Umbilical cord (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Information is gleaned from diaries and personal testimony.
On one of the rare occasions my father and mother met naked, nuclear scientist Jack tripped over Boxer puppy Ruby, and much to the chagrin of his wife, entered Doreen just below the pubic bone. As the two adults fell back onto the bed locked at the hips, one of Doreen’s eggs got fertilised. I dare say orgasms were involved although they might not have been reached at the same time, or for that matter even on the same day. They do say that women take a lot longer to arrive than men, but obviously not as long as it takes to pick out a dress and matching shoes.
Yours truly was born at four p.m. on November the twenty-forth 1970 after a mere seven-month incubation period. What caused my premature birth? Doreen had got over‑excited in a kosher butcher’s whilst arguing over cold cuts. Since not even her half-Jewish side keep a kosher table one might ask oneself what the devil the woman was doing in the shop in the first place? Arguing over cost, Doreen stamped her feet so hard that her waters broke ruining a pair of supposedly shower‑proof Russell & Bromley pumps. The shop flooded and a box of frankfurters rode the surf all the way into the street. I understand that afternoon the local canine fraternity ate al fresco.
An ambulance was summoned and the two of us were transported to St. Mark’s Hospital, a run down North London building protected by two toothless, weather beaten stone gargoyles.
Attended in the laundry room by a drunken, chain-smoking proctologist and a short-sighted trainee midwife with a stammer, Doreen was heard to scream, “Jack…you bastard! Look what you’ve done to me again. I’m being ripped apart by a goddamn shopping trolley!” Despite this appeal for separation, I was not to be rushed. Unborn, I must have sensed that life at its best was basically shit.
St. Mark’s laundry room quickly filled up with family members who would usually only appear in daylight for births, weddings, badly organised tea dances and funerals. Space at a premium, haphazardly parked electric wheelchairs and floodlit Zimmer frames made it extremely difficult to swing a cat, or for that matter deliver a baby. An assortment of twenty odd uncles, aunts and cousins stood around with green gills, in green gowns and masks waiting for me to appear before the effects of their medication wore off. (A close family is an interbred family). Father by the way stood out like a sore thumb. Having arrived straight from the radiation chamber, his ensemble consisted of bright red and orange. I think Ozzie Clark had done him.
Although Doctor Procto finally suggested that Doreen open her legs, I dragged my birth out a further eighteen hours, five minutes and twenty‑seven seconds, during which time the conscious members of my new family rushed the bed in shifts to offer the expectant mother advice on how best to shift the blockage. “Oh do sit up Doreen,” incontinent Aunt Alice said, just before yelling out, “Commode!” Morris, her course bookmaker husband contradicted her. “No, no, belay that Doreen! Lie down and push,” he said unable to prevent himself vogueing like Madonna in an attempt at passing on betting odds. Blue rinse cousin Pearl shouted, “Doreen, don’t listen to Morris. Pull, then push!”
“Push, then pull? Mary Mother of God,” mother screamed in a fake Irish accent. “I’m not trying to load a blinkin’ torpedo, just give birth to some organic material!” With Jews to the left of her and Jews to the right of her, the midwife couldn’t get a word in edgewise. I’m sure the speech impediment didn’t help. Father’s younger brother Saul, a dishevelled looking wealthy dry cleaner told Doreen to sit up and push again, then promptly changed his mind as he dropped to his knees in order to retrieve a pickled gherkin that had slipped from his grasp.
Oops! Frail cousin Millicent dropped a second pickled gherkin. Apparently it shot out of her hand whilst she attempted to perform a U‑turn in her Zimmer frame. I guess her generation hadn’t learnt to multi-skill!
Skeletal, Millicent was the black sheep of the family. At a time when Pablo Picasso was still painting by numbers and protected sex meant using a goatskin condom, Millicent’s family had sent her to New York by boat to marry a Rabbi’s son. Unfortunately, her sea voyage was interrupted by a effing great iceberg. Finally reaching The Big Apple, she called off the wedding, abandoned Judaism, adopted Hedonism and followed the early jazz scene. From what I heard Millicent blew both men and their instruments before being introduced to the evils of heroin. Her last fix in the summer of 1958 had coincided with the collapse of the woman’s one remaining healthy vein.
Back to the pickled gherkin! The tongue-tied, short-sighted midwife scooped up the foodstuff believing it to be me, cupped it in both her hands and shouted, “Make way, it’s a ba…ba…baby!” Unhappy with its colour, the gherkin was placed in an incubator and treated to oxygen.
When I did finally make an appearance, apparently I shot out of Doreen so fast, it is said the umbilical cord cracked like a whip.
Balding cousin Heimi, a part‑time club crooner and a keen amateur sailor stepped forward, I might add without a formal invite and insisted on tying my umbilical cord into a sheepshank prior to the midwife cutting it.
Je-sus, don’t some births drag on! Once the proctologist had checked my oil, he crossed his palm with my buttocks. For goodness sake, I’d only just entered the world and my rear end was already plum worn out. So, there I was, mistreated even before I’d got a fixed address.
Placed in an incubator, the pickled gherkin and I were wheeled onto the baby ward. Oh what tricks life plays on one, for as it turned out the vegetable proved to be the closest thing to a brother I would ever have. Bo-hoo!