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.

Death Of A Thousand Cuts

I was looking down the menu in the Italian restaurant last night, searching for a pasta dish. All I could see was pizza upon pizza; absolutely dozens of the buggers.

‘Not much fucking variety!’ I moped to myself, before vaguely looking around and noticing that there were a fair few Pizza Express signs. Above the door, for instance, and on the top of the menu.

I had a pizza.

Towards the end of the night the cramping ramped up, and I was unsurprised to find significantly increased amounts of bloodloss – God alone knows where from – when I got home shortly before midnight, to find John vicariously suffering from the pregnancy sleepies; he had to be prodded awake to hear my Pain! Blood! news – and duly provided me with warm feet and a cuddle, which was pretty much all I was after at that stage of the day.

Because most of my body definitely reckons it’s pregnant: my boobs ache, I can barely keep my eyes open, and I’m vaguely frisky. Very vaguely, John. Yesterday morning’s peestick – I am a neurotic and compulsive peesticker – was significantly darker than the one I photographed. This morning’s was somewhere between the previous two, but I’d downed an unaccustomed amount of fluid the night before.

I was absolutely horrible to Harry this morning. The poor little lad did nothing wrong except try to get my attention when I was half-awake and unhappy, and I was totally fucking rotten to him and pushed him away from me and called him a Name he doesn’t understand.

God help me. I sobbed and sobbed in shame. 

I have to do better than this. In fact, I hope I never sink so low again.

John came home at breakfast and enquired how I was. I don’t think the Pain! Blood! conversation sank in properly last night and he was quite sad when I explained it was going tits. He’s always had a better opinion of Cameron than I have, and he really rather wants another child.

I took Harry into town after breakfast to buy him a new book – an airport and aeroplanes one – and have his passport photos taken in a studio, after I wasted £4 in a booth yesterday trying to persuade a tray of snakes overtired toddler to stand still on the stool, don’t touch the curtain and look at the blank wall while Mummy kneels on the floor preventing topples.

Harry and I have no passports currently, a fact that disconcerted me enormously when my mother fell ill abroad recently. Running away somewhere is my stock reaction to miscarriage, and while we cannot afford a holiday in the slightest, I expect we might end up somewhere once John has finished lambing. This is assuming the cost of the preparations themselves do not bankrupt me. £8 in the photobooth. £7 for Harry’s studio shots. £77.50 to renew my passport. £49 for Harry’s first passport. £8 to have the Post Office check the documents. £3 to have them sent back on special delivery. Plus whatever it’ll cost to send the fat bastard envelope containing Harry’s birth certificate, our marriage certificate, photos, completed forms, and Uncle Tom Cobbley to them by special delivery in the first place.


This evening, the pain has died down to a grumble and the blood loss has tailed off to a brown trickle again. My second, IVF  pregnancy stretched on for weeks, bleeding and cramping from very shortly after transfer, even growing as far as a normal 7 week-sized fetus, but without ever developing a heartbeat. I was off work for nearly 8 weeks with that one. I was a mess.

Do. Not. Want.

I know what I want. I want to be warm, magically 5 stone lighter, sat with a good book and a nice snack, on a balcony, looking down a Mediterranean hillside, watching the sea twinkle in the morning sunlight. There are fishing boats. John & Harry – who behaved impeccably on the plane – are somewhere stage left doing Fun Stuff, and laughter can be heard floating up the hill.

Freeze frame.

Silence of the Lamb

7.00pm         Mildly cold-ridden and utterly Exhausted Toddler goes to bed.

7.05pm         Exhausted Toddler rattles doorgate in token protest.

7.10pm         Exhausted Toddler sleeps

11.00pm        Ann goes to bed.

11.45pm        Ann sleeps

12.15am        John goes to bed. Wakes wife with gratuitous bottom-groping.

12.16am        John kicked by wife.

12.20am        Prevailing somnolence.

1.28am         Vixen arrives and takes up well-chosen acoustic position below the

                        bedroom windows. Cue yowling, shrieking, screaming, Unearthly Din.

1.29am        Theory that Ann’s thoughts are, in fact, unable to actually kill, is proved.

1.30am        Toddler Klaxon sounds loudly. Frightens away Unearthly Din vixen.

1.32am        John visits Klaxoning Toddler.

1.40am        John reads Aliens in Underpants to Clingy Toddler.

