Monday, 6 October 2014

A universe of children

(Photo: Lin Baddeley)

Once upon a time in a universe of children, we direct their sagas; stories full of half-human noises – a script of monosyllables, mingled with wailing and laughing. Late evening, the stars at last in their trailers, cossetted, coaxed, fitfully dreaming tomorrow’s lines, the crew eat, drink, talk and play cards, tired from another long day on set.

Another morning. Our stars don’t, like Achilles, sulk in their tents. They rise early to stir their staff, invade their beds, prise open their eyelids. The canteen is fired up. The house creaks. Shooting recommences at dawn. Nappies, potties, bottles, toast and cereal on plastic plates and dishes. Breasts pressed into service; sacred objects clutched. Somewhere in the long morning the scene shifters, grips and gaffers; take a breather, a smoke and a chat about their encounters with particular actors – a mix of bemoaning, boasting and largely unheeded advice. 
“But she’s always sweet with me!”
 “You’re joking. I get it like this every morning” 
“Just don’t let him get away with it.” 
“I don’t but I think he had a bad night” 
“Yes but you’ve got to let them know the limits” 
I’m an assistant, of little importance on set, with fantasies of how I’d direct the situation; a roadie goffer making cheese toasties, tea and coffee for colleagues, washing up, carrying trays, bagging the extra rubbish, wiping surfaces, straining at my traces, longing for my own place in the sun between the shadows cast by this trio of stars. The work is constant, prolonged, detailed and tedious with much standing around, much sentry duty. To get these children from the house into the car takes several hours. There’s the complicated business of assembling clothes, shoes, beachwear, sun cream – factor 50, hats, picnic things. For days until now the weather has been sublime, the far mountains hazed above a gently ruffled sea – scuffed blue velvet. In the foreground, green lemons, green oranges just above the balcony, with wisteria and bougainvillea; with silver and green of olives and cypress stretching to the near horizon. I’m assembling things for others, things that have little to do with me. It’s a lesson in humility; a lesson in what is for me the ill-practised art of caring for others.

I could be off walking, cycling, sailing, reading, even writing. It takes this family, this household – four grown-ups, my wife, my daughter – mother to Oliver in his third year, and Hannah two months – Liz, Amy’s best friend and mother to one year old Sophia, all morning and into the early afternoon, to be ready for “what we’ll do today” – go to the grassy beach at Dassia....
....have a swim in the lovely empty - end of season - pool at Dominoes in Analipsi, 

walk on the cricket ground opposite the Liston...
Oliver, Sophia. Liz and Hannah on the cricket pitch in Corfu
...stroll in the evening by the pebbled shore below Faliraki in the city...
Gazing towards Mother Greece from Faliraki
...find this early October and almost empty beach near Canal D’Amour at Sidari. 


The actual shoot is hardly a quarter of the day. I want to start my story, my once upon a time at dawn and let it run until I sleep, waited on as I wait now, my grandchildren’s sentry. 
(Photo: Lin Baddeley)

Did Hitler ever rise early to make someone’s breakfast? I know Heracles, followed by paparazzi, diverted a river to clear the Augean stables but did he ever just bag domestic rubbish and take it daily to the wheelie bins – unsung – or ever change a nappy? Did Voltaire ever have to oversee the assembling of the shoes needed by four adults and a toddler planning a couple of hours on the beach? 

Robespierre. Did he empty a potty and clean it? "Great Alexander! Hold this baby. Can you calm her as you did Bucephalus?" Shakespeare knew what I’m going on about; knew about mewling and puking. I’d trust him above Rousseau for all his influential theories about raising children.

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