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All too frequently one hears of young parents or carers who have killed or seriously damaged babies, usually by shaking them or hitting them. This is very sad, but if I am honest I have a great deal of sympathy. They shouldn't be locked up in prison, but sent away for six months or a year to a very quiet place in the country. Actually, it wouldn't do any harm if all of us could be sent away to a very quiet place in the country for a bit.
It's the noise, you see. Now don't misunderstand me. I've nothing against babies as such. I had two myself, and loved them. I still love them now they're grown up. One of them has a baby of his own and I love that too. Nor do I object to children. I was a teacher for many years, and found them on the whole funny, charming and clever. I still work voluntarily with young people.
But the noise a baby makes when it's really wound up for a good cry is completely hateful. It can't be ignored, it's totally distracting, it ruins your concentration, destroys your soul and saps your will to live. I'd sooner be beside a main road near a major airport with a disco on one side and a funfair on the other than listen to one single baby crying. It is the most hateful sound in the world.
Now this is more in the nature of a genuine enquiry than a diatribe. I really want to know why do babies make this disgusting noise?
It's no good asking women. They can never see the wood for the trees at the best of times, and the subject of babies just removes any scrap of logic they may have possessed. All they can say is "It's because it needs something" "it's a baby's way of telling us it's hungry" "it has to do that because it can't tell us what's the matter" "Ooh, you're so horrible to the poor ickle mite" and so on.
Look, ladies, I may be grumpy but I ain't stupid. I know all that. It's tolerably obvious even to a man.
My point is, why has nature designed (or allowed to develop) a creature that communicates so badly? Surely the one thing a helpless baby needs is the support and sympathy of the adults around it - they're the only thing that's going to keep the food coming and keep wild animals away, after all. So why alienate at least half of them by making such a disgusting din? Why don't babies just have a nicer cry? Why haven't they developed a little song that means "I'm hungry", and another that means "I want to go to sleep", and another that means "I'm bored, come and play with me"? Wouldn't that serve their turn better?
I just don't understand it. Is there some wise man (note: no women need apply in this instance) who can explain? Nature's a wonderful thing. It brought us creatures that are miracles of efficiency - the shark, the dragonfly, fleas that can jump the height of Nelson's column, the albatross that can go for months without landing, ants, stinging-nettles - and yet it designs a human baby with a built-in propensity for making most adults want to pick it up and throw it at the wall.
Answers on a post-card, please.

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