Allow me to reminisce briefly about a funny thing that happened to me one early morning thirty years ago. I was born! I climbed out of another human being’s body! Mental, right? Now I’m not going to claim that I remember any details from the day of my birth, because that would be an obvious lie, wouldn’t it? but I do clearly remember this: that when the midwife put me on the scales for the first time in that delivery room, she turned to my knackered looking mum and said, ‘Your son weighs 6 pounds and 2 ounces, which is quite tiny. Also – and I’ve never had to tell a new mother this before – half of that body weight is made up of thick, dark hair.’
To which my mother responded chirpily from just above the rim of her cup of tea, ‘Yea, that’ll be the Indian in him.’
Everyone gathered round was just about to chuckle politely, when a moment of silence descended for them to quickly ask themselves whether my mum’s little quip had been politically correct or not, everyone coming to the same conclusion: that this was the early 80s and we were in South London, so who really gave a shit? Also my mum’s granddad had been an Indian immigrant to Britain, so she was allowed to make comments like that, alright? Also, she never really said it, did she? This whole scenario up until now has been, if I’m truthful, made up as I go along. Why? Who knows? So yea, once everybody in the room had realised all of these things, they each allowed themselves a grin, before stopping what they were doing for a moment to enjoy a biscuit, picked from an assortment atop a plate that a passing ambulance driver had carried in to the room just seconds earlier.
‘I was just on my way home with this tray of biscuits, when I heard the screams of a newborn and followed my instincts (and my ear) to deliver this celebratory selection to the welcoming party! Congratulations!’ the nice man said.
A hospital orderly then handed everyone a fresh cup of tea, for biscuits to be dipped in. My dad politely turned down his offering, however, preferring instead to dip a Custard Cream in his beer. Each to their own. And then the hairy newborn baby in the room (the hairy newborn baby that was me, remember) raised his tiny little finger into the air, cleared his tiny little throat, and asked in a voice that shocked people by how deep it was for a baby, ‘What about the welcomee? Doesn’t he get a biscuit, too? I could murder a Bourbon.’
Everyone looked at each other confusedly, saying nothing, before their minds were put to rest by the calming words of one of the doctors in the room, who said, ‘Don’t worry; he’ll grow into that voice one day.’
There was then a period of silence; a silence that was broken by my mum asking, ‘Can the same be said of the hair, doctor?’
The doctor’s words on this occasion were less reassuring: ‘Even if your son grew to the size of André the Giant, which he won’t, he will never grow into all that hair.’
This cultural reference worked better then that it would today because in 1983 everyone on the planet (mostly) knew who André the Giant was. Today, not so much. Today in a similar situation the doctor might say, ‘Even if your son grew to the size of Wikipedia, which he won’t, he will never grow into all that hair.’
Everyone just smiled silently at the doctor’s knowledgeable input; everyone except for the passing ambulance driver, that is, who broke the silence for the second time to say, ‘Hang on a minute! Is that what everyone thought was weird about the baby asking for a Bourbon – that he asked for it in a deep non-baby like voice? Not one of your confused expressions was brought on by the mere fact that the newborn baby just spoke? I thought we were all on the same page back then! Obviously not!’
My dad then uttered his first words of the occasion, saying, ‘Runs in the family, that. I been speaking since about three weeks before birth. Nothing weird about that.’
The ambulance driver was lost for words, literally, and so just shook everybody’s hand and left the scene.
‘I never knew that about you!’ my mum said to my dad, after the ambulance driver had shut the door behind him.
‘That’s because it’s not true!’ he replied, ‘How could I have been talking from before I was born? I can’t believe that worked!’
The midwife then tapped my dad on the shoulder and asked, ‘What was the point of making that up?’ to which my dad uttered his now infamous words, ‘I just said it without thinking first.’
‘Genius,’ said the hairy newborn baby, ‘Genius.’
The hospital orderly collected up everyone’s empty mugs on a tray – she also took my dad’s empty can and said she’d find a bin for it – and then the midwife picked up the hairy newborn baby (aka Me) and said, ‘Right you, you’re coming with me!’
‘Where’s he off to, then?’ my mum asked.
‘Remember I said that he weighed 6 pounds and 2 ounces, and that that was quite tiny? Well it’s very tiny; probably down to the fact that he wasn’t meant to be born for another three weeks,’ the midwife explained, whilst giving me a little beanie hat and telling me to put it on; which I did obediently.
‘Is that why he’s a bit blue?’ asked my dad from across the room.
‘It is, yes.’
‘Ah that’s alright then, for a while I was secretly wrestling with the suspicion that my wife had been having a Smurf round the house while I was at work,’ my dad said. ‘So where’s he going then? You still didn’t tell us.’
‘Oh yea, sorry, I’m a forgetful thing sometimes,’ said the midwife, giggling, ‘He’s going to live in an incubator for a while.’
‘Oh. Okay then,’ my mum said, ‘Can you turn the light off on your way out, please, I’m about ready to pass out.’
The midwife picked me up and we headed to the door together. Just before she switched off the light she said to me, ‘Wave goodbye to your mum, if you don’t die then you’ll see her in a little while.’
‘Wait! What?’ said the hairy baby.
I didn’t die, and a week later I was taken home to meet the family dog.