Monday, May 18, 2009

These are the best days...

When I was working for a film producer all those years ago, we were trying to develop a script with a hot new writer about the life of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. For all the heat around the author, the script wasn't actually very compelling and the director, who had once been famous for doing the music videos for the Sex Pistols, was seen as a liability, the ski-boot on the ballerina. I must have read and re-read a dozen drafts of the movie. It did finally get made but I had moved on by then and I only found out about it on the internet. But there was one line in that film which really resonated with me, I don't even know if it ended up in the final dialogue but it was when Coleridge and his wife, Sara, were living in rural Nether Stowey. It's snowing one night, Coleridge has been writing in a frenzy, working on the Ancient Mariner in an opium induced delirium and Sara has just had a baby. Now I think about it, having a writer, philes of opium and a newborn in the same house must have been utter hell but despite all this Sara is looking up at the stars one winter night, cradling her baby in her arms and saying to Coleridge, something like 'these are the best days' (perhaps it was a little more prosaic than that, but the gist is there.) There's no money, the house is freezing, Coleridge hasn't written anything of note, he's an opium addict, they're probably not getting much sleep. Coleridge tells her it's not true, there will be better days to come but she doesn't listen and repeats the line again. The words, or the gist of the words, came back to me soon after Max was born. Granted, we were living in a place with panoramic views of the San Francisco bay, not a hovel in Nether Stowey, but we were miles from family and had wrenched ourselves from our friends just when we most needed them. When we paced the dark flat at night trying to sooth our crying newborn we looked out on a moonlit bay and even though we couldn't believe our luck, it was also horribly lonely. But I felt the same thing holding Oli in the garden the other day, as he stared up at the blue sky and the blossom breaking out on the thorntree. 'These are the best days.' It must be something about having a baby or a child in the house. Photos of my own infancy pop into my mind, my mum in a big print sundress holding either me or my brother in her arms, squinting against the sunshine at the camera. Or the one where she's in a green toweling bikini on all fours with my brother emptying the contents of a watering can onto her back. I was having that 'best days' feeling as I put Max to bed last night. We'd spent the day in the sunshine, some of us digging dirt, running in and out of the paddling pool, eating ice pops. I told him I loved him, that he was great, an inspiration. He was thinking exactly what you are.
He lay there for a second or two, then put his fingers up his nose.
'Bogey' he said.

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