2013, here I come (very slowly)

A NEW YEAR.

I have given myself ten days to savour this new year and so far I can say it tastes a bit like a yoghurt that has just slightly turned. Or wine that you’re not sure is corked or just a bit weird. Or a nearly-but-not-quite stale biscuit. I’m not sure why these things spring to mind. I think it’s the feeling of looking forward to a fresh, new start, and then realising I need some new spark plugs if things are going to go anywhere.

I began this year with a damaged coccyx, which rather puts a damper on anything involving sitting down, moving from sitting down to standing up (and vice-versa), and picking anything up. Which, I discovered, is most things when you are the mother of a 5 year old and a 2 year old. I am proud to say it was the result of a motorbike accident. Yes, me, the daring, racy motorbike rider, all leather and denim and long blonde hair in the wind. I am less proud to say the motorbike is about 50 cm high, pink and yellow and made of plastic. It is a fine source of amusement for those between 2 and 7 as they race down the concrete drive at 90 mph and onto the lawn. Tommy was managing to pick up enough speed to go right round the tree at the bottom of the lawn. It looked like such fun I thought I’d have a go. And it was fun, really fun, all the way down the drive, the kids and I screaming with laughter… until I hit the bump which leads onto the lawn. The motorbike went up, so did my bottom, and then came crashing back down onto the plastic saddle which has a little upward curving protuberence at the tail-end. In flight, my own tail-end shifted backwards a couple of centimetres, only to meet whackingly with the knobbly bit. In terms of pain I would rate childbirth as the most painful thing I have experienced, followed by toothache and ear infections, followed by this. I have never ever hurt this part of my body so it was a surprising pain as it made me realise that bit of my body really REALLY exists.

This happened on Christmas Eve. For two weeks I couldn’t sit down properly. I had to twist sidewards or lean right forward. We had a long drive back from Barcelona during which I hung on to the passenger seat handle above the door and swayed my way home. We went straight to a friend’s surprise birthday party. She is an osteopath and told me to get it checked out straight away as it’s easy to break or fracture your coccyx without realising. There’s not much you can do about it except let time heal the bones, but if you know it’s broken or fractured you should take it really easy. This was the perfect excuse to get out of the house and read one of my Christmas books so the next day I drove to E&R and spent a few hours standing in a waiting room (still too painful to sit) and then had a x-ray done. Result: no broken bones (hoorah), but the coccyx had been “twisted” (yikes). The doctor explained it’s like twisting your ankle and that once the inflammation goes down it all goes back to normal, but could really benefit from an osteopathy session. Great, I thought, I’ll just see my osteopath friend as soon as possible. Alas, she doesn’t ‘do’ the coccyx. The look on her face worried me. “What does ‘doing the coccyx’ involve?” I asked. She winced. “Interior intervention.” Ah. “You mean, finger up the bum?” She nodded. I winced.

I have found an osteopath who ‘does the coccyx’. Thankfully, for the moment, L’Homme is away for 10 days so I can’t book an appointment as I don’t really want to take Léonie with me while having someone wiggle their finger up my bum. In fact, maybe I’ll keep on finding excuses until things heal all on their own. In fact, my coccyx already feels much better.

No, I’m NOT perching on the edge of my chair to write this. Honest. ish.

Another reason for not starting this year on jet-skis is illness descending upon both kids and me (it’s a family tradition to be really poorly for the first ten days of the year) and my friend Bernie slowly vanishing into the afterworld; wherever that may be. I’m not going to write much more about him right now as I’m not ready to, but I am thinking of him constantly at the moment, as he slips from here to there. Another brilliant, beloved soul who doesn’t deserve to go so soon.

It is 9:30 pm and Léonie (age 2) is leaping around the kitchen singing “Mummy, Mummy, MUMMYYYYYYYY, woter, woter WOTERRRRRR”, whilst tossing a sippy cup in the air and biting through the skin of a banana, sideways. Tommy is asleep on the sofa having had a worm intervention earlier on in the evening (me, Doc. Harrison-Bullett, P.H.D. in Worms – I won’t go into the details). I should carry them both up to bed but my coccyx won’t take it.

Welcome to my world, 2013.

The motorbike on which I had my Christmas Eve accident.

The motorbike on which I had my Christmas Eve accident.

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Back in the saddle again.

