Wednesday, 30 September 2009

In with a Bang, Out with a Bang

September has been a month which, to be frank, I shall be happy to see the back of.

It started with a (very large) bang and trip to A&E. It progressed through several degrees of illness, loss of a relative and various other trials and it's just ended (although it's not midnight yet - there is potential in the next few hours....) with another bang - albeit a less serious and rather more humorous one. Once again, the toddler was involved.

You see he turned 2 last month and, as he hasn't been weighed for over a year, I thought it would be nice to take him down to the baby clinic in the local town and get him weighed. Just so they could jot it down in his Red Book for posterity. Just, you know, a nice harmless thing to do on a Wednesday morning.

I should have known.

Things have changed since the last time I went. It used to be something of a free-for-all. It's now been 'streamlined' and you have to take a ticket, a bit like at the cheese counter in Tescos, and wait to be called.

Thus we found ourselves seated in the waiting area with approximately 112 elderly people awaiting blood tests and a scattering of very new mums and pregnant ladies.

At the end of the waiting area, amongst the children's play house, was a large tripod stand holding up a very large whiteboard filled with information about infant health and keeping your baby safe........

(Those of you who know me can probably guess what's coming next.....).

Yup circa 3 minutes later there was deafening crash, the tripod had been felled, the board had been scattered and underneath it all was a small child. MY small child.

There is something slightly ironic about your child being squashed by a display on infant health and safety.......

He howled (this is a good sign - very badly injured children don't howl) and it was clear to me that he was absolutely fine other than rather shocked and with a red mark on his shoulder.

I was fine (I gave a sort of resigned sigh and then, once it was clear he was absolutely fine, in fact he'd barely noticed, I had to try very hard not to laugh) but the rest of the waiting room?

My god - you would have thought a lion had burst into the waiting room and attacked him. People started calling for cold compresses and Major Incident Report Forms and witnesses (witnesses!?) and a Physiotherapist (a Physio!? I think this was because she was the only person in the building medically qualified other than the Health Visitors, who all seemed to have gone into shock, and the Speech Therapist - who probably doesn't deal with squashed toddlers all that often).

My own Health Visitor came out of her room to survey the chaos and on seeing me did a double-take and said 'I might have known it would have been you'.

Everyone started declaring the sign a danger and saying it shouldn't have been there - which was quickly followed by a back track of 'of course it's been there ages and NOTHING like this has EVERY happened before', shortly followed by 'was he swinging on it? WERE YOU WATCHING HIM?'. No he wasn't and yes I was.

Anyway the toddler hooned around laughing while I spent 20 minutes filling in rather serious forms and signing witness statements. Blimey. I was like 'he's FINE! For heaven's sake - HE'S GOT AN OLDER BROTHER - this doesn't even register on his scale of bumps'. But they were having none of it - and the very grave report on his tustle with the tripod is off to join the rest of his reports in their file.....

After all that I needed a cup of tea so I headed under the sub-way and into the town. I will not name the town but let's just say it's seen better days. Even the McDonald's has gone bust.

Having had a cuppa I thought I'd take advantage of the discount vibe of the town and ventured into 'Savers'.

If you are not familiar with 'Savers', it's a shop which sells toiletries and cleaning products at slightly cheaper than normal prices.

For some reason 'Savers' is always full of old people who, despite the fact that there is PLENTY of stock on the shelves (and more in the store cupboard) and the shop is open all day long, are all shopping as if Armageddon is nigh and their survival depends on getting that can of Baptiste Dry Shampoo into their basket within the next 2 seconds and NOTHING AND NO-ONE MUST STAND IN THEIR WAY.

Bearing in mind the shop is small, cramped and badly laid out (why block half an aisle with a huge metal basket full of 20p sponges? How many sponges do the people of the town actually buy?) and that most of the customers are sporting mobility buggies, walking sticks or wheelchairs - it is NOT a good place to take a pushchair. Only I only realised this once I was wedged between the sponges and the TCP with no way out.


I did eventually get out but not without brushing against the foot of a man who let out an actual roar of rage and declared I could have done him 'a lot of damage'.

Good job the old tripod stand didn't fall on him then isn't it?

Anyway - roll on October......

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Going Potty

The thing about becoming a parent is that reasonably often you find yourself paddling in uncharted territory (or indeed, piss). Just as you get to grips with having a newborn/baby/toddler/pre-schooler etc, they go and change and you get a whole new set of things to 'expertly' guide them through.

Sometimes this is fun.

Sometimes it's, to be frank, terrifying.

And it goes on changing. On into teenagerdom and 'young adults' and then maybe having grandchilden and the like. And it doesn't matter if you've done it before because every child is so damn different.

When you are little you just kind of presume that mums are a kind of ubiquitous, capable expert in EVERY field and they just 'know'. They just 'know' EVERYTHING.

As a teenager you come to the conclusion that they know NOTHING and you actually know everything about the entire world. So there.

The truth is actually far more complex - mums know a lot, we pretend to know even more but, yup, sometimes we really do know jack sh1t. We are all, at times, flying by the seats of our pants.

I was reminded of this, all too harshly, when I attempted to potty train my first child. At the time I was feeling particularly 'expert' about the whole motherhood thing and then, suddenly, I found myself back swimming in the murky world of extreme self-doubt and not having a bleedin' clue what I was doing or how I should do it.

Something like 9 months later, I resorted to chocolate buttons for a wee and Jaffa Cakes for a poo and it worked (kind of).

The whole thing was all quite hideous and I have no wish to repeat it.

Only I'm going to have to.

The toddler is showing 'signs'. Well I thought he was. Now I'm doubting myself (again).

On the showing of these 'signs' I got the potty out of the cupboard (that alone gave me flashbacks).

I presented it to him. I showed him how to use it (well kind of, my butt wouldn't actually fit on it but I hoped he got the idea).

