On Cue

The red menace is attempting to get itself underway. It knows very well that today is our village fete and I am spending the entire afternoon stood in the middle of a facility-less field. If I am lucky, I will make it to this evening before the serious cramps start and the ominous knicker-staining becomes the ubiquitous trouser-soaking tsunami. If I’m not lucky, then really, neither is anyone else. No-one needs to see that.

I will now be spending Tuesday – *Monday is a public holiday in the UK – on a 60 mile round trip to have bloodwork done. I am not nervous about the needle; but I’m uneasy about what the results might show.

On Wednesday I am scheduled to have my everlasting, continually-tearing, over-enthusiastic-post-partum-stitching freshly-acquired-in-late-life hymen (some women would pay thousands for it, I’m sure) removed. I cancelled the previous surgery date because I was mid-period. Doh. A call is in to Philogynae, but I suspect I’ll end up getting it done anyway.

This month may also spell the (eventual) end of Harry’s protracted morning boob habit, as I fully intend codeining myself up to the eyeballs should I need to.  

That is all.

*Not every Monday. Damn fine idea, mind you, but just this one coming.

And your problem is…?

 There’s been a lot of hoo-ha in the US press lately (and, consequently, the UK press) about the lumbering behemoth that is our NHS.

I love the NHS. I do. I really do. Irrespective of whether you’re having a mole removed or you’re fighting for your life in intensive care, the only financial aspects of your medical care you generally need to worry about are the hospital parking charges – John and I paid in excess of £150 during Harry’s 10-day stay in NICU.

But… the waiting lists. The patient care ethic. You need to be bloody patient, too, because you’re rarely treated as a customer, let alone a thinking one, the way you generally are in the US. Money, unfortunately, still indubitably equals power, in health care. There is no shortcut to quality (just fresh flowers and tv and room of your own) as the private healthcare staff are usually NHS people supplementing their income by working in an adjoining building, using (if anything) rather older equipment. Never quality. Just… power. And speed.

Harry’s physio referral was made in mid-June. In late July, I eventually had a letter from paediatric physio informing me there was a waiting list. Yesterday, I rang up to enquire politely ‘how much longer?’, as he’d been waiting 2 months. They quoted me about 3 months from his initial referral, which they claimed to have received in late July. I told them he had been referred rather earlier than that, whereupon they dumped blame on the hospital for not sending out the referral form until several weeks after the event. They were then obliged to become red-faced when I dug out my copy of the (prompt) hospital referral letter, which made it quite evident they had sat on it for a month.

Unsurprisingly, the atmos went a bit chilly after that, and I was told that late November was looking like the best they could do. I ground my teeth, and asked if anyone there did private clinics, thinking (ah-HA!) that I could have his initial assessment done privately, and by the time the NHS list caught up with us, Harry would be ready for review. 

This morning they emailed me this:

27 August 2009

 Good morning Mrs. Hairy Farmer,

 Further to our telephone conversation I enclose telephone number of a private Physiotherapist. Except, of course, she actually didn’t.

 If you should decide to go privately we will then cancel Harry’s referral to our Service and he will be punished discharged accordingly.

We know you are now caught between a financial rock and a fiscal hard place. Please let us know how you wish to proceed. We are overworked and understaffed and pissed off about it We already have a waiting list for our Service and if you do decide to burn your boats go private Harry’s place can be allocated to someone else.

 We look forward to watching you squirm hearing from you.

 Thank you.

 Physiotherapy Secretary

Fetching Figments

Thank you to the 88 kind souls who took part in my Show Yourselves! exercise; it was very nice indeed to encounter some more personalities behind the traffic-graphs. For the considerable number of you who didn’t feel ready to commit themselves to a mouseclick (surely I had left no possible permutation of reader type unamed?!) – I am glaring slightly huffily at YOU. Right now! Ok. As long as that’s understood. And… according to my not-so-clever poll, although the chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one (he said), I have somehow managed to defy the intergalactic odds and 1% of my readers are intriguing little green men! Coolio!

