Anyone Good At Reckoning Odds?

I usually like the drive to Hereford.

Beyond Worcester and its dizzying succession of ring-road roundabouts, is one of my favourite spots: the Malvern hills soar nearly 1400ft out of the Worcestershire plain. The road skirts the north end of the raised spine and then threads its way through the distinctly less cosy and populated Herefordshire countryside – you pass the Prancing Pony inn – to where Hereford nestles under the brooding shoulder of the Brecon Beacons, the beginning of the Welsh mountains. And, sticking with the Tolkien motif, the ‘Beacon’ terminology refers to the signal fire chain that the Welsh used to light when they saw the bloody English invading yet again. The Welsh Marches have a lively history.

You read this blog for the travel and history notes, yes?

Well, Hereford County Hospital is easy enough to find, although my Sat Nav, Tom, decided to have a complete tizwas when faced with some roundabouts that he was evidently rather older than, and responded to my torrents of abuse by attempting to send me up a one way street when I left the hospital.

When I left the hospital, officially sans gallstones, but with a back-to-front heart.  


I thought that having two uteruses/uteri/wombs/whateverthefuck was probably enough anatomical abnormality for one woman. But no! My creator was evidently holding the instructions the wrong fucking way round – as well as losing track of what he’d already done and what he hadn’t.

The aorta – that’s the biiiiiiiiig Majorly and Highly Important main artery that rises up out of the top of the heart – should curve over to the left (patient’s left, remember) and down into the abdomen, like so.

The vena cava, which is the biiiiiiiiig Majorly and Highly Important main vein that brings the blood back, should run into the heart on the right hand side like so.


And mine… ummm… don’t.  They are completely transposed, all the way down into my abdomen. And I can’t show you a picture of that because – and you’ll never guess what – I can’t find one that shows it, apart from x-ray films, because it appears to be… rare.

(‘You’re anatomically very special!’ enthused my GP’s clerk this morning.

‘I was already special’, I snarled at him.)

‘I’m sure your heart will continue to work fine!’ consultant radiologist said. ‘Although your GP might think a closer look is a good idea, particularly taking your didelphys into account. And you need to be very careful if you ever have surgery to make sure your doctors know about it, particularly abdominal surgery.’

Ahh. You mean, the type of surgery I was supposed to have this month but put off until next year because totally BusyBusyBusy?




I am a careful shopper.

Abdominal ultrasound & report costs:

Chase Nuffield Hospital, Leamington Spa (17 miles) £273

BMI Priory Hospital, Birmingham (25 miles) £239

Hereford County Hospital (40 miles) £100.

Thanks to my deplorable habit of not eating breakfast, and also thanks to Harry playing up sufficiently this morning that I did not have time for my usual cup of coffee: they are able to scan me at 1pm today. Of course, now being officially nil-by-mouth except water, I am simply crying with desire every time I walk into the kitchen and spy A) the fruit bowl, B) the coffee machine) and C) the fridge. 

Now, I must go and synch the iPod, refresh my memory of the geography and put fuel in the car; I appear to have an 80 mile drive ahead of me, 40 miles of which I shall be chewing the steering wheel for, partly from nerves and partly because steering wheel=leather, leather=cow and cow=fooooooooood.

They Play With The Box More Than The Present Anyway

I spent Harry’s allocated Christmas present budget on myself today.


*carefully pokes head back above the parapet to face righteous ire of internet*

In my defence, I’ve spent it booking a private ultrasound scan. My GP informed me chirpily earlier on today that the waiting list really wasn’t too bad for ultrasound presently – at which news, I exhaled gently in relief. Then he added that they would almost certainly see me before the new year. At which, I inhaled again rapidly and reached for the cheque book.

I’ve spent 3 out of the last 5 dawns either huddled groaning on the floor, or stood rocking back and forth, with acute epigastric pain. I have an hour or so of rising niggle just under my breastbone, followed by another hour of quite grown-up ouchy and nausea. It peaks, and then fades away over quarter of an hour or so, leaving me absolutely wiped out and fit for nothing except a rather lumpy and oversized draught excluder. The fact that it always starts in the late small hours is unhelpful when your toddler is currently suffering  from what appears to be particularly advanced tuberculosis, and isn’t settling into a doze until… ooo, about the late small hours, really.

