“Oh Daddy, he is so tired” the mid 30’s woman looks at her husband with a mixture of ‘we’ve been married for years’ love and apathy, whilst holding a taught screaming baby.
“Well let him sleep…” Daddy replies, sounding as weary as the child is quite apparently feeling.
“You’ll have to sit over there” Mummy demands looking at the chair on the opposite side of the carriage. She then looks at Daddy conveying ‘don’t mess with me right now, if you do our child will have a very traumatic and unhappy childhood and I will never have sex with you again’ in a single simple glance. Mummy wears the trousers, especially after the pain and suffering of child birth only four months ago to bare him a son as she insisted on telling him and everyone else as they got onto the 9.35 train from Euston to Manchester. “Go on… move; our little prince needs his space to sleep.”
Daddy moves with his Financial Times to the opposite chair like a man beaten before a battle has begun. He looks at the three men already sat where he joins them; all three make some kind of effort to act like they haven’t seen the whole conversation, the train journey soap opera as it unfolds. The man sat next to him looks absentmindedly out of the window; he is around 50 money to burn with both an iPod in his ears and an iPhone in front of him. He has no wedding ring. Daddy imagines him to be a bachelor, has a penthouse in Chelsea and sees children as a hindrance to his happy spoilt life. He’s not far wrong for the business man in question has been glaring at the shrieking child for the last five minutes.
The man in front of Daddy has been desperately trying to get some shut eye too from a night of drunken debauchery and if Daddy is not mistaken he can still smell the beer on him. It’s been too long since he was last allowed a beer, Mummy would kill him, he almost tuts forgetting that Mummy is sat next to him and frantically turning off the over head lights and shoving a Winnie the Pooh blanket over babies head, ‘our little prince clearly needs the dark to sleep too’ Daddy thinks.
Over his Financial Times he catches the eye of the man opposite, mid twenties, who has been watching the whole thing whilst multi-tasking reading a new hardback novel and making notes of some kind. He smiles looking slightly embarrassed, Daddy smiles back feeling embarrassment of another kind. The baby finally appears to be asleep, Mummy is engrossed in ‘The Perfectly Well Rounded and Happy Baby” or such like that Mummy has seemed to by a bookshop of. Daddy gets engrossed in the latest mergers and acquisitions.
“Daddy” snaps Mummy.
“Eh?” Daddy had forgotten baby and Mummy were even on the train, he was back to those stress free journeys up and down the country for meetings. He had hated them then what he would give to have them now.
“Daddy aren’t you listening to Mummy?”
“What time did he go to sleep?”
“Sorry?” He isn’t sure whether this is a trap.
“What time did he go to sleep?”
“Erm” he feigns looking at his watch, he hasn’t a clue, looking at Mummy’s piercing eyes “…about 5 minutes ago.”
“More or less” as soon as the words come from his mouth he knows he had made a mistake, he can almost see the steam coming from Mummy’s ears.
“More or less, I’m sorry? Did you just say more or less?”
“I would say” he looks at his watch as the sweat starts to appear on his forehead “at 9.42.”
“Would you say 9.42 exactly?”
“No.” There is a temporary silence at this point.
“Do you care about this child?” Mummy is clearly furious she gets a worn notebook from her handbag; her voice rises with the following sentence. “I need to keep an exact log of the times he sleeps and wakes. So far he hasn’t had enough. All I ask is you take an interest… don’t you try and interrupt me. This is our son, this is his future, and his childhood is so precious. You don’t care do you, you just don’t care?”
The book is thrown in front of him. The daily lists of the last four months sleep patterns. In the action of throwing the book and her raised voice at such a pitch Mummy has now woken the baby who starts to scream at a slightly higher octave than his mother. She grabs the baby, kisses him, murmurs words of love, he screams louder. She holds him like a bomb ready to go off and looks at Daddy. Daddy looks back helpless.
“Look at what you did.” Mummy hands baby to Daddy biting her lip in sheer vexation at her lesser half. “Take him and walk him around and calm him down. I think you can do that? Go on, off you go. Mummy needs some time alone.” She buries herself back in ‘The Baby That Never Cries’ or whichever title it is and refuses to make eye contact with Daddy, he no longer exists not until he has done as he has been told. She feels she is looking after two babies, the biggest being the most irritating.
Daddy holds the baby and gets ready to take him on a walk up and down the carriage, baby is still screaming. As Daddy manoeuvres round the table he catches the eye of the mid twenties guy over his book. His eyes say ‘good luck’ Daddy looks back eyes saying ‘I’ll need it, its going to be one of those days’. Mummy starts a new chapter ‘How Many Naps Are Too Many for Baby’ and gets comfortable pen in hand ready to make notes. She will get this right.
The man in his mid twenties was me; this all happened – the actions and the speech not the background of the thoughts and characters – on the train this morning on my way to Manchester. The notes being written were the ones I was making on the couple as it was so human and so real I knew I would want to remember it. So real, it almost seems unreal.
I regaled this story to Alice when I got indoors with a nice cup of tea. ‘Simon you nosey sod’ Alice said laughing at me.
“It’s not nosey, its observational, and its research.” That’s my defence and I am sticking to it!