Wednesday 19 March 2014


How lovely to watch the little ones as they try to make sense of the world. It is something which I have always done but, retired, I am giving it even more time. When you think of what has to be learned in order simply to function in an every-day life, the mind has to boggle. How much has to be learned and how much can be known through instinct? How long does it take to be sure that someone will come if you scream? How do you acquire that skill? How fortunate are those whose carer will take the trouble to interpret the screams. (I resisted the impulse to write 'Mother'. I am aware of the obligation to watch out for political correctness though I am not brilliant at it.) I remember taking the risk of approaching a young mother who dragged her three-year-old son from the restaurant where we all lunching because he threw a tantrum when she obliged him to sit, not next to her where she had installed her baby, but next to his Grandmother whose perfume had already caused me to break out in a fit of sneezing. When I came up to her she was standing by her car with the child inside. I expressed the hope she wouldn't hit me or call the Police and pointed out how limited were her son's resources. He couldn't say "You've gone and got another baby instead of me and I can't stand the way Grandma smells." He could only produce the kind of tantrum that makes the fondest parent wonder what on earth they had done in the interest of procreation. Her eyes filled with tears and she said that she had never thought of that. This interfering old lady went on her way with  intervention neither from the law nor the fist.

I see the little ones eyeing my stick as they are pushed passed me. Do they think some big people have three legs? I believe I have told you before about the little one on his Father's knee outside a cafe who was staring at a neighbouring dog. I waited for as long as I dared for Father to say "That's a dog. Say 'hello' to the nice dog". It didn't happen. I am in awe of the expedience babies use in cracking this-business-of-living code. Someone I knew as a child has a French father and a British mother. He solved the two-language problem by speaking French to men and English to women. One baby I knew would say "Carry you. Carry you" because that's what was said to him each time he was about to be picked up. What process did he go through to learn he needed the second not the third person? For a long time, a little boy of my acquaintance called any food he could hold in his hand 'apple', because a segment of that fruit was the first thing he was aware of feeding to himself. I watch my cat intently because she has even more complex communication skills than a baby. If I am at home when she deposits solid matter in the litter tray she scarcely covers it up. If I am out it is very thoroughly hidden. This can be only because she has learned that, if I am on hand, I will clear it up forthwith. For those of you in Mountview California, I should explain that London taxi drivers have to undergo what is called 'The Knowledge'. Every street, every building of interest, every station has to be committed to memory. Can you imagine, in a city that size? It beggars belief. Still, if a baby can do the equivalent, so can they. Bore da.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for another brilliant expose of everday life