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S’bin a while, I know. The matchsticks I’m propping my eyelids open with keep snapping.

Harry, Caesar, Praefectus, Princeps, Imperator, etc, turned three on Monday and was carted by his adoring mother and grandmother to a theme park that was quite ridiculously old for him, but featured Thomas (the Tank Engine) Land. The crowds were monstrous oppressive and Harry did badly in the resulting ride queues – no surprise. We went on one ride, plus a trip on the Actual Real Proper Thomas Himself (shssshh!) that was oddly queueless.

We toured the zoo and the climbing frames twice, and, taken all in all I think he enjoyed himself.

Mother & I, however, walked out of there several decades older. We lost him. Twice.

The first time, we were in a closed soft-play area

with a member of staff on the door, which slightly mitigated my unease when he vanished off the play frame. After a couple of minutes I asked the resident staff member to search the frame for a little boy with a black t-shirt and brown trousers (I have a deliberate policy of putting Harry in primary colours on trips to public places. Planning FAIL.) as parents were verboten. Which wouldn’t have stopped me going on to look for him, as such, but the majority of the frame was fairly visible from the ground. I searched the toilets. Mum searched the toilets. I asked the door guard. I began to fight down the panic and the visions of a small crumpled body at the bottom of a drop… or his neck caught up in a rope net and hanging…

You don’t want an imagination like mine, I assure you. It is not altogether a blessing.

Suddenly, he appeared like the genie of the bloody lamp, waving a cushion from the tiny toddlers area, under which he had evidently happily concealed himself.

Little bugger. Sigh.

The second time was… worse. Oh, so very much worse. He disappeared around a wooden climbing frame to re-climb the steps… and didn’t appear at the top. After a few seconds – 10? 15? – I wheeled the pushchair around the frame, surveyed the surrounding 30 to 40ft and – nothing. Vanished. Total Lord Lucan. 

Of course, black and brown really stand out against a double row of 100-yds of wooden climbing frames,

especially when there are hundreds of galloping, climbing, bouncing kids, skittering about in frenetic Brownian motion in front of you. (This photo was taken much earlier, when the place was virtually deserted.) I started off puzzled, moved swiftly through sinking unease and alarm, and rapidly reached heart-in-mouth stage.

I abandoned the pushchair, stationed Mum at the nominal exit area – horribly aware that if someone had taken him, they could be out and a fair way off, by now – and ran round like a demented hamster looking high and low, but it was chockablock with kids and I could see nothing. I started to scream his name, aware that A) there were probably a dozen or more Harrys looking up at me, B) he wouldn’t hear me if he was concentrating on clambering and C) he wouldn’t respond usefully even if he did.

Eventually – and I couldn’t tell you how long it was after he disappeared, only that I had time to die several times – I caught sight of him crawling into a tunnel. I dived after him like a chubby kingfisher and hauled him unceremoniously off the playframe (how I didn’t actually puke on him in sheer relief, I don’t quite know) before proceeding to give him what was not only the loudest shouty-bollocking of his entire life, but also, the most thoroughly undeserved.

Because I’ve never told him to stay close to me, or to make sure he can see me. He doesn’t know what ‘lost’ means; I’ve never explained the word to him. He doesn’t look behind him, he doesn’t seek reassurance, and he’s overwhelmingly self-assured because he knows I’m always there. Watching. The one place I let him roam out of sight is our local softplay barn because I know he can manage all the equipment – and I’m always between him and the gated exit. He’s growing up confident in his own abilities and secure in the knowledge that he’s never, ever come looking for me and not found me straightaway. Great!

Consequently, I imagine his bollocking came as an incomprehensible and puzzling surprise to him. Poor lad. He’d crumpled sadly into chastened tears by the time I’d returned to Mum and she’d retrieved the pushchair – not quite where I’d left it, I noted, absently; a fact which made sense later when I realised that his lovely, favourite dinosaur sunhat had been stolen off it.

*short pause, while we all wish haemorrhoids with infection complications on the perpetrator*

I had lost the will to slog on after that, and Harry was clearly tired – and upset! – so we left, and it will be some years before anyone gets me back there again. 

Harry’s party, on the other hand was lots of fun, and unmarred by aggravation, although there was a tricky time when New Toys were shown to Harry but he was prevented from actually touching them Immediately, Straight Away, This Minute, SERIOUSLY, LEMME AT ‘EM RIGHT NOW!

