Monthly Archives: March 2013

Not the V Word

We continue to live in the House of Plagues. I am considering daubing a big red cross on the front door, to warn people that herein lies every known – and no doubt some unknown – lurgy. It reached its nadir late last week, about nine in the evening. B awoke, screaming like his willy was on fire, and we rushed up to see what was going on. Between screams he was coughing like a Marlboro smoker, and between that he was gasping for breath. This, we concluded through a shared glance above his head as he writhed in M’s arms, was officially Not Good. After another couple of episodes of B seemingly not being able to get air into his lungs, all talk of NHS Direct was gone and A&E seemed the only option.

We had a quick game of ‘Who has drunk the least?’, which, it turns out, was me. Damn. I flew round the house packing a bag with essentials (I looked longingly at the bottle of red, but decided against it) and bundled B into the car, giving him a quick puff of the inhaler he was given for his last cough, just for good luck.

I arrive at A&E, having spend an inordinate amount of money for the privilege of parking my car, and go up to one of the receptionists. Explaining that my son was struggling to breathe, she peers over the desk at B in his pram, who gives her a little smile. For fuck’s sake. She looks back at me, and I know exactly what she is thinking: paranoid time waster. She picks up my form and sticks a green sticker on the front. I am pretty sure I know exactly what that means too: paranoid time waster. Mind you, the man next to me has hurt his elbow, and has waited three weeks to see if it would heal before deciding he can’t carry on a moment longer and has come in to get it sorted. I guess there is just not much on the TV right now.

I go through to children’s A&E with a sinking feeling, pondering if that green sticker means I am in for a bloody long wait. B is triaged by a lovely nurse and a not so lovely man of unspecified medical training who asks me if B’s tummy is always that big, the cheeky shit, and then we  take a seat in a very crowded waiting room.  I play a bit of ‘Whose disease is it anyway’ with the variety of kids and babies around the room, musing on an article I read that morning about an adage that doctor’s apparently have to remind them to look for the most obvious cause of the complaint rather than something more exotic: when you hear hooves, assume it is a horse, not a zebra. Quite frankly, if it’s hooves they are hearing there’s a high possibility that they have trained as vets, the morons.

And still we wait. One couple with a young baby have brought the grandparents along, and are having a merry old time taking up half the bloody waiting room, talking loudly and finding this an ideal time to share cute videos of their offspring on their phones. A little boy is moaning incessantly, which is already getting right on my tits, and B is getting bored of sitting on my lap, so I am forced to stand up and jig him around. And we wait a bit more.

An hour comes and goes in a jigging-pacing-sighing blur. B is getting more fractious by the moment, wailing the second I have the audacity to sit down or try to lower him into the pram. So I pace and jig, jig and pace. The only excitement is when the nurse comes into the waiting room to call the next patient. There should be a drum roll… will it be me? Are we next? She opens her mouth… the waiting room takes a collective breath in with anticipation… no. We are not next. Of course we are not bloody next, we have a green sticker on our form.

More jigging and pacing. I am sweating with the exertion of holding my son for nearly two hours, not helped by the fact that the room is at a tropical 25o. Because why wouldn’t they have the children’s A&E room this hot? It’s not as if half the kids in there have inordinately high temperatures or anything. Even those without a high temperature have huge red cheeks it’s so bloody hot. I would imagine that 25o is about the perfect temperature for viruses to spread, but given that the medical profession can only throw its hands up and back away frantically making the sign of the cross the moment they suspect a virus, they probably haven’t figured that out yet.

We are in hour three. I am so exhausted from all the jigging and placating and waiting that I can hardly think straight. I am desperate for a drink of water but dare not leave the waiting room in case they pick that moment to call us in. A woman bursts through the door and collars a nurse, angrily tackling her about how long she has had to wait. The nurse tells her she is next in the queue and her daughter suggests they stay in the waiting room, to which the mother replies: ”   am not waiting in here! It is full of sick people!” She has a point, but really, there’s plenty of virus to go round, she should come and try some.

