Modern appliances

are shit.

We moved into our house 6 years ago this summer, and bought several shiny new appliances to match the shiny new house we’d just built. (Yes, we. My hands and lumbar region have never quite recovered from lugging breeze blocks about, and picking the builders’ cigarette packets off the floor, despite my pointedly supplying a well-placed bin. I was eventually obliged to withdraw their cake perks as a result.) These shiny new appliances are now turning up their collective toes in unison.

The tumble dryer can only be coaxed into life like so:

or by standing with your finger on the button. (I know it’s June. This is the United Kingdom. It’s pissing down out there.)

Our washing machine (which is actually nearly 8 years old, as I demanded that John’s house acquire one before I moved into it. Previously, he took his washing home to his mother once a week. He was 30.) has acquired a deeply unpleasant old-water smell that taints every load of washing placed inside it. I have scoured comment threads for smelly machines, cleaned everything that can be cleaned, and it has not improved matters one jot. Only blasting with the tumble dryer set to Max banishes the smell from our clothes (see masking tape and wine-cork improvisation above).

John broke the tablet-dispenser whatchamacallit door on our dishwasher within weeks of purchase and never got around to re-fitting the spring, so we have been carelessly chucking the tablet inside loose for years. Recently, the top tray is becoming increasingly divorced from the vital bits of metal that prevent it parting company with the dishwasher mothership, and has taken to crashing – expensively so – down onto the bottom layer of crocks. In addition, during the last fortnight its cleaning of cutlery has become noticeably substandard. Significant smearage has been reported.

The freezer section of our fridge-freezer packed up last Saturday. Astoundingly, considering he had just rolled in from a rural tractor-pull very well lubricated indeed, Hairy ‘Beady’ Hubby noticed that the tiny high-temp-warning LED had lit up, and we were able to transfer the still-solid food to our chest freezer. I rang Hotpoint, who were suspiciously desperate to sell me an extended aftercare package for about half what the machine is worth – per annum; I also rang a local chap who told me kindly that 6 years from a frost-free Hotpoint was all I could realistically expect, and it sounded like the compressor was going. He would buy a new one, apparently.

My parents have a perfectly serviceable and energy-efficient fridge living in their shed for Dad’s fishing bait – that they had in their old house. They moved when I was 2, and I won’t see 34 again.

The silver lining to the fridge-freezer Sadness should have been that, as John and I have hankered painfully after one of those huge American-style muthas with an ice maker and sufficient cubic capacity in which to lose an entire tribe of hairy farmers, we could, if we robbed a bank, upgrade. Except we can’t, coz some monumental fuckwit managed to design a monstrous 5 x 6 metre kitchen in such a way that only a 600mm appliance will fit.


John the Weasel

At 2am this morning, m’lud, the defendant, on entirely his own initiative, did remove a screaming, howling, protesting toddler from the nursery, and introduce him into the parental bed. The young man in question, true to 9-times-out-of-10 form, did not go back to sleep, but proceeded to turn the night into a surrealist dozing twilight zone of frantic cuddles, kicks to the head, and intermittent outbreaks of deafening babble.

After a mere few minutes of this behaviour, m’lud, the defendant, taking blatant advantage of his partner’s semi-comatose state of pronounced tiredness, did sneakily quit the main bedroom, and conceal himself in the spare room for the remainder of the night. His defence, when interrogated in daylight by police incensed spouse, was that he felt ‘really quite sleepy’.

Said spouse endured above two semi-conscious hours of toddler torment, your honour, before snapping like a dry twig and ruthlessly inserting toddler back into the nursery, to the accompaniment of loud remonstration. She was very much hoping, m’lud, that her partner would, upon hearing the yammering and yowling, make an effort to return to the marital bed, as the young lad had, over the course of the night, managed to upset his entire sippy cup contents into his father’s side of the mattress.

The lady in question was unable to immediately return to sleep, even after the cessation of the ululation from the nursery, m’lud, because of a telling combination of profound irritation, moisture wicking, and what is colloquially known as ‘that fucking cockerel’ – which animal commenced its morning proceedings at 4.45am.


