We brought the baby home four days later, on the eve of Eeyore’s 41st birthday. By prior arrangement Mr G, his oldest friend, was coming to stay with his wife and three children: we had spent the milestone 40th together and in complete ignorance of the changes that were about to come over us. We had come so far since then: an extra baby, a change of lifestyle and a major house move – this too seemed a birthday that needed marking. My parents came to meet their newest (thirteenth, actually) grandchild, and in the continuing heat we moved out of the house and under the huge trees that lined one side of it.
Continuing a theme: very Hardy-esque it was. Twelve of us ranging in age from four days to eighty-two years, at two long tables beneath the copper beeches. Mum and Mrs G slaved in the poor excuse for a kitchen, while the G’s and No1 and No2 ran amok and tried out the new trampoline that No3 had miraculously brought with him. (I certainly felt as though he literally had.) It was a wonderful homecoming, and a pretty terrific birthday, even for a man. I did very little (no change there, then) and the fact that the house was a wreck and filthy and that there was no food to speak of somehow took all the pressure off. While we knew full well that for ages to come people would be dying to see what we had bought and got ourselves into, this was a wonderful hiatus during which normal standards simply couldn’t apply. We stripped poor No3 down to his nappy and kept moving him in and out of the sun to lessen his jaundice: I couldn’t help remembering how No1 and I had spent a miserable week in a grey hospital in Hammersmith trying to achieve the same result. Somehow, and in every way, this felt much better.