I spoke too soon, Mrs Hingle!

Our phone rang at lunchtime today; I picked it up in the kitchen which was, at that moment, thickly populated with chatting women, half-dressed toddlers (more on this in a moment) and tiny babies. After some urgent shushing, I was able to discern that the chap on the other end of the phone was from University Hospital in Coventry – our mammoth regional super-hospital: location of my infertility treatment and Harry’s NICU stay – and was ringing to tell me that they have received a referral from Warwick to give Harry an EEG – could he come to the Neurophysiology department first week in May?

I had a fleeting prescient flash of dread vis à vis attempting to glue electrodes to Harry’s unsedated head, but assured him we would be there. I was a trifle taken aback to be hearing about this course of action from another hospital department as opposed to Harry’s Paediatricians – but only a trifle. I have spoken to enough local parents in our boat lately to realise that the parent is generally not top of  not near the top of  bottom of just not on the information dissemination chart when tests are ordered, because that’s the way it works. A friend of mine actually discovered that a working diagnosis – a fairly serious one – had been reached about her child this way. In fact, if you wanted to picture NHS bureaucratic procedure as, say, some ridiculously overinflated Lovecraftian dribbling blob, with spiny limbs too feeble to shift its own shuddering bulk, then that’s absolutely fine by me. The core competency of the individuals involved in delivering our healthcare is high, and yet the delivery structure itself falls so aggravatingly short. Bah. Stop me before I get going, people!

Teh Positive: New Woman is obviously Briefed, Making Decisions and Doing Something about Harry. This is Good, and makes up for my disappointment on Tuesday when I learnt that New Woman never actually visits the nursery section at School Fabulous at all, and under 4s are all seen in clinic. I had immediately foreseen a months-long wait to see her, and was juuuussst puffing myself up to launch my usual NHS hurricane mixture of righteous indignation, charm, hectoring and pleading at the Paediatric department. I expect there’s a letter to me & the GP about all this lurking on a dictaphone, somewhere.

Anyhoo. Harry has spent the day at home with a hacking cough and a streaming nose – there are kids at nursery to whom a virus can mean Heap Big Serious Fucking Trouble – and minus a nappy. The young chap in question has begun potty training in earnest today; he has accordingly flashed both his new underwear and his tackle around our visitors very thoroughly indeed, and the sight of nomnomnomable Twinkling Buttock is becoming part of the scenery.

This is something that he has initiated himself (I would very happily have left it until warm weather and nakey-bottom-runny-round-outside time) and performed so well with (particularly in the turd department: we have a near-100% strike-rate at home now. Outside the home… ummm. Trickier.) over the last 2 or 3 weeks

that I thought it was worth getting tooled up with proper wobbly-weeble-proofed toilet equipment


and having a go at putting him into Big Boy Pants.

 The artwork – the captions of which made me snort a little – endeared them to the wearer immensely: Harry is a quintessentially chap-like young chap and can reliably tell a styracosaurus from a stegosaurus, although he has been awfully diva-like in his firm stipulation of a regular rotation of dinosaur throughout the day, quite aside from the ones that copped the odd leak. They went off and on like (insert your favourite un-PC joke here) all day, as he is bewitched by the novelty of it all. I also have a pack of Shaun the Sheep pants – somewhere – which would go down an absolute storm if only I could find the perishing articles, but he was optimistically given them for his 1st birthday, and… yeah. They’ll be layers deep by now.

We had about a 70% success rate today, which we’re delighted with. He had 3 accidents, 6 or 7 wees in the toilet with its new-fangled and fascinating step arrangement, and one in the potty. As with most things, I suspect his problems with attention may make this process more difficult for him: the accidents came when he was thinking of, or busy about, other things – and I had forgotten to remind him he was in pants. I am heartily, painfully sick of the sound of my own voice today. I have enquired about his toilet needs, on average, every ten minutes. Because Harry doesn’t necessarily tune in right away, I have to repeat the question, interspersed with ‘Listening, Please!’ Grenfell-like expostulations,

several times before he either shakes his head, briefly and impatiently (‘Nrr!’), or grabs, Eureka!-like, at his tiny todger before toddling off at top speed, bow-legged and tottery, to the toilet. 

At 32 months he is, in the scheme of things, not a particularly early entrant into toilet training, so I’m hoping he’ll have the wherewithal to build on today’s sterling performance. However, I have heard so very many woeful tales of both urinary and faecal backtracking and blips from friends near and far, that I’m not really expecting consistency. Hoping, yes (coz my laundry pile now hums a bit and I shall have to bestir myself about that shortly). Expecting, no.


