Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Summer 1983 was wonderful. Long sunny days spent playing in the garden waiting for the arrival of Junior Mad. Madette was a delicious little animal who loved to fill her sunhat up with water and hurl it at her resting mother.

After all the scares of Madette's early arrival, I was desperate to avoid seeing the inside of another neonatal intensive care unit. At 27 weeks, we had a few contractions. They subdued them and put me on ventolin for the duration. A scan at 33 weeks showed everything going according to plan. I was just ecstatic to have reached 33 weeks. They talked about an elective C-section at 37 weeks given the size of the monster versus my small frame. Ha! 37 weeks. If only.

At 34 weeks, I talked to the team at the hospital. Cut a deal. If I could get beyond 36 weeks and the baby was in good general health and it all went well, they would treat us as a normal full-term delivery. I bargained with the Devil to get to the end with a lovely healthy baby.

The sand drained through the hour-glass and I reached 35 weeks. One more week to go. Just hang on in there, little one. Monday I saw the midwife. She said you're not going to be here this time next week, are you? No. I knew that already.

Wednesday, the last day of week 36, was filled with low level back-ache. Just ignore it. Wait till it becomes more interesting before registering it. By the early evening, I'd tidied the house into submission and made sure The Bag was packed and repacked.

Staying with my "keeping it normal" plan, we went to the swimming pool for Madette to have a splash with her dad. I opted out. We hadn't planned a water birth.

After the swim, Madette went off for bedtime to a friend. We watched the clock move slowly through midnight. I'd won. I'd kept my part of the deal. We'd made it through the 36 week barrier. Old Harry smiled over my shoulder.

Junior Mad was born at 04:04. At just under 3kg he weighed nearly twice his sister's birth weight. No high tech delivery. No audience of medical staff and students. I screamed bloody hell and then pop. There he was. Small, peaceful man left in my arms while the midwife cleared away. I unwrapped the blanket and stroked his small perfect hands. Slim fingers, oval nails. Just like my dad, who would never see him.

We moved to the post-natal ward to wait out our time before going home. Babies were kept in the main nursery overnight so he would be there until 8 o'clock. Just before 8, a nurse appeared and said that they were going to move him to special care since he was a bit cold in the main nursery. No. I struggled out of bed. No. Angry, tearful, I composed myself and explained that I'd kept my side of the deal. They had no right to fuck it up by letting him get cold. Ignoring the remonstrations that I hadn't rested for my required four hours, I whirled off to the special care unit, flinching at the sound of the apnoea mattress alarms. Get out of my face, Beelzebub. This wasn't part of the deal.

Holding my babe close, I refused to move. His temperature returned to normal almost immediately. The main nursery had a large window thrown open and the first cool autumn morning air was filling the room. All the babies were a bit chilled. Junior Mad just happened to be the newest one to arrive. Grudgingly, I accepted some breakfast but wouldn't let him out of my sight.

The consultant arrived for the ward round. Perhaps, he should stay in for the day? The consultant saw my jaw set and had another flick through the notes. Feeding normally ... lots of experience with a small baby ... healthy in every respect... no reason not to go home. I swallowed the urge to make a sharp comment about knowing how to keep new babies warm as well. A call to the post-natal ward for a quick check over by a doctor for me and that was it.

Home. Watching the small pulse at the top of his head. Skin against skin. Home. Time to keep my bargain with the Devil. He came to extract his payment. No, not my other child. Not even my immortal soul.

Into the hands of Madette, he thrust a small battery operated dog. A consolation for the baby brother who had just invaded her life. It walked, it barked. It enchanted Madette. It drove me nuts. Every time I settled down to feed Junior Mad, she picked the thing up and off it would go. Twenty-six years on, I can still hear it.

Thanks, Satan. You're a mate. I took the batteries out.

Happy Birthday, Junior Mad

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Wrong Vampire

In 1967, Roman Polanski directed "Dance of the Vampires". A comedy. Yes, THAT Roman Polanski. You know, the one who directed family films like Rosemary's Baby. The synopsis of the plot of Dance of the Vampires runs "The old bat researcher, professor Abronsius and his assistant, Alfred, go to a remote Transylvanian village looking for vampires. Alfred falls in love with the inn-keeper's young daughter Sarah. However, she has been spotted by the mysterious Count Krolock who lives in a dark and creepy castle outside the village ". Along the way they encounter Shagal, the inn-keeper, played by Alfie Bass . Shagal also happens to be a vampire. A Jewish vampire. When a young woman tries to fend off Shagal with a crucifix, he responds "Oy Vey, have you got the wrong vampire".

One of the classic moments of film comedy.

If you've never seen the film, then wait for a lovely cold Saturday evening to hire it. Stay in with a bottle of wine and your favourite sit-in-front-of-a-movie munchies. And prepare to shed tears. It's an absolute hoot.

In the meantime, get out there and give blood. No excuses.

Do something amazing today

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon

After my misanthropic, jaundiced eye on the world yesterday, I offer you something a little bit different.