Quite sheepishly, here I am again. Having announced in a typically actressy dramatic fashion that THAT WAS IT, it was all over, finished, done with, through, I would no longer be writing my blog, may you all weep and mourn me for weeks and months to come… here I am, a mere ten days later.

I can’t seem to stick at anything, not even being depressed. I tried my hardest, I lay on the sofa crying, I hated myself with a vengeance, I concentrated my hardest on thinking gloomy thoughts, but then our first load of summer visitors arrived and having a house full of people jolted me sharpishly out of feeling sorry for myself. You just can’t be depressed with a ton of friends around, smiling and pouring you a glass of wine and saying how they love your house and how adorable your kids are and isn’t your man handsome and funny and how gorgeous the weather is and aren’t you lucky. I started to feel quite selfish and even a little stupid about feeling so down.

And then there was a circus festival down the road where I saw a ton of shows, seething with jealousy at the performers on stage and willing one of them to break their ankle so that I could leap up and cry “Have no fear! I can replace him/her/it! I’m a multi-talented actress/dancer/accordion player/juggler/trapeze artist/bareback horse rider/acrobatic horse!” (the last five are lies but I was ready to try). I also really enjoyed the shows and swore to steal as many ideas as possible and make my own one woman show, with which I am planning to tour the world, be knighted for cheering whole continents up and conquer the universe. All that by next year. So I was already feeling a lot more cheery and was considering maybe writing a post or two, and then my sister (Sister 2) went and created her own blog for her homemade kids’ clothes line, Heavens-to-Betsy. Well, not only did it look a lot better than my blog, which I hadn’t updated visuals-wise since 1977, but by her 4th day she already had 94 readers. My utter maximum in a day is 144. There is nothing better than sibling rivalry to give you a wake-up call in the form of a slap round the face. Which is why I am sitting on our sofa right now, ignoring the glorious sunshine outside (no, I don’t live in the UK) and making my blog at least look a bit better, even if the content is still waffly and largely incoherent.

The other thing that stopped my down-in-the-dumpsiness in its tracks was having to rush Tommy to emergency ward on Sunday afternoon. His right leg just stopped working. He couldn’t walk, stand up or even move it without screaming with pain. I drove him to the hospital where they did x-rays, scans and blood tests and slept overnight with him on a camp bed. L’Homme took over yesterday and I came home to look after Léonie. This morning they operated on Tommy. They extracted the fluid that was in his hip and sent it off to be tested. We’ll know more about what he’s got in a couple of days when we get the results. It’s either a benign “rhume de hanche” (“hip cold” which I had never heard of) or it’s something more serious, maybe treatable with antibiotics, maybe not. I drove Léonie and I to the hospital this morning to be there when he woke up from his anaesthetic. His leg was in a traction thing with a weight on the end to try and straighten it out. He has a small incision on his left hip. He was all grumpy and upset and worried that he would always have a weight attached to his ankle. “It’s there forever Mummy? Oh no Mummy!” I reassured him that he would be up and about in a couple of days but the doctors reckon they’re keeping him in at least another 3 or 4 days. They need to be sure it’s not anything serious and they need the blood tests to show the infection marker going down, rather than up, which is what it has been doing until now.

Just a few days ago I remarked out loud how lovely it is in the summer because the kids are never ill.

All this makes me wonder whether I should put off going back to acting and performing for another year or so. The kids are still so little and still so prone to dodgy illnesses which land them in hospital. With L’Homme on the road 8 months out of every 12 I’m usually the only one here to look after them, although this time we are lucky it has happened while L’Homme is home.

Ironic really. We had put this week aside to “spend time together” – ie. put the kids to bed early and stay up late sipping wine in the sunset. Instead we’ll be seeing each other fleetingly at the hospital as the other one takes over, swapping car keys and nappy bag and Léonie. But at least all this has put life into perspective and hoisted me back into the saddle again (even if I do have a bit of chafing saddle sore).

I’m just crossing my fingers and praying to Zeus (or whatever god will listen to me), that Tommy’s leg problem is nothing serious and that he’ll be back on his bike soon.

Suspicious Circumstances

I discovered this ugly scene in our bathroom this evening.

The question is, did he jump or was he pushed?

Poor finger-puppet Elephant.

An elephant's body was found floating in a private swimming pool at 7 p.m. this evening. Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding the 'accident'.

The elephant had been missing from the finger-puppet box since last Thursday.

