C’ESTLAFOLIE

The ea­glet has landed: a new ar­rival from outer space

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Country - Michael Wright

Iam be­gin­ning to think that one of the best things about liv­ing close to na­ture — be it in France, or Blighty or dark­est Peru – is that it shows nei­ther stress nor ela­tion in the face of hum­drum hu­man events such as mar­riages or deaths or, in my case, the ar­rival of a baby from outer space. Even now, I find it odd — with the cat­a­clysm about to strike — that ev­ery­one and ev­ery­thing at La Folie (gold­fish, trees and weather in­cluded) is be­hav­ing as if noth­ing what­so­ever were up.

Digby still wags his en­tire rear end, semaphor­ing his de­sire to be walked. The Egg Squad still claw and scrape pur­pose­fully in the un­der­growth. The Rasta­far­i­ans con­tinue to bleat out — with the in­sis­tence of twostroke mo­tors at full-throt­tle — their bale­ful de­mands to be fed. And Mon­sieur Jadot bowls up in his lit­tle Re­nault 4 van, to tell me the mo­ment has come to stretch the new fence I had hoped to erect be­fore Christ­mas.

No thun­der­storm crack­les and flashes over Joli­bois; no hail­stones the size of baby’s fists are clat­ter­ing on the win­dow panes of La Folie, to an­nounce the im­pend­ing splash­down of Wright Min­imus. (Al­though we have opted not to be told the baby’s gen­der in ad­vance, Alice is so con­vinced she is hav­ing a boy that we have al­ready cho­sen a short-list of boys’ names pro­nounce­able in both English and French — so no Ho­ra­tio, Gra­ham or Hugh — and the few baby clothes that we have bought from Asda in ad­vance are mostly blue, rather than mostly pink.)

In­stead of the King Lear­ish weather I might have ex­pected, the sky is so blue and clear that I can see the blurry fil­a­ments float­ing in the jelly of my eyes as I gaze up into it. I can also see that I was a lit­tle hasty in buy­ing those top-ofthe-range snow-chains, in case our head­long dash to la ma­ter­nité at St Juste should co­in­cide with a heavy bliz­zard. And that the heavy­duty Alaska Emer­gency Jump Starter I pur­chased in the same manly spree will prob­a­bly not be nec­es­sary af­ter all.

This is dis­ap­point­ing, for chaps like me who spend our lives men­tally pre­par­ing for the Drive to Hospi­tal via Hell, in which we fear­lessly pilot a re­frac­tory ve­hi­cle across a storm­bat­tered wilder­ness, scream­ing through red lights and road-blocks, while the dis­tressed damsel of our dreams huffs and puffs out her con­trac­tions in the pas­sen­ger seat.

“Ah, how you must be look­ing for­ward to the baby’s ar­rival,” laughs Le Grand Mer­moz, when I drive to Joli­bois for bread. “Do you feel pre­pared?” On the con­trary, I have to say, I feel chron­i­cally un­pre­pared. And if I am look­ing for­ward to fa­ther­hood, it is only in the sense that a novice skier, stand­ing at the top of a fear­some black run, looks for­ward to reach­ing the bot­tom of it with a min­i­mum of bro­ken bones.

At last the great mo­ment comes and I am be­side Alice at the lit­tle hospi­tal in St Juste, clutch­ing her hand for sup­port (God knows, I need it). Mostly I keep my eyes shut but, through the twitch­ing net cur­tains of my own squeamish­ness, I am con­scious of strange, in­hu­man sounds. Then a new and high-pitched note cuts through ev­ery­thing else, like a trum­pet in­ter­rupt­ing a string quar­tet, and I feel my skin tin­gle with an awe that seems al­most bib­li­cal.

Open-mouthed, I stare at the gleam­ing, grey form that the mid­wife is hold­ing in mid-air, its tiny limbs mov­ing as slowly as a child’s mo­bile on a wind­less day. The crea­ture be­gins to yell, lips stretched tight as elas­tic bands, eyes dark with un­see­ing fury, the tip of its tongue shak­ing in an an­gry V for Vile, which is I sup­pose what be­ing born must be like, when you’ve just spent nine months in the deluxe spa of the womb.

“She’s alive” I ex­claim, feel­ing a great wave of re­lief whoosh­ing over me. And then the mid­wife lays our tiny daugh­ter on Alice’s chest.

They sleep and, af­ter watch­ing them for a while, I gaze out of the win­dow. It’s amaz­ing — and strangely com­fort­ing — to see that daily life is still go­ing on out there. You’d think noth­ing at all had hap­pened, in this room which has sud­denly be­come, for me, the cen­tre of the uni­verse, from the way that the work­men are still crawl­ing like ants over the scaf­fold­ing in the sun­lit square.

C’est La Folie by Michael Wright is avail­able for £6.99, plus 99p p&p, from Tele­graph Books (0870 428 4112).

www.lafolie.co.uk

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