He shrieked with delight.

I smiled.

He put it on his head.


'My hat! My hat!' he cried.

'NO! For wee wees' I implored.

'My boat! My boat!' he exclaimed and promptly fetched Iggle Piggle for an impromptu sail.


And then he threw it down the stairs.

Today he decided to strip himself naked so I explained to him that if a wee wee came he could use the potty and he smiled and nodded.

And next?

Next he streaked through the living room at high speed, spraying a jet of wee as he ran, shrieking with joy.

Potty use: Fail.

'No. No. No' I explained, going to fetch the kitchen roll.

On my return I found him delightedly running his brother's cars through the puddles he'd created.

'No. No. No', I explained (again).

He looked very proud of himself.

'POTTY!' I reiterated.

He nodded.

Shortly afterwards he 'sprayed' the conservatory yelling 'POTTY! POTTY! POTTY' as he did so.

Yup, well if I'm not already, I will be shortly.

Clueless. The pair of us.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Who needs London Fashion Week...

..when (brace yourself girls and boys) OSBORNE'S AUTUMN RANGE IS OUT!

If you haven't come across Osborne's before (and lets face it, you won't have unless a) you've been reading this blog since the start or b) you are male, very tall and possibly rather wide around the girth) then you need to read all about it here first: The World's Greatest Retailer of Clothes for Big Boys. You can't just plunge straight into this as an Osborne's virgin. The shock could be fatal.

Now before I start to fall about on the floor in a pool of my own spittle at their latest modelling shoot I need to make clear the following:

1. They are a very good company (if you are larger than average bear) and my dad buys most of his clothes there. I am not saying anything bad about them at all - just admiring their modelling shoots.

2. They are actually at the very cutting edge of advertising because they were doing the whole 'Dove - Real Beauty' campaign using less than perfect models long long long ago.....

3. If they ever do stumble across this fan base I would be more than happy to pose for them. I know they don't do women's clothes (and for that I think we should all be grateful) but they do use a lot of props in their pictures. I've noticed Collie dogs, Jack Russel's and a nice pussy in the latest catalogue so if they would like to add me to their prop list, I'm more than happy to strike an awkward pose in a slightly grubby kitchen, possibly holding a mug of tea and grimacing whilst admiring a man in ill fitting nightwear. BRING IT ON!

Anyway - enough of this wittering and on to what you have all been waiting for. The Osborne's Big Boys Autumnal Top 10. Polish your conkers and take a good hard look at these firecrackers......

At NUMBER 10 we have these 2 cheeky chappies, ready to lead you up the garden path and into the world of over-sized polo-shirt nirvana. Brace yourself ladies....

In at NUMBER 9 we have this fine example of manhood who, with his bitch at his ankles, demonstrates just how big and sharp his tool is:

At NUMBER 8 we have something from the sale section which, when you hover your mouse over the original, urges you to 'click to enlarge'. Erm, thanks but no thanks:

In at NUMBER 7 there's 'Autumn Days When the Grass is Jewelled' (and your strange black buttoned up shirt and white gilet combo is just shrieking NO NO NO). I particularly love the lighting of this shot. It has something very 'local paper' about it:

At NUMBER 6 we have a similarly odd shot, this one appearing to have been taken inside the local care home/Portakabin. Is it a man? Is it a woman? Is it in fact Father Jack of Father Ted fame about to shriek DRINK!? Is it a smile? Is it a grimace? Rather like the Mona Lisa, it's a mystery. And why, when they are modelling a coat, has the picture been taken indoors? Who knows. Who cares. Unless you find yourself lusting after some shower-proof beige in an exceptionally large size, you don't need to know:

At NUMBER 5 (gosh this is getting exciting) we have Double Trouble with these bad boys showing us how it should be done (and for reference it looks like they're atop the Cob down at Lyme Regis the scene of many a geograpy field trip - alas I never got to sketch this formation). I'll let the picture tell the rest of the story:

In at NUMBER 4 it's 'Nice Pussy' modelling an oversize dressing gown (need I even attempt to ask why the skinniest man available is modelling the largest item of clothing? Just LOOK at the sleeves! The sleeves alone on that garment could house his entire frame. I mean I know the batwing-drapey sleeve look is in, but I don't think it's quite reached over-sized men's nightwear - yet). Also, a tip here, next time I'd ditch the spider plant - it's merely detracting from his eye-contact/pussy interaction:

At NUMBER THREE it has to be 'Coffee?' (also known as 'would you like me to seduce you? Sorry but if the answer is yes I'm going to have to roll up these darn pyjama bottoms or else I'll trip going up the stairs, could you possibly help me with my gusset?):

At NUMBER TWO, it has to be the criminal astride the bed in a seedy B&B. So, so wrong in so many ways:

And the winner? Well such was the standard (or should that be lack of standard?) of this season's collection that I'm going to need to ask you to pick between:

A) 'Dazed and Confused Outside the Sauna Whilst Wearing a Showerproof Mac strangely branded 'ESPIONAGE with my hand rather awkwardly posed'':

or in fact B) (WARNING: DO NOT VIEW WHILST EATING OR IF YOU HAVE AN AVERSION TO GNARLY TOES). The photo trying to demonstrate 'Extra Length Pyjama Bottoms' where the model doesn't actually have extra-length legs, the trousers still bear that 'freshly creased from the packet they've just been ripped from' look, there is a strange brown goo leaking from the oven behind, the floor is clearly not very clean and rather cold and (AND!) the model has mutant toes which also need a damn good wash:

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Osborne's - you need a woman's touch - and that woman could be me.....

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Hell hath no fury..... a toddler denied the opportunity to eat his father's fungicidal foot cream for lunch ('my smoothie! my smoothie!' - since when did a tube of Daktacort look like a smoothie?).