1.50am        John reads The Emperor’s New Clothes to Relaxed Toddler

2.00am        John reads The Gingerbread Man to Chatty Toddler

2.10am        John reads Paddington Takes A Bath to Bouncy Toddler

2.20am        John comes back to bed.

2.21am        Klaxoning Toddler.

2.55am        John icily invites Ann to visit Klaxoning Toddler.

3.00am        Ann visits Klaxoning Toddler.

3.10am        Ann unwinds Subsided Toddler from around her neck.

3.20am        Ann decants Protesting Toddler back into bed.

3.21am        Ann reads Aliens In Underpants to Clingy Toddler.

3.30am        Ann reads Brambly Hedge Spring Story to Suspicious Toddler.

3.40am        Ann reads Brambly Hedge Summer Story to Beady-Eyed Toddler.

3.50am        Ann reads Brambly Hedge Autumn Story to Relaxed Toddler.

4.05am        Ann kisses Spaced Toddler and leaves room unhindered.

4.10am        House resonates to Crooning Toddler and Snoring Husband.

4.20am        Silence suggests Sleeping Toddler.

4.21am        Lost lamb takes up position vacated by vixen.

                      Proceeds to blart loudly and continuously for its mother.

4.22am        Demented Cockerel responds with fusillade of rasping Cock a Doodles.

4.25am        Ann darkly contemplates Roast Cockerel and Lamb Chops.

4.30am        Ann realises she is indubitably coming down with Toddler’s cold.

4.40am        Mother of lost lamb lays reluctant claim to insistently bleating


4.50am        Chronologically challenged Cockerel continues with hopeful racket.

5.00am        Ann issues ‘stop snoring/spare room/die’ ultimatum to Husband.

5.15am        Lack of memory suggests Ann sleeps.

6.00am        John gets up. Departs to lambing sheds. Wakes wife.

6.15am        Lack of memory suggests Ann sleeps.

7.45am        Cheerful exclamations and loud thumping from Happy Toddler.

7.50am        Ann capitulates and unleashes Tigger Toddler from bedroom and

                      toward breakfast.


It’s 3am and I have been driven from my bed by my usual demons: a tormenting mixture of insomnia and recurrent waking nightmare-type things, in which I invariably end up cradling my dead son. It appears that my years of infertility, miscarriages, eventual knife-edge pregnancy, NICU and possession of an over-developed imagination have left me a tad prone to anxiety and disproportionate existential dread. Quelle surprise.

Between 1am and 2.30am I tried, although not concurrently, sex and sobbing; both were entirely satisfactory in their way but ultimately not helpful, so I’ve left Hubby in peace and sought solace downstairs in a large mug of sweet tea, twinkly fairy lights, and eBay retail therapy. If I look like I feel, then be really, really thankful I don’t have a webcam to scare you with.

Harry was curled peacefully in his cot when I came downstairs, undisputed King of the jumbled heap of soft toys he has carefully amassed before falling asleep over the top of them. I am so happy to say that his tantrums have markedly reduced this month – (fortuitously, as I elicited this week that the paediatric psychology service A) lost his referral and B) said he was too young to be referred there in any case. I have left his Paediatrician’s secretary chewing on that particular problem. I also have days when I think know that if I didn’t, de facto, administrate his medical paperwork myself, we’d never even have made it out of the blasted maternity unit.)

Harry has started to (potentous intake of breath) play with other children. I first noticed this about 4 weeks ago when I saw him chase, giggling, after some older girls at the soft-play barn. I smiled. Then he began playing alongside other toddlers at playgroups without always resorting to his usual unpredictable wild aggression if they so much as looked at his toy or stood too close – although I’ve been careful not to take him out tired or peckish. Yesterday afternoon we hosted 8 children aged 7 years to 7 weeks for a playdate and I was fully expecting the usual toddler rodeo. Mind you, I always quietly sympathise with his indignation: if someone who I only vaguely recognised walked into my house and promptly started rifling through my stuff, there would be kicked arses ere long.