Double Gastro – Part 3. Valium?!

So we spent the weekend in our hospital room. The kids couldn’t leave it because they had the dreaded and highly contagious gastroenteritis virus, which apparently is violent this year, and I could barely leave because the kids wanted me to stay with them. Whenever they both dropped off to sleep I would sneak out for a shower or an over-priced, under-rated coffee, but otherwise there we were the three of us, reading books and watching telly programs about digging up dinosaur bones and polar bears hunting penguins (I had to switch that one off fast when our lovely, young, cuddly polar bear suddenly got good at hunting). I did a lot of staring at the strange Disney forest scene which took up the entire wall opposite the beds. It was clearly Disney characters – there was King Louis swinging from a tree and Baloo from the Jungle Book, Bambi, Dumbo and various other woodland creatures, but they all looked a bit wierd. Like they’d had bad plastic surgery which had modified them a little bit, not past recognition but just enough to make them look creepy. Maybe they’d just been in hospital for too long.

Both Léonie and Tommy remained wiped out for most of our stay. They would perk up a bit every now and again and then crash out not long afterwards. But they were getting better slowly. Doctor She-Devil (real name Doctor Voisin) came by twice a day and was overly sweet with us. Talk about Jekyll and Hyde. My friend Louise visited us on Saturday and brought me much needed sustenance : proper food, a good book and a couple of hours of company. I found a box of earplugs in my bag which made the second night much easier, plus the nurses had unhooked Léonie from her machine so no BLEEPing all night. A nurse even brought me a cosy blanket to snuggle under. On the Sunday morning, Doctor Voisin proclaimed the kids strong enough to go home. She also said she knew L’Homme would be arriving direct from where he had been performing the night before, so could take us home.

“What about the seizures Léonie had?” I asked. “She didn’t have a fever when they happened, so what could have caused them?”

Doctor Voisin shrugged. “Maybe it’s genetic. Is there a history of seizures or fits or epilepsy in your family?”

“No. At least, I don’t think so …”

“Then maybe it was just an effect of the gastro virus. I’ll go and do the papers so that you can leave when your husband arrives.” And she vanished.

When L’Homme did arrive he was horrified at how skinny the kids looked. Even I had lost a couple of kilos, and I hadn’t even been sick. One of the nurses came by with the kids’ “carnets de santé” (health books) and I noticed there were a couple of prescriptions in each of them. I tried to decode the scrawl and managed to make out “Valium” on Léonie’s prescription.

“Valium? What’s this about?”

The nurse took the prescription and had a look. “It says it’s in case she has another seizure and it lasts for more than five minutes. You should give her Valium.”

“What? The doctor didn’t mention anything about this. How come no-one has explained this to me? Valium? For a 13 month old baby? How on earth do I give it to her?”

“With a syringe.” And she too, vanished.

I had had enough. I just wanted to get the children home. So that’s what we did. And after another two days of having two grumpy rag dolls lolling about on the sofa, both Léonie and Tommy bounced back and have been devouring every meal set before them. Léonie has gained far more weight than she lost, almost as if her little body realised that she didn’t have enough fat reserves in times of crisis. She is now nice and chubby with the most nibbleable chunky thighs.

I of course called our children’s doctor and told him the whole story. He was very surprised that I hadn’t been better informed. He has booked Léonie in for an electroencephalography (a sort of brain scan) next month just to check the two seizures didn’t do any damage, and when we see him afterwards he is going to explain all about convulsions in small children. This is the sort of good health care I am used to in France, not the couldn’t-give-a-damn attitude of Doctor Voisin. I hope I never come across her again. Unless it is just as she is being lowered into a vat of scalding oil and I am the one in charge of the lever.

Montélimar hospital room

Double Gastro Part 2 : She-Devil Doctor

At last, here I am. I hope you haven’t been hanging off cliffs by your fingernails since I wrote the first bit of this story. It is nearly 9 p.m. I am sitting on the floor with half a glass of very good wine and a slab of very dark chocolate, the kids are in bed, the dog is fed, the woodburner is ram-packed with half a small forest, L’Homme went back on tour this afternoon – the conditions are PERFECT for writing a bit of blog.

