The world is divided into people who have children and people who do not have children. But yesterday I became aware of an even more fundamental division, between people who have children and people who have children and put them on their answerphones. This is mawkish sentimentality of the highest degree. Will anyone honestly leave a message for a child who, while quite capable of dialing one from his father's cellphone is nevertheless still some way off from holding a meaningful conversation? Well, yes, they will. But only to make a point.

I haven't said anything to the doting parents, whom I love dearly, because to do so risks offending them as much as their message offends my sensibilities. They know who they are. They may even be reading this. And they may even do the right thing. But in case they don't, I have a plan …

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