Pussycat, Pussycat, where…?

Harry starts school a week on Tuesday. I have blinked, and the long summer holidays have vanished; my rose-tinted plans of tramping the hedgerows looking for wild flowers and quiet picnics in sunny, remote fields have, largely, not happened. (I blame the weather, because otherwise I shall have to blame my own inertia.) I did, however, promise Harry some time ago that he could go to London, because he wanted to go to the Queen’s house (after waving busily at her in Stratford earlier in the year) and play with her. This has evolved, after gentle nudging in the direction of the Real, into a fervent desire to go on the ‘underground trains’ and the London Eye. I have acquiesced, and we are going for a couple of days on Tuesday; John is too busy for an overnighter, so Harry and I are travelling à deux.

This is a first, and I am mildly nervous in case Harry decides to wake at sparrowfart, because Ann Really Does Not Do Sparrowfart – John takes that particular one for the team every time – and I have booked us into a Laterooms Cheapie in Ealing, which has secure parking and is most conveniently adjacent to the Tube, but TripAdvisedly has walls like ricepaper and a habit of completely losing Laterooms reservations. It is awfully likely that, for once in my life, I will be early to breakfast – charged extra at £11. That had better be some stonkingly good coffee.

What with pronounced hypermobility and likely dyspraxia, Harry tires quickly when walking – but pushchairs are simply dreadful things to lug about the underground, plus Harry is most aggravating to convey with one, tending to both moan and groan about being sometimes instructed to stretch his legs and walk for a short distance, or impulsively leaping out without warning and promptly being run over by his own chariot wheels. Consequently, I’m not taking one, and have planned to pop up from Piccadilly tube station like a pair of meercats, and march Harry straight onto the City Sightseeing red buses, which go everywhere we want. A brief scurry off the bus onto the Eye

(do I buy standard £ tickets for a ‘flight’ slot and risk a horrendous bus-delay/Eye queue and missing our slot? Flexi-timed tickets for ££? Queue jumping tickets for £££? Flexi-timed, queue-jumping tickets for ££££? God, the decisions I am having to make here, people. I don’t even particularly want to go on, myself; I’ve been before and I’m not mad on heights.) and that is likely all the walking I will subject him to on Tuesday – although if anyone has any suggestions for a kid-friendly eatery between the Eye & Ealing, then do pipe up. Harry’s ideal evening cuisine, to my great maternal shame, is Pizza Hut, Frankie & Benny’s, McDonalds, and fish & chips, although *begins to yammer defensively* the kid does have some fairly rigid textural issues with food that are markedly unhelpful in re: menu expansion.

Wednesday, we can stroll around Trafalgar Square, as we are meeting May (hurrah!) there for coffee on her way to work. If there happens to be a child being rescued by fire crews from a unconscionable distance up Nelson’s Column on the news: it will doubtless be mine, as I feel Landseer’s lions, which are rightly famous, might be quite popular with my junior contingent – although I’m aware that the lions are suffering structural damage from 140-odd years of tourist abuse, and my inner conservationist is already shifting uneasily from foot to foot.

And that is all I have planned, apart from a trip to New Bond St, as I have a voucher for the Victorinox (Swiss Army Knife) store, that can only be spent there. I am looking to replace John’s Leatherman, which I may or may not have been responsible for depositing in the middle of a main road and subjecting to heavy vehicle crushing for a day or so. *Ahem*

I suppose I could take Harry to Hamleys – although they tend to sell broadly the same toys everyone else does, but at a monstrous premium, and I know I’d never winkle him out without a strop. I’d like to go to Westminster Abbey, myself, having never managed to make it past the doors before, but Harry might not be terribly impressed. The Natural History Museum will be heaving, so we’ll do that another day when he’s older and better emotionally equipped for actual dinosaur dimensions. If he is obliged to mentally process the fact that beasts the size of diplodocus

 

can’t actually fit under his bed in order to scare him – along with the aliens, bears and crocodiles that also seem to regularly inhabit it – well, there could be existential confusion and outsized nightmares later. I don’t fancy Tussauds, and Harry certainly wouldn’t have a clue. Tower of London is great, but expensive, and I think that’s another one for a later day.

