The lady in the bed next door was being visited by her mother-in-law. As our baby slept, and my wife attempted to sleep, this woman talked and talked. She nearly drove me mad. Sanity was preserved by cheekily taking some notes, and dreaming of the pint of Guinness that I would drink later.
(I'm not really a Guinness drinker, but I've been craving the stuff. With wife and baby recuperating in hospital I've been fending for myself. Being a health-conscious type, I've been gorging on burgers and muffins. The lack of greens has taken its toll, with the deficiencies driving a craving for stout.)
The last two evenings she has been there, roughly from six till nine. On both occasions the three hours consisted of a single monologue. And when I say monologue, I don't simply mean "extended, uninterrupted speech", as Wikipedia puts it. I mean extended, uninterrupted speech, contained within a single sentence. I say that because she didn't pause or, as far as I could tell, take a single breath.
I doubt any of the great orators would have come close to speaking that long without pause. Cicero? Nope. Churchill? Nope. I would be surprised if these relentless floods of unfinished sentences are ever matched.
What follows is a snippet of one of these monologues. It is more or less unadulterated, but then again, she spoke so fast it was hard to keep up.
"...so Helen is visiting from Cincinnati in November, but then again she's got this thing about flying, which is ridiculous, so I don't know what she's going to do...of course, Erik spent his life looking as though butter wouldn't melt...Alexander's mother was much tinier, and mind you, castor oil didn't work...blah blah blah...if you think about it, the baby pops out and suddenly there is all this brightness and it is, like, "where am I?", and I didn't bring it did I?, the photo of Andrew, he went for a ride in a helicopter...and babies go to sleep in one place, and wake up in another, how do they cope?... you see, when Andrew would fall he never put his hands out, of course he broke his wrist at school, and the other kids all loved him, always joking and fooling around and, of course, the after-school clubs wouldn't take him...but shall I unwrap the present?...British Homestores, so you can always exchange if you don't like them, they do such great little boys' clothes don't they?, when his father was a baby you couldn't get nice boys' shoes...and I had such problems, dry skin...and I've put my new CD holder up, that new Andrew Lloyd Webber collection is marvelous you know...Ralph's mother is all skin and bone, I'm sure she is anorexic...I don't understand what is going on in Winchester, what with the shop in the High Street but the warehouse down in Devon, it's ludicrous...Tamzin breast-fed of course...and he kept peeling back the dressing, right to the bone, I tried to cut back his nails when we came to England, and during all this Mike was creosoting the fence..."
The poor daughter-in-law didn't get a word in edgeways. Just before the mother-in-law left I heard her speaking to the baby. "We'll come and see you again tomorrow, and then we'll visit you at your house on Friday." My heart went out to the young mother and her baby. I hope their sanity survives.
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