Before heading north to Manchester last week for the Party Conference, I went to the Andover Birth Centre for its Open Day. Just as the two main political parties have recruited to their ranks experienced personnel from the Armed Forces, so, less controversially, I was joined on this visit by my wife. She has front line experience of matters maternal, whereas I am better on the theory than the practical. She talked intelligently to the midwives about breech deliveries while I asked the expectant mums about the birthing pool.
The Birth Centre in Andover is a great resource for the community which I commend to those of my constituents who are great with child. With an election imminent, a picture of the MP with a new born baby was taken and put into the data base for future use.
We have four children, but my wife has delivered five, the fifth being a grandson who was born in the back of my car. Our daughter was staying with us when she informed us that, while the confinement of her second child was not imminent, it was on the horizon. She wanted to be back in London with her nominated midwife, so we popped her in the back of the car and headed east. From the sounds behind me as we bowled along the A303, it was clear that the horizon was getting closer by the minute. I offered her the services of the Royal Hampshire Hospital in Winchester; then a few miles later, those of the North Hampshire Hospital in Basingstoke; and then a range of maternity units on either side of the M3. No, all was well.
By the time we reached the outskirts of London however, all was not well. I was instructed to bring the car to a halt and dial 999. I worked out which of the three emergency services we needed and, when connected, was asked where I was. It was, as they say, a good question. But it was one to which there was no immediate answer. I was on a dual carriageway on the south west corner of the capital, on one of those roads which carried no name and with no obvious landmark. And night had fallen.
While my dialogue was taking place, a grandson was delivered by my wife on the backseat of the car. I looked straight ahead and tuned in to Radio 3, having been told that this was a drama in which I had no useful part to play. I was told that all was well, and the upholstery would clean up nicely.
The young lad is now 10 and his second name is that of the car – Sterling. He is grateful that he was born before we bought our Toyota.