(Whisper: I would have been awfully disappointed had no-one clicked that option… I want to believe you see..)

Anyhoo, I’m not much the wiser after it, but I’ve not done an opinion poll before, and a change is as good as a rest, they say. 

I am an only child, and my parents have lived (in a delightful pink house) in the sticks since I was 18 months old. Mum taught me to read when I was 3, and, given the absence of distractions, I never looked back. Or up. Throughout my childhood I was stoked with a highly eclectic selection of reading matter: a combination of children’s stories, my father’s book club anthologies, second hand books given to us by family friends, and the local library.

A decent narrative reaches into my mind: a peculiarly intimate form of hardwiring takes place that I cannot quite describe and suddenly I am no longer in the same room as my body (Yay! Goodbye, you fat bloody thing!). I like reading. A lot. And yet, lately, my acquiring of new authors has been simply pitiful. My progress on the various ‘100 best books, ever’ lists: pitiful. My attitude towards tackling a new, challenging read is… yep, pitiful. I can’t seem to find the revs, somehow. I can generally only read when I go to bed and it’s so much easier there to slip into something… gentle. Familiar.

But I do get a little sick of going over old ground, so I was particularly pleased when Shannon, after eliciting the fact that I was an Diana Gabaldon virgin, sent me the first Outlander book. Like Ms Pru, I whizzed through it avidly (and am keenly awaiting next installment!) and greatly enjoyed my quiet musing afterwards as to quite where I’d plonk Jamie Fraser in my all-time ‘Literary Characters I’d Rather Like To Marry/Do Filthy Things To/Have Fall Passionately In Love With Me/Fall Beautifully In Love With/Have A Wild Fling With’ (delete as applicable) list. He was very fanciable young man indeed, but after giving him due consideration, I regretfully announce that he didn’t quite crack my personal top 5. 

I can never quite decide what order these lot actually come in (Fnaarrr…! Ahem...) but I don’t think Marcus Didius Falco is quite top 3 these days. The later books have rendered him domesticated, and my passion has died a little. Perhaps I should give The Silver Pigs and Shadows in Bronze another spin.

The corrupting influence of film has shaped my pre-existing preference of Aragorn a little: that bit that Viggo whatshisface does in the Prancing Pony at Bree –

minute 3 until 4 here

… well… fwooaoar. With great big fantasy bells on. 

The insinuous cross-contamination of TV continues its deadly work within my list: Mr Darcy’s character never really had me by the throat… until I watched THAT episode. UK readers will immediately know the one I mean. 

Fitzwilliam Darcy’s serious contention for that number one top spot is absolutely conditional upon him channelling Colin Firth in all things…

Henry Crawford may well have been already ruined by early independence and bad domestic example, but I think I could happily ruin him a little more, regardless.

And finally, I proffer to you – provided you give him back when you’re finished – Rupert Campbell-Black. If I really, really had to pick, I think… he’d clinch it. He’d clinch pretty much anything female, in fact. You must steadfastly blot out the slight emasculation of the later cameos: Riders and Rivals are the ones to sink yourselves… into. *Blushes*

These are not my actual best-loved or most mind-formative books, you understand. I have a looonnnnng outstanding meme from Aphra regarding those, although there is certainly some crossover. These are merely my literary top totty, so to speak.

(And speaking of deadly attractive young males who ride… ummm… very well – Harry went for his first ride on a proper horse last Friday – bareback, too – and I have never seen such a wide beaming smile on his little face before. Whenever Sally – a distinctly fat and rather amiable piebald, although she does have the distinction of being the most recent horse to chuck me off – stopped for another great chomp of grass, Harry bounced energetically up and down, kicking his little sandalled heels into her – well, her back, because she’s broad as a car – and waved his mane-gripping hands about like the conductor at Last Night of the Proms. I was very proud; I am now, naturally, daydreaming about cheering wildly as Harry jumps the only clear round at Horse of the Year Show, 20 years from now.)

