A few weeks ago I went to Malaga airport to meet an important person who was flying in from Los Angeles. I waited at the arrivals barrier with all the other anxious people expecting family members or friends and, when a new wave of passengers appeared through the gates, I sensed a very slight buzz of interest in the crowd, nothing too obvious, but enough for me to stand on tip toe to see what the minor fuss was about.
Among the travellers was a tall, lanky individual sporting a silver and gold embroidered velvet jacket, a purple porkpie hat pulled down over his long hair and serious dark glasses hiding his eyes. He definitely looked like a rock star, and very nearly was one, but in fact this eccentric individual happened to be my son, Nick Launay, successful record producer.
'Droopy !' he shouted.
'Nickypoo !' I shouted back.
A few eyebrows were raised, but who cared ? Warm, deeply affectionate hugs followed, the tears of joy welling up uncontrollably.
During the drive home I learned that my little boy would be in Europe for a month, London for a meeting with a record company, somewhere in a South of France studio to work on a new album with Nick Cave, New York for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, then Seattle or Vegas, or was it Sidney, Australia ? His year had been hectic and the pace was unlikely to slow down.
Once home he unpacked and looked around, checked if there were any new coffee table books, anything he hadn’t seen before and I caught myself ridiculously fussing like a mother hen, apologising for the roughness of the towels in the bathroom, the absence of a Kleenex box in his bedroom. When he travelled he stayed in 5-star hotels after all.
We went down to a beach restaurant for lunch and the conversation centered on the dissimilarity of our lives. His, which was too chaotic, mine now nearly too peaceful. We both had a need to be creative but in his world it was all musical sounds and rhythms and involved other people while in mine it was words and just me alone.
His iPhone buzzed, a text he answered straight away, then his puzzlement at me only having a simple mobile which I invariably forgot to take with me anyway.
'I don’t need to communicate with anyone every minute of the day,' I explained.
'But you’re missing out on so much. There are so many aps that take you into realms you wouldn’t believe.'
'I no longer want to go into realms which I won't believe, besides I wouldn’t be able to see half the stuff that comes up, even with my glasses.'
Back at the house we settled down on the sofa together and he opened up his lap top and flicked dextrous fingers across the screen showing me photos of lunatic Hollywood parties he’d attended with girls in amazingly elaborate costumes. Every time there was the launch of a new film they apparently dressed up as the characters.
'Any permanent partner ? ' I asked tentatively.
'Difficult' he said. 'I mainly record at night so don’t have the chance to socialize much. But that shouldn’t worry you unduly.'
He then checked his watch and said he had to Skype someone.
I left him alone and sauntered out into the patio and thought back to the day he had been born and when Eve had brought him home for the first time. He had taken over our lives, changing everything from our body clocks to the contents of the fridge. It was extraordinary that the chubby little baby he had been had grown into a tall asparagus with such long hands and feet.
My mother had come to see him and I had watched her cradle him awkwardly in her arms.
'I’ve never liked babies,' she'd said as though I didn’t know. 'He has the same ear lobes as Paul, your real father,' she’d gone on, then added. 'He also has your eyebrows, so he probably is yours.'
One day I would perhaps write about a woman whose obsession with her illegitimate son completely ruins her life and that of others
Eddy did not see the boy till we spent a week end in Pangbourne a month later. He managed the meeting very well, making friendly clucking noises at the newborn as though he didn’t really want to throw him into the river. An unkind supposition, for I was very aware that the encounter was not at all easy for him.
In an earlier ‘Post’ I mentioned that I had feared fatherhood would limit my ability to write. Cyril Connolly’s quote 'There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall' had started haunting me again, but on reflection I realized that it was not the fear of the child’s demands that might upset me but parental love - a totally new and profoundly emotional experience. Far from wishing to get away from this new little person I found myself so besotted that I did not want to be separated from him for a minute. I still didn’t want to be separated from him, but he could hardly come and live in Spain, or not yet anyway..
I went back into the house. Nick was talking to someone on the other side of the world. I realized couldn’t keep up with what he was up to and I didn’t understand how he had managed to produce so many albums. His web site is daunting. With a wife and two children he’d taken the risk of going freelance and hadn’t looked back. I suppose I’d done the same in a different way..
When he was six months old Eve and I had taken him with us to stay with friends in a country cottage far from the madding crowd. Eve had said 'I’d really be perfectly happy to live like this for the rest of my life.'
'You’d get bored after a while,' I’d suggested.
'I’d try and paint a bit, read a bit, and you could drift off into your fantasy world not knowing where you really were and write books.'
It was a dream, precarious, but one which I'd felt I should consider. If I was not tied down to an office we could leave London. If I could write a book and get it published, if I could get a literary agent to find me regular work..... if...if..if.......