A month? Oh, I’m awfully sorry – those promised four weeks have morphed effortlessly into almost eight. So what’s been happening, you wonder? Well, to give a filleted version of events: civil war erupted in Rio barely hours after I’d left; and that florid-faced celebrity, Namibian, has decimated food stocks on the Shakira Tour. Munich, I think the last reports hailed from.
I shall endeavour to chronicle Brazil – and no doubt recent travels to Italy and Morocco, too – in due course. For now, though, let’s deal with the present. We’re still crossing our fingers for successful data recovery from that infernal hard drive, but the latest news is glum – Stage One failed. ‘And Stage Two is expensive without guarantees,’ said the computer girl with a baleful, sadistic glint. Bereft of suitable pictures, then, this may explain today’s irrelevant selection rustled up from the tropical archives. Think of them, perhaps, as a soufflé whipped up on the hoof from an empty pantry. I’m doing my best.
Talking of food, would you like a choice morsel or two from my literary stove? Or shall I stop tying myself in metaphorical knots and plough headlong, without further preamble, not to put too fine a point on it, into the big news? Ooh, it’s really big. In fact, it’s a humdinging, bobby dazzler of a bombshell. I’m a father. No, you needn’t blink, rub your eyes and stare aghast at your screen in sheer disbelief. I’ll write it again: I’m now a father. Yep, that means I had sex.
You needn’t worry – I’m not going to blather incessantly like some righteous crusader, extolling fatherhood and denouncing the childless. Neither am I going to weep at those wasted halcyon weekends in Vegas, frolicking with strippers whilst the far more fulfilling path of parenting lay ahead of me if only I’d seen the light. Ooh, I’m bordering on mendacity there; it was a photographer in Vegas. No, instead, I’m going to take the piss out of the whole thing. Call it a defence mechanism, if you like, but I do tend to see a funny side to most situations.
This idea of becoming a dad has been a scream from the outset. I’m sure the mother will agree – oh, what a jape this is, she must have thought, pinned down on a cold slab in the operating theatre. Anyway, I drove Melissa – she’s the lucky girl, by the way – to Hastings Conquest Hospital for her caesarean on November 30th. Yes, obviously it was a “sun roof” job – I didn’t get where I am today by hanging around waiting for women’s waters to break.
Too posh to push, is she, you ask? Good heavens, no – she lives in a numbered house. Frightful, I know, and…Ah, can I just check that everybody grasps my sense of humour before I continue in this satirising vein? Let it be said for the record that I have the utmost admiration for women enduring this madness, from kick-off to final whistle: pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, deranged hormonal torrents of abuse etc. All the same, it’s frightfully handy to be issued an exact, unwavering date to turn up as a birthing partner.
‘Have we got everything we need for the hospital?’ asks Melissa pleasantly, glad that I’m in the country. ‘Think so,’ I reply, ‘the flask and sandwiches are packed.’ Her eyes darken a little – an interesting concept, given she’s half French-Moroccan. Let’s say, “narrow menacingly” instead, so you get the gist.
You see, because of the impending epidural, she’s not allowed anything to eat or drink, neither before the operation nor for a good while afterward. ‘Crikey, good job you reminded me,’ I yelp, sitting bolt upright now and skirting her thunderous expression. ‘I nearly forgot the mince pies.’
So here’s the scene: I’m tucking voraciously into a rather splendid picnic whilst Melissa starves on a hospital bed. Her lips are cracked from dehydration, and she’s famished. ‘Ooh, you wouldn’t like this coffee,’ I coo occasionally to pacify her. What? It’s no good raising your eyebrows – I’m supposed to be eating for two now, aren’t I? If this child is to develop into a hale bouncing boy…Wait a minute, why do we say, “bouncing”?
I can almost guarantee that, if dropped from an appreciable height, he would do little more than “thud”, and then bawl his tiny eyes out. Oh, there’s another myth, by the way – that babies cry. Granted, when not sleeping or mucking about with milk, they caterwaul like the clappers, but do you notice any actual tears? Nope, they’re faking it; they’ve got nothing to worry about and no responsibility. Regardless, I need to keep my strength up – to torment this thudding, caterwauling alien when he arrives.
And he’s almost here. In Part Two, if I’ve got any readers left after such a protracted absence, we’ll meet a little boy. The publishing date will be December 14th at 12.00 GMT..