Or, for that matter, raw eggs which he has removed from the fridge and 'explored' by crushing them in his hands (I thought eggs under an equal pressure were like the strongest things known to man and you could stand on a box of them without breaking them? Clearly his grip is more vice-like than even I imagined).

Or denied the opportunity to wash his hands for 619th time in one morning long, long after the last remnants of the eggs had been washed away ('my hands! my hands! MY HANDS!').

Or prevented from grinding my MAC make-up brush into the walls whilst shrieking 'PAINT! 'PAINT!'.

Or removed from the top of the toilet where he is busy grappling with the cistern shrieking 'LIFT! LIFT!' (we have all become way too familiar with the inside workings of that toilet recently, and no, it still isn't fixed).

Or guided away from the cable that goes into the wall which he is really very sure needs to be removed from the wall using nothing but brute force.

Or stopped from swigging on a bottle of olive oil which he is SURE must actually be juice. 'JUICE! JUICE! WAAAAAAAAA'.

I had forgotten about this bit. The bit between being a baby and becoming a semi-rational-being (you know - the kind of human being that doesn't feel the need to cry for 20 minutes and beat their own head against a cupboard door because the top fell off their custard cream).

In 2 short(ish) years I had really truly erased it all from my memory.

The power of nostalgia (or maybe it's the Strongbow?).

I think I need to get out more. Whether I take the toddler with me is another question......

Anyway, I've got a man coming tomorrow to investigate my mysterious holes (boom boom) so I will be stuck in all day and I will need the power of your collective good will to ensure that:

a) he finds no evidence of infestation or dampness in my holes (no comments - please - people in my family read this blog).


b) things don't go the same way they did on the fateful day that Virgin sent an engineer round. If you missed that one, it's here: An Afternoon I would rather forget

There are some memories that even nostalgia/Strongbow can't fade.......

Friday, 18 September 2009

A Morning in the Life of a Mother

Before I had kids I had, like a lot of people, ideas about what it would be like and, most of all, what it WOULDN'T be like.

I would never shout.

I would never let my kids eat crisps before noon or, in fact, before a 'reasonable' age.

I would ALWAYS be fair and consistent - even after 3 hours sleep and whilst poorly.

I would never let the TV babysit them.

I would spend hours crafting beautiful sculptures with them and doing jigsaw puzzles.

I would always model behavior that I wished them to inherit.

I would take time to explain everything carefully and fairly and never give into demands for an 'easy life'.

I would in fact (it appears in hindsight) be super human.

Whilst pregnant with my first, I envisaged a scene where I wafted from my bed around 7.30am, swept downstairs in my Cath Kidston-esque nightgown, laid the table, served up some Bircher Muesli (I don't actually know what Bircher muesli is but it sounds a step up the ladder from common-or-garden Alpen so we'll go for that one) or perhaps even freshly griddled drop scones I had just whisked up which would be gobbled up by my ADORING and grateful children.

Everyone would get dressed into their beautiful clothes and we would skip off down a flower strew path to school........ If we were staying in then the house would be a serene, neutrally toned oasis of calm with children happily engaged in crafts and learning activities.

I hadn't got an effing clue.

You can try your best (and I certainly do) but sometimes this thing called life gets in the way. And sometimes in life stuff like sickness and grief and tiredness and well just, STUFF, gets in the way.

Here is today's reality:

Yesterday (whilst in the middle of a tutorial) I got a call from the school to inform me that my son has had an accident and needs collecting asap. Having suffered near heart failure over this news it turns out the accident is actually an explosion of diarrhea of proportions too immense to discuss. Poor kid. Poor teacher. Poor mummy.

This means that today I will be in the house all day, with no way of getting out, and two sick (yet still highly active) children.

My day does not start at 7.30am (as per my dream). It starts at 3am when the toddler starts screaming for a drink.

Having got him a glass of water he then precedes to demand that every Iggle Piggle in his cot (there is an array of Iggle Piggle's in varying sizes) also had a sip. And his rag. And Iggle Piggle's blanket. And a car. And a book......... Having fed and watered the five thousand I get back to bed but not really to sleep until about 5.30am when, having just drifted off, I am woken by some kind of ear bleeding screeching and the crack of splintering wood.

Son 1 has climbed in Son 2's cot and they are 'doing a rock band'.

The thing is, I haven't actually got the energy to get up, let alone deal with it in a calm manner 'modelling desirable behaviour' - so I just lay there and screech 'STOP IT! STOP IT NOW! DON'T MAKE HIM CRY! DON'T MAKE THE BABY CRY!'.

My husband snores through the lot (!?).

The children 'play' in the cot for quite some time until the older one decides to fetch a duvet and turn the cot into a 'cave'.

This actually means putting the toddler under the duvet and pinning him in the dark 'cave'.

Funnily enough the toddler doesn't like this.

At this point we have to get up. I am not wearing a glamour-puss nightwear (as per my dream). I am wearing an odd vest thing seems to finish several inches below the crucial area that needs covering and a pair of old leggings.

Come downstairs (it's not yet 7am and I am all too aware I have 12 hours to get through with no let up until I can put them back to bed) and try to sort out breakfast. Only there is no food and I can't take my ill, contagious, children to the shops and buy any bread (let alone Bircher museli) or other such vital items. Oh.

The children have chocolate muffins for breakfast, shortly followed by Skips.

My inner 'perfect mother' is spinning her grave. I take a deep breath and put the tele on - knowing it will remain on all day.

This keeps them calm for a short time before the older one declares the house is 'very messy' (yup! Wonder how that happened!) and fetches a broom. He starts trying to jab the broom at the ceiling and I end up shouting. He diverts his attention elsewhere and with minutes he's yelling at his brother 'come here so I can clean your teeth' and is attempting to do so with the aforementioned broom.......on the stairs.......