Tell me about your totty, people?

May I take your cloak?

There are bloggers out there – nobler, wiser bloggers than I, no doubt – who evince no interest in their blog stats. Either they switch them off, or they merely peek once in a while.

I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the type of person who doesn’t ask the baby’s sex during the 20 week scan; that never hunted for their Christmas presents early (hint to any 8 year olds that may be reading: try the top of the wardrobe, but then be prepared to school your face into a suitably surprised ‘Wow!’ expression on Christmas Day, unless you want to break your mother’s heart. Oh, and close your eyes whenever I write Fuck, yes?) and can keep a travel pack of sweets in the car for more than 2 days without scarfing the lot.

I, on the other hand, am narcissistic enough to be hugely interested in blog stats. Fascinated simply doesn’t cover it. Part of the charm is that I’m still reeling with delight that anyone would want to read this discombobulated morass of uterine anomaly, parental angst, feral parentheses and barbarous use of hyphenations in the first place. I applaud your… something. Whatever it is you have that keeps you here. Stoicism, possibly. 

(I thank you profusely, too, particularly for your comments, because the conversation therein keeps this blogger going some days.)

The actual number of readers doesn’t interest me so much, it’s how they arrive here. My WordPress stats page lists all the search engine referral terms, as well as links from other blogs and it’s usually quite straightforward to work out whom has come from where, and why – and if you can’t, then your clever chums can do it for you.

Sitemeter is playing silly buggers  – I have obviously set it up wrong – and will tell me nothing. (Sitemeter, in fact, says I have no readers at all, and you are all therefore a figment of my imagination.) I know little about what happens once readers arrive here, but occasionally I do achieve enlightenment. The one day I had had, at half-past midnight, a total of 4 visitors to my blog. 3 of them had arrived using the ubiquitous ‘hairy porn’ search term. One new arrival promptly took his semi elsewhere as fast as his mouse could take him (or… her?), but, undeterred by the obvious absence of explicit bent-over-a-straw-bale action, 2 of the new arrivals had conquered their aroused state sufficiently to read ‘About HFF Wifey’, and one of them was evidently so not in the mood that night that s/he then proceeded to have a wander through the tangled verbiage I call my archives. I was unsure whether to be perturbed or flattered.

This last month has piqued my curiosity even more. I am receiving increasing numbers of search terms for ‘hairy farmer family’ or hairy farmer family blog’. Yesterday, for instance, I had 10. So far today I’ve had 6.

Now, if I ever wanted to conceal my electronic tracks, I would simply google the name of the site I wanted to visit, which is what I think may be occurring. I hasten to assure you, I never generally feel a need to do this, being a little too busy these days to treat stalking as much more than an occasional hobby. 

Lurker by you.

A few possibilities have occurred to me. Family. The puzzlingly poisonous child-free. Friends. That sort of thing. I’m not too bothered who it is, exactly, as I have deliberately written, (since my Arrrghhh! Outed! wobble) as if all three of those categories were reading, but I’m really quite curious to know who you are, nevertheless.

Come forth and show yourself, do! It’s DEMOGRAPHIC TIME for the Hairy Farmer Family Blog.

Scotch Mist

We re-trod some old (ish) ground on Tuesday, and found ourselves in the Centre for Reproductive Medicine’s waiting room, staring at the same notices, the same fishtank (the same fish?) and the same magazines. The same, yet blissfully and very thankfully different. The sickening undertow of bleak emotional darkness is not a sensation I miss. I could read it on the other faces in there, and I ached for all of them.

When I arrived at reception, the admin assistant rootled through the stack of patients’ notes, and to my complete lack of surprise, mine were 4 times the size of everyone else’s and exceedingly dog-eared.  My appointment was with a new consultant – my old one has been bumped up to medical director of the whole place – who blinked a bit when I regaled her with some of the odder aspects of my previous treatment (I started writing a precis for you but only got as far as miscarriage number one, the writing of which made me cry, so I stopped. Even the summary of my reproductive history is long, complicated and tedious). but she seemed to grasp the overall picture pretty well.

