Monday, 31 March 2008

Open Wide!

When a new dentist took over at my former NHS dental practice, last year, and I was persuaded to switch to Denplan, I noticed a big improvement in my dental treatment. My new dentist explained that I had a problem with one of my teeth, however, and that she wanted to refer me to a dental hospital. I was outraged to discover that the problem had been detailed in my notes, but I had never been informed and no treatment had ever been suggested. Apparently, I was now in danger of losing the tooth.

I needed to travel into the city to go to the dental hospital, so my husband kindly decided to take the day off and accompany me, for moral support. Appointments were few and far between, meaning that I would need to get up at 6am, on the day of the appointment and we would both be forced to travel during the 'peak' period. We each sold a kidney, on a dodgy website, to pay for the return train fare and, on Thursday of last week, we found ourselves boarding a fairly crowded train, heading for the city.

It appeared, from a distance of a few feet away, that there were 3 single seats available, in the compartment we had chosen. On closer examination, however, it seemed possible that one male commuter might have paid for a double seat, in order to avoid having his own coffee cup, on a pull-down tray, in front of him. It appeared that one lady passenger might have paid for a second seat, out of concern for her coat's comfort. Another male passenger appeared to have splashed out on a double seat, for his empty packet of Hula Hoops, but, on reflection, we didn't feel that any of those scenarios were likely.

I challenged Coffeecupman, who admitted that the seat next to him was available, even though he had attempted to make it appear otherwise. He moved his coffee cup after I flicked him lightly, on both facial cheeks, with my leather gloves. My husband tackled Coatwoman, who obviously felt that my husband should stand, rather than disturb her precious companion. He capitulated and, fortunately, Hulahoopman remembered his manners in the nick of time. He coerced his empty Hula Hoop packet into, reluctantly, surrendering its seat and it stood, somewhat gracelessly, in the aisle, for the remainder of the long journey into the city. Coatwoman smiled at this result and patted her coat indulgently, as it lay, smugly, on the seat beside her.

We crossed the city, after getting off the train, arriving at the hospital in plenty of time for my appointment. We wandered about for a while, in the hospital, before discovering the lift and travelling up to the floor specified in my letter. I approached one of the receptionists, and handed her my letter, explaining that I was a new patient. She returned my polite smile with all the charm of Medusa, spent a couple of minutes entering my details on the computer and then drew a little diagram to show me where I had to go next. Undaunted, I smiled again and thanked her. I imagined the comment she was adding to my patient notes, as I walked away.(Note 1)

We headed back towards the entrance hall, down 5 miles of endless corridors, past someone up a ladder, painting the walls, through some double doors and into another reception area. There were no other patients waiting. Several members of staff stood by, and behind, the reception desk, but only the receptionist knew how to use the computer, apparently, and she became rather tense, as she coped with patients, coming in and out, and the telephones. I slowly came to realise that there was more than one 'Prof' on duty and, the one I was supposed to see, was running late.

When I was eventually led into the consulting room, I gasped at the size of it. There were at least 20 treatment areas, with different staff assigned to each. There were partitions, but they didn't reach the ceiling, so the atmosphere was bustling and noisy. A charming, female, student dentist examined me, in the presence of a dental nurse. She kept smiling, sweeping her palm under my chin and reminding me to relax! I was reminded of numerous, internal examinations, when the focus was on a totally different part of my body. I pictured the doctor at the end of the bed, as he pulled on his latex gloves and gazed determinedly towards his intended destination, demanding that I should relax, in a similar tone to the student dentist. I wanted to shout 'RELAX? ARE YOU JOKING?', but instead, I cried, 'Violation! Remove your probing fingers from my inner recesses!' Fortunately, I didn't say anything out loud.

'Clench your teeth, firmly and move the bottom ones to the left' said the student dentist. I tried, but nothing happened. She repeated the instruction and I tried again, with the same result. She had her fingers clamped firmly in, and around, my mouth. 'Grind your teeth' she said persistently, glancing meaningfully at the nurse, who repeated the instruction. Finally, I managed to move my lower teeth a little to the left. I imagined a further comment being added to my patient notes. (Note 2)

Prof eventually arrived and carried out his own examination. He gazed at me intently and explained that they were going to try and save my tooth, but that they might not succeed. My weakest eye chose that moment to sting and water, due to the bright light shining straight into my face, and a 'tear' ran down my cheek. 'Mrs Mean Mom' said Prof, gently. 'Do you understand? You may still lose the tooth.'

'Yes, yes. I understand' I said quickly, hoping he hadn't noticed my watery eye. He swept out of the cubicle. 'Pass the patient a tissue!' he called over his shoulder to the dental nurse. I imagined another comment being added to my notes.(Note 3)

The nurse accompanied me to x-ray and we picked up my husband on the way. We walked through the double doors, past the painter, along 5 miles of endless corridors, back to the entrance hall, and down a flight of stairs into the gloomy basement. The technician took my x-rays, but we waited 20 minutes for the results. He said that there had been a processing problem. We made our way back, up the flight of stairs, through the entrance hall, down the 5 miles of endless corridors, past the painter, through the double doors and back to clinic reception. It was empty, except for a few members of staff. One of the dental nurses took my x-rays and accompanied me to the consulting room. 'You've been a long time' she remarked. 'There was a processing problem' I explained.

I was the only patient in the consulting room. Some of the staff were already eating their sandwiches and breaking open bottles of mineral water. 'Yay! All the patients have gone!' cried one young dental nurse, her voice tailing off, as she noticed me. I watched as some of the staff wiped down the dental apparatus and I imagined another comment being added to my patient notes.(Note 4)

The student dentist informed me that I would have to return to the hospital on 4 or 5 occasions, for treatment. I gaped in horror. 'Is the travelling a problem?' she asked. 'I don't have any more body parts to sell for my train fare' I explained and it takes hours to get here.' She pointed out that the treatment was free and that I could consider buying a railcard. I finally agreed, feeling that I had no alternative. I imagined yet another comment being added to my patient notes.(Note 5)

The dental nurse walked back with me to reception, where the receptionist was catching up with her work. 'Can we make an appointment?' she asked. 'No' replied the receptionist, not until I have finished this.' We stood rooted to the spot, for a moment, shocked by her abrupt manner. She relented to a certain extent and passed over a folder to the nurse, so that she could enter the appointment herself. I provided my hospital number from my own documents and the receptionist suddenly appeared to see the funny side of things and relaxed. She began laughing and joking, exclaiming that I wouldn't be looking forward to returning to their clinic.

I'd been up since 6am, suffered a long and difficult journey to the hospital, been pushed from pillar to post, my body had been violated, it was well past my lunch time and I'd been waiting in the hospital for hours. I tried to smile, as we headed for the door, but somehow I remained stony faced. I imagined the final comment being added to my patient notes.(Note 6)

We walked in the direction of the hospital entrance hall, through the double doors, walking 5 miles down the wrong corridor, before realising that we had missed the correct corridor, as the painter had gone to lunch. We eventually found our way out of the hospital and headed for the nearest cafe, which was situated just over the road, and named after a vegetable. I was surprised to see that they were selling danish pastries and we decided to treat ourselves to the same, after we had both eaten a sandwich. I had my toothbrush and toothpaste in my handbag, so I didn't feel too guilty.

I bit into the danish pastry, glancing over towards the hospital entrance. I half expected the dental police to come bursting out of the hospital doors and bound down the hospital steps, armed with drills, floss, interdental brushes and bottles of mouthwash, but the building remained surprisingly quiet. We each drank a welcome mug of caffeine, as I shared with my husband, the comments I had imagined the hospital staff adding to my patient notes.

  1. Smiles inanely, for no apparent reason. Obviously one tooth short of a full set.
  2. Dim. Unable to follow simple instructions.
  3. Over-emotional, possibly due to middle-age and menopause.
  4. Loiters in x-ray and hospital corridors to ensure that staff suffer a diminished lunch break after morning clinic.
  5. Ungracious and undeserving of free NHS dental treatment.
  6. Suffers a sense of humour failure if she happens to be the first patient in the clinic and the last one out.

We decided that I should try to make a better impression on my next visit. Can't wait!

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Body of Evidence

A recent comment made by sweet irene after my post of 15th March inspired me to write the following.

The charge against the defendant, Mean Mom, is that, whilst she feels no older than 25, there is a mounting body of evidence to suggest that she is, in truth, much older than she feels. The bare facts of the case against the defendant, Mean Mom, are as follows:

The defendant has to be home by 3.30pm from Monday to Friday, because Countdown has become compulsive viewing for her.

It is no longer necessary for the defendant to shave her legs, but she is considering shaving her face.

The defendant's t-shirts and sweaters have to be a size too big in order to hide her muffin top.

The adjective 'pert' can no longer be applied to any part of the defendant's body.

She has an overwhelming desire to sleep on the sofa, with her mouth open, after eating a meal.

She constantly tells her family, or anyone within hearing distance, that she cannot read this, or that, without her glasses.

She begins a lot of sentences with 'When I was your age', or 'When I was young'.

She reminds herself of her mother.

It is necessary for her to grasp a bottle of bleach between her knees and use both pairs of hands in order to loosen the cap.

The defendant never passes a public toilet, because she may be in dire need of one in 20 minutes' time.

If she is not in bed by midnight, she fears that she may turn into something shrunken and ugly. It appears that the defendant may have had a few late nights, already.

She has realised that music can be too loud.

The defendant spends the equivalent of an MP's allowance for his second home, on moisturiser for her legs, feet, hands and neck, but to no avail.

If she is not too hot, she is too cold.

She was forced to have her long straight hair cut off and styled, when young children consistently ran away from her in the street crying 'It's the wicked witch! Save us from the wicked witch!'

More than one cup of coffee per day gives the defendant palpitations.

She has to wear sensible, flat shoes, rather than fashionable high-heels, for any occasion requiring more from her than balancing precariously on the spot.

She has only recently found out what the initials 'LOL' mean and she had to ask her son.

Her sons cannot walk out locally with her in case they see any of their friends.

Her sons' friends do not speak to her, when she sees them in the street. It is common knowledge that her sons' friends are unable to recognise anyone over the age of 25, whilst outdoors, and in the presence of their peers.

Any woman sharing the defendant's first name remembers Frank Ifield, jam sandwiches and regular rainfall.

The defendant's camisoles and thongs bear an uncanny resemblance to thermal pants and vests.

The defendant will not leave the house without her umbrella, as she fears that she will surely perish from double pneumonia if the tiniest of raindrops dares to touch her head.

She will not leave the house without her sunglasses, as she fears that she will be stricken by sudden blindness and will develop wrinkles around her eyes, equalling the depth of large crevasses, if she fails to protect them from even the weakest of the sun's rays.

She will not leave the house without her gloves, as she fears that her hands will quickly bear resemblance to dried up dead leaves, if she neglects to wear her gloves on all but the hottest of days. There seems to be some evidence to suggest that the defendant is locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, with regard to this one.

The defendant prefers to wrap up warmly in knee-length coat, boots, gloves and scarf, whilst others wear little more than jeans and a t-shirt.

When the defendant crouches to reach the Complan from the bottom shelf in the chemist, she is unable to stand up again without assistance from a nice young man. When he heaves her to her feet, she thanks him and calls him 'young man'. She checks out his bottom as he runs towards the exit.

Members of the jury, you have listened to all of the evidence. The charge against the defendant, Mean Mom, is that of being older than she feels and, in fact, she has offered no evidence in her defence. What is your verdict? Guilty, or not guilty?

