Dot writes: Hugh generally feels that any activity is improved by shouting while you do it. When happy he growls, bellows, declaims and rants. When slightly less happy he whinges, whimpers and whines. When on rare occasions he simply talks I am surprised and rather touched by what a sweet, high little voice he has. The old lady who lives opposite enjoys watching him play but once remarked to me that he is the loudest child she’s ever met. His latest trick is bellowing my name, a habit that (let it be recorded) he has undoubtedly imitated from his father.
Meanwhile Frank continues to be, fundamentally, a very mellow little baby – he is certainly amazingly good at sitting quietly in his bouncy chair while we get on with things – but when he feels the need he too is more than audible, and he has been finding life rather trying lately. He’s had a snuffly nose on and off for weeks now; when it finally cleared up the rest of us all got colds and poor Frank promptly caught another one. He also seems to be teething: chewing, drool and red cheeks all point that way. And, thirdly, he really hates his car-seat. We’ve tried fiddling with the strap-alignment, the insert and the angle the seat sits in the car, but basically he just doesn’t like it and starts to wail within seconds of being placed in it. Hugh wasn’t wild about it either, but the vibrations put him to sleep very quickly, whereas Frank is much more resistant. So all our car journeys at present are accompanied by a soundtrack of heart-breaking cries. I read once that babies who experience numerous prolonged episodes of crying in the early months can lose nine points off their IQ. Does anyone else remember a children’s TV programme called Dungeons and Dragons, which was a game-show in which groups of little boys guided one of their number through fantasy obstacles? It had this very scary graphic to illustrate when they were losing points: an armoured head from which bits gradually floated away, until it was eventually just a skull that slowly came to pieces. I think of this when Frank howls from the back-seat and I imagine his future intellectual achievements peeling off and vanishing. “So he won’t be writing the new Brief History of Time…or the 21st century Dickens…or even the 21st century Virginia Andrews…blimey, looks like it’s Being Jordan…”