UAE Stars: Introducing Betsy 'Catboy' Pearl
You will know Simon Smedley as Catboy from The Catboy & Geordiebird Breakfast Show on Dubai 92, or you’ll at least know his voice. The funniest Yorkshireman on the UAE’s airwaves, known for cracking early morning jokes to wake you up on the drive to work, has become a father for the first time!
Eight weeks ago, Simon’s wife Lorra gave birth to Betsy Pearl, lovingly dubbed Catbaby by his radio listeners, and we caught up with the new dad to get all the goss on his parenthood struggles and joys, and why he no longer prefers cats to babies.
Catboy, congrats on becoming a dad! Why wait till now to have a baby?
I don’t want to say I hated babies but I had no affinity for babies whatsoever before now. I’ve always been told I’m good with children but I don’t make an effort to be, I just think they like me because I mess around, but I never thought babies were cute. Compared to other baby animals, I’d much rather see a kitten than a baby! Honestly, Betsy’s the first baby I’ve spent any time around.
So tell us, how are you finding being a dad for the first time?
Anything I say about it would be clichéd, but I guess it’s one of those things you don’t understand until you’ve done it. I’ve walked around for 40 years pooh-poohing it, and saying ‘yeah yeah, everybody thinks their kids are the most beautiful’ and all this sort of thing, but then it happens and it does change your life and it is the best thing that ever happened to you!
How has Betsy changed you?
I’ve started getting really sentimental. I should be settling into my midlife crisis now but everything’s happened at the same time; I’m married again and I’ve had a baby. Right now I should be concentrating on sports cars and comfortable seating, not babies and weddings!
Does having her help you feel young again though?
I don’t know, sometimes I feel older than I’ve ever felt. I’m amazed that they give you this thing in the hospital and then you have to take care of it! It’s remarkable that they send someone as idiotic as me home with something this precious!
Do you have ambitions for her? Following in your footsteps, perhaps?
I wouldn’t call following in my footsteps an ambition! I hope she does a bit better than I do, I hope she grows up to be a better person. She’s got quite a powerful voice on her though so she’s loud enough to do what I do, but I don’t know if I’d want her working my hours! I wouldn’t want her getting up that early, although she deserves it considering the amount of times she’s woken me and her mother up!
If Betsy gets the best out of each of her parents, that would be a good thing. If she gets the bad bits of me and the bad bits of her mum she’s in trouble! Fingers crossed she’s going to grow up looking like her mum.
Have you had any disasters yet then?
Every little thing you think is a disaster, like every time she sneezes you panic and think ‘Should I take her to the hospital?’ Luckily my wife’s had a little bit more experience in this than I have so she’s a bit more savvy about it.
Are you a competitive dad?
You get that pride thing that ‘ours is better’, but I’m sure every dad thinks that. If it’s your own flesh and blood it’s different, but I think pretty much all babies look weird!
Did you mean for her name to sound like such a rock star?We spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about names simply because there are so many stupid names around these days. People mimicking celebrities’ names can be a little bit stupid, people naming their kids after places…
…Like Penelope Scotland Disick or Petal Blossom Rainbow Oliver?
Yeah. If you’re Jamie Oliver’s kid and you’re going to grow up with the backing of millions and millions of dirhams, then you’re probably never going to need a name that’ll get you a job on an interview but we’ve got to be a bit more realistic. I liked Marty and Betsy for a girl, and Pearl is Lorra’s grandma’s name.
And what if she was a boy?
If we’d had a boy, I was gonna name him after a relish in Sheffield called Henderson’s Relish. I thought Henderson was a cool name. She got lucky there, being born a girl. I was dreading telling anybody the name because it’s one of those things everyone’s going to say something about. But the reaction has been outstanding, people love it!
So what do you do to stop Betsy crying?
This made my wife cry the other day when I said this – I’ve started ballroom dancing with her, waltzing around the room holding her little arm up, and I sing to her! I’ve been singing an old Nat King Cole song by Irving Berlin.
What do you think of people like Brad and Ange who sold their first baby photos for $14 million?
It’s good work if you can get it! We’re doing it more as a keepsake for her to have when she’s older.
What’s the strangest baby gift you’ve had sent to you at work?
She got a NKD Pizza onesie which is pretty funny! It’s difficult because I could talk about her all the time on the radio. I really have to limit it. The first couple of days I got it out of my system. I try not to mention it now.
So what’s next? Do you want any more kids?
No, definitely not. The most important thing for me now is to make sure Betsy gets a Yorkshire accent!
Chatting with Catwoman
We chat to Betsy Pearl’s mother, Lorra Smedley, about being a third-time mum
Who’s your fave A-list yummy mummy?
Michelle Williams. I think she’s beautiful and I admired how strong she was and put on a brave face in front of her daughter when Heath Ledger died.
When you escape for a few hours with the girls, where do you go?
At the moment Betsy Pearl doesn’t let me go anywhere for more than an hour! Recently I took her and my seven-year-old daughter Honey to Tips & Toes for a bit of pampering. After the hour was up Betsy needed feeding and my treatment was hurried, so that ruined the relaxation. I’m not getting enough sleep to be doing girls’ nights out yet!
Are you more Gucci Baby or Gap Kids?
Gap! We like Betsy in funky stripy outfits or comfy sleep-suits rather than ‘pretty in pink’ dresses. I can’t wait to go to England for a holiday in the cold weather so we can dress Betsy Pearl, Leo and Honey in hats and jumpers!
Is there any baby bling you’re coveting?
Not really. I have a good friend who had a baby last year who kindly gave us lots of baby items that she no longer needed. This is the best way to do it, find a good friend! We also did a lot of searching on Dubizzle. I did get a bit of bling for me. My ‘push present’ from Catboy was a beautiful diamond ring from Cartier, although at the minute I’m not wearing it as I don’t want to scratch Betsy with it!
Where do you take your kids in the UAE, and what do you do?
My son Leo is a real film lover. My kids love going to the cinema and they also love Mirdif City Centre as it’s all there: Soccer Circus, bowling, Magic Planet, iFLy and that tree top obstacle thing. As a parent, I’m a fan of Café Ceramique where we can have coffee while the kids paint.