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

A Woman's Dilemma

I feel that some women suffer a lot of pressure, nowadays, in one way or another. Men and women have a lot of helpful advice thrown at them on a whole range of subjects. Many things are expected from some women, even though they may be working full-time and raising a family. Somehow, everything has to be fitted in. Anything can become a chore when there is too much to fit into one day. This post isn't based on a true event, or at least, not as far as I am aware! I would like to dedicate it to any woman who finds herself identifying with it.

I was fairly pleased with myself, a few evenings ago, when I was actually ready for bed by 11.30pm. It was quite early by my usual standards. I'd had a busy day, working on a particularly difficult project, as well as fitting in all of the necessary domestic chores, but I realised that I still had time to fit in the recommended 8 hours' sleep. I settled down in bed, but my mind was still alert, so I decided to read for a little while.

It suddenly occurred to me that I had only eaten 12 portions of fruit and veg' that day instead of the recommended 14, and I had only drunk 16 pints of water, instead of the recommended 18. I leapt out of bed and ran down to the kitchen, where I ate a large portion of lightly steamed broccoli and an apple. I washed it down with 2 pints of water.

I climbed back into bed. 20 minutes later, I got up again to clean my teeth and go to the toilet. I brushed my teeth, flossed and then rinsed for 5 minutes with mouthwash. The whole process took another 20 minutes, but I knew that it was necessary if I didn't want to become a toothless little old lady.

I hadn't been back in bed for very long, when I realised that I'd forgotten to take my omega 3 capsules, my ocuvite capsules, to maintain healthy eyes, and my glucosamine. When I got downstairs, however, I found that I was still unable to take them, because I couldn't find them. If only I'd at least remembered to take the omega 3, I would have been able to remember where I'd put the others.

I went upstairs and got into bed, but then I remembered that I'd only done 30 pelvic floor exercises that day, instead of the recommended 100. I knew that I needed to do them, if I didn't want to become an incontinent little old lady. I was wide awake by then, so I read my book, whilst performing another 70 pelvic floor exercises. As I clenched for the 65th time, I remembered that I hadn't read the newspaper that day, or completed the sudoku and the crossword puzzle. I went downstairs to do this, as I knew that I should continue to take an interest in current affairs, to maintain a lively mind, if I didn't want to become a boring and brainless little old lady.

When I returned to bed, I remembered that I had been blogging when my husband returned from work that evening, so we had neglected to have a meaningful conversation and, by the time I got into bed, he was already asleep, so we didn't have any nooky either. I knew that I needed to maintain all aspects of my relationship with my husband, if I didn't want to become a lonely little old lady, so I woke him up, asked him how his day had been and then we had a little nooky.

Whilst we had a little nooky, I practised some mental exercises, such as counting down from 100 in 7s, in order to stave off senile dementia, when I finally became a little old lady. I would also have jotted down a few ideas for some blogs, if my pen and notebook hadn't been just out of reach. When my husband was sleeping peacefully again, I suddenly remembered that I hadn't changed the beds for about 6 weeks, when I knew that the recommended frequency was once a week. I sorted out some clean bedding and dragged my sons and husband out of bed, so that I could change the sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers.

I then remembered that I should have rung my mother and that I hadn't spoken to my student son for a fortnight. I rang my mother, but she had obviously taken her sleeping tablet, because there was no reply. I rang my son, who couldn't believe that I had rung him in the middle of the night, just to make sure that he hadn't died of alcohol poisoning in the last 2 weeks. He put the 'phone down before I had finished speaking.

Before I got into bed, I realised that I had only enjoyed a brisk 30 minute walk on 10 occasions within the last 7 days, instead of the recommended 20. I knew that regular exercise was recommended to reduce the rate of bone loss, and the risk of heart disease, when I finally became a little old lady, so I put on my coat and plunged into the darkness. I walked briskly into town and back. The streets were full of ladies, obviously engaged in the same pursuit, but I didn't see any men.

On my return, I realised that the lawn hadn't been cut at all, during the last week and that the borders needed clearing of last year's dead plants. I pushed the lawn mower with one hand and trimmed the edges of the lawn with the other, whilst clearing the borders with my second pair of hands.

