An even earlier start than usual as it was ‘my lovely’s’ Sherborne School for Girls reunion at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. I was up and dressed and having my breakfast by 7 a.m. and Alice was on her way to the station shortly afterwards leaving me in the tender care of the good doctor. We did have a little drama when it came to getting me up to go to the loo as Mick is not a keen belt man – he has a week back and the belt does not help-so he has his own way of doing things and does not use the same technique as Alice in getting me out of my chair onto my frame. Poor Mick, I cannot blame him in any way but, as a result of a different support technique, there was a rather nasty collapse with my legs twisted painfully under me. However, Mick cleverly got me sitting up against the chair and then, on my urging and against his better wishes, went to enlist the support of Tom, our next-door neighbour. Between them they sorted everything out and all was well again
Most important of all it is my dear son Smiler’s birthday. I remember the day he was born, 47 years ago, as if it was yesterday. We were living in Aden, the British Protectorate in Southern Arabia. The night before we went for our usual open-air cinema night at the officers club Tarshyne. On the way, at a T-junction, an Arab ran into the back of our car. This was not an unusual practice as they would then call the police and the Arab would claim that we had reversed into him and the only way we could extricate ourselves from this situation was to pay some compensation for the damage to the other car (if any!) on the spot! Having sorted out that little bit of trouble we set off again and within a couple of hundred yards flames started flicking round the steering wheel. I can only imagine that the collision had caused some electrical fault which resulted in the conflagration. Anyway for the second time within half an hour poor Alice had to scramble out of the car. Being 8 Â½. months pregnant didn’t help.
The rest of the evening went without mishap but the following morning Alice complained of having stomach ache, so I decided I would drop her off at the local Arab hospital on the way to the office. The last I saw of her was being carried upstairs by two large black gentleman porters in what is called a fireman’s lift (arms crossed and hands clasped under the body of the patient). I arrived at my office around 20 min later to receive a call from the hospital to say that my wife had had her baby. (Apparently, it was so quick she never even got her dress off!) I rushed back to the hospital and was shown into the delivery room and there, on the floor, on a red rubber mat. were nine very newly born naked babies, eight of whom were Arabs and one of which was ours. They were all the same colour- bright red- as most of them were yelling their heads off. I just hoped, at that time, that we would get the right one. What an amazing thing, ‘my lovely’ took only 20 min or so to have her first baby. So much for her stomach ache! When the baby was taken to his mother for the first time and I really knew that he was my son, I must admit, for the first time, in very many years, tears welled up in my eyes. I was choked with the emotion of the moment. And now the ‘little lad’ is now 47!
Ironically, and coincidentally, I have just reached the point in Anna Karenina (Part 111?, Chapter 16) when Draya Alexandrovna graphically describes the miseries of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth.
She goes on to bemoan all the anxiety and the negative side of rearing children. I think if I was a young woman and had read that before I got married, it might well have been sufficient to put me off the whole idea of having children
Coming back to 2011, the rest of the morning went without mishap and reinforcements arrived in the shape of ‘Jane the sheep’ at 11.30. Then at 12.30 I took Mick next door to The Cricketers, for lunch. We sat out in the sunshine and enjoyed the pub’s, ‘ credit crunch lunch’, a delicious plate of freshly fried fish and chips with a side salad.
In the event, Alice came home in the late afternoon having had a great day at her reunion. On the way back, in the bus, to Liverpool Street station, she passed a number of people camping out on the pavement near Westminster Abbey in preparation for Saturday’s Royal wedding. These people really are determined to get a prime vantage point to witness the procession,. I remember doing something similar myself for the Queens Coronation in 1953