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Kingsley Can't Swim and Other Observations (part 4)

Tags: helen mouth
Part Four

Living with the boy's au pair had its difficult moments. Her English was less than good, so everything had to be either repeated very loudly and slowly or be translated into French. As I did not speak French, this meant I spent much of the time sounding like the confused resident of a care home. "How was the boy today?" I would ask. She looked at me, blankly. "HOW WAS HE TODAY?" I shouted back at her non-comprehending visage. "I am fine," she replied, adding "thank you" as a little flourish that showed off how much her English was progressing. "No," I corrected her, "le garcon!", demonstrating that in actual fact, I could draw upon my GCSE French when in a tight spot. This, though, was as far as the conversation went in her native tongue, largely because I could not move the topic into those limited areas in which I was fluent, such as je voudrais un top up (your French beer is rather frothy), ou est les chariots? (where are the trolleys?) and non je suis remain chagrin avec tu pour trop long temps (I can't stay mad at you for long).

When she arrived, I hardly gave the impression that I was the man of the house, to be respected, if not feared, certainly obeyed, and definitely not laughed at behind his back. Helen pulled up in the car, having rendezvoused with the au pair at the ferry port. I bustled out of the house shouting "Hello! How are you?". For some reason, I then repeated the salutation a number of times, shouting: "How are you! How are you!" She said hello and I made to shake her hand, but as she reached out her own paw I remembered she was French and that we should be kissing cheeks. Leaving her hand in limbo, I went for her left cheek, and successfully made contact. As I went to repeat the action on her right cheek, she had already begun to move away from me, I think recoil is too strong a word, but seeing me pouting at thin air and realising that I was making a fool of myself, she rescued the situation by returning to where she had been standing so I could complete the traditional welcome.

Undeterred by the less than perfect start to proceedings, I shouted again, "How are you!" It did not even sound like a question, which is probably why she simply nodded slightly and went to collect her suitcase from the car. Now in the house, I was at a loss as to how to make our new servant feel at ease in our home, so while Helen filled in the conversational gaps by jabbering away at her about something in French, I moved from room to room, sweating, picking up things and putting them back again for no obvious reason, occasionally saying "good", "right" and "hmm" to no one in particular. As it was unlikely that their dialogue would soon move on to a question about the location of our trolleys, I decided to leave them to it and hovered in the background drinking a can of Stella from the fridge, which might have looked like I was trying to convey an appreciation of Continental beverages, but which in reality did nothing more than make me look like a British holidaymaker in Tenerife. The poor girl no doubt expected me at any moment to hurl a chair through the window and start shouting "Get yer tits out!" at her, "for the lads".

I did, however, eventually gain the upper hand. I asked her how the ferry trip had been and she replied that it was fine except that it was cold and windy out on the deck. This sliver of information told me that she was a smoker, for why else would she brave the elements of a night-time Channel crossing in autumn but to enjoy a cigarette? Knowledge being power, I revelled in my control over her when I then asked if she smoked. Being an au pair, she knew she was not meant to smoke, and stuttered "eh... eh..." in a particularly Gallic manner. As she squirmed and visibly attempted to translate the lie she had formed in her head from French to English, I wondered how long I should let this charade continue. I felt like a teacher who had caught a pupil red-handed and was interrogating him with leading questions, knowing full well that the child could not bring himself to admit to the misdemeanour. I was sculpting my role of parent, practising for when in years to come I would confront the boy on his own indiscretions. At the second round of "eh... eh..." I decided to climb down from my high horse and put the girl out of her misery. I told her it was fine for her to smoke, so long as she did not do so in the house. The look of relief and thankfulness on her face as I nodded on authoritatively confirmed that I was the master of the house and she was merely the help.

One might suspect that the worst aspect of living with the au pair was my failure to find justification for the use of the word pampelmousse, which I wanted to do because I liked the sound of it. As I did not like watermelon, I could hardly walk up to her and say "Je voudrais un pampelmousse". At best she would think, "Why has this tosser just come up to me and demanded a watermelon?" At worst she would happen to have a watermelon among her things and produce the item for me all cut up on a plate and ready to eat. No, the worst aspect of our new arrangements was that I no longer had only the boy sleeping with a bit of plasterboard between his small head and the loudest toilet in the world, for the au pair's bedroom also happened to share a wall (a very thin wall) with the bathroom. If my bodily functions had not been restricted before, they certainly were now, as the last thing I wanted was for the staff to walk out citing amplified bottom noises in her agency's exit interview. Eventually though, something had to give, and that something was my derriere. As they say, when you've got to go, you've got to go, and I found myself needing to go rather badly some time during the au pair's first Tuesday. I did not know if it was the Greggs sausage roll complaining in my nether regions or the Polish falafel wrap from yesterday, but it wanted out regardless of the fact that the boy's slave was ensconced in her room, merely feet from the trumpet box. I huffed and I puffed like the four winds, but soon knew that it was no use keeping everything bottled up; the devil was in me, and some bastard of a priest was driving him out. I rushed to the bathroom and in a single motion closed the saloon doors, pulled down my undergarments and sat upon the throne. At this moment the music that had been wafting from the au pair's room stopped. I had only seconds to spare as I thumped my brain trying to think of a way to disguise the foul noises that lay inside me with brown kinetic energy. I considered belting out Land of Hope and Glory, or even Rule Britannia, but neither was appropriate in the circumstances. For a start, I did not know all the words to either song, so most of the passages would have had to be hummed, which would have made me sound like a defecating Winnie-the-Pooh. Also, I had yet to ascertain the au pair's political leanings, and surely only the most patriotic and conservative warble "How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee" while pebbledashing the porcelain – I did not want to frighten the poor girl into thinking I was a member of the BNP or Front National. I considered drowning out the horrible hubbub that was about to occur with something more modern that she would relate to. But like those moments when one wanders aimlessly around the aisles of the record store, having forgotten the reason for going there, the only pop song I could think of was No Limit by 2 Unlimited, and it did not seem appropriate to holler "No no, no no no no, no no no no, no no there's no limit!" as my innards plopped and sputtered around me. Thus it was that, in the silence of the echo chamber, I crossed myself like a good Catholic, muttered "Fortune favours the brave" and let all hell break loose.

It was the first time I had heard my bottom whistle, and the au pair spent much of the rest of the day in her room.

