Never Say Die

What the NHS should do, see, is put together a new Word document template for Harry & I. It’d save them time in the long run.

Dear Mrs. Hairy Farmer,

Further to your outraged phone call of { }day {  }th of {  }, we can only offer you our most insincere apologies. We acknowledge that you/your son [delete as applicable] have been unacceptably pissed about, and we shall be assiduously seeking out an explanation as to why our unmotivated and lacklustre administrative staff have, once again, presided over a balls up of your medical affairs.

Kind regards,

The National Health Service.

This is utter tedium:

I was given a date of Monday 6th September by {secretary’s name redacted} after my original February surgery date (scheduled almost exactly a year ago) was cancelled because of my back-to-front heart that eventually turned out to be nicely front-to-back after all. Then I was briefly pregnant, which confused things, and then the Consultant finally noticed that I was fat, so I trudged away and lost 2 stone. I needed to lose 3, but heigh-ho. I called a month ago to enquire if we were still on for the 6th, and {redacted}’s junior flunkey told me to come in for a pre-op session. So, I sorted childcare and dutifully drove the 62 mile round-trip to be interviewed by a nurse, have my nose swabbed for MRSA, pee in a pot, and give myriad vials of blood for various unspecified tests.

By last week I had heard nothing, and was consequently darkly and deeply suspicious that Something Was Wrong, but I was also Too Bloody Busy to ring and sort it out. I finally rang up this morning, to be greeted by {redacted}’s answer phone message saying she was back in the office Monday 30th August, and to please leave a message. I demurred. This ansaphone is a prodigious promiser of patient contact that never materialises, so I kept dialling other numbers until I eventually found V, and unloaded my problem onto her. She told me that my file was certainly sat on {redacted}’s desk (who, V told me, left for a fortnight’s holiday on Friday 27th August, and will not be back until the 13th Sept…) with a post-it saying ‘anaesthesia review required.’ Furthermore, I was – get this! – not in the theatre diary for Monday 6th.

V did her best. She tracked down VIP Consultant, who is performing my Lap/Hysteroscopy in tandem with my own Very Nice Lady Consultant; he told her that as I was not his patient, she would need to see VNL Consultant, who is absent this week. He was of the opinion, however, that I would indeed need an anaesthesia review before surgery. (I interpreted this as ‘still too podgy’, which is absolutely fair comment if so. I’ve lost very little weight from around my middle at all, and my tummy looks 7 months gone still. Not ideal flesh for poking keyhole-surgery probes through.)

V relayed this to me, and followed it up with ‘Oh! I’ve just seen another post-it that says you really need the date confirming for definite because you were supposed to be going on holiday that week and you didn’t want to cancel if you didn’t have to!’ 

So, they DID know that it was meant to be Monday 6th, then.

I judge that I probably made the blameless V take enough of a rocket for her team in order for her to pass it on with gusto, while keeping her sufficiently on-side to take pity on me. She said that October had plenty of scheduling space, so let us hope that the correct alignment of weight, reviews and surgeons can be achieved before November. I’m not getting any younger here, peeps.

This pissing-down cloud does have a silver lining.

My wondrous parents – who don’t get lauded nearly enough on here, btw, because they are The Best (Grand)Parents, Ever – have booked a holiday cottage big enough for all of us for a week from this Saturday. My plan was to go in for surgery on Monday, and stagger down to Falmouth on Tuesday, clutching painkillers possessively to my chest, absolutely irrespective of what shape I was in, having missed half the holiday. Now, I get a nice full week in dry, sunny Cornwall. Annnnd that is what we call a Hint. Are you listening to me, Met Office? Are you?

So, all in all, today could have gone better. Much better. I have a rotten sore throat again, a printer that I spent 2 whole frustrating bastard hours I won’t see again trying to fix, a to-do list that is laughing at me, a toddler with half-a-day-spent-at-home cabin fever who is Very Spectacularly Not Getting The Hang Of Pants but who can (for instance) illicitly capture a large pack of chocolate sprinkles and make (pretty good, actually) faces on the floor with them, did I mention the really sore throat, a barn-sized pile of laundry avec an extra bucket of aromatic urine-soaked-and-shit-stained pants and trousers that I have only had time to quickly rinse, a bruise from where I was kicked when Harry didn’t want to share his gluesticks while we were making an (autumn!) leaf collage, no internet on the main PC and no working landlines downstairs for complicated telephone-line fault-resolution reasons, two part-time jobs that both need a full-time week at least spending on them, (except I can’t telephone anyone because of the sore bloody throat and the line fault), a little boy (taken to the park by a despondent, despairing mother at 4pm) who is desperate to pal up with, giggle with, and chase other small children but can’t keep up because he keeps falling over when he runs, and who doesn’t know what to do when they ask him ‘Why don’t you say anything?’, and a whiny post that I initially wrote at 3.3opm but promptly got eaten by bloody WordPress and necessitated me having another go, because I do so enjoy a moan!

