I had looked forward to Sperm-Bank Baby, if only to honor the only living legend I have ever come on. He was a research scientist at Aberystwyth, who, intrigued by stories of Russian scientists whose wives conceived after their husbands’ deaths, solemnly presented his wife with a wedding present of a quarter pint of his own semen. They kept it in a fridge in the zoology lab. But those of you with a scientific bent will appreciate the lengths to which this heroic man went. It took him two months and he went down the aisle looking like the moon at mid-day.
But science has advanced since then. The donor in the film – he was known only as Donor 28 Red – looked sprightly enough, or rather his jeans and Cuban heels did, and the hand holding the phone did not shake. That was all we saw, and the cameraman loved it, trickling from wrist to boot and back again. There was an unpleasant archness about the photography. Donor 28 Red had been traced by Des but would not appear. His mother, he said, wouldn’t like it.
The danger of this film was that it nevertheless showed so many kooks that it could have floated away. There was one donor who was filmed and said that it had been a logical progression from donating blood; his name was Bliss. And the man who actually ran the sperm bank travelled round in a windowless van full of pedigree Border collies, and semen.
It was his job to contact the sperm donor, check him into a hotel room, and wait ‘while he goes up and does his bit’; the camera lingered on a plastic cup. Wilcox soft-pedalled on this side of things, so central to the enterprise. What do they think about then? Are there props or just memories? Is it interesting work? What sort of hours do they keep?
But what made the film was the woman herself, a real human being at last. She was nice and sad, and her predicament, of loneliness and middle age, very touching. She even had a sense of humor, as when she confessed to falling in love with Donor 28 Red’s curriculum vitae. Because of her you could even put up with Wilcox. ‘No Daddy for Doran,’ he said heavily. But the worst thing about him is the way he is not prepared to let a sentence go. ‘Do you feel you’re part of a changing pattern in mankind – grandiose though it sounds?’ He loves his purring vowels.
Then the lady spoilt it by inviting Des and the boys in to film the build-up to the act: much chanting and candlesticks. With great tact they withdrew before the water-pistol was brandished, Des allowing himself one close-of-play report: ‘As yet there is no confirmation of Afton’s pregnancy.’
In the New Year he will be back ‘with six months in the life of a young couple from Wales’. Oh God, perhaps it’s Neil and Glenys. Perhaps Wilcox was there that afternoon in the vasectomy clinic. God save us all, said Tiny Tim.