When she did emerge from her hiding place, I commented that the weather was particularly unpleasant out. She nodded in agreement, but when she added "It is windy", I was uncertain whether she was referring to the inclement conditions outside the house or those inside my trousers. While ruminating on this, I suddenly had the urge to try something out on the girl, whose name was Noemie (pronounced no em ee). I wanted to say to her, apropos of nothing, "Noemie knowing you, aha!", before I realised that Alan Partridge was probably unheard of in France, and I had no idea of the status of Abba among eighteen-year-old European girls. Had Mamma Mia! reignited the popularity of the Swedish quartet in France or were they old hat? I did not know. I could have Googled "Abba France popular now", but frankly, I could not be bothered. So, we had no common ground. I remembered the story that someone told me about Silvester Stallone – that the Rambo actor was a prima donna on set, and one of his demands was that no one in his entourage was allowed to look at him; if he made eye contact with the make-up artist, she was fired on the spot. I felt like that make-up artist, and the au pair was Silvester Stallone. I skulked around her looking at the floor, and even during our brief interlocutions made my eyes stare at something over her shoulder, or else I picked up the nearest object and implied I was examining it. I had read that it was common for fathers to feel uncomfortable around the au pair, and that they barely dared look at them for fear of being accused by their wives of perversion or, worse, actual adultery. But I was not avoiding looking at the boy's slave in an enactment of meek chastity, I was just scared that if I saw her face, I would realise that it was laughing at me, or, worse, staring on in horror.

Even before she arrived, she made me feel uncomfortable, although admittedly this was through no fault of her own. I was at work, having left the boy's mother and his paternal grandparents in charge of rearranging the spare room in preparation for the au pair's arrival. This involved the moving of the bed to a more favourable position, and the transition of my junk from under the spare bed to somewhere else. I was just finishing my lunch when I received a text message from Helen saying “Your parents have found your porn collection". This, of course, made me feel uneasy, but worse was to come. That evening I was informed that my father, picking up the DVD case of Sweet Black Cherries, had remarked to Helen: "It's like doing it to a Brillo pad." My mother then interjected with: "Put it down, Mark, you've got plenty of those at home." It was with this information in my head that I sat down to dinner with Helen and my parents, hoping to God that the conversation would not touch on scourers or anything related to the colour black. I had been fully exposed. I might as well have dressed for dinner wearing nothing but a sock on my willy.

To make matters worse, I finished typing the previous sentence and began to contemplate making a cup of tea when I detected a presence behind me. I turned around. There was the au pair, staring at the computer screen over my shoulder, reading the words ‘nothing but a sock on my willy’. She coughed. I coughed. "I go pick up Kingsley," she said. "Yes," I replied. "Go and get him."

Two swallows do not a summer make, so the saying goes, and one son does not a poet make, so I now discovered. Having been nurtured on AA Milne and Roald Dahl, whose classic works were inspired by their children, I felt the need to create my own work of fiction for the boy. I could invent the next Christopher Robin, or a latter-day Big Friendly Giant, something the boy could read when he was older and say, “My dad wrote that.” Except that he wouldn't, because the best idea I could come up with was a story about a working labrador who, behind the back of his severely disabled owner, runs his house by day as a coffee shop, called Starbarks, and by night a bar, called All Bark One. So I turned my hand to poetry, and with the aim of devising a witty nursery rhyme, came up with this masterpiece:

The policeman gave the woman his hat,
Just you fancy that – he gave her his hat!
"Tell me copper why you gave her your hat!"
Cooed the pigeon to the copper below.
"'Cause a child inside pressed on her tum so,
She needed to go – listen to her splat
In my hat, my hat, my policeman's hat."

I was not sure whom I thought this was aimed at, and both children and perverts seemed like potential target markets. At the end of the day, I had written a nursery rhyme about public urination. I imagined the conversation in which a publisher asked me what I had written and I explained it was a little ditty about a policeman who allowed a woman to wee in his hat; even in my head, this conversation was a short one, and the publisher ended it by putting down the phone and calling the police – the real police, not the abettors of water sports described in the rhyme.

The boy would have to do something really special to inspire me to write my way into literary history.

From the day the boy popped out until his ninth month on Earth, I had spent most of the time either fully bearded or engaged in the act of growing a beard. The result was that his impression of me was of a hairy man, a man with facial hair, which was sometimes short and sometimes long, often out of control and on special occasions trimmed into a semblance of neatness. Then he – the boy, not the beard – grew to the stage where he found entertainment in the practice of touching the faces of his parents. For me this meant I received a gentle stroking of my facial furniture when the boy was placid, and a vigorous tugging of it when he was feisty. It is a compliment to Helen's hairless face that she did not experience the same pleasure when the boy was friendly, or suffer the same molestation when he was boisterous. For the boy, then, my frontispiece was a plaything, but this is not why I consigned my fuzzy experiment to the barber shop floor of history.

Let me tell you something about the death of my beard.

Soon after the liberation of my chin follicles, I was quite pleased with the result: the hair was acting as a perfect cover for the double chin I inherited from my grandmother, and it fermented a willing illusion that I was entering the realms of manhood previously explored by the likes of Tom Selleck, Carlito's Way-era Al Pacino, and Father Christmas. But then I noticed a remarkable phenomenon. Bearded strangers were smiling at me on the street, like we were masons greeting each other secretly through the covert hail of the lip caterpillar. One gentleman in Hammersmith was particularly disturbing. I was waiting at a zebra crossing, and he was standing at the opposite traffic lights – spreading his gob, like a fool. My chin-warmer at this stage was not outwardly amusing, and indeed was not eliciting grins from other members of the general public. The hairy idiot was happy to see me because he thought he recognised a new member of his club: like he was Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, and I was Fidel Castro; the number 295 bus parked up nearby was the Granma yacht, waiting to sail us from Mexico to Cuba to instigate a 50-year social revolution.

I wanted out of this tacit acceptance into the realm of the bearded man, so I determined to style my tongue-tickler in a manner that would tell such gentlemen: yes, I have facial hair, but no, kind, smiling sir with a beard, I am not 'one of you' and reserve the right to remove my hirsuteness at any point in the future without warning or regret. I retrieved my Gillette and lathered up. Perhaps making the moustache less handlebar would deter the interest of other beardos? While convincing myself that I was Magnum PI, not Freddy Mercury RIP, I malshaved a strip of face. Must even it up, make it symmetrical. A bit off the other side. Still wonky. Shave off a bit more...
Having washed the foam from my cheeks, I surveyed my creation. I looked like an Elvis-Hitler – a mutton-chopped and toothbrush moustachioed singing-dictator hybrid. Could I go to work looking like the King and the leader of the Third Reich had been zapped through Jeff Goldblum's Fly Machine? Was Burning Love a subtle nod to the Holocaust?
Troubled by these thoughts, I whipped the remaining fuzz from my face.

