STANDING on the sidelines at a school football match this week, someone commented on the story about the mystery England football hero who went to court to ban details of an affair getting into the press.

"Honestly, are we really interested in that?" said one mum disapprovingly. "You'd think with all the things going on in the world, they'd find something better to write about," added another. Everyone nodded in agreement. Then at half-time someone piped up: "I think it's that bloke with the funny hair. He's always been a bit of a lad, I've never liked the look of him."

"No, no, no. It's bound to be one of the Manchester United players," one dad, a Leeds fan, responded "They have no moral fibre." The Man U fans strongly disagreed. And so we all spent the next 20 minutes musing over who it could be and speculating on just what he might have done. With the gloomy spectre of war just around the corner, light-hearted distractions like this assume a new importance. Of course, it may be no laughing matter for the footballer involved. But are we really interested in it? Yes, right now, I'm afraid we are.

TELEVISION presenter Matthew Kelly, in Darlington last week when police announced they were taking no further action over allegations of child sex abuse, was lucky - at least, compared to others who have been wrongly accused. Kelly's proclaimed innocence, so soon after his dramatic arrest, made front page and national television news. There were also huge tabloid headlines when Simply Red's Mick Hucknall and The Jam's Paul Weller were arrested following allegations of sexual offences. Police eventually took no action. But this was only revealed later in small, one paragraph, easy-to-miss reports. All these men have been through a terrible ordeal. But, for some, the price of fame seems particularly high.

I CAN'T believe a new survey that claims parents now splash out an average of £350 each on children's birthday celebrations. What - only £350? The top class entertainment children expect now - anything from troupes of clowns to private film screenings - is only the half of it. Most parents hire special venues while our acquisitive little party animals demand bigger and better goody bags every year. But the latest trend is children bringing presents into school for everyone in class on their actual birthday. Our boys have come home with bags of sweets and little gifts from children they hardly know and don't even play with. It is a kind thought, but it sets a dangerous precedent. My boys call me the "meanest mum in Britain" every time I threaten (I haven't had the courage to go through with it yet) to ban party bags. But I suspect I'm not the only one.

I WISH Sophie Wessex luck with her IVF treatment, having watched a number of friends go through this painfully difficult and, sadly, sometimes fruitless process. Sophie's experience provides a salutary lesson for other young couples putting off having children because of their careers. Now 38, an age when fertility levels rapidly decline, Sophie must be asking herself why she left it so long. I really hope, for her sake, it's not too late.