One problem with my 9am-2pm slot looking after the baby (or maybe an advantage, as far as my wife was concerned) was that all the baby groups happened within it. I (sort of) dreaded them. But every day we were woken up by our baby at 6am or earlier; by 9 (allegedly), my wife would be working and I’d be desperate to get out of the flat – in E Wing of the German Hospital, Bruno Court, as Hackney Council called it.
In those days, Dalston wasn’t very good on cafes; it WAS good on pubs, but the thought of them, with a baby… Besides, they weren’t open at 9am.
There were 2 baby groups, Mapledene and Sure Start at the Ann Tayler Centre; I thought the latter was better because a) you didn’t have to cross Queensbridge Road with a buggy and b) it involved a walk through London Fields. In daytime, that is. London Fields by night was still an unknown quantity. I once went to the Pub On The Park for a drink with – who did I even go for drinks with then? (Andrew Todd? Andy Sloane? Daniel Scott?) I lingered over a 2nd pint – only to find IT HAD GOT DARK! That was a problem because, when approached from the north (down Greenwood Road and left into Richmond Road), it involved a walk ACROSS THE PARK. No-one did that at nighttime, in those days…
So, back when I only had one son, I used to take him every week to the Ann Tayler Centre. I can’t for the life of me remember what we did there. (Headway reminds me of it, the East London branch. Just a place to go! If you were alright in the head, not baby braindead or just plain braindead, you wouldn’t even…) One week I just ‘forgot’ to go to Ann Tayler – too scrambled. And that was the week that Tony Blair came on an ‘impromptu’ visit! It was right in that ‘dodgy dossier’ phase and I (think I) would have asked a tricky question (or at least thought about it…). But I wasn’t there! That missed opportunity somehow finished Ann Tayler off for me. (That and residual annoyance at the misspelling, as I saw it, of Tayler. I was a part-time sub…)
A few weeks later a body was found in a suitcase IN THE GARDEN of the Ann Tayler Centre. (But apparently there’s no trace of the story on the internet. Did I make it up? Or was it too run of the mill?) The tide had now turned in favour of Essex. Before our 2nd son was born, we decided to move from the German Hospital to Mistley, lock, stock and bagel (as the New York bagel shop put it). We rented out a room in the flat to Sharron (double ‘r’), who later locked herself out, clad only in her towel. (It was a Sunday night and I had to drive up from Essex, 80 minutes, let her in again, drive back to Essex. Ffs…)
Our 2nd son was born not in Homerton but in Ipswich Hospital, at 4pm in the afternoon, very civilised. Two hours earlier we’d been in the cafe at Mistley when the contractions had started. And we were home that night. We watched Blanche Fury on tv, I remember… It rained torrentially. My wife’s sister had been in attendance and the following morning, when she drove back to Maidenhead, my elder son (at 2) asked why she wasn’t taking HER baby with her. He unconsciously wanted to remain an only child. He was disappointed, in that respect. The expressions of the brothers in the elder son’s first school photograph reveal the same thing (the younger son was 2 and he was 4): one beams – he’s got it all! The other looks resigned.