THEY say it is bad luck to put an umbrella up in the house. It certainly is if you happen to be sharing that dwelling with Mrs Rippers.
We have just spent a lovely few days in a mobile home at a campsite in Hayle, Cornwall. We were joined there by the fat kid, vin monster, big boy and the fat kid's sister Lottie. Little Livvy certainly loved all the attention.
During our visit we had a one day trip to the surfer town of Newquay which, despite the fight for a car parking space, was well worth the journey - particularly to sample the delicacies of Cornish pasties and traditional, creamy Kelly's ice cream, while Mrs R enjoyed a small shopping spree in the tourist-magnet outlets around the town.
On the following day back at Hayle, the weather was perfect, and the boys had a good time building sand castles on the beach, though their mother took it a bit too far by burying the Vin Monster up to his neck in sand then turning him into an exceptionally crude, giant phallic symbol. God knows what our neighbours on the beach must have thought.
I used to spend a lot of time in Cornwall. It was where my parents met, coming from the adjoining towns of St Austell and St Blazey, so on Tuesday I took Mrs Rippers and Livvy on a tour of the old haunts.
We visited St Austell shopping centre, then went on to the isolated and charming Par beach before travelling to Fowey, a quaint little fishing harbour. Mind you, the town was built long before people considered the problems associated with wheeling a child in one of today's heavy-duty childrens buggies and, having parked at the car park on the top of the hill, it was like a mission even Edmond Hillary might have turned down to get Livvy down into the centre of the town. As for coming back up, I can safely say my heavy breathing at the top could have been recorded as a soundtrack for Darth Vader's next appearance in a Star Wars movie (note to self: MUST cut out the ciggies).
While the whole experience was good fun, there were a few little dramas along the way. For example, it wasn't until we attempted to put up our newly purchased travel cot from Mothercare that we realised you needed the strength of Geoff Capes and the patience of Gandhi to tackle such a momentous task.
The Fat Kid, having spent four days a week at the gym over the last few months in a bid to develop the body beautiful, used all her new-found strength to finally conquer a task more suited to the most adept contestants in the Krypton Factor. Taking it down, too, was hardly a piece of cake.
Once pieces of metal started falling from it and a large chunk of plastic broke off in my hand there was no choice... and back to the shop it went the minute we returned to Bristol.
Cot erected, Mrs Rippers decided our bedroom was a bit too bright and might disturb Olivia, so that is where the brolly came in.
She tucked a red parasol over one of the lights, plunging the room into a deep Scarlet hue which had me fearing we might be inundated with "gentlemen callers" in the middle of the night.
But the real shock came in the early hours of one morning when Mrs Rippers suddenly leapt from the bed, grabbed the umbrella and hurled it across the room, knocking over glasses of water and all manner of other things in its way.
I sat there stunned for a good few seconds, before asking the question that had been nagging me since the ill-thought-out event. "What did you do that for?"
"I just needed a bit more light," came the rather bemusing reply.