The Way I See Things



R and I had a once-in-a-lifetime stay in the Hilton Hotel in Cardiff last night. At least, we're very much hoping never to repeat it. At about 10pm the fire alarm went off, with a klaxon noise broadcast very loudly into the room, followed by "Emergency! Emergency! Please evacuate the building! Do not use the lifts! This is not a drill!" - the whole thing repeated every few seconds, as we shoved feet into shoes, grabbed phones, and set off in search of the nearest staircase. By the time we found it the alarm had stopped, and there were other guests arriving back on our floor who told us that it was a false alarm. Shortly after we got back to our room the whole thing happened again. And then again.

By the fourth occasion we'd become severely disinclined to leave the room, but the alarm didn't stop, and as I pointed out to R the joke would be on us if we ignored it and burned to death, so: "I'll go," I said. "I need to hurl abuse at someone. If there really is a problem, I'll text you." In the end I didn't abuse anyone because the staircase went past the main alarm panels, which by then were being closely examined by four fire officers, and I found myself standing watching them as they yelled questions at a hotel manager, trying to hold a conversation above the truly appalling noise of the alarm. Eventually they noticed me, and one of the fire officers said they believed it to be a fault: "You're not in any immediate danger." The manager then said that guests were currently being offered free drinks in the bar, and as this room also had the advantage of being on the ground floor, R and I went down and sat with our drinks over a sudoku puzzle, until the execrable noise eventually stopped at around 11pm. By this time, I probably need hardly tell you, I was far too wired to sleep.

Given all this hoohah, I wasn't at my sunny best this morning, but the beaming smile we received from the Boy Wonder when we arrived back at his house after breakfast made everything fine again. We had another lovely day, with just one small hiccup when B woke up inconsolably distressed from his afternoon nap. For a few minutes I was genuinely worried that there might be something wrong with him, but R fetched him a glass of water and a cardamom bun from the Swedish café, and within minutes, like one of those dry flowers that unfurls in water, he changed back into a happy, busy, confiding little boy.

Back in 1986, a few weeks after R and I began seeing each other, he told me (warningly) that he didn't want children. "Oh, OK, " I said. "Got it." While thinking We'll see about that. Which we duly did, and it turned out that he loved being a Dad, and was pretty good at it. But I'm confident he'd say that being a Granddad is even better. I was sitting on a bench on the café decking when I took this, watching R and B chatting at the top of the steps down to the park, and I found the interaction between them quite charming. At this moment B was pointing out a small piece of grated cheese on the grooved planking, and R was explaining that it was fine to leave it there because some animal or bird would come along later and eat it, and that they'd be grateful for it.

We didn't know until this point that "cheese" was one of B's words, and we find it slightly perplexing that it's already entered his vocabulary, given that he doesn't particularly like cheese. But he's reached the stage of trying out new words and sounds much more readily, often echoing back something a grown-up says if it's not too difficult or it reminds him of something already knows, so maybe that's how cheese sneaked in. He's also started to use pitching for effect: for example, "more?" (as in, "May I have some more of that?") is a drawn-out syllable on a sharply upward inflection, that falls somewhere between Harry Secombe playing Mr Bumble, and Edith Evans doing "A haaaaandbag??!!", and which he's so confident his grown-ups will find funny that he often follows it with a cheeky grin. Yesterday he polished "more" even further, adding in a shrugging movement of the shoulders with his hands spread wide and his head tipped to one side, which was so perfectly judged that R nearly fell over laughing.

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