On a last, different note, I have been trying to expand my library and track down some of the books I remember reading as a child. I was going to do lots of tricksy googling about this particular one which has been bugging me for years, but it’s occurred to me to try the power of the interwebs first, especially the US contingent. When I was a slip of a girl, I read a book (or a series?) from my junior school library that is awful foggy now, but a couple of little things still tug at me. I have the strong impression that it was American child’s fiction, set in a rural location, possibly a farm. At least one of the children – I think, a girl – used to leave her bedroom via the tree that grew just outside the window. In a memory that seems associative with the same character but could easily be borrowed from elsewhere: there was a sentence or two to about the fact that the child wanted to cry about being unable to peel an apple in one long strand the way her uncle could, before telling herself not to be so bloody daft. Or words to that effect. 

Ring any bells, people? I know it’s horribly vague, but you must remember that I was less than 10 when I last set eyes on this book, so that’s 25 years plus. God, I’m old.

Culture Vulture

Just like New York, Paris and Rome, London is both soaringly beautiful and nose-crucifyingly smelly, and I had forgotten both of those things. I’ve been such a tourist it’s almost embarrassing, although I should really save that word up for later on.

I used to work in London a good bit at one time and we honeymooned there for a few days before disappearing into the depths of Jordan (a destination which proved to be a choice speech topic gift to John’s best man), so I’ve trooped around the more obvious landmarks before. As this was a solo trip I felt I could indulge myself; John, while not a history lover, likes art as much as the next man (the Hairy exchequer has unbelted reasonably freely on the stuff in the time of the seven fat cows – before the breeding-related plummet into the era of seven anorexic and anaemic cows) but would squeak a bit at the thought of two days exclusively devoted to it.

I lap the stuff up. My father and his side of the family can paint, exceedingly well, dammit, and most of them – except him – have a daftly, and I use the word advisedly, artistic temperament to boot. I have the soul of an artist, the mind of a shopkeeper and actual talent of an artistically pedestrian 3 year old. It’s a proper bugger.

So: National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery it was. I took a good look at some well-known and fabulous works I had only ever previously seen reproduced and was repeatedly clobbered upside the head with unknown, stunning, luminous pieces. I was alone, and could sit and stare for 20 minutes if I pleased, and I often did.  I’d be more arse-numbingly boring than usual if I attempted even a short precis, but I did fancy this self-portraiting chap – died 1743 – like mad.

NPG 3822, Michael Dahl

Busily sketching primary school children were fairly thickly strewn underfoot, which was fine, and had remonstrating and blatantly clueless teachers in tow, which was more of a trial. One particularly irritating woman loudly bossed her group into stillness before reading – extremely haltingly – from the information panel; she announced self-importantly that Lady Jane Grey had been ‘disposed’ after only 9 days. Awesome.

Compensatingly, there was the little kid who, obviously consulting his gallery guide as opposed to his common sense, walked straight past Delacroix: Christ on the Cross


to Gericault: A Shipwreck, complete with bollocks

a shipwreck

and pronounced solemnly, in awed tones, ‘That’s JESUS, man!’

Incidentally, I can’t find a bigger photo online (updated: here’s one) as the National Gallery won’t actually acknowledge that they have it currently hanging on their wall, plus I keep getting into trouble for explicit links, so that’s your lot.

I spent a lovely number of hours in the British Museum, too, and kept the ancient historian in me stoked and happy. That’s one honours degree I’ll never see a profit from, ever.

I got back late last night, beginning to miss my chaps. When Harry clapped eyes on me this morning he point-blank refused to come close and climbed possessively into John’s arms with a worried expression. I was desperately attempting to conceal my mortal anguish. It took him a good 10 minutes to change his mind and decide that he wanted a cuddle after all; he had no sooner thrown himself into my eager arms when he spotted the contents of the Hamley’s bag and promptly fought his way out again.

He then decided that he wanted, nay, needed ice cream for breakfast and commenced a 15 minute protest in front of the the dog room freezer.

In fact, he has made my life a mild form of living hell today. I have cried 3 times in sheer despair and frustration and I am not even hormonal: this is bad. He has alternated unusually intense touchy-feely affection with screaming like an outraged and rabid gibbon whenever he was thwarted or disappointed in the Least Little Thing (eg, his satsuma had not grown enough segments for his liking, or the jigsaw puzzle box failed to obediently spring open to his questing fingers within the first pico-second of trying). I have retreated in abject maternal shame from baby group and even Tesco, grappling madly with my frothing, thrashing, shrieking, headbutting, face-clawing toddler.

I’m not sure how cognitive Just-Turned-Twos actually are about parental absence, but I might have supposed this to be punishment, were it not for the fact that he behaved in identical fashion the day before I left. Tell me this gets better soon, or I may have to run away to sea.

Talking of sea, he has pissed on the lounge carpet again today, twice. There must be more pee in that carpet than the average public urinal; I’m struggling to keep up with the soapy water. It’s my own fault: whilst not intending to potty-train him yet – anticipating that not having spoken or signed language might be a tad hindering – nevertheless, I have bought him a potty, and have spoken to him about What Happens. The latest result is that he now enthusiastically removes his nappy whenever my back is turned. He promptly piddles or shits on the carpet next to the potty, before sitting on it with a pleased expression. Sigh. Close, with a brown cigar.

