Fire safety and baby

There’s a little flat in Whitechapel where I spent many an evening dreaming. My best friend lived there. We would stay up all night, sometimes in company, sometimes just the two of us. We would take out the pieces of each other that needed polishing, and carefully put them back in the right places. When she moved out I wrote a sad poem to Squintles, her lonely sofa, on whom I had slept so many nights, the silent recipient of my night thoughts and bits of my skin and my tears.

She moved to Catford and has tenants in the flat now. That flat is too small for a baby, and her baby is getting bigger by the day. But today, hungover Al went and met her in the downstairs corridor. My job; entertain the baby while she worked out how to do a fire test on the cryptic fire safety equipment she has had installed.

Just as there is an industry in making some user interfaces logical and intuitive, so is there an industry in making others counterintuitive and arcane. You have to run a test once a week on this nonsense. Once a month it needs a full check up. If the interface is completely incomprehensible, then it guarantees that their engineers get paid to run the service. My friend was trying to do her weekly test. At first I tried to help her, but she snapped me down. “I spend my life having men stop me doing this sort of thing. I want to do it. You look after the baby.” So I did, and she got on with it. Too many buttons.


I didn’t necessarily feel I was in the right place to look after the baby. She is so small, so innocent, so pure. I was sweating wine and guilt after staying up most of Sunday night with my festival friends. Still, we found some games to play that didn’t involve me getting a headache. She understands space better than last time I saw her. Peekaboo can happen. A month ago it did nothing for her. Now it’s hilarious.

I spent a bit of time with this amazing baby, got to know her a bit better, this whole new person that I can pick up so easily. I discovered that she loves having her socks put on. And I struck a deal with her mum that after Green Man I’ll try to take her on Sunday mornings for an hour or so, so she can go to Zumba, or do some writing.

We are still dreaming, the mum and I, but this new life in her life changes the game. We are both still up all night and tired in the day, but the reasons are very different.

I’m so struck by this journey that she has undertaken, and the grace with which she’s done it. Babies are as incomprehensible as these crappy interfaces, and you can’t call an engineer. She’s worked out so much, and is still somehow finding time to write, although not as much as she needs. If I come and play with the baby once a week I think it’ll do us both good. Me to connect and play with someone so uncomplicated and innocent. She to have a bit of unworried time in which to create. And the baby to have another rumbly voiced bemused man whose glasses are detachable.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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