Thus the boy awoke one morning to find his father figure, his role model and his guide smooth of visage. Now when he stroked and patted my face, he gave me a look as if to say, "You, sir, have the face of a lady", and was generally rather dismissive. After all, there was nothing to grab onto, except of course my nose, but, to be honest, a nose is a poor substitute for a bristling beard, if grabbing clumps of the stuff and yanking it out is your game. I tried to imagine what this must have felt like for him. Perhaps he now knew what Tony Blair went through when Peter Mandelson shaved off his moustache.

This situation with the beard only added to a worry that had been troubling me for some time: that the boy did not look at me as his father, king and god, but instead thought that I was just another baby. This thought first occurred to me in the bath. Having been bathed by me as per tradition, the boy was retrieved by his mother from the tub, in which I still sat, watching on. Enrobed in his bath towel and in the arms of his mother, the boy looked down on me as I sat there, thigh deep in the water, and gave a sneer. He was saying, "Ha! Mother prefers me to you for she has taken me from the bath first. Now I shall dine on milk while you wallow in the tepid water." This impression of his, that we were both babies (to his credit, he was half right) was augmented when Helen got me into the practice of waving at him whenever he was about to leave the room. The purpose behind this was to encourage him to wave, but it meant that now I was not only sitting in the bath looking sheepish – because the water was at a less than optimal temperature for a man to enjoy and most of my body parts were exposed – but also waving like a gaudy mechanical cat in the window of a Thai restaurant. This might have made me seem a bit Thai, but it also made me seem utterly babyish. No one waves at someone when they are only three feet away; this was an absurd practice.

Making matters worse was what happened after the boy was gathered in the middle of the night to feed on his mother. The boy, who as he ate saw me laid beside his mother (facing towards her for warmth), thought, I am sure, that I was not asleep but having a nibble on one of the baps myself – because it was time for all the babies in the world to have their midnight feast, and I was as hungry as the rest of them. This explains why he paused in his sucking every so often to fix upon me a look of obstinate defiance. He was saying, "Ho! The breast in my mouth is bigger than the titty in yours. I am drinking the most milk and it is the creamiest too." I was too tired to argue with him so I turned over and went to sleep.

The fact remained though that although I had shaved off my beard for good reasons, it was confusing for both the boy and me. So, the big question on everyone's lips was whether I regretted removing the fuzz from my face. Yes, I had quit the underworld of the bearded man, but I had added to the boy's impression that I was just another baby. Thus there was an element of regret there, but it was certainly not the biggest in my long and varied career as a man. There was the time, for instance, when at the age of 18 I went on holiday with my parents to somewhere in the Caribbean. I was young and naive, especially so when a woman wearing a rather slight bikini appeared beside my sun lounger. She complimented the book I was reading (Howard Marks' Mr Nice, which is rubbish) and crouched down so her head reached the level of mine. She started talking about how she had just met my parents at the bar and they had told her I was studying journalism. I noticed she had recently been swimming because a pool of water was collecting on the hot floor below her crotch and around her feet. She told me she was a journalist and would be happy to give me some advice – not now though, but later, in her room, where she had a pen and paper and a bed. She told me her room number, rose and padded off to the pool. As I watched her swimming about I thought, "She's the wrong side of forty but I'd really like to screw her. However, there's no way she'd be interested in me. And I'm not going to her room – I'm on holiday and the last thing I want to talk about is my homework." Only many years later, I think I was in my late twenties, did I recall this incident and conclude: you fool, she gave you her room number for Christ's sake! This, then, is why these pages cannot be mistaken for lost chapters of Giacomo Casanova's Histoire de Ma Vie. It is also why, in the grand scheme of things, the boy's reaction to the loss of my beard was small-fry.

The boy received a gift in the form of what can generically be described as a baby walker. It was essentially an upright trolley with wheels and a handle that the boy could push around. Attached to its front was a box of tricks that featured buttons and switches and nobs and nozzles in many colours which played noises and songs when pressed. Every time this machine was turned on, it sounded rather pleased with itself – a dog yapped twice before a woman sang: "Hello puppy calling me I want to play with you, let's have fun together as we learn our ABC."

As I heard this uplifting ditty many times a day, many days a week, it got lodged in a part of my brain I had no access to. I would be walking to the shop to get some milk. I passed an old woman with her dog, which barked at me: "Ute! Ute!" Suddenly I was continuing my journey while singing "Hello puppy calling me I want to play with you..." in my head in an annoying American accent. While in the shop trying to remember if I should be buying full-fat or semi-skimmed milk, someone's mobile phone started playing a tune, and I nearly said out loud: "Puppy says 'Clap your hands'." And I was close to putting down the carton of milk I was holding so that I could better clap my hands as instructed. Later, while paying, I was pretty sure that I actually wiggled my bottom, instinctively, when the cash register opened.

With all its whirring controls, spinning fruit and plinky-plonk electronic sound effects, the boy's machine was like a one-armed bandit on wheels. I searched the back of it to see if the stated manufacturer was Ladbrokes, but couldn't find it. Of course not, they had made it quite clear with their pushchair-unfriendly doors and vociferous staff that they were against gambling babies.

Then we were in the car on a roundabout and I nearly had to pull over and stop because all I could think of were the words, spoken over the kind of noise a Catherine wheel might make, "Twisting and turning around and around." As we drove on, Helen informed me that we had taken the wrong turning. "Let's wiggle," I replied.

To be fair, though, I preferred all this to Michael Barrymore's bleeding anus.

Having an au pair had many advantages, including a newfound ability for Helen and I to go out in the evening, unencumbered by the lack of a babysitter. Unfortunately, people who knew we now had an au pair started inviting us to dinner parties, and we could no longer use the boy as an excuse to not attend, or to at least leave early. So it was that I discovered myself being herded into a room one evening, handed a glass of wine and left to mingle with my fellow guests, most of whom were doing a better job than me at hiding the fact that they would rather be somewhere else. For me, that somewhere else was the safety of my own home, and as I sipped the beverage in my hand and smiled inanely at some prattling fool, I envied the au pair, who we were paying to do exactly what I wanted to be doing at that moment – that is, sitting on the sofa in our house watching rubbish television and stalking people on Facebook.

