Monthly Archives: June 2012

Glory Seeker

E and I are discussing potential birthday presents, prompted by his enquiry as to how many months it is before his birthday.

E is adamant he wants a full size Lightning McQueen car that he can drive. A proper car, he clarifies.

“I don’t think there is such a thing,” I say, trying to plant the thought that he might just be shit out of luck.

“Yes there is. Go to the car shop.”

I beat a tactical retreat from this particular rejoinder. You can’t fault his logic but his sense of optimism is sorely misplaced.

“What else?” I ask.

“A Chelsea tee shirt.”

Now this I did not expect. “How come?”

“Because Oliver has one. He likes Chelsea and I like Chelsea.” Ah, Oliver. One of the older boys at pre-school. Much of what Oliver says and does quickly becomes gospel. I could cheerfully poke that boy in the eye. Maybe with a Transformer, which my son is also obsessed with courtesy of Oliver.

“Daddy won’t be pleased, ” I say with a grin. “Don’t you want to support his team?”

“Who is it?”


There is a pause. “Do they win much?” he asks.

“Err… no.”

“I like Chelsea. They win a lot.”

And just there, my son seems to have learned another life lesson. Along with the knowledge that foot stamping does not in fact get you another episode of Octonauts and that farting, under any circumstance and at any volume, is inherently hilariously funny, he has discovered another undeniable truth: fuck sentimentality, fuck tradition: go where there is glory to be found.

It’s almost worth getting him a Chelsea shirt for that. Almost.

A pedant in the bedroom

We are doing that morning thing: I am feeding B, E is rolling over M and shouting in his ear whilst M lies very still pretending to be asleep. The clock is telling all of us that by rights the day should not have technically started yet. The radio is on and E, it turns out, is listening.

“What’s an iceberg, mummy?” he asks.

I open my eyes. It appears I had momentarily dozed off as B chomps away on my right breast. “Erm… it’s a big… mountain of ice… in the sea.” That’s the best I can muster with the three lone brain cells that are currently functioning.

“Can fish swim through it?”

“No, they are solid. Like the ice on Octonauts that they have to smash through.” I am pretty pleased with myself to have contextualised it to a recent programme he has seen. There must be a forth brain cell flickering into life.

“But that ice was flat, not a mountain.”

Fucking hell. Who let the pedant in the bedroom?

“Well, yes, okay… that was flat. But still solid, like an iceberg is.”

I should have left it there, I really should. But there is something wrong with my brain. I have to bloody embellish. To add that extra layer of information. To put in a bit extra. If there’s a conversational cake, I will ice it, put a cherry on top and then go back with a handful of hundred and thousands, before adding some Smarties for good measure. And maybe some of those crystallised fruits that no one likes before considering a liberal application of edible silver balls.

“A long time ago, there was a ship called the Titanic. It bumped into a huge iceberg and the iceberg ripped a big hole in the ship. It sunk right to the bottom of the sea.”

Blimey, I can’t imagine why I never became a history teacher.

“Did it get dead?” Now even I know not to enter a conversation with a three year old about the intricacies of whether an inanimate object can die. And I am certainly not going to mention the huge number of people who drowned.

“No. It just sunk.”

There is a long pause.

“Mummy, if you are killed then you are dead,” Ellis states matter-of-factly.

Well. Now there’s a sodding cheery thought with which to see me through the day.

A new trick

Let’s face it. Babies are boring. Dull, dull, dull-ed-dee-dull. Which is why parents go apeshit-gaga-my-offspring-is a genius when they excitedly report that their baby has just smiled. Or raised an eyebrow. Because as a parent of a newborn, you are faced with a writhing, milk-drinking, shitting, sleeping and crying machine with no volume control. For weeks and weeks, that is all they do: drink, shit, sleep, cry. And not necessarily in that order.

Being with a baby is much like watching paint dry. Seeing as you put all that effort in, you feel strangely compelled to watch (just so long as you are in a well ventilated room) but you know deep down that fuck-all is going to happen any time soon.

And this is also why you get the same dull bloody questions asked of you when someone, friend or stranger, sees your baby for the first time: ‘What’s his name?’ – swiftly followed by: ‘How much did he weigh?’ Honestly. Who gives a fuck? No one.  An hour after B was born, even I struggled to find that fact interesting. There might also be a tertiary enquiry as to how your baby is sleeping, which is the largest single waste of oxygen known to man, as everyone knows the answer to that one: bloody crap. But those questions keep being asked, because babies are so sodding dreary that it is impossible to summon up a fascinating question about them. If babies were born with just one appealing skill, these ubiquitous baby conversations would not suck the life force out of those involved. ‘How’s his juggling coming along?’, ‘Did he get the answer to five across yesterday?’ or even ‘Can I see his lion impression?’ would all be much more welcome conversational openers.

And then B did something outside of his repertoire: he raised his temperature. A lot. ‘Look mummy, I can do hot now. If you fancy a fried egg, here’s your chance, my forehead is sizzling.’