Perhaps we would be best advised to simply head to the place with the most toilets per square foot. Harry’s needs are predictably unpredictable, and my needs will be predictably tiresome: my period arrived yesterday, to the expected second, near enough – my follicular phase might be days, weeks or frequently months, but my luteal phase kicks 14-day arse – so I will be lugging around a bag full of industrial-spec sanitary items, plus spare underwear for mother AND child.

God help my blushes during the ubiquitous security bag-checks.

Things I Keep Meaning To Say

include:

1) Harry’s Statement of Special Educational Need has been funded to the tune of several thousand quid.

In practice, this means an extra lunchtime supervisor to keep a weather eye on his wobbles and any language-related play exclusion, and extra Teaching Assistant hours specifically to help him achieve his communication goals and assist him to access the curriculum where necessary.

Where necessary… ehhh. It’s a fairly moot point; this is certainly a level of input that he won’t be receiving for long. Harry’s Speech & Language therapist has, quietly and theoretically, mentioned service discharge. Harry’s pronunciation is still immature and hard to understand, and his sentences lack fluidity, but he is essentially – nearly – operating within the window of ‘normal’ for expressive language skills. (I occasionally almost feel sorry for parents who do not have the opportunity to watch their child do 2.5 years-worth of development in 6 months. Almost, but not quite.) There was never anything much the matter with his receptive language skills apart from some instruction-processing delay, but he was formally assessed for the first time at 3yrs & 11 mths during his last week of term, and didn’t do too badly, really.

2) The slight concern of Special-School Fabulous – who totally have been – is that Harry’s new teacher may, at present, not yet be able to see past his statement. They say that Harry, irrespective of communication status, is bright. And it really wouldn’t matter a buggery if he wasn’t academic in the slightest, but I will leave you to imagine the swellings of maternal pride, as well as the subsequent vivid dreams of Oxbridge Scholarship that their commendation has feverishly conjured up.

3) I expect by then he will recognise that wet pants = full bladder, because we’re not there yet. We have, at least, clawed our way out of the ammonia-filled Valley of Screaming Stress, and progressed from all-bad, distressed, defiant, River-in-Egypt, incontinent, appalling days – to having the occasional good day. We’re still not close to the near-complete success rate we achieved some months ago, and I’m still not quite sure why his toilet training all fell apart so completely, but I know very well where we ended up: a perfect example of the Strong-Willed-Child-In-Power-Struggle-With-Nagging-Parent case study I Googled. I had an awful epiphany of guilt, and promptly backed off altogether. Harry, Dictator General, was formally appointed ‘Wee-Wee Decider’ which went down big, and the topic is now, if not really mastered, at least a good-natured and relaxed one again.

I’ll settle for relaxed and carrying spare clothes, at any rate – but his new school sound a tiny bit thrown by Bladder Unreliability. If they only knew: it’s only in the last month or so that he has even considered tackling the indignity of wiping his own bottom, and he still has an only-comical-if-you’re-his-parent tendency to waddle out of the toilet, bend right over, and present his rear end for inspection/attention. Lookin’ good, Billy Ray!

4) He turned 4 earlier this month. It was a Pirate-themed party, at his urgent insistence, and there was, as you might imagine, a pirate ship cake. It is not my best work by any means, but I started off the night before his party at 8.30pm taking frozen chocolate fudge cake out of the freezer – and I was in bed by 1.30am. 

If you feel bad about your kitchen’s strewn mess, btw, here: this is my gift to your peace of mind.

The arse end of the boat – or, if you really prefer: ‘stern’ – rapidly began to de-coalesce from the main vessel, necessitating the tiny Playmobil pirate jumping into the shallows and wedging the whole edifice up with his hat.

Tanguerramama kindly reminds me that I also felt it necessary to sculpt a coin mould, and make fimo pirate treasure for party bags. I’ve never attempted fimo – or coin scupting – before, and it was a sharpish learning curve. I reckon I could make a considerably better go of it next time – which will likely not be soon, whereupon I will forget everything I learned this time around. Always the way.

