Monday, 13 April 2009

More nephew

My four-month-old little nephew seems somehow substantially more human than when I met him before. Back at Christmas I don't think I had ever seen anything so lonely in my whole life as my little days-old nephew beating his arms in purple-faced paroxysms of misery. He didn't seem to be asking for anything or expecting that anyone could help, and if you could calm him down by jiggling that seemed mostly incidental -- it was like he was expressing some pure and complete rejection of everything. I remember reading someone saying that we are born alone and we die alone, which I thought was stupid given that birth isn't something we undergo without company, but seeing tiny Arthur made me think perhaps there's something in it.

So it's nice that he's less angry now, and more willing to interact. (In the picture above he's pretending he can already stand up). My parents and I babysat the other day, and I read him the Gruffalo, just because I thought I would enjoy it, but he actually responded to it far more than I was expecting. He kept waving his arms at the book as if wanting to do things to it, although he hasn't yet got the hand-to-eye co-ordination to do anything, really. So I read it all to him, and pointed at the pictures, while he hit them occasionally and made interested noises, and as soon as I had finished I gave him to my mother and he just fell backwards in a deep sleep with his mouth open, as if exhausted by the demands of literature. He slept like a log for about twenty minutes, and then woke up cranky. So I would say that this attempt at practical aunting was a mixed success.

The best thing about him is how very easy it is to like him and enjoy playing with him without in the least wanting one of my own.

In other child-related news I found one of my favourites from when I was very little, Dr Concocter, which it turns out is translated from the Russian. How the Guardian would have approved. It starts:
Doctor Concocter sits under a tree;
He's ever so clever. (He has a Degree!)
All the Hares, and the Bears, and the Snakes, and the Weasels
Are sure of a cure for their headaches and measles.

It goes on to involve quite exciting stuff, when some African animals ask for his help:
"Don't you worry!
I shall hurry,
I'll be round to see you soon.
Shall I find you near the River,
Near the old Limpopo River,
Where the rains come down for ever
From the Mountains of the Moon?"

"Oh, our home lies hidden far
Beyond the Isles of Zanzibar,
Where the Hills of Ruwenzori
Touch the Coast of Cinnabar.
Where the empty Kalahari
Sighs for ever and for ever.
Where the jungle twines like ivy
Round the great Limpopo River."

Now if I could just find the poem that starts
Wouldn't you like to be a whale, with a tiny briny eye?

then I should have recovered much of the excellent stuff of my childhood.

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