Soon the horror dawned on me that everyone in the room was a parent. This was likely a deliberate ploy when the host devised the evening, thinking perhaps that the fact that we had all spawned would provide a common ground, as if parents were like the patrons of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings who need to be with fellow addicts in order to open up. It would not have been contrary to the evening if, after all the guests had arrived, we were sat on chairs arranged in a circle and encouraged to introduce ourselves one by one – "Hello, my name is John, and I am a parent… Hello, my name is Clare, and I am a parent" – with claps of applause greeting each confession.

Things did not much improve when the conversation was diverted away from the fact that we were all parents, which meant we had children, which are expensive, and woe are we. The gentleman sat to my right, who to my disgust I learned was called Chris, ingratiated himself by turning to me and saying: "You're ill at ease, aren't you. I can tell you don't like being in a room of strangers. You're ill at ease. You don't know where to look or what to say." This made me feel rather ill at ease, and I did not know what to say. "I've just been talking to your girlfriend," he continued. "She's wonderful: funny, attractive, interesting. What is she doing with you?" I surveyed the man's patterned shirt, which betrayed his paunch and burgeoning breasts and was evidently intended for a model many years his junior, such as me. "I like your shirt," I told the fool, who I now noticed was looking at me with unconcealed malice. "You're so cool," he resumed. "You walked in here ill at ease. Why be ill at ease when now you are the cool man. Why is your girlfriend with you?" "I like your glasses," I replied, in reference to the faux-trendy transparent frames wedged into his meaty, glowing face. "They are not as good as yours," he said. Then, after taking a swig of whisky and plonking the receptacle onto the table, he added: "You've got a centre parting, your glasses are aggressive, your shirt has a penguin stitched into the right cuff, I am married but open to offers male or female."

I turned my attention to the gentleman sitting to my left, who was busy telling his other neighbour that he had bought his flat in Chelsea a number of years ago for seventy-thousand pounds and it was probably worth, what now, four-hundred-thousand? He was completely bald like Duncan Goodhew, and I spent some considerable time wondering if he actually was Duncan Goodhew.

I stood up and decided to mingle. "And what do you do?" asked someone arriving in front of me. He said it as Prince Charles might ask the question of a guest at a special event attended by the Royal Family. The question hung in the air between us as I asked myself, "Does Duncan Goodhew have children?" The au pair would now be sitting in front of Come Dine With Me, tucking in to our big bar of Cadbury's Caramel, the lucky bitch. I looked around the room and imagined I could smell the thoughts of my fellow parents bobbing around in their heads like festering turds in a row of poorly flushed toilets. The Prince of Wales was still standing in front of me and I considered how I should win him over, lest he accuse me of being an ill-at-ease mute. I was on my early morning paper-round once at the age of thirteen when a deer ran into the deserted road just ahead of me. Many years later I watched The Queen, in which Her Majesty, played by Helen Mirren, has a similar experience. Elizabeth Regina was not doing a paper-round but engaged in stalking stag when one of the beasts appeared before her, undetected by her fellow hunters. "Shoo, scram… be orf with you," says the Queen, or something like that. I began constructing this tale in my head for Charles's benefit – of how me at the age of thirteen had had a similar experience to a fictional Queen – when I noticed the berk was no longer in my midst but nodding and rolling his eyes at the other Chris, who was opening and shutting his mouth in a horribly wet way. At this moment, the au pair was sitting in our bed, eating my porridge.

I then placed the cherry on the cake by deciding to talk to one of the women. Having learned that a nearby mother had a son with a unique name – let's call him Pluto – I approached one of the women with this opening gambit: "Pluto is a strange name isn't it? Do your children have normal names?" As she prattled her reply into my ear, I spotted Pluto's mother standing a few paces off, looking at me like I had just banged a gong and declared to the room: "Rape? There is no such thing as rape!"

When we arrived home I decided to check on the boy. I opened his door and walked straight into a small wooden trike which rebounded off my ankles and into the radiator. As it clattered to a stop I hopped towards the cot with a muffled "Arghh". The boy sat bolt upright and made it clear that he was unhappy at his rude awakening in the witching hour. I plucked him from his bed and took him into our room, where I placated him with a bottle of left-over milk. I apologised to him for bumbling into his room, but he seemed to have already forgotten about it. As he sucked his way back to sleep, I listened to his mother express her dislike of mixing wine, port and coffee-flavoured tequila into the toilet pan. Thus ended a terrible evening.

On the plus side, the au pair was not asleep in our bed beside a bowl that previously contained porridge.

As we have seen, being a father brought new responsibilities and expectations to bear. To add to these, I was suddenly required to improve on my appearance and general demeanour, despite the fact that time and financial constraints were having a negative effect on both. Whereas before the boy never a bad word was said to me in relation to my attire, countenance and personal hygiene, Helen now started conversations with statements such as "That coat is much to big for you. You look like you are wearing your dad's coat". One evening, the last thing she said to me before falling asleep was "Get a haircut". Sure, she tried to soften the blow by following up with "I love you", but that was rather akin to shooting your dog in the legs before giving it a comforting hug as it lies whimpering, wondering what it had done to so anger its previously benevolent master.

Before the funeral, Helen even advised me to remove my beard, which, she said, "would not be understood" by the older generations present. As the growth of my facial hair had hitherto been actively encouraged by the boy's mother, I found this new instruction startling. As fate would have it, I did in fact shave due to other considerations, so felt no prolonged slight at the newfound need for a smooth face, but I was nonetheless troubled by the accusation that I was wearing my dad's coat and that my haircut was so poor it required comment at bedtime.

On the subject of my countenance, I could have pointed out that I had always been gloomy and disconsolate, that she knew what I was like when she married me, but the problem here was that she had not married me, and scowling at the floor did not exactly corroborate my statement that I was "having a good time" and "everything is OK". Luckily, the experience of the aforementioned dinner party, where Helen had also spent much of the evening at the receiving end of verbal farts, proved me right in the opinion that such social occasions were not all they were cracked up to be. Having endured the accusation of being "anti-social" only days before the party, I now sat on the sofa smugly as Helen, nursing a hangover, vowed never to drink again and described the event as "rubbish". I took this to mean we would never leave the house again, which made me happy, but I was still concerned that my coat made me look like I was buying my clothes second hand from MC Hammer, and that my haircut was worse than the side parting I sported in my school photographs.

