I’ve read about an alarming new ‘reborn baby’ trend in the UK (no doubt, it’s already big in the States) that sees women buying hyper-realistic toy babies for as much as £20,000. These hand painted, soft skinned and squashy life size toy babies have been mistaken for the real variety with police even breaking into a home when reports came in that a baby had been left alone. The concept of doll therapy has been around a while and has been found helpful in cases of Alzheimer’s and for those who’ve sadly suffered still births. All the same, the new use for these fake babies is as an emotional fantasy prop for those who want a baby but haven’t the time or money to have one of their own. As many younger people are now living alone, a fake baby could prove comforting and something that wouldn’t require much maintenance.

As birth rates plummet around the world with a fertility rate decline from 4.84 in 1950 to 2.23 in 2021, maybe realistic toy dolls will be as good as it gets for many. It’s predicted that, aside from low-income countries where birth rates are highest, the rate will drop to 1.59 by the year 2100. This means that the world will be run and occupied largely by an ageing population with all the problems that that will incur. There are countless reasons why women aren’t having babies any more, but perhaps the overriding one is based on economic constraints. I have spoken to many younger people of my son and nephew’s age groups, and few want children or any kind of family commitment. Partly it's based on wanting to enjoy their freedoms but it’s mainly financial. Few young people can afford their own accommodation or even high rents now so the idea of bringing another life into the world doesn’t seem realistic or fair.

The other factor is that the majority of men and women now work, and childcare is excruciatingly expensive for most. Fewer real babies will mean a population that isn’t going to get out of control, I suppose. Still, what a sad world it will be if reborn babies are all we’ll see in prams and pushchairs in the future as they’re pushed along by their very elderly single parents.

Run baby run

To some extent you can learn a lot about people by their attitude to escalators. No, really. It’s the same with how people walk along a road. Do they sprint, stroll, saunter, stride or are they dawdlers, moochers, and meanderers? Are they constantly distracted by a leaf on a tree, a bird in a bush, or need to stop and stare around them while they huff and puff or tell you yet another anecdote while they catch their breath?

Back in London I get hugely frustrated walking the escalators when people block the fast lane, the side reserved for the hustlers, haunted, hurried and hysterical. I’m in that category, oh yes. There is rarely a time when I will just hop onto an escalator in a shop or station and just stand still. The very thought has me ventilating. I’ve got places to go, and I want to get there as soon as possible. The little spy on my arm, my Fitbit, will flash disapprovingly if I stand like a blob instead of keeping the pace so even if I’m tired, it goads me out of inertia. If I have to carry heavy suitcases it’s a different story but if I’m footloose and fancy free, I want to get going and fast.

What about elderly folks and those with health conditions, I hear you cry. Well, indeed, not everyone is fortunate enough to have good enough health to run or even walk so certainly, that category is absolved. But what about the hugely overweight young people I see clambering onto escalators out of breath and wheezing. Many are half my age and eye me with alarm when I take two steps at a time. I do this for a reason. As we get older, we have to keep pushing the barriers, not meekly giving in to the inevitable. The stronger our muscles, the more likely we are to be able to keep better mobility and stay the course. It’s tough at times and often I grumble to myself rolling out of bed for early morning runs or late pilates classes but in my heart, I know it makes sense.

But back to steps and escalators. The problem often arises when I’m travelling with friends. Many will roll their eyes and tell me to slow down. What’s the rush? Can’t we just take it easy and enjoy the ride of life? I do get that. After all, many of my chums have retired early, some even in their forties. They spend their days flitting about from one fun activity to another, socialising, or taking frequent weekend breaks in European capitals. Some are sporty and will go to the gym, take yoga classes, or play tennis but they are past the hustle of life and take life at a slower pace. In truth, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that and if it makes them happy, it’s a win win.

When you’re working flat out, you don’t have time to dawdle. Time is money and there’s inevitably a deadline hanging over one’s head like the sword of Damocles. Work can be stressful but also hugely enjoyable and rewarding and on the whole, providing you love what you do, I’d say the benefits outweigh the negatives every time. The very idea of retirement seems alien to me but maybe it will happen one day and if it should, I hope I’ll still be chastising myself out of any kind of inertia. And, of course, running up escalators.