P has bought me a copy of Photoshop so it’s time to dustoff my faded ambitions to draw. While I’m on the subject this is the best cartoon on the web: Beaver and Steve


After 9 failed IVF rounds Penny and I have hit the end of the assisted conception line. Because the problem seems to arise post-implantation, we have begun to consider surrogacy.

In a surrogacy arrangement someone else becomes pregnant on your behalf. There are two types. The first is called “straight surrogacy” and involves fertilising the surrogate’s own egg with the intended father’s sperm. The second type is “host surrogacy” in which the egg is provided by the intended mother.

Surrogacy is entirely legal in UK. However, the law applicable to it is, to put it mildly, pretty odd. The most important point is that the surrogate is identified by the Law as “birth mother” and has parental responsibility even in cases of host surrogacy. The intended father (i.e. me) only has responsibility if he is identified as the father at the point at which the birth is registered. Without an express transfer of parental responsibility, the intended mother (i.e. Penny) has no rights at all even where the child is, genetically, hers.

In a worst case, the surrogate is entitled to assert her rights and simply keep the child. The surrogacy arrangement has no binding legal force.

A number of you will by now be thinking: why would anyone in their right minds go in for this? From the intended parents’ point of view it is important to realise that we are not in our rights minds. Any pretence of reason has been sluiced from our minds by a powerful jet of genetically pre-programmed desperation. However rational you may like to think you would be in the same situation, nothing prepares you for standing in front of the wall of snapshots that every assisted conception unit displays as an aid to morale only to realise that without some very drastic action you will never hold your own child. At that point very drastic seems the least you could do.

Why the surrogates do it – that’s the imponderable.

We had our “visit” today from the surrogacy agency (COTS). He arrived at 4pm and I took an instant dislike to him. This was principally because he was from Middlesborough and at that precise moment Chelsea were busy losing 3 – 0 to his team. As Penny made clear, that was a wholly inadequate reason to take against someone. He turned out to be a perfectly affable former Guardian ad Litem. He had one or two distracting tics. For instance, he was not a believer in socks and wore a pair of leather slippers from which he would from time to time unleash his feet. Whilst he was filling in our police check form we were entranced by his toenails.

He told us that surrogacy arrangements usually break down because of “stupidity” on the part of the intended parents. He illustrated the point by telling us how an intended parent had tried to have a surrogate’s cat killed so as to avoid any risk of toxoplasmosis. He then said that the surrogate was likely to want Penny to indicate that she would give up work and that Penny should tell her she would. This seemed a little unfair. If the surrogate gets to dicatate whether Penny has a job shouldn’t we get to kill their pets?

At the end of much form filling it all degenerated into a chat between Mr Toenails and Penny (who is a family lawyer) about the inadequate state of Child Care Law. I couldn’t follow it so I went instead to check the football score after which I drove him from the house with a pitchfork.

I’m not sure how I feel about all this yet – you’ll be the first to know.


Here is something that has long bothered me. The picture set out below is by Bosch. On any occasion on which I have read an accompanying descriptive text it has suggested that the picture portrays a pilgrim (signified by the spoon). He has passed a house of ill-repute (depicted in the background) and has turned his back on its temptations. He is haggard because pilgrimage is a struggle. The first time I read this interpretation it was a complete surprise to me because I had read the picture in a completely different way.

The “pilgrim” struck me as gazing shiftily over his shoulder. Why would he do that? The answer is that he has just stolen a piglet. You can see a trotter sticking out from his jacket. There are piglets out side the inn he has passed and a dog next to them barks to alert the house owners to the theft. Rather than a commentary on virtue I saw it as a dig at hypocrisy and the wrapping of bad deeds in religious fervour.