What.

According to philosopher and post-Freudian psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, a child, between the age of six to eighteen months’, will enter the Mirror Stage; putting it bluntly, during this phase, the child begins to identify with its own image, not that it has any facility to put this into any rational context, of course. Prior to this the child is merely its mother, it has no sense of anything outside of this though, gradually, what Lacan called ‘The Real’ will fragment, a child will have awareness of erogenous zones via its being fed and cleansed and ‘the mother’ will disperse into a gaze, a breast, a voice rather than an entire entity. This is all well and good but what about his dear old dad, eh?

The truth of the matter is that dad isn’t really of much use in the first six months outside of ensuring the mother isn’t getting too shitfaced on Negroamaro. Sure, he can change the odd nappy and feed the odd bottle, but when the nappy winds up shit-side down at the end of the babybay and the bottle remains full following an hour of screaming tears, mother will gladly step in and help old dad out.

What he can do (when he’s not working) is push a pram and because he’s managed to sire a child who is healthy and rather beautiful, he can push the pram with a certain degree of swagger, even if he doesn’t look, well, responsible enough to have kids.

Of course I’m not the only man in the world to have long hair with a few metal/biker trimmings, it’s just that there are less of us than people with short hair without metal/biker accoutrements. To be honest if it was just the Motorhead Tee and a couple of skull rings I’d probably be able to slip in behind the dying breed of hipsters and posers that populate East London, but the hair (and to a lesser extent the beard, these days) is the assumption nail in the judgement coffin. Now it’s perfectly clear to all and sundry that this metal/bike shit is way out of control, therefore I shouldn’t be allowed to have kids because I obviously worship at the cloven feet of the Horned-One.

Whilst that may sound like an exaggeration in my neck of the woods, people will make obvious attempts to peer into the pram to make sure I’m not wheeling round bits of old bicycle or a dead pig. When they see a perfectly normal (albeit a rather comely) baby the expression of relief/joy on their faces is a site to behold, like they’ve just discovered it’s best to first remove the trousers before taking a shit.

Generally speaking, though, London is broadminded enough to cope with us. This was put into some sort of context on a recent sojourn to south Italy, people would stop and stare open-mouthed, some barely disguising visceral contempt. The lady leaving her seat on the plane is one thing, people getting out of swimming pools and changing tables in dining rooms is another. More than anything this sort of reaction was more tedious than unsettling, we returned fire with a ‘what are you fucking staring at’ attitude which obviously made things worse, though this ludicrous deadlock usually broke once we’d scooped the kid out the pram for a feed or a bloody good cuddling. You could read it in their faces, “maybe… maybe they’re like us after all.”

I’ve yet to test the good folk in these green and pleasant lands outside the capital, say Harrogate or Chipping Norton for the sake of argument, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I, we, were cajoled into a giant whicker haircut by bitter churchwardens before being lawfully immolated by racist Barristers as the townsfolk mistakenly chanted ‘kill the pig, bash them in’. Yep, that would almost definitely happen.

Plane

I was about to press ‘flush’ but the second whack to my face put the situation into some sort of ironic perspective. ‘Get the glasses out first,’ I said at volume, ’get the glasses out first…’ 

This was in response to one aspect of a heap of all the things I’d never anticipated when travelling with a baby, way after the shock of the sheer quantity of additional luggage we’d have to carry. The better half and I are used to kicking a rucksack under the plane seat and ordering more wine, not teetering up and down stairs en route to the departure lounge with a pram, four overweight bags and a screaming child after dropping off a car-sized suitcase at check-in recently relieved of a bunch of electronic ephemera because it was three kilos overweight. 

In all fairness this lack of our understanding of howitworkswithababyonaplane wasn’t entirely our fault. No one tells you anything and you’re so busy sticking to a schedule and sorting all the things conducive to travelling that you don’t think to ask until it’s in your face. Take the pram for example, I didn’t know you had to physically hand it to a man on the tarmac before boarding and that you’d have no idea were to find it post-landing. Indeed, on the three flights we took it was in three different mystery locations on landing that needed skilfully seeking out.

As for the baby on the plane, he flies for free so he doesn’t get a seat. Instead he’s expected to sit on a lap, held fast by a strap that attaches to the buckle of the parent holding him. This is all well and dandy for 20 minutes but after an hour the kid becomes a crushing weight that kills all feeling to the lower legs so when you finally free yourself of the charge to go for a piss your legs don’t  work and you’re floundering in the aisle like an utter arsehole with accusing eyes peering up at you from little blue chairs, the same eyes that were petrified with fear when we boarded the plane in case we were going to sit by them.

I’ll be blunt, children under the age of ten shouldn’t be allowed on planes, especially babies, so you thought I’d have been sympathetic to my fellow passengers as we approached them babe-in-arms searching for our seats. Far from it, I took great care to give the impression I was going to sit down right next to them and did nothing to dissuade the little boy from griping and moaning either, I even thrust him toward the ones that look particularly offended at the sight of a long-haired, tattooed man brandishing a small infant. The lady sat in the aisle seat in our row didn’t even wait to find out if the kid was about to blow or not, she just took off and sat as far away as possible, the bastard.