Just as I got into bed, I remembered that I had bought some cream paint to paint the living room, but hadn't actually found time to do it. I knew that this was recommended in case we decided to sell the house in the near future. Apparently, if we painted all of the walls cream, the house would appear light, airy and spacious, appealing to a greater number of potential buyers. I painted the walls with one pair of hands, the ceiling with my second pair and held a paintbrush between my toes to do the skirting boards.

Before I climbed back into bed, I realised that I hadn't found any time to relax during the day, so I manoeuvred my legs into the lotus position, resting my hands on my knees, palms turned upwards, and tried to imagine a desert island. Unfortunately, my knees locked and I was stuck in the same position for 40 minutes, whilst my husband slept peacefully throughout my anguished cries.

I dragged myself back into bed and my head hit the pillow just as my alarm went off at 7.30am. I sprang out of bed and ran downstairs to prepare a healthy breakfast of fruit, followed by low sugar, wholegrain cereal. I knew that I should maintain healthy eating habits, if I wanted to avoid becoming a fat little old lady in later life. The 'phone was already ringing when I got downstairs.

It was my mother to say that I had woken her neighbours, when I had rung her in the middle of the night. On the second and third occasions the 'phone rang, it was our own neighbours to complain about the noise from the lawn mower in the night. The fourth time the 'phone rang, it was my student son to say that I had woken all of his flatmates, when I had rung him in the early hours. When my other sons appeared, they complained because I had woken them up to change their bedclothes. My husband appeared and wanted to know what all the fuss was about. He didn't remember anything about the previous night.

I don't understand it. A woman just can't do right for doing wrong sometimes.

My Favourite Subject

I've discovered that I've been tagged at dusty spider's place. It's the one where I have to list 7 unusual/peculiar things about myself. Here is the easy bit:
  1. I'm prone to exaggeration. Did I hear someone say that they'd gathered that?
  2. I surprise my family and friends by driving at the speed limit in my old car, as opposed to 20 mph wherever, but only when conditions are favourable, obviously.
  3. I've submitted some of my embroidery projects for publication and they have all been published.
  4. I sunbathed topless in a hot country in my 20s.
  5. Since reaching the age of 30, I am usually the only person on the beach to be fully clothed, as well as sporting a large hat and sunglasses, with a towel draped over my legs. Oh, have you spotted me?
  6. I wore hot pants and very long black suede boots in the late 60s/70s.
  7. In my late teens, early twenties, I sometimes went out looking like a bit of a strumpet. Sorry, was that the same one as before, but worded differently?

Is that it, then? I could have gone on for a lot longer. Next time could we have 500 things about me and just one person to tag? I'm not desperately interested in what anyone else has to say.

Now for the difficult bit. It would be much easier if I only had to tag one person. I've been out of touch for a while, so I don't know who to tag. I've taken a quick look round and I don't think the following people have been tagged yet, so here's my list.


working mum





sweet irene

I apologise in advance if you have been tagged before, or if you really didn't want to join in with this sort of thing!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

6 Years Older

Shortly after Christmas, one of my friends asked if I would like to go and see a play with her. She and her husband are both retired, so she normally goes to the theatre with her husband, but he didn't want to see this particular play. I hadn't been to the theatre for several months, so I jumped at the chance. She said that she would book the tickets the following day. I received an email from her the next day, confirming that she had done as she had promised, but I was horrified to read that she had bought 2 senior citizens' tickets! She said that she would lend me Crimplene trousers and a headscarf, if I needed them!

My eyes widened in horror. Did I look older than my years? Would I pass for 60? I was still a few months away from 55! I suddenly saw the humour in the situation and laughed aloud. My husband reacted in the same way - disbelief and then laughter. My friend had also said, in her email, that if I changed my mind about going to see the play, her husband would go instead, so I assumed that this was the reasoning behind my reduced rate ticket. If her husband had to go instead of me, they didn't want to have to pay the full price for the second ticket.