She (and, it must be said, John also) was initially of the opinion that my right uterus has the better track history of the two, on the basis that it has carried a baby if not to term, then at least well into my third trimester. My left uterus is the sad scene of 3 failed first-trimester pregnancies. And I see their point of view. I do, really. I’m planning to pay no attention to it, however. 

My right uterus (shall we call it Cameron? for ease of reference?) for no reason that anyone could discern, proved to be highly unstable Harry-housing. I started to spot (from Cameron, worryingly, not the non-pregnant left uterus, which I shall now term Blair) at 9 weeks, and the bleeding and cramping increased throughout my pregnancy with Harry. He was frequently (by which I mean, daily) heard to be having intermittent distressed heartbeat patterns, but by the time I was pushed down to ultrasound he had always recovered his cool and no abnormality of my placenta or cord could be detected. I felt – and still feel – he was hanging on by a thread in Cameron. It was a tense 5 months.

All I can put Harry’s troubles down to, is that Cameron has a consistently crappy endometrium – lochia aside, it’s never bled red in my entire life, just a dark sticky brown. As Cameron is producing this feeble output alongside Blair, which simultaneously produces copious amounts of bright red blood, this cannot be hormonal in origin and smacks to me of poor quality lining and oxygenation in Cameron. I was awed that an embryo had managed to attach in Cameron at all, but Harry was spontaneous, and chose his own spot. All my previous pregnancies were from embryos replaced into Blair because the endometrium was visibly much better over there. And yes, I lost the two IVF pregnancies in Blair, but my endocrine system was staggering horribly under the chemically induced strain. The IUI embryo (which sneakily implanted following a cycle we had actually abandoned after poor follicular response) looked so wonderfully promising to begin with, with a heartbeat at 6 weeks – I feel sure that the genetic flaws that account for so many early miscarriages was to blame for that one, not the housing or the hormones.

I explained this rather convoluted point of view, and she agreed that low blood flow to Harry sounded awfully likely, although I’m not sure whether I made my point about never ever wanting another pregnancy in Cameron. I hope I did, because the sad fact remains that Cameron’s ovary is a whole lot livelier than Blair’s. Which does rather dictate IVF, which I don’t really want.

Confused? SO AM I!

Anyhoo. I went on to explain that Warwick’s consultant radiologist had diagnosed some fairly nasty-looking adenomyosis last month, hence my prompt appearance in her office. She said that a laparoscopy sounded like a good idea to her. Which it absolutely does, if you’re not the one who curls up in horror at the idea of a knife in her bellybutton. As I do. Shit.

I have a small stay of execution, however: my last bloodwork was 2005, so she wants to repeat the usual bundle of cycle day 2 blood tests first. I am absolutely dreading my FSH being something truly bloody awful. I was also bundled into a scan room to check that there was no sign of endometrial tissue on my actual ovaries. Which there wasn’t.

There was no adenomyosis visible anywhere, either.

Now, I’ve had a lot of ultrasounds. Seriously many ultrasounds. Rather more than 100, I reckon. And while I can’t quite drive all the buttons, and I’m a bit foggy on… the fog, when the probe stops moving, I can identify a uterus – particularly ones containing big white lumps that scream ABNORMALITY. I saw the screen last month, and my uteri looked ugly. On Tuesday, they looked like textbook smooth curves, with the white blips all having gone and done a total Lord Lucan. There is now talk of hysteroscopy (THEY CAN PUT CAMERAS IN THERE! AWESOME!) and having a better look, because WTbuggeryF, adeno?!

The NHS will not fund any actual treatment cycles now that we have Harry, but the state is stoically stumping up the bill for all this preliminary exploratory work. I am going back for further discussions on 22nd September armed with blood test results and a up-to-date semen analysis, as (rather to my dark satisfaction) Hubby received a demand to visit the room containing the (so he says) scary German porn. His samples have always been ok, but his last analysis was 4 years ago, so he gets a bonus one off the wrist next month. Lucky chap.