John has spent an appreciable proportion of today building Harry’s new climbing frame, and getting, intermittently, thoroughly pissed on.

Do not waste your sympathy on him, O people, for he has sinned.


Whenever the red mist descends upon me, I remember an article that Stephen Fry – a talented lad – once wrote for The Listener about losing his sock. I haven’t lost my sock – on this occasion, at least – but my personal DEFCON is fast approaching pushtheredfuckingbuttonandtohellwith’emall.

‘I am angry. I am really angry. I am so angry I can barely go to the lavatory. I am fuming. I don’t think I’ve ever been crosser. If you poured boiling jam down the back of my neck, set fire to my trousers, defecated on the back seat of my car and forced me to stare without blinking at the cartoon of myself that accompanies this article I couldn’t be more furious. Hopping mad about sums it up.’

I’ve managed to empty my bladder, but it was touch and go for a bit.

I fought my way into Coventry during the rush hour this morning for an appointment with my consultant. She gravely thanked me for sending her my back-to-front heart report, and told me that I definitely do need a laparoscopic exploration. I nodded expectantly, waiting for her to announce why she had summoned me back to her clinic instead of simply noting the whole peculiar heart-thing and rescheduling my (postponed-because-of-said cardiac-weirdness) operation.

But there was nothing of the sort forthcoming. She merely started to write out another surgery form, identical in every way to the one she wrote out last September… when she cheerfully bunged me on her laparoscopy waiting list.

I furrowed my brow. She’d forgotten – evidently – that we’ve already driven round this particular roundabout.

I had been scheduled for the knife on the 1st of February – and made that fact clear in every piece of correspondence. I had only agreed with her secretary to postpone the surgery (this was during Consultant’s extended holiday: I was the first case upon her return) because – and feel free to call me cautious – I had thought Consultant might like to be aware that my abdominal arteries and veins are probably somewhere fairly unusual. Her secretary had assured me that she had spoken to her, and simply re-scheduling the Lap was not an option: she wanted to see me in clinic. Furthermore, it has only been by utilising a judicious mixture of furious complaint and wheedling charm that I am not waiting until the end of April for today’s appointment.

I toyed with the idea of remonstrating loudly about the pitiful miscommunication, the complete waste of her time, my time, my diesel, a morning’s childcare costs, and five months of my dwindling amount of child-bearing life, but I couldn’t see much actual benefit in it. I’ve always been a firm believer in making the person cutting your belly open (whilst driving a camera up your fanny) like you as much as humanly possible.

So I sat schtum, and grimly waited to be handed another form. ‘Her list’s only a couple of months,’ I thought. ‘You can cope with that. Cool blue oceans!’ or some such shit.

She stopped scribbling away and looked up.

‘Last time you were here we spoke about your weight. (We did. She told me it would be good to lose some. I agreed. I know an anaesthetist well. I know how tricky it can be to knock out fat people safely. I am totally on board with the losing-weight-is-good concept. But I… didn’t. She hadn’t seemed quite rabid enough about it, I suppose.) Now, before I put you on my waiting list, I think we need to get your BMI down.’

‘Wh… what?’

‘Just hop on these scales, please. I’ll take a kilo off for your boots.’

They were kind scales. Even in my boots, I weighed 4lbs less than I did 3 days ago standing stark naked, having squeezed out every drop of pee I could.

She stabbed around on a BMI chart and merrily announced that I would only have to lose a stone before she would accept me for surgery. Or, to put it another way, I’d only have to lose a stone in order to return to exactly where I was last September, when I weighed exactly the same as I do now.

I’m never wearing this skirt again. It obviously does nothing for me.

‘It’s only a stone!’ she said, evidently noting that my features had clouded over. ‘But you need to get down to at least 88kg please.’

She tucked my surgery form firmly back into my folder, ignoring my outstretched paw.

‘Give (secretary) a call as soon as you lose the weight; she’ll find this form in your notes and put you on the waiting list straight away!’

