Item: The lovely Robyn asked what I had actually intended to post about when Harry’s Mmmum! distracted me, and for the life of me, I can’t remember. It’s been a whole 48 hours, and my short-term memory is banjaxed. I can just about remember that I went to see BeeCee and her delightful little son yesterday, but that is only because the baby is uber-nomnomnomable and BeeCee herself is far too lovely to forget. Apart from that, it’s a total blur, and I do worry that this is the effect of a single late night on encroaching age.

Item: John and Harry had the house to themselves today while I was off selling cards at a summer fete. I think they had a good day: there are three empty crisp packets on the desk, the sweets in the cupboard are rolled up a different way to how I left them, the packet of treat-size Smarties has moved and I think the biscuit barrel may have shifted position. John is a rabid exponent of the magical healing powers benefits of copious quantities of potatoes and vegetables, but I feel the boys drifted nutritionally off-course today.

Item: The weight loss continues, although sadly not in the mass poundage I had originally been aiming at. The norovirus and Hay festival between them caused me a fortnight’s diet hiatus: all I could keep down for days after the tummy bug was crisps and biscuits, and I wasn’t feeling anywhere near chirpy enough to correct my upwards course at the gym for a good couple of weeks. I’m vaguely disgusted that fate laid another dog turd in my weight loss path, but at least I’m not currently losing babies, cold-ridden or confined to the house with a poorly toddler, and all those things have happened this spring. I’m down 19lbs, with another 19lbs to go before I clock up the magic BMI of 29.9 and recieve my fabulous reward of a nice Laparoscopy with extra helpings of Hysteroscopy.

Item: The last item reminds me of when I gave up smoking during Christmas of 2002. I had been living with John since the September and he strongly disapproved of my nicotine habit, although candid enough to admit that he knew I was a smoker when he asked me out lured me to his ramshackle cabin talked me into sitting on his knee met me. I had made vague non-committal noises about giving up – I had already formed plans to drag him to church and then breed, and I wanted to be nicotine-free for 2 years before attempting gestation – but had no real plans to actually kiss goodbye to my much-beloved Marlboro Lights. I caught a rotten cold over Christmas and was physically unable to smoke a cigarette for 36 hours. John, seeing his moment, pounced like a gypsy flogging lucky heather, and turned tenacious. Bombarded with emotionally-charged arguments about how I’d already got the difficult bit over with, and any withdrawal symptoms now would be all in my head, he got me to agree to stop. Having promised to do it: I did. It’s one of my (few) better character traits.

Nearly 10 years on, I still think of myself as a smoker that just hasn’t had a cigarette lately. I haven’t walked on very far from the place in my head where I put my cigarette packet down. I still crave… well, not the nicotine, no, but… the process. The actions. The ritual tap of the cigarette on the packet. The patting of the pockets and the rummaging in the handbag for the lighter. The first delicious draw, and blown plume of smoke. The head rush. The peace and quiet for 5 bloody minutes, wherever I was – staring at the patterns and textures of concrete (which can contain beautiful features when viewed 8 inches off), gazing peacefully over countryside, driving contently in the car with the window half-way down, laughing companionably with friends, huddled under a porch hearing the steady patter of the rain… Yes. I miss my cigarettes.

ANYway, to get back to the Being Reminded thing, as a reward for being a very good girl indeed, John took me on our first holiday: a long weekend in the Lake District. As a life-long avoider of most physical activity, I’ve never been too sold on the admittedly beautiful Lakes; the prominent fellwalking/exercise motif to the place disconcerts me. John, however, had never visited and was keen to have a look. This was in the heady early days of our relationship, so instead of calling him a selfish toad and demanding him take me somewhere warm instead (this was MY addiction-conquering treat, after all, and that was when he still had money, too!) I submitted without a squeak, even when I saw him happily piling all his wet-weather gear into a rucksack.

We came over Shap in a blizzard and the snow was sticking fast; I was beginning to think we should have driven up in a Land Rover. I discovered that John, my darling dear, had booked us into the cheapest B&B the internet could provide, and we were essentially in a garrett (that would not have embarrassed the most self-sacrificing poet) above a rough-as-arseholes pub. There was an ensuite, as advertised, but the dividing wall seemed to consist of a single thickness of wallpaper. As I say, this was still in the early days when being able to hear the detaching of a sheet of toilet paper from the roll (let alone anything… else) from the bedroom was Not A Nice Thing.

It was royally pissing it down the next day, in quintessential British style. John bounced into a shop selling walking equipment like a happy puppy and bought himself a plush pair of waterproof new walking boots, as one of his current ones had apparently sprung a slight leak during a walking tour the previous year. Not having much spare cash at the time, and still less to spend on items I didn’t want, I looked out of the window at the rain. He then bought Ordnance Survey maps at the Visitor Information Centre, and pored over them lovingly. He announced that the walk he fancied contained very little incline, and a nice tarn to look at. Sigh.