The broom is now on top of my kitchen cupboards.

At this point I need to take some stinking nappies out to my dustbin as I can't tolerate them in the house any longer - so barefoot and clad in my nightwear I make a dash for it, only to see my neighbour approaching just as I reach the half way point down the path. I dash back inside. Coast clear - off I go again, another neighbour appears. And so it goes on - I end up doing a sort of 'dirty nappy, mangy nightwear' shuffle up and down my garden path until I finally get the nappies in the bin. I honestly don't know what I'm worried about - they've seen me in worse. They've seen me in less. When my second son was born they all saw me in nothing but a blood soaked NHS blanket. With holes in.

I re-enter the house and my eldest son turns to me and informs me that sometimes people think his mummy is a vicar.

I am more than slightly stumped by this. Perhaps he's heard me utter the words 'for the love of god!' one too many times...... I could drill him on the matter and ask for further details but I choose not to. Some things are perhaps best unsaid and let's face it - there is (probably) worse things to be mistaken for than a vicar.

The toddler starts screaming from the kitchen. He's thirsty but is now at that age where he wants to do EVERYTHING himself - even if it involves lifting a 6 pint flagon of milk, taking the lid off and pouring it, entirely by himself, into a tiny plastic beaker. And if you try to help him or assist in any way it sends him into such a rage that he starts to smash things.


The phone rings. It's a complex call about our mortgage involving lots of writing down of long numbers and codes. During this the toddler (who still hasn't got his drink) reaches such depths of rage that he starts to fling Lego at me. Forgetting that I'm not talking to my mum or someone who reads my blog I yell at him 'to STOP IT NOW!'. The man on the phone is shocked - he thinks I'm talking to him. I have to explain that 'sorry the kids are chucking Lego at me'.

'Oh' he says.

Oh indeed.

Call finished, the phone rings again. It's some awful woman pretending to do a 'crime survey' whilst flogging alarm systems. I tell her to leave me alone - doesn't she realise! People in my house have diarrhea!! She hangs up.

During the call the toddler has tunnelled inside the clothes airer and manged to get his head stuck between two of the rungs. As tempting as it to leave him there, I need it for the laundry so I free him.

Finally it's lunch time! I'm half way to bed time!

The toddler is now asleep (having once again fed and watered all the Iggle Piggle's and sundry items in his cot) and I am blogging while the older one watches a programme about volcanos whilst pogoing up and down on the sofa re-enacting a pyroclastic explosion.

And that my friends is the myth versus the reality of what it can be like being a mother.

Now where are those drop scones I was whisking up earlier......;)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Waiting Times

Can there be anything more blood pressure raising than long waits in crowded waiting rooms with a 2 year old (the only 2 year old in a waiting room filled with stuffy old people)?

Yes, there can be!

Long waits in crowded waiting rooms with 2 year olds AND their over-active 5 year old brother.

(Son No. 1 turned 5 on Sunday. Due to 'circumstances beyond my control' i.e. the state of my life, I have some marvelous photographs of him ripping 'Happy Xmas!' wrapping paper off a value bag of pipe cleaners..... Oh well - it's the thought that counts!).

You see, while you may be able to control/distract/keep the attention of 1 small child for a couple of hours, keeping two small boys simultaneously calm/quiet/non-bothersome is bloody impossible. Well maybe it isn't and I'm a huge failure in the Game of Motherhood - but if you have two small boys who WILL sit quietly in a hot crowded room for 2 hours then please don't tell me about. It won't help me.

You see Son No. 1 had a 9.30am appointment at the hospital Audiology department and I knew from (long and bitter) experience it would NOT be a 9.30am appointment but even I was slightly surprised to see a large sign is now affixed to the wall reading:

'It is not unusual for your appointment to be in excess of 2 hours late. This is due to the complicated and technical nature of the work we undertake and some appointments taking far longer than would normally be expected'.

Err no it isn't.

It's because (and I have this on good authority) the department is so chaotic and so busy and so many people turn up on the wrong day or not at all that they actually book 2 patients into many of the slots to cut down the official waiting list. IF everyone actually does turn up on the right day then you're buggered and in the course of the day everything runs later and later.

Anyway - all this is OK because at least they have a play house and some children's toys and books in the corner of the waiting room........

Only they don't! Not anymore.

The kids are howling 'where's the house gone!? Where are the toys?'.

Good question.

I ask the guy on reception who informs me the house and toys have been removed because they could have been a 'source of infection' (as opposed to my kids who are not a potential 'source of irritation').

'What, because of swine flu hysteria then?'.

'Well they decided they could be a source of infection. It's one of those things'.

'What, one of those ridiculous things? One of those things that make no sense? Why not do a proper job of it and just remove all the door handles and the lift buttons and the toilets and your bloody desk we are all putting our hands on? And......OH LOOK! THE BLOODY FLOOR MY KIDS ARE NOW CRAWLING UP AND DOWN ON AT HIGH SPEED BECAUSE THERE ARE NO BLOODY TOYS TO PLAY WITH AND THE AREA I COULD HAVE PUT THEM IN IS NOW HOUSING YET MORE SEATS WITH YET MORE TUTTING PEOPLE ON THEM'.


So the kids entertain themselves with crawling races which is a nightmare because the waiting area is actually also a thoroughfare to several other departments - mainly departments inhabited by very frail elderly people who can only walk with people supporting their arms and have to shuffle very very slowly in a manner which looks a bit like they are about to hit the floor at any possible moment.

The last thing these people need is a supersonic 2 year old shooting out from beneath the benches and ambushing their ankles.

Stern words ensue and the children turn their attention to pot-holing in and out of the chair legs, popping up every few yards and shouting such randomness as 'MEERKAT DOT COM!' or 'SIMPLES!'. I decide the best thing to do is stare straight ahead, focus on the poster about assaulting the staff, and act as if I don't know where the children came from, let alone who they belong to. They are after all now behind me.