I thanked her through gritted teeth, and marched out of clinic.

And came home.

And examined a BMI chart.

Her chart must have been as kind as her scales, because 88kg is still a BMI of 32 and unless I insist on using her set of scales again, I have to lose two stone, not one.

I am now a sobbing, angry, frustrated, premenstrual fat woman with a growling empty stomach.

Do Not Approach.

You know you’re silly parents

when your absolute crowning ambition, the pinnacle, the reward for your hours of enthusiastic demonstrating, the niftiest thing that would make you both the proudest parents in all of Christendom, 

is for your toddler to master the Pink Panther Slink.

And you know you’re truly returned to the bowels of the spirit-crushing machine that is the NH bloody S when they postpone your surgery, then make you an appointment next week instead, then get confused about your appointment, then lose your appointment, then deny all knowledge of your appointment, then give your appointment to somebloodyone else, then finally offer you a consolatory replacement appointment in 3 fucking month’s time.

I’m back in the bloody saddle, alright.


The delightful Liz at Womb for Improvement has posted today about her appointment to discuss the possible move to IVF, her IUIs having sadly not been successful.

Her post is here.

When I first read it I shook my head in sympathy, because I’ve totally had that appointment. And then I got really bloody annoyed, because no-one should have that appointment.

I found out early and the hard way that I had lost a tight rein on my fertility treatment. An acute piece of miscommunication between my consultant (an excellent one, despite being a 20-minute egg) and the nursing staff during my first IUI procedure led to him replacing the sperm into the wrong uterus.

I knew I only had an egg on my right side… the nursing staff knew I only ovulated from my right ovary… and I thought I could feel him turning left… but I was too intimidated to speak up mid-procedure and ask him if he was heading through the correct cervix. If he had been about to perform an invasive procedure on any other part of my body… I feel I would probably have spoken out. I’m not altogether certain, but I think it was my own feelings of inadequacy associated with my failure to reproduce unassisted, that ultimately rendered me silent.

Of course, it wasn’t the only reason. I didn’t need to actively draw on sales training to identify that my flat-on-back-and-angled-10-degrees-head-down-with-legs-splayed-and-strapped-in-with-BIG-FUCKING-STRAPS-to-the-stirrups lowly vantage point was not one in which I was likely to gain mental control of the discussion.

There was, in fact, never much discussion. Chatty exchanges to nurses during the scans, yes; I’m always talkative with my knickers off. Lots of wondering why the hell my cleverly different internal arrangements seemed to be responding so contrarily. But during the actual appointments, my function seemed largely to be that of a listener.

And that’s… fine. As far as it goes. I am not a doctor, still less a fertility expert with years of experience. I was there for advice, for treatment, for the love of God, please give me a baby, because we’ve tried and tried and tried and I’m desperate now. Anything. I’ll do anything you say.

In the aftermath of the IUI-error, my consultant telephoned me to apologise for his mistake. (He did, incidentally, immediately accept complete personal responsibility and never even mentioned the fact that his staff had, without a doubt, propelled him into theatre with his didelphic-uteried patient without mentioning that only one uterus was actually good to go.) He asked me why had I not spoken to him of my worries during the procedure, rather than to the nursing staff afterwards? The medical staff, he stated, were a team – and the patient was a key member of the team.

I couldn’t formulate an answer for him at the time, other than to say that I really wasn’t certain which cervix he’d used, and my doubts had grown afterwards – which was true, as far as it went. I left quiet the fact that I found him silent, scientific, unapproachable, intimidatingly senior, cerebral – and that I always entered his presence in an unhelpful mixture of quiet awe, cognitive lock-up and near-total flustered aphasia. The fact that I had either waited long impatient weeks or paid out huge dollops of cash to gain a seat in his presence did nothing to diminish his aura, either. I would no sooner challenge his opinion than I could picture him on the toilet.

