Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I am fairly conscious when I sit down to write this that I am writing for an audience. Eyes will fall on this. It is not just me shouting at the wall. I am aware that, as with all human transactions, good manners obtain. It is not polite to bash on and on and on about oneself in a dull and repetitive and self-pitying fashion. So even though I give you the truth, sometimes I put a nice little gloss on it. Just a lick of lipstick.
There is a kind of irony in this. This is the only public writing I have ever done in my entire life which is first draft. When I talk to my students, in the workshop I give each summer, I tell them that there are very few immutable rules in writing, but one is: never, ever show anyone your first draft. Not your mother, your lover, your agent, your friend. There is a reason for this. It is because first drafts are bad. First drafts should be bad. That way you can throw everything at the wall without worrying about critical eyes. That way you get yourself freedom. If you try and write a perfect first draft, you will find yourself cabined and confined.
So the weird thing is that, in that way, this exercise is much, much more revealing than anything I have ever done before. You get to see my prose with no polish. If I think about that too much, I get frightened. But in another way, it is liberating.
It’s not quite first draft though. I do a quick read for semi-colons and solecisms. Even so, some slip through the net. Luckily, the Dear Readers very quickly spot, and gently correct. Then I, pushing away shame, rush back and amend.
The thing is, this was never meant to be a dark night of the soul blog. It was just that I suddenly got a lot of death and it seemed fraudulent and stupid not to speak of that. I’m the one who is always banging on about the fascination of the human condition, in all its light and shade. But I suddenly realise that in some ways there is a drama, a rightness, even a nobility, in high grief. Deep sorrow is one of the great human emotions. It sounds a bit strange, but it is not that hard to write about, because it carries a terrible sort of beauty in it. (I think this is because it is both profound, and universal.)
Much harder and more alarming to admit are the third level emotions, the ugly, stupid, banal, messy ones. These compose the detritus that washes up in the wake of loss. It’s not the great, soaring, breaking wave that crashes onto the pristine beach; it’s the shit that’s left when the tide goes out. It’s the plastic bottles and single shoes (why do people always lose one shoe?) and the abandoned tupperware and bits of frayed binder twine. There’s nothing heroic or aesthetic in that.
All of which is a very long way of saying: I had a really shitty day.
There is no need for me to tell you that. I could tell you a funny little story about The Pigeon or The Brother or my lovely tall friend who just sent me a picture of his wedding on a beach somewhere off the Iberian peninsula, and how delightful it was to see two men look so happy. I have stumbled into confessional mode, and I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Perhaps it is just a thing.
This story does have a happy ending, though. Look, look, there, over the horizon, comes galloping The Redeeming Feature.
After my grubby, stupid, tiring, grumpy day, in which I stomped about, thinking what a pointless emotion anger is, I bashed down to the village to do some dull but necessary errands. My mind, clogged with nonsense, was not working well, so I was staring blankly at the freezer cabinet in the shop, unable to make a logical decision, when I heard a voice say my name.
It was my friend K, who, two days ago, had her first baby. I had spoken to her on the telephone yesterday, and gushed my congratulations.
‘I saw your car and thought I’d come in,’ she said. ‘And here is the baby.’
THERE WAS THE BABY.
I was so overcome, I can’t quite remember what I said. It was something like: Oh my God, oh my God, there is a whole new human.
I couldn’t quite believe that K was up and about. I always think that when women produce an entire new person out of their stomachs, they should lie down for a bit.
The baby was quite enchanting. Some new babies look rather like Winston Churchill, but this one looked like Robert Redford. He had perfect, smooth skin, and a serene expression, as if he were contemplating the Universal Why. As if he had a damn good answer.
‘Oh, oh, oh,’ I said. ‘Oh, but he is bonny.’
‘You made a person,’ I said.
‘New life,’ I said.
The baby was wearing a very smart white hat, with a little point. I remembered one of my favourite episodes of The West Wing, when Toby meets his twins for the first time and looks down at them and says: ‘I did not know babies came with hats.’
K and her other half and I stood in the middle of the shop and grinned at each other like loons. The baby slept, in his special carrying device. The shopkeeper came out of the storeroom, peered at the babe, and said: ‘Well done.’
‘Yes,’ I yelled. ‘WELL DONE.’
It’s quite weird that I like babies so much. I don’t want to have my own, never have. But I am beside myself when someone else does, and am passionately grateful that they do it so I don’t have to. I think the thing is that when I see a tiny bundle, I see hope. I see great prairies of possibility. I think: oh, oh, all the things they will see and do. I still think it is an absolute miracle that only two days ago there was not a person, and now there is.
And this makes me happy because it means I am not a cynic. Even after a real bugger of a day, my internal thermostat turns out to remain set to optimist. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to be reminded of that.
So, lovely little baby Aaron – Welcome to the world. It’s a funny old place, but I think you might like it.
Pictures of the day:
Two hills today; one from a distance, in panorama, one slightly blurry from the usual angle: