Baby in Stratford

I have never held a baby for so long before.

Yesterday I went into that decayed flat, moving stagnant air, parsing papers, remembering the past. A place of death. An ending. I needed this for contrast.

Today I went to Stratford and I held a baby. A place of life and renewal. A beginning. Four months old. I have never met her before, even if I have been sent videos. Last time I tried to actually see her, mummy had Covid. We spoke, but I was outside and she was shouting out the window.

Today I drove the van with all the baby stuff in it. I’m likely gonna do this job for cost. This is my best friend and her family. They’re going up to Stratford for six whole months. What a wonderful thing.

Back when this job offer was made I know she was worried. A new baby and childcare and all the unknowns. I’m good at trying to be impartial but I remember it bursting out of me to beg her to try to make it work with the baby. The part. The company. Fuck. I have wanted to work up here forever but if I can’t at least I can do it vicariously through her. As a young actor I wrote them some of the most sincere but mawkish letters they’ve ever had. Maybe one day I’ll get a meeting. Maybe not.

Minnie is going to be here at the RSC for something like six months this time. She did two years before, when we were younger. She’s playing a consistent part through many of the histories. Margaret. It’s going to be off the scale good. We all went up to Stratford today, with me behind the wheel of the rented van.

The upheaval has been hard for her eldest girl, so I ended up holding the youngest while they focused on her. We were together for a long time, that little one and I. We got to know each other.

I was in one of those Waterside houses that the actors stay in – just opposite the RST. I’ve slept many nights in them over the years. I wonder how many of them I’ve been in… Usually I’ve been post show, swept up in the breakdown and whirl. Companionably drunk, as often as not. In the company of contemporaries. Sometimes when younger very aware of the fact I wanted to be considered. Best behaviour, or nervous fool? Both, alternatively, and many things in between.

Today I was given a small child and left on my own. Much better.

A milky headed tiny human is suddenly looking at me here in the centre of where I’ve always wanted to work. We are alone together. I’m responsible for her safety. I’m being appraised and communicated with constantly in silent ways, in between drools. I’m short term responsible for scope of vision and basic entertainment for this complete being. This small human – it is not yet good with moving itself around, let alone clear communication. We share some basic sounds but their meaning is not shared. A fresh minted human is gargling at me with spitty mouth and huge eyes.

Immediately I feel my dust. I feel all the mess of me. She is so new and fresh. I feel ancient and cragged and filthy. Her milky head brushes against the badger stubble that I hadn’t even noticed was grown. I sing to her, instinctively and semi tunelessly. We start with “For What It’s Worth,” by Buffalo Springfield, being my attempt to vocalise the interest and confusion I witness in her. We cover a lot of ground, musically and in terms of talking. She likes to be included. She’s not desperate to be entertained so long as there’s something going on she can be part of. I told her tales. We made friends. This is my star turn here, for now. Storyteller for a tiny baby.

Minnie has been a solid friend through so much. Her children are as important to me as she is. She will always be there for me and I will be for her. Thank God for her. Life has given her this opportunity and she has grabbed it and I’m so so proud of her. I suspect I’ll be up in Stratford a fair amount in the next six months now – yes to see her work but also to just continue this odd dialogue between these two new minted humans and hoary old me. I’m glad to have been part of the beginning, and Minnie has wisdom in asking me to be – she knows how I function. This is on the map now for my sporadic focus.

In my bedroom, there’s a picture of Tony Sher as Richard III at the end of the bed. He will watch over me as I sleep. I might even have slept in this bed before…

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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