Damn. Plan foiled. They've found me and blown my cover.

People start to tut (considering this is an audiology department and at least half of them must be at least partially deaf, they seem pretty intolerant of any noise, other than that of their own tutting).

I call Son No. 1 over and explain he will have to desist from his tunneling and meerkat impressions as some of the people in the room are a bit sensitive and he might scare them. He wants to know if the people might die. I am afraid to answer.

I search in vain for something to distract them. The only reading matter appears to be a leaflet about 'Sex and Your Prostate - everything you need to know'.

Errr, thanks but no thanks. I think I'll stay in the dark about that particular issue. For now at least (and WHAT has that got to do with Audiology anyway? As far as I'm aware, although some men might have sex on the brains, their prostate isn't in actually situated in their ears? Maybe the clinic is actually dual purpose? In the afternoons it morphs into a Sexual Disfunction in the Over 60's jaunt?).

I spot one children's poster on the wall (presumably deemed infection free).

I eagerly take the children over for a closer look.

It reads 'Animals of England - Literacy Information'. There is something, how can I put this, erm......rather foreign about it. I don't know where the creators of this poster got their information from, but I think their source may have actually mistaken 'England' for 'London Zoo' and make also have been indulging in some kind of hallucinogenic substance.

The Animals of England apparently include:

A duck (yes - we have ducks! Well done!)
A beaver (erm, technically yes, but wiped out quite a while back although there have been some forays into beaver reintroduction in parts of Kent)
A wasp (PMSL at that one but correct - we do have wasps)
A hairtail (What!? I have never even heard of a hairtail, what with it not being top of the average Kiddy's Animal list. In the picture it looks like an eel and the description reads 'A hairtail looks like your belt'. No it bloody doesn't. My belt is plaited leather and fushia pink with a gold buckle. The hairtail is neither plaited nor pink nor embellished with gold.)
A Penguin (????) and.....
A monkey (the picture is actually a lemur but hey ho - if you're going to be wrong, you may as well be totally wrong).

The descriptions are even more inventive. Underneath the drawing of a peacock it reads 'The peacock is many colours, of glorious beauty, when erect'. I am intrigued.

The vast majority of the animal descriptions have actually been TIPEXED OUT by someone. Can you imagine? In the over-stretched, under-staffed NHS, whatever they said was SO bad somebody has actually taken the time to cover them up. I am desperate to get out a coin and start hacking the Tipex off but I daren't. I contemplate stealing the poster for later investigation but, considering that 90% of the waiting room are already staring at me and wishing me dead, decide against it.

The mystery of the "Animals of England" will have to remain just that - a mystery (a bit like the content of the 'Sex and Your Prostate' leaflet, although I am sure that one is downloadable from somewhere if you're interested. It may or may not contain the words 'glorious colours when erect'.).

Anyway just as the kids are starting an attack on the trolley used to transport the medical records ('LEAVE IT! It is NOT a push along toy!') we get called in.

Wow! Only 15 or so minutes late! Result!

Only no. The doctor shakes my hand (I am tempted to decline, due to infection control....), asks me to take a seat, looks pained as the toddler grabs all the tissue paper off the bed and makes an assault on the shiny instruments he has laid out so painstakingly and then realises that we've been sent to see him before the hearing test has actually been done so he doesn't actually have any results to talk about..... Oh. 'Don't worry' he says, 'just go and sit back in the waiting room, it shouldn't be more than 10 minutes'.......

50 minutes later we get called in the for the hearing test. I am informed I have to keep the toddler silent throughout and that he must NOT distract his brother but no, I can't leave the room. I am tempted to ask for a roll of Gaffer tape and a sack.

And then it's back out to the waiting room to wait another half an hour to go back in and see the same doctor again.

During this installment of 'Waiting Room Hell' the toddler disappears around a corner only to come back holding aloft a large yellow 'WARNING! WET FLOOR!' sign with 'DO NOT REMOVE FROM PATHOLOGY' written in marker pen across the back of it. Jeezus.

Anything he does which makes his brother laugh (which is basically anything undesirable) he then tries to do 10 times more and 10 times harder so returning the Wet Floor sign to its rightful home doesn't go down well and involves a lot of ear bleeding screaming. As I instruct 'NO! YOU DO NOT TOUCH THAT AGAIN!' and try to remove his vice like grip from the bottom of the sign without dislocating his arm (again) the Waiting Room looks on, no doubt penning silent letters to the Daily Mail in their heads about the state of today's mothers.

At one point the toddler sneezed and one of the other people in the room actually tutted and said 'charming!' in a snide voice. Sorry but what!? He is TWO. What do you expect him to do? Fetch a tissue and say 'bless you'?. Argh.

In the end I manage to find a small window and engage the children in (trying) to become excited about looking at the balconies of the flats opposite and a small patch of grass.

'Oh LOOK children! Can you see that SHADOW!'. 'And over there I can see a........wait for it........RECYCLING BIN!'. I'm saved by the arrival of a car which has some kind of engine trouble. The driver gets out and starts fiddling under the bonnet whilst smoking a cigarette. This leads to a long and diverting conversation about what would happen if a spark from the cigarette fell into the engine and a long debate about the extent of the explosion and destruction that would follow. 'No darling I don't think the whole hospital would fall down - maybe just that wall at the end'.

Finally the doctor calls us back in.

He takes one look at me, another look at my children and says, smiling through gritted teeth:

'Do you know what? I think we'll discharge you'.


Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Pig Palavers

Right so once I’ve got the rabbit to bed (see previous post) the night is not yet my own as I have to get the guinea pigs off the lawn and into their hutches.