Perhaps I deserved these criticisms. I had, after all, compared Helen's snoring to the noise made by a walrus (in mating season) and agreed – why? why!? – that her woollen hat did indeed make her look like Sue Pollard. And I had started breaking wind in bed. But then, so had she.

Around this time, Helen started coming home with items of clothing she had bought for me, unprompted – cardigans, shirts, trousers. Being showered with sartorial gifts had never happened when we were boyless, but now it was a regular occurrence. Justifying her new purchases, she walked into the bedroom one afternoon with one of my favourite shirts, a shirt I referred to fondly as my Disco Shirt. It was more than a few years old, but it had retained its fish-scale-effect sheen. "That's one of my favourites," I said as the shirt shimmered in her hand. "It makes you look like a date rapist," she said, before throwing it into a bin liner destined for the charity shop.

To be fair, my own recent purchases had done little to maintain whatever confidence Helen might have had in my fashion sense. There were, for instance, the braces which, when combined with the pair of trousers two sizes too big for me, made me look, as I pushed the boy along the seafront, like an off-duty clown. "Poor clown," I imagined passers-by commenting to each other as I strode on behind the chair with a rolled-up cigarette hanging from my mouth and the shoes I bought from TK Maxx three years ago disintegrating around my feet. "Poor clown, the recession must have hit him hard," they continued, before going on to lament the general demise of Britain's seaside resorts.

One morning, as I pulled on a pair of pants that ripped into three separate items of underwear around my nether regions, I revealed to Helen that I had bought them seven years ago in Heathrow Airport, having booked a flight to Cuba but forgotten to pack anything. "I must buy you some new pants," she said. And she did. She never would have bought me pants before we were parents. Our relationship had progressed: I was wearing the trousers, but she was choosing them for me.

The elderly and infirm of mind, it has been documented, often treat their pet dogs as if they were children, speaking to them in conversational tones that go beyond the normal man-to-dog commands, and sometimes, in the most extreme cases, dressing them in clothes. "Hello Tiddles, how are you this morning?" they say, as their Welsh terrier rouses itself from its basket, ready for its breakfast and to be dressed in its Tartan pullover. Members of this generation, not always the same ones, also exhibit strange behaviour in their interactions with small children, especially those babies who have yet to master the power of speech. But instead of anthropomorphising their subject, as they do with their dogs, with babies they provide a running commentary on everything the baby is doing, from the point of view of the baby.

So, the boy might pick up a toy and put it in his mouth, and his grandmother would provide the following voiceover: "Yes I just think I'll put this in my mouth to see what it tastes like." She would say this in a different tone of voice from the one she usually used, not exactly trying to impersonate what the boy might sound like if he was able to speak for himself, but nonetheless providing a jaunty narration. "Oh yes I'll just crawl over here to see where the cat's gone." The effect was of being inside an episode of You've Been Framed dedicated to us on that particular Tuesday, but with Omar Sharif, instead of Harry Hill, providing the witty remarks. It was not a particularly good episode of You've Been Framed, and we would not be sent a cheque for two-hundred-and-fifty pounds from ITV for our contribution. "This feels nice," said the grandmother as the boy glided his hand across a piece of soft material. "Yes this is nice and smooth, oh I think I'll just put this in my mouth to see what it tastes like." At this point in the action, of course, the boy had moved on from feeling the material and was now stuffing it into his gob, which is what he invariably did with everything he could get his hands on, the predictability of which required no narration.

This apparent need to orate the boy's possible thoughts reminded me of the Describer, who worked behind the till at my local supermarket. As she scanned my items with the barcode reader, she would minimally, but factually, describe each one as it passed through her hands: "Tomatoes… toilet roll… beans… Jelly Babies…" When this was done, she would tell me the total and ask me how I wished to pay. By card, I told her. I always paid by card. "You're paying by card," she repeated. I gave her my card. "That's your card," she said, putting it into the card reader. As I entered my PIN, as prompted by the reader, the Describer continued: "You're entering your PIN." Finally, the receipt printed, accompanied by the words: "Your receipt is printing." I now wondered if this woman had children, or even grandchildren, and had transferred her desire to narrate their every action to the workplace. She would have been a good contestant on Catchphrase, where the host encouraged participants to "Say what you see".

Now I had made an association between the boy and Catchphrase, whenever the grandmother piped up with "Yes I think I'll stand up here to look out the window", I half expected Roy Walker to ask over a public address system, "What's Mr Chips doing?", before pepping us up with "Fingers on buzzers folks, it's the ready-money round".

For some reason, this also made me instinctively wiggle my bottom.

Helen had come down with a cold and was in bed beside me, coughing. And coughing and coughing and coughing. I did not know what time it was, but it had definitely been more than an hour since I had discarded the Telegraph crossword. Since then, I had been lying in the darkness, drifting into sleep only to be startled by a new bout of coughing.

Until now, this kind of situation would have merited spending the night in the spare bed. In fact, this exact situation still merited spending the night in the spare bed, but there was a problem, in that the spare bed was now occupied by the staff. Neither the au pair nor Helen would react kindly to any attempt by me to reclaim the spare bed at one o'clock in the morning. From Helen's point of view, it simply would not look good if I was discovered the next morning stretched out beside an eighteen-year-old French girl. "Er, your coughing was keeping me awake" would not cut the mustard, and neither would "I got lost on my way back from the bathroom". From the au pair's point of view, my best explanations for my appearance at the foot of her bed in the middle of the night, wearing nothing but a tight-fitting pair of Marks & Spencer boxer shorts, would not have cut the French mustard. Je suis mal de mer (I am seasick) was the nearest my French got to describing my complaint, and throwing in the occasional saucisson (sausage) and la guerre est finie (the war is over) would only make things worse.

I recalled my mother telling me that when father snores, she decamps to one of their three spare bedrooms. Three spare bedrooms. You bastard, I thought. And then I realised that I had called my mother a bastard, which made me feel like a bastard. So, just because I was finding it difficult to get to sleep, I had contemplated infiltrating the au pair's bed (platonically) and called my mother a bastard. The guilt I felt now was immense. If guilt was a 70-stone man, he had let himself into the house, walked up the stairs, entered our bedroom and was now sitting on my face, grinding his hips. The plus-side to this was that I was overcome by the weight of guilt and slept soundly till daybreak.