B is getting more and more vocal about the fact he is bloody tired, feels ill and wants to go to bed, and my various attempts to placate him are useless. Another mum comes up to him, stroking him and gently shushing him, and he falls quiet immediately. It’s always so nice to have your parental incomeptencies demonstrated to a room full of people.

At the point the nurses explain to those of us left in the waiting room that it is midnight so they are going home,  a mild depression settles on me. Soon, just B and I are left with another mum and her daughter. No one else comes in or out. By this time, B has decided that he is just so bloody tired that there is only one thing left to do: scream. So with shooting pains down my back and a fierce burning in my shoulders, I jig him around a bit more. A registrar comes in and we all look at her with hope, but she sits down at the desk and only acknowledges our presence when B’s yelling is obviously annoying her and she turns and gives me a hard, black stare. The end of my tether slithered away to get some sleep over and hour ago, and it takes all my will power not to dump B on her lap and tell her to do a better job if she can. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Actually, that’s bullshit. There is no laughter at this juncture whatsoever.

At 1am, four long, lonely, hours after we arrived, another registrar appears and calls us into a cubicle. He looks at B, who has stopped crying, no doubt from the shock of actually having some medical attention, and tickles him under the chin. B giggles. I could have flipped up the lid of the metal bin next to me and popped him in right then and there.  The registrar continues to tickle and coo at my son. Er… sorry. I have waited four hours to see you. I am not sure I am really that keen on wasting time like this.

“Isn’t he lovely?” the registrar says. I grit my teeth. That is not a fucking diagnosis, doctor-man, so shut up.

“He was struggling to breathe.” I state. He looks at his form, looks back at B and starts gurning at him again. No. Stop this. I may have to punch you.

The registrar steps back and looks at B, before waving at him. What the hell is this? Do you not want to listen to his chest? Check for a rash? Look in his ears? At the very least, wipe his bloody nose. DO SOMETHING, FOR CHRISSAKES.

“He seems to have calmed down now.” No shit, Sherlock.

“It is probably a…”

No, I think to myself, as the words come from the registrar. Don’t say it. Not the V word.


The virus. That stealthy interloper, insinuating its way into blood streams under the cover of darkness, undetectable and unfathomable by our greatest scientists. And our medical profession. Got a load of symptoms and can’t work out what it is? We’ll call that a virus. Got a load of different symptoms and still can’t work out what it is? Well whadda you know, we’ll call that a virus too.

He smiles again at B. “You can go home.”

I am so tired and angry I cannot speak, so plonk B in the pram and head home.

I blame that bloody green sticker. Maybe it didn’t mean Paranoid Time Waster. Maybe it meant: Diagnose as a Virus.

Brave Little Soldier

Before I launch into another missive that demonstrates my amazing parenting skills and delightful, well-behaved children,  I would just like to say a big thank you to all those lovely Mothering Frights readers who took the time to vote for me in the MAD Parenting blog awards. THANK YOU. Due to your fervent mouse-clicking, I am now a finalist in the Most Entertaining Blog category. I know. Someone other than my mum thinks I am funny. Quite astounding. I am rather chuffed and I may have let out a little whoop when I found out and smiled manically for a bit. Which would have been okay, had I not been on the tube at the time, and we all know smiling is banned on public transport, let alone bloody whooping. So thank you. Did I already say that? I may well say it again before this paragraph is done. And now the bad news. I am going to ask you to vote for me again. ‘Just piss off with your sad, desperate please for votes, will you?’ I hear you cry. Well, that’s what the voices in my head said. If you are still reading this, and somehow haven’t punched the screen in anger at my audacity, please do chug on over to to vote for this blog (you’ll find it in the Most Entertaining Category, in case you weren’t paying attention earlier). I feel I have little chance of winning, as I was slightly dumbfounded that I even made the final five, but a few votes would be rather nice and might mean I don’t comelast. Thank you. Oops, there I go again.


