"I've been wondering," says Anne, in a worried voice, "how we are ever going to fit our new baby into this house." I reply, slightly aggrieved, that if we can find space for a life-size cut out of Jimmy Osmond, then surely
we can manage to make room for a very small new-born baby.
In fact Anne is only giving voice to the vague doubts which have been bothering me ever since we started
our preparations for the new arrival. In our house, especially at weekends when we are all at home, it is impossible to move any distance at all wihout knocking into, or tripping over, something or somebody. I cannot help wondering how our poor infant
will survive its first few fragile months in such a environment.
The trouble is that our house has not expanded with our family; in my more melodramatic moments - pregnant
women are uncommonly prone to melodrama - I often imagine that our home is visibly shrinking around me, a conviction which cannot be shaken by reasoned expositions on the stability of bricks and mortar.
The problem remains: where can we put our youngest where he or she will be out of harm's way yet still be part of family life? So far only two suggestions have been put to me.
One is the theory that the carrycot would fit exactly on the top of the radiogram in the corner of our living room. While this might well do wonders for our baby's musical development, it is an idea which has not been favourably
received by my two eldest daughters; at present they have a plasticine farmyard, patiently modelled over several Saturday afternoons, occupying pride of place in that particular corner. One has to get one's priorities straight!
The other scheme, wildly impractical but one which holds a certain appeal for me, is that we should string up some kind of a hammock affair in one corner, high enough to be out of reach of the mis-thrown bricks and tipped over tea
cups which I fear so much.
Our preparations, in general, aren't very well advanced. On the midwife's list of requirements it suggests that everything should be "conveniently ready" two months
before the baby is expected; with less than a month to go, the only items I am reasonably sure I could lay my hands on at a moment's notice are the two empty jam jars.
Our daughters are as well prepared
for the event as possible. Anne and Hilary, who have been through all this before, are extremely blase about the whole affair. Little Nan, until now very much the baby of the family, is less convinced about the desirability of the addition to the fold. Her
main concern, at the moment, is stabilising her own position.
"The new baby," she says, thoughtfully, "can't walk." "No, it can't do that," I say.
"Nan can walk!" comes the happy reminder. Two minutes later: "The new baby" (with a gentle thump on my bump) "can't talk!" "It certainly can't," I agree.
"Nan can talk!" is the blissful response.
Poor Little Nan. She cannot figure out why her father and I, blessed as we are with a walking, talking model, should have considered adding such a patently useless member to the family.
The naming of the baby is presenting problems too. As anyone knows who has had to choose a name for anything, from a house to a boat to a baby, it is hard enough to get two people to reach a peaceable agreement, let alone
"What about Seraph?" Anne asks, inspired.
"Where on earth did you get that from?" I ask, enchanted. "It's from the Christmas carol,
you KNOW, Mummy - Thus spake the seraph and forthwith.." Lovely indeed, I say, but perhaps a bit hard to live up to? Anne is disappointed.
"What about Cinderella, or Snow White, or Sleeping Beauty?"
suggests Hilary, who lives in a fairy-tale world all of her own. I don't think so, I say gently, wondering if she can get her tongue round Rumpelstiltskin.
"Dougal! Rupert" Andy Pandy! calls Little
Nan, who has no idea what we are talking about but is determined to name a few heroes of her own.
"Looby Lou," shrieks Anne, seeing the funny side. After that the conversation grows progressively sillier....
Later, after watching "Crystal Tipps and Alistair" on the television, and trying to ignore the fact that I am running their bath water, the three girls come to an unanimous decision.
"If it's a girl," they declare, "We want to call her Crystal."
I scrabble around for a good reason that I have not used before. I have turned down so many of
their suggestions that they are beginning to look on me rather sourly. Anne unwittingly provides me with the necessary ammunition:
"What an absolutely beautiful name!" she enthuses, "CRYSTAL BALL!"
Slough Evening Mail: January 1973