I told some of my other friends about my predicament, when we next met up for coffee, and they were dismayed for 5 seconds, before startling the other customers, in the local cafe, with their uncontrollable laughter. One friend was so amused, that she had to make a dash for the toilet, in order to avoid an unwelcome accident in her clean undergarments. She was rather unfortunate, in that the toilet on our floor was out of order, and she was forced to mince down a flight of stairs to the ground floor. She assured us that she got there in time and we assured her that we believed her.

I emailed another friend of mine, explaining about my little dilemma, thinking that she too would find it amusing, but she was quite indignant on my behalf. She couldn't understand what my other friend was thinking about and very kindly said that I would have more chance of passing for a student than a senior citizen. She is a friend indeed!

Privately, I was slightly worried about presenting a reduced rate ticket at the theatre. What would make me feel worse, to be challenged or not?

I tried to reassure myself that I didn't have to worry, but, as a middle-aged woman, I was more accustomed to trying to avoid looking older than my years, so I felt that I'd been presented with a bit of challenge. I considered my options and was forced to acknowledge, on reflection, that I had already given myself a weensy head start towards appearing older than my years, because I'd recently put on some weight, gained some unsightly facial hair and I had begun to groan each time I collapsed heavily into a comfy seat. Perhaps I didn't have too big a problem after all.

I tried to conjure up some mental images of older women, from television programmes. Should I go for the Nora Batty look, with the extra-wide-fitting, flat shoes and wrinkly stockings? I could buy a skirt with an elasticated waist, a baggy long cardigan and a shapeless, beige, knee-length showerproof mac'. I didn't have time to knit myself a hat, but I could commandeer the tea cosy, as long as I sewed up the holes for the spout and handle and I could make the time to knit myself a pair of mittens to match.

On the other hand, perhaps I could better achieve my aims by adopting the attitude of Marina, a supporting character in Last of the Summer Wine, who played the part of Howard's blowsy, blonde girlfriend. In the programme, her character succeeded admirably in highlighting her advancing years, by trying to dress as she had probably dressed 40 years before. She wore outsize earrings, low cut tops, micro mini skirts and tottered about in 6 inch stilettos. It would, no doubt, be tremendous fun to dress up like that, but I would probably catch my death of cold and break one of my arthritic hips. I reluctantly dismissed that thought from my head.

After much ridiculous deliberation, I decided that the only effort I was actually prepared to make, to try and appear the necessary 6 years older, was to perch my wire-framed reading glasses on the end of my nose. If anyone dared to challenge me, I would pretend that I hadn't heard what they had said, call them 'dear' and tell them to speak up and stop mumbling.

The day that we were to see the play finally arrived. We had lunch before the performance and, as we walked towards the theatre, I began to rummage in my handbag for my glasses. 'I'm just going to put my specs on, so that I look a bit older,' I said.

'What for?' asked my friend. My next words died on my lips, as my suspicions were finally aroused. She began to laugh silently, as she fumbled for the tickets in her handbag. 'I'd forgotten all about that,' she finally managed to gasp. 'It was just a wind-up. You didn't seriously think I would do that to you, did you?'

On reflection, the next day, I wondered why it had never occurred to me to ask my friend for the ticket, when I gave her the money for it. If I'd seen the ticket, I would perhaps have realised that it was a full price one, or, if it had occurred to me to ring the theatre, I would then have discovered that I didn't need to pay anything extra. I was so busy wondering how, or whether, I could pass as a senior citizen, that I never thought of it. To a certain extent, the whole episode brought back memories of my teenage years, when I was trying to look older to get into the cinema, or the pub'. I've obviously got a vaguely dishonest streak.

Incidentally, after sending for the wide-fitting shoes, the baggy cardigan, the elasticated skirt and the beige,knee-length, showerproof mac', I decided to keep them, as they are so wonderfully warm and comfortable. The hat and mittens are terribly 'cosy', too. Has anyone seen my plastic rainhat?

Monday, 10 March 2008

The Enchanted Castle

Once upon a time, when my sons were very young, they believed that we lived in an enchanted castle, inhabited by beautiful young fairies, who performed the daily tasks necessary in order to keep everyone well-fed and comfortable, for no financial reward. They were under the impression that we had one fairy to keep the castle spic and span, several to tend the castle grounds, another to cook, another to wash and iron, another to shop and several more to keep the castle in reasonable decorative order. One day, I explained that, in fact, there was only one rather bitter, ugly, not-so-young fairy who multi-tasked and, as they grew older, they slowly began to understand that the bitter, ugly, not-so-young fairy and I were one and the same person.

To some extent, even though my sons are now grown-up, their beliefs persist that they live in an enchanted castle and that I, as a middle-aged, menopausal fairy, still possess some magic powers.

For instance, according to them, the swing bin in the enchanted kitchen disappears when it is overflowing. I am very fortunate, in that my magic powers enable me to see everything, at all times. Only I can empty the bin, if only I can see it, naturally.

Fresh milk disappears as soon as the milkman puts it down on our enchanted doorstep. One bottle of semi-skimmed will materialise as soon as one son runs out of milk for his breakfast cereal. Unfortunately, as soon as said son has poured out sufficient milk for his needs, the 'fridge disappears and he is unable to put the remains of the bottle inside.

Apparently, as soon as anyone picks up the new toilet roll in the bathroom, the empty toilet roll holder disappears, so the new toilet roll has to sit on the window sill, until the bitter, ugly, old fairy goes in.

Cat sick disappears as soon as it hits the enchanted carpet, but mystically materialises when someone steps in it.

I see dead birds and mice under the dining room table. Oops, sorry, that's not magic, that's sixth sense.

Empty wine bottles disappear as soon as they are placed on the enchanted patio, by the side of our invisible recycling boxes. Any recycling has to be piled up in the castle kitchen, by the rear entrance to the castle grounds. It then renders itself invisible on the enchanted kitchen doormat.

Every time I enter the kitchen of the enchanted castle, the dishwasher materialises, but no-one else has ever seen it, so dirty dishes are piled up on the work surfaces and I am the only one who can load it up and empty it.

My eldest son's laundry basket also materialises, whenever I enter his bedroom, but unfortunately, it has never materialised for him. He has to put his dirty washing in an untidy pile on the landing outside his bedroom door, where it becomes invisible to everyone, unless they trip over it, when it will suddenly appear.

Any old rubbish, which my sons no longer want in their bedrooms, they move into the enchanted garage or shed, in the castle grounds. It then, apparently, turns into ancient treasure and must be protected from the wicked witch, who will take it to the tip if she gets half a chance. Only the wicked witch knows the whereabouts of the tip in the enchanted forest. Should any ancient treasure accidentally fall into her eager hands, a spell will be cast upon the original owner of the treasure, his soul will be torn from his body and his tortuous cries will echo through the aeon's of time into eternity, or so it will seem, anyway.

Now that my sons are grown and poised to venture out alone into the big wide world, I have to find the words to somehow explain to them, that we have only ever lived in a fairly modern house, on the edge of a housing estate and that the bitter, ugly, menopausal fairy, their mom and the wicked witch have only ever been one and the same person. I will also explain that if they look hard enough, they will see many things, that there is nothing scary about the local tip and that it does not lie in the enchanted forest. They are confusing it with a totally different scary place, known as HM Revenue and Customs. This is the place which lies in the middle of the enchanted forest and every grown up knows that they must avoid visiting it, or they will surely be eaten alive and never be heard of, ever again.

I will point out to my sons that the local tip is not a wicked place, anyone can find it by simply following the signposts and that no-one will suffer eternal torment if they decide to get rid of a few broken toys.

One day soon, I will get through to my sons, they will hear the words coming out of my mouth and perhaps, for a short while, we will finally exist in harmony, before they leave to set up their own homes and live happily ever after in riverside apartments. It is a fairy story, remember?

Saturday, 8 March 2008


Oddly enough, by Christmas time I had made a miraculous recovery from my devastating mystery illness. No-one was more surprised than me.