Now this isn’t half such a problem because they are confined to a pen and also, as anyone who keeps guinea pigs knows, they are not particularly adept at performing stunts, death defying leaps of fury or (infact) aiming streams of urine into your eyes. No. Guinea pigs mainly just sit. And eat. And produce pellets. And sit some more.

However this doesn’t mean that getting them off the lawn isn’t without potential hazards – the main one being that the pen they are in is longer than the furthest reach of my arms. So if they are up the top end (which they invariable are) I can’t reach them and scoop them up unless I wriggle my entire torso through the cage door. And the cage door and my hips? Well lets just say they have a close relationship – a bit too close.

What a glorious sight it must be, a grown woman on her hands and knees, amidst several thousands guinea pig pellets, a large wood and chicken wire pen straddling her girth. I must appear rather like some kind of giant nightmarish tortoise battling with its own shell.

Of course as I lunge to get the nearest guinea pig the whole contraption comes with me and moves the same number of inches as I do – so the guinea pigs are perpetually just out of reach. Invariably it is at this point that my jeans start to creep down my buttocks revealing several centre inches more flesh than I would wish for and of course, there is very little I can do about it as my arms are trapped in the pen along with the rest of my upper-half.

So I’m not just a tortoise. I’m a tortoise with a builder’s bum.

‘Look kids it’s that woman next door again – she’s crawling around on her hands and knees, showing us all her flowery knickers and several inches of butt-cheek PLUS she’s wearing what looks like a gigantic cage round her hips. Oh and look! She’s trying to back up but her hair is so entwined in the chicken wire she’s well and truly stuck fast. Now THAT children is why you aren’t allowed any pets’.

After a serious of ever more desperate ‘grunt thrust’ manaeovers I do (usually) manage to grasp a pig or two but then I have the tricky problem of getting back out the pen and pulling my trousers up without dropping the guinea pig. So sometimes I just don’t bother and waddle down the garden with my trousers slowly heading towards my socks.

So compared to the rabbit it’s easy but what it is not is ladylike. But I kind of lost the need to be ladylike long long ago.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Bunny Girl

Much as I laugh at my neighbours, I'm sure they laugh at me more.

We have a rabbit (I may or may not have mentioned this before, I know I did mention ‘a’ rabbit – the one that got wrapped in an orange towel and thrown down the railway embankment by means of a funeral but this is a different one, obviously).

Anyway I never wanted another rabbit but a desperate neighbour wanted rid of him (I can't for the life of me think why?....) so I felt obliged to give him a good home. And before anyone gets worried he does have a good home – he is very well looked after indeed, however much of pain in the backside he is.

He is a French lop and as mean and moody and brooding as a rabbit could get.

For example, when it rains he doesn’t go and shelter in his pen or his hutch. No – he just sits in a flower pot outside my backdoor, fixing me with a steely glare and giving me dark looks as if you say ‘you theeenk thees rain bother me? Non. Nothing you can do veel ever touch me. Vor I am zeee dark rabeeet and if I sit here and get damp and seeeck, it veel be you picking up the vets beeell…ha ha ha’.

(I don’t know why I’ve made him sound German. As I said , he’s French but I always was crap at accents).

Anyway he is very cunning this rabbit and regularly leads us all a merry dance.

This morning my eldest son came down and went 'OH! There's a rabbit playing with my toys!' and oh yes, so there was. THAT rabbit. The one that lives in the GARDEN. Where rabbits BELONG.

Last night I thought the rabbit was safely ensconced in his hutch but no, it appears that whilst running free yesterday afternoon, he cunningly crept in the back door and concealed himself behind the washing machine, only to burst out at daybreak and make everyone believe that the Attack of the Mutant Rats was back for a second showing.

Because our garden is totally enclosed he regularly gets let out for a run around (I'm a soft touch aren't I? I should really entomb him in concrete and throw him in the canal but I feel like he needs to stretch his legs so day after day I let him out, in the hope he's changed....) and if he's OUT that means at some point he needs to be IN. And it's the IN that's the problem.

Over the years (and my husband and I have now gathered YEARS of experience in this field) we have identified several methods which we can employ to get the rabbit back in his hutch. Without exception - they all involve some kind of semi-public humiliation.

Basically you start at:

CODE GREEN: Code green means you find him on the lawn, flap your arms at him whilst saying 'COME ALONG NOW' and he hops into his hutch. Code Green is a VERY RARE EVENT and makes you feel very happy (and yes, somewhat smug) but be warned. IT IS A RUSE. He complies with Code Green for a few days so you get nonchalant, let him out more often and then he can reward you with a 10 minute high speed chase (with weapons) culminating in him kicking dirt in your face and spraying piss at your eyes. You have been warned. Still a Code Green is nice if you get it.

CODE AMBER: On a Code Amber he is normally to be found underneath some dense shrubbery and you will have to employ various brooms/litter pickers etc to try and coax him out. When I say 'coax' it usually starts with you saying 'come along BED TIME!' in a sing song voice. This results in nothing. So you start bashing the bush with your weapon, sorry, 'coaxer' of choice. This may or may not result in a raised eyebrow from the rabbit. It has never (yet) resulted in him moving but still you try. The next step it to start prodding him with whatever you have to hand. Very VERY rarely this makes him move. Normally it makes him shift about an inch and give you a withering look. If it does make him move then he normally goes round the garden like a squash ball and then , you've guessed it, back under the bush. If this is the case them you might have to go for broke and enter Code Red zone.....