Sensing a lack of enthusiasm, and after some expressed anxiety on my part, he lent me the better of his two pairs of waterproof trousers (this was in the days when I could still wear a man’s 34inch waist), a Berghaus top and a waterproof coat. I glumly pulled on my own boots, which were not very good ones, and John, with an enormous rucksack hoisted on his shoulders, bounded out of the village and up the hill.

I trudged behind him, listening to my puffing breath, barkingly interspersed with the remnants of the Christmas cold and slowly-exiting nicotine. We walked up past the snowline – at which point I was (seemingly, although I don’t remember feeling this cheerful. Perhaps it’s because I now appear to have liberated the cosy hat that John set off in?) still able to muster a smile.

A rictus, anyway.

We looked at the tarn. It was… a tarn. I demanded We Go. By the time we were half-way home, my oh-so-very-porous boots, socks and feet were squelchily awash, my lungs felt indescribable, and the January rain was hammering down in increasing bucketloads. I pulled up my hood, and the volume of the blattering raindrops would have killed conversation dead, had I still sufficient breath and good temper to converse. I had not. This next photo does not, as I intended it to when I posed for it, show the rivulets of water cascading off my gloves. It shows enough, however.

So. That was what happened the last time I did something really fucking difficult and was ‘rewarded’ for my achievement. This time, I’m expecting post-operative peritonitis at least.

Item: I have digressed so far from where I started, I’ve forgotten the next Item. See? Short term memory (pause to scroll up and look what word I used before, because I’ve already forgotten) banjaxed.

Item: This one is too much of a biggie to squeeze all my mental to-ings and fro-ings in here, but the time has come when we must make concrete decisions about Harry’s preschooling (3 year olds do 15 hours/week) this September. Our local mainstream primary (elementary) – a lovely school with an ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted report – have offered Harry an afternoon place. The specialist School Fabulous, where he already attends, have offered him a morning place. I’ve decided that Harry will start 5 (half) days at School Fabulous in September, with a view to moving to a split-placement with the local primary later in the academic year if he is ready.

I could have started him straightaway on a split-placement from September, but our local primary seem a little intimidated by the prospect of a non-talking toddler using Makaton (which they do not ‘speak’), and, although falling over themselves to be welcoming to us, have said that they think he would need a teaching assistant. I’m personally not sure that he would, as Harry can generally make himself understood extraordinarily well considering his lack of words, but I completely understand their concerns. In truth, until Harry has his Multi-Disciplinary Assessment (which is such a mighty Event it deserves capitalisation) then his educational needs cannot be formally established – and he is unlikely, it now seems, to have that MDA before the start of the school year. If I was mad-keen to have him mainstreamed then I would have to kick up to have it sooner – but I’m not. He loves School Fabulous. I love School Fabulous. He stays at School Fabulous.

Item: I had a meeting at School Fabulous last week to set an IEP (in his case, improving communication & social skills) for Harry, now that they have had time to assess him. I quickly realised during this meeting that I have been doing entirely the wrong thing lately in gleefully asking Harry to demonstrate his new prowess with Words to them whenever I drop him off there. I had the definite impression that they suspect we may have been treating Harry like a performing seal – unsurprisingly, given the context of me frequently babbling happily at them. (‘He can say Bye! Listen! Bye! Bye, Harry! No darling, with a ‘B’ sound. That’s better! Bye!) Certainly it was stressed to me (politely and subtly) that pressure to talk can be very counterproductive, and children can withdraw. 

It dawned on me how I’ve been coming across to them, and I wanted to issue robust reassurances that Harry is, in fact, hardly ever put on the speaking spot – except when I drop him off there! – but a sneaky voice in the back of my head reminded me that the videos I’ve shown you lately are essentially putting Harry on a little pedestal and encouraging him to wow the crowd. (You have been excessively kind and sweet, and have been obediently and appropriately wowed!) And it’s fair to say that Harry has been asked to showcase his new Mmmum! ability a number of times – to pretty much everyone I’ve met this week, in fact – but…  yeah.  He seems to greatly enjoy the effect that his words have on us, but he’s also very capable of shaking his head in response to an invitation to do some ‘good talking?’ and walking away, if he’s not in the mood for it. So… still chewing on that one. And thinking twice about how to go about all this.

Item: School Fabulous say that Harry is an absolute delight and a pleasure to have there. (Ann beams, maternal feelings aglow.) His behaviour while with them (which we already knew, and gaped incredulously about) is impeccable. He is, apparently, the best tidier-upper they have. (Ann tries to smack her head despairingly into the wall, but can’t get to it because of all the bloody toys on her floor.)

Item: Harry is entitled to free transport, because we are very rural and he is attending nursery for an established need. The thought of putting Harry in the power of a stranger – and their driving ability – sends a shiver of dread down my back. I don’t even like watching John – not the most attentive driver in the world – drive off with him. A protective mother in general, for all sorts of reasons, I am particularly jumpy on this topic. I drive him to and from School Fabulous myself, and Warwickshire pay me a mileage rate for doing so.

I can continue to do this, but Harry will be doing mornings, not afternoons. An 8-something-am commute to School Fabulous would be an absolute ball-breaker; it’s right on the far side of town and I already curse the traffic. School Fabulous have told me that the way transport generally works for their three years olds (and Harry will be just, barely, three. A young three. A three who should still be two, by rights.) who live out in our direction is that they tend to come in on minibuses with the rest of the school in the morning. At lunchtime, it tends to be individual taxis that brings them home, as, naturally, the majority of pupils are doing a full school day. How this would work with car seats (if it’s not a specialist minibus with appropriate seating, the transport vehicles use your own car seats) I really dunno.

For some reason, I’ve got it into my head that Harry would be safer in a minibus with other people’s kids; the two ladies who drive one of Harry’s classmates to and fro in a minibus (all to her tiny self!) seem genuinely caring and affectionate to her, and to drive at an entirely laudable 20 dribbling mph (this is the only context in which you will hear me place laudable and 20mph together, btw. I watch Top Gear and everything.) There’s probably a fair amount of rationalisation coming into play, too, as I certainly don’t fancy that morning commute. But… County won’t be able to give me any details yet about how they would handle any transport I might want for Harry, because they won’t be able to work out their logistics until shortly before term starts and they know what, where and who they are dealing with. I’m hovering on the edge of asking them to do the morning run – I know Harry’s friend A in the next village will probably want transport, so he’ll likely be on the same bus – and I’ll pick him up at lunchtime.

Item: Three long paragraphs just about a bloody bus. Bet you’re glad I worked out his Which? school for later this year without blogging about it, hmmm?

Item: Nearly 2.5 thousand words is enough for now, I reckon.

Item: Bedtime for Wifey!

12 Responses

  1. I didn’t put the cigarette packet down for good, that was the problem. I dropped it accidentally, fully intending to go back for it.

  2. I think, in your nicotine-withdrawl-haze, you would have been perfectly justified in killing John for that hike. As a former smoker, it was several months, not 36 hours, before I got over the withdrawl…and that was with a gradual step down.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about talking pressure with Harry – he seems like the type to ignore you if he doesn’t want to say anything.

  3. Wow. That was a lot of information.

    One- I’m stunned you married John after that hike. I would still be sulking.

    Two- if Harry loves School Fabulous and they love him, I can’t imagine moving him elsewhere, either. And would you mind dropping him by to do some tidying up around here?

    Three- 19 pounds is amazing!! Well done!! I’ve been eating sensibly and exercising regularly since being shown the matron-of-honor gown I shall be wearing in September and I’m sadly lacking in the progress I had hoped for in the slimmer me department. Gah.

    Um, I guess that is all. Give Harry a big nomnomnom for me from one of his Internet aunties.

  4. Just to say sounds like a good choice on school fabulous! Speaking as a teacher, there’s reason special schools were set up, and while mainstream schools are fabulous places, for some kids they are not the right fabulous place!

  5. Is it just me or is John actually wearing earphones made of twigs? Looks like he’s tuned into a tree, there. Tree music, cool!

    Hiking in the pouring rain, why, WHY?
    Waterproofs, they aren’t, for one thing. And the chilly drip of cold water down your neck? When there are warm pubs with roaring fires? No, no. No-ness.

    Good news on the plan for Harry. So happy he loves going to school.. A wonderful thing.

  6. Ooh, well done on the 19lb (or OVER A STONE!)…

  7. Was I the only one who was absolutely certain that John was going to produce a sparkly engagement ring mid-deluge, which would be greeted with a “What-a-lovely-ring-and-I-say-yes-you-cheap-sodding-bastard?”

    I am?

  8. Umm 19 pounds? Amazing and now please share with me your amazing ways because I am stuck on a yoyo and can’t get off.

    Hooray for school fabulous and THREE whole hours (plus commute) to yourself in the mornings coming up.

    I think your John and my Jonny may be related as there were several horrid hikes in our early relationship as well – usually ending in tears and white out conditions!

  9. Ah now I finally understand why the are a zillion minicabs lined up in front of our local autistic school at pick up. I had been assuming boundlessly wealthy parents.

    I love a good soaking on a hill walk me followed by a pub with a fire. Although not exactly first weekend away material except for the super hearty. Good sign of true love on your part to have agreed.

  10. And as I am about to partake of the hiking upon the Yorkshire Dales with accompanying Fells and Tarns, I probably did not need to know about the wonderful conditions that await me. Await us. Me and my probably ex-friends after a day like that.

    I think they are expecting more of the pubs and less of the hill walking. But it is summer, is it not? Oh, makes no difference? This is England. It always rains in England. Good thing the sales start at the outdoor shops this weekend.

    I can fully see the issues with Harry Transport. Stick with School Fabulous…the longer you can keep him loving it the better.

    And well done you on the 19lbs. That’s bloody great work!

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