My counsellor (for whom I have an adoration little short of outright worship after her years of kind and clever responses to my dribble) challenged me on this theme, I seem to remember. The reproductive-inadequacy that was a constantly recurring topic, but also, for instance, when I was cheerfully submitting to tests, the purpose of which I was foggy about.

Relating all this to you now makes me wonder quite how I got myself painted into such a mental corner, because my polite exterior is underpinned by such an imperious bossy-boots that you really wouldn’t credit me with such passivity; yet when I am faced by someone with a decent degree, a white coat and a confident manner, I surrender my autonomy like a shot. Weird.

Now, not every fertility patient turns into quite such a bunny-in-the-headlights as I did (and after notching up two more IUIs, two IVFs and three miscarriages, I became noticeably better. I even grew to understand and interact with my 20-minute egg rather more effectively. Now, I am probably even operating at everyone else’s level of Normal, with a leaning toward Pushy.) but it’s a common enough phenomenon in the well-documented maelstrom of psychological stresses, traumas and spiky-dildocam-lined emotional bearpits that are so strongly associated with the journey an infertile couple make. 

It’s difficult enough getting to grips with the astonishing degree of bureaucratic incompetence that exists, despite the extra billions, within our health service, without being let down face to face at the actual sharp end. There’s not a doctor that doesn’t pay lip service to the notion of mutually agreeing the road forward with an informed, empowered patient (particularly given the pronounced deep-axe-wounds-to-psyche nature of the treatment) yet all too often the patient encounters a dismissive, supercilious, terse, chivvying, insensitive scientist. I read post after post about them.

Probably not all those traits in the same doctor, mind. That would make them Assisted Reproduction’s very own Basil Fawlty and their IVF stats would have to be awfully appealing to stay in business.

It’s… not good enough. This isn’t about a GP having an off day and being snippy with the 5th antibiotics-for-a-blatant-virus request he’s had since lunchtime. This is desperate fucking stuff, no pun intended. The course of people’s entire lives gets mapped out in these appointments. Discussing why your body is not doing what is expected of it is acknowledged to be a terribly difficult conversation to have, and yet during it, solutions are still being prescribed, not explored.

All this railroading happens to a person who has already lost all control of something so screamingly fundamental as their own body’s ability to naturally procreate.

Your own fertility treatment is a difficult ship to steer.

It’s 1am. I’m still annoyed.

Harry has woken himself coughing; after half a failed hour of rocking-chair cuddles I have decanted him into the parental bed, looking delighted with himself – John, rather less pleased. He is now attempting to re-bottle him, and there is Screaming. My tonsils are still the size of walnuts, my eardrums are bulging and my neck has grown a fine assortment of swellings and lumps. I have a long day tomorrow.

Rahrahrahrahrahraaaaaaaaah. Bloody, bloody everything.

Taxi! The Cococabana!

Reasons to be happy:

  • Carry On Cleo is on TV. Infamy!
  • Harry has learnt to nod! We have actual nodding! Nodding to go alongside the shaking he learnt last (pause to peruse own archives) September. At the grand old age of 29 months he can now give a silent no AND yes – when he responds at all; his continuing speech delay, it turns out, is part of a wider listening and attention disorder. But… back to happy! Nodding! It’s a… strange nod, admittedly; it looks more like a slooooooow motion yoga move than a gesture, but it’s clear to see and he enjoys doing it.
  • Christmas has been put back in its box. It’s hard to say which experience I enjoy more: the festooning-with-holly-and-twinkly-lights festive gearing-up, or the get-back-in-your-bloody-box-coz-I-want-my-house-back-now winding down.
  • I tackled the heaps of near-sentient washing in our bedroom on Christmas Eve, so I am no longer obliged to groan and feel depressed by the morass that previously concealed 90% of the actual carpet. It was actually all clean – at least, it was, before it spent weeks on the floor – it just never made it as far as being folded and placed in the wardrobe. 50% of my share of the clothing  mountain was also too small for me; I would grab it, hold it to the light, scrutinise the label, and cast it impatiently back onto the tangled skeins of sleeves and legs. Annnnd I have sharply deviated away from subjects that please me. Clear floor! I have a clear floor! I can see my Laura Ashley rug again! The only one I own! Harry now has his brio train track all laid out on said floor – John and I spent a happy half-hour elbowing him imperiously out of the way while we re-visited our respective childhoods – and Brrrrrrmmms his trains around in the morning for 20 precious minutes or so, before remembering that he likes to bounce up and down on Mummy’s sleeping head.
  • I have booked a little holiday. On Monday 11th I am heading for Center Parcs for 4 nights, where I plan to ensconce myself with a good book on a deckchair in the 29.5 degree tropical dome, sipping something cool, while Harry & John splash about in the pool. Disconcertingly though, it seems John is planning on making me actually cycle places, and has just bought a bike carrier for the car. Sigh. But… 29 degrees! Wave machines! Flumes! Lagoon Bar!

