Travelling to Paris on a lunchtime Eurostar departure for the leisure classes, we have barely made it out of King’s Cross before the carriage is overwhelmed with the plangent twang of a mother — American, as it happens — informing her two young charges of the trip, food opportunities and entertainments on-board. Despite the crowded carriage, her voice is carefully modulated so as to be audible as far back as the case racks by the exits, and well into the dining car beyond.

It’s a type of parenting style one might describe as “presentational”, enacted purely for the benefit of others to demonstrate how very, very good at mothering she is. But having suffered a full eight pages of whichever instructional tome she has deemed appropriate to read aloud in public — perhaps it was Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, or the Marquis de Sade — even she seems defeated by her progeny, who are hustling for snacks and the opportunity to punch each other in the face.

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