Harry was… angelic. Simply and wonderfully angelic. He took the hands of the other children and led them toward his toys. He gave them enthusiastic bear hugs. When I saw him take toys from other children, he handed them back obediently when I asked him to. By 5pm I was sat in a bemused heap on the floor, staring in wonder at my son – who admittedly was just beginning to turn a little tired and tetchy over his toys, but entirely within normal parameters for 28 months – while behind me, two of his peers squabbled loudly over a tractor. It felt wonderful to be able to tell John when he got home that Harry had been so fabulously good; I simply couldn’t praise him enough. He had even shared his absolute favourite toy: perching as a contented, albeit wobbly, passenger, whilst F (a month older and 50th centile for height, to give you some scale…) piloted him jerkily around the dining room.

It’s now 4am: the cheeky fucking laptop has just shut itself down without consulting me in order to install updates. I went to the kitchen in a huff, made another cup of tea, took a couple of paracetamol, and bid on a jumper. This insight into my insomnia will probably cure yours.

John’s snores are audible from here  – and likely in the next village along, too. The man deserves his rest; he will doubtless end up picking up the slack in the morning when it’s nearly time get Harry in the car and I am once again too wiped out by my own insomnia to have actually successfully dressed or fed our child. John managed to rip a muscle playing hockey yesterday – he is also the possessor of several flesh-wound scars and the conspicuous non-possessor of a number of teeth due to playing this sport for Stratford with entirely too much gusto and a fair dollop of accident-prone-ness. Instead of tearing down into his groin it has, more unusually, torn up into his abdomen. He can hobble about ok, but only has limited use of one leg. Our wonderful and kind GP neighbour, a sports injury specialist, has told him to take it bloody easy for 10 days and then start Pilates. If that doesn’t mend it: it’s a surgical job. Which is a bit of a shit, really, because John will be utterly incapable of taking it easy at work; at home I can barely shift the bugger off the sofa, but his farming ethic is fairly demented.

I am first in the queue for abdominal surgery, at any rate. He’ll just have to wait his bloody turn.

The last two months have inexorably reduced me (alas! not in literal size) to a limp, slack-jawed slattern with a monumental headache. Today was the last day I’m working before Christmas; I now merely have a house in acute domestic disarray to sort out while maintaining Harry’s weekly schedule of nursery and play groups: now with an extra sprinkling of Christmas parties to add to the chaos.

Apropos: the adage about never working with children or animals? True.

Last year’s outfit… no longer appears to be a fitting option for this year.

Wiping his nose with a Christmas Pudding hat. Really.

Ran off to play peepo.

Having a crisis of confidence regarding his motivation for playing this reindeer.

I rest my case!

5.20am and the main road outside is starting to get busy.

Will try another go at this sleeping business.


As usual, I keep mentally drafting a dozen blog posts that never make it anywhere near here, usually because I think of them while I’m driving. Then evening rolls round and by the time I’ve galloped through my blog feeds and mentally bookmarked dozens of sites I want to look at again/in more depth/actually bloody comment on this time – it’s 10pm and it’s too late for me to start writing. I must be the slowest blogger in Christendom: I never seem to get the hang of dashing a quick one off the wrist –  ahem! – every day or so; instead I save it up for you in great indigestible chunks that take me hours to write. I must achieve brevity, for your sanity and mine.

So. Lemme see. What’s happened?

I had cause to remember my red onion allergy at the weekend. I hadn’t actually forgotten that the smell of the things makes me ill, it’s rather that I’ve been avoiding them for several years on precisely that basis, without actually being able to recall quite what they do to me. They’re colourful and attractive and I thought, really, I must surely have imagined something so damn silly as an onion-smell allergy, so I bought 3 to put in with my supper-party roast veg on Saturday night. Caution intervened and I only prepared one; I left it in quarters, mid-afternoon, in a large dish of peeled and chopped root veg that I kept meaning to cover over and never did, as I was pathetically behind culinary schedule as usual. I began to feel fairly headache-y after a hour or so, and thought ‘I really MUST cover that bloody onion up’ – and got distracted by something else, and didn’t.

I was concentrating so hard on cooking that it wasn’t until guests turned up at 7.30 that I realised I was verging on a migraine and my sinuses felt as if they had been injected with liquid lead. My tinnitus (a permanent legacy of Castle Donnington 1991 Monsters of Rock festival! Yo! Duuuuuuuudes!) was roaring and I could still hear my pulse pounding in my ears over the top of that. I struggled through the whole evening and went to bed feeling exceptionally shitty. I could see purple auras around objects in the half-light, my neck glands were swollen and my entire nervous system felt dysfunctional and overwrought. Harry yelled for an hour or so, which helped not one jot. It took me more than 24 hours to recover. Judicious googling has revealed that I am not actually quite alone in my freakish allergy, and, like me, other sufferers can encounter white onions and garlic without disturbance; only red onions are the naughty ones. Do bear this in mind when you invite me to lunch!

