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  • behind you

    Novelist Lloyd Shepherd on the first steps across Westminster Bridge

    My son Jack was born just before one o'clock in the morning on a hot August night in 1992. We were put into a room on the corner of St Thomas' Hospital, and I remember noticing there were no clocks in there. I asked the nurse about this, and she laughed and nodded at the window. Ah. Yes. Of course.

    Just after midnight Jack came into the world after a good deal of resistance, meaning there were a couple of doctors and several nurses there to greet him. One of them looked out of the window and across the river and wrote down the time of the birth from the clock in the tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, commonly (and incorrectly) known as Big Ben.

    We'd been in that room for the best part of two nights and a day. I knew it pretty well. I knew, for example, that the only radio station we could pick up was Capital (so Jack's arrival in the world was soundtracked mainly by Achy Breaky Heart and Ain't No Doubt). And I knew that I could see Westminster Bridge from the window. Which meant, presumably, that I could see the window from Westminster Bridge.

    Jack went into the special care unit that night, as his breathing was a bit out of kilter, and I had to leave my poor wife there on her own - no beds for dads in those days. I told her I'd be out on the bridge the following morning, and she should expect me at around 10. The next day, I walked onto the bridge, towards Parliament, and stopped and looked back, and there, above the River in the middle of London, my wife and my son were waving back to me. I remember thinking "He's a Londoner, then." And a Londoner he remains.

    (Lloyd Shepherd's first novel 'The English Monster' is available from Amazon)
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