All the very best 2 year olds and 0 year olds attended, as well as a very honoured (more in the breach than the observance, as it turned out!) guest who had celebrated a very special birthday a leetle larger than 3 a couple of days previously, and had come all the way from Australia to do so – and had then driven the ball-breaker from Chester and back simply to come to Harry’s party. I’m not quite sure how we would have managed without her, but she tackled Miles Behind Party Prep like a bona fide hero. Harry was, sadly, insensible of the nature of the honour of all these far-flung guests, both toddler and adult – all of whom I managed to converse with not nearly enough, which was rather a pisser – but his mother was supremely touched and happy they were there, nevertheless.

(I had, in fact, done rather better with my bloggy visitors the day before, being able to devote several hours to a door-passing May and H, who are not only always an immense pleasure to see, but whom I now know so well that I no longer feel I have to render myself stressed by cleaning up before they arrive…)

So. I know you want cake photos, yes?

I had a demanding client brief, involving much signing of ‘tractor’, ‘digger’ and audible ‘choo-choo!’s. I couldn’t quite see how to incorporate all of these, initially, until inspiration struck. I was pleased with the end result, although leaving the elaborately-constructed chocolate collars

(designed to conceal the box forming the tunnel) in the fridge at home (along with 2 large cheese & pineapple ‘hedgehogs’, 80 cocktail sausages and 2 pots of houmous)

narked me off, rather.

The crane, tractor, digger and battery-driven train were all new, hence his sudden and desperate eagerness to pounce on them.

Waiting until the end of Happy Birthday nearly finished the poor lad off.

And my baby is now 3.

3!

Christ. Stop now, please.

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Harry’s Birthday

I never did get around to posting about Harry’s birthday.

 We were gathered in the hallway about to leave for his party, when Harry, in one of the accidents he so often suffers, overbalanced on the stairs in front of us all and smashed his eye socket hard into the wooden stair rails. I could tell by the thump it was a bad one, although John, also in a tense mood, saw fit to instantly berate me for over-reacting, before he had even inspected Harry’s damage.

So now: Harry has a cut, swollen eye, and is roaring like he is being murdered. I have, strangely, suddenly decided that occupying the same planet as my dear husband is vastly over-rated. I am sat in the living room cradling my shrieking child, tears running silently down my stressed face, as the clock ticks rapidly towards – and beyond – Party Time! Yay! Well, we were late. Half the guests were waiting outside the hall. I turned up at Harry’s 2nd birthday party bootfaced, tear-stained and miserable.

I wanted to grab Harry, flee far, far away to somewhere I could cuddle him in perfect peace, and cry a quiet river into his hair when I got there. The UK ‘BBQ summer’ had rendered the north-facing village hall so cold that we had to make pots of tea simply to warm people up. I suppose I was doing a bad job of trying to adjust my features upwards, because everyone kept asking what the matter was, and then Harry collided with something else which made him cry again, and I had to retreat to the kitchen to do some seriously shaky deep breathing at that point.

I eventually managed to get a grip on some stiff upper lip, and laid the food out. I calmed down a fair bit when I’d got them all sat down and eating, and I began to feel a little less like a trapped animal. Then I cheered up substantially, as someone I knew walked in, who was unequivocally coming to stand shoulder to shoulder with me in my emotionally torrid little corner – bringing two extremely special and immaculately tricked-out little guests:

Nick & Nora

and I’ve begged all these photos from Shannon, as to my annoyance I took virtually none.

We sang Happy Birthday to my handsome little man.

Harry happy birthday

I helped Harry blow out his candle I blew out Harry’s candle

Harry candling blowing

and we cut his cake.

Veg patch

naughty pig

cake

We had practised blowing (oo-er) but all Harry can manage yet are comical piggy-snorts.

After the party we headed home, and Shannon, poor girl, must have been sadly conscious of the contrast between her and Alistair’s welcome of me to their beautiful home… and… ours. She’d just had a really long drive, during which Nora gave her heart failure at 70mph by discovering how to work the door release catch – and arrived to chaos. John and I had completely forgotten to screw the rail for the roman blind up that morning in the second guest room, obliging me to precariously perch a large art print over part of the window to darken the room for Nick & Nora instead. I also noticed that John, despite having had strict instructions to clean the guest bathroom (he claims I must have dreamed telling him this), seemed to have entirely omitted to clean the tidemark of Harry’s perpetual grubbiness from the actual bath. Sigh. We’re just not good at this at all. Shannon’s pair of utterly delightful babies (Yes, babies! Babies! They are ALL STILL BABIES! I will have no truck with this ageing toddler thing!) occupied me beautifully until it was time to heave-to once more, as we were having a BBQ for some assorted farming friends that evening.

I enjoyed the evening party enormously. I suspect my dear old father, incidentally, much as he loves me, wants to swop me for Shannon. He has THAT MUCH of a paternalistic crush on her. He has told me no less than 3 times how delightful she was, and has enthusiastically quizzed me – uncomfortably closely, in the secret COUblogGH!/deliberately-left-murky circumstances – on quite how we met. Sadly for him, Shannon’s Dad is highly unlikely to accept a late-life adoption of all of my 14 stones quietly, so I think it’s a no-deal situation.

The weather had failed to live up to its threats and had turned out beautifully. John duly carbonised some genuine pig product on the BBQ, and we settled down in traditional British fashion to crunch away at the burnt bits. I had forgotton that Shannon was vegetarian, because I am a bit fucking useless, so she was obliged to subsist on salad (which she had earlier set-to and chopped herself, because she’s lovely like that), baked potato skins and the chocolate fountain. I’m positive she needed the sustenance, because effortlessly memorising names, faces, occupations and personalities for every guest she charmed must surely require fuel. It’s one hell of a social accomplishment: I generally find that memorising the surname pushes the first name out of my head, and five minutes later I’m utterly clueless.

John, a seasoned drinker as a Young Farmer, now only goes out every month or so, and has gently morphed into a 5-pint-limit susceptible Old Git. He gently folded himself into an armchair and began to snore. I would probably have left him there but Shannon is made of altogether kinder stuff and took pity on the pain his crunched-up form would suffer; we heaved him, leg and an arm apiece, onto the neighbouring couch. I predicted that he would, around 5am, awake and crawl shiveringly into bed. As indeed he did.

 The next morning hurt my head a little, but not nearly so much as John’s.

Do you remember I told you I had sent a birthday card for Harry to CBeebies – the national UK children’s channel?

timmy

Well, they showed it… probably out of sheer GUILT at having RIPPED THE DRAWING OFF TIMMY’S EASEL! You can see the ripped ends and everything! I spent ages on that bloody rainbow! Harry’s is the last few seconds.

Shannon and Alistair between them most kindly ensured that this recording was immortalised for me, as I was stuck in an appalling Bank Holiday queue in the West Midlands Safari Park at the time, being eyed up speculatively by a tiger.

I Wrote To The Zoo

I am taking a brief break from my hard-core cleaning marathon. I never knew there were so many spiders in the world, let alone that they had been so unremittingly spinny in my house.

Tuesday sucked, as few other days have sucked. John is of the opinion that being formally diagnosed with a painful condition has psychosomatically affected me – which may or may not be true, but I’ve never been obliged to put myself on the cusp of painkiller not-quite-overdose-but-lots-too-many-nevertheless before. My uteri honestly felt like they were on fire; I kept having to crouch on the floor and groan, which I haven’t had to do since Harry made an appearance from one of them. I must see about getting some industrial-strength painkillers for next time, because Tuesday Was Not Fun.

I have been working like a navvy all week. We live in a large house, and we are both housework-averse, consequently the piles of crap have grown impressively high; you could write a reasonably long letter in the dust in any room of your choosing. John was keen to bulldozer it all into a Grandaddy heap in one room, which I vetoed on the grounds of A) public safety, B) it would depress me and C) we haven’t an unused room to actually hide it in.

I have had an agitated week regarding Harry’s birthday present. This

bouncing pony

turned up from Amazon looking vaguely like Chucky, with a grand total of 3 legs.

He was too scary. So I sent him back.

I then spent a fevered 3 hours DOUBLE-CHECKING the internet on the faint, remote off-chance that SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE in the UK might stock a proper bouncing pony. Eventually, by the unorthodox and genius approach of actually Googling the bloody name of it… Glory Be! I found a SINGLE SOLITARY UK stockist. 

radio flyer springing horse

I sprained my wrist with my snake-like speed, reaching for my Visa card. It cost so much that I have been obliged to forgo A) the party helium balloons (my infertile baby-dreams of birthday parties always had lots of helium balloons in. Couldn’t afford a cylinder last year either. Sigh.) and B) replacing the coat that I left at the Royal Show. Yep, last year my handbag, this year my (only summer-weight one I own) coat.

I was nervous as hell that the website was wrong, that the horse was a mere electronic chimera. I watched my inbox like a particularly vigilant and conscientious hawk, emitting a tiny cheer when an order confirmation popped confidently up. I couldn’t contain my uneasiness, though, and rang the stockist to double check – he told me it would be with me tomorrow. And I still had a bad feeling about it all. 

