Dream Another Dive

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dear Maud,

Stop grizzling – my walls are no longer bare.

During the Second Interregnum (as our latest period of separation will come to be known), Queen Jane and I acquired a fine work of art.

Be warned, however – critics claim our masterpiece is but a square of blank canvas.

His name is Angus Emmanuel (Mr Boy to me), and he arrived on Easter Sunday after much coaxing. Although a latecomer, he is now at home in the world; indeed, for a happier and healthier child we could not have hoped.

Twiggy like his pater, he sports a wide and ready smile, shrewd blue eyes and a curlicue of wispy fair hair.

Such is his form. But what of his content?

Give me the boy, it is said, and I will mould you the man, since, as Aristotle puts it, the mind has ‘no nature of its own’. Such is the delusion of this first-time father; certainly, upon the canvas that is Angus I have projected my designs, paintbrush at the ready.

And yet my suspicions grow. Are not some features already apparent?

Three ‘nesses’ have won him great favour: his gregariousness, attentiveness and joyfulness. And yet, Maud, another trinity is also at work, one borne, I am sure, by most babies.

First there is his magnetism, which attracts many things, from cups of tea to innocent bystanders – anything, in fact, that falls within his rangy reach. Next there is his magic, the power to lay bare human heart and kitchen cupboard alike, and even, say, to unlid a jar enloaded with seeds.

Open Sesame!

Then there is his mystery, which is really the riddle of existence writ small, the fine print of the infant somehow magnifying life’s most inscrutable features. Certain questions he begs: What spirit animates us, and whence does it spring? Wherefore do we grow, and toward what end? Indeed, why are we here at all?

You see, then, Maud, that I am mistaken – our boy is no tabula rasa; he is, in fact, more akin to photographic paper, a medium that bears an invisible stamp, and one in which our essence, when exposed to the elements, miraculously develops.

Am I artist enough to put my paints away?

For the record, Angus’s association with art began with two works: Bolero and Coral Island (even if now he prefers the minor classic, Tickle Time, Peter Rabbit, which giggles when pressed).

‘I will never forget my surprise and delight on first beholding the bottom of the sea,’ writes Ralph, in Ballantyne’s book. There he and Jack discover ‘coral of every shape, size, and hue’, some even shaped ‘like the brain of a man’.

‘Do you know, Ralph, [cries Jack], I’m half tempted to think that we really are dreaming. But if so I am resolved to make the most of it, and dream another dive; so here goes – down again, my boy!’

Unlike Bolero, Maud, this epistle has an end – it is time we came up for air.

Yours etc.