Drinking Custard by Lucy Beaumont
This book is subtitled “Diary of a Confused Mum”, and this truly is an account of the reality of becoming a parent, in all its bewildering, messy and downright daft detail. The author is a comedian and writer, and also married to Jon Richardson – the couple recently appeared in a comedy programme “Meet the Richardsons” – so there is huge amount of humour throughout, even if it is often self-deprecating. This is not a guide to parenting, though there is much that Beaumont feels she ought to offer to others in terms of advice, and those with experience of coping with life with a baby and small child will recognise a lot of the content.
Beaumont also admits that she lives a privileged lifestyle as her “husband is on the television” so financially is secure and both of their occupations do not include commuting or the need for expensive childcare. Some readers may find her situation idyllic, but she also points out that she was basically brought up by a single parent herself, in unglamorous Hull, which was not as secure, though she was in contact with her father and lived for some time with loving grandparents. The fact that she has choices should not obscure the fact that she had what became a tricky birth, sleepless nights for years, and a determined daughter to deal with , and she details all the downsides to her love of drinking custard straight from the packet. Altogether this is a funny book with much that I recognised, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this entertaining book.
The book opens with a chapter entitled “My life as a normal, single human being before everything changed”, which has some childhood memories (which actually continue throughout the book), involving gazebos and other memorable moments. The next goes on to her meeting and getting together with Jon, who adds “interruptions” through the book. Jon is a vegan, and she becomes one apart from during pregnancy, but both admit to lapses which include dead cows and her mother’s cooking when she arrives on mercy missions. She comes up with ten reasons why she wants a baby – which includes having a white carpet like in the adverts. Experienced baby carers will know that she is being foolishly optimistic at this point. She actually writes “The more I write, the more it’s dawning on me I’m not picturing a real baby, I’m picturing a calendar”. The challenges of pregnancy and antenatal groups are described with humour and brutal honesty, especially with her husband in attendance. She remembers stories of her own birth while her mother was on holiday, some points of which she sends to her mother some time later to clarify points of confusion – just to make sure that family legends are actually true. The actual birth story spares no details, including Jon’s strange urge to buy a four man tent. The unexplained post natal sadness (thankfully fairly brief) and the night feed experience is detailed, as well as the joys of baby massage (she is disappointed that the mums don’t get massaged). Soon Elsie the baby becomes the toddler, the bright child and all with a determination to sabotage sleep.
This is a funny book. It is not a straightforward account, it chooses high and low points, it probably exaggerates a little. It is honest and frank, and remains human and interesting throughout. For those amid the battlefields of baby sleep deprivation, for those who remember it well, and even for those considering it, this is an entertaining and engaging read.