In addition to all the claptrap angels type of email, I also regularly get the ones that warn you about the people who will offer you perfume and drug and steal from you or the ones that tell you about another health scare. There's a lovely load of rubbish going around about red lipstick. The redder the lipstick, the more deadly it is. Between that and the new deadly computer virus that none of the anti-virus vendors can detect, my mailbox gets about 10 of these emails every week.

I'm a bit of skeptic if not an outright cynic. I look at these things and start with the assumption that that they're not true. If you go to the snopes site, you'll see these urban myths and scare stories deconstructed. Invariably, these emails exhort you to send them on to other people and thus save their lives.

But the fact that our friends and families send these things on tells us a couple of interesting things about our interaction with other people, doesn't it? Firstly, we tend to believe what we are told in good faith by those who love and care for us. Secondly, that they care enough to send these things on. Isn't that good? So I try to keep my cynical gob shut or point them at a reasoned explanation. Of course, it doesn't always work and I may get a flea in my ear.

Back in my consequences post, I suggested that we have an obligation to care for ourselves, body and mind. Don't waste your doctor's time with the trivia. If an aspirin and a lie down will get rid of the problem, then take the bloody aspirin. But when we find an irritating little lump or suddenly active mole or blood where there shouldn't be any, we should take it seriously. And go to the doctor. And not be fobbed off. Don't assume that your GP is lazy or an idiot, but they're busy. And only you know your body. And if you really believe that there is a problem, be persistent. It may be comforting to be told that it's probably nothing. But it's not comforting to find out that "probably nothing" is now acute or worse.

So where is this leading? I followed a link and found myself at an amazing blog. Renee . This lovely lady has breast cancer. No lump. Did you hear me? No lump. But she knew that there was a problem and had this horrible nagging doubt for the months that it took for the correct diagnosis to be made. She doesn't castigate her GP because it's a rare form and the GP had never seen it before. Of all the breast cancers, it only makes up 1 to 5%. If you read one of her early posts, she describes the symptoms and so on. Don't read it if you're a hypochondriac. It's very rare. But if you or someone you know, has unexpected changes in a breast, then have a look at her post you don't need a lump .

This being persistent thing is particularly important for those of us in the "Invisible Generation". Fiftysomethings and onwards. We're supposed to be saggy and wrinkly. Everything's gone south. We get aches and pains. We may have to get up to pee in the night (you know I mean you chaps here). We're supposed to get tired. We're a bit more round in the middle than before. Ha! So some little reminders:

Blood coming out of any orifice
Big clue here: blood belongs on the inside. If we cut ourselves, it comes out. For the girlies, remember we get periods about every 4 weeks. More often may happen once in a while. Once you've been through the menopause, they don't come back. We may get a second childhood, but we don't get a second puberty.
That roll of soft white paper hanging on the wall in the bog should not have any red stuff on it once you've used it.

Tits, balls, come on, you must know what they feel like by now. No lumps.

Strange little things that pop up on our skins. Probably nothing but if you spent every summer in the 60s and 70s lying on a beach covered in chip oil and reading a bonkbuster, check it out.

Getting fat, getting thin
Ok, we may get a bit rounder but not enormous. And if a guy looks like the baby is due any day, don't start knitting. Thin. How desirable. Not if you have no appetite or feel full up or feel queasy. Indigestion after a normal meal? And we may be back to the blood thing too.

This is NOT the default option for middle and old age. Pain is insidious. What was a minor ache may creep towards agony but we forget that pain is not normal and we just learn to live with it. There may be a certain amount of pain associated with the knees, hips, hands because of wear and tear but this should not be a reason to stop doing anything in your life. And that includes a good shag. And if you're on your own, then your hands need to be your best friends not agonising little claws. How the devil will you operate the vibrator otherwise?

Tiredness and sleep
Sleep is lovely isn't it? I adore that moment of slipping into unconscious warmth. Sleeping as an Olympic sport is not lovely. It means we're missing out on such a lot of life. Being awake at 2 am with only your hands to keep you company is not such a good thing either.
Waking up over and over again for a pee is not so good. And for the gentlemen, when you go, you should go. Not stand in the chilly bathroom for 20 minutes, go back to bed and repeat the same thing over again.

My memory started to wobble when I was pregnant with Madette. I'm not sure that it ever came back properly. My mother had dementia. I know the difference. We should still have the same reasoning power and memory. It's not normal to lose your marbles. It's a terrifying prospect, isn't it? But it could be made better by treatment or, tragically, worse by other medication.

Having checked out that you can pee normally, haven't left any telltale streaks of blood anywhere, enjoyed a good meal, can still see the scales when you get on, don't need WD40 on any of the joints, are lump and bump-free and can still manage the crossword, get out there and have fun. Hang-gliding, track-day driving, mountaineering, dancing, shopping. Whatever. None of this is about immortality, it's about avoiding premature death.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Angels and Demons

Are you pissed off with those sweet, tender emails (usually with flying angels) telling you how to live life and inviting you to send them on to 3, 5, 7 or whatever number people you have in your address book. No? Well, it must just be grumpy old me then.

So in lieu of that stuff, here are some words of wisdom from Scott Adams.

"Dance like it hurts, love like you need the money, work when people are watching"