So, the firemen were carrying us off through the village and to their fire engine…

… Having had the thought that at least the journey in the fire engine (erm, fire van)  would be exciting for Tommy, it was a bit of a let-down . For a start, the firemen decided to seat us in the wrong seats. They put me on the stretcher bed thingy, propped up at a wierd angle so that my back hurt as I strained to support Léonie who was sitting on me, and Tommy was strapped into a straight-backed seat. He was half unconscious, so just lolled over the side, only just held up by the seat belt which was threatening to strangle him as it cut across his neck. And of course he was too ill to appreciate the fact he was in a fire engine; he just dozed, every now and again waking up, shouting “MUMMY I GOING TO BE SICK!” which jolted the very young fireman into action as he grabbed a sick bag and Tommy filled it up. They did put the siren on when we got to Montélimar which sort of made me feel like they were really serious about getting us to the hospital as fast as possible and sort of made me feel like they were cheating as no-one was actually dying. Tommy remembered the siren in the days to come, which was a tiny bit of compensation for being so revoltingly ill.

I had asked the firemen if they could take us to our hospital in Aubenas – where both kids were born, where I always take them in an emergency and where our lovely pediatrician, Doctor Zarzour, works. The children’s ward is fantastic there. But alas, the firemen were bound to take us to Montélimar because it was in their “sector”. I was beginning to wish I had sent them packing and bundled the kids into my car and off to Aubenas. Anyway, we arrived at Montélimar hospital, they found a wheelchair for Tommy, parked us in the emergency admissions bay, got a form signed and off they went. We waited. And waited. And waited. Tommy woke up with a start. “MUMMY! I GOING TO BE SICK!” I had nothing for him to be sick into. I saw a cleaning trolley parked a little way down the corridor, so I went and grabbed the entire roll of yellow rubbish bags and Tommy was sick into one of those. A tall round woman with a badge on her bosom offered to get me “a cashew nut”. I wondered whether I had heard right, or whether she thought I looked hungry, but not that hungry seeing as she was offering me just a single cashew nut. As I hesitated to reply, she went and got one anyway. It turned out to be a little cardboard bowl in the shape of a cashew nut, made to be sick into. But not that sick, seeing as the thing was so bloody tiny. Luckily, Tommy was no longer in the big sick phase. Mini sicks, but lots of them – each time he drank any water. His eyes were sunken and his lips cracked. The same woman came back and waved us through to the admissions desk where a friendly black bloke took our details and my “Carte Vital” (the French health card that works with an electronic chip). He looked a bit embarrassed and whispered “I’m only meant to take your little girl’s details.”

“What about my little boy?” I asked him.

“They’re saying he’s not the patient. On the form it says the firemen came to your house for your 13 month old baby, and that she’s the patient.”

“Yes, that’s right”, I said. “I called because she had a seizure. But my little boy happens to be really sick too. Look at him.”

“I know,” he replied, “He looks pretty bad. But you’re going to have to persuade them to look at him – at the moment they’re saying you’ll have to make another appointment with a general practitioner.”

“But that’s ridiculous!” I retorted.

“Yes, I know. Look, I’ll take his details too, that way it’s all ready” and he tapped away quickly on his keyboard before looking round for someone. “Is anyone free to help this mother with her two children? She has to take them up to floor one. Wait one minute madame.”

But after exactly one minute of waiting without anyone coming to help, I hoicked Léonie up a notch on my hip, grabbed our bags and one-handedly wheeled Tommy away. Our friendly receptionist leapt up, closed his little plexiglass window and came to show me the way before hurrying back to the queue of injured and uncomfortable-looking people waiting to have their details taken. It was a long painful hike along endless corridors and up in the lift but eventually we got to the children’s ward. A nurse was waiting for us “La gastro, non? Venez par ici” and she showed us to a little examining room. I parked Tommy, who had gone grey and sat Léonie down on the little stretcher bed thing. She had slept throughout the journey and seemed quite perky again. I began to take off her little hat and coat when a small, wirey, fifty-ish year old woman stormed into the room, complaining and snorting.

“She ne regarde QUE le bébé qui est venu avec les pompiers. Pas l’autre! Lui c’est l’accompagnant!” Literally translated: “I am ONLY examining the baby who was brought in by the firemen. Not the other one! He’s just along for the ride!”

I stared at her. I hadn’t slept all night. My baby had had a seizure. My little boy was badly dehydrated. I had had to pressurise the firemen to bring Tommy with us and now I was going to have to fight this little hell-cat of a doctor. Well, so be it. I was ready for a fight. All the nervous energy which had been simmering deep down in me as I stayed calm and coped with the last 24 hours was now about to be unleashed. I would aim for her jugular.

