Hugh Reilly: A bit mad, grad and dangerous to know
“We’ll need to pull over, the baby’s crowning!” shouted the paramedic. “The hospital is only half-a-mile away. Can we not make it?” replied the ambulance driver.
“Jeez, it’ll be touch-and-go. Drive as fast as you can,” said the paramedic.
A siren started as I sat alongside my wailing wife, holding her hand. Her reluctance to leave the house until her contractions increased in rapidity had brought about this situation where she was experiencing the excruciating pain of natural childbirth. Luckily for her, I had attended pre-natal parenting classes and knew exactly what to do, ie: mop her sweating brow while encouraging her to breathe through the agony by listening to me repeatedly saying: “Hah, hah, wooo, hah,hah,wooo.” Barely had the comforting sounds left my lips when she suddenly half-rose from the ambulance bed like a woman in dire need of an exorcism, all wild-eyed and tousled hair, and rather loudly told me – I’m paraphrasing here – to keep my inhalation and exhalation advice to myself.
Minutes later, seconds after she had been tipped off a trolley and onto a hospital bed, my wife gave birth to the daughter she had yearned for. Last week, 22 years on from that momentous event, my now ex-wife and I (and two of our sons) attended Suzanne’s graduation at Dundee University.
As a consequence of being an impoverished art student and a girl brought up surrounded by three brothers, dungarees and denims have been her default clothing. When I entered the Caird Hall to pick up spectator tickets from her, I was astounded to discover my daughter had morphed into an elegant young woman, standing tall in stilettoes and wearing a skirt.
All I could say was: “Crivvens, jings, help ma boab!”(I was in Dundee, home of the Sunday Post, after all).
Strolling into the hall, it was clear that eager beavers had encamped themselves much earlier. A smattering of single seats beckoned the tardy. There was, however, a row of six seats lying empty, three of which had “reserved” signs menacingly placed atop them. My former spouse is a religious sort, thus I can only believe that it was her intercession to the Almighty that an unexpected puff of wind resulted in one of the signs serendipitously falling to the floor. Working on the common law principle of “it’s bums on seats that count”, the four of us quickly sat down, surreptitiously kicking the paper trail evidence of our squatting under the chair in front. In the final analysis, our skulduggery was unnecessary – only one of the reservees turned up.
The ceremony had a church-like feel to it, what with organ music and screeching children being vainly entreated by their harassed mothers to stop the embarrassing racket. To be fair, the din did not put the chancellor, Lord Patel, off his stride. He delivered an inspirational speech filled with insight and good humour. Soon it was time for the main event, the catwalk parade of graduands desperate to become fully fledged graduates. At first, the handclapping of the audience was hugely enthusiastic, on a par with Hitler hitting the podium at one of his sell-out Nuremburg gigs. However, after the umpteenth student had quick-stepped across the stage, the applause became more perfunctory, akin to that of backbench Labour MSPs dutifully reacting to a side-splitting one-liner read out by a wooden Johann Lamont from her prepared script.
Disconcertingly, some parents thought it proper to shout out rebel yells on hearing the announcement of their child’s name. This tad uncouth whooping and hollering greatly upset me but on hearing my daughter’s name I hypocritically gave out a proud roar. Beside me, my ex shed a tear of joy.
Once the fat lady had sang (not my former wife, I hasten to add), it was photofest time. A bit of a bunfight ensued as professional photographers fought with mums and dads armed with camera phones for the best angles to capture the digital magic moments. The constant requests to hold a smile led to many graduates wandering around with dried top lips stuck to their gums.
A downpour proved to be the catalyst for a 500 metres dash to Droothies, purveyor of pub food at pater-friendly prices. Looking at Suzanne over my battered haddock, I felt a little breathless that I had assisted in producing such a warm, intelligent human being. Hah, hah, wooo, hah, hah, wooo.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 25 mph
Wind direction: East
Temperature: 9 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east