I sat quietly down in my favourite armchair a couple of hours ago with a sigh of profound relief as John took Harry up to bed. I was minding my own business – and was naturally immediately stung by my first ever wasp.

It had obviously read my last post. Well, I had the last laugh, anyway, coz I killed the cheeky bugger. Except… it didn’t quite… die.

You’d think having your head removed from your thorax would slow you down, yes?

Not necessarily! This is a little peculiar, but nevertheless, I bring you… a wasp snuff flick. Enjoy!

Never say you don’t get variety from me.

That’s The Way

There was a meme floating around a while back, that I was tagged for a couple of times. I am unvaryingly crap at responding to that sort of thing, with the net result that I can no longer even remember whom I was tagged by. Thank you, whoever!

The meme was 7 things that you like.  Which has been a toughie for me, as I find it immeasurably easier to rant about things that I don’t like; in fact, you will have to permit me a yang post to this ying at some point, and tell you about some of the stuff that regularly turns me into a female Basil Fawlty (I have a dim feeling someone has told me I am related to John Cleese in some fashion; I certainly share the family surname (mother’s), moustache, and Basil’s car-thrashing temperament).

1) Food. Yes, I know it’s an unimaginative cop-out. But who are these mythical types that don’t notice what they eat? You have to understand: I did not reach my impressive tonnage purely by a packet of crisps here and a pack of sweets there. No! I have worked at the job solidly for the past 30 years (before which, inexplicably, I was a young wraith). I have a besetting sweet tooth that I struggle mightily saying a firm No to, and would be highly unlikely to survive a tour of the chocolate factory without being sucked up a chocolate pipe, turned into a blueberry or coated thoroughly in crap. I am, however, an equal-opportunities glutton, and am just as likely to get in my own weight-loss way by decimating the cheese board than by succumbing to the siren call of the purple.

 

2) Weddings. I have – by someone with intuition – been called a wedding fetishist. And it’s true: I can’t get enough of ’em. Dresses, churches, shoes, tiaras, cars, bridesmaids, name places, venues, menus, honeymoon, speeches, flowers, cake, vows, rings, tableplans, photographers: you name it, I am happy to have a lengthy conversation about it. Even if I don’t know you from Adam. If I DO know you, prepare for lengthy emails. Desultory plans between a friend and I to set up a wedding planning business did not go beyond the pub, and I suspect the stress would have ultimately finished me off in any case.

3) Singing. Dancing. Music.  (And I’m wondering if I could stretch this to include my iPod, without which the gym would be an insurmountable misery too far, as opposed to a mere limb-flailing torment). Give me a tune and a dance-floor, and, despite being neither a singer nor much of a dancer: I’m a happy girl. Give me good friends (ideally the musical ones in this case) a guitar, a warm night and a big drink, and I’m a damn happy girl, although the average aural satisfaction levels of those around me may drop. I own a ridiculous number of musical instruments, and despite being unable to play any of them properly, I am a delighted little bunny whenever I have time to actually sit down and bash out a tune.

Regular readers will evince no surprise at learning that I am off to Ukulele night school later in the year. (They are incidentally, touring Canada, the US and New Zealand very soon. Go and see them! Here’s a nice little clip to encourage you, (as I won’t rest until you’re all converted) 

with a significant added bonus: an unexpected glimpse of the truly marvellous phenomenon that is Antonia in her ‘tashes at 0.44.) 

I would dearly love to recommence the dance class that we gave up when I was scary-bleeding-pregnant, but John, despite enjoying his tango and quickstep as much as the next farmer, has retrospectively decided that I was too grumpy and self-critical a partner, and has flatly declined to accompany me anymore. My bottom lip has quivered a little over this, but he seems immovable.

4) Mechanical Process Films. This is an odd yet terrible fascination, and one that I share with my mother, so I shall blame her entirely. It tends to put you off processed food for life, but there is something indescribably hypnotic about the process of making sweetspeanut-butter, jelly beanspretzels, condoms, marshmallow cookies, toilet roll, and my particular carthartic favourite, crayons. I could happily sit, mesmerised, and watch this lot all night, if for no other reason than the delicious 1970s-ness of the films. In fact… *checks watch* … no, I’m only on number 4. Onwards!