Are kids born tough? I don’t mean in the chewy sense, I mean in the Brave Little Soldier sense. I have a feeling they might be. I look at B, whose favourite toy at 11 months old is a door and who likes nothing more than to push the door open with all of his might, to watch it rebound on its hinges and thwack him firmly on the forehead on its return. He doesn’t even flinch, just pushes it again and gets another one in the face for his trouble. (I will no doubt be writing about my youngest son’s extraordinary intelligence on another occasion). This activity usually continues until I remove him from the door’s path, or until he gets pushed over from the door’s velocity, finds himself on his back, at which point he promptly forgets all about the door as he has spied a delicious lump of mud that has fallen from someone’s shoe.  He may squash his fingers in the metal drawers (whoops) or bang his head as I lift him up in a confined space (okay, I do realise this is beginning to sound like social services should be involved) but after a brief spurt of tears, he is right as rain. No drama, no fuss.

And then there is my other son. I don’t know what happens between then and now, but he is a strapping four and a half year old who spends an inordinately large proportion of his time cataloguing and showing me his spots, grazes and bruises. “Look mummy, blood!” he cries and I lean in to inspect the finger he is proffering up as evidence. When I can see nothing untoward, I lean in a bit further.


“Look!” he says with some urgency, as if my failure to spot this gaping wound may mean he could bleed to death at any moment. “Here!”

At last, I spot it. A tiny red mark. About the size of three pin heads side by side. I give it a cursory kiss, and he flinches, obviously from the excruciating pain. My brave boy.

It is bath time. I am washing E, and as I wipe down his leg he shrieks: “Mind my graze!” I have to get out my electron microscope to enable me to see the faintest of grazes left on his knee after a fall from his scooter some weeks previous, yet he still imposes a two foot exclusion zone around his limb, because surely, one more touch and the whole leg will just fall off.

And the moaning. Bloody hell, the moaning. Now, I like a good moan as much as the next grumpy sod. But really, moaning about dubious aliments is taken to a whole new level by my son. Groaning, grunting, whimpering. It’s like the soundtrack to a particularly grubby porn film.  (So I would imagine).  Of course, the sounds of my son in (very) mild distress brings out my maternal streak. Instantly, my teeth are gritted. I bite my knuckles. I hum song very loudly, Anything but the feeble grunting of my offspring.

The blossoming hypochondria is kept company by a burgeoning fetish with plasters. I previously had maintained a strict plaster policy, whereby only actual grazes that need protection from the elements (and his fingers) are issued. This policy now lies shredded on the floor, obscured by the white paper that has been peeled from many plasters. Plasters are the injury bribe of choice akin to chocolate buttons and behavioural bribes. I will gladly slap on a plaster if he promises not to whinge incessantly any more about the fact he brushed his finger against the chair and has been apoplectic with pain ever since.

A lot of time, of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with him and that just makes the teeth grinding step up to a whole new level of enamel damage. He gets out of the car from nursery, complaining of a tummy ache. Immediately, I am dubious. We have been here before, many times.

“Well,” I say, assembling my concerned face. “You’d better not have a snack tonight.”

“Oh… well, it’s better now.” Really? Now that is a surprise.

I was getting pretty damn smug about dealing with E’s faux injuries. A quick kiss, a concerned face, a plaster or threatening to remove a snack… job done. M even sat him down and told him the story of the boy who cried wolf to try and show him that fibbing about things was wrong. And then he started to complain about headaches, which I brushed off as a copy-cat ailment, as he had seen me take some tablets for a headache that morning. As I couldn’t put a plaster on it, I did the next best thing and gave E some Calpol. His insistence over a week that he did in fact have a headache, coupled with a temperature, did make me think he was not totally lying. Cue liberal use of Calpol, on the promise that he just stop that bloody whimpering. Anything but the whimpering. Then the stomach aches started a week later, and at the point he agreed that he should not have a snack, I relented and took him to the GP. Turns out, he has a chest infection. Whoops. Take 5ml of Guilt, three times a day for a week. Do not stop the treatment without finishing the course.

So he was the boy who cried wolf. And then he wasn’t. I didn’t know the sodding wolf rules had changed, did I? It makes my head hurt, trying to keep up. I might need a plaster…

Don’t forget, fans of swearing and mediocre parenting, my book Womb with a View is out in paperback at or from Amazon if you like your books less papery and more electronicy.