Only weeks after we introduced the boy to food, he developed what can only be described as an eating disorder. No, he was not forever asking "Does my bum look big in this?" when we put on a new nappy. Nor was he a frequent patron of McDonald's and KFC. His disorder took the form of turning his head away when a spoon of delicious foodstuff was proffered before his mouth, and sealing his mouth shut to ensure no amount of benevolent prodding could force the spoon into it. My mother said he was testing us, which to me seemed unfair, as I did not like tests. In any case, I gave up on this one pretty quickly.

The boy's breakfast routine soon descended into the following farce. I would make up his porridge, which was not the kind of horrible porridge not eaten by the likes of me but yummy porridge with bits of blueberries and other stuff in it eaten by the likes of him. Having gobbled up three spoonfuls of it, the scrumptious pudding turned before our very eyes into a foul gruel, and the boy began his act of turning away his head. At first it took me a while to work out that he was refusing to eat his breakfast, for he was not merely looking away and growling in protest, as one might expect a belligerent child to do. In fact he nonchalantly gazed at items of apparent interest in the room, tricking me into believing that he was simply taking in the sights. He would stare fascinated at the light above the dining room table for many minutes, as if transfixed by its alien glow, or look down from his chair at the sheets of newspaper on the floor, which had been placed there to catch the breakfast jetsam. But he was not taking in yesterday's reports on the refuse collectors' strike in Brighton and Hove, or perusing the letters page in order to gauge local opinion on the proposed changes to cycle lanes.

I had been outsmarted by him, a fact that became apparent when I tried to interrupt his reveries by presenting the fourth spoon. At this he moved his head to a fresh position, still keeping up the pretence of observing an object of interest in the room, such as the inkjet printer on the occasional table or the discarded handbag beneath the radiator. Again I offered him the spoon, this time making "choo choo" noises, hopeful that my rendition of a puff-puff would delight him into opening his mouth to receive the breakfast. It did not work. On the next attempt I attracted his attention by snapping my fingers before gliding the spoon from a high position towards his face, accompanied by a "Neee-owww" noise. My approximation of a swooping propeller plane also failed to elicit an opening of the gob.

I decided to take stock of the situation and reassess my tactics. As the boy now returned to an article on the floor about changes to local planning laws, I wondered what other sounds were emitted by spoons at breakfast time. As far as I knew, their repertoire extended only to trains and planes. The train goes into the tunnel, the plane dives from above. But there must be more. I considered moving the spoon towards the boy's mouth in a see-saw motion while whinnying and neighing, but this seemed to be asking too much of his infant imagination. Adding clipperty-clops did not convince me of the tactic's merits either, as the main problem here was not the sound I intended to make, but the movement of the spoon, which was proving difficult to manoeuvre in a realistic portrayal of a horse.

In the end I thrust the spoon at his mouth while emitting a raucous and prolonged raspberry with my tongue and lips. The boy looked at me like I was an idiot, and returned to his piece on the planning laws. This would not do. I had volunteered to give the boy his breakfast, and so give the boy his breakfast I must. I wondered aloud whether I should hold his nose as the need to breathe would compel the boy to open his mouth, allowing me to deliver the fourth spoon of porridge. Helen, who heard this from the kitchen, was not enthusiastic about this planned approach to getting the boy to feed. The tone of her voice suggested I had recommended a kind of waterboarding technique used by the CIA to force information out of international terrorists.
Instead, then, I got out of my chair and walked around the boy like a moron in a circular egg and spoon race, following his head as it shifted from left to right and up and down. It had now been some while since the third spoonful was gobbled. The boy was testing me, and I was failing the test. What were the answers to the test, that's what I wanted to know. I had tried imitating two forms of transport and considered introducing a horse to proceedings, not to mention the temporary blockage of his nasal passage. Then I realised there was one thing I had not attempted, and it now seemed the most obvious solution of all. I had been a fool, this was bound to work, I had even seen other people do it with their children and it had worked for them.

Making sure the boy was looking at me and not an inanimate object, I dipped his spoon into the bowl of delicious, fortifying porridge, opened wide my mouth and took in the generous helping. My god it was disgusting. The time elapsed with the choo-chooing and potential whinnying had caused the porridge to go cold, and to my disappointment the blueberries were less abundant and flavoursome than they appeared on the side of the box. "Mmm," I mumbled, swallowing down the tepid mush, "Yum, yum." Once again my acting skills were under the spotlight, which the boy was now gazing at with renewed interest as it hung uninterestingly from above the table. I scooped up a helping of breakfast and placed it before his mouth, which, encouragingly, was partially open. He closed it instantly and went to look at the printer. At this point the staff walked in. I relinquished my chair for her, handed her the spoon and left the room with a jaunty "Bon chance", which I had once heard a BBC presenter say to the French golfer Tomas Levet at the start of a big tournament.

If the word 'breakfast' was replaced by 'lunch' and 'dinner', and the porridge in the bowl with sloppy but tasty vegetables, an appreciation would be gained of how this palaver transposed itself to the other main mealtimes of the day.

The boy and I became separated at bath when I took the decision that it was time for him to make his own way in the tubby world of suds and plastic ducks, and bathe alone. This decision was not taken lightly. As he approached his tenth month, the boy became increasingly observant of the things and people around him, and increasingly dexterous with his hands. He now knew not to try and grab a bottle of hair conditioner from the side of the bath, having eaten some on a previous occasion, and used his new skills to pick out the items that were designated for his enjoyment and distraction, such as the plastic duck and a waterproof book of animals that squeaked. The book, although giving the impression that crabs, dolphins, sea horses, shell fish and other fruits of the underworld all emitted an ear-piercing shriek when squeezed, was the boy's favourite bath toy for many weeks. He did not seem to mind that my powers of description tended to dissolve in my fug of tiredness. Turning the pages of the book and alighting upon the sea horse, I would forget that a sea horse was called a sea horse and tell the boy that he was observing an illustration of a "water neigh" or an "ocean camel". On one such occasion, I inexplicably described the jelly fish as a "sea melon".