5) Hard Pillow, Hard Mattress. I am a fussy soul about my bed. I never enjoy holidays as much as I could, because I am always profoundly troubled, on quite a visceral level, by the bed. I am only as picky regarding cleanliness and tiny livestock as the average woman, but I am implacable and problematic to please in terms of bed furnishings.  

Purchasing our mattress was an exhausting process, consisting as it did of visiting every bed store within a 25m radius, and lying on every single bloody mattress they had hopefully labelled ‘firm’. Like a particularly discerning preyshus princess, I immediately eschewed all of them, as their definition of ‘firm’ and mine did not co-incide. Eventually, when hope was fading, I lay on… THE mattress. The mattress of my dreams. It wasn’t cheap, because stuffing a big cotton bag with springs and housebricks is a tricky manoeuvre, but home it came.

My pillows are also idiosyncratic, as they closely resemble a breeze block wrapped in a handkerchief. The sensation of sinking my ear into a foamy soft pillow and feeling it rise up around my nose is… well, it’s a close cousin to panic, is what it is. On holiday, I usually sleep fairly contentedly on tightly folded bath towels.

6) The cBeebies Summer Song. I don’t care about the cheese factor; this cheers me right up. I don’t notice her stump anymore, either, although it initially clamoured for my attention for untold months. I find I’m nearly always considerably better pleased with life while it’s playing. Sensations such as these are not to be sneezed at in this life – howsoever they come – which is why am I undergoing the indignity of exhorting you to consider lyrics that include a chorus of ‘Summer, summer sun come shine, But come the rain I still don’t mind, When sometimes, summer skies are grey, Blue summer skies aren’t far away,’ because I usually have a slightly higher insult-your-readers threshold than that.

7) The Electric Swatter

I like to think of myself as a reasonably kind and humanitarian type of girl: fervent opposer of death penalty; social conscience; doer of good deeds; supporter of good causes: all good gravestone stuff. I even rescue soggy insects and dry them out, damnit. However, there’s a strata of emotional granite running through most of us, and wasps and flies encounter mine at an awfully early stage in our acquaintance. My hunter hindbrain leaps excitedly to the fore as I scrabble for the Weapon; I have not a scintilla of a scrap of mercy or compassion in me. I assume the position. My eyes narrow. I turn slowly on the ball of my foot: a demented hybrid of Steffi Graf and Samurai. My thumb closes slowly over the button, and a reassuring hum denotes that the Weapon is Armed. The fat blue spark that rewards a well-timed forehand swipe is pure and unadulterated satisfaction – I would go so far as to say, pleasure; at such times I worry vaguely that in different hands I could have grown up Scary.

As ever, if you fancy a go at this yourself: knock yourself out! And tell me where to find you afterwards.

Close Supervision Advisory

These are the ones I’ve been composed enough to photograph.

COCFOC

I was chatting to the wondrous May last night on Facebook about this and that, and during the course of the conversation, I expressed a dissatisfaction with the hackneyed and cliched slang-status of Pissing MySelf Laughing. PMSL, I opined, and ROFL, were passé. We needed something else.

‘I once fell off a chair laughing,’ May mused.

‘I once choked on coffee laughing,’ I brooded.

Choked on Coffee. Fell off Chair. COCFOC was born.

You heard it here first.

*makes shooing motions*

Go viral, little acronym! Go viral!

Aiirrow!

I know, I know: I didn’t hand in my bloggy homework. But the dog ate my internet! Thanks probably to our notoriously fault-prone landline, I dropped to 9 (nine!) kbps bandwidth. And when it speeded up a bit, I promptly had a serious, life-threatening bout of ennui; yadda yadda yadda I’m here now, m’kay?

I have re-read my last post. It was not precisely overloaded with narrative sense, and I am pedantic enough to have a need to explain further. Harry tugged his balloon free by accident, watched it fly half-way across the car-park, and said ‘Uh-oh!’ to tell me what had happened. I saw the balloon but didn’t realise it was his balloon, made up some spurious little balloonless boy for the purposes of my life-suckage lecture, realising only at the very end that Harry’s balloon had flown away. It was his balloon all along.

Doh. This is the sort of minor tragedy you get a plethora of when you have a little boy who can’t talk to you.

Yet.

I no longer lie awake in the pit of the night worrying that Harry will never talk. Since the end of April, when he first blurted out ‘Bye’, and particularly since early June, when he and I triumphed together in his hard-fought-for ‘Mum!’, he has been steadily acquiring more spoken language – and every new word is a jewel and a delight to me. I do worry absolutely plenty about the immaturity and clarity of Harry’s speech: when – or even whether – he will pronounce ‘normally’ and not start nearly every sound with a D/T hybrid that ends with an ‘uss’ variant. How long it will take him to speak in sentences. When – or even if – he will cease to struggle to arrange his words.

