This Just Say It extract, New Life, celebrates the birth of my main character, Lisa Grant, and is the opening sequence of the book.
8th October 1959
The day a young Margaret Thatcher first became an MP for Finchley, Elizabeth’s waters finally broke in front of the Aga in the kitchen. Way over her due date, her sense of bravado over the last few weeks had given the impression to those closest to her that she knew exactly what to expect. As the housekeeper Nellie, called the midwife, she realised from the glazed expression on Elizabeth’s face, she hadn’t got a clue what was about to happen.
‘Mrs Grant’s waters just broke, Phyllis.’ She hissed into the mouthpiece.
‘Good job I love my job, innit? Phyllis sighed. ‘Try and keep her calm, if you can, and I’ll be round in a jiffy.’
‘Easier said than done, Phyllis love.’
Hands clawed around the drying rail of the Aga, knees slightly bent, Elizabeth looked down at the puddle she was standing in and started to cry. Surprised by this rare display of emotion, Nellie put an arm around her shoulder.
‘There, there, Mrs Grant, it’s been a long do for you, but you’ll be holding your beautiful baby in your arms very soon now.’
‘Baby? What about my beautiful Rayne shoes? It’s the first time I’ve worn them.’
By the time Nellie half pushed Elizabeth up the grand Jacobean staircase to her en-suite bedroom at Silkwoods Manor, Phyllis had arrived.
As Elizabeth’s contractions intensified, she became hysterical.
‘Don’t you realise I am in pain? I knew I should have stayed in London and had it delivered by a proper Harley Street physician, not a tin pot provincial midwife. Call the bloody doctor!’
Dr Gladstone had just finished his morning surgery when Phyllis called.
‘Mrs Grant has gone into labour, Doctor Gladstone, and she seems unusually distressed.’ He scratched his furrowed brown. He’d been expecting a call.
‘I’ll be there right away, Phyllis. Thank you.’
Dr Gladstone graduated from Edinburgh Medical School in the summer of 1938, just in time to serve in World War II. He survived Dunkirk and other atrocities of war, before moving to Gloucestershire with his wife in 1948 to find solace. Nothing fazed him anymore, especially not an overwrought, self-centred young woman giving birth for the first time.
It took ten minutes to drive from his surgery to Silkwoods Manor. He let himself in and climbed the baronial staircase to the master bedroom where Elizabeth could be heard bellowing.
‘Where’s the bloody doctor? My Harley Street physician could have got here quicker.’
‘I’m here Elizabeth.’ Dr Gladstone strode through the door, taking off his fedora and putting down his bag.’
‘Hello, doctor.’ Phyllis and Nellie said in relieved unison.
‘Now, Elizabeth, I would like you to breathe in through your nose to the count of three. And then breathe out through your mouth, to the count of four.’ Both Phyllis and Nellie inhaled and exhaled. Lulled by the soft, reassuring tone of Dr Gladstone’s lilting Scottish accent which reflected the calm he felt within but was failing to convey to Elizabeth.
‘And I, just want you to get this thing out of me!’
‘Elizabeth, your baby’s doing fine.’
‘Well bully for the baby, I’m not doing fine!’ Looking down, she watched as Dr Gladstone, brow furrowed, peered up at her vagina. His squinting eyes, magnified by the lenses of his round, metal-framed spectacles, as he calmly announced that the baby’s head was crowning. Phyllis and Nellie leaned in for a closer look.
‘This is all so bloody infra dig.’ Elizabeth wailed. ‘One feels like one of Fergus’s prize heifers giving birth with everybody gawping at my pudenda.’
A deep-throated groan escaped her lips as she kicked out her right leg, the heel of her foot impacting the bridge of the good doctor’s nose. The grandfather clock in the hall struck 12 o’clock noon, as Lisa Elizabeth Grant shot out of her mother’s vagina coated in a mix of amniotic fluid, blood and vernix. Her cries were barely audible, drowned out by her nineteen-year-old mother’s blood-curdling screams.
‘That’s the last time I’m ever bloody well going to go through all this! Do you hear me, Fergus Grant? You can keep your trousers on in future!’