“Bonjour” I said. “Could you repeat what you just said? Because if I understand rightly, you are proposing that I stay while you examine my daughter and then I lug my kids out of here and phone some doctor somewhere else to book an appointment for them to see my son, ooh, hopefully in the next 3 days?”

“Je ne regarde QUE le patient qui est venu avec les pompiers.” she spat, fiddling with the papers in her hand.

I walked over to the door and started shouting down the corridor “YOO HOO! EXCUSE ME! IS THERE A REAL CHILDREN’S DOCTOR IN THE SERVICE? BECAUSE THIS ONE IS CLEARLY A FRAUD. HELLO?! ANYONE THERE? DOCTOR?!”

“Qu’est ce que vous faites?” she glared at me.

“Well, I assume that to be a proper children’s doctor you have to at least like children a teeny weeny bit, whereas you clearly couldn’t give a flying fuck about them. So I’d like to see a real doctor. RIGHT NOW.”

“It says here you called the firemen because your baby had a seizure. Well why did you bring your son? You may as well have brought the neighbours along too.”

I have never been so close to punching someone in the face. I swear I had to hold myself back. I imagined picking up the chair by the table and smashing it down on her lank-haired skull. Then I would pull her back up by her scalp and ram her face into the wall before stamping on her spine until it cracked. But I was holding my baby, so unfortunately I did not get the satisfaction of causing all this grevous bodily harm.

“I BROUGHT HIM BECAUSE HE IS SICK TOO. HE IS PROBABLY SICKER THAN SHE IS. JUST LOOK AT HIM FOR FUCK’S SAKE. HE IS BADLY DEHYDRATED. HE HAS BEEN SICK NON-STOP FOR THE LAST 20 HOURS. HE CAN’T EVEN KEEP A TEASPOON OF WATER DOWN. HIS LIPS ARE CRACKED. HE IS HALF UNCONSCIOUS. IF YOU SEND HIM AWAY LIKE THIS YOU ARE THE ONE WHO’S GOING TO HAVE TO EXPLAIN YOURSELF.”

We were face to face, leaning over Léonie who was watching the scene with big eyes. Three nurses were huddled in the doorway, exchanging glances. My witnesses, I thought.

She glared at me. “Do you want me to look at your daughter or not?”

“No actually. With an attitude as shite as yours I don’t want you to touch my kids. I don’t trust you. You must be an awful doctor. Just sign the papers and you can get on with your day. I’ll take my kids elsewhere.”

I began to put Léonie’s coat and hat back on. Doctor She-Devil stepped forward. “I will examine your daughter first, and then I’ll see about your son…”

“Yes, you will indeed see about my son. You had BETTER see about my son.” And I undressed Léonie, standing by her as the so-called doctor began to examine her.

And all of a sudden, this embodiment of hatred was transformed into a gentle, reassuring angel. She examined Léonie tenderly, talking to her all the time. And once she had finished, she moved straight over to Tommy, picked him up and said “Come on little soldier, you’ve been in the wars haven’t you?” and she  proceeded to examine him too. She was either a bloody good actress or else she was really concerned about sick kids. It was the strangest transformation.

“You were right” she said to me. “Good mother’s instinct. Your son is in a worse way than your daughter. He needs to be put on a drip straight away to rehydrate him. And we need to monitor your daughter because of the seizure she had. She has lost a lot of weight too. I’m keeping them both in for at least two nights. I have a free room on the children’s ward where you can all stay. The nurses will bring you a bed too.” and she motioned to the nurses to take over.

And that was it. We were taken to a little room with a huge Disney forest scene on the wall, a bed for Tommy, a cot for Léonie, a camp-bed for me. Tommy crashed straight out in his bed. Léonie lay down peacefully in her cot. I started to relax for the first time in 24 hours … and then Léonie had another seizure.

The nurse who was with us said “go and get someone!” and I ran into the corridor, but I had no idea which way to run to find someone so I just shouted. All of a sudden there were seven nurses and doctors in the room, the first nurse keeping Léonie on her side as her little body shook and jolted. I burst into tears and they tried to get me to move away and sit down but I shrugged them off . “I want to be with my baby”. I looked over at Tommy who had woken up and was watching the scene. “It’s okay darling, Léonie’s going to be okay.” But I had no idea if she was going to be okay.

