Saturday, 27 December 2008

Angry young man

1. I met my little nephew. He really is little, the smallest baby I have ever seen in real life. He's been back in hospital because he's having trouble regaining his birth weight, which was only 6lbs 11oz anyway, so he's absolutely tiny. When he's angry, which is a lot of the time, he looks like an animatronic goblin, and when he's not angry he looks a bit like William Hague. He gets particularly annoyed when anyone tries to feed him. He very rarely opens his eyes, and then usually only one at a time to have a cautious look at us, before closing them firmly again. I have a lot of sympathy with him, and actually he wasn't due until tomorrow. He does at least appear to appreciate effort -- while I was looking after him he went into an arch-backed purple-faced tantrum pulling faces as if the worst thing ever was happening to him, and in panic I tried a rendition of the Frog Chorus, at which he settled back to sleep; this was distinctly generous of him. Hopefully it's all just indigestion, poor soul.

2. My mother is reacting in a very typical way to grandmotherhood, essentially by turning the full beam of her mind's energies onto worrying about it. My brother told me that when they told her back in the spring that she was going to be a grandmother her immediate reaction was "what shall we do about the pond?", rather than the more conventional joy. The next day she went out and bought lots of those plastic things you put into unused electric sockets, so that now whenever we want to plug anything in first we have to prise one of these devices out with our fingernails. The other day she gave my father a stern talking to, really a telling off, that he should never eat berries in front of his grandson. She told me that it's nonsense that grandchildren are better than children, because now she has to worry not just about her grandson but about how my brother and his wife are coping with him, and about whether they're being made miserable by worrying about him too.

3. Actually I remember it did make me very unhappy as a child that, although I knew that you shouldn't eat any berries you found in the wild, on autumnal walks with my father he would insist on eating pretty much all the berries he came across, including ones which I knew very well to be poisonous, like rose hips and yew berries. He said it was OK because he was careful to spit out the poisonous pips, but I didn't see how he could be sure that he wouldn't miss one, and then he would die. Hopefully my nephew will get a useful balance to this sort of thing from his mother's family, who all seem pretty sane.

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