I do particularly worry about all the sounds (awfully important sounds) that, aged 3 whole years old, Harry hasn’t learned to make at all. K. J. CH. P. F. G. Q. V. EE. (That’s the first time I’ve sat and listed all his vocal ‘can’ts’, and I’m now chewing my lip. Didn’t realise there were quite that many.) And the words I have completely failed to teach him, even when he already uses the constituent syllables often. The word ‘No’ is a good example of this last: he can say ‘Nan’ and ‘Oh’ perfectly well, but when gently encouraged to copy my ‘No’, he can only say ‘Nan’.

But these are merely anxieties. Elephant-sized anxieties, admittedly, concealing plenty of misgivings underneath them, but they are, importantly, not the cold clouds of panic and out-and-out fear that parked themselves overhead for so long. I no longer worry he will be utterly voiceless.

Harry’s words, few as they are, make such a very profound difference to us all. For starters, every time I hear a recognisable word from his mouth, there is a gleam of sunshine from somewhere directly above my head; it’s a particularly warm beam of light when the word is ‘Mum’.

He has, this last couple of weeks, began to sing a tune that is a very recognisable excerpt from ‘Wheels on the Bus’. It only has one (varies day to day) syllable in the lyrics, but do we have a proper melody with several notes. He has now officially outstripped his father in musical vocal accomplishment.

Harry is touchingly proud of, and pleased with, his words. I can’t really discern to what extent Harry realises that he has a problem with speech – the chatter and questions that give an insight into the Dr Seuss-like world of a child’s mind are, of course, absent in the enigma that is Harry – but I think the issue in general doesn’t concern him overly. He is simply delighted with the fact that he can express himself in this exciting new fashion, and as his words become more entrenched in his vocab, he stops using the corresponding Makaton sign. 

Unfamiliar children – and occasionally adults – can be quite perturbed by the lack of speech in Harry’s social interactions, and we have the odd encounter and subsequent explanation that upsets me when we are out and about, but by and large his 2nd-centile 88cm height and unsteady run has worked in our favour, as the overall effect is for him to appear rather younger than he actually is.

Harry’s vague and excitable Makaton (his core communication language) can often be frustratingly hard to interpret, which lends his spoken words even more critical importance. The status quo is in daily flux – he learnt ‘Yes’ two days ago, and it is now in hourly, useful use; just as nodding was when he learnt the trick of that back in January. Hence I’ve compiled a list – I like lists – to remind me in later years just where we were today.

Speech

Mum – ‘Murm’

Dad – ‘Dairt’

Nan – ‘Nnan’

There – ‘Dere’

There it is – ‘Dere E tis’

Yes – ‘Yesss’

Bye – ‘Burr-bai’

Hello – ‘Aiirrow’

‘Bugger! Broke it!’ – ‘Uh-oh!’

WE know what he means

Two – ‘Terr’

Green – ‘Deeen’

Red – ‘Rare’

Juice – ‘Deuuce’

Geese – ‘Diesss’

Bus – ‘Dus’

Please – ‘Deease’

Impressions

Cow – ‘Muurmm’

Sheep – ‘Baaare’

Train – ‘Tsu-tsoo’

Ambulance/Fire/Police – ‘Eee-ah-Eee-ah’

Horse – Clip-clop noise

Clock – Tick-tock noise 

Sleeping – Snoring noise. It’s awesome.

Makaton signs.

Colours – Green, Orange, Blue, Yellow, Brown, Black, Orange, White.

Animals – Dog, rabbit, crocodile, bird, tortoise, fish, butterfly, (Lion/Tiger/Dinosaur – identical roar & pounce!)

Transport – Tractor, combine, crane, digger, train, helicopter, aeroplane, bike, (car/bus/truck – identical).

Food – Apple, chocolate, bread, sweeties, cake, biscuit, ice cream, drink, juice.

Outside –  Tree, flower, wind, rain, grass, waves, snow.

I am –  hungry, cold, hot, sad, scared, angry, naughty, excited, hurt, all done.

People – Dad, Mum, Nan, Grandad, ‘J’, ‘T’, ‘R’, Mr Tumble, ‘self’, Harry, baby.

Things I do – shower, bath, tooth-brushing, telephone, storybook, painting, kite.

Misc – Please, Thank-you, bye, help, bad, good, love, sleep, hear, yes, no.