We deploy the big guns of the parental armoury. Well, the only guns, to be honest: Calpol. But not even the miracle that is bottled strawberry loveliness can cool him down, so it is off to the GP, and soon we find ourselves on our way to children’s A&E at the local hospital. I am rapidly revising my somewhat laisse-faire attitude to my youngest offspring. Whilst with the first, I was convinced that I was only one wrong move or flawed decision away from inflicting mortal pain or irreparable damage, with B, I have assumed a rather more optimistic demeanour. But now, my faith in his ability to withstand whatever life, or his brother, throws at him is crumbling in the face of a very concerned hospital nurse and doctor.

They start doing tests, which involves fitting B with a cannula. As he is a wriggly little blighter, I am called upon to help restrain and placate, two activities that are not particularly mutually conducive, it has to be said. I try not to look at what they are doing to him, but it is impossible for my eyes not to be drawn to the large circle of blood that is blossoming rapidly on the paper sheet beneath his hand. The day is definitely not panning out the way I thought it would. I was up for a stroll to Tescos and perhaps, if I was feeling adventurous, a spell for B under the play gym. Blood, fever and a growing wave of bilious panic in my throat was not really what I had in mind.

Hours pass, and then comes the dreaded sentence: ‘We are going to admit him’. Now I know they are not fucking around. Just as in most of these medical situations, I have a thousand questions and they have no answers, so I wait to be escorted upstairs. I sit in the cubicle, with B in my arms. He looks at me and smiles. I smile back and take a very deep breath. I seem to recall that in my job description of Mother, there is a part about being obliged to hold it together and to be strong for your offspring. At this point, the appraisal form would definitely state ‘needs to improve’. Mind you, in the section marked ‘Patience and tolerance’ I am already on my last written warning. Luckily, M arrives and I can gladly delegate the ‘keep calm and strong’ task to someone much more skilled in this area.

And then we are on the ward, in the room in which we will be staying. The cot looks like a prison cell on wheels, with huge metal bars and towering sides. The designers have tried to mitigate this by painting the bars a combination of bright green and blue. They failed. M and I both smile and talk about inconsequential rubbish so we don’t have to speculate on what is happening to B. Never have we worked so hard at a conversation about what E did at nursery.

Antibiotics are administered via the cannula, but B is still cooking from the inside out. Or maybe it’s the outside in – don’t ask me, I haven’t a bloody clue what’s happening.  I am trying hard not to imagine the plethora of horrible, fatal or disfiguring ailments he may or may not have, and am employing the ‘la la la la la la la’ technique inside my head to try and stem the flow of thoughts, but into a vacuum, ever-more horrific thoughts will always be attracted.

A camp bed is set up for me beside the cot, and M and E leave. I eye up the NHS pillow, the cover of which is made of a material alarmingly reminiscent of a condom. Well, I suppose it is their moral duty to promote safe sleeping. I am just thankful that the A&E nurse gave a heads up about bringing in a pillow which I had dispatched M to collect. A nurse arrives and gives a pitying glance at my attempt to make a bed with sheets before telling me that I must have the fan on all night for B. The wall-mounted fan looks like it would shortly be putting in an appearance on the Antiques Roadshow.  Its line of blow (this may or may not be a technical term) is right onto my pillow. I shudder slightly at the thought of my eyeballs drying out in the middle of the night and swiftly throw my pillow to the other end of the bed. I request another blanket which the nurse duly brings. It turns out that my idea of a blanket is somewhat less gossamer-thin and riddled with holes than hers, but I accept it gratefully.

We now have to play a waiting game to see if the antibiotics and paracetamol cocktail will have an effect on B, so despite it being not yet 9pm, I get into bed, lie stiffly under the scratchy sheet and think a succession of fear-inducing, morbid thoughts. I am utterly knackered, but what with the worry, and its best friends doom and gloom, coupled with the fan, which is emitting a noise not unlike a lorry passing over a rusty cattle grid, sleep and I are not on speaking terms for several hours.

Day two follows the same pattern. B is in isolation, which means I am pretty much confined to quarters too. His temperature is responding to treatment, and they take more blood for testing. The doctor also casually mentions a lumber puncture. Oh, jolly good. It’s just one fun-packed hour after another in this place. Later, B gets another cannula fitted in the other hand, so now he has two huge bandage-wrapped club hands. At least this gives him some way to pass the time, as it seems he can stare at these new appendages for hours at a time, with a ‘what the fuck happened to my hands, then?’ look on his face. I am tempted to ask them to fit a pair of hooks there whilst they are at it, because when B is two and really into pirates, he will so thank me for it.

We start to contemplate a long stay, as we wait for test results that never seem to appear (apparently, they are waiting to see if anything will grow in his blood or spinal fluid, but they do not really specify what. I put my money on baby carrots). Late in the day, a nurse lets slip that they are testing for meningitis, and the volume of my la-la-laing notches up to eleven. Which is quite appropriate given B’s recent spinal tap.