So. That was boring. What else?

Harry’s physio discharge letter came, and said what we expected it to say: they can see no physical reason for his falls. He ‘certainly appears to have a degree of hyper-flexibility’ and ‘does tend to fall frequently, particularly from furniture, steps, etc’.

Uh-huh. Bouncing horses, too.

crayola shiner

‘He appears to have a high activity level, but does not always appear to be aware of the risk of falling.’ 

You can say that again, lady. Oh… you do!

‘He needed constant attention to avoid injury’.

Sigh. We’re taking Harry – and his shiner (which the photos aren’t doing full justice to; I’ve been looked at like a true pariah by every mother I’ve seen this week) – to see his Paed tomorrow – except it isn’t actually his Paed, because they’ve shifted all the clinics about, so it’s ‘one of the paediatric team’; at least we have the benefit of a second opinion, I suppose.

Harry had a rotten cold the last half of last week, John has lurched from sore throat to sore throat, and I’ve been bunged up with unspeakable and unshiftable mucus for a fortnight or more. Harry was so sad and sorry for himself last Thursday that he ended up sleeping with me for a couple of nights, barking with a hoarse little squeak and smearing me liberally in the night with his mucus-laden features when he came for kisses and cuddly reassurance.

Of course, largely recovered, he is now waking up at midnight and demanding stridently to be brought into bed with us. If he is given-in to, he lies quietly between us in the dark for a few minutes before becoming utterly bored and deciding to par-tay; this takes the form of him launching headbutts randomly into the dark and giggling. I have a sore nose – again – and John suffered a spectacularly fat lip. When Harry is inevitably carted back to his room by a furious and smarting parent, he proceeds to melt down in heartbreaking fashion, pulling every known trick in the tantrum book. He throws himself about the cot so enthusiastically that his sleeping bag poppers and zips generally give up the ghost, freeing his legs for a launch attempt over the recently-heightened fence of his cot bars towards Planet Parent.

I completely comprehend Harry’s frustration and confusion. In cot! Wah! Escape from cot facilitated! Weee! In cot again! Wah! John is annoyed because I had him in bed with me to begin with and started the Cot Protest rot again, but it’s just not in me to leave a miserable, toastie-hot, achey, sneezing, coughing little boy sat mournfully behind his cot bars, clutching his water bottle like it’s his best friend, and wailing sadly. He’s a tough little shoot, but I can see when he’s feeling absolutely rotten and he ends up sleeping with me every time he’s poorly… and every time we have to go through a week’s worth of weaning him back into his own room afterwards, usually just in time for the next virus.

I accept it’s a problem. Hubby also needs to accept that if he starts one more sentence with ‘If you hadn’t…’ at 4am in the morning, when we’ve both been trampled to a bloody pulp by our son’s bony hooves and neither of us have had a wink of sleep yet, his breeding days are o.v.e.r.

By virtue of Harry’s viral woe, I managed to entirely miss the much-hyped BBC Question Time featuring the BNP MEP Nick Griffin. Some of you may not be aware of the British National Party: they are the UK’s far-right political abhorrence and gained 2 European – not British – parliamentary seats in the last election. As elected politicians, I regretfully concede that the BBC does indeed have a moral obligation to occasionally bung them on TV, but… well. I had vaguely planned a bit of a long rant about it here, but I now find I simply can’t be bothered to download it and watch it: apparently he came off badly, which was no surprise.

I have much I could say, but will confine myself to the bald statement that Harry’s life was saved by 3 doctors: all of them coloured, all of them accented, all of them immigrants. I bless them frequently. The BNP delivered a leaflet through our door earlier in the year, and the only reason I didn’t wipe my bottom with it is that I have more respect for my own arse than that.

Harry’s life needing to be saved at all was brought back to me in disturbing detail last week: my long-awaited pregnancy and medical notes arrived. That’s a whole other post – likely an excruciatingly boring one, too (WordPress have just introduced a new, bright-red ‘Move to Trash’ button, and it appears to be affecting my confidence!), but I always think that and mysteriously you keep coming back – so I will try my hardest to write it tomorrow night. 