The seizure lasted about three minutes again. They put little sensors on her heart and belly and big toe which were wired to a machine that beeped every time she moved. It was to monitor her heart rate and blood pressure in the event of another seizure to try to pinpoint why she was having them. She didn’t have a fever for either seizure, which apparently is odd. Tommy was fitted up with a drip, both kids fell asleep and I was left to go and fill in papers before 6 p.m. when the admissions office shut. It was the last thing I wanted to do. I felt like I was sleepwalking.

That evening I had half a packet of M&M’s for my dinner and then crashed out on my camp-bed for the night, only to be woken up every hour or so by Léonie crying for her nappy to be changed or by the nurses coming in to take the kids’ temperatures or by the machine going BEEP when Léonie turned over or by nightmares of my children having seizures.

The most exciting part of the story is over, but the tale isn’t quite finished … there’s more in the way of doctor negligence to come, but it’s 11 p.m. and since we got home from hospital Léonie has been waking up 3 or 4 times a night, so I need to get to bed NOW. I’ll write the rest soon. Honest.

Double Gastroenteritis Part 1 (Firemen to the so-called rescue)

It is Thursday evening. Exactly a week ago both children started being sick. And I don’t mean “being poorly”, I mean vomiting their hearts out. In bed, in the bath, over the walls, over me, over each other – it just didn’t stop. Well, with Léonie it did but it went southward resulting in chronic diarrhoea – with Tommy it didn’t stop. He was sick every ten to fifteen minutes all night and throughout Friday. He couldn’t even keep a teaspoon of water down. He was so thirsty, begging me for water, but when I gave him some it just came back up again, into his blue bowl by the bed. That bowl became his best friend for 24 hours. When I took it away to empty it he would scream for his bowl. I spent Thursday night racing from Tommy’s room, to the bathroom, to Léonie’s room, to the nappy-changing mat, to the washing machine, back up to Tommy’s room … it went on and on and on and after a couple of hours like this I gave up even trying to get back to my bed. It wasn’t worth it; as soon as I lay down there would be another scream “MUMMY!!” and I was back up again, frantically trying to keep everyone as clean and comfortable as possible, which wasn’t very much, given the situation. Of course, this was all happening while L’Homme was away. It ONLY ever happens when he is away.

On Friday morning Léonie seemed a little perkier, despite the odious, radioactive yellow gunk in her nappies. She even ate a dry biscuit and played with Tommy’s playmobil toys while I tended to him in his bed. Tommy kept being sick. He was getting badly dehydrated – cracked lips, sunken eyes – I wondered whether I should drive him to the hospital. And then Léonie had a seizure.

It was one of the worst three minutes of my life. Part of me stayed very calm, holding Léonie in my arms, telling myself that it was going to end soon, that the “What to Expect” baby book has a page on seizures explaining that they’re not necessarily damaging. And the other part of me panicked and stared wildly at my baby girl convulsing in my arms, my mind screaming out at me, “she might be dying, she might not come back, she might be brain damaged, I’m losing her, I’M LOSING MY BABY GIRL.” And then the convulsions stopped and she went all floppy. Dead like. I clamped my ear to her chest and heard her heart beating. She was breathing. I grabbed the phone and went to dial 999. “Bollocks, no, that’s England, what the hell do you dial here?” No bloody idea. And then my fingers just dialed “18” of their own accord and I got through to the emergency services. As soon as I mentioned the word ‘seizure’ and ’13 month baby’ the voice said they were sending the firemen straight away. Firemen? “THERE IS NO FIRE..” And then I remembered that in France, the firemen have medical training and are often sent out to medical emergencies. “Ils seront là dans 20 minutes, madame”. so I sat on the sofa with my little unconscious Léonie, stroking her forehead and talking to her. After a while she started to come round. She was dazed though. “MUMMY!” screamed Tommy from his bedroom upstairs “ME GONNA BE SICK AGAIN!” … “I’m coming Honey, try to do it in the bowl”. I carefully carried Léonie upstairs and helped Tommy, not that there was much to do as he had become a professional puker and had perfect aim by then. But he wanted me to be with him each time, as if that made it easier. The phone rang downstairs, I went as fast as I could with Léonie in my arms, it was the firemen, lost in our tiny village, trying to find our house. By the time I had explained a neighbour had shown them anyway. They came dashing up the stone staircase, about to overshoot our house, and jumped when I called them. In they came, three big firemen in their firemen uniform and all their equipment. Our kitchen suddenly seemed tiny. I lay Léonie on the sofa and the one in charge examined  her while his colleague went upstairs to check Tommy out. “She seems okay, but we need to take her to emergency ward.”