So, I have a little catching up to do after my long absence. Cast your mind back to New Year's Eve, if you will. The way in which I spent the day may cause you a little amusement.

My husband's family came to spend some time with us, over New Year - his family consisting of his mother, his younger sister and her husband, plus their son, aged 8. On New Year's Eve most of the members of our combined families fancied a walk, which my husband and I had done in the summer and enjoyed very much. My middle son was working, so could not join in, but my youngest son went along and so did my husband. At the last minute, my eldest son and his girlfriend decided to go too, taking their newly acquired rescue dog.

I opted to keep my mother-in-law company, as always, as she suffers from arthritis and has limited mobility. My husband suggested that she and I should drive out and meet up with them at the pub', about halfway round the walk, the idea being that we would all have a drink, they would continue with the walk and we would drive back to prepare a late buffet lunch.

I duly drove out to the pub' at about 1pm, we both splashed out on a mineral water (I was driving, she was on medication!) and settled down to await the arrival of the walkers. Eventually, my husband and brother-in-law appeared, explaining that they couldn't come in, because dogs were banned from the premises. My mother-in-law could not go to sit outside, because she was afraid that the cold air would cause the return of her neuralgia and I didn't want to leave her on her own, so we continued to sit inside, whilst everyone else sat outside!

My mother-in-law, who is 80 years old and hard of hearing, asked where the walkers were going next. I explained that they had to walk along the road to the church, which I pointed out from the pub' window, across a few fields, through another village, then across some more fields, before being able to return to their cars.

I explained again a few minutes later, when she asked me the same question.

My sister-in-law came in and spent a few minutes with us and so did my youngest son. My husband came in to say that they were all about to leave. He said that they expected to be back home by 4pm. He held up 4 fingers to try to reinforce the meaning for his mother. After they had left, she asked my why my husband had held up 4 fingers. 'He means that they will be back home by about 4pm' I said.

'Where have they got to go?' she asked. I explained once more. She stood up and began to fasten up her coat. I wasn't quite ready to leave. I didn't intend to finish my mineral water, but I fancied a few more sips. I took another swallow, but my mother-in-law was obviously intent on returning to the house and stood waiting expectantly. I explained that I had to visit the ladies' and when I came out, she was already in the car park, heading for the car.

I drove home, not totally relishing the thought of wrestling with the mountain of food we needed to prepare for our late buffet lunch. As I drew up outside the house, about 20 minutes later, my mother-in-law said, with some amazement, 'Oh, they're not back yet, then?'

For Maggie May

I've not been well, you know. It was definitely something more than a cold, which struck me down so ferociously just before Christmas. It was more of a devastating mystery illness. I was so tired that I could not stay awake and I was stricken by a depression which seemed endless.

I didn't see my doctor. What do these youngsters know anyway? My doctor is not much older than my youngest son. What could he have learned in his 5 years at medical school to compare with my lifetime's experience of illness?? He would not have known what was wrong with me. I knew that I had something terminal. I acknowledged that I would be lucky to last until Christmas!

I was most grateful for the sympathy and support I received from my family throughout the period of my suffering, however.

On one occasion, as I lay on the sofa, weak and sweating profusely, my middle son murmured sympathetically 'Mom, could you iron this shirt, ready for tomorrow, please?'

A few days later, as I lay prostrate on the kitchen floor, where I had collapsed on my way to the kettle, my eldest son stepped over me, on his way to the cereal cupboard. 'Have we really run out of cereal?' he asked in a voice full of tenderness and concern.

A few seconds after my son's kind enquiry, I struggled to make myself a cup of tea and dragged myself back across the living room carpet, on one elbow, in the general direction of my temporary invalid's retreat. Clutching the remains of my tea in my trembling hand, I lowered my ravaged body to the refuge of the sofa's soft and all-enveloping embrace. 'They'll miss me when I'm gone' I muttered darkly, as I ruefully surveyed the telling trail of tea stains I had left in my wake, on the neutral-coloured carpet.