While I was piddling about with fimo, I decided to sculpt a figurehead for the ship – as well as a few light cannon, a palm tree, and the ubiquitous treasure chest and cask of rum. She was the stuff of raw Viking nightmare for a goodly while – features are hard with an inch-long face –

but I eventually reduced her, avec colour, into a broadly acceptable Barbie lookalike.

 Harry deemed her ‘good!’, John said her boobs looked falsely pert. I explained to him that, if stuck to a ship at a 45-degree incline from the vertical, anyone’s boobs’d look pretty goddamn projectiony, actually.

I also found it entirely necessary to purchase a poster of Captain Jack Sparrow. How inexplicable.

Four. Four, damnit!

5) I have spent £70 on 3 polo shirts, 2 jumpers, a P.E t-shirt, P.E shorts, dark socks and a book bag, £28 on a pair of black shoes, and I have plimsolls still to purchase. Hot dinners, which they urge Reception children to have for the first half-term at least, as packed-lunch kids are left to their own devices significantly more, will cost £67.50 – although if he actually eats the meal, he can then have sandwiches for tea, and I will be saved from the spectre of cooking our family dinner for 5.30pm – totally worth the cash; John and I prefer to eat later, or we start heavy grazing in the kitchen again by 9.30pm. Aside from that: fucking ouch.

6) Consultant’s appointment was fraught with emotional complications, a good deal of which happened loudly in the car park directly afterwards. In short: again, with prednisolone. In place of intralipids, I am supposed to be drinking a couple of pints of full-fat milk a day, which the Professor reckons has the same effect. I have IUI meds in the fridge (now we have proved, even to my satisfaction, that IVF uterus-specific transfer confers zero benefit) but I am also in the middle of a 2WW, having recently produced hen’s teeth ovulation symptoms. Most unpleasant it was too; I think I have more cycles than actual ovulations, because on this occasion  – when everything did, unusually, point towards something Actually Happening – I felt like a bottle of shaken champagne, and was in a wretched mental and hormonal state for a few days.

7) *boomingly* Well, it can only get worse! Still, one thing drives out another, and perhaps the failure or success of the current cycle will manage to distract me from the fact that, very, very soon, I have to drive my son to his new, big, grown-up school, deliver him with faux-cheerful goodbyes into the educational system, and walk away, unseeing, from the gates, knowing that I’ve just lost a part of him that used to be mine. He’ll never be quite my own soul again, and it saddens me so. And the soul that should, that day, have been turning 24 weeks and viable… was also a boy, it transpired. A perfect, blameless, immaculate little boy. 

I find myself uttering that hoary old infertile chestnut: if I only knew what would happen, I could make plans accordingly. Try to achieve some closure. De-baby-clutter. As it stands, I’m despondent but durable, and I still have everything in my life prioritised completely towards children. Except my solitary child is growing up and away, and I will be going home to an empty house, no job, no money, and silence. Which, what with one thing and another, is likely to press heavy.

You Could Be My Flamingo

I always do this.

I leave such a long gap between posts that the info I wish to convey becomes an unwieldy, humungeous list. I then become aware that it will take me several blogging hours to do justice to it all, and, really, there are emails I should, in courtesy and justice, answer, before I devote keyboard time to blogging again. Hence, the long gap becomes a lengthy hiatus as I procrastinate madly. Eventually I bite the blogging bullet, apologise profusely to those who have sent me emails I haven’t answered (grimaces sheepishly in several directions) and decide to whip through everything on bullet points. But I am too wordily profuse for good bullet points, and my bullet points become paragraphs… become sections… become blog posts in themselves… which is what they were originally supposed to be. Damnit. Lets just do this, and I’ll stop talking when my fingers fall off:

It is summer. It is harvest. It is, by turns, sultrily hot and brass monkily cold. It is – touch wood, four-leaved clover, and all the rabbits’ feet you can stroke – going ok. Last Thursday was a bit of a disappointment weather-wise, and, having finished oats and linseed, John’s combine trudged and growled dejectedly through the drizzle back to the farm. (Yes, combines can look moody; don’t ask me how. Perhaps the augur angle looks less pert than usual when viewed through a filter of rain?) Our wheat, as it happens, wasn’t quite ripe, and waiting out a few days of intermittent rain and sun has, if anything, been beneficial. Of course, John has just been rained off again, so the weather will shortly cease to be viewed benignly, I imagine.