Inevitably, I have returned to the perennial topic that consumes so many parents. The one on which we all compare notes. That takes up an unwarranted amount of brain space, just thinking about it. About how it feels to have some. About how to get more of it. No, not wine. Although that is a close second. Sleep.

Just thinking about sleep makes me both momentarily drowsy and claw-my-own-eye-bags-off-my-face irritable. Because (and please do pass me the prize for stating the bleeding obvious here) I do not get enough. Nowhere near enough. If I slept from now until Christmas, I would only make a small dent in the slumber deficit I have. Hmm. Perhaps there should actually be a Slumber Deficit Index, which tracks your lack of sleep. With four and a half years of not getting a good night’s sleep, I would be ranking somewhere around a seven out of ten, I would think. The SDI (that’s the Sleep Deficit Index, not some nasty sexually transmitted disease… please keep up, anyone would think you were tired or something) would work in conjunction with the Sleep Interruption Index. The SII would track the frequency of sleeps that are interrupted by your kids. On which I would be scoring a 2, as we have had a miraculous three-night stint of no interruptions. However, last week, in the throes of B having taken up Extreme Teething as his latest sport, my SII would  be a 9. At which point, I would be multiplying my SDI by my SII and scoring an alarming 63. I think parents should wear their sleep scores on a badge on their lapel. Anything over a 50 and you know not to ask them anything too taxing like how to divide up the lunch bill between three, not forgetting Jane didn’t have a pudding. Anything over a 65 and don’t even think about gently criticising their kid who is currently up-turning the tables in the cafe. Over 85? Just back away, throwing biscuits and compliments toward them like they are going out of fashion and get the fuck out of there.

See, I must be bloody tired, I think I attempted some multiplication in that last paragraph.

Fatigue does strange things to my brain. When I try to think, it’s like my brain is calling me long distance. There seems to be a three second delay before anything actually materialises. I am sitting at the table and glance down to the floor to see half a leaf that has been walked in from outside. I then see B, speed-crawling his way toward a tasty pre-lunch snack of muddy foliage. I look at the leaf again, thinking that I really must pick it up and do it soon. B gets closer. Okay, time to bend down and pick it up, I think. But my body is inert. B is slowing down as he reaches his prize. Any moment now, I muse, my brain will tell my arm to get the sodding leaf. B picks up the leaf and moves it to his open mouth. Finally I move, snatching the leaf, leaving only a few granules of mud on his bottom lip on which he happily sucks. Ah well, what doesn’t kill him makes him stronger, I think. then I looked at him again, just to make sure it hasn’t actually killed him.

I think that long term tiredness has just slightly broken my brain. Once, words were all stored up there in an efficient and tidy manner, and I could retrieve them in an instant. Not only that, they would appear out of my mouth in the right order. Some were even longer than two syllables. Now, my brain has decided to store my vocabulary in a slightly different way. Less highly effective filing system, more lottery balls bouncing around in utter chaos. I was having lunch with E the other day, and I said: “Pass the…” I knew what I wanted to say. After all, I was staring right at the bloody bottle of ketchup, it was not as if my brain was grappling with the complexities of string theory. The trouble was, no word came out. I thought a bit harder, probably frowning with the exertion of all that mental activity. But all I could imagine was thousands of tiny white balls, ricocheting around my skull, on one of which was the word that I was grappling for. But I was buggered if I knew what it was how to get it out.

“So, here comes the first ball on Word Lottery… good luck everyone… we are using Guinevere today and set of words number seventy-two… here it comes… and we have ‘table’.

“Pass the… table,” I eventually ask E, who looks at me, quite rightly, as if I have gone just a little bit mad. I think I have shocked myself. Pass the table? The table? What use is a table? Ooh, I could lie down beneath it for a kip…

“What did you say?” he asks.

“Err… nothing.” Ketchup with fishcakes is highly overrated, anyway.

