This photo, taken almost three years ago, perfectly captures the innate serenity of my wonderful godson. When he was a baby he was like a little buddha, hardly ever crying, just quietly observing life around him. Once he started talking he would share these observations with often baffling clarity, and at other times with almost perfect comic timing.
His mother is my very best friend and when she asked me to be present at his birth it was the most amazing gift anyone could have ever given me. To watch him arrive in this world bound him to me in a way I had never anticipated. In fact when I occasionally (well, regularly if truth be told) dream of leaving the UK, it is the thought of losing regular contact with him that ultimately stops me from going anywhere.
For the first few years of his life, while I was still doing my degree, I had him every Thursday, and it was during one of those days that something happened which brought us even closer together. We were in my flat and he was eating an apple when a piece suddenly got stuck in his windpipe. Not knowing what to do, I turned him upside down and shook him, desperately hoping to dislodge whatever was blocking his air supply. This didn't work, and as I frantically hit him on the back, he started turning blue. I finally scooped him up and ran for the door (there was a GP only a few doors down from my house). And it was that movement of picking him up, which finally cleared the obstruction, and after much coughing and whimpering, lots of hugs and tears (for both of us), we settled down on the sofa and watched his favourite film. I tried my hardest to be calm and relaxed, but inside I was shaking and kept going over the events in my mind.
When his mother came to pick him up later that afternoon something extraordinary happened. Normally he was of course thrilled to see her, and he revelled in telling her the minute details of our day. But on this occasion he ran and hid under my table as soon as he heard her car, and when she entered the room he became almost hysterical; holding on to the table leg he cried that he wanted to stay with me, he did not want to go home.
I had been terrified that I had failed him, that he would now feel unsafe with me, but it seemed that his way of looking at it was the exact opposite, perhaps in his mind I had rescued him, made everything better. He undoubtedly gets much of his laid-back attitude from his wonderful mother, who took all this commotion in her stride. Never one to make a big deal out of anything, she simply decided to stay and so we all had dinner together. By the end of the evening the by now very sleepy boy was of course more than happy to go home with his mummy.
He is now seven, and with school for him and full-time work for me, we don't get to see each other as often. But the bond is still there, and about once a month he comes over and spends a Sunday afternoon with me. I love listening to him talk, the way he thinks and deduces will never cease to fascinate and amaze me.