A Positive Diabetic Story


I tried to be positive for a week.  It was not altogether very –

Wait.  I’ll rephrase that.

My positive week had great potential to be more positive.

I find that negative things sometimes fly out of my mouth the moment it is open, a bit like a cat desperate to escape its carry case.

Or more conventionally, you can think of it as a reflex arc: just as a hammer hits the patellar ligament and the knee jerks upwards, so information reches my brain and my tongue forms negative words.

Or else my fingers do. Yesterday I had a conversation on a closed Facebook group (therefore the context has been completely changed) that went a bit like this:

Someone: – Do you think we should bring elephants along?

Me: – Oh yes.  I hate it so much when elephants get excluded.

Someone else: – I think involving elephants would be a really positive thing.

My forehead hit the table in frustration.  DOH!  That’s what I should have said!  It sounded so much warmer!

But anyway:  relax and breathe deep because I have a positive story.

On Thursday I was sitting in the pub with the hubby and a Pale Rider –


Yes!  A beer!  See, it’s positive already.  My current locum job involves Thursdays off.  The kids are already in nursery on Thursday afternoons which means that hubby and I have a few hours alone together.  Yesterday we spent them at the climbing wall, followed by a couple of swift halves.

Anyway: the pub door opened and in came a couple.  She had on a running top and outdoor-style trousers.  And clipped to her trouser belt I spied an insulin pump.

And yes; that’s it.  That’s my positive story.

Elspeth Oct12-pr13 140

If the positiveness of this experience is yet to smash you in the face, let me expand.

It’s rare to meet another Type 1 diabetic.  That’s not scrictly true:  there are 400,000 Type 1s in the UK so one in one-hundred-and-sixty people has it.  But it’s rare to meet one knowingly.  No matter what the Daily Mail tell you, we’re not instantly recognisable because we’re fat or slow or on the floor having a hypo or blind or one-legged or carrying a sack marked DRUGS that we have just robbed from the NHS.  No: diabetics look normal, like me (Ho! Ho!).  So how would you ever pick one out?

It might be easiest to spot the injectors.  Injectors tend to have an injection when they eat.  But a lot of injectors scuttle off to the toilet at this point, so as not to offend any of their company.  (Well it’s not because the public toilet is the most hygenic place to receive a subcutaneous injection, is it?) Or else they have perfected such slieght of hand that their dining companions barely notice.  There are probably a few like I used to be who just stab themselves publicly and have done with it, but that invites comment on their manners (and often on their meal choice) so I expect that they are very few.

Pumps in comparison are extremely descrete.  You can hide them under your clothing and operate them from your key-fob.  And a lot of the pumping population use them subtly like this, because wearing an insulin pump can be like wearing a label:

I have very, very bad diabetes.

I need a bionic pancreas.

Or simply, I am a freak.

I once tried to explain to a care assistant I was working with that I didn’t have a pump because my diabetes was ‘worse’ than average (surely, your body either makes insulin or it doesn’t), but because I wanted to control it better.  She wasn’t having any.

‘My friend hasn’t got one and her diabetes is really, really bad,’ she said, ‘so I can only think what yours must be like.’


But anyway, I have forgotten to be postive for a while so let’s go back to Thursday. There were two women in the pub on Thursday, completely independent of one another, who:

a)  had impeccable taste in beer

b) had indulged in some healthy exercise

c) had insulin pumps on the outside of their clothes.

These women were not worried about people knowing about their pump, or that they were diabetic.

The presence of a pump was probably lost on most of the people who saw them, but the point is that had anyone happened to look twice, they would have seen that diabetic people can have a lovely time, can exercise and can drink beer.  And that having an illness is a very tiny and coincidental part of who they are and not something that they feel they need to cover up.

And if that’s not positive, I have no idea what is.

Extreme Positivity

Or:  How is Positivity like Ironing?


My friend Becky says I was hard on myself last week when I discussed my own parenting.  To put it into perspective, Tiddler and Toddler are generally happy-enough little buggers so we’re probably doing OK.

When I criticise the slack, wobbly aspects of my body there is often someone who says that I ought to be kinder to myself about that, too.

But I know that I would undoubtedly feel, look and perform better if I ate a lower-fat, lower-carb diet and if I did my core exercises.  And my kids would undoubtedly be happier and more confident if I was more positive.

Still.  It’s been a long day, I’m tired and stressed and at the supermarket. It turns out that cream-cakes are on special.  Naturally, I am thinking, ‘Ah Well. I’ll eat sensibly tomorrow.’

And that same supermarket trip, Toddler is whining.  It’s as though she hasn’t noticed the cream-cakes in the trolly.  She’s hungry, she wants to buy jelly and Tiddler is poking her.  But remember:  I’m stressed and busy and also cross with myself about the cream-cakes.  So I tell her to be quiet.

And now I am stressed, busy, cross with myself about the cream-cakes and about snapping at my child.  I swear to do better tomorrow, when I’m less stressed.  Honestly, I will…..

And before I know it, tomorrow has arrived.  And have positive parenting, exercise and healthy eating got any easier while I was asleep?

…. How can i say this positively? ….

Perhaps they will do tomorrow.

I answered an advert for a free 30-minute try-out with Bea Marshall, a parenting coach (www.beamarshall.com/blog).  I think this woman is super.  Apparently, she doesn’t ever say ‘no’ to her kids – and we’re talking in a ‘guide-the-children-positively-to-make-confident-effective-decisions-for-themselves’ sort of a way, rather than a ‘letting-them-walk-all-over-you’ sort of a one.

It’s not a policy I can see myself adopting, but I do find her inspirational.  Not so much her lack of negativity with her children or even her articulate speaking on the subject (U-tube), but the fact that she didn’t say anything negative to me.  We had maybe five interactions.  During this time I inarticulately criticised her blog, took a coaching session, admitted that it was extremely helpful, wavered a lot, found what I perceived to be a problem with the booking form on her website, questioned her prices and then announced that I was not prepared to pay them.

(Yes, I know that you can’t put a price on improving interactions with your children, but everyone has a budget).

What did she say to that?  Of course, she thanked me for my feedback, said that she ‘honoured’ my decision and added:-

I also deeply admire and appreciate your honesty ….. that honesty and ability to ‘own’ your choice is powerful. Thank you.

So.  Bea says everything that the buisness communication books would reccommend.  And she says it with genuine warmth.  It is the very skill that I’d like to get better at.

But when I thought about it, I started to worry.  Is such studied warm communication healthy?  How would I ever know if someone like Bea liked me or not?  And if I was so disarmingly nice to everyone myself, how would I be myself?  How would I distinguish my friends?  By insulting them (even) more?

And then I realised:  I am having these thoughts under the assumption that Bea is a negative person hiding beneath a mask of postivie speaking.  Maybe this doesn’t have to be.

Maybe Bea is actually genuinely always positive; maybe it’s not a mask.  I’m not saying that she got my e-mail and her very first thought was:  ‘Wow!  Look at Liz; see how she’s owning that decision!’

But I certainly believe that she would walk around the supermarket thinking not ‘how tired and hungry I am’ but something like: ‘I can’t wait to get home and enjoy all this food.’

And not ‘What a horrid noise my Toddler is making’ but ‘How good it is that my children are communicating their needs to me!’

Perhaps she’d discover which of her children’s needs were most pressing and find time to deal with one or two.  I’ll bet you she would have found a way to make the cream-cakes on a offer a good thing, without eating too many.

Do you know, I think extreme positivity might be a little bit like the anceint craze of extreme ironing.  It seems faintly ridiculous from the outside but when you start doing it, perhaps it makes you happier; leads to great things; makes you stand out.

In fact, I’m going to try.

I have a good relationship with my children and my post was just me being strong enough to identify where this needs to be improved.  I would also like to bring my diet into balance and obtain a stronger core…..

But most of all, this week I am going to try to be positive for a week.

I’m sure that I have the potential to be excellent.


My Unpositive Parenting


Bank holiday was one of those dark, dark parenting days.

The ones I pretend don’t exist, when they drag their feet and scream and whine.  And I drag my feet and scream and whine, and control them with threats and bribes.  On those days, or in those mornings (I was never a morning person) I have a little theory about parenting.

The theory is that it takes a certain person to be the parent I’m trying to be.  A positive, glowy sort of person.

You know those poeple who say ‘hello’ to you in such a warm tone of voice that you automatically ‘know’ that they like and accept you?

Like them.

Who say to children ‘tell me about it’ and are fascinated by the answer, not secretly wishing that the kid would go away and read a bloody book by themselves for ten minutes?

Like them.

Someone is down on their knees doing some kind of task, when a child lands heavily on their back.  Instead of their natural reaction being ‘I’m busy!  Git Orf!’ they turn around and laugh.  And they go ahead and complete that task with a child on their back, while doing their best impression of a donkey.

*Sigh* exactly like them.

And you know the infant walking down the street as though considering overtaking a glacier?  And you know that some parents don’t whine at them to ‘hurry up‘ or bribe them to go faster, but shout:  ‘Look!  There’s a dinosaur!  Let’s catch it!’

(and of course, they’ve succeeded in raising the kind of kid who goes ‘Yeah!  Let’s!  I love catching dinosaurs!’ and not the sort who says, ‘Don’t be silly Mummy.  That’s not a dinosaur.’)

Yeah.  Well.  Like them.

And in my dark, dark parenting moments, the truth is that I am not one of those people.  I am a jaundiced, snappy parent.

On Bank Holiday Monday, I woke up at 7.00am feeling irritable.  Tiddler was shouting.  I let him shout for a couple of minutes because hubby was not in bed next to me, so I assumed he was already up and about and completely ignoring Tiddler out of pure laziness.

Then I remembered I’d