Our neighbourhood wedding went beautifully, and I felt glad that I had gardened myself and my mother to a crisp in aid of it. (Our neighbourhood, I should point out, consists of our house… and next-door’s house. You get to next door’s house past our house.) The bridal party were all driven to the church, by John, in the bride’s father’s ageing, albeit highly polished, Audi estate. The newly weds rode away from the church on a pair of bloody enormous racing camels.

 

It was that sort of wedding. It was quite fabulous.

I have blanked our faces out below, not because of privacy concerns per se – although John would prefer not to appear here – but because we are both wearing THE MOST gormless expressions I think we have ever adopted, and I see no reason to make myself wince any further. Dress us up, stand us together, try to take a nice photo of us… and we will inevitably succeed in producing joint facial rictuses of seeming agony, as well as acutely tortured body posture. We are standing on sideways-sloping ground here, plus John is utterly incapable of bending his elbows in formal shots, hence he is pulling my shoulder into some absurd Richard III-hunch, whilst he is seemingly about to face the firing squad. We… ummm…  don’t photo well together.

 

  

Now, before you cover your eyes and recoil, cowering, from the the beam of pink that is blinding you, let me instantly justify my choice of outfit: the bride specifically requested 1) bright colours and 2) big hats. Something a little quieter is usually more my thing, and whilst I do sincerely love me a good hat, I don’t generally select ones that, like this one, can pick up Radio Wales on a clear day. The brim was manageable, but the befeathered crown made me taller by nigh on a bloody foot, so naturally, leaving for the church, I snapped the top feather on my car roof.

This feather, incidentally, led indirectly to John’s undoing. We stopped off at home directly after the church service so I could superglue the damage to my (hired) hat before it detached altogether and I forfeited my swingeing £££ deposit. Harry – overheated, tired and feral – immediately kicked off in magnificent fashion (how do they always know when the timing is least favourable?!), and by the time John and I had finished calming him down, our thermostats were at boiling point, too. The bottle of Lanson I had stowed in the fridge the day before suddenly looked awfully cool and delicious. I poured two extremely generous glasses. It was cool and delicious. Glug…

We strolled up the hill to the reception on the empty-stomached outside of, I estimate, half a pint of champagne each – to be met by a flotilla of bubbly-touting waiting staff.

Well, you have to partake of these things, don’t you? You look churlish otherwise. Surly, even. 

After I knocked over half the table furnishings at dinner, and started taking self portraits

I stopped drinking for the night; John, regrettably, was still powering on through in quite spectacular style. I shall draw a veil over most of it, but feel a narrative obligation to update you on the shirts. He wore the stripey shirt – significantly the more expensive of the two on offer. Which was a shame, because while levering him into bed at a comparatively early hour, I noticed his arm was badly scratched, and the unhappy shirt had a majorly impressive rent in the back of it. Apparently, he went for a walk in the fields ‘to sober up’ (an inherently hopeless enterprise, I assure you) and lost a turf war with what appeared to be a highly malevolent and rambling triffid dog rose that ‘attacked him from above’. Remembering Wilt, I was tempted to remind him he got off lightly. Still, the shirt is now good only for dusters.

I was pleased with my wedding-morning dressmaking, although it did rip my nails and cover me with oil for the day.

    

I had to put the stampy-foot frighteners on a little before a safety-conscious and reluctant John, as well as his highly dubious father, were keen on achieving the towering 3-bale arrangement I was after, but once we had propped them discreetly against the foot of a trailer they were a lot less precarious, and a strap across the top rendered them pretty immovable. The groom stood over 13ft in his hat, so they were fairly popular with passing traffic, and everyone could find the party.

Annnnnd now my hand has had enough typing for one night. A week ago, our drive gate, which has an incredibly heavy, agricultural-spec, Harry-escape-proof latch, behaved very badly to me; imagine the re-enactment-carrot is my right hand:

and you will have an idea of why I still have no grip and aching bones. Gah.

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