Autumn is coming, and the walnuts are getting fat. The mirabelles are starting to yellow, the weather has mercifully cooled a little, and the house feels astonishingly empty after last week. When a baby granddaughter leaves, her entourage of must-have equipment goes with her.
For a week, the hallway looked like a branch of Mothercare during a Spring sale: trolleys, pool ring, babymat, feeding cloths, boxes, boxes containing more boxes. Having a child these days will bankrupt a person before even the first birthday is achieved.
Opening the fridge was like going into a macrobiotic hypochondriac’s cabinet. Fluids of various hue, off-white things, steamed things, things with gunk in them, things floating in antispectic liquids, and things which I can’t get past ‘thing’ as a description because I still have no idea what they were. The dishwasher revealed the complete range of Russian dolls but composed of clear plastic. A big thing screwed off, a smaller thing pulled out, a ring was removed and you had….another teat. Or a dummy. Lots of dummies. Legions of dummies. Armies of teats. It was Mouth City in there.
But babies are adorable. Nothing would ever make me broody again (I’ve been snipped anyway) but Lyla is about the best behaved baby I’ve met during my seven decades; she’s pretty much been like that since the day she was born. Like all of her age, the reaction to everything can veer from tearful panic to happy gurgling, and one has no way in advance of knowing which it will be. If the reaction is equivocal, there’s an anxious glance at Mum and Dad for reassurance, at which point it is vital for Mum and Dad to be grinning like chimps who just swallowed arsenic. It’s very, very hard work bringing up a baby, but the facial muscles suffer more than most. You need to be a non-stop Ronald McDonald.
One of the reasons I follow Jo Chapman on Twitter is that she’s funny on the subject of being a single mother, and every now and then a bit of stark reality breaks through: ‘won’t poo, that’s two days in a row’. You had to be there: it’s amusing and, at times, genuinely moving. One realises just how little understanding the Newscories have of that life. Give most of them a baby, and they’d hold it upside down while trying to kiss the bloody thing.
On other topics of global importance this evening, the red squirrel couple have begun the Walnut Inspection Process (WIP) – a ritual that can drastically reduce the crop. Every morning, I hear one of them slithering over the roof to an easy leap onto the tree. I’ve watched the little sods at it: what they do is snaffle a green walnut shell, smell it and shake it, decide it’s not ready, and then chuck it away as if they might be Waynetta Slob tossing aside the polystyrene outer of that kebab and chips takeaway.
We’re in the dark here now, after a blissful afternoon of warm sun and cool breezes. There is a pink-to-orange tinge on the horizon, giving way to a diluted blue which then proceeds all the way heavenwards to dark blue bordering on black. Watching this is what I suppose it must be like being an astronaut orbiting Earth.
I adore my granddaughter, of course I do. But I fear for her future. The only thing stronger than the survival instinct is the drive to continue the species. Sometimes, it isn’t just about the groin. Sometimes it’s about what the brain fears from the kick in the groin we are all being given. Tribalism still rules: it’s sad, but it does. The British Resistance remains pathetically fragmented. The barbarians see this, and are in like Flynn. We must all try harder to put away childish things, and unite to defeat the enemy.
Earlier at The Slog: The open wallet and the closed mind of neoliberalism