“Fine” I said, “I’ll just grab some clothes for the two of them.”

“Er, no, we can only take one patient per fire engine.”

“Ah. So what do you propose I do with my 4 year old boy who has been puking his guts out for the last 18 hours and is now severely dehydrated and panicking because I’m not up there with him right now?”

“Could you leave him with a neighbour?”

“Right. Okay. Thank you for coming, you can all go now. I’ll drive both of them to hospital in my car. Good bye.”

“Erm, you probably shouldn’t drive right now madame – you’re in shock and you haven’t slept all night …”

“I AM NOT LEAVING MY SON HERE ON HIS OWN, ESPECIALLY NOT WHILE HE IS IN THE THROWS OF A VIOLENT GASTROENTITIS VIRUS. SO EITHER YOU TAKE THE THREE OF US OR YOU LEAVE NOW.”

They looked at each other. “Okay, we’ll bend the rules, we’ll take you all. Quickly get their things. You carry your baby and we’ll carry your son and your bags.”

So I threw all the clothes in the clean washing basket into a bag, grabbed my phone and some other bits and bobs which I was only half conscious of taking, wrapped Tommy up in a towel and handed him to the biggest fireman, bundled Léonie up and off we went, Tommy calling out for his bowl and the fireman reassuring him that they had everything he would need in the fire engine.

To Be Continued … (mainly because I am knackered and want to go to bed, but partly because I thought I would try out a cliffhanger technique to see if this gets you tuning in to the next episode : “Double Gastro : Hospital and the evil Doctor She-Devil”.