This upsurge in frequency and severity has been highly inconvenient, although John is now sufficiently alive to the fact of my pain to not audibly mutter under his breath about having to take a bouncy, magnetised-to-puddles, tractor-adoring, pedal-stamping, lever-pulling, wheel-grabbing, button-pressing, troublesome toddler farming first thing in the mornings, because his mother is huddled in a heap and groaning variations on a theme of FUCKOFFDON’TTOUCHMELEAVEMEALONE ITBLOODYHURTSBUGGEROFF. Harry hinders safe agricultural working practice considerably, but oh my, has such a fabulously good time on the yard. His shrieks of desperate, flailing protest at having to return home for entirely optional things like, you know, breakfast, are armour-piercing quality.  

By the end of breakfast, for which meal Harry is generally sedated with an offering of The Discerning Toddler’s Choice: The Farmer’s Weekly, I am usually emerging from the pain cloud. By mid-morning I’m pain-free and keen to eat something. Rennies have done nothing for me, so it’s unlikely to be an ulcer, and I am really, really hoping like absolute bloody hell that it’s a galloping great case of gallstones. I view all of the other diagnoses with deep dislike and I cordially reserve the right to not have any of those, thanks. If the scan shows nothing – then I’m officially pissed; it’s consultant referral, camera-down-the-throat, barium follow-through (yummy) and CT scans. Awesome. Not that a gall bladderectomy was what I wanted for Christmas, you understand, but I’ll take that in preference to anything else.  

Incidentally, Harry’ll probably still get his climbing frame. No need to start re-directing your shoeboxes

A Tiger? In Africa?

First things first: a sincere and very humble thank you, thank you, thank you for your wonderful, unexpected, staggeringly generous support. I am truly bowled over by it.

I had thought maybe a handful of you might chuck in a couple of quid for a good cause and I would have been so delighted and appreciative had you done just that. As it was, I kept blinking at the screen in awe as the total kept going up; the fact that so many of you dug deep into your credit-crunched pockets has left me stupefied, touched and grateful beyond words. I cried so many bloody pints, in fact, I couldn’t shift the resulting headache until yesterday. As of this evening, the grand total stands at £751, and the gift aid (tax relief) Bliss can reclaim on our direct donation of the £261 raised via the coffee morning, will send the effective value well over £800.

Bless you, internets.

(BTW, UK readers might like to consider Bliss’s lovely Christmas cards. If you are a knitter, there is something else you can do, too: knit some breasts.)

I’m still not in my usual mental place about cake (deep and fervent desire, generally) and I was fair buggered after it all on Sunday. John, with a forbearance he does not usually exhibit, let me sleep in until 10am without muttering under his breath OR inflicting Harry – a bouncy, morning toddler – on me. He didn’t even moan much when I disappeared, grinning broadly, to the Hobbycraft show at the NEC, although it was absurdly, tiresomely crowded and the queues for coffee were daunting; after an hour or so of employing the wifey Elbow into unyielding backs I was beginning to feel a bit limp about things again. I even fell asleep in front of the TV, which is almost unheard of – and followed it up with a night of insomnia, which isn’t.

And since then my arse has not stopped scurrying dementedly about, because this is, work-wise, the busiest month of my year. I attempted to combine parenting with work this morning: my post natal group (which, for want of a suitable collective noun, I term the Piddle) meet at the local playbarn on Wednesday mornings, and I thought, as Harry generally scuttles about the playframe by himself – much like a hamster on speed – while I latte-up and wave from the ground, that I could arrange a regular stationery-selling gig there, and still take him with me. The playbarn agreed, so this morning I saw him bustle off to play alongside the rest of the Piddle toddlers, and had no sooner begun unpacking my boxes of Christmas cards when a friend appeared at my side.

‘I realise this isn’t what you want to hear right now, but Harry’s filled his nappy. It… errr… reeks!

Ohhhhh. Nice!

