On this day, nine months ago, Grace Violetta was born, in Bath, UK.
The significance is immediately obvious: she has now been out for just as long as she was inside in the womb. So I took the opportunity to interview her this morning, before she was whisked off to her other creche by her mother.
“Grace… Grace… over here… Grace”
“Gu gu ba gu gu”
“Any chance you’d take that steering wheel out of your mouth for a second? Hello Grayce…”
“Ah aah bahbahbah.”
“Now little treasure, which do you like best, your bottle or the womb?”
Grace looks up with a huge beaming smile.
“Are you glad you’re out. Wasn’t it very tight in there?”
Long continuous smile.
“Do you remember dancing to Amarillo, the Tony Christie song? Go on, you used to love that one. Amarillo… Amarillo… you remember?
Frowning now, the centre of attention is trying to get her mouth around a teddybear’s neck.
“You remember climbing the hill? All that lovely kicking Mummy. You used to love that…”
Teddybear rejected now. Replaced by a lever. Grace moves backwards in her playstation.
“Bahbahbahbah… blahblog blahblug.”
Silence. I can see pressure building up all over the face. A movement is about to happen.
“So would you say you like Cork more than Bath? Is it better over here? Do you like swimming in Bishopstown more than in Mummy’s womb?”
Stronger silence. Definite movement.
After that searching interview I was left to ponder the significance of birthing.
What is the lasting influence of pre-birth conditioning? How quickly can you undo its effect? How genetic is a child’s smile? How random are those moods? Why do we divide life up into 12 month slots, rather than 9 month ones? If each year was nine months long, wouldn’t it be great because no two consecutive years would be alike.
I have to go off now… off to England… like so many of my fathers.
I have to go to see to my affairs over there.
There’s the house (bless it, in case that’ll help it sell), the agents (bless them, in case they sell it), the golf club (bless it, in case that’ll help me beat Pete McCaffrey when I play him there tomorrow afternoon), the loft (where the books, the wiffe’s wedding dress, and the British & Irish Communist Organisation papers are stored), and Bradford-upon-Avon to attend to.
I have 59 hours with which to visit our old stumping ground
That was a deliberate choice of words, Blank Paige, with which to renew my sensitivity for UK culture. 59 hours with which to combat the hypnotic induction that Ireland imprints on all returning souls.
By the time I come back, it’ll be clear whether the government is able to lead it’s employed lawyers through the challenge to draft legislation that will stand up to public opinion. I’ll have remembered that it is not only in Ireland that one mighty department of state can’t talk to another.
I’ll have tapped in to John Reid, ace department runner, and his efforts to run the Home Office. I’ll have picked up some tips that might work in this house.
I’ll have witnessed two Jaguars on their way out, I hope.
Did you hear the latest: John Prescott has been a Tory agent for the last twenty years. It seems he has been in the pay of the Conservative Party from way back, since he was working on the ships. How else do you think he could have remained untouched for so long? He used to be the hero of Bogside…
Dean Swift managed it. He straddled Dublin and London. Like a collossus. Some day I’ll write our own “A Tale of a Tub” and “Grace’s Travels“.
While I’m away, I expect you to be ready for a recall.
You need to be flexible and creative. If you need a make-over, you know where in Limerick, Castletroy, to go for it. I’m leaving Mary in charge again. Willie was fine last time, but there’s a place for Willie when you need him. Mary’s the man this time. She knows how to do an O’Gara. So if you need anything kicked into touch, you can be sure she won’t be playing croquet on the lawn while she’s in charge of the country.
Grace’ll be back later.
She’ll find me gone. She won’t cry. She’s a big girl. And, if she does, hasn’t that nice doctor given her her own syringe.