Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

The perfect baby to fill my empty nest

With one son now happily fledged into university life and the other rapidly approaching adulthood, my role as a part-time worker, full-time mum is drawing to a close.

As each child moves one step closer to complete independence, my own free time is expanding accordingly and as yet I'm not quite sure what to do with it all.

So now feels like the right time to take on a new challenge ... whatever that may be. Of course I will still be writing my columns in the magazines and sounding-off in the daily papers, but I definitely need a new focus, too, to keep me busy and ward off the dreaded empty-nest syndrome.

With this in mind, I opened the papers the other day to have a cursory glance at the classifieds in the hope that something exciting, stimulating and tailor-made for me might jump straight out and hit me in the face.

No such luck. Although there were 450+ positions currently open in the Belfast Telegraph's NI Jobfinder section, my unusual (and some might say eccentric) combination of experience and qualifications ruled me out of 95% of them. As for the remaining 5% ... well, my age, location and availability conspired to disqualify me from them too.

So next I went on to JobCentreOnline and once again I left with my in-tray empty. This wasn't going to be as easy as I first thought ...

Then, just as I was taking a break and scrolling down the Independent's news feed, suddenly I saw it.

“Adventurous human female required,” was the headline.

Could this be it? I thought, noticing only the word “adventurous” at first glance.

Well, I'm certainly that. In fact after a year when I've done a sky-dive from 15,000 feet, 15 minutes on stage as a stand-up comedian and appeared as a dominatrix in a bloodbath horror movie, you could say that “adventurous” was my middle name. (It's not; it's actually Anne, but you know what I mean.)

Then I noticed the word “human” in the same sentence. For some reason, this concerned me.

Has fair employment legislation become so strict these days that you are compelled by law to state the actual species? Has political correctness finally gone completely mad? Or was there a more sinister reason for the bizarre species-specific terminology?

Er ... you could say that.

Upon further reading I discovered that a professor of genetics at Harvard University — indeed, the world-leader in this field — has a dastardly plan. After years of experiments using bits of bone samples found in archaeological digs, he has now reached a stage where he can reconstruct the DNA of Neanderthal man.

Professor George Church’s plan is to create artificial Neanderthal DNA based on the genetic code found in bone samples, then put this DNA into stem cells.

Next, these cells would be injected into a human embryo in the early stages of life. After a few days growing in a laboratory the ‘neo-Neanderthal’ embryo would be implanted into the womb of the surrogate mother. And that's where the “adventurous human” bit comes in.

How utterly, horribly alarming. But what is even more alarming is that I actually gave it a moment's thought.

Hmm ... surrogate mother to a Neanderthal baby, you say? Let me weigh up the pros and cons ...

Well, aside from all the mind-boggling array of ethical, moral and humanitarian issues, there's a number of practical drawbacks that would spring instantly to mind. For a start, a genetically-engineered proto-Neanderthal baby would be difficult to shop for.

Mothercare don't do a Neanderthal range and my crochet skills don't stretch to genetically modifying knitting patterns.

Then there's what to tell the kids. “You're going to have a baby brother” doesn't quite cover it, but the term “monstrosity” might put them off the idea altogether.

As for the neighbours, well getting along with them is tricky enough already without the added nuisance of the world's news teams and paparazzi camping out on the doorstep ... not to mention all the placard-waving, Bible-bashing religious pickets.

Then, of course, you have to think of the child itself. Kids can be so cruel in the playground to someone who's a little bit different.

On the plus side ... well, I have been feeling a bit broody lately. My biological clock is like a ticking timebomb and this could be my last chance to expand the family before I become a woman on the verge of HRT.

Of course, I would prefer an actual homo erectus to be involved in the process, but beggers can't be choosers, as they say.

Oh, hang on a minute ... I've just looked on the Belfast Telegraph website and apparently all is not as it seems. Professor Church isn't looking for a woman, even an “adventurous” one. Or at least he's now denying it after a bit of a furore in the newspapers, saying that the idea gets a brief mention only as a theoretical possibility in his recent book.

Pesky meddling media! World domination could have been mine, all mine! Mwaaaa-ha-ha-ha-haaa!

Damn ... back to the drawing board. Now where did I put that jobs section?

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