My granddaughter – the creature from Alien

WHATEVER happened to gurgling?

Babies are supposed to gurgle. It’s in the books. Watch any movie – any movie with a baby in it.

They gurgle and chuckle and make other endearing noises.

They don’t snarl.

My granddaughter snarls.

When you go too near her bone.

She’s 11 months old, for God’s sake. She hardly has any teeth worth giving the name. They’re just white marks on her gums, but they can still serrate your finger like a stamp.

If I ever lose the tin opener I’ll just give the tins to her to play with.

None of this is what I had in mind.

I planned to spend the evening of my life dandling a rosy-cheeked and plump little bundle of joy on my arthritic knee. I didn’t expect to have to watch where I tread in case she takes a lump out of my ankle.

This is the problem with having preconceived ideas… the gods don’t like us getting too smug.

When a pacifist has a baby it’ll probably grow up and become a field marshal. An atheist’s daughter is likely to become a nun.

The child of a vegetarian (my daughter, for instance) was bound to grow up licking its lips at the guinea pig.

My daughter said, and she was bandaging the teeth marks in her arm as she said it, that this is merely proof we are not the product of our inherited genes, but the creation of our own individual souls.


What it means is that the pacifist, if he is a pompous and self-opinionated bore, will father a field marshal who is a pompous and self-opinionated bore.

Just as my daughter, a vegetarian of uncertain temper and a will as indomitable as gravity, has created the creature from The Alien.

Don’t get me wrong… I love her dearly. But bones…?

Aren’t they supposed to eat semolina and marrowbone jelly out of little jars, charmingly plugging any handy orifice — except their mouths — with the excess?

I blame the parents. If they’d dressed her in frocks with budding roses on she might have been different; but she wears dungarees that are reminiscent of a Vietcong battledress.

As I write she is sitting in her highchair beating out Morse messages with a spoon while she bellows a primeval chant. I suspect that if I pull back the curtains I will find that everything with four legs and an appetite for uncooked flesh is gathering on the lawn.

I gather she is hungry. The spoon has teeth marks in it. Not many, but deep. The rest of the family is drawing straws to see who gets to feed her. The task will go to the loser. Tonight’s dinner is macaroni cheese.

It will not be popular with my granddaughter because it didn’t once have a heartbeat.

We’ve already held a family debate about whether we should place the high chair in the middle of the room while we feed her, in which case the carpet will need replacing in all directions; or near the wall, where most of the carpet will be safe, but the wall will acquire a patina of cheese and pasta that will set harder than Araldite.

Me, I’d give her more fresh meat. All I need is a long pole and pair of heavy-duty gloves.