MAN'S WORLD

MY WIFE'S pregnancy has reached the home stretch. She could have the baby at any time between now and 1 June. By the time you read this, she may have had it already. For all I know she could be having it now, at the hairdresser's, although I'm pretty sure she would ring.

It would be fair to say that neither of us are quite prepared for this child. This is our third go, and I for one am reluctant to put any emotional investment into someone who isn't here yet. We haven't even bought much stuff, as there is a general feeling that we already have everything we need, although we don't remember where we put it. Last week my wife did come back from Ikea with a sort of cage. She has some idea that we're going to keep this one penned up in the kitchen. This seems mad to me, but I've learned not to question her actions at this late stage.

It will be nice to have my wife's brain back in gear, because her absent- mindedness has a certain aggressive quality, which often seems to be directed at me. She loses my cashcard instead of hers. She throws away my post. The other day she ripped a plant I bought out of the ground. She said she mistook it for a weed, but I saw the hole she dug. Yesterday she screamed at me for neglecting to change three lightbulbs in the hall. I said I didn't know they had gone, and she screamed that that was typical of me. I dragged out the step ladder and found all three bulbs to be in perfect working order. Normally I would be angry about this sort of trick, but this time it just gave me the creeps.

Perhaps worst of all, her absent-mindedness is the single aspect of her pregnancy that I have chosen to imitate. Some men get fat out of sympathy. I have become enveloped in fog. I find myself standing with a hammer in one hand and an onion in the other, wondering who I am and how I came to be here. I have got used to making a second daily trip to Sainsbury to pick up everything my wife forgot to get in the morning, but now I too fail to remember the milk, the bread or the nappies. "Well what DID you get?" yells my wife. "Cassette tapes," I say. "Cassette tapes and yeast." You know those annoying people who stand in the middle of the dairy aisle staring into space, with the trolley side-on so no one can get by? That's me. Some days I'm there all afternoon.

In response to the coming baby and his parents' new habit of wandering around wearing one shoe apiece, our eldest son whatsisname has gone weird. I think he feels neglected. I want to tell him that everything will be all right, but I've forgotten which room is his. Meanwhile, there is nothing for me to do but pull myself together and get on with my work.

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