Another night passes, this time thankfully without the fan, and B’s temperature remains normal. The following day we are told we can go on home release, which is a bit like day release from prison but without the ankle tag, returning just for a daily dose of antibiotics. I cannot pack the bags quick enough. None of the tests have come back positive, apart from the initial bloods that showed some kind of infection. And that was B’s new trick in his repertoire: an unspecified infection.

So I hereby retract my former position. Give me a baby who is dull and boring. Dull is predictable and stress-free. Boring is good, and my blood pressure can’t cope with anything else. Although a lion impression every now and then wouldn’t go amiss.

Flotsam and jetsam

Gold coins the size of a wasp’s bum. Daggers the length of a match. Boulders the diameter of a pea. A shoe that would fit on a two pence piece. A mobile phone smaller than the nail of my little finger.

Our house is awash with the flotsam and jetsam of E’s toys. Tiny pieces of shit, satellite elements come adrift from the mother ship (or the mother pirate ship, in a lot of cases), inveigling their way out of the playroom by seemingly cunning subterfuge – in pockets, wedged in the tread of a trainer, clasped in small, sweaty palms – to ensure there is nowhere I can turn in the entire house without spotting a tiny component of something in my peripheral vision. Just this week I have found a sleeve cuff from a Play Mobil pirate in the kitchen drawer,  Bob the Builder in a pair of wellies which are patiently waiting on the landing to be transported up to the loft, and the lid of an orange pen under a sofa cushion belonging to a felt tip pen that may or may not have dried out yet.

It drives me bonkers. I walk across the kitchen to put the kettle on and a small cube of Lego skitters under the cooker. I pull back the duvet to get into bed and find a boat propeller lying there. I try to keep toys and all their associated parts in their rightful place, but it is a Herculean task not dissimilar to herding blue bottles with a pencil. E is insistent one evening that he has to take one of his cars upstairs at bath time, and given that any one of a number of quite innocent requests such as ‘Please clean your teeth’ or ‘Please don’t drink the bath water’ can provoke a meltdown of quite epic proportions, I relent to protect the gossamer-thin membrane of peace that is draped over our household. Said toy car then spends three weeks perched on the bookshelf upstairs annoying the shit out of me every time I walk past it as I think ‘I really must take that downstairs’ and then do nothing about it.

Of course, there is a simple solution to this problem. At least, it appears simple on the surface: just fucking tidy up. But tidying up takes two key factors to ensure success: time and effort. I have no time to tidy up properly. True, if I am standing at the kettle waiting for it to boil so I can warm B’s bottle, and I spot an abandoned bit of toy, I might pick it up. Then the kettle boils, I put the item down somewhere to hand and the tidying is abandoned. Hence the reason why I had a small car wheel in my skirt pocket for two days, only discovered as I pulled the garment from the washing machine.

And I seem to be suffering from Tidy Fatigue. It renders me almost incapable of picking up any pieces of toy, discarded outer clothing or pirate swords, mainly due to the fact that I know damn well it is only a matter of days – shit, sometimes even hours, before they, or items very much like them, break free of the play room confines to infect the rest of the house again. And like the most invidious of viruses, you can devise a strategy to beat it (‘Right, this bowl on the sideboard is for all those bits of crap I keep finding everywhere’) but in a heartbeat, it has evolved and thwarted you (‘What do you mean, the bowl was full so you left it on the floor?’). It is a plague that shows no sign of abating, coming in unstoppable waves of brightly coloured plastic. There should be a man on a horse-drawn cart making his rounds in our town every night, ringing a solemn hand bell, crying: ‘Bring out your crap. Bring out your crap.” I would gladly sweep the whole bloody lot into the bin.

And the most annoying thing in this whole, messy, if-I-step-on-one-more-fucking-policeman’s-helmet-I-will-not-be responsible-for-my-actions, nightmare? No matter how small the piece, how obscure it’s shape, I know exactly what it is and where it comes from. This is not something of which I am proud. I am alarmed when I contemplate how much of my brain is being taken up with this ridiculous knowledge. If I rid myself of knowing that the little mustard coloured curvy plastic bit fits onto the side of the pirate ship, or that the tiny red tube with a central collar is a joining piece for the white fire hose, what could I achieve instead? Okay, I know that if freed, the brain space currently involved in nerdishly remembering every single component of every toy would not suffice to accomplish anything spectacular. I am not expecting to be able to solve global warming, or even understand quantum mechanics (I was briefly interested when it involved a dead cat in a box, but it turned out it was alive… perhaps) but it would be nice if I could remember my own age, or not put my own jumper on back to front without noticing.

On a recent and rare tidy up, I see a small, funny shaped blob under the table. Hang on, I think. I recognise that… wait a minute… I am sure I know  what that is… oh yes. I know.  It’s my sanity.


Is it wrong, when dealing with a baby who just will not, under any circumstances, stop screaming at the top of his lungs, even after an hour of walking, jigging and cajoling, to gently and calmly sing several rounds of Rock-a-bye Baby, but replace with words with ‘Shut the fuck up please’?