts screaming the house down during labour, is to disappear quicker than Prince Harry's clothes at a Las Vegas party.

I needn't have worried. There's so much humour in there that the subject matter is almost incidental, apart from one part - and that came with a warning.

Not a government warning, but a Jaquie warning.

"Boys, it's time for you to go and make a cuppa . . . girls; it's now time for you to take a quiz."

She was right. Close-ups of female bits on a dummy and lots of unnecessary detail [for blokes], with the main focus on something called the pelvic floor.

Apart from that bit, the rest was fine. Good fun, even. It was filmed over the course of a year, "with me in various stages" Jaquie tells us. It's strewn with the highs and lows of such times.

"I had the most massive meltdown," she says candidly at one stage.

But my favourite part was when she remonstrated with the baby.

“Learn what to do. You're six weeks old now, so you should be able to work it out yourself."

Then there were the running gags, which came across brilliantly every time she went back in time.

Truby King was the father of Plunket, and those old black-and-white films, complete with the posh upper-class Pommie accent of the narrator, provided plenty of fun.

Mrs B's favourite bit of advice from Truby was this one on Mothercraft: “To prepare nipples for breastfeeding, scrub them with a very hard toothbrush for months before giving birth." She reckoned only a man would come up with that one.

I liked Jaquie's advice of leaving an hour to fit the baby seat before going anywhere in the car with a little one.

Nowadays parents [our children] are told to make sure their precious young ones [our grandchildren] have to be in special car seats until they're 23 or 1.5m, whichever comes first, so we have to oblige as well, even to drive them to the end of the driveway.

About the only thing missing in the opening series was a Mister Brown. There was the odd vague reference to him, but no evidence he actually existed. Mind you, Jaquie looked so blissfully happy, there must be one.

A final thought, just why does TVNZ these days insist all their presenters stand up when they are talking to the camera? From Peter Williams reading the news on Breakfast to Greg Boyed in the late news, they're all doing it, with the exception of the 6pm newsreaders. It looks uncomfortable, unnatural and is quite distracting, so please let them sit down again.

The Timaru Herald