BY the age of 30 my wife had had all three of our children. Looking back from almost another 40 years she wouldn't have had it any other way. Nor would I, two years her junior. Why? Because parenting goes on for a long, long time. In fact it never ceases.

Best, surely, to undertake the exhausting task, mentally and physically, of raising young children in one's most vigorous years. To be still responsible for school-age kids deep into middle age is not an appealing prospect.

Now, the increasing number of women who delay pregnancy until their late 30s or 40s are being warned they "risk heartbreak". But the reasons given are exclusively medical - chiefly the increased chance of being unable to conceive or suffering a miscarriage.

The social factors are equally crucial. These include not only the stress of late parenting pushed almost to the verge of retirement, but reduced support by grandparents, many of whom will be too old to play their part fully. Certainly, any new mum or dad of 40 today is destined to be denied the joys of an active grandparent if their own offspring delay having children until a similar age.

Slightly related topic. In the post this week came a toys' catalogue. Its outdoor range includes sets for playing mini golf, croquet, skittles, rounders and badminton. No cricket set. With post-Ashes sales of cricket gear at their highest for years, how the company must be cursing.

Harking back to those breathtaking Ashes Tests, scarcely an over was bowled without a commentator, on Test Match Special or Channel 4, mentioning something called reverse swing - accompanied by a complex explanation.

Devoted to cricket since before England's 1953 Ashes victory, which I remember hearing on a portable radio while holidaying with my parents in Cornwall, I am well familiar with the concepts of inswing and outswing. But reverse swing? Richie Benaud and Henry Blofeld nothwithstanding I was no wiser about this at the end of this summer's Ashes than at the beginning.

HORROR of horrors. During the recent Proms some members of the audience - obviously uncultured rag, tag and bobtail - clapped at the end of movements rather the conclusion of the whole work. This provoked apoplexy among readers of The Daily Telegraph, one of whom insisted there should be no clapping at all.

"Clapping is ridiculous since it shatters any lingering memory of what has been heard. . . You might as well fill your mouth with mouthwash after the last sip of vintage wine."

But another reader pointed out that in the 19th century, audiences clapped not only at the end of movements but in response to particularly good solos. Perhaps classical music should get back to this spontaneity, integral to jazz, my favourite music, and the theatre.

VERY sad - the deaths of four people in the Great North Run. Is health advice given to all entrants? If not it should be. Meanwhile, here is a useful tip I have picked up as a consequence of my recent heart attack. When undertaking any sustained exercise - meaning more than a minute or so - you should still be able to converse. If you can't you are pushing your body too hard.