Eventually the boy grew tired of his aquatic education, and this is where our problems began. Now ignoring the book and his boats and bath pipe, the boy took great pleasure in splashing the water about the bath and beyond it. As he had gained a mastery of his hands, this splashing was not a mere pummelling of the surface with his fist – the boy, with cupped palms, was scooping the water and hurling it into the air, as if we were in a sinking dingy and he was determined to save us by returning as much water as possible to the bathroom floor. The difficulty of this situation was that, with his new observance and trance-like interest in the way he was able to fling water in the air, the boy noticed everything and nothing escaped his attention. As I was in the bath with him, my presence, and that of my body parts, were no exception to this rule.
At first, I was able to cope with this situation because the initial object of the boy's fascination were my legs, which he spotted lurking just below the surface like somnolent hippos. Unfortunately for me, these hippos were hirsute to the point that I resembled a half-man half-goat. The boy yanked at the hairs on my thighs and knees, and I discovered something new – that the most painful place from which to have hair tugged is one's thighs and knees. It did not help that on the rare occasions he was successful in removing a few of the hairs that he instantly put them in his mouth. Having already introduced the boy to the taste of hair conditioner, my parental instinct told me that moving him on to my leg fuzz was less than ideal.

Even less ideal was when he turned his attention from the hippos to a much more sinister animal lurking in the soapy depths, that is my trouser snake, which lay in its watery hiding place oblivious to the vicious attack that was soon to befall it. For the boy, perhaps assuming that the creature, like the jelly fish and crab in his book, would squeak in delight, grabbed the snake and throttled it. The snake did not squeak, but its owner did – a sound he continued to emit as he spent the next few moments prising the assassin's grip from the doomed animal.

If I was a dog, I would have licked my wounds, but as I was merely a man, the best I could do was to brush myself down and be thankful that my ordeal was over. Naively, as the boy returned to his splashing game, I considered the incident a one-off, a quirk of fate that happened when my snake was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Oh, the ignorance of man! No sooner had I regained my composure and settled into a watch of the boy as he made merry with the water when something caught his eye. Before my tired brain could cogitate what was occurring, the snake-catcher swivelled his head and focused his stare on the submerged prey. Forgetting his game and determined to kill, the boy struck his hand into the water and grabbed the unsuspecting beast that lay dormant, still stunned from the previous attack. He squeezed it even harder than before as if expecting an even louder squeak to result. He was not disappointed as the roar of ten thousand mice erupted from somewhere deep within me and filled the room. Startled by the noise, the fisherman let go his catch and mercifully watched on as it sunk solemnly to its terrible resting place beneath the frothing suds.

That was the end of the boy's aquatic education, and the last time he would ever take a bath with his father.

Winter was approaching when the boy developed another cold accompanied by a horrible cough. Undeterred by his ailment, and conscious of our being driven slowly mad by a prolonged stay in the house, Helen and I decided to brave the elements and give the boy some fresh air, believing it would do him, and us, some good. Thus we wrapped him up warm, wrapped ourselves up warm, although he looked warmer than us in his chair with his duffle coat and blanket, and stepped outside.

We made for the beach, where among the pebbles I spotted a star fish that had been abandoned on the shore by the retreating tide. I remarked that it was still alive because it looked soft and glistened, unlike the hard and dead star fish I had on my window sill as a child. Helen picked up the animal and declared that she would return it to the sea, so off we set to the foot of the shore, where the froth fingered its way up the stones.

Although ignorant that I had ended my part in the boy's aquatic education, Helen delayed the star fish's repatriation to the sea by placing it on the blanket wrapped over the boy's lap. For Helen this was another photo opportunity, and she produced a camera seemingly from nowhere – she had no bag and there was not a single pocket in any of her clothing – and began taking shots of the boy and his new creature. For me this was an opportunity to reflect on my bathing experiences with the boy, the good times and the bad, the wet and the painful, and I regretted that this evening ceremony had come to an end.

For the boy this was an opportunity to prove that he was an inquisitive fellow, and that his curiosity was often to the detriment of nearby eyes, spectacles and other parts of the body, whether the body belonged to man, woman or echinoderm. The latter was the latest potential casualty, as the boy now reached out for the star fish and, grabbing onto one of its five arms, began to lift it towards his open mouth. Mindful of the fact that I had already overseen the boy's consumption of hair conditioner and a generous portion of my leg hair, I looked on in horror at the scene being played out before me, but I stood rooted to the spot and did nothing, for I was also intrigued to discover whether he would actually go through with his proposal and try to eat the star fish. We would not find out, however, because Helen had also spotted what was happening and sensibly intervened. She managed to wrestle the beast from the boy's grasp just as it reached his lips, and he and I both looked on as Helen placed it carefully in a shallow pool.

Our adventure with the sea star over, we returned to the Esplanade and continued our walk to nowhere in particular, saying "woof woof" for the benefit of the boy whenever a dog approached, and pointing out to him the murmuration of starlings above the shell of the burnt-down pier. Soon, though, his coughing became more frequent and severe than we had ever known it, and we pulled up at a café to take in a mug of tea and a choc-ice before our venture home.

As Helen nibbled her choc-ice and I sipped at my tea, we took it in turns to hold up a bottle of milk to the boy's mouth, so that he too could gain sustenance after his toil with the sea monster. I had barely taken a few sips, and Helen’s choc-ice was largely intact, when the boy pushed the bottle away from him and opened wide his mouth. "He looks like he is going to be sick," I thought. I was about to give him the benefit of the doubt, and began to wonder if in fact he was performing an impression of a bird, when a jet of white liquid spurted from the boy's throat, through his open mouth and onto the blanket across his lap. This violent regurgitation seemed to last for a full hour, but of course that would be impossible, and the quantity was impressive, if one is impressed by the vast quantity of part-digested milk with bits of lunch floating in it. I estimated, as the evacuation came to a close and the jet of liquid became a less startling but steady trickle from his mouth, that the boy had presented us with at least a pint of foul-smelling sick.

The projectile vomit had initially landed on the blanket over his lap, but this sturdy quilt could only absorb so much sick so quickly, and soon the stuff had pooled on the sodden top sheet before splashing the continuing supply of juice up the boy's chest. This pebbledashing was then supplemented by the dregs that flowed steadily from the boy's chin, down his neck and into the inside of his clothing, and I learned my first lesson of childrearing all over again: if the boy looks like he is going to be sick, he is probably going to be sick.

After a few ahs and ums I spotted a dog trotting towards us and was going to say "woof woof" before I checked myself – I did not want to give the dog the impression that the boy had just served up its dinner and would be happy for it to lick him clean. Later, I realised this would not have been a bad solution, as it would have been an efficient way to mop up the boy as well as demonstrating a kindness to animals. What's more, it would have been the more environmentally friendly option, for now I found myself dabbing at the boy with baby wipes, and cursing the makers of the baby wipes for producing them in the size of small tissues when what was needed here was an absorbent beach towel. We must have used ten-thousand baby wipes in our effort to cleanse the boy, and afterwards he was still sporting, and smelling of, the previous contents of his obviously enormous stomach.

