Photography: Raising Life

Party time. Not for the kids; for us. Nevertheless, our child's body fizzes with anticipation as we arrive at the lunch time celeb- ration. Wow! other children, toys, a big plastic car you can get into, a duck that flaps when you pull its tummy button, a bowl of tiny sausages. For us, champagne is passed around as she rummages through the sea of legs. I desperately keep track of what's going on at knee level without looking like a pervert. It's my shift for baby-watching.

"You know, he regarded all human relationships as sado-masochistic," says the Scottish television producer at my side. "Who?" I inquire as child disappears. "Sartre." I'm heading towards the stairs into the kitchen, before child launches into her impression of The Snowman, walking in the air. "I'll be right back."

Just in time. "Darling, lie on your tummy and go down one step at a time. Well done. Now let's go and talk to that nice man by the door." We return. She's wriggling, but I'm as thrilled as if all four Teletubbies had turned up. Grown-up conversation. Not about hours slept, milk drunk, poohs passed, steps walked, words spoken. No, we're talking philosophy.

He's saying how philosophers have got stuck in a bottle because discussion has been corked. "Not me, mate," I think. "I'm uncorked", as I struggle to find the language, like reaching on holiday for O-level French. I'm savouring lovely words - epistemology, phenomenalism - supping from the spring as the Scotsman rails against arid British empiricists. Yeees. More please.

Oh Christ, she's gone again. She's wandering towards the fire. "Hot, darling. Come over here and have your drink." Meanwhile, I am dispensed drops from a favourite sage. "Wonderful romantic, FH Bradley. He said the world could only be totally understood in all its amazingness in a meditative state, when you are at one with the world." How wonderful, I think, it would be to be a Bradley disciple. I'd drink champagne, forget my baby-watch and feel at one with the world.

The spell breaks as daughter slips from bubble car and slides head first towards wall. Everything goes into slow motion; I await the roar, the inconsolable sobs, the search for mother, the guilt. There's a bang, a momentary eerie silence and then ... no storm. Inexplicably, she's fine, scurrying after those tiny sausages.

"But do you know the real problem?" he continues. "No philosophers have taken the analysis of men seriously since the existentialists talked about their alienation from themselves, the world, the environment." And, with that, I'm off again, searching for our tottering child.

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