Some time in the past, ten years ago or probably more, someone told me they thought I was quite a moral person. I can’t even remember what it was in relation to, but it has always stuck with me. Mainly because, at the time, I don’t think it was particularly true. Sure, I thought of myself as broadly a good person, but what good did I actually do? How often did I do what I thought was right above what I actually wanted to do? What did I do help others? Did I have a moral code, and if so, did I try to live by it?
“That’s my daughter, in the water” – Loudon Wainwright – Daughter
It seems they start swimming the moment they leave the womb nowadays (this is almost literally in the cases of water births). A good thing it is too. Get them used to the water when they’re young and it will never seem a strange and scary place. Swimming itself will come more naturally when they’re not worrying about the water.
We fully intended for our daughter to go to one of the many water based baby groups, but due to one thing and another she was past two by the time I took her to her first swimming class. Still very young of course, and I’m sure I was much older than that when I learnt to swim, but my daughter was alone amongst her group in being entirely new to the water, as other parents regaled with the time their kids had spent in the pool on various holidays that I’m still not sure how people with young children afford.
I’ve written little in the last two months. It seems that preparing for a new baby whilst also looking after a 3 year old and also doing my actual job is not conducive to finding time to write. My nesting instinct also truly kicked in during the last couple of months of my wife’s pregnancy, as I tried to get every possible job around the house complete before our boy arrived. I finally ticked the last item off my list the evening before the due date, and was a surprised as anyone when he hurried into this world at 3.50 am the next day, as if he sensed we were finally ready.
The birth couldn’t have been much more different than our daughter’s. She came into this world in an operating theatre, after seemingly endless trips to and from the hospital, as contractions stopped and started over the course of more than a week. Our boy, in contrast, was born less than twenty minutes after we walked through the hospital doors, barely more than an hour after I’d been asleep at home. A few minutes later leaving the house and it’s doubtful we would even have made it as far as the delivery ward.
It hurts more when it’s close to home. When lives are lost in faraway parts of the world, people on social media ask why we pay less attention to those tragedies than ones which happen nearby. And they’re right, of course, a human life is a human life, those who are close to us are not more valuable than any other. But the fact remains, whether it’s fair and just or not, that it hurts more when it’s close to home, when we can imagine it happening to us.
Manchester is not my home now, but it was for over a decade, from age 18. It is the place where I found my closest friends, some of whom live there still. It is the place that took a shy, miserable teenager, and showed him how joyful life could be. There was no better city to be a young music lover. My life in Manchester revolved around concerts, record shops and nightclubs, at venues from the tiny Star and Garter to, inevitably, the Manchester Arena.
I get a lot of people coming up to me for a chat when I’m with my daughter, so it wasn’t a surprise when we were sat in the cafe and a woman, perhaps in her sixties, wandered over to us. Her opening gambit was to stare at my daughter in a mildly unnerving manner, which worried me a little, but when she started talking to me it was the usual questions “what’s her name?”, “how old is she?” and so on. This woman had a tendency to repeat herself, and her memory seemed like it might to be starting to go a little, but it wasn’t the difficult conversation with the crazy stranger I had been concerned it might be.
A few minutes later, a man she was with, a little younger, wandered over too, his conversational skills consisting mainly of non-sequiters like “we’ve been to Derby on holiday”, but he was pleasant enough, and my daughter happily munched away on her croissant while I chatted with these strangers. Presently the man wandered off, and the woman seemed as if she was going to leave too, but changed her mind. She started to talk about the man, it becoming apparent he was her son. “He has that Aspergers, have you heard of it?” “It was hard, because they didn’t know for a long time” “It was hard”, she kept repeating.