It was in this state of ill-repair that the boy was pushed home, and when we got there it was time for his dinner. I was not in the mood for trying to turn spoons into galloping horses, and the boy was not much in the mood for eating. After twenty minutes of the usual stalemate, I had managed to cram ten spoonfuls of delicious foodstuff into his gob and was about to give in and go and run his bath when the boy fixed on me a curious look, opened wide his mouth and with not so much as a "Would you excuse me I think I'm going to be sick" let forth a brown torrent of sloppy matter.
The ten spoonfuls had evidently multiplied in his never-ending stomach. There was pints of the stuff, on the table, soaking into his clothes, collecting on the floor and, somehow, matting the hair on the back of his head. The sick was everywhere, but worse was the fact that there was so much of it. It was as though the boy had been storing up every bottle of milk and every meal he had eaten since birth for this very moment. I resigned myself to the inevitability of having to come into contact with the vomit and plucked the boy from his chair. As I took him upstairs for a thorough hosing down in the bath, which he would endure alone, bits of regurgitated matter transferred themselves from the boy to my clothing. This was disappointing largely because I had hoped to get one more day's use out of my maroon cardigan.

Later, as I lay on my own in the bath, I reflected on something my brother once told me with his head down the toilet – that when someone is sick, they are always sick three times. I had just completed massaging Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo into my hair when Helen called me from the bedroom. The boy had been sick for the third time, all over her, but she would have to write her own book if she wanted people to know about that.

We were running out of money as we discovered that when people say children are expensive, they are not lying or merely repeating a well-worn phrase but speaking pearls of wisdom. We had no pearls, so we could not sell those. Naturally for a man in this situation, I found myself fantasising about how we could make the boy pay his own way.

I had recently read some Charles Dickens and wondered if we could send the boy out to work as a chimney sweep's assistant. After all, he frequently made for the cast-iron fireplace in our living room when given the liberty to scramble about on all fours, so the idea had evidently not escaped the boy himself. We always stopped him on his approach to the gratings, in fear that he would injure himself upon them, as they were sharp and he was soft, but I was certain that given free rein he would lift himself into the hearth and clamber up the flume. He would do this just for the fun of it, and giving him a brush would only add to his enjoyment as he found entertainment in all utensils either given to him or stolen by him. I was worried about his cough though, and exposing him to soot did not seem to be fair. There was also the chance that he would get stuck somewhere out of reach within the chimney, which was too narrow for a man to enter. On the assumption that we did get him out though, I could use this to my advantage and cite the narrowness of the chimney as evidence that Father Christmas would not be visiting our house this year, as he was fat and the boy's parents were poor.

I considered farming him out as a child model, but babies only advertise baby food and nappies. As the boy had a well-documented eating disorder, advertising baby food would be out of the question as he would simply turn his head away in disgust, which was not likely to be the image sought after by the brand in question. Even when food was successfully deposited into his mouth, he often munched on it for a few moments only to let it reappear at his lips, where it gathered in a mush before falling to his chin, from which it dangled before falling to the next nearest surface. Again, this was not likely to be the required image, and a soundtrack featuring me braying and choo-chooing would probably not help much either.

As for advertising nappies, I just did not like the idea. Changing the boy under normal house conditions was increasingly becoming akin to a task on The Crypton Factor, on account of his persistent attempts to avoid being changed, which included instantly turning over on to his stomach when put on his back and, when put on his back again, waiting until the second and final strap of the nappy was very nearly fastened before undoing the whole thing by rolling over onto his stomach, standing up and threatening to walk off the edge of the changing mat and into the abyss beyond.
(He could not actually walk yet, but stepping off things high up with utter disregard for the consequences was definitely a skill he had acquired – only recently I had interrupted a dive from the changing mat by catching the boy by his ankles, a move which ended in him swinging upside down with his head an inch from the floor. He did not appreciate the potentially lifesaving task I had performed and was soon swinging upside down with his head an inch from the floor while crying. That will teach him, I thought. Hours later, we found ourselves in the same position when the boy attempted to repeat his daredevil act. This time, as the boy swung from his ankles, looking at the floor as it shifted below him, crying, I said to him in stern terms that "This is what happens when you walk off things that are very high up". He did not seem to be listening, though, and I knew he could not understand a word I was saying.)

So, changing the boy's nappy had become a challenge that would test the most dexterous and patient of fathers. Carrying out this task under the hot lights of a film studio did not appeal, no matter how many complimentary cans of Dr Pepper and bags of Big Eat Quavers I imagined the runners would procure for me.

Child labour, then, in both its legal and illegal forms, was out of the question. Perhaps I should write a book, I thought, and it sounded like a good idea until I realised that even when concerned with the innocent subject of childrearing, the narration would contain references to Yoko Ono's fanny, and my bottom.

There were only two options left: either make old people pay for the privilege of cooing at the boy and telling us their inane stories; or let men pay to have sex with the au pair. The first of these had insurmountable problems, the worst being that we would have to listen to old people give us hopelessly out-of-date and frankly rubbish advice on childrearing, such as it is OK to let boys smoke after six months and that girls must have everything in pink or the BBC will stop showing repeats of Last Of The Summer Wine. Furthermore, old people were likely to be even poorer than us, and they had grown used to prodding babies and disseminating their views to strangers free of charge.

As for turning the au pair into a hooker, this, like sending the boy up the chimney, was a mere fantasy. Yes, if I was a pimp it would make it more likely that my dream of Nathaniel springing to life and referring to me as "boss man" would come true. But knowing my luck the whole affair would end with the au pair becoming a second Belle de Jour and selling more copies of her book than mine because hers contained frequent references to sexy sex and, ah, eBay. Why did I not think of that before?

The bad advice disseminated by other people left me flummoxed. There was the time, for instance, when Helen's father and I, left in charge of the boy, asked ourselves if we could nip to the pub for a quick pint. My contribution to the plan was to enquire whether any of the local public houses looked kindly upon the presence of small people in babygrows. The grandfather, though, rebuffed me for even thinking that we might take the boy into the bar. He suggested we should leave him in the car outside the pub. "He will be fine, won't he?" he asked. I replied that the boy was only a few months old and we could not leave him in the car alone, even for the short time it would take us

This post first appeared on This Quintessence Of Dust, please read the originial post: here

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Kingsley Can't Swim and Other Observations (part 4)


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