Slipknot

A few days ago, tired, fractious Harry and I were trudging our way through the supermarket checkout in the early evening. To my delight, the store was having a promotion and helium balloons festooned the checkout; I quickly knotted one to the trolley handle to stave off melt-down. In undisputed possession, Harry temporarily transformed into a very happy bunny indeed. Outside, he batted at it, chortling in pleasure, whilst I loaded the car boot with groceries.

‘Uh-oh.’

I glance up at my balloon boy, and decant another bag into the car.

*Insistently* ‘UH-OH!’

I look at him, and turn to follow his perturbed gaze, a couple of hundred yards across the car park. Sure enough, some poor child’s balloon has come loose from its moorings, and is rapidly gaining height.

Some day, lovey, I thought, the wind is going to blow your balloon away. Or your candy floss. Now that’s a sad sight when you’re three: a fuzzy pink stick, where a nano-second beforehand there was a toothsome pink cloud of enamel-dissolving sugar.

So, for no better reason than a vague attempt at installing some concept of empathy as the occasion had arisen, as well as a smidge of preparatory emotional cushioning against future mishaps, I decided to give a Life Really Sucks lecture.

‘Oh, no! Harry! Another little boy has lost his bouncy balloon!’

Solemn nod.

‘Oh, Harry, that’s quite (Makaton-sign for) *SAD* sad.’

Another nod. *SAD*

‘Maybe he will have more *MORE* balloons tomorrow and he will be happy *HAPPY* again.’

Uncertain look. Little head-shake.

‘I think that little boy is probably a bit sad *SAD* at the moment though, isn’t he? He can see it flying away, look!’

Enthusiastic nod. *SAD*

‘Well, darling, it IS sad when you lose your balloon, but I don’t think he’ll be sad for very long, though, will he?’

Nod. Taps own chest.

‘Oh, Harry, are you sad *SAD* for that little boy? That poor little boy who has lost his balloon?

Emphatic, full-on nod. Chest tap. Puppy-eyes.

My focus broadens to take in the trolley handle.

The empty trolley handle.

I’ve been extolling the misery of watching your balloon fly away to a tiny little boy who is watching his balloon fly away. 

 

Laryngitis

I appear to have lost my voice here a wee bit. Usual reasons, really. Time. Tiredness. Trepidation over what sentence might just bite me on the arse at a later date. I think about lots of posts; every day, in fact, so I am going to have a try at blogging every day this month week, and, umm… see what happens.

Of course, I’m currently parked a little on the outside of self as I’ve been swallowing opioids like sweeties, so I hope I actually remember I’ve said that by tomorrow. Following an ibuprofen stock control blip, I was left with codeine as the only pharmacological line of defence between me and and savage internecine uterine war last night. I ingested sufficient quantities to put me into a most peculiar half-doze, thoroughly discombobulated and bewildered, and yet I remained in uterine anguish, which seems quite unfair.

Harry sat up to guzzle his usual half-pint at 2am and found he had mislaid his water bottle among the burgeoning soft-toy demographic of his bed. This generated prolonged yells of protest, and an eventual room upgrade, whereupon he promptly emptied half the bottle into our bed. I was dopey, but not that dopey. Cue immediate downgrade, and more protests.

Not a bad sleeper these days, Harry does go through the odd spate of poor nights. The night before last, he turned up at the side of our bed at 4am – having become disillusioned with either the temperature, the entertainment or the view in his own room – evidently aware that it was still very much sleepy-time, as he was cuddling his bedtime co-pilot, Gromit, firmly under one arm. Which would have been monstrous cute, had it not been, you know, 4am.

He seems to have had a narrow miss with Chicken Pox – we don’t vaccinate in the UK, we suffer in Spartan spots instead – which is flourishing unhealthily in children all around us, but which I think has now passed him by. I have been wielding the torch suspiciously over his face and chest when I go to bed, and my dreams have been populated by a strange hybrid of Harry and some chap out of Star Trek that I dimly remember as being a set of ambulatory red spots. Not a good look on him.

And I’m off to bed. I have an appointment with an anaesthetist tomorrow afternoon, whom I have to convince I am thin enough to safely knock out. Consultant told me I should shrink to at least 88kg before surgery- which I have, provided I am allowed to strip entirely naked on a kind set of scales – but she has also told my GP in a (lovely) letter that I am supposed to be getting down to a BMI of 29 before she operates. I will need to remove my clothes AND cut off all my hair AND thoroughly empty my bladder PLUS lose another 12lbs of excess baggage from somewhere about my person before I can tick that particular box. There is nearly two stone less of me than there was in early spring, but there is technically still much too much of me for a 6th September surgery date. I wonder if a corset will assist my camoflage?

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