Gave friend cash tin to guard. Captured protesting child before he could spread it about any further. Inserted him in arms of another friend who had unwisely strayed too close. Galloped outside and extracted nappy bag from car. Reclaimed child. Carted yammering child to changing rooms. Recoiled in dismay from diarrhoea-y output. Noted glumly that vest was heavily… compromised. Trousers, thankfully, escaped with mere light staining, which I pretended not to notice, due to absence of any alternatives. Changed impatient child. Double-bagged shitty vest. Noted sore bottom. Rummaged through bag for barrier cream, unsuccessfully. Cursed. Unleashed clean child back into main area. Returned to unpacking cards.

A few minutes later I am still head-down, arranging, when a lady I have never seen before in my life approaches, holding Harry by the hand. He is wearing … Christ! … just his nappy and t-shirt, and she is holding his trousers.

‘Excuse me! Is this your son?’

‘Oh God.’

She took this for assent.

‘He was running about happily at the bottom of the big slide, but his trousers were sat half-way up it!’

I managed to splutter something about thanks, made reasonably incoherent by shame. The Piddle were all wetting themselves – ha ha – and Harry was firmly shepherded into the toddler section where they could keep an eye on him for me. Work/Motherhood FAIL. Thankfully he forgot about his trouser-removing mood, but later duly proceeded to have more diarrhoea, necessitating another lengthy trip to the changing room. I was worried about him rubbing his little bottom raw, but repeated enquiries about ‘Home?’ all met with a determined nolle prosequi and it was gone lunchtime before I brought him home for a late nap on the sofa, nappy off, legs sprawled and bum slathered in barrier cream.

His portage visitor is coming in the morning and I am guiltily aware that both cramming in more work than normal and the weekend’s frantic activity have meant that we have not done our piano practice, so to speak. His portage worker is puzzled by Harry, as are we all. He seems such a bright little boy in some respects, yet there are some fundamentals that he still isn’t grasping at all. He can answer a question regarding his own wants easily, but cannot grasp anything more abstract.

For instance: although he can give a firm and clear affirmative to ‘Would you like some grapes?’ he cannot grasp the meaning of ‘Have you finished your grapes? Are the grapes all gone?’ It’s not that he has no personal gain or motivational interest in answering an abstract question per se, or even that he doesn’t understand the meaning of the individual words, because he does – it’s just that there’s no comprehension there at all. He listens to my words, but remains impassive, clueless on how to respond, or even that a response is required. Yet if I ask him to give me one, two or three kisses, he wheel-spins towards me happily to plant the appropriate number of smackers on my lips.

His communication is slowly, imperceptibly improving. His proto-words and phrases are becoming more consistent and although he still does not have a single clear word he is sometimes easy to interpret; one of the playbarn ladies who rescued his trousers (pause to wince and mourn my maternal pride) assured me she had asked him where his Mummy was and understood his response. (I expect she got ‘Daretiss!’ (‘There it is’) with an enthusiastic gesture to back it up.)

His gains are so gradual that I’ve had some panicky days about it again lately. His default babble-noun currently is ‘Tayzass’. Everything is bloody Tayzass, all day long. He  has expanded on the ubiquitous Muuurrrrmmm! and his repertoire of animal sounds now includes piggy-snorts, horsey clip-clops (with jiggly rein hand-gestures), sheep baas (glotteral throat-coughs that sound like a machine gun with a terminal blockage) and tiger, complete with a lovely little RrroOAaaaWWRrr and pouncey-paws. I get regaled with the Snorty-oinks, the Muuurrmmm, the Ack-Ack-Ack-Ack-baaas and the clippety-clop sounds pretty regularly from the back seat as we drive around Warwickshire – and his hawk-eye spots a tiny specimen 4 fields away. Tiger-roars from the back seat are, reassuringly, reasonably infrequent.

I have only just now realised (go me! but Yay for the constructive thought-process that is blogging) that his effortless recognition of large numbers of Makaton signs coupled with his indistinct, confused and highly limited use of them, precisely mirrors his difficulties with spoken communication. His understanding of speech is entirely age-appropriate – everyone thinks, bar the reservations over his puzzling comprehension-gaps – but his speech output is currently still fairly banjaxed. He only uses the signs for ‘ice-cream’, ‘more’ and ‘please’ pro-actively, although he uses those plenty and often. Are you getting a cupboard-love theme coming through, here?

