Thoughts on becoming a dad…

All going well, I’ll be a dad in about five months. I can’t say that I’m delighted. I can’t say that, because that’s a deeply inadequate way of describing how I feel. Rather, I’m effervescent. Yes, that works much better.

Getting to this point hasn’t been easy. That’s why I’m so unbearably smug about it. I shouldn’t be, really, because five months, each packed with devastating potential, still lie ahead of us. I can almost see them, stretching out like an unintelligible map of a longed-for destination. I’d just like to enjoy the fact that, right now, in this moment, I’m going to be a dad.

It’s funny really because I wasn’t always convinced that I wanted to be a dad. I was happily bumbling through life, living week to week, year to year, lazily content. My life was quietly unremarkable. It still is.

One day, a chemical change took place within me. I needed to have a child. I wanted – desperately – to look into the face of a person that is the beautifully imperfect fusion of Isabel and me. Our good bits, our bad bits (heck, it’s inevitable), us. Writing this, even now, makes my eyes fizz with emotion. That’s how badly I want this. This probably all sounds rather selfish. That’s because it is. Well, strictly speaking, it is and it isn’t. I’ll explain why.

When Isabel and I got married, I made a speech. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I over prepare for everything. Everything. This means that I took this duty very seriously indeed. I’m not the kind of person who Googles ‘Groom’s speech’, nicks a template and adds in their own bits. No. I thought long (too long) about what I should say. I wanted it to be authentic.

When it came to the bit where I had to talk about Isabel, I got a bit stuck. This isn’t because I didn’t know what to say but because I didn’t know how to distil how I feel about Isabel into words that would do her and my emotions justice. In the end I settled for: ‘Isabel’s the most beautiful person I know’. That probably sounds a little hollow. It isn’t. I genuinely believe this. Why? Because if everyone was like Isabel (me included) the world would be a better place. Ok, ok, I’ll give you an example of why it’s true.

We used to live in Bristol. This meant that, twice, every week day, Isabel would walk across Bristol bridge to get to work. Sat up against the side of the bridge was a homeless man. He sat there every day. Most commuters ignored him and walked past him. Isabel didn’t. She stopped, each day, and talked to him. She learned his name. She took the time to learn about the desperately chaotic life that had led to him sitting by the bridge. She knew, by the state that he was in each morning, whether he’d managed to get into a shelter the night before. She bought him food, bandages (for his ulcerated legs) and (non-alcoholic) drinks. Sometimes he wasn’t there. When this happened she worried about him. When he reappeared, she asked where he’d been and, oftentimes, consoled him.

I only found out about this by accident. When I did, it made me love Isabel more than ever. I added it to my speech because I wanted people to know about it. Things like this are what make Isabel a beautiful person. My hope is that, our child, will be full of this innate kindness. That he or she will create and continue this beautiful legacy. I want to be part of making that happen. Heck, I guess it is rather selfish after all.

So, right now, I’m going to be a dad. I couldn’t wish for anything more.


Karmic kindness

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Plato (427 BC – 347 BC)

It was a rainy afternoon in Kyoto. We were lumbering down a long road towards the train station, our jeans heavy with rain. We’d long given up hope of keeping dry. We held hands but didn’t talk. Neither of us wanted to be the first to say that we weren’t having a very nice time. Then it happened.

Out of the cement-grey day she emerged. Her smile was the first thing that we noticed. She thrust her umbrella into my wife’s hand and, before we could say anything, she turned and walked quickly into the rain. Not a single word was uttered but we’d shared a moment of pure communication.  It feels daft to admit it but this event is probably one of the kindest gestures that I’ve ever experienced and I’ll remember it forever.

The world can be a pretty horrible place at times and we’re capable of some pretty horrendous things. As I said in my last post, I’ve stopped listening to Radio 4 in the mornings because I can’t bear the gloom. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hide from what’s going on; I just don’t like starting my day being reminded about how truly crap everything can be.

Moments like the one I started this post with make life magical. They remind us of how instinctively lovely we can be to each other and they spread like a benign contagion. When I’m not brimming with the milk of human kindness (it happens) I try to think about that rainy afternoon in Kyoto and remember that I can make someone’s day through a gesture that’s insignificant to me but hugely important to someone else. Whether you realise it or not, everyone’s fighting their own battles, it’s just that some are easier to spot than others. If you think someone needs help and you’re tempted to help them, go ahead and help them. These random acts of humanity are a form of karmic kindness. They’re karmic because they inspire future kindnesses that someone will never forget. I like to think that I don’t need to thank the kind lady in Kyoto for her overwhelming generosity but the person who was kind to her.