With the Duchess of Cambridge in hospital, the media have gone into couvade. I’d half thought of a gag about ‘crowning’, but blow me if the Centre for Retail Research in Newark hasn’t got there already, headlining a press release: ‘As the royal baby crowns...’ The next bit says that Britons are set to bazooka an extra £243 million once the baby’s born.
They’ll celebrate, the CRR goes on, ‘in true British style’: by shopping and getting bladdered. Also in true British style, the press-crib displays quiet mastery of the grocer’s apostrophe: Britons keen to ‘keep up with the Cambridge’s’ will glug back £62 million in fizz to ‘wet the future monarchs head’. The only person not getting legless, it seems, is the queen’s gynaecologist, who’s kicked the bottle till the baby’s nappied up. In fact, though, the £62 million only comes to a pound apiece for the UK population, enough for a teacup of lager in a London pub, so we’re hardly in for mass bacchanalia.
What about the other £181 million of extra spending? Besides the usual commemorative tat, the CRR says, wads will be blown on prams, strollers and other kiddie kit. New parents, ‘quite rightly securing their share of the spending frenzy’, will trade up to deluxe brands of baby gym, pre-dental mush and heavy-duty nappies, once they learn which have been picked to divert the new princess, feed her and receive her meconium. Austerity-lite parents will switch to whichever upscale jogger the Cambridges have – as happened, the CRR says, with ‘the iCandy peach which was purchased by the Beckham’s for their daughter Harper’. I first thought the text had been corrupted by a virus turning English into Klingon, but iCandy turns out to be a pram firm in Biggleswade. They’re asking just 1175 smackers for their ‘Peach Limited Edition’ trundler; maybe it converts for use by the aged, and before long we’ll see the queen in one.
Birth is a great unleveller. According to research by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, babies of obese mothers (BMI of 35 or more) are twice as likely to suffer perinatal mortality as the UK average; ‘mothers from ethnic minority groups are more likely to have stillbirths and neonatal deaths’; and the South-East has the lowest perinatal death rate (3.8 per 1000), while Yorkshire and Humberside has the highest (5.3 per 1000). The odds are in the duchess’s favour. It also helps to have a bit of the folding in reserve: a night in the St Mary’s maternity suite will set you back £4965.
‘The Cambridges are seen,’ the CRR says, finally taming that rogue apostrophe, ‘as surprisingly normal.’ But it’s hard to see them knocking out much of their stack on ‘Daddy’s Little Princess’ T-shirts.