COLM O'REGAN: Obama and Putin talks come second to a sleeping baby

A baby’s sleep trumps nearly everything, writes Colm O’Regan

It was 9pm. We were eating in the lobby of the hotel. In recent months, some habitats have become more suitable to us than others. We are like elk who have rather suddenly evolved a set of antlers (a buggy) that has proven unwieldy in the forest (restaurants) and so we must move to the savannah (hotel lobby) with antlers containing a sleeping baby.

As we ate our tentative dinner, we glanced at the buggy as a hobbit might glance at Smaug while stealing a goblet. But we were very happy. The food was good and the company was asleep.

Then it started. From around the corner, a loud piano. We thought it might wake the baby but also we didn’t want to listen to it. That felt curmudgeonly. How could the world not be a better place with more music? But I have spent my life glancing around restaurants avoiding pianos. They are beautiful objects, like racehorses. But you don’t ride a racehorse in a lobby. You need space.

It’s a classic crux in modern Small Life. There are competing rights – the right to play music and the right not to listen to music. Which right trumps the other? Even if the music is nice, is the absence of music the basic right, like smoking? But we had the ace up our sleeve – the sleeping baby. A baby’s sleep trumps nearly everything. Obama and Putin could be involved in an angry exchange over NATO troop movements in eastern Europe and you could still wander over and say – sorry if you wouldn’t mind and point to the pram.

Except the piano player was good. And some people gathered to listen. And they’d applauded. One of the other couples has an awake baby. Like strike-breakers, undermining our position. I got up to peek around the corner. It was worse than I thought. Two lovely children playing the piano.

What kind of a monster would prevent two children from playing? They probably learned in some outreach programme in the housing projects bringing Mozart to the masses that you’d read about in an article in the Readers Digest. We resigned ourselves to listening and the baby waking.

But then the environment changed again. Some people left, including the couple with the awake baby. Also the children seemed to have exhausted their repertoire. They were just sort of messing and clanking discordant notes so that it sounded quite avant garde, but ultimately avant shite.

So I got up and gently padded over to the mother/primary encourager and quietly asked “um we’ve a baby asleep there I was um wondering if they could um … you know … stop?”

And she being a reasonable adult who doesn’t fret about these things, asked them to stop. They stopped with the “But we’re children who need to be given freedom to explore our hearts’ desires” expression on their faces.

I know that in about a few years’ time we’ll be exactly on the other side. Whatever hobby our child wants to pursue trumps all. I’m not sure about a piano though. If you give piano lessons you are potentially weaponising every hotel lobby. It’s the only instrument that’s left lying around. You’re not going to see a double bass leaning against the wall.

Maybe we’ll let her do the Theremin. Even if she plays it badly it’ll still sound ethereal. So in a few years if you are in a lobby with a sleeping baby and a sound starts up that suggests the climax of an off-beat crime movie and you look over and there’s an adorable O’Reganlet waving her hand next to an antenna, just remember: It could have been worse.


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