Sleep deprivation also has a charming effect on my body. Particularly my face. Now, I never was much of a mirror gazer. For me, my face has always been more functional than aesthetic, containing as it does useful holes through which I can see, breathe and eat. But now, having had children and bog all sleep for over four years, I have been known to actually duck when walking past the bathroom mirror. I do not need to see my eye bags; I know they are there. Christ, there is practically a breeze on my lower eyeballs where the eyelid is being pulled away from the ball due to the weight of them. And I have a friend who helpfully mentions how tired I look pretty much every time I bump into her, which is nice. I would punch her, but I am just too sodding tired.

I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about sleeping, particularly given the little I actually do of it. This morning, I gave myself a break from thinking about sleeping and was thinking about the future, when the boys have left home. My first reaction to this thought? ‘Oh my god, I will actually be able to have a lie in whenever I want.’ So only another eighteen years to wait, then.

Teething troubles

Ah, the weather is warming up a little, the evenings are gradually getting lighter and festival season is upon us once again. We are holding ShitFest in our house. I didn’t even realise I’d got a ticket, and I really should have brought some wellies, but ShitFest it is.

B is teething. Not his first tooth to appear, as the bottom two popped through without too much fuss, followed by a top one – but not one of the front pair. Oh no, not my son, that would be far too predictable. He got one just to the right of the front pair, giving him quite a special look. With the whole tongue-poking-out-for-minutes-at-a-time thing he has going on, he looked quite the window licker. And now he has three coming at once, both the front two and the one beside it. I think he’s trying to play Connect 4 with his teeth and four in a row is not far off.

But with three coming together, the teething effects are in full swing. His cheeks could light up a house in a power cut, or fry a couple of chipolatas, or probably both. This, I can deal with. A squirt of Calpol and they usually turn down to a light simmer. But the poo. Oh my god, the poo.

M went to check on him one evening, and returned downstairs looking a little shocked. So  I went up, and as I opened the bedroom door the wall of smell hit me. I had an involuntary facial chemical peel right there on the spot. Holy shit, I have never smelt anything so evil. So perhaps not Holy Shit at all. It was like Beelzebub’s bile with a dressing of mustard and blue cheese that had been left to go rancid in a particularly sunny spot before a liberal shake of Eau de Vomit was added. As I approached the cot I did ponder if a) we had any wallpaper that needed stripping, because one wave of that malevolent nappy and it would have fallen to the floor in immediate surrender and b) did we have a chemical protection suit to hand that I could slip into before pulling back those nappy tabs. I should invite the Met round to practise their dirty bomb drills, they will be hard pressed to face anything quite this grim.

It was a double-hander, changing that nappy. You know you are in deep trouble when you pick your baby up and you can just see a little bit of poo poking out the neck of his sleep suit. We rolled and tucked, rolled and tucked his body suit, trying to extricate B from the shit cocoon he had created for himself. Precious few centimetres of his skin had not been smeared with the liquid, yellow poo. Both M and I would turn away, gulp a lungful of fresh air, before turning back to continue the clean-up operation and eventually he was naked, wiped clean and ready to be re-dressed. We opened windows. We fanned the door back and forth, but that bloody stench still lingered. An hour later, I was still smelling it as I walked around, nervously checking my top for poo smears and washing my hands for the fifth time.

Apparently, ShitFest goes on for quite a few days. I plonk B on the floor to play with some toys, and then there will be a sudden stillness. Oh Christ, here it comes again. I race to pick him up, but it is too late, I can’t reach him in time. Out comes a fresh torrent of teething-induced bum-juice, shot at high velocity through the small gap at the back of his bum crack where his bottom is not pressing on the floor. I pick him up, but it is too late. A yellow stain is blossoming on his vest above the nappy line and creeping up his back, and it is time for yet another strip-down.

I have to admit, I am a bit bored of ShitFest now. It’s getting a bit repetitive and the headline act stinks. I have run out of Vanish spray, clean vests and the will to live. I am just longing to open up a nappy and see a nice solid, brown pat of baby poo nestling there. Now there’s a phrase I never thought I’d utter.