Malice of Inanimate Objects

Our marriage is saved: we have ordered a new laptop. No longer am I condemned to spend the long, damp English winter alone, huddled in the office with frozen feet, arse and hands. I am freed – freed! – to the warmth and light of the woodburner-heated living room, where Hubby resides of an evening – usually snoring in front of badly-chosen TV channels. He will now have the pleasure, not only of his wife’s company, but also that of turning the TV down. He is unlikely to cede control of the zappers – I am, after all, a mere woman, and zapper possession is a clearly established male Hairy Farmer trait –

zapper king

zapper smiles

zapper 2   zapper4    zapper   zapper5

but I’m sure we’ll work something out.

I think the final straw came yesterday, when John found me walloping the mouse into the keyboard and weeping tears of insane fury, while the clock ticked inexorably (a shockingly unco-operative bit of wall furniture, that thing) past the numbers at which Ann Must Leave Or Be Shamefully Late, and the desperately-required page of labels was still a mere twinkle in the unblinking red LED eye of our yet-again frozen computer. 

And I’d tried to start it all earlier, really I had, but I’d had a coffee & cards event to run all morning while Harry was at nursery; John picked him up at lunchtime and drove around until Harry was juuuuuust sleepy enough to think that he had actually had his nap, whereas he had only closed his eyes for half a goddamned minute. When I arrived home for lunch, laden with urgent orders and with preparations to make for an identical evening event, Harry naturally would not even consider entertaining the shadow of a possibility of a snooze, but was overtired and clung to me like an abused koala, demanding looped Little Red Tractor DVDs until my eyes wanted to bleed.

I put some sterling work in on my attempt to hang on to my Mother of the Year 2010 title by sneaking off to the PC intermittently (this is my points-clincher: I kept telling him I was going to the kitchen to fetch him some choccy milk, the current yummy favourite) – but Harry was having none of it; an imperious and indignant little chap would appear at my knee within seconds and bodily drag me away.

Now, rightly or wrongly, I felt John to be heavily implicated in my plight, on the basis that he had half-cooked the drive-to-sleep business to begin with, and I repeatedly phoned him with the intention of telling him so. Possessed of as much husbandly ESP as the next man, he had cleverly mislaid his phone and by the time he did finally return home from whatever tea-drinking, foot-propping, gossiping, entirely bloody frivolous activity* keeps a farmer (who has, smugly, completed all his drilling) busy in late October… well, it was late, and so was I.

The PC, sensing my desperation and haste, displayed utter, blatant and outrageous fuckwittage. This was by no means its first offence, and I would have promptly sentenced it with a fucking heavy mallet had one been available; I eventually disappeared out of the house at speed, possessed of wet labels and a boiling  bad temper. The wretched thing continued to play me up late into last night when I realised today’s schedule of speech therapy and safari park – more anon – inescapably dictated a late night online, ordering in stock. I went to bed at 1.45am, brooding darkly.

Overnight, I remembered the inspirational piece of work that is the Torture Box. I worried that unplugging the wires for a judicious dose of punishment might shift the thick layer of dust about and cause even further loss of performance, so…


there. Take that.

And… I swear it’s been running better since.

* there may be two different opinions about this.

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