CODE RED: If you've been out there 15 minutes and achieved nothing but twigs in your hair, scratches up your arms and all the neighbour's children gathered at the windows for their nightly installment or 'what the neighbours did next', as you pursue a small furry mammal round and round the garden uttering lines like 'I'M WARNING YOU - THERE'S A POT IN THERE WITH YOUR NAME ON IT!' then you enter Code Red. Now back in the old days (about 4 years ago) Code Red involved fetching the umbrella from the patio table and, with the help of your partner, performing a sort of Singing in the Rain style danced crossed with rugby, whereby you had to swoosh the umbrella from left to right and run in a zigzag whilst uttering something akin to a primal scream. However - either the rabbit got wise or my husband got fed up of the neighbours laughing at him (I can't remember which) and now Code Red involves reaching for the hose. I'm sure everyone on my street knows when I'm having a bad day because they can all hear me shout 'THAT'S IT! YOU'VE PUSHED ME TO FAR! IT'S TIME TO GET WET!'.

The hose usually works - even better is the Bazooka Super Soaker but we're probably entering RSPCA advert territory with that one so best not (que sad looking wet rabbit sat in a flower pot, the Moonlight Sonata playing in the background.....'could you give just £5 a month to help a rabbit like this?'......I'll tell you what - for £5 a month you can have the little sod delivered to your door in a gold plated basket with a velvet ribbon round his bony little neck), but just occasionally he likes to remind us that rabbits ALWAYS have the upper hand and pull the old 'leaping out from behind the washing machine and scaring you half to death' trick.

Do you think when we move house I can include him as one of the 'Chattels'?

But do you know what? I just know that as soon as he dies a) I'll be bereft and really miss him (well how else am I going to spend a large chunk of my evenings!?) and b) someone else with show up at my doorstep with a cardboard box and a rabbit who really needs a new home......

Friday, 11 September 2009

And then of course, there's the coming down....

Well first of all a massive thank you to all the kind wishes people have sent me over the last week - I have taken comfort from all of them and it is really very touching that people who have never even met you, care about you and your family. For those of you who have met me and still care? What are you still doing here!? ;)

Anyway I'd like to say that things have got massively better but, erm, they haven't - although the toddler is pretty much fixed. He's is merrily back to trying to remove his arms from their sockets all over again by adopting the position and flexibility of a calcified starfish every time he's confronted with some type of safety harness (pushchair, car seat - you know the kind of things you HAVE to bend your arms, and part of your torso, to get into). Having said that, he was napping in his cot when a wasp stung him on the nose. He cried for 2 hours solid - you know it's serious when even a Jaffa Cake won't take away the pain - but no lasting effects.

And the grief? How is the grief? Well I've decided that grief is like a large moth. Much of the time it sits on the wall, somewhere in your peripheral vision, and every so often it catches your eye and you think 'ohhhhh - oh yes, that's OK, I know what that it is, I'm OK with it, it's just that old moth!'. But then suddenly, usually at night, it comes clattering down, flickering around the light before clattering into you with no warning - bumbling about and bashing you before leaving you with nothing but the trace of its dusty wings. And for a while you're not sure if it's really gone back to sleep on the wall or if it will suddenly reappear. You know it will come back - you just don't know when. And that is grief - the brooding moth on the wall.

Anyway apart from the toddler (mainly good), the grief (as could be expected), the toilet (still totally f***ed), the TV (oddly back to it's normal self) and god knows what else - that just leaves me.

Well the good news is the Pharyngitis has gone - yay I can SPEAK! The bad news? It was quickly followed by some weird flu like bug which involved a migraine, vomiting, hot and cold flushes and generally not being able to get out of bed - so I had nobody to actually speak to (although I speaking was too exhausting to actually contemplate). Today is my first day trying to assimilate back into the 'real world' - and it, is to be frank, freaky.

I'm not sure how much of the freakiness is due to still being quite ill and how much is due to the fact that I'm coming down of Night Nurse.

To those of you who have dabbled in the seedy world of Night Nurse it needs no introduction. For those of you who haven't - well it's hard to believe they sell it over the counter for about a fiver a bottle. It's like taking a freight train to oblivion. Knock it back (that takes some doing - it's like a maxed out version of Absinthe) and you are 'gone' for about 16 hours. If you happen to wake up/be roused awake during those hours then........good luck!

When I was a teenager a friend bought me a plastic cereal bowl featuring Winnie the Pooh (Classic Pooh - not Disney Pooh - there is a big difference, an important difference, I can only abide Classic Pooh) falling out of a bee-filled tree with the words 'and then of course there's the coming down......' written round the rim.

It was quite profound that bowl. I took it to Uni with me and used to often eat cereal out of it thinking 'yup, he's right old Pooh Bear''. It was still going until one of my kids threw it onto my MIL's patio and smashed it. Maybe there's a message in there somewhere? Or maybe there isn't - I've just been taking too much Night Nurse.

Anyway - that's what I feel like - an old stuffed bear falling out of a tree to god knows where.

My first experience in the world of Night Nurse was when I came in from a big night out aged about 17 and promptly passed out on a friend's bedroom floor. She claimed I was snoring (and who am I to argue?) and decided that the best cure would be to wake me and persuade me to add to the copious amounts of vile brightly coloured liquid I had already consumed (this was the age of Mad Dog 20/20) by necking a shot of Night Nurse. I happily complied and woke up somewhere around a day later feeling like I was floating on a cotton wool cloud. I have no idea WHY my friend thought it would stop me from snoring - perhaps she thought it would kill me and therefore take care of the snoring? She was a rather odd friend. We don't speak anymore - not since she bit through my thigh. Anyway - moving on......

The Night Nurse has got me through but it's messed with my mind. A couple of nights ago the toddler woke me up and was screaming the house down. I tried to get up to him but just kept banging into the bedroom wall and falling back onto the bed so I told my OH to go. He said he'd already been in 3 times, the toddler was taking the p1ss and we should just leave it. Mid scream the toddler fell TOTALLY silent. 'There we go!' said my OH, told you so! 'But what if he's not breathing!' I said! 'I need to go and check!' and with that I fell back to sleep for another 10 hours........

