Monday 16 March 2015

Bringing up Boys - The Art of Being Ill

Bog Boy
Being very ill indeed
The art of being ill is hard one.

  • You must not be SO ill that you cannot take advantage of it nor must you be to not ill enough that you have to go into school anyway.
  • You will need to be just sick enough to get at least two days off as one day off is no good as your Mum will think you are just trying get out of a spelling test or a maths exam or basically something you don't want to do particularly; like English.
  • Throwing up is a good one as you have to be off school for at least 24 hours for that but you must get the timings right, if you throw up at night you'll only get the one day off but if you throw up in the way to school you might be able to squeeze two days off as technically you will have to clear the morning of the day after tomorrow as well before you can go back.
  • A good dose of chicken pox can be great - only as long as you get it mildly - but make sure your Mum has had it first as she's no good at pandering to your every whim if she's laid up as well. 
  • Remember Calpol is your friend - reduces feverishness and that really spaced out feeling fast and allows you to play Minecraft uninterrupted all day but still won't really knock a nail on the head of a persistent virus so that when Mum takes your temperature the next morning it's raised too high for you to go back to school just yet...
  • Don't forget to get picky with your food (preferably don't eat at all to begin with) refuse all our favourites with a sigh and say things like: "I'm just not  hungry Mum' "I can't Mum it hurts when I swallow." And allow her a small moment of triumph when she tempts you to eat with a Belgian Chocolate Choux bun*
  • Get practising with your cough a good flemmy coughing noise will keep her just off balance enough to give you the benefit of the doubt - possibly allowing you an extra convalescence day at home.
  • A really good  idea is to wake early and trip your way to Mum's room saying you really don't feel very well. She'll be too sleepy to argue the point and  more than likely allow you in for a cuddle. If you are too old for a cuddle in bed with Mum you can always sit on her bed and shiver. She will be so concerned that she'll jump out of bed, insist that you get in and keep warm while she gets up to fetch you a lovely cup of tea.
  • Waking up in the middle of the night to say you've thrown up, feel really ill or have a headache is  another good way to make the point however, don't do this too much or you will rapidly lose her sympathy as she gets more and more tired and you'll not be able to get that extra day of convalescence.
  • Keep buttering her up with the want smile or the demands for a cuddle and always say thank you for everything she does and technically you could get a whole week off - and that might mean you manage to miss a spelling test, maths exam and the dreaded English
  • WARNING: Don't milk it too much or else Mum won't be as amenable to letting you stay home the next time. 

I have been ill enough to be off school for three days and have missed my spelling test, piano lesson and double English
Have a happy illness
Bog Boy 
(Aged nearly nine)

*Top Tip: Show a great deal of reluctance to eat this or indeed any treat as you are sure to get  another to tempt your appetite back

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Being Mum

My Boy and Whippet
It's been twelve years - twelve years today to be exact.
The ultimate Mother's day.
I remember vividly what I was doing at this exact time all those years ago.
Feeling completely and utterly lost.
I had had a long birth - three days and after an emergency cesarean and all the excitement of  finally holding my baby boy, introducing him to the rest of the family, I was suddenly left alone.
I stared out into the far night from the third floor hospital window searching down onto the car park, trying to make out where my husband and Mum were, desperately wanting them come back and not leave me alone in this place. I wanted to go home now.
My brain was not functioning and thinking about what had happened was far beyond me.
My baby boy was not even in the room to remind me of my very changed circumstances; he was in the nursery under the watchful gaze of the midwives so that I could get some rest.
But I couldn't rest.
And I couldn't stop the tears from falling either.
I was just too exhausted.
I wanted my mum.
It didn't occur to me at all that I was a mum as well.
I went from being me to being more than just me, but my brain took a while to adjust.
(It still does from time to time.)
It was sometime early in the morning the following day (though to be honest all the days and nights had melded together and I had no idea 'when' anything was) that The Boy was wheeled into me for a feed. I can't say my heart leapt.
I was mildly curious.
I think I was also disappointed.
I expected there to be this sudden rush of love at the mere sight of him and this magical transference of knowledge allowing me to know what it was I was expected to be doing - no such luck in either case.
I think I panicked a bit about that, then dismissed this mother love thing that everyone had ranted on about as just tosh. I had felt no rushing feeling of love when I saw him. I was just devoid of anything.
However, that is not something you should admit to, so I didn't. I made what I thought were all the right noises. I did as I was told. I smiled and held him as directed. But I felt untouched by his presence.
However, my curiosity grew in spite of myself, my tentativeness with him lessened as he lay in my arms heavy with sleep.
I relaxed.
He was small and wrinkly and really rather skinny and long and sort of squashed looking. His skin was loose but so soft. His shock of dark hair surprising and he smelled good.
He was so real.
I lay that night in my bed with him just resting beside me. In utter silence; and I just watched. I didn't talk to him. I just lay there curiously assessing him.
You see there is this thing called mother love, it is very real but it can as easily take you unawares as much as it rushes straight at you.
For me it was all unawares
The slow burn of passion had started, I just didn't know it.
It grew on me.
Entwined itself about my heart.
Indelibly stained my whole life.
I was a mum and nothing in the whole of my life would ever be the same again...


Monday 9 March 2015

The Wickedest Whippet returns: the case of the wandering walnuts and other bits of thievery.

The Wickedest Whippet - Butter wouldn't melt...
Life has been uncomfortable of late - literally.
I seem to have a walnut problem - in that walnut shells are to be found all over the house. Squirrelled away in corners, under cushions, on chairs, under chairs and sometimes even blatantly on the carpets; basically wherever I go barefoot I usually land up hopping about in absolute agony.
It's worse than Lego - believe me!
And it's getting downright dangerous.
I love walnuts, so we have a lot of them in the house - especially at Christmastime. I pile them in a big round basket available to anyone in passing. I say anyone, I actually need to be specific here.
Anyone that is HUMAN.
Check out the walnut detritus!
I am not fond of anything other than humans eating walnuts - I don't like the idea of mice, rats or even squirrels having free rein inside my home; so you can imagine my consternation when I started to find the shells all over the place.
It started fairly innocuously, the odd shell here, the bit of husk there; so I moved the basket on top of the display cabinet by the stairs to be out of reach of small human hands - suspecting that the prime culprits were the boys.
But the shells kept appearing and then it started to get worse. I'd clear  it all up and then the next day there would be even more shells all over the place.
I got the rat man in...
There were no rats.
I put mice traps down (and only managed to catch one in the drinks cupboard - but that's another story).
I double checked all the windows to see it it were squirrels coming int o the house, I religiously patrolled the outside of the house for rat activity and spent hours just listening at the dead of night just in case I could hear the fiends.
I even began to worry if it were me - eating walnuts in my sleep.
So I decided to lay a trap using my old camera.
And this is what I found.....

The Wickedest Whippet returns...!!!

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Are you there Mojo?

Hey Jet! is that my MoJo?
Are you there Mojo?
Have I got it back?
It's been nearly two years now since I started to lose it and for the past year I almost totally forgot that it ever existed.
I only blogged twice.
In a whole year!
Of course I didn't quite have total writer's block, I still wrote.
But not for fun.
Not just free writing for the hell of it.
Why did it happen?
Still not quite sure.
Did I just get bored? I don't think so; I just couldn't write. All these words and images and sentences got stuck in my head and they couldn't or wouldn't come out. The just repeated themselves over and over and became like sticky mud that I couldn't wade through. I attempted to write - I hate attempting anything. I wanted to do!
I tried so hard but then it all fell apart - a bit like me.
The harder I tried, the more ridiculous the words sounded as they splashed on the page.

Higgledy piggledy 
splish! splosh! splash!

They didn't make much sense and then I got angry and frustrated and I thought:

Give it a break.

Give it a rest.

Slow down.

And then life whizzed by and I thought about it, and thought about it, and then slowly started to  write again.
Not for me but for others hoping, praying and crossing my fingers that by doing so I would find my voice again.
It's a bit rusty.
Not sure how it sounds.
But willing to write again  however it sounds is good enough for me!

Monday 2 March 2015

And we shall talk horses....

It's difficult not to be shocked when you first see her - that's if you recognise her at all.

I didn't.

My gaze slid past her as I searched and all I registered about the patient on the bed was how small and bald he was, and how very red and beaky was his nose.

Then it dawned on me that that was my friend.

Luckily for me her eyes were closed and I was able to compose myself before announcing my arrival.   
I felt such a fool. But what was I expecting?

Whenever I had seen her in the past, she was always poised, always in control. I only got to see what she wanted me to see. I always had to tell her when I was coming over to visit and she would always be ready.

It's one of the things I admired - being a person who is so often totally out of control and desperately disorganised.

Now, lying in the bed more incapacitated than ever and totally at the mercy of the system, I had to adjust my expectations fast, think on my feet and realise that the only thing I could do was to treat her as normal with no idea what her normal was any more.

I have only ever known my friend with cancer. She had it before I knew her and when I first met her she didn't tell me. It was 18 months before I found out and I suspect if she had been able to hide it for longer she would have done.

Here, for the first time in ages, at the stables where we all met she wasn't the cancer victim -  rather like the rest of us, just a woman who was  proverbially girding her loins to mount up and ride a horse once again.
It was the golden Autumn of 2012 and Hoof, the British Equestrian Federation’s (BEF) Olympic and Paralympic legacy campaign, had just launched its "Take Back the Reins" programme  to encourage  people like us to get back in the saddle (or driving seat or whatever was the case).
There were six of us, a couple like me who had ridden as kids but had lapsed due to life taking us in different directions and those who had started but not got any further. Whatever the reason we turned up at Newton Hall Equestrian Centre in Suffolk because we wanted to ride again. Perhaps we were trying to prove we could do it before it was too late. Perhaps we were indulging ourselves. We got more than we bargained.
What we found was that for a couple of hours a week we didn't just learn to ride - we found we could time travel - we could be who we once were: kids again with no thought other than to ride. Horse-mad teenagers but with possibly less conviction that we were invincible and a greater appreciation for the art of falling off. 
When you ride a horse you can only really think about what you are doing, you cannot go off into a daydream for the effort to stay on, especially initially, takes up every living second. When you ride you have to be in the here and now. No other thought can intrude; not if you wish to do it right and we all so desperately wanted that. So, goodbye money worries, goodbye work concerns, goodbye demanding family, goodbye cancer!
To be honest those first few weeks were terrifying as we all got to grips with it. My friend was a revelation she was born to it - she made it seem so easy. While I struggled to sit deeper and go with my horse, to keep my hands still and and to smooth my transitions, she tackled far more advanced fair. It was if this was what she was meant to do, quite literally why she had been born.
Just the other day, when she was clearly very poorly (on her last ride as it turned out) she was playing about with leg yields while I still struggled to ask for a clean transition to canter. But here's the thing about my friend, even though clearly she was far more advanced than I, she never lorded it over me or indeed any of the others, never became impatient with us in the lessons when she had to sit  and wait for us to get it together, never got cross  when I lost it and refused to do more than walk or trot, she was so genuinely pleased to see me progress.
To be honest we all were pleased when someone suddenly got it but without her I don't think we would have been confident enough to say so out loud to each other. She encouraged us to share our triumphs and to make little of our failures in the knowledge that next week we'd be better. She exuded positivity in the best way imaginable and it was wonderful.
So there I am in the hospital, beeps and bleeps and coughs and snorts and does she even know who I am? For having been knocked back by cancer again and again, she is here in the Stroke Unit, her left side totally gone and the prognosis is shit. 
So I say to her: "What a bugger!"  and could she: "Please help me because I am so very stupid - do you know who I am?"
I get a thumbs up.
She knows.
So I blather away about Hamlet her favourite equine and how he's just dropped a rider and playing up quite dreadfully. How he's obviously feeling a lot better now he's back in work. And would she like a picture and I'll do that tomorrow.
The magazines I've bought  are totally useless, she can't read them and the damage done by the stroke is far more than I imagined. The only other thing I have in my handbag is a small bottle Cow Shed's Cow Pat - which thankfully doesn't smell of cow pat. I ask if she'd like me to massage her feet I think I get a consent and so I massage her feet and they go from cold to warm, from dry to smooth. I think she likes it but it's difficult to tell.
I say I'll have to go but I'll be back with some photos of the horses and I do go back every other day during half term week bringing photographs and massaging her hands and feet and I chatter and as the days progress she gets better and starts to make her presence felt in no uncertain terms. I begin to understand her new way of talking and negotiate with doctors and nurses to get what she wants.
And then I am away for a week with work and family and she 's there at the back of my mind and the next thing I know she's in St Elizabeths Hospice. I visit and it's not good. She knows me and not knows me but she looks a hundred times better.
But I am uncertain.
And then I go back on Saturday morning and there she is - my friend. She's talking so much better and she seems so alive, positively buzzing. I tell her about the stables and the horses and how I am worried about going to Warwickshire for the British Horse Society Riding Schools Competition. I can just about get half marks for the ridden test, I can jump a clear round but not desperately elegantly and as far as knowing any horse lore forget it. I say I can't go; it is a ridiculous indulgence. She says do it! Have fun! Don't worry so much and that she can help me learn for the test. She makes me feel good about it all and then she asks me to take her to her niece's wedding at the end of May. We'll buy hats and look glamorous and we're going to have a spa day and paint our nails.
She has beautiful hands. Long tapering fingers. Strong hands. Hands that can talk to a horse and hold him in check, that give him confidence, that can make him dance. 
She says I'll have to be with her at the wedding reception: "And we shall talk horses..."
I leave  and feel so happy promising to be back on Monday morning.
"I'll get a movie of Hamlet and all the horses, would you like that?" I say. She gives me the thumbs up and although I am at the stables on Sunday morning I never get round to it. I'm helping with the course building for the jumping competition, waiting for an opportunity, I have my eldest wanting to go home. I'm late and I'm disorganised as usual. I console myself with the thought that I can always drop by the stables in the morning after getting the boys to school and take the photographs and movies then. It will probably be better.
That evening I get a call. 
At some point in the afternoon of March 1 2015 my friend dies.
"....and we shall talk horses..." echoes in my mind.

Go on you know you want to...


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