And… it seems that my blogroll is being shat on, particularly and horribly hard lately.

Pru is down, Womb is down, L’eggs is down, Twangy is down, Thalia is down, Belgian Waffle is down.

Everyday Stranger is having a dreadfully hard bloody time.

May is spending tonight in hospital with a suspected ectopic pregnancy. In her single remaining ovary + tube.  is miscarrying, and having a shockingly shitty reproductive nightmare.

These ladies need bloggy love, even if it’s the silent in-your-head sort.

A holiday is what you take when you can’t take what you’ve been taking any longer

They say that a change is as good as a rest.

You do hear a lot of unmitigated bollocks*. It is emphatically not a rest. It is not remotely close to a rest. It is, pardon my vulgarity, exactly the same shit in a different toilet.

(Apropos, Harry, bless his 2nd percentile soul, generally shits like a Great Dane. His progress towards potty training consists of sporadically attempting to remove his nappy concurrent with urination or shrapnelling defecation, resulting stickily in catastrophic overflow.)

Harry slept in our caravan exactly as well as I expected him to: reasonably badly. Answering, as ever, to the name of Lucky, he rapidly acquired a sleep-annihilating cough, probably due to the spectacular pea-souper that thickly wreathed the so-called English Riviera for our first 2 days. (Not unusual. During a previous trip to the Minack


 I had marked difficulty in discerning the actors, and at no point saw the sea.) Harry was also difficult about his naps – too much new stuff to look at, mainly – so this, paired with poor night-time rest, resulted in a particularly prickly young pear.

Even though it is always Harry behaving like a monumental and complete arse, John and I, without fail, manage to blame one another for whatever family crisis of overwrought nerves Harry’s relentless, single-minded pursuit of trouble has landed us in. We are clever like that. Our bitter mutual castigation harmonises nicely with Harry’s ululating screams of inarticulate rage, and the juddering blows/protesting squeaks/sickening thuds from whatever unfortunate surroundings are currently suffering the full force of his directed fury.

I’m honestly not sure how much of Harry’s behaviour is a result of our joint genetic legacy, or his individual… lets call them… issues. I waver daily between fearing his behaviour is a pint-size, highly concentrated sample of our worst character flaws – or believing him to be simply a toddler with an iron will, an iron fist, an iron skull, a steely glare and sadly limited communication.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Thwart this child at your bodily, mental and marital peril.

It is, I fear, only a matter of time before Harry breaks my nose with his furiously lunging skull; I never expected to receive my first Glasgow kiss from my son.

He still has no speech. Proto-words are emerging, sporadically, unreliably and slowly. He knows dozens of signs, but simply does not understand how to use them to communicate. I see 10 month old babies communicate more effectively than Harry, and my sadness for him – and for myself, truth be told – is profound. We will never be here again. I can’t redeem the time – too much time – that I spend exasperated, grappling, struggling, coaxing, crying, furious, swearing, persuading, embarrassed, manhandling, dejected, out of breath, really fucking annoyed… and beaten.

The beauteous Amy phrases it perfectly: ‘a meltdown at a playground is different for us, that it’s not the kind of meltdown *your kid* has, no it’s just NOT, that it’s like someone set our child on FIRE, that there’s no redirecting or soothing, there is only FLEEING.’

Come 6pm, I would rather face down a hungry bear** than cross my ferocious – fabulous – flailing little bundle of determination. I am sometimes asked if I think he might be somewhere on the autistic spectrum – to which I used to reply No. Lately, I say… I’m not sure. He is a social, smiling child (when things go well; by which I mean: his way) who seems to be growing away from some of his odder quirks (fear/anger at certain noises/frequencies, some texture aversion) but he remains, in ways, a strange child, and a challenging one. Until we break his communication log-jam, I – glumly – expect no improvement. 

He was not feeling or behaving his best this week, and we were fairly strained in consequence, but I didn’t set out to moan quite as much as I actually have here. I am, when you get right down to it – and not very far down, either – wholeheartedly and emotively thankful for every last one of my bruises. The sound of his giggles lifts me. I beam when he beams. The comical little ‘uuUMM!’ noise of interest, pleasure and surprise he makes when confronted with something new and deeply intriguing makes me radiate happiness. I would slowly disembowel myself with a spoon – a rusty one – if it saved him from pain.