Then this morning I found myself having to do the school run. It was scary being outside! Let alone with all the straight lines slightly bent and the feeling that I was wearing a very large cotton-wool snowsuit. I (somehow) made it from the school to Tesco (no nappies, no milk - needs must) - this was not without near mishap though.

The Lollipop man (more on him another day - the guy is a nutjob of the highest order) was in the road waving all the traffic through with his 'lollipop' (I think he has a bit too much fun waving his lollipop around that one, he's on a one-man-lollipop-power-trip) and my brain managed to make this connection:


No one was hurt. I smiled and moved on.

And then in Tesco I had a very very odd moment.

I looked up (somewhere in the chilled meats aisle) and there, before me, were too ladies of around 70, one wearing an Oasis Tour t-shirt and the other wearing a skinny-fit Superman top - of the type highly popular during the 1990's and worn by girls going to Charlatan's gigs.


Have I actually, somewhat like Sleeping Beauty, been put to sleep by the Night Nurse for circa 40 years? Is THIS how we are going to age?

Of course the alternative is someone dropped the clothes off at Help the Aged and the old dears took first dibs. If one of them was wearing black PVC underwear 'Brand New With Tags' then I could have been sure that was the right answer, but I didn't want to ask.

Anyway I moved through the store, unsure what decade I was in (I tried glancing at the newspaper headlines to check but all I could see was the Daily Mail and they don't seem to have changed their headlines for the last 3 decades, so I can't imagine that they would change them in next 3) and got to the till.

The cashier looked down, looked up and said 'I haven't got a name'.



'I haven't got a name'

'Erm, and this is releavent to my purchase of 78 nappies, 5 packs of wet wipes and a loaf of bread HOW?' (Ok I didn't say that bit but I chanted it in my head to remind myself that I was the sane one, even with the Night Nurse).

'My badge - it's fallen off!'.

'Oh - I see. Well I'm sure you can still remember what you're called'.

'Yes, I'm called Annette. But I'll be in trouble you see. If I don't display it'

'Right, I see' (or rather I don't see).

And then I came home.

As fast as I could.

And then I wrote this, went to the (broken) toilet, came back AND IT WAS GONE.......The computer had turned itself off (for no apparent reason).

So, purely from the goodness of my heart, I've typed it all up again.

If it confuses you, then you'll begin to start to know how I feel.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Whoever said things happen in 3s.....


Big. Time.

This is not a funny post. This is just what has happened to me in the last 5 days and it explains why I haven't been around, and might not be around for a few more days. My mission to blog every day of September has had to take a bit of a back seat but hopefully I will start afresh next week.

This time last week I was sat here feeling pretty stressed. I had house/money/big stuff going on/coursework 'issues' and felt like August had just been one big slog with no holiday, no break and actually, I hadn't even got to celebrate my birthday with my husband (my birthday was on 11th August so that kind of sucks....). And then?

Then it went a bit like this:

5 days ago I was trying to finish an essay and my OH took the boys for a walk. Whilst on this walk he picked up The Toddler by his arms and The Toddler's arm promptly came apart...... Apparently this 'pulled elbow' lark is very common but it wasn't pleasant and we all had to hair it to down to A&E at the hospital which was previously the scene of me nearly dying and then, my incarceration in the Nut House. It was not a happy end to a Bank Holiday and there was a lot of crying and deep thinking to be had. The Toddler was fine though. He managed to put his own back in place by throwing a tantrum trying to get hold of a Thomas the Tank Engine Annual whilst he waited for the doctor. Kids!

4 days ago the same aforementioned Toddler, clearly not feeling 100% due to his gammy arm, decided to plunge head first down a flight of concrete steps and land on my patio face first. Of course he didn't put his arm out to save himself. So back I went to A&E.......(he must have REALLY wanted to see that Thomas Annual again). He had a bleeding nose, scrapped face and a the biggest egg-size bump on his forehead you have ever seen but thank god (a million times over) he was OK. I, however, was less so - although big shout out to my friend Kat who was here at the time and provided emergency childcare, reassurance and Iggle Piggle and comfort blanket delievery....... Every time I look at his face ('my brother with the bashed in face' as his older brother calls him) I feel a combination of a little bit sick and very very lucky.

3 days ago I started to feel really quite poorly, lost my voice, and found out my toilet would never work again and needs to be replaced.

2 days ago I felt even more poorly and very very tired (having been up most of the night for 2 nights with The Toddler with Britain's Biggest Headache) and my eldest son started school. I'm sure to be remembered as the mother at the school gates who was bent over the buggy wheezing and croaking and had a baby who was black and blue and covered in scabs........

And 1 day ago?

Well one day ago (apart from my tele going on the blink and deciding to show pictures only in an alarming hue of Magenta and Cyan and me being diagnosed with Pharingitis and told, utterly uselessly, to 'stay in bed for 7 days'.....) my beloved Grandma passed away. She went from being an amazingly active, youthful and strong women to catching flu which turned to pnuemonia, which wouldn't respond to antibiotics to losing her fight at around 10pm last night.

I think we all just feel such deep shock.

How can someone so vibrant, so filled with life and energy, who is is always having a 'hoot' or telling you to 'behave' (but with a sparkle in her eyes which tells you that she's rather glad you're not) just 'disappear'?

She never seemed very old (and for that I know we are very lucky). The last time I saw her she was berating one of daughters (in a light-hearted way) for shopping somewhere she only saw fit for 'those old folks' - old folks of which she was not one.

She is the grandparent that I have always taken after and aspired to be more like. From her sense of humour, to her style, to her wit, to her zest for life and sense of fun. She knew what mattered in life and she knew what didn't. She was one of the wisest people I ever knew but in a way which never dragged her down - she got the balance right. All in all she was my inspiration and I just wish, more than anything, we could have had a bit more time and that I could have got to say goodbye.

I love you Grandma and if I just hope I make you proud.