Friday, November 20, 2009

The Pram in the Hall

"There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall."

Better writers than me have debunked Cyril Connolly’s famous quote and, as someone who’s trodden on some toys, barged his way past a few buggies and broken off mid-paragraph to change a nappy or two in his time, I’d agree he was talking the sort of pompous bunkum only dilettante intellectuals could conjure with a straight face. The constraints of parenthood actually helped me write. Childless, I could work any time, day or night; and the end result was that I often ended up working neither. When it was only an option to write in daylight as nights were given over to reading aloud about hungry caterpillars or trying to grab some much needed rest, my productivity grew. My life, at long last, had structure, even if a few other things were lost, such as sleep.

However, had Cyril been a crime writer he may have had had a point. When my first child was born I wasn’t writing crime. Now, with my third newly arrived, I am. In fact, I’m halfway through my latest. I am trying to conjure up dark deeds, ominous atmospheres and a creeping sense of dread. Meanwhile, Child Three (as we’ll call him, as long as Tom Rob Smith doesn’t steal it for his next title) is doing the best he can to distract me. He likes to be held and I like to give my suffering wife a break. So half of my day is spent with him in my arms, staring into his eyes, innocent dark brown pools, humming lullabies, or rocking his pram so he can sleep. Then I trudge back to my office, muslin square still draped absent-mindedly over my shoulder, an unseen slick of baby puke down my back, and try to recreate the dark deeds etc. It isn’t proving easy. The outside world has ceased to exist (though not for long, I promise, or my contributions to this blog will look a little insular…), my characters are strangely content and people are more likely to be hugged to death than flayed alive and their raw flesh salted.

I would panic, but for one thing. Around the corner lie those books only parents know of; not least that bloody hungry caterpillar. After the 45th reading, misanthropy will reign and I get the feeling that my characters will grow less pleased with their lot and people will die. Horribly.


Dan - Friday


  1. How many times do we read books and think "what kind of mind goes there" have to admit I usually like to conjure up dark, tortured and twisted, not Dad of three, baby puke and lullabies but I have to say I like that at least we know you have known suffering. lol



  2. Ah, but you should hear the lullabies groovyvirgochick!

  3. Thinking of yesteryears lullabies I do feel a shiver go up my spine. (gulp)

  4. Hi Dan-

    I love your post.

    It brought back memories of when my two boys were little.

    I was devastated when they went from little baby undershirts that snap to little boy T-shirts without snaps :(

    They grow way too fast for me. They both shave now and the top of my head comes up to their chest.

    It sounds like you're enjoying the sleepless nights and the moment their eyes close, breathing like they do when they're sleeping peacefully and everything in between.