Some men wear caps indoors, and some women are plump and have a soft Scottish accent. This morning, in a kind of minor coincidence, I had both sitting next to me as I sat in a waiting room holding my five-month-old daughter, Jemima.
Before we go on, let me explain something: I am very British. I drink tea, and complain that the weather is ‘bitter’, and I tell people I’m fine even when I’ve broken a leg and a dog has pooped on my shoes. And, although I consider myself to be quite friendly, there are times when I just want my own space, and to be left alone with my own thoughts.
So there I am, sitting on a chair holding Jemima in front of me and bobbing her slowly up and down, her pudgy toes nudging my thighs. Cap-man (worst superhero ever) is to my right, and Plump Scot is sitting next to him. All is well.
And then Cap-man starts making this weird clicking sound, Jemima is laughing at him, and suddenly everything is weird. Before, I was having a nice moment with my daughter; now, I’m holding Jemima and it feels awkward because someone else has decided to invade my personal space. I feel like I can’t sit her down on my lap, lest my actions be misconstrued as rudeness, or like I want Cap-man to leave us alone (which I do, but for some reason I’m suddenly unable to move my arms). And so I sit there, motionless, brandishing my child and feeling like that monkey holding Simba at the start of The Lion King. Perhaps if I don’t say anything, he’ll lose interest.
No such luck: Cap-man is really getting into his stride now. ‘Whatchoo doing?’ he whispers over and over again, interspersed with yelps of ‘You telling me a story?’ as Jemima squeals and bubbles at him. I purse my lips at my daughter. Don’t encourage him, girl, I think.
‘Aye, she’s telling ye tae mind ye own besness,’ replies Plump Scot, with the laugh that only chubby people can do, a kind of throaty gurgle as her chuckling bosom bobs up and down.
Say something, urges my brain, and so I start talking about how Jemima’s not been well lately, and she’s not sleeping, but because I now have control over the silence I don’t want it to end, and so I waffle incessantly about anything which enters my mind. At one point I think I may have bemoaned the fact that in that particular light Jemima’s hair looked ginger, momentarily forgetting that Plump Scot was a redhead herself.
But at last, a reprieve. Cap-man and Plump Scot are called away by a nurse who takes a double-glance at my face as she leaves. Perhaps she saw my expression of relief, or perhaps she just fancied a piece. In hindsight, it’s probably the former.