So there I am an hour into the flight wobbling to the toilet to change the little fella following a cacophonous evacuation that blew shit out both sides of his nappy. You may have noticed the baby change board housed sink-side in any given aircraft khazi, having been freed from its moorings it sits about two feet over the steel toilet, handy for changing a baby, hinderance if you need to micturate. Its not as if you can just put the baby on the floor/in the sink and re-patriate the board- so, if you need to pee, you have to contort yourself in such a way that your relative part is in the vicinity of the bog before pushing out the offending fluid with enough pressure and conviction to ensure it reaches its target. The correct position means that your face is practically level with the changing board, great for keeping an eye on your charge, not so good when he kicks you in the fucking face, knocking the glasses off your nose and dropping them into the loo that you’re currently filling with hot piss. 

Despite this, it’s worth noting his behaviour was impeccable on the three flights we took over the fortnight. The hire car was a different story.

Marks and Sleep

I went to M&S shortly after we’d got home feeling like I’d spent three sleepless days after a weekend tripping on blotters. Sleep deprivation does that to a person, The Surrealists experimented with the phenomena in order to engage with hidden realities, I thought about this as I wandered about an empty M&S like a ghost; it was just after nine a.m., watery shards of spring sunshine picked out fine clouds of dust that swirled over the racks and rails of taciturn slacks and empty blouses. I was trying to find the baby/child area, a zone hitherto unknown to me. I wondered if Max Ernst had ever tried to buy clothes for babies before realising I was being stared-at by two employees, both greying ladies of a certain age and weight. Suddenly feeling like I’d done something wrong I yawned directly at them with the intention of displaying that I was, in fact, a knackered newdad and not some long-haired pervert with a thing for sheepskin slippers.

A short while later I found a load of baby-grows and tiny hats. I’d been ordered by the Sposa to get some vests, so I began to search in and among the tiny apparel for ‘vests’. The shop assistants had followed me to this place, both were pretending to do something but I could feel their pink-eyes burning into the back of my head. I had to confront this head on.

“Look..” I said, almost making myself jump, “where are the vests for babies? Baby vests?” My eyes creaked in their sockets as I searched vacant faces for an answer to my question.
“We don’t have no baby vests, Dear, only the ones that do up underneath.” She glared at me with a turned-down mouth that’d been inaccurately primed with plum-coloured lipstick.
“I don’t know. Where can I get vests from? My wife said we need them.”
“How old is the baby?” Said the other one. Loads of light-blue eyeshadow, should I say something?
“Now. New. Day.” I was shutting down fast, I couldn’t be pissed with any of this I just wanted to go to sleep. The first one turned and grabbed three little packets each containing a white garment. “This is what you need, Dear. Come with me to the till…”

One of her shoes squeaked as she marched off, I could hear the soft swish of polyester sliding over nylon, I followed her talcum powdered atmosphere like I was mechanical, in my mind’s eye I was walking like a playschool robot.

I paid and left in silence. In stark contrast to the bustling streets the melancholy ambience of the M&S shop had had an oddly cathartic effect on me, I drifted home feeling like I’d left something behind whilst being reminded by a voice within that I was, in fact, ‘a dad’ and was returning home to my wife and son. ‘Wife AND son.’ I’d still not got over the whole ‘wife’ thing let alone the ‘son’ part. The whole thing was ridiculous. And I’d failed to get vests.

Oh, she meant these anyway.

Nice one.

Born to Lose. Live to Wean

At the beginning of 2016, on a relatively infrequent visit to the gym, I was on the fast-walking-thing listening to Orgasmatron. Actually it was the running machine but I can’t run on it because of my hopeless lower back, so there I was, all sweaty, gently entering into that zone when the music and adrenalin converge and make about fifty seconds of the three quarters-of-an-hour session rather beautiful. My imagination, saturated with Motörhead and the impending birth of my little boy, suddenly found itself at the bedside of the Sposa just after he’d been delivered. What followed was a full-on daydream beyond my control, I gathered my son up into my arms and cried ‘he’s alive, HE’S ALIVE!’ and held him aloft to open skies against the din of the music blasting into my ears. Without warning all of the emotions I could’ve imagined conspired against my physical self and I slapped the emergency ‘stop’ button on the machine for fear of wobbling onto the floor in a state of projected distress. I felt like a right tit at the time but later that day, when I remembered what’d fleetingly occurred, I realised that if I’d been listening to Hootie and the Blowfish, say, that couldn’t have happened.

Music is a very personal thing to some people -I say ‘some people’, there are a vast number of weird folk who really don’t care what they listen to- and in my case my preferred music, my affliction, is a largely blinkered adoration of (very) heavy metal and punk (and occasionally R.E.M). This irreversible condition of ‘metal’ began at a very young age and has continued into the present. I’ve no doubt I’m sat where I am because of it, that if I’d liked Motown, Jazz or Limp Bizkit I’d be elsewhere; whether that be a good or a bad thing isn’t pertinent, it’s merely a fact of life, like if I’d not gone to school or chosen the guitar over the trumpet.

The simple fact is that HM (I’m going to call it ‘HM’ herein because it saves paper) has an effect upon me in ways not dissimilar to that of those found at the extreme end of the pleasure spectrum, most obviously drink, drugs, sex and to a lesser extent, pain. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that combining HM with these things can have explosive (and occasionally fatal) consequences, so let us just take HM in its purest, unadulterated form, for the time being at least.

I also know that the reality of physically giving birth, or watching it happen dad-side, isn’t anything you can imagine unless you’re actually there. And there is nothing you, or I, can do about that.