I noted without surprise, given the vague twinging this week, that I have a 15mm follicle growing on Cameron’s ovary. Wrong side, alas!

And aside from all that, I’ve been busy getting round to all the stuff I should have done when the in-laws were here, and didn’t. The cyclic gastro bug I was calling ‘long-standing’ on the 2nd July is still with us, and inducing intermittent belly-cramps, eggy burps, nausea and diarrhoea in both Harry and myself. The lab is currently poring over another turd sample; the first one came back clear for everything. I am officially puzzled about what this could be – and reasonably pissed off with being kept awake for nights on end with bellyache and miserably confined to the bathroom, clutching a bucket, on a regular basis. Harry does not enjoy suffering 10 dirty nappies in under 90 minutes, either, poor lad, so our GP will be made to step up his enquiries if the next lab report is uninformative. I haven’t been able to use the gym since mid-June because the creche won’t take Harry with a runny belly – hence I have gained 4lbs. Amazingly, I have missed going, and the thought of wasting my gym membership money is highly irksome.

The weather has been pissing awful, as is becoming usual for July and August, although a short spell of dryer weather is now forecast. John has been putting combine-pedal to the metal while Harry has been doing the same with his scale models. When he draws his combine up alongside (John’s old metal toy) trailer and extends the little augur out, he looks up expectantly at me – as if to find out what button to press next in order to make the grain come out. I took pity on him and put a spoonful of grain in his trailer, which I then watched him attempt to shove up the augur in order to play at decanting it back out. Bless the child.


I can’t quite remember how to do this blogging thing. Do I just start typing?

As I am sadly likely to gradually forget quite what he is like at this age, I will attempt to describe Harry at two.

Because, astoundingly, Harry is two. 2. Two. One plus one. Two whole years in the world. No longer – and this bit kills me deader than sausages – considered an infant. I can’t let go of the baby in him, despite the fact that he is daily taking enormous (albeit unsteady) strides towards Total Personhood.

He climbs like a monkey, obsessively, clambering continuously both over the sofas and any mammal who seems likely to remain still long enough to be successfully mounted and broken piggy-backed. This urge to mountaineer is an unfortunate characteristic to possess when you are also a congenitally wobbly little lad, but he doesn’t seem to mind the vast majority of his continual face-plants. Mummy minds them more, generally. He is a tiny ball of pure energy wearing a pair of perennially dusty shorts and sandals, between which poke two short, sturdy and constantly bruised and battered legs.

In distinct contrast to his personality a year ago, he is a highly affectionate child, delivering a steady flow of delightfully squeezy hugs, wet kisses, and enthusiastic nose-rubbings. He has lately taken to greeting friendly-looking strangers like long-lost buddies, wiggling his small bottom abruptly onto their laps – even though the possessors were not precisely proffering them up for occupation – and waiting expectantly for entertainment.

Entertainment comes in many forms: he loves his ride-on green loader-tractor with a passion, despite repeatedly and compulsively removing all the pins that make it actually work. Anything vehicular is a favourite, as are his model animals, particularly the giraffe, and his toy kitchen. He has recently discovered the delights of jigsaw puzzles. He gets very excited about crayons, although likes collecting them all into one pile more than actually scribbling with them. This week, he has begun to colour in precise objects in his colouring books when asked to, as opposed to the wild scribbles that were his previous meisterwerks – usually done on any object other than the designated colouring book; our walls and the TV seem to have done particularly badly. He loves his slide, although is a little nervous about descending the 6ft one without a hand to hold, and a visit to the soft-play centre is always hugely popular. Try to walk him past – or remove him after several goes – from the motorised toy ride-ons outside shops and you’re completely cruising for a toddler bruising. He is an outdoors child by preference – doesn’t mind the rain and simply adores garden sprinklers and water features – although his favourite playzone outside is, regrettably, the interior of my car. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks an indicator stalk off. He’s already managed to lock himself in the caravan parked next to it, causing a minor panic whilst the key was located.

He has beach-bum blond tousled locks and a face that can melt the crustiest visitor, perched atop an 80cm 1st-height-percentile wiry, faintly pot-bellied and wonderfully double-chinned frame. He is now tall enough to juuuuuuuust operate the internal door handles, which is Not A Good Thing. He is always busy, always occupied, always operating with mental cogs whirling at top speed. He does not relax unless half-asleep in our arms, quite significantly unwell, or engrossed in a particularly fabulous TV program. He watches more CBeebies than I feel is, strictly speaking, good for him.

His near-complete lack of speech means that he is a fascinating little enigma to me. His communication is by turns sadly non-existent and crystal clear, but making absolutely no progress that we can discern. The most basic building blocks of human contact elude him (he does not understand the concept of choices or how to affirm them, cannot nod, cannot sign or indicate ‘yes’ at all) yet we often feel a small paw slide into our hands, followed by an insistent tug and a steady tow – most frequently towards the kitchen. Here, he will indicate by pointing, opening or clawing at either the cupboard (crisps), the fridge (soft fruit), the dresser (bananas) or the freezer (ice cream), followed by frantic signing (incorrectly, but consistently so) for ‘More!’ – his all-purpose, one-size-fits-all Makaton sign. If we are lucky, he will use some eye-contact as he makes these mute pleas for ‘More!’ food, but generally he stares intently at the object of his desire (or the cupboard door dividing him from it) like a tiny Jedi knight mastering a recalcitrant Force. It is hard to misunderstand, however, when a small boy scurries busily towards you triumphantly clutching a tupperware crisp container half as big as himself, which he plonks down expectantly at your feet before making an insistent, nay, imperious ‘More!’ sign under your nose. Or when he beetles up to your knee and begins to pat your leg in familiar fashion – while very obviously eyeing up your plate. Even visitors tend to understand that one – if they don’t, he simply quietly helps himself. And always, always – often comically so –  to the Very Biggest Portion. 

His mother’s child: he is keen to subsist mainly on cheese, french pastry, fruit and sugary snacks, his desire for rather more pedestrian food being capricious – and thus, of course, reassuringly and overwhelmingly normal. He alternates between effortless consumption of what must surely be his own bodyweight in carbohydrates (his father’s child) (on a good day, I would back Harry with solid sterling against children at least twice his age in a pasta-eating competition) and inexplicable disdainful rejection of what was yesterday’s favourite choice morsels.

His language comprehension, as far as we can ascertain, is about average for his age, and he understands and demonstrates a good many Makaton signs, despite using very few of them (apart from the ubiquitous ‘More!’ to obtain food/open door/tv/toy) pro-actively. His knowledge of nouns far outstrips his knowledge of verbs or adjectives as he goes through his day pointing, glancing round to locate an informant, and chirruping enquiringly. Once he knows the name of something, he will stab his forefinger emphatically when presented with a photo or picture of the object, with increasingly urgent and piercing squeaks, glaring interrogatively from the picture to you, until the correct name of the object is spoken. When the mood is on him, he will spend ages giving increasingly excited signals to his companion to label everything he thrusts his finger towards.

Oddly, in such a boisterous, rambunctious little boy, he has a marked dislike of messy play, dirty hands, and some textures. Sand fascinates him sufficiently to enable him to partially overcome his evident dislike of the way it feels – he will uneasily tolerate it under his feet, but is generally troubled by getting it on his hands and is much happier using tools to interact with it. His Child Development Advisor, or whatever she is called, tried without success today to encourage him to touch some porridge oats. He kept a wary distance from the quite patently Very Evil cereal, although was eventually persuaded to prod it with a spoon.

