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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

A Bump on the Way

From my vantage point, on the balcony of our apartment, I can see a group of lads enthusiastically playing ‘catch’ in the pool below.  At the same time, two young boys in a rubber dinghy float past.  One of the pair is diligently baling water into the craft whilst the other watches glumly, not so much I suspect because of the sinking inevitably on the horizon, as the deepening pool of lukewarm water in which he now finds himself sitting.  On the other side of the pool are my daughter, son-in-law and grandchild.  Actually, that is a slight exaggeration.  The grandchild in question is something of a ‘work in progress’ at the moment and, therefore, hereinafter referred to as The Bump.

The Pool sans infants

You may have guessed that we are on holiday.  We are on the Costa Blanca.  Just for a week.  We Brits tend to do that, don’t we?  Ask someone where they are going and they will inevitably say “We’re going to XYZ, just for a (fill in suitably brief period of time here)” as if the admission of going on holiday at all is so inherently shameful that it has to be tempered with a modest time period.

As luck would have it, the holiday has fallen just after the early sickliness and traumas of the pregnancy and before the whole ‘beached whale’ period, when the Costa Blanca sun would be intolerable.  This is just me, God knows how my daughter copes!

All being well (all sentences relating to a future that contains a released version of The Bump tend to start with “all being well...” or “God willing...” or any variation on this theme) this will be the last holiday they have where they can get away with one carry-on suitcase (now there was a film that should never have been made) between them.  I have seen the future and it contains huge bags full of infant paraphernalia and the inevitable buggy.

Buggies intimidate me.  New mothers seem to quickly gain the knack of assembling these via a vicious, one-handed jerk of the wrist that could fell Jackie Chan (necessarily one-handed because the other contains screaming child + bag of goodies that may stop the screaming by one means or another).  I cannot do this.  The best I can manage is to get the contraption out of the car and onto the floor without amputating any digits or giving myself a hernia.

Whatever happened to prams?  When I was a babe in arms, a pram was a thing of beauty and a source of pride.  They would have been hopelessly impractical for dragging on to a Ryanair flight (unless you really wanted to take out a second mortgage) but, in their day, they were a statement of intent and social standing.  The parent of the 1950s might skimp on other elements of childcare, but no self-respecting mother would be seen out and about with a naff pram.  Being a pram manufacturer in the baby-boom 1940s and 1950s must have been like having a licence to print money.

Prams had a great similarity to the early ‘horseless carriages’.  Magnificent creations consisting of springs and highly polished metal, with hopelessly impractical wheels (destined for another life mobilising ‘go-karts’ when the child was older).  When you took your baby out for the first time, you were not so much displaying the infant as the pram, and both were likely to initiate ‘cooing’ noises and wide-eyed wonderment.  The pram’s purpose was to carry the post-war infant in a determinedly prone position, severely blanketed and protected from any (unlikely) sunshine by a hood that probably owed a debt of gratitude to the makers of black-out curtains.  Entertainment for the child (at least in my case) ran to a string of plastic lambs stretched across the conveyance in the child’s line of sight. 

At some point, in the not too distant future, one of more of the children clogging up the pool below me may well be my grandchild(ren).  Whether he/she/they will be one of the adventurous spirits leaping into the water fearlessly, with ear-splitting shrieks or, like one lad after my own heart, wind up playing bat and ball six feet away from the pool but with water-wings firmly fixed in place, only time will tell.  The only sure thing is that I will almost certainly view his/her/their activities with total indulgence, as opposed to the mild irritation currently engendered by other people’s children.

I must go now, the dinghy is finally sinking and I wouldn’t miss this for the world.

The first collection of stories - "Steady Past Your Granny's" is now available in Kindle e-book format at Amazon UK and Amazon USA.  This story features in the new bumper collection now released as a Kindle edition - "Crutches for Ducks" at and at