Just Call Me Igor

Back by popular demand:


this year’s pumpkin effort. I think last year’s was scarier, so my  psyche is evidently feeling more cheerful this time around.

Harry’s fledgling attempts at demanding money-sweets-with-menaces begin tonight. It should really be me collecting the goodies, as I shall be lurching around all 3 planned locations behind him like a fully paid-up member of the undead.

After years of post-partum lumbar trouble, I have recently enjoyed some 5 or 6 months of pain-free sleep. Until I started lugging heavy boxes of Christmas cards about last month, that is; I am now rather worse than I was before and turning over in bed (which must be done every 30 minutes if I am not to set solid) is a very gruntsome affair indeed.

Friday evening, I became aware that my knee, which gave me a good deal of popping-out-of-socket type-bother as a teenager, was Not Right. It is not dislocated, but it is trying to become so, and although I can walk on it, I can’t fully extend or flex it. There’s no pain but the sensation is making me horribly squeamish, and I know that when I inevitably make an unthinking twisting movement and it does finally pop out properly – then it will hurt. Ho, yus, so it will.

Later Friday evening, I dragged my poorly leg upstairs to bed, yawning and rubbing my eyes. My right eye immediately proceeded to take violently against said rubbing – probably because I had eaten Indian finger food an hour or so earlier – and within an hour, my eyeball was making a entirely creditable effort at resembling a football in size. At 2am, I poked John awake to show him my face ‘Wsstttftl? Oh. Urrggh!’ as my eye had actually swollen shut, which was an unpleasant first for me.

Come Saturday morning, my eyeball (I’m sorry if you’re eating, but it’s Hallowe’en, people! If there’s a time to talk about eyeballs, this is it!) had a clear bulging bubble on it, additionally featuring a fascinating crease line across it, where my lower lid had rested. My swollen face had decreased in size a good deal, but John recoiled from the sight of my eyeball with a horrified ‘EErrreeuuhHGgggh!’ noise.

I was mildly disconcerted, as my understanding of eyeballs is limited almost entirely to the fact that they should be vaguely spherical, which mine currently wasn’t, by a long chalk. However, we have kind neighbours who are, I’m afraid, well-used to dishing out free medical advice to various presenting Hairy Farmers at weekends (baby-aged Harry, in particular, never used to be ill at any other time, and was customarily completely cured of his malaise by the short walk from one house to the other). Was I an allergic type? I was asked.

Not really! I said. Although… I suppose cats do make me pretty much unable to breathe after a while. And dog-lick brings me up horrendously. And I can’t touch a horse with my inner arm if I want to continue liking my inner arm. And I can’t touch certain vegetable saps if I want to retain the skin on my fingers. And the smell of red onion, and some types of garlic, gives me a god-awful headache, and – on one memorable occasion – hallucinations. And there was that one time, at band camp, when I ate a curry which seemed to trigger all-over body itching of such an acutely torturous nature that I eventually had to jump into a bath of cold water at 2am. (John, it transpired yesterday, remembers the Cold-Bath-Of-2002-Incident clearly, because I apparently kept him awake half the night, crying. I can completely see how it sucks to be him, sometimes.)

Eyeball was promptly attributed to allergic reaction, and, true to form, by the time I walked home, was feeling a lot better, although it’s still a mildly unsettling shade of very off-white, and complements my stiff back and lurching gait nicely.

If anyone needs any assistance with their pet creation this evening, I can probably help install your lightning rods and adopt a lisp.

I think we’re back with bullet points

Because I have been disappearing up my own bottom with work. Not a good look.

Or a nice view.

  • My little stationery business, evidently sensing that I now have actual, proper, paid-per-hour work to do, has naturally – for no apparent reason – skyrocketed. This time last year, I would have Snoopy-danced my way to the bank, as I had the time to go and pay the actual cheques in. This year, I’m equal parts delighted and aghast: most of the cards I sell are only a quid, and I retailed £1100 last week. Eeeep! Bagging the buggers up takes time

(Naturally, if YOU want to add to my workload, that is OK. You are different. And the [whisper it] Christmas stuff is actually very nice indeed.)

  • Because I am mildly insane, I am also holding my annual coffee & cake morning for Bliss, the Premature Baby Charity on Saturday week, which sounds awful close now I come to write it down. Saturday 6th November sounds much better. I have an virtual cap hopefully extended towards you over there, as well as a page tab up top.   

and if you are in my neck of the Midlands woods that day, or want to be, fire me an email hairyfarmer@tiscali.co.uk and I will expand my baking plans to accommodate you. And apart from the 10 packs of butter sat in my fridge, my plans are still… just that. More Eeeep!

The coconut lime cake was very popular last year, btw, if that tempts you at all.

  • This deserves more than a bullet point, really. A week ago, I realised that our child has gone from a non-talking child, to… get this… a talking child. The last couple of months, and particularly the last 3 weeks, have been simply phenomenal, and have required all my redundant snoopy dances. He still can’t deliberately reproduce K, J, CH, P (unless he whispers, in which case it is perfect), G, Q, or EE, but his assault on Mount Speech with his current limited syllable array is determined and has come out of nowhere. Driving in the car, I can now pick words out of the babble in the back seat, and I suddenly have a precious window into his mind. Imagine my marvel, my elation when I hear ‘sheep’ and ‘grass’ as we pass a field. Well, I actually hear ‘ssseep’ and ‘dass’, but that will do very nicely indeed. ‘Tees’ he tells me, with hand stretching towards the car roof, as we pass under a gloomy tree canopy. ‘Drk’.

