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Monday 14 November 2011

How to raise a celebrity child.

CHILDREN cannot be protected from everything. They will eat dirt, experiment with electricity, learn to swear and smoke and have their hearts broken.

The best any sane parent can do is teach them not to do any of those things too often, and keep their fingers crossed. Some parents take the opposite view and try to keep their children from everything that might harm them, trying to kill each germ, prevent every fall. It's understandable but not very clever; it merely delays children learning how to deal with the problems life will always hurl their way.

So I can understand the reaction of Hugh Grant to protect his new baby daughter from the attentions which his fame and wealth were always going to bring. The child's mother Tinglan Hong - presumably with Grant's money and support - has sought and won an injunction banning photographers coming within 100 yards of her home.

It also bans snappers from taking pictures when mother and baby are in private, something they're already not allowed to do and which newspapers cannot print under the Press Complaints Commission code of conduct; and from taking pictures of her in the street, which is a little heavy-handed since the concept of public places is something many of our laws are based on.

Since it's been known Ms Hong had Grant's baby, the home he bought for her in Chelsea has been attended by different bits of the media most days and some nights. Some have been TV crews, in the early days, and newspaper photographers; as time has passed they have mainly given up and now it is the paparazzi agencies, who remain because a picture of Bamboo (as the baby is known) would earn big money as the public would buy more papers, or click onto more websites, to see it.

More than anything what they want is a picture of Grant with his daughter, which is tricky seeing as since she was born he has reportedly spent more time playing golf than bouncing her on his knee.

On one of his visits he beamed broadly for photographs then barked his reason for the trip was "to protect my baby" - presumably from the attentions of photographers, which is ironic considering it was his slapdash attitude towards protection in the first place which is at the root of the story, along with the public reputation as a womaniser in which he has at times gloried.

Tinglan and Bamboo are not famous in their own right, and if they do not want to be pictured publicly that's fair enough. The injunction however seems a little over-engineered, especially considering it grants these two people a right to privacy over and above that granted to anyone else in the country. There are many simpler, cheaper, friendlier ways to ensure your photograph is not taken when you do not want it to be, but those are ways this angry dad does not want to take.

That's because of Grant's long, bitter, unhappy relationship with the Press. The bits that like him, he likes; those that criticise, he does not. The parts which take his picture in public places he reserves a special loathing for and he seems to treat photographers as the earthly outriders of Satan himself, out to snatch a piece of his soul along with their shots. In general, snappers are a friendly bunch whose undying loyalty can be bought with a cup of hot tea on a cold day.

Grant has taken a very different stance to publicity around his daughter to virtually every other superfamous person. David and Victoria Beckham politely ask photographers not to picture their children on the way to school, yet expect it at a public event. They posted pictures of their new baby Harper Seven on Twitter, as Coleen and Wayne Rooney do frequently with their toddler Kai. Elton John and David Furnish, Tom and Katie Cruise, J-Lo - there is a long list of megastar parents who have a reasonably balanced view of what is public and what is private, what is good for their children or bad. Even Michael Jackson, who used to veil his children in public or dangle them from hotel balconies, seems to have raised three well-adjusted youngsters.

Perhaps it has the tang of a deal with the devil but it is far more pragmatic to accept there will be interest, and either release an official photograph in return for donation to charity, or allow the photographers to get their shot and go away. Either way the public appetite to see it is sated and those children who are the offspring of a very famous person learn, from an early age, how to negotiate one of the more difficult aspects of something they will almost certainly never escape.

To deny that shot only increases the hunger for it, in the Press as much as in the public mind. And it merely delays and makes more difficult the day that Bamboo finds out she's the child of someone very famous indeed, and possibly becomes as bitter and unbalanced about that fact as her father is.

It seems that Hugh Grant is trying to be a good dad by paying for lawyers to eradicate everything he sees as a threat; when those threats would cause far less trouble if they were handled reasonably in the first place.

But then reason is never going to be an easy concept for a man who hurls Chinese takeaways and tubs of baked beans at photographers while screaming "I hope your kids die of cancer!" and then kicks them up the bum.

"Watch Daddy as he kicks the man!"