When pre-emptively placed on the potty by me, he immediately and dutifully strains industriously, ignoring my frantic admonishments about The Risk Of Piles. Once this resulted in business, which made a big impression on him and me both, but he generally only emits a series of thunderous farts. He then leaps to his feet, whirls around and examines the potty closely to see if he has produced anything apart from noxious turd-gas, whilst I try not to laugh.

He plays up gleefully when I try to replace his nappy, and I end up – laughing and nonchalant at first, and then increasingly vociferous and grumpy – pursuing his twinkling little bottom all around the house; when I do eventually distract him into sitting still for a replacement, I turn my back for two minutes and off the nappy comes again.

If I could play the yakedy sax Benny Hill theme to this, I totally would.

Itchy and Scratchy

*updated in 2014 (as I still get an email every few months to ask me about this) to add: the creases are gone. Grew out. Evidently just one of Those Things.

I have noticed a convention in the blogosphere whenever Bad and Shameful Parenting Mistakes are owned up to: the comments generally take the delightful form of bracing one-down-manship. There is always a baby who was dropped further – and bounced higher. The Bad Mother trophy is generally hotly contested by an assortment of piteously hair-shirted current care-givers who are flagellating themselves over recent feeble crimes of minor omission, or by wise and wise-cracking seniors who are gleefully recounting their youthful bouts of maternal butterfingers.

I love these posts. Everyone else’s failure to achieve parental omnipotence is wryly amusing and clearly, in terms of impinging on their child’s well-being, zero to low impact. Hard floors excepted.

But this is me we’re talking about now, so you can all get your damn dirty paws off that silverware. I win it for spectacular non-observance.

Harry’s health visitor (community paediatric nurse) noticed the first time she saw him that he had ‘uneven knee creases’. I mentioned it to his paediatrician – who uttered his standard pish! response – and then I obviously mentally filed the fact under ‘No Further Action’. And shut my eyes.

I, inexplicably (while continuously bleating about how my son cannot balance properly),  seemed to somehow stop noticing that Harry’s legs are completely different in shape.

Tuesday, he was stood in the window while I was snapping photos. I reviewed the photos. I saw this:

leg toddler

And blinked. And promptly rang the GP. John, when he got home, staunchly asserted that the dent was Harry’s extra knee crease growing up his leg and that it’d always been there, but I firmly pooh-poohed him and hauled Harry into the Dr’s office – the same Doctor, incidentally, that struggled to find cervix number 2, and eventually gave up in despair.

So. He never checked his hips – in fact, he never touched him at all – but pronounced his knee ‘puffy’. He then began to refer Harry to the hospital Paediatricians, until I told him we were due to see one in a month or so. He recommended I chase up the appointment quicker, and as we left the room I saw he was googling ‘hip dysplasia’.

No… umm… harm in that, precisely. It’s what I’d been googling before walking in there. I’m now thinking of the fun he must have had trying to google – and spell – uterus didelphys after my previous visit.

And I worry about my eyesight. I have just scrutinised nearly two years’ worth of photos, and John was absolutely right. Harry’s right leg has blatantly always had that crease, albeit it started lower down. How the buggery fuck have I not noticed it?

And that’s not all, folks! This evening, as I was trying to take a photo to better illustrate the crease, I also noticed that the creases on his left buttock are asymmetrical. I know perfectly well why I’ve not noticed his buttock creases before – they’re concealed by his nappy. Despite his new-found mania for divesting himself of the hated articles at every inconvenient social opportunity, he has very little planned nappy-free time for a reason

wee accident

and that stream of pale pixels is not a trick of the light. Our carpets are officially moribund, but they don’t need actually helping into their grave, thanks, son! What’s worse, whenever this happens I feel vaguely obliged to take the opportunity to have a stab at the beginnings of potty-awareness-with-a-view-to-training-one-day-when-he-can-actually-communicate – and happily chirp out that ‘HARRY going WEE-WEES! WEE-WEES from your WILLY, look Harry! Mummy and Daddy wee-wee in TOILET‘ and then I hear what I’m saying and nearly invert myself cringing.

Apart from being extremely cross with myself for not spotting his odd folds and creases earlier and highlighting them, I really haven’t got a clue what to think about any of this. I don’t actually think his balance problems stem from dodgy hips, as his Paediatrician does check his hips every time we see him. But those are some funny looking asymmetries, and he is constantly falling on his ass. And why, HELLO there, Dr Google! (As in: the Dr we all consult, as opposed to the Dr I have, who consults him too!)

We see his Paed on Wednesday. Bring it on.

Incidentally, whilst looking through early photos I spotted some humdingers. I would, at the time, have hurled myself unhesitatingly at the throat of anyone who so much as murmured a suggestion that my child’s expressions were not the absolute epitome of beatific and sunny baby beauty – but looking back, I see that perhaps the maternal eye was a little… fogged.

The look

%d bloggers like this: