Salvoes

I am fed up with trying to cram full-time work into 2 hours a day, and thereby rendering myself largely ineffectual on all fronts, professional, personal and domestic, and letting everyone down on a daily basis.

I am fed up with the PMT that leaves me a savage, teary ruin of a personality prior to every period haemorrhagic nightmare.

I am so fed up with pain. Grown-up, debilitating, wearying, crying-on-the-bathroom-floor pain. I am fed up with firing desperate salvoes of drug combinations down my throat, toward my fucking, fucking, fucking uteri. I think, from empirical observation, that endometriosis has colonised my bladder. I’m worried that when they eventually open me up, they’ll tell me that everything’s got to come out. Now. No more babies. This much pain is not conducive to sanguinity.

I am fed up with mopping up puddles of piss on the carpet. In fact, when I’m really annoyed, I no longer bother. I just leave it to dry. I don’t care anymore. Then I wonder why it smells horribly of piss when Harry spills his drink, and I remember, and cry with pent-up frustration before trudging off to fetch soapy water.

I have a friend on one phone, her mental boat in precariously choppy water, while my work phone rings and rings and rings and fucking rings; I can see Harry in a room he shouldn’t be, emptying the entire salt cellar over the table and floor, before he spys the (badly concealed) old box of lego from out of the loft that was also filled with mouse shit, instantly up-emptying it on to the carpet, where he is so delighted by the play possibilities that he forgets to run to the potty and pisses through his pants on top of it all instead. I’m tied to my chair: I really, really can’t put the phone down on my friend, I can’t reach my other phone to stop it endlessly ringing with ansaphone messages, and I can’t stop Harry playing in the urine-covered mouse shit. The boring, piercing pain in my left uterus still isn’t letting up, and I become aware that my sanitary towel is now beyond capacity, and my trousers are getting bloodstained.

I want to go home. I am home.

I am angry and sad at the blatant discrimination displayed by our local primary school teacher last week. No matter how positively I move the episode forward from here with her superiors, the memory will stick: it is the first time that Harry has met with personal rejection because of the problems he has, and John and I were so, so very hurt and offended.

If I read any more bitchiness and posturing on Twitter, I shall close my account on the fucking thing. Not that anyone would actually give a rat’s ass whether I’m on there or not, but I’ve better things to do with my time. I’ve got to go and wash mouse shit and toddler piss off lego, for a start.

We interrupt our schedule to bring you…

a Seething Wifey.

Today, I once again drove the 61-mile round trip to Big Regional Hospital for an anaesthesia review. Seemingly, this was the last barrier between Ann and the operating table. If the Consultant Anaesthetist was prepared to knock me out, All Systems Were Go for an early operation (plenty of scheduling space in October, remember?!).

I was worried about my weight. Told to both ‘optimise my BMI’ (ie, reduce it to 29, which would be 82kg for me) AND reduce my shadow to at least that of an 88kg woman, I… well, I went for the easier option. On my favourite scales, I am exactly 88kg. The new scales I bought when my favourite ones went a bit peculiar and deducted half a stone overnight (cue an incredulous YAY followed by belated suspicion and eventual sorrow) weigh me, alas, consistently five pounds heavier. I was worried that the Anaesthetist would tell me to bugger off and lose another stone, which would send me to the back of the queue, and put me well into 2011.

I arrived, at 10am, deliberately dehydrated and cursing slow bowel motility, juuuust in case that one crucial pound here or there might swing it for me. When they eventually lassoed a passing consultant who was evidently dashing from one Big Surgery Gig to another, and was nearly out of breath – I had been waiting 40 minutes for them to locate someone sufficiently senior to cope with my oddities – he shook hands charmingly, smiled genuinely, swept me with a glance, gestured down at my notes with a very latin gesture (despite his… Turkishness? At a guess.) of incomprehension and cried ‘You look very fit! Why are you here?’

I goggled at him briefly, before stuttering that it was either my weight or my heart which had landed me in Remedial Anaesthesia Fitness. 

‘My Consultant said 88kg,’ I continued hopefully. He made another large gesture at my pink-trousered-and-black-t-shirted quivering form which, although I cannot quite describe it, shouted ‘Phooey!’ quite loudly.