His speech and language team are puzzled by his peculiar sensitivity to background noises and some sounds, although he no longer goes bananas when he hears a reverse alarm at the farm, and he now permits me to click my tongue in a horse-trot impression without launching himself at me in a desperate attempt to rip out my tongue and stop the noise. Currently, the blasting foghorn/pneumonic death-rattle aural hybrid caused by the airlock in the waterpipes between the bathrooms is the thing that sets him off into frantic yammering tears at bathtime.

He is a beautifully obedient little boy when asked nicely (but urgently!) not to touch, or to put something back, and he gives a charmingly guilty start when he is mid-reach for a known-to-be-verboten object and I clear my throat meaningfully. A new dawn brings a fresh slate, however: every morning, he bounces across the bedroom, climbs precariously onto the wooden stool in our bedroom and reaches hopefully towards the clutter of shiny objects on my dressing table. Every morning I sleepily and crossly tell him to get back down – which he promptly and phlegmatically does.  This game is obviously well worth the candle.

He visibly basks in praise for clever behaviour (he will pointedly whip up more applause all by himself if he feels there was a parental paucity of expressed appreciation) although he is depressingly violent towards both us – and upsettingly, himself – when he is distressed or thwarted. His trunk muscles are comparatively weak, we think, hence the wobbles, but his arms and legs are certainly possessed of painful clobbering-clout. Head-butts are undoubtably his most potent weapon, however, and despite learning some evasive moves (mainly learning to dodge a whole lot quicker) I am now in regular possession of a fat lip, a painful nose and a bruised chin. These episodes are fairly frequent and extremely hard to deal with; both John and I are – and I, personally, choose to use the word – guilty, of sometimes lapsing into angry shouts, and, on one recent occasion, a smacked leg. Remaining calm is the quickest and dryest path through this particular swamp of frustration, yet family always know how to push your buttons. When Harry stops thumping my nosebuttons with his head, that’ll be grand.

His sleep pendulums wildly from uneventful night-long slumber, past 5.30am waking, past hourly night-long screaming sessions, to thrashing, protesting, hysterical bedtime fear. We disconnected his baby monitor (due to an eye-wateringly embarrassing, ahem… broadcasting incident) with the unfortunate result that an unusually early nap-waking went undetected – probably for some considerable time. He was highly distressed when I eventually heard him, and has shown no sign of regaining any bedtime sleep confidence since. There’s only so many times you can read Dinosaurs in Underpants aloud before your own somnolence overtakes his. His changing sleep pattern has its compensations though: last week he not only fell asleep of his own accord in front of the TV one afternoon (he is, after all, a male child), but the next day climbed sleepily into my lap at naptime and when invited to Go SleepyByeByes Now, to my astonishment, actually snuggled down and began to slumber. This, in the middle of all his toys, with none of his usual sleep cues, is Absolutely Unheard Of. Moreover, he woke after 2 hours (motionless) kip on the sofa in an absolutely peachy mood. I bet it’ll never happen twice.

His laugh – a bubbling, chuckling hymn to the glorious blue-skied simplicity that is early childhood –  is simply the best sound I have ever heard, and it lifts my heart indescribably whenever I hear it. Tickling and Peep-po are still reliable eliciters of this audible treasure.

He has, courtesy of this latest birthday, a greatly enlarged fleet of Britains scale model tractors. He can, when asked, unerringly point a finger at the steps, the wheels, the steering wheel, the engine, the exhaust pipe and the pick-up hitch, among others. His father is quite ridiculously pleased by this, although farm-brought-up children do pick up agricultural vocabulary early on. His teenage cousin W visited today (and was ‘More!’d out of a hefty chunk of his slice of Harry’s birthday cake. Harry enjoys cake.) and was reminded by his mother that on his second birthday, he was escorted across the yard by a non-farming family friend who enthusiastically pointed out a tractor (with its engine casing off, undergoing some pipe repairs).

“What’s THAT, W?” – expecting to elicit “twacter”.

The birthday-boy W cast an appraising glance over the stricken machine.

“Hydraulics,” he piped.

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