24 July 2008

Nothing But Worry

“No binge drinking, dancing with girls/near girls, or swearing and don’t forget your inhaler, which you shouldn’t need because you’re not to smoke or get over-excited” I said. “Run from fights. Don’t get stabbed. No motorbikes. And stay away from Peanut!” Accountant’s best friend and a social menace.

Accountant nodded, edging towards the door. “You’ve packed your inhaler?” He held it up. “Anti-histamines? Savlon? Imodium?” Accountant had inched his way onto the doorstep.

He kissed my cheek before telling me not to worry, and then was gone. We watched him skip down the road.
“What about your eye mask and ear plugs?” I hollered down the empty street.
“Where’s daddy gone?”
“On a stag weekend. Which, by the way, you’re never allowed to do” I replied, stroking Chick’s hair. He felt very hot.

If temperature goes over 39 degrees or remains above normal for more than two days SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE. I re-read the box. Did that mean his temperature had to be over 39 degrees for two days or just over 39 degrees? I hated maths and thermometer boxes. That’s why I married an Accountant. An Accountant who pretended I was a wrong number when I phoned him at work to ask how to work out a percentage, whether 4000 x 0 was 4000 or 0 and, if I folded something smaller, would it weigh less in my suitcase?

A 39.9 degree Chickie whined feebly as I grappled with the logic. I patted him with a cold flannel, sending him into orbit with outrage. As he writhed, I read again. Why was SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE in capitals? I panicked. No wonder my poor baby was screaming – he was so ill he was UPPER CASE. I rang the doctor who was all lower case. Chickie was to be stripped, monitored and medicated.

5ml. Up to 4 times a day. Don’t give more than 4 doses in 24 hours. Don’t give for more than 3 days. That was the Calpol but the Nurofen was different. My head span. Different doses, different 24 hour thing, no more than 3 days. The numbers and letters jumbled in front of my eyes. It was like High School algebra all over again. A + B = C. Where did all the numbers go? Why are there letters in my maths? I asked my teacher who subsequently lowered my predicted grade from a B to a C. Added together did that make an A?

For the next few days, Chickie’s temperature bopped around like a Tellytubby. His father, clubbing in Edinburgh, did the same. On Day 3, the doctor was consulted as per the Calpol instructions. When he went all clammy, the Doctor listened graciously to my concerns about cholera contracted from the fountain in France.

Once Accountant returned in one portly piece and Chickie descended to a toasty 36.6 degrees, I finally relaxed.

Happy Chick + Happy Daddy = Happy Mummy.

21 July 2008

Oh La La

The scene was practically perfect. I stopped my bike and watched as the swans glided past on the river. Butterflies waltzed around the wild poppies and the long feathery leaves of the willow trees swished on the gentle summer breeze.

All until a piercing scream cut through the valley, alerting me, the fishermen down river and all local wildlife that Chickie had caught up on the back of daddy’s bike. I ignored his dramatic entrance, allowing the mellow setting to soften my parenting style. “Are you enjoying your cycle ride?”

Chickie’s expression reminded me of one of those unsavoury characters from middle earth in Lord of the Rings, just moments away from gouging out the eyes of some nice little hobbit.

“I WANT MY DUM DUM NOW!” More birds flew the nest as news of Chickie’s arrival at the lakeside got round.

I tried a more educational approach. “Look at the buzzy bees”. I pointed to the only creatures remaining in the area.


This wasn’t the touching family day out I’d planned. Inspired by the Loire Tourist Board brochure, featuring a wholesome family all smiling happily under their cycling helmets, it had all seemed so achievable. One daddy, one mummy, one toddler, two velos and voila.

“Be kind sweetheart”.
“No chance” came the reply.
Accountant, wholly responsible for the introduction of ‘no chance’ to Chickie’s vocabulary, amongst other choice phrases that shall remain unwritten and, please God, unspoken, smirked at the floor.
“I think I need a holiday” I whined, massaging my temples.
“We’re on holiday!” replied Accountant.

This was no holiday. At least, it was nothing like the one I’d enjoyed three weeks ago. I was clearly being punished.

In the car on the way home, I wondered what all those French mummies had done to get all their petit filous scented children to bid us ‘Bonjour’ as they’d all trotted past earlier in a neat little row. All perfectly presented, not a smudge on one of them - and all so horribly polite.

I viewed Chickie via the safety of the wing mirror. Finally unconscious and sporting a fine film of filth from running off to wedge himself inside a tractor wheel, he wasn’t looking very French.

The next day ended with a soggy Chickie who’d sampled every puddle and attempted to climb into the village fountain, topped off with a thick application of strawberry ice cream from eyebrows to trousers.

Whilst, admittedly, some days I long for a clean child that will consider at least one of my suggestions, how vibrant the memories of this particular childhood will be. And in forty years time, I know I’ll be smiling as I look back at the photos of my mischievous little boy, beautiful and exuberant, enjoying his holiday in France.