Black ice

Most of my devoted readers (that’s two sisters, one Dad, two cousins) will no doubt be awaiting today’s missive with baited eyes as I have already sent them photos of this morning’s adventure. In fact, Sister Two (they’re numbered according to the order in which they pledged solemn lifetime allegiance to my blog), when she saw the photos, said “well, at least you’ll have something to write on your blog”. And I have to admit, I did have the same thought myself, despite having risked life, limb and limbic system in the space of seven seconds. I think it lasted seven seconds – that’s enough time to think ‘FUUUCCKKK, JEEEEEEEEZ, WHAT HAPPENS IF WE GO OVER THE EDGE? DID I TIGHTEN TOMMY’S SEAT-BELT PROPERLY? WILL WE BE CRUSHED TO SMITHEREENS? BLOODY HELL, RUNNING INTO THAT SIGNPOST DIDN’T STOP US! NOR DID THOSE BUSHES! HERE WE GO! GOODBYE WORLD!” Basically, it snowed yesterday, melted a bit, froze overnight, turning everything vaguely horizontal into a skating rink. I say vaguely horizontal, as the roads out here in the sticks are all but horizontal. They’re steep and bendy and this morning they were lethal. I left at nine a.m. having spent fifteen minutes de-icing the car, pouring hot water on the windscreen, chipping stalactites off the door frames and yanking the doors open. I was taking Tommy to his nanny’s house for the morning while I had a meeting with the mayor, the village council and the blokes who are going to be transforming the churned up mudpit which runs around our house into a delightfully pretty paved path – my boyfriend had given me the mission of seducing them all in one clean sweep so that they will a) make sure they leave an opening for a future doorway in the back of our kitchen, b) give us all the beautiful old stones and steps that they may come across while digging, c) rebuild one of our stone walls on their way, d) leave us their power tools when they go. It was a meeting not to be missed at the risk of them doing all the opposite of the list mentioned above, and I had just enough time to drop Tommy off and get back to the village so I admit I was probably in more of a hurry than I should have been on a freezing January morning. But I did notice that our stone staircase was inch thick in ice and I did indeed slip and slide my way down to the car with Tommy dangling from my hand and skeddaddling about on the slippy bits with every footstep. So I drove more slowly than I usually do, but clearly not slowly enough. About five hundred metres down the road from the village I felt that my car was not not entirely doing what I wanted it to do. It was leering out into the middle of the road rather than staying on the righthand side and then turning gently round the bend, a plan I was trying to put into action with the steering wheel. But the wheels had decided to go skippy free wheeling and had let go of all grip on reality and all grip on the road.  Of course I did the wrong thing – I slammed on the brakes. And while doing so I was thinking “This is entirely the wrong thing to do – I should drive INTO the skid, drive INTO the skid” which of course sounds so easy until you’re actually skidding at breakneck speed towards the edge of a mini-cliff and all of a sudden you think, “What the hell do they mean, drive INTO the skid? What on earth does that mean for god’s SAAAAAAAKE, AAAAAAARRRGGHHH!” The car just raced straight ahead, skidding and sliding as we went, and heading towards the edge of the road and thus the edge of the hill. A twenty metre drop awaited us. Not a hundred metre one, as is the case with the rest of that road through the hills, but a jolly good drop nonetheless and certainly enough to have the car drop and roll and crush and splinter, with Tommy and I and a good packed lunch of sausages and mash in it. I saw the signpost saying “La Seroul” speeding towards us, SMASH we took it out, then numerous bushes and saplings CRUSH, they were harshly pruned in a matter of milliseconds, and then, lo and behold, THE EDGE. THE END. DO NOT PASS GO. DO NOT COLLECT £200. And we still weren’t slowing down. And my futile efforts at stopping the car by breaking were doing poop all,  which didn’t stop me from continuing to brake so hard I could feel snow in my left sock. And then the car hit the edge and suddenly we slowed, and the front wheels went over the edge and I had images of The Italian Job and of us teetering there precariously and me having to climb into the back so that there was more weight on the earth side of the car rather than the thin air side, grabbing Tommy and leaping out the back door letting the car smash to smithereens. I of course did it all backwards and hauled Tommy out of his car seat (“Mummy car broken?”) into the front before stumbling out into the snowy brambles, but there was no risk of the car falling as its belly was touching the ground. So there we were. I slid down to the farm and fell into a warm kitchen where Ginette immediately shoved a chocolate biscuit in my mouth and gave me some homeopathy granules for shock before hauling a Fisher Price garage and various toy tractors out of a backroom for Tommy to play with. One of her remedies must have worked as I felt fine within seconds and went back to the car to take some photos for posterity and to frighten my boyfriend with. A 2CV chugged up – it was one of the blokes from the village council offering to drive Tommy and I back home, so off we went and a few minutes later I found myself in a council meeting talking about walls and drainage and minimum wheelchair widths, drinking dodgy coffee with Tommy on my lap watching Monsters vs Aliens on my phone to keep him quiet. So that’s my story for today. I have thoroughly learnt my lesson and if it’s icy tomorrow I shall be rolling at snail speed (I shall hire a snail to ooze along in front of me) with fifty Scotchbrite sponges, the scratchy side out, glued to each wheel. Oh, and the car is fine by the way. Just a fog light broken. And the sausages and mash were also fine, although they’re not now.

credit frauds

My ear infection is still raging on but less painful now. I am deaf on the left side. It’s quite spooky and I now know what it must feel like for old people who lose their hearing and have to strain to understand what people are saying and spend a lot of time feeling that they might have missed something of major importance or simply got the wrong end of someone’s stick. When I sing it’s out of tune – at least it sounds like it’s out of tune. I don’t know if I’m hearing right or wrong, inside or outside of my head. I cross my fingers this won’t last for long.

I’ve just has the horrific discovery that someone has been using my credit card numbers and codes to buy Spanish airline tickets and expensive hoards of cosmetics. 1400 euros has vanished out of my account leaving me with hardly anything left and a credit card that no longer works as they’ve blown my credit limit to Kingdom Come. I’ve just cancelled the card and now I’m going to have to go through the long boring process of filling in forms and taking it all down to the local police station. Just what I needed right now.  As cherry on the cake my mother’s had to go into  hospital – and she came straight out again as she found an old man sleeping in her bed one evening. Sometimes I wish I lived just around the corner so I could pop round and help her and my Dad, but here I am, living far away from everything in our big stone house of woodburner warmth, cut off from the Big Wide World. Although, even the credit card frauds have found me here. Curse their breeches. I shall be sending flames of FRENCH TERROR to cut them down and inflict them with excruciating ear infections for the rest of their days to come.