Mind you, after about the 45th minute of doleful howling from the back seat in protest at his Wrongful Carseat Incarceration, muttering from the front seat, and with over 100 miles of motorway still to go – disembowelling myself sans anaesthesia began to seem like a comparatively attractive distraction.

But we did have fun, in between the squalls. Look! Smiles, and everything!

sea wall

sea wall 2 


But not at the waves, which Harry is highly nervous of, possibly due to witnessing the severity of our disgusted recoil from the filthy foam topping the waves at Weston Super Mare a few weeks ago.


John taught Harry a fascinating new game: putting large handfuls of cold, wet shingle down the ample Mummy-cleavage.

pebble cleavage pebble cleavage 2

Hubby seemed oddly vexed when we fed pebbles down into his jeans in reciprocation. Apparently they got wedged in his underwear.

Harry shot through most of Plymouth Aquarium like a bored torpedo, but he particularly liked the sharks, and is consequently now the proud owner of a foot-long cuddly specimen.



I did actually manage to get one of the five books I took read, although I had run my fingers through my hair so much (as a result of wall-to-tiny-fucking-wall Peppa sodding Pig. Now there’s a porcine family that needs sausagizing, stat.) that it began to look like an Old English Sheepdog crossed with Spinal Tap; I did well to make out the words at all.

Fiery cross

And now we are home: the laundry mountain is visible with Google Earth and Harry is sleeping beautifully again in his own cotbed.

He starts nursery on Tuesday.

We can’t actually afford to send him to nursery. Not even the two measly mornings that he is booked in for – but I can’t afford not to send him, either. He needs to be surrounded by more speech than ours, he needs to learn to share toys, he needs to learn not to hit, and he needs to become accustomed to the school site in which he will be educated until he is 11 years old. He will begin a hefty 5-half-days-a-week-all-or-nothing preschool there in a year’s time; the year after that… he will begin school proper, a whole year earlier than his conception date entitled him to expect.

And I need him to go, so, so badly. I need a kitchen that isn’t a continual heap of clutter, and a bedroom floor that isn’t a swirling morass of toppled laundry heaps interspersed with ankle-crippling lurking toys. I have a young business that I need to spend time growing – which reminds me in turn that I have a sadly neglected garden. My to-do list is, in fact, impossibly long for the 6 hours a week that I am consigning him to daycare for – but no matter.

I need to draw breath.

*often on this site

 **I have incidentally, faced down a bear, albeit a really rather titchy one. I was walking across a Lake Louise car park; I had yummy-smelling food and the bear was obviously keen to partake. But so was I: stony broke and hungry, I convulsively clutched my bag of goodies defensively and glared with all the venom I could muster. The bear, recognising a stiff fight when he saw it, obligingly buggered off. I heart food THAT MUCH.


I can’t quite remember how to do this blogging thing. Do I just start typing?

As I am sadly likely to gradually forget quite what he is like at this age, I will attempt to describe Harry at two.

Because, astoundingly, Harry is two. 2. Two. One plus one. Two whole years in the world. No longer – and this bit kills me deader than sausages – considered an infant. I can’t let go of the baby in him, despite the fact that he is daily taking enormous (albeit unsteady) strides towards Total Personhood.

He climbs like a monkey, obsessively, clambering continuously both over the sofas and any mammal who seems likely to remain still long enough to be successfully mounted and broken piggy-backed. This urge to mountaineer is an unfortunate characteristic to possess when you are also a congenitally wobbly little lad, but he doesn’t seem to mind the vast majority of his continual face-plants. Mummy minds them more, generally. He is a tiny ball of pure energy wearing a pair of perennially dusty shorts and sandals, between which poke two short, sturdy and constantly bruised and battered legs.

In distinct contrast to his personality a year ago, he is a highly affectionate child, delivering a steady flow of delightfully squeezy hugs, wet kisses, and enthusiastic nose-rubbings. He has lately taken to greeting friendly-looking strangers like long-lost buddies, wiggling his small bottom abruptly onto their laps – even though the possessors were not precisely proffering them up for occupation – and waiting expectantly for entertainment.

Entertainment comes in many forms: he loves his ride-on green loader-tractor with a passion, despite repeatedly and compulsively removing all the pins that make it actually work. Anything vehicular is a favourite, as are his model animals, particularly the giraffe, and his toy kitchen. He has recently discovered the delights of jigsaw puzzles. He gets very excited about crayons, although likes collecting them all into one pile more than actually scribbling with them. This week, he has begun to colour in precise objects in his colouring books when asked to, as opposed to the wild scribbles that were his previous meisterwerks – usually done on any object other than the designated colouring book; our walls and the TV seem to have done particularly badly. He loves his slide, although is a little nervous about descending the 6ft one without a hand to hold, and a visit to the soft-play centre is always hugely popular. Try to walk him past – or remove him after several goes – from the motorised toy ride-ons outside shops and you’re completely cruising for a toddler bruising. He is an outdoors child by preference – doesn’t mind the rain and simply adores garden sprinklers and water features – although his favourite playzone outside is, regrettably, the interior of my car. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks an indicator stalk off. He’s already managed to lock himself in the caravan parked next to it, causing a minor panic whilst the key was located.

He has beach-bum blond tousled locks and a face that can melt the crustiest visitor, perched atop an 80cm 1st-height-percentile wiry, faintly pot-bellied and wonderfully double-chinned frame. He is now tall enough to juuuuuuuust operate the internal door handles, which is Not A Good Thing. He is always busy, always occupied, always operating with mental cogs whirling at top speed. He does not relax unless half-asleep in our arms, quite significantly unwell, or engrossed in a particularly fabulous TV program. He watches more CBeebies than I feel is, strictly speaking, good for him.

His near-complete lack of speech means that he is a fascinating little enigma to me. His communication is by turns sadly non-existent and crystal clear, but making absolutely no progress that we can discern. The most basic building blocks of human contact elude him (he does not understand the concept of choices or how to affirm them, cannot nod, cannot sign or indicate ‘yes’ at all) yet we often feel a small paw slide into our hands, followed by an insistent tug and a steady tow – most frequently towards the kitchen. Here, he will indicate by pointing, opening or clawing at either the cupboard (crisps), the fridge (soft fruit), the dresser (bananas) or the freezer (ice cream), followed by frantic signing (incorrectly, but consistently so) for ‘More!’ – his all-purpose, one-size-fits-all Makaton sign. If we are lucky, he will use some eye-contact as he makes these mute pleas for ‘More!’ food, but generally he stares intently at the object of his desire (or the cupboard door dividing him from it) like a tiny Jedi knight mastering a recalcitrant Force. It is hard to misunderstand, however, when a small boy scurries busily towards you triumphantly clutching a tupperware crisp container half as big as himself, which he plonks down expectantly at your feet before making an insistent, nay, imperious ‘More!’ sign under your nose. Or when he beetles up to your knee and begins to pat your leg in familiar fashion – while very obviously eyeing up your plate. Even visitors tend to understand that one – if they don’t, he simply quietly helps himself. And always, always – often comically so –  to the Very Biggest Portion. 

His mother’s child: he is keen to subsist mainly on cheese, french pastry, fruit and sugary snacks, his desire for rather more pedestrian food being capricious – and thus, of course, reassuringly and overwhelmingly normal. He alternates between effortless consumption of what must surely be his own bodyweight in carbohydrates (his father’s child) (on a good day, I would back Harry with solid sterling against children at least twice his age in a pasta-eating competition) and inexplicable disdainful rejection of what was yesterday’s favourite choice morsels.

His language comprehension, as far as we can ascertain, is about average for his age, and he understands and demonstrates a good many Makaton signs, despite using very few of them (apart from the ubiquitous ‘More!’ to obtain food/open door/tv/toy) pro-actively. His knowledge of nouns far outstrips his knowledge of verbs or adjectives as he goes through his day pointing, glancing round to locate an informant, and chirruping enquiringly. Once he knows the name of something, he will stab his forefinger emphatically when presented with a photo or picture of the object, with increasingly urgent and piercing squeaks, glaring interrogatively from the picture to you, until the correct name of the object is spoken. When the mood is on him, he will spend ages giving increasingly excited signals to his companion to label everything he thrusts his finger towards.

Oddly, in such a boisterous, rambunctious little boy, he has a marked dislike of messy play, dirty hands, and some textures. Sand fascinates him sufficiently to enable him to partially overcome his evident dislike of the way it feels – he will uneasily tolerate it under his feet, but is generally troubled by getting it on his hands and is much happier using tools to interact with it. His Child Development Advisor, or whatever she is called, tried without success today to encourage him to touch some porridge oats. He kept a wary distance from the quite patently Very Evil cereal, although was eventually persuaded to prod it with a spoon.

His speech and language team are puzzled by his peculiar sensitivity to background noises and some sounds, although he no longer goes bananas when he hears a reverse alarm at the farm, and he now permits me to click my tongue in a horse-trot impression without launching himself at me in a desperate attempt to rip out my tongue and stop the noise. Currently, the blasting foghorn/pneumonic death-rattle aural hybrid caused by the airlock in the waterpipes between the bathrooms is the thing that sets him off into frantic yammering tears at bathtime.

He is a beautifully obedient little boy when asked nicely (but urgently!) not to touch, or to put something back, and he gives a charmingly guilty start when he is mid-reach for a known-to-be-verboten object and I clear my throat meaningfully. A new dawn brings a fresh slate, however: every morning, he bounces across the bedroom, climbs precariously onto the wooden stool in our bedroom and reaches hopefully towards the clutter of shiny objects on my dressing table. Every morning I sleepily and crossly tell him to get back down – which he promptly and phlegmatically does.  This game is obviously well worth the candle.

He visibly basks in praise for clever behaviour (he will pointedly whip up more applause all by himself if he feels there was a parental paucity of expressed appreciation) although he is depressingly violent towards both us – and upsettingly, himself – when he is distressed or thwarted. His trunk muscles are comparatively weak, we think, hence the wobbles, but his arms and legs are certainly possessed of painful clobbering-clout. Head-butts are undoubtably his most potent weapon, however, and despite learning some evasive moves (mainly learning to dodge a whole lot quicker) I am now in regular possession of a fat lip, a painful nose and a bruised chin. These episodes are fairly frequent and extremely hard to deal with; both John and I are – and I, personally, choose to use the word – guilty, of sometimes lapsing into angry shouts, and, on one recent occasion, a smacked leg. Remaining calm is the quickest and dryest path through this particular swamp of frustration, yet family always know how to push your buttons. When Harry stops thumping my nosebuttons with his head, that’ll be grand.

His sleep pendulums wildly from uneventful night-long slumber, past 5.30am waking, past hourly night-long screaming sessions, to thrashing, protesting, hysterical bedtime fear. We disconnected his baby monitor (due to an eye-wateringly embarrassing, ahem… broadcasting incident) with the unfortunate result that an unusually early nap-waking went undetected – probably for some considerable time. He was highly distressed when I eventually heard him, and has shown no sign of regaining any bedtime sleep confidence since. There’s only so many times you can read Dinosaurs in Underpants aloud before your own somnolence overtakes his. His changing sleep pattern has its compensations though: last week he not only fell asleep of his own accord in front of the TV one afternoon (he is, after all, a male child), but the next day climbed sleepily into my lap at naptime and when invited to Go SleepyByeByes Now, to my astonishment, actually snuggled down and began to slumber. This, in the middle of all his toys, with none of his usual sleep cues, is Absolutely Unheard Of. Moreover, he woke after 2 hours (motionless) kip on the sofa in an absolutely peachy mood. I bet it’ll never happen twice.

His laugh – a bubbling, chuckling hymn to the glorious blue-skied simplicity that is early childhood –  is simply the best sound I have ever heard, and it lifts my heart indescribably whenever I hear it. Tickling and Peep-po are still reliable eliciters of this audible treasure.

He has, courtesy of this latest birthday, a greatly enlarged fleet of Britains scale model tractors. He can, when asked, unerringly point a finger at the steps, the wheels, the steering wheel, the engine, the exhaust pipe and the pick-up hitch, among others. His father is quite ridiculously pleased by this, although farm-brought-up children do pick up agricultural vocabulary early on. His teenage cousin W visited today (and was ‘More!’d out of a hefty chunk of his slice of Harry’s birthday cake. Harry enjoys cake.) and was reminded by his mother that on his second birthday, he was escorted across the yard by a non-farming family friend who enthusiastically pointed out a tractor (with its engine casing off, undergoing some pipe repairs).

“What’s THAT, W?” – expecting to elicit “twacter”.

The birthday-boy W cast an appraising glance over the stricken machine.

“Hydraulics,” he piped.

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