Parcelforce – my much-feared weak link – appeared this morning, on cue. Another small cheer escaped me when I saw the picture on the box – it was the right one! I examined it anxiously for signs of previous opening, and drew a cautious breath of relief.  Harry, naturally, refused to nap until after lunch, when I fell upon the container eagerly.

I opened it up and pulled out the body section, chuckling in satisfaction at the padded saddle and the chirpy painted harness. I pulled out one…two… three… FOUR legs! We have a full complement of legs! Hurrah! I dived back in and pulled out more bits and bobs, and began to rummage around in the bottom. I did a double-take. I checked again. I recoiled in horror.

I thundered down the corridor into the kitchen like a bull elephant, trumpeting my rage in a not-The-Godfather type-way: ‘There’s no head! There’s NO FUCKING HEAD! THEY’VE SENT ME A HORSE WITH NO MOTHERFUCKING HEAD!’

I stood there, chest heaving, head spinning, gasping wild imprecations interspersed with frantic yammmerings about how this was probably THE ONLY ONE IN ENGLAND and WHAT THE FUCK DO WE DO whilst Hubby had a rummage around the contents. He picked up the main body of the horse. And, like a conjuror producing a size 10 rabbit from a size 2 hat, produced the head from where it had been inserted, head-first, into the animal’s own body.

I subsided into a shaking heap on the floor. I can’t hack this pony-purchasing business at all.

We proceeded to spend 30 busy minutes building Dobbin, as my obsession over missing parts would brook no delay, before he cantered backwards – a neat trick – up the hill to the Delightful Doctors

pony

to live hidden from small eyes until Saturday week, when 23 children, give or take, ranging from 4 weeks to nearly 7 years, will be descending on our local village hall. I am, believe it or not, really, really looking forward to it. 

There will be Dobbin – an early present for Harry, who does not turn 2 until 2 days afterwards – a small ball-pool, a little bouncy-castle, lots of straw bales, a play-house, all Harry’s ride-on cars and tractors, pass-the-parcel, a bran wheat tub with lots of chocolate yummies for little hands to find, a bubble machine, lots of balloons (the non-floaty type, dammit) a huge birthday cake which I have been plotting and fretting over (in a good way) for months, and a slap-up party tea so chock-full of sugar that every single child will go home wired to the max. Heh.

And with any sort of luck, all this toddler-festival will go some way towards convincing me that our wonderful, beautiful, heart-stoppingly precious little boy really does exist, really does give me those cuddles and kisses that wring my heart with love, really does make us laugh until it hurts with his blatant mischievousness, and really does make us nearly burst with pride at his cleverness.

Because I’m still, still, shaking my head in disbelief that, in spite of everything, he’s here. He’s healthy, he’s mine, he’s ours, he’s entirely himself alone, and he’s here.

I find this awesome.

Pressure Cooker

How to spend your bank holiday weekend in a fairly mixed fashion, including hysterics, cooking a 4 course meal for twelve, and the whirling pit.

Friday: Poach pears, make cinnamon ice-cream, make creme brulees and slow-cook beef for several hours. Shriek witchily at anyone who steps inside the kitchen. Go to bed at midnight, worn out.

6am: Suffer acute tummy cramps. (Not the uterine kind. I know this because I’ve already had that kind for 10 days. AND spotting. Bastard things.) Sit huddled miserably in bathroom awaiting diarrhoea that does not arrive. Cramps subside. Crawl back to bed and groan pitifully at Hubby. Child kicks me in face. Curse and groan some more. Hubby leaves to farm. Ignore gestured pleas from child for Downstairs! and remain resolutely under the covers.

9am: Arrive downstairs and eat a white chocolate creme brulee for breakfast. Discover to mild horror and zero surprise (a new recipe and I experienced… problems) that they have not miraculously improved overnight. Flavour good but texture gone awfully, horribly wrong. Eat another in case the first one was a fluke – it wasn’t – and now feel sick. Offer taste to husband, who justly critiques texture, and to child, who recoils immediately with an expressive ‘Tssicckk!’

9.30am: Clear dining room table, which was made to my size specifications in order to seat 14. I curse my inability to perform mathematics – not for the first time – as the 12 chairs still manage to look cramped. 

10am: Despatch grumpy teething child and husband to town. They load into the car and disappear, with John’s frustrated cries of ‘You silly little boy!’ echoing down the drive. Harry’s tantrums have turned… quantum… lately. He has nearly knocked himself out twice already this morning with his own thrashing.

10.10am: Try to persuade myself that the tablecloth – a behemothic thing hunted down by my mother amongst the Cypriot linen shops, and selflessly hauled back home in defiance of excess baggage charges – does not require ironing.

 tablecloth

10:20am: Fetch iron from upstairs, come to look at blogs, curse self for wasting TIME, godamnit.

10.30am: Iron tablecloth in situ. Tablecloth sticks unpleasantly to nameless gunk smeared on table that I was too lazy to scrub off as HEY! I’m only going to cover it up wth a tablecloth! 

tablecloth2

11am: The After photo looks identical to the Before photo. Wasted hour. Go me! Start on ratatouille veg chopping.

11.30am: John returns with only half his To Do list done, and a sleeping child. He deposits sleeping child in cot, and settles down to enjoy a nice cup of tea. 

11.40am: Finish chopping. Hand throbs.

ratatouille

11.55am: Two large pans of ratatouille are bubbling nicely. John’s tea break ends when the diarrhoea that threatened me earlier finally makes its unwelcome appearance, and he is required to take over stirring. I emerge staggering, and proceed to clean hands obsessively. 

12.10pm: Hurry back to the bog for another go. 

12.15pm: Start to hum a Johnny Cash song.

12.20pm: Finally make escape from loo. Rigorously sanitise all areas of self. John disappears to complete his to-do list. Wonder why he is so cheerful about being sent into the town centre on a Saturday to shop. Realise that he has got his MGB out and is now driving away from the kitchen – with the top down, in the warm sunshine. 

12.30pm: Begin to work like buggery fuck. Pan fry chicken and cool. Make chicken casserole sauce and cool. Chop french beans. Chop runner beans.

1.15pm: My mother arrives to mind Harry. John returns from town and goes to wake Harry up. Lets Harry play with purchased top hat.

hat

Continue to work. Make a rhubarb crumble. Make ANOTHER lot of Creme Brulee to tried-and-tested recipe which also, inexplicably, goes yukky-textured. Womanfully resist urge to cry. Make salmon parcels with cream cheese, soured cream and dill filling. Make beef bourguignon, experience a slight setback adding red wine to pan,

wine-spill

 and cool. Make butter curls. Attempt to chop butternut squash and remember I am allergic to the sap. Summon Hubby to chop instead. Start to arrange crocks on table, aesthetically cringing at the necessity to use soup bowls that Do Not Match my dinner service. Bloody Wedgwood. Receivership is No Excuse. 

 

Assess fridge and consider how to fit a quart into a pint pot.

fridge2

 5.30pm: Make fishfinger dinner for Harry, who has been playing on the tussocky grass with Mum, and has fallen and hurt his leg. Is crying and struggling to walk. By now, I want to sit and cry too. Prepare bowl of watercress and rocket instead.

6pm: Mum goes home, frazzled by Harry. Put large tray of butternut squash cubes on to roast. Put 3 saucepans of new potatoes on to boil. Fold napkins into uncomplicated shapes. Arrange bread rolls in a bowl. Put new potatoes into heated hostess trolley. Cook beans and peas: into trolley. Arrange watercress and rocket onto plates. Open the carCOUGH!tons of soup and pour into saucepan. Discuss Who Should Not Be Sat Near Whom with John, while Harry watches Night Garden. We allocate the laminated place-cards I photoshopped for our 2007 party.

white-ann-baylis1  mustard-john-baylis2

If you think I’ve made our faces look bad, you should really see what I did to our friends’.

7pm: Under the impression I have 45 minutes until guests appear, I sit down for the first time since I emerged from the bog this morning, to blog speed read. Ain’t no-one getting comments today.

7.10pm: Turn squash in oven right down. Attempt to go upstairs to bath and change, but Hubby is reading a story to Harry with the bedroom door open and I dare not be seen. Print ‘Do Not Ring Doorbell On Pain Of Pain’, etc, sign and affix to front door.

7.15pm: Hubby creeps downstairs, shutting Harry’s bedroom door and I creep up, treading on our absurdly creaky floorboards as I go. Harry whinges. I rootle hurriedly in wardrobe to sort out vaguely cowboy-ish clothes.

7.25pm: Hear first guest knocking quietly at door. Remember I have actually told everyone 7.30pm for 7.45. Sound of new voice downstairs sends Harry into full-scale roars. Guest is unceremoniously left to entertain herself whilst John and I attempt to sort out costumes in total silence. Abandon all thought of bath, and Hubby is now hogging shower. Apply facial cleansing wipes rapidly around sweatiest sections, liberally apply bodyspray and perfume, and scramble into clothes.

7.35pm: Rip label off pink cowboy hat, don cowboy boots (which between the ages of 14 and 16 never left my feet) and creep downstairs past intermittently-grumbling child. Laugh at guest’s costume, ruthlessly delegate clue envelope handing-out, and scurry off to unwrap salmon parcels and place on salad, which has gone limp. Camera flash turns salmon an extremely unappealing colour. Add purchCOUGH!ased sauce.

salmon2

7.45pm: Put soup on stove to heat. Apply chicken to casserole sauce, beef to bourguignon sauce, and place on stove to re-heat. Stop to pour glass of wine and swig deeply while guest number 1 spots cars and races out onto the drive in order to organise and pre-shush (predictably and thankfully late) arriving guests.

8pm: Relax somewhat and decide cannot be bothered to decant food into Wedgwood serving bowls and will serve it in pans instead. Pour self a larger drink in celebration of acquiring this new wisdom.

8.10pm: Warm tureen, empty soup into it. Tell guests to get out of the bloody kitchen and sit down. Soup is served; I do last visual sweep of the kitchen. See huge pot of ratatouille, gasp, put hastily on searing stove setting to heat up. Go into dining room and read scene-setter out loud. Start the round off. Return to kitchen every 2 minutes during soup to frantically stir ratatouille.

8.25pm: Serve fish. Only one Fish?! refusal and one played-with plate. Relieved.

8.35pm Serve main meal.

dinner-party-food1

Peas have turned hideous colour in trolley, but everything else as planned. Spy forgotten and uncooked rhubarb crumble on worksurface and quickly turn the oven back on. Pour self another large refill.

9pm – 2am: Hazy.

horsey

2am: Final guest leaves and I take stock of surroundings.

detritus

2.15am: Find hubby asleep in the office and gently usher him towards stairs. Has a few false starts and is obliged to tackle the stairs at a crawl, but rolls into bed intact. At no point notices I am filming him.

2.30am: Snores.

5.10am: Child screams loudly. I awake to discover I now have the whirling pit. Nudge Hubby with foot and ask him to pat child back to sleep. Repeat several times, getting jabbier with foot. Hubby, entirely drunk, blunders next door and starts talking chirpily to child. I vaguely think this is odd. Hubby appears with Happy! child in doorway, whereupon I inform him it’s only 5am. He attempts to return Unhappy! child to bed. Experiences failure. Re-appears with Happy! child. Child makes determined lunge for boobs and is firmly rebuffed. Roars.

5.15 – 5.25am: Excessive rampaging over parents. Repeated attempts to access boobs.

5.25am: I leave in drunken stupor, taking my alcoholic boobs with me, and retreat to the spare room. Sleep for further 2 hours.

7.30am: Hubby appears with child. Announces that he ‘may have nodded off for a while’ and that Harry has trashed the bedroom, broken his specs and emptied his wallet. He cannot find two of his credit cards. He is feeling too ill to cope and retreats to the sofa downstairs.

john-asleep

8am – 1pm: I give Harry two scrambled eggs and blearily watch him happily play with the dogs. John eventually returns to bed whilst I start to clear up. His hangover appears unaccountably bad, until he tells me that the first bottle of Port he rootled out of the drinks cupboard at midnight was already open, sedimented and tasted odd… but they drank it anyway.

1pm: Next Door Neighbours appear for lunch of leftovers. I have cleared the table, cooked some fresh chicken, and heated leftover potatoes and veg. Am beginning to think I am wonder woman.

Afternoon and evening spent quietly playing and TV-watching with intermittent wearing tantrums from child. 

Bank Holiday Monday, 6.30am: Child kicks me in the head, headbutts me in the mouth, and finds it funny. I leave for the spare room again in a strop.

11am: Go to local retail park in order to purchase gift for Father’s birthday tomorrow. Retail park is extremely busy. Cannot find suitable gift. Go to town centre instead. Get mildly stressed but also finally buy David Attenborough’s autobiography for self. This takes away much of the pain.

12.15pm: Child falls asleep in car and is left to doze in peace.

1.30pm: Harry wakes without us noticing and works self into proper state before he is heard. There is much screaming and complaint.

2.15pm: I drive him to my friend’s house.

2.50pm: The bank holiday traffic is heavy and I arrive annoyed. Harry immediately has another meltdown the moment he walks through the door. He does this nearly everywhere we go. He Does Not Transition Well. I am becoming extremely exasperated, all the more so because I realise he cannot be blamed.

3pm: I am struck dumb with surprise when I hear my friend’s daughter ask her Mummy for ‘more juice, please.’ Harry has no exact contemporary among the children we see often, hence I have always managed to avoid comparing his speech. I become increasingly upset and aghast as I hear the little girl carry on basic conversations with everyone there and realise to what an advanced degree she can understand sentences and instructions. She has begun to inform her mother of impending bowel movements. (Her own, naturally. Anyone else’s would be even more impressive.) She is apparently not considered a big talker by her parents or nursery, but Harry still has no real words that we can clearly recognise and to me, she is Cicero. I start to want to cry.

3pm – 5.30pm: Harry kicks off again. And again. And again. Pushing. Hitting. Screaming. Grabbing. Kicking. Roaring. There were 3 other toddlers all having the odd strop because of various minor combinations of all those behaviours, particularly THEY-TOOK-MY-TOY-WAAAH! sad and teary red-faced episodes, but Harry… Harry is simply in a different league altogether: frequently catching himself violent wallops on hard surfaces as he throws himself about. I suddenly become aware of my own body language: I have retreated to a corner seat, I have unconsciously picked up a cushion and am holding it across my tummy. I emerge only to re-site Harry’s tantrums into more padded areas.

5.30pm: I leave, managing to hold back my tears until the car is moving.

6pm: I arrive back home, worn out and distressed. John greets me on the doorstep and tells me regretfully that Mrs Brahma has been eaten by the fox. I sit and cry. He takes Harry out from underfoot to ride in his trike in the garden.

6.10pm. I chop an onion and put rice on to cook. I am chopping mushrooms when Harry and John return. Harry is hungry and tired, and has always been tricky to handle at this time of day. He runs up to me and violently pushes my legs. I take a deep breath. He does it again. I burst into tears, which almost immediately turn into proper I-can’t-actually-fucking-breathe hysterics. John removes Harry, plonks him in front of the tv – always a winner to calm him down – and returns to attempt to calm me down. Today, because I am tired, worried and upset, Harry has – to borrow a clever phrase that struck a chord – become reduced to the sum of his quirks.

Harry, at 21 months, has no real intelligible speech yet. His sense of balance isn’t all there by a long stretch. He has, as they told me when he was born, possibly suffered some mild brain damage. His behaviour is most likely due to communication frustration.

It’s hard for both him and us. It’ll probably get worse. But I’m so indescribably sad that my son, my beautiful and precious son, still can’t talk to me.

 harry-hat-2  harry-hat

And the one hen I was genuinely attached to, who was old and tired and wise, has been ripped apart by the fucking fox.

mrs-brahma-rip1

The Big One

They came. They went. The house survived. So did our marriage, although it hit an all-time low about an hour before kick-off. My mother, who had done sterling, above-call-of-duty work all day with Harry (who opened his eyes yesterday in an absolute turd of a mood), successfully mediated a reconciliation by nervously proffering coronation chicken sandwiches. Bless her.

Even across three large rooms, we were a bit crowded, as despite the eventual sunshine (FFS!), the breeze on Hairy Farmer Hill was rather too brisk for outdoor partying. Harry spent most of the party alone on his new favourite toy: The Stairs. He has unfortunately sussed the downstairs geography now, and on Monday I will be buying another baby gate. Like a tiny yet intrepid mountaineer, he clambers industriously from step to step, patting each stair as he reaches it, stopping frequently to grasp and shake the bannisters whilst peering delightedly at how far he has come. The attractions of an inflatable castle and lots of little friends paled in comparison to the opportunity for mighty climbing conquests.

Where is the cake? I hear you cry. Weeell, not my finest hour.

The carriages look ok, but for some reason I panicked and decided that they were too dry without a filling, so I added a chocolate sponge layered embankment at the last minute, and rather spoilt it. Everyone took a carriage home, so I will make him another for tomorrow afternoon. One with, like, his name on. Yep… managed to forget that element first time around! I bought a funky sparkler ‘1’ candle, but I’ve lost it. It’ll turn up in time for his tenth, I expect.

In all, we had a lovely day. I am doing the same again with older friends and family tomorrow, although far lower key.

It is nearly 10.30pm, and a year ago today I was probably just about getting my chops around some lovely gas and air. I’d arrived on the labour ward at 7pm in increasing pain, but with a uterus that disobligingly stayed soft at the top during my contractions, fooling Drs and sensor pads alike. There had been muttering about appendicitis and paracetamol, but when John eventually fetched the staff out of the shift-change meeting at 10pm to tell them I had now taken up moaning residence on the floor, someone put a glove on and had a look the old-fashioned way.

