A young woman is doing my nails and weâ€™re having one of those odd conversations you have when youâ€™re spending a long time one to one with someone you donâ€™t know. She mentions her kids, and as a parent I know weâ€™re now on the safe ground of shared experience.
But weâ€™re not, not really. I became a dad at 34. She became a mum at 18. I didnâ€™t separate from my wife until I was 44. She was a single parent from the get-go. My kids were born into a two car family. She doesnâ€™t drive.
We talk about our kids, about the cost of extra-curricular clubs and the problems of buying uniforms or kit for clubs the child might suddenly decide to quit. We talk about the lack of provision in her part of town, the binary choice of dancing for the girls and football for the boys. Her boy did hip hop dancing, just like my daughter, but he was teased for it and quit.
I ask her what her son is called, and she tells me. Itâ€™s one of _those_ names, the kind that tells you everything you need to know about the parent. The kind of name that makes you roll your eyes when itâ€™s yelled across a soft play by somebody whoâ€™s having a much worse time than you.
Thatâ€™s a nice name, I tell her, although I donâ€™t really think it is. Was it something you arrived at quickly, or did you spend forever in baby books?
Thereâ€™s a pause, and then she tells me.
They told her he was dead. A miscarriage. She cried, a lot. And when she went in for checks, checks to see if there was anything of him still there, they found a heartbeat.
There were other traumas, other indignities. But she left hospital with a miracle, a beautiful baby boy. A boy they said sheâ€™d lost.
Her family donâ€™t like the name. They think people will judge her, and one day judge him. Sometimes she worries theyâ€™re right. Sometimes she is right. But when she sees him, her beautiful, strong, happy young boy, she canâ€™t imagine calling him anything else.
I think itâ€™s a beautiful name, I tell her. And this time I mean it.