Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The ghost in the baby's bedroom

I am trying to be nicer, truly I am, though finding it more of a Brian Blessed Everest attempt than a mere uphill struggle. But I really must endeavour to set a decent example to the baby.

With his powers of imitation improving by the day, my wife and I are also striving to adjust our vocabulary so that, for example, the most shocking F-word in our repertoire is “Fiddlesticks”. This too is not without its challenges, particularly given the standards of other people’s motoring nowadays.

Then I discovered at the weekend that it may not be only our input we have to worry about. Although after midnight, I was still wide awake when the whispering voice came clearly over the baby monitor, causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end in the way that happens so often in bad novels, but very rarely indeed in real life – or mine, at any rate.

I urgently shook my beloved awake to tell her that someone – or something – was talking to our son, but by the time she had come round enough to take it in, it had naturally stopped. Luckily she did not immediately ring for the men in white coats to take me away, because the previous day she had been puzzled to find his nursery light switched on when she went in to him in the morning – and not by either of us.

Added to which, we had both heard footsteps in his bedroom on more than one occasion when we were downstairs. In fact, I have been hearing those footsteps regularly since 1987, but as a hardened sceptic I have variously dismissed them as the noise of expanding hot water pipes, the dog, mice wearing hobnail boots or simple hallucinations.

Now, when we hear the baby happily chattering away in the early morning, we will no longer be able to assume that he is simply talking to his teddy bear.

I just hope his invisible friend comes from an age when higher standards of politeness prevailed. While yielding to few in my enthusiasm for the benefits of the internet, I am regularly depressed by one baleful side-effect: the plague of barely literate abuse from people sheltering behind the comfortable anonymity of pseudonyms. The venom to be read on the average website’s message board makes me feel like a thoroughly nice person already.

At least I knew the identities of the people who shocked me so profoundly on BBC Radio 4’s Sunday morning news flagship Broadcasting House, when newspaper reviewer Omid Djalili announced between chortles “I can’t keep a straight face” while discussing the murder of South African white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche, and Guardian columnist Marina Hyde chipped in “He was still alive when the police found him in his remote farm, so I suppose at least you could say it was slow.”

My, how they all laughed. I sat astonished, waiting vainly for the programme’s host to ask the obvious “So, you’re in favour of the death penalty, are you?” And trying to imagine the fuss that would ensue if a group of right-leaning people had similarly rejoiced in the death of a black political leader. Not that there is the slightest chance of any such thing being allowed on the BBC this side of hell freezing over.

Thoroughly nasty piece of work though he no doubt was, a human being had just been brutally hacked to death. Even I, who am constantly getting into trouble for my inappropriate sense of humour, can see that is not a fit subject for comedy.

There is much to be said for my late mother’s precept: “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, say nothing at all.” Now I just need to hope that the ghost in the baby’s bedroom reads The Journal.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

1 comment:

Chris H said...

That's why I've always had a sort of low-level distrust of baby monitors... the nagging feeling that, one day, I'll hear a voice through it that doesn't belong to anyone I know.