10 July 2008

Chickie's Sleepover

“He’s 2. He doesn’t even know what a sleepover is!”
“It’ll be fun. Go on, he’ll love having Bella to stay” replied Accountant.

Accountant and son gave me their best “you’re no fun, but here’s your chance to redeem yourself” faces.

I asked what I thought was a sensible question. “Why would we want to borrow more children when we still can’t work the one we’ve got?”

Four big, imploring eyes stared at my bewildered face. Was I being dull or was I right to be wary of Accountant’s latest great idea? I cast my mind back to his previous strokes of genius.

1. “Let’s go to St Ives for the weekend”. A round trip that took longer than the holiday itself.

2. “Let’s go camping”. A night of sheer misery.

3. “Let’s have a baby!” A lifetime of sheer ....bliss. Bliss!

I asked another sensible question. “Won’t she get upset and wonder where her mummy is?”

“She’ll be fine. Plus, I’ll be there to help!” His enthusiasm was touching.

That weekend, I sat rocking a puce little girl who, between those high drama moments when you wonder whether they’re actually ever going to breathe again, managed to wail, “I...sob....sob..... WANT ...deep quivery breath.....MY ...face contorts to expression of deep sorrow...MUMMMMMYYYYYY!!....”

Had Accountant actually been in the house, this would have been precisely the moment I would have hunted him down and hurt him, lots. However, he was a whole postcode away, swigging beer and watching football whilst I enjoyed the upbeat mood of the little ones in my care. I’d get him later.

Much ssshhing and hair stroking later and Bella was tucked up neatly in her Barbie Princess blow up bed next to Chickie. Stories were read, promises were made by two little people who vowed to go straight to sleep. I tippy toed out of the room thinking how adorable they were - all giggly and snugly.

By 9pm, I was finding them less adorable. Chickie was bouncing on Barbie’s head whilst Bella had reached a dizzying height of frenzy. I pictured Accountant far, far away, wishing I hadn’t been forced to look cool in front of his friend who could see no reason why Accountant couldn’t come out to play. Surely I could cope with two little toddlers on my own, couldn’t I?

No, no I couldn’t. “Please go to sleep. PLEASE? Mummy’s tired. I’ve been up here 432 times in two hours.”
“I need a wee wee” said Chickie the merciless.
“Yes, so do I” chirped in Bella.
No sooner were the necessaries done.
“I need a wee wee!”
“Yes, so do I”
“You’ve just been. Go to sleep”.
“Wee Wees!”
“Yes, wee wees!”
“Yes, No!”

When Accountant returned home at midnight to find one snoring mummy and two toddlers all squeezed into one Barbie Princess inflatable bed, he knew he was in trouble.

03 July 2008

A New Chick In Town

There are some people you should never shop with.

1. My mother, who says things like, “Do you really need it?” Who cares? I really want it and that’s what matters.

2. My husband, “Why spend hundreds on tasteful garden furniture when that yellow plastic set over there costs just £9.99? And it comes with a free terracotta fringed parasol and avocado seat pads”.

3. And me. “Go on, buy it! Who cares about the mortgage? That’s why God invented overdrafts!”

“God didn’t invent overdrafts.” My friend was sure on this point. She’d worked in a bank.
“Whatever. They’re divine and it would be sacrilege not to use them!” I wafted the gorgeous red bag under her nose, recognising the wanton glimmer in her eyes. She was wavering and just needed a helpful nudge. Her future happiness depended on it. “It can be your break-up bag.” She reached out tentatively and stroked it.

“I deserve a break-up bag” she whispered.
“Yes, you do. It’s an essential part of the healing process.” Modelling it for her, I tried not to get too attached as whiffs of fine leather tantalised my nostrils.

I demonstrated its many features. “It’s fully lined, with mobile phone holder, inner pocket and matching mirror.”
“Ooh, look at the mirror” she cooed with big, round eyes.
In her trance like state, it was easy to discreetly ditch her tartan flannel satchel and replace it with the real handbag.
“See how it transforms your outfit” I said, repositioning her in front of the mirror.
She nodded, dumbfounded. She was like a chick that had just peeked out of the nest. Teetering on shaky legs, on the cusp of a new world she’d never known. Fortunately, I was there to direct her straight from the treetops and into the shops.
“This white one would look fabulous too”. I swiftly installed it on her shoulder.
“I didn’t think I liked white handbags but now I think I might” she said with reverence.

It had taken eight years, but I felt we might just be on the brink of a retail revolution.

“And we could straighten your hair and put it in a tousled side bun”. I demonstrated as I spoke. She was glazed from the information overload. A classic tomboy with no sisters - I had so much to teach her.

That night, coiffed to within an inch of her life, and 6ft in her heels, the promenade was her catwalk. She was like Pretty Woman, when she gets the credit card and I was Barney, the one who encouraged the spending.

However, by the end of the week, Glamour Chick was higher maintenance than the Chick I’d left at home. Chirping at 7am each morning for her feathers to be de-frizzed and unable to grasp the most basic of grooming theory, I felt it was time for a chat.

“I’ve been thinking, I actually really like your hair curly!”