Harry was born blue, with the cord wrapped twice around his neck at 1.18am on the 3rd August. The labour was joyful, in a strange way. My body performed. There was pain, a very short period of agony, then a culmination, and then a great sense of wonder; that was all how childbirth is supposed to be. And then my baby disappeared.

This was taken in his first hour of life, by a nurse with an under-performing camera. The smudging is where I later spilt water on the polaroid whilst trying to juggle a breast pump, the photos, and a glass of water. God alone knows why I was looking at these whilst pumping, they only ever made me freeze in fear and sob endlessly. His eye is open a tiny bit, and I was so mortally upset and afraid that he was in pain.

One year on, and I cannot say that I am over the appalling trauma of his birth and first few days of life. The distress still floats to the surface extremely easily, along with stomach-twisting flashbacks. I actually feel that I will never fully recover from his arrival.

But dear God, it’s worth it. And I shouldn’t complain. I would have died for my wonderful, precious son then, and I would a million times over now.

Happy Birthday, Harry!

Mummy loves you.

Updated: Down t’my chins

Thank you kindly for the lovely comments: I am a happy girl again. That’s the thing with glum posts, I suppose – they’re the virtual equivalent of dolefully howling HOLLLD MEEEEE! And you did. Tenderly!

I am up to my chins in rubbish currently, and cannot indulge in my usual wordy pontification. I am tidying like a demon, and the heaps of crap outside my front door are getting even more trailer-parky. There is a washing machine, a TV, a frying pan, a bucket & spade, a borrowed hen drinker, a fondue set, a cuddly toy… didn’t she do well?! At this rate, Harry’s little friends will know just what to think, I fear.

I have to tell you about the website I’ve just discovered. It translates text into various dialects, and I am particularly entranced with Jive & Redneck. I shall leave you with A) a picture of Hairy Hubby, an hour after his return from the pub last night – you’ll have to imagine the snores –

and B) the above text translated into Jive. If I had more time, I would You Tube my attempts at pronunciation and kill you dead!

Dank ya’ kindly fo’ de lovely comments, dig dis: ah’ am some happy goat again. ‘S coo’, bro. Dat’s de doodad wid glum posts, ah’ suppose – dey’re da damn virtual equivalent uh dolefully howlin’ HOLLLD MEEEEE! Right on! And ya’ dun did. Tenderly! Right on! I’s gots’ta be down t’my chins in rubbish currently, and kinnot indulge in mah’ usual wo’dy pontificashun. ah’ am tidyin’ likes some demon, and da damn heaps uh crap outside mah’ front doo’ is gettin’ even mo’e trailer-parky. Slap mah fro! Dere be a wuzhin’ machine, some TV, some fryin’ pan, some bucket & spade, some bo’rowed hen drinker, some fondue set, some cuddly toy. Slap mah fro!.. dun didn’t she do well?! Right on! At dis rate, Harry’s little homeys gots’ta know plum whut t’dink, ah’ fear. Ah be baaad… I have t’tell ya’ about da damn website I’ve plum discovered. It translates text into various dialects, and ah’ am particularly entranced wid JIBE & Redneck. Ya’ know? Ah’ shall leave ya’ wid A) some picture uh Froy Hubby, an hour afta’ his return fum de pub last night, and B) de above text translated into JIBE. If ah’ had mo’e time ah’ would You’s Tube mah’ attempts at pronunciashun, and waste ya’ wasted! Right on!

http://www.rinkworks.com/dialect/

Enjoy!

Update:

The party is 2pm – 5pm! BASTARD weather!

Fri
1
Aug
0100 Partly cloudy 17°C SSW 14 mph   Excellent
0400 Partly cloudy 15°C S 12 mph   Excellent
0700 Sunny intervals 15°C SSW 10 mph 20 mph Good
1000 Sunny intervals 18°C SW 15 mph 34 mph Very Good
1300 Light Rain Shower 20°C SW 16 mph 36 mph Very Good
1600 Light Rain Shower 20°C SW 15 mph 30 mph Very Good
1900 Sunny intervals 20°C SW 13 mph 27 mph Very Good
Night Partly cloudy 14°C SSW 12 mph   Good

I haven’t started H’s birthday cake yet, and the living room carpet still looks like this

only minus the hairy hubby.

My mother has just turned up to help me tidy, but she has immediately started to tidy things that are already tidied! Give me strength…!

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