Harry now has the speech skills of… what? I’m not clued-in to normal development windows. A 16 monther?

I am so goddamn happy about this, I can’t quite arrange the words for you, although jubilant is certainly in there somewhere. Humbled. Grateful. Proud. ‘He’s started Jolly Phonics!’ I burble happily, to anyone who stands still long enough to be told. Three months ago he wriggled away in thrashing distress when I showed him how to make an ‘W’ sound. Now… well. Watch the video.

Co-incidentally, we are awash with speech therapists, educational psychologists, SENco-ordinators, disability link workers, forms, specialist assessments, reports… all the support, in fact, that would have made a world of difference to me a year ago when I felt alone with Harry’s problems. I found the delay in instigating Harry’s formalised assessments profoundly frustrating during the many months he spent on CDS’s waiting list, but I am now reluctantly acknowledging a sort of sense in the fobbing-off, particularly as his sensory processing issues are rapidly resolving. It’s weird. It’s… as if they somehow know that children’s abilities change out of all recognition between 35 and 40 months. Creepy, hmmm?


  • Incidentally, everyone who has ever said to me that ‘once he starts talking, you’ll want him to shut up!’ is, at this moment in time, still a complete twat. If and when they ever morph into shrewd prognosticators of my future, I’ll… ummm. Well, I’ll let you know.

Miniature Betrayals

… there are worse things than these miniature betrayals,

committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things

than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.

It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in

and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse

and worse.

Things, Fleur Adcock.

I would do it again, but set down this.

You are all extremely kind, and I do not deserve you. Being conscious of my undeserving state, however, is not quite sufficient to retro-shame me into wishing I’d kept my moaning, first-world-problem-beset gob shut. It was very cathartic to have a whinge, and I thank you.

There’s something about this time of year that seems to engender an uncomfortable emotion in me, and this year I am sunk well past my usual tide-line into a quicksand of… not dissatisfaction, exactly. And not quite wanderlust, either, although the vagus in me watches the flying V of geese fade completely out of sight. It’s a restless, unsettled sort of mental fidget, characterised by an urgent compulsion to Do Stuff, Do Stuff Now, Do Stuff Before It Is Too Late, asking myself Deep Unanswerables about exactly what Stuff it is I want to do, and fretting over every instance of my life where I’ve dropped a bollock, settled for a very second best, or, most chafingly of all, not done my understanding justice, not by a long chalk.

I am 35, and half-way through my nominal span. I am not the wife, mother, daughter, woman, writer, thinker, reader, musician, scholar or friend that I am capable of being. 

I am having the self-same mid-life crisis that plagues every chap beset by the spreading ripple of a thin spot up-top and who promptly acquires a shiny new fast machine, except I don’t have his budget. I have considered dying my hair pink, however.

It’s probably not just my age, or the season.

John, who is wiser than his current eyebrow status gives rise to believe, has long told me that he sees a bad case of cabin fever in me, that I am insufficiently stimulated and poorly engaged with the world, except for you lot that cosy up in here with me. Given that the pressure of a professional workload – and not a particularly demanding one, either, except in hours-scheduling terms –  has cattle-prodded my mind into skedaddling out of… what? A kind of stasis? …and into the quicksand mentioned above, he’s evidently seen something that I hadn’t, yet I still think he’s wide of the bullseye.

I feel I did the right thing for Harry and I – for us both as individuals, with our own, particular, idiosyncratic matrix of mutual emotional and developmental requirement – by being slow to confide him to the care of others. He steps out now – still with a wobble – into his expanding world, confident to his core, his ferocious independence and drive to engineer, explore and govern remarked upon by all. He is fearful only of that which I have vigorously instilled in him – fire, heat, traffic – or that which is scary enough to alarm any self-respecting child, damnit. (I’m looking at U, British Board of Film Classifisoddingcation, to whom I mistakenly abnegated a parenting decision or two.)

I’ve a few more silver hairs than I’m happy with, after hours dreadful, things strange, and very sore nights indeed. The bank account is woeful. But my challenged, challenging, tumultuous, (fiendishly) enterprising, highly-charged and profoundly intrepid son and I needed a gradual stretching of our bindings. And furthermore, regardless of how the fiscal, emotional, marital, personal and intellectual cost of Harry’s upbringing is totted up, our parental exchequer could never arrive at a sum total of anything other than handsome dividend. He is… beauty.

Our respective Venn diagram circles are positioned no longer in that of planetary eclipse, but ripping apart in very viscous fashion: imperceptibly at first, but undeniably accelerating as the area of our overlap diminishes and the surface force between us lessens. I am no longer in totality, his over-arching sky, his every horizon, and this both horrifies and enraptures me.

I’m trying to fill the void Harry leaves in me when he darts behind the bolted half-door into his nursery school (giving me such an incongruous farewell: an excessively – accordingly to my feelings! – perfunctory and casual glance, followed by a frown of intense and acute effort as he labours to harness two of his thin, precious store of words into a sentence. ‘Buh-bye….  Mmuum’. The dissonance is thoroughly emblematic of the child.).  I look around for the dropped guide-ropes of my former existence, and realise they finish at my feet: I had no plan beyond here. This place, this motherhood, this matchless configuration of anxiety, mirth and love was the farthest extent of my dazzled sight and I turn away into a dimmer world in which my head must either stagnate or people anew with ideas: my small sun is bouncing his beams of delight, excitement and wrath into other cosmos than mine.

I am an ill-at-ease mixture of stress, distraction and lamentation just now, and you must bear with me a while.

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