I had a fair few people who caught sight of him beetling happily around, a beaming centre of attention, at the coffee morning, later ask me breezily about his speech – in the obvious expectation that I would have news of his suddenly starting to speak in sentences, Just Like Their Neighbour’s Cousin’s Stepbrother’s Friend’s Kid They Cited To Confidently Reassure Me last time I encountered them. And I found myself taking no pains at all to let them down gently – or give them much of a leg-up out of the subsequent conversational hole they found themselves in – when I answered that No, no speech and next stop: Psychology & Brain Scan. Which was undoubtedly uncharacteristically unkind of me, particularly as they had dutifully tipped up to give me some money, but I’ve been feeling rather angst-ridden about Harry’s future lately and its been spilling out around the edges of my Politeness containment field. We saw the little girl who is Harry’s direct contemporary this evening, and she is suddenly three inches taller, spouting huge sentences, jumping with staggering co-ordination and rolling the skittle ball like a bowling pro.

And to think I was revoltingly smug because Harry could sit up and walk first! I know, I know, I know: he’ll probably catch up, and the fact that she’s obviously developmentally surged ahead of him shouldn’t get to me, but it really bloody has. Despite everyone’s best efforts he is still struggling against difficulties with both his body and his brain – and the more I feel like this, the more I feel that I really want that MRI, for the bringing of either reassurance or answers.

And And And And my period is now well into its third sodding week, and getting heavier and more aggravating by the day. My hair needs cutting. My gym membership has run out. I have lost no weight at all. My eyes will no longer accept my contact lenses, and I detest wearing glasses. The gastro thing I kept moaning about so often earlier in the year is still happening, I just got tired of whinging about it continually. I am woken up at erratic intervals, always and without exception between the hours of 2am and 4am, by a 3 or 4 hour bout of debilitating upper abdominal pain. Drs best guess is endometriosis, ulcer or – mostly likely, given the symptoms, but least likely given that prodding my gallbladder doesn’t make me yelp – gallstones. I am currently on anti-acid thingies, with the additional instruction to eat a thoroughly greasy curry and see if it brings on an attack.

I’m too… ummm… chicken to do it.

That is all, as it is nearly 2am and I can think of nothing else to whinge about just at present.

Thank you so very very much, again, for your marvellous support of sick, small and premature babies – and of me.

To borrow the phrase of a dear friend: I appreciate the fuck out of you.


…and have just sat down for a little cry.

I’m so very, very deeply grateful for your amazing generosity.

Coffee morning raised well over £500 and still counting.

To say I’m touched is… just… inadequately phrased.

The cakeless internet has raised as much as more than my cake-stuffed friends and family, and you are all invited to tea.

Going away to cry again now.

Updated to add: Still absolutely humbled & blubbering. And my father – ‘Gramps’ – was directed to the website to maximise the value of his donation through gift aid, rather than faff about with paper forms. (This is in addition to selling raffle tickets like a man possessed yesterday AND donating a fabulous planted-up flower tub for the raffle AND putting the topping on my carrot cake for me at the last moment.) He is now awfully curious to know who these generous and wonderful friends of mine are on Just Giving that he’s never met or heard of! Bless you all. And I’m so sorry that Just Giving have obviously chosen this weekend to do site maintenance. Rotters  


cakes 2

Cakes 3


Calendar tomorrow: Coffee morning for Bliss, the premature baby charity.

State of mind: numb with tiredness.

State of back: screaming in pain. 

State of house: still a pit, albeit with clean carpets. I heart the Rug Doctor.

Portions of cake I have made: about 150. More if I’m stingy with the cutting.

Number of attendees expected tomorrow: anything between 15 and, umm, hundreds. Well, maybe not hundreds. I have put posters up in the two neighbouring villages, and who knows what this will crop. Probably 2 ancient biddies who have only come to steal the silverware and size up the Renoir.*

Amount of work John has done to help me with this: very little.

People I am doing this for: the baby in the neonatal intensive care cot next to Harry whom I watched being unplugged from the ventilator, before being wheeled away to the family room to die. The baby’s parents, who followed the cot out of the ward, holding hands.

Hoping to achieve: A decent donation to Bliss. Amelioration of guilt. Expiation of sins. Exorcism of demons. Etc. 

& apologies to L’eggs’s Tricky for stealing his nickname.

*I don’t have a Renoir.

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