The eaglet has landed: a new arrival from outer space
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).