‘I’m sure your weight is fine! Here…’ ruffling through my recent (abortive) pre-op clinic notes ‘…look, you are 89.5kg! So, what is wrong with your heart?

‘Umm… well, nothing.’

We stared at each other for a moment of mutual stymie.

‘Well, they thought it might be back to front, but it turned out that, actually, it isn’t. Well, my IVC is in the wrong place, but my actual heart is fine! I saw Cardiology at Local Hospital, and there’s nothing wrong with it. And my arrthythmia is completely benign.’

More hurried sifting through notes. Eyebrows – mighty, well-endowed eyebrows – were furrowed.

‘I can’t see Local Hospital notes here. Tell me again: what is the matter?’

I do badly when I’m flustered. I get cognitive lock-up, aphasia, and Complete Fucking Idiot syndrome. The more I confidently reassured him (in vocabulary that was not conducive to gravitas. I’m pretty sure I called my IVC [Inferior Vena Cava] my Intravenous Cava at one point.)  that I was Totally OK, than I could feel the hole under my feet crumbling deeper… and deeper. I was beginning to hear an echo from down there, in fact.

He had a listen to my heart – I’d stopped protesting by this point that everyone and their bloody dog has had a listen, and it is N.O.R.M.A.L. – and said that he wanted to see Local Hospital’s findings before OK-ing me for surgery.

‘We need to know where things are, you see!’ he informed me seriously. ‘We will be…’ pause to throw hands up in air and blow out his cheeks ‘… blowing you up, you know?’

I did know. It’s an aspect of laparoscopy that mentally curdles my dinner, in fact.

I thanked him for his care of me, and trudged out into reception. I know how note-borrowing between hospitals works. It is … slow.

I headed for the coffee shop to re-hydrate myself, where it occurred to me that I might circumvent the process. I scurried over to reception and obtained phone numbers and fax numbers. I rang my GP surgery, where the staff know me well, poor things, and arranged for my Local Hospital cardiology discharge paperwork, of which they had a copy, to be faxed immediately to the Regional Hospital. I phoned [Redacted] and left a message (Ansaphone! Again!) arranging for her to take the fax straight down to anaesthesia, and requesting a call-back to confirm action processed. By mid-afternoon, I calculated, I would be good to go! I had Beaten The System!

Except I wasn’t quite dreaming happy dreams about bounding onto the operating table and enthusiastically baring my all at the be-scrubbed ones, because this process has fucked up before. Ho, yes!

So, I rang [Redacted] ten minutes before I knew she was due to go home, as, quel surprise! I’d heard nothing, and enquired about progress. She cleared her throat, and I knew immediately that I’d been beaten after all.

She had, it turns out, taken the fax where I’d told her to, but the Cardiology discharge report was deemed insufficient. Anaesthetist wants the full ultrasound report and ECG report before he pronounces me Fit for Surgery. Until I am Fit For Surgery, I cannot even be pencilled into the surgery schedule, lest there be a slip between cup and lip, and theatre time is cancelled. But she calmly informed me that there was no immediate urgency confirming my cardiac fitness anyway, because they only do one surgery slot a month for Difficult Obs&Gynae, and the next two are Booked Solid.

JUST LIKE I KNEW THEY WOULD BE.

[Redacted] at this point, received a piece of my mind. It was one of the more shouty pieces, too.

Her explanations for the sorry saga of incompetence were incomprehensible and acutely unconvincing. She and her cohorts have Fucked Up, and presumably, by virtue of the fact that an abject apology did not feature in her ramblings, are still disclaiming their errors. I have repeatedly fallen into a mysterious bureaucratic hole, yet this is in no way the bureaucrat’s actual fault. Presumably: it is the hole’s fault for existing in the first place! I can see why a long enough stint in… ummm, Obs & Gynae – might make you think that.

I could spit, I’m so annoyed.

I have told her that I am ringing her in two weeks, on the basis that she seems unable to return any call of mine. If, by then, she does not A) have my Local Hospital notes and B) an anaesthetist’s good word on my suitability for surgery, then I shall… actually, I don’t think I clearly enumerated the Shall. I shall go down there with a big fucking pointy stick, is what I Shall.

There was some yammering fawning on the other end of the phone by this time, and although the 4th October and 1st of November slots are full, I have first refusal of any cancellations and – get this – she tells me she is absolutely making a pencil note in her diary that she must prioritise me for pencilling into the next available slot, which is the 29th November. I cannot be Properly Pencilled in until I am Officially Fit, so I am pencilled in for pencilling-in instead. I am pre-pencilled. Or something.

*bangs head*

And, as John gloomily observed, there’s lots that could still go wrong with this yet. Cardiology were only concerned with my heart – Abdomens are Not Their Thing – and made no real investigation of my little piddling IVC transposition. I am now pessimistically convinced that Obs & Gynae, before they start merrily slicing about in there, will want to reassure themselves (such pussies!) whereabouts the big blood-carrying thingies actually are. 

Fer the love o’God. All I wanted was a quick laparoscopy & hysteroscopy! I’ve taken a year to repeatedly whizz around the carousel to… here.

Any bets on how much longer?

Goodnight, Campers!

My stats tell me that the majority of my readers – hello! – ain’t from round these parts. More specifically, you are mostly American, with a fair dollop of Australian and western European, and … how can I explain Butlins – as quintessentially English a phenomenon as cream teas or a weather fixation – to an overseas audience? I was thinking about this last week, before I drove to BOGNOR, baby! for the MADS awards, which Butlins sponsored. There were a number of adjectives that were clamouring for their rightful inclusion in my mental picture of this near-75 year-old British Institution, foremost, Vulgar, Tawdry and God-sodding-Awful.

But no sooner had I had a sneer – and it was a good sneer, with condescension, snobbery and arrogance  – than I wondered if I should actually wrench my head out of my bum, where I might actually have it firmly stuck – not least on the basis that I probably couldn’t afford a Butlins holiday these days, which I felt rather invalidated my destination brand conceit.

These are dark and murky Anglo Saxon seawaters for a foreigner to swim, I appreciate, but stick with me. You’ll understand the Great British Psyche* rather better by the end.

It was easy, not so long ago, to be supercilious about Butlins, but I think that time may now be past. In 1936, Billy Butlin, observing the dyed-in-wool bloody-mindedness of the average Guesthouse landlady (Bed & Breakfast accommodation and their proprietors are another British Institution, conjuring up a set of [only partly outdated] images to the average British middle-classer. Interesting segue, but I think we must say no to it.) set up his first holiday camp near Skegness (yet another British Institution, conjuring up a… look, there’s some stuff you’ll just have to get your head round quick, ok? Or we’ll be stuck in parentheses all night. There are a number of traditional family coastal holiday destinations in the UK, and Skegness is one of  a group in which I mentally include Minehead, Clacton, Blackpool, Eastbourne, Weston Super Mare… and Bognor Regis. Think: sea, sand, biting winds, piers, towers, knotted handkerchieves as hats, ballrooms, rolled-up trousers, beachballs, and driving rain, and you’ll be half-way home.) and… I’ve lost Billy in all the bracketing. Start again.

In fact, I am going to borrow a paragraph from the Seaside History site, or we’ll never get as far as the MADS before Christmas.

‘The golden age of the holiday camp was in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties. After the War there was a great rush to the coast. Many people had not had a holiday for years and could not wait to get away. The holiday camp provided what they were looking for. Prices were reasonable, food was plentiful – for the time – and there was plenty to do, even when it was raining. The holiday camp sector expanded rapidly in the late ‘forties and early ‘fifties. Many camps used by the forces in the War quickly became holiday camps. Many holiday camps had, in fact, been taken over for military use and once again opened their doors to holiday makers. In some cases, the campers moved in almost as the soldiers marched out!’

My mother has black & white pictures of herself as a child at Butlins in the late 1950s, as a good many people her age do. It was where you went if you were upper working/lower middle class and could afford a holiday. It was popular with parents, as they all cheerfully left their kids in bed in the army-style rows of chalets in the evening (the thin walls of which made it easy for the patrolling Redcoats – of which, more anon – to overhear any Out Of Bed children) while they enjoyed the evening Entertainment in the main pavilion. You did that sort of thing with your children back then.

The chalets generally only had cold running water. Competitions such as ‘Knobbliest Knees’ and ‘Most Glamorous Granny’ were legendary. You were heavily encouraged to Have Fun and Take Part, and, by and large, you did as you were told, because there was a constantly grinning and more-than-slightly manic Entertainer in a scarlet coat yelling jolly hockey sticks in your lughole from morning til night. The Butlins Redcoats, and the entire holiday camp genre, were parodied in a sitcom called Hi-de-Hi, which I think you need a quick clip of

and the end credits of the show are actual vintage footage: I particularly like the shots of the spaghetti-eating contest underway. (You will ideally need a migraine-like blind spot to obliterate the awfulness in the centre of the screen to begin with.)

And then came the 1960s and 70s and cheap overseas holidays to that rare British migrant: hot sunshine. The camps began to decline, and some judicious late 1980s rebranding wasn’t successful. And then, something strange happened, and in 2000 the Butlins brand was re-launched.

I do understand branding, in as much as anyone outside a career in marketing can. I work in an industry where brand identity is absolutely fundamental, and I do not understand why Butlins want to be Butlins. I am absolutely their target demographic – our child has turned us from travellers into holiday-makers, for sure –  and yet the shades of knock-kneed, pasta-gobbling be-handker-hatted fathers, long-fringed children excavating primeval sandpits, and demure bikini parades are still firmly occupying the box in my head entitled Butlins, and I can’t shake them off, simply because of those two innocent syllables. But. Lins. So easy just to change the name! Call it Haven Holidays, or something, and I’d probably be itching to go! Oh, wait…

Of course, there is a glimmer of a possibility of an outside chance that modifying this exact sort of preconception might have been what prompted Butlins to sponsor an award that was presumably designed to garner some positive coverage among young families of its new image, facilities, and accommodation.

So, do you understand a little better now why I approached Bognor with trepidation on more than one level?

Yes?

Good.

I shall tell you tomorrow** what happened.

* I fear that an explanation of Spotted Dick is beyond me, however. Nothing here can give an insight into that particular British Peculiarity.

**I have a given value of ‘tomorrow’, and it is a complex equation involving village fetes, work, housework, agriculture, and Being 3 And Bouncy. Sorry.

I will probably shave my legs tomorrow

Ok, so it’s midnight. My hall is piled high with holiday washing and assorted detritus. I have an empty suitcase, because of the aforementioned pile in the hall, but what I need is a packed suitcase.

Tomorrow – today – is the MADS blogger awards ceremony, and I have either been on holiday or batshit busy for the last 3 weeks. I am not precisely phased by my spectacular lack of readiness, despite casting a mildly awed eye at the meticulous planning of other finalists, yet I do feel that I could usefully move my preparations on a little wee bit, particularly as Harry starts pre-school 9am tomorrow morning. (I think he does, at any rate. I’ve had no letter. If there was a letter, I’ve lost it. I don’t think there was a letter. I hope there wasn’t a letter. I am now worried about the possible loss of a letter. Why would they not send a letter?) 

I am not expecting to win, hence my uber-chilled outlook from under an unplucked monobrow. If there were any subliminal suggestions of having to beetle up to a dais to collect summat, I would be considerably nervier. I’ve superglued the soles back down on my favourite strappy shoes and grabbed a new dress off a Debenhams sale rail this morning before work, which I feel to be provision-a-plenty in a contented runner-up. (Winning types should definitely wear new shoes.)

I’m not particularly relishing the fact that once again, my hair is channelling Cagney & Lacey and that wretched dulux dog, but I’ve had no opportunity to have it professionally tamed – although I did hack an inch off my fringe with holiday-cottage kitchen scissors last week. I can see now, at least, which was awful touch and go before. The sea-wind that has been playing havoc with it all week in Cornwall will, the very moment I hit Bognor, (which I cannot say without imagining an Austin Powers-type howl of BOGNOR, BABY!) whip it into yet another tangle of not-quite-curls and make me look disarrayed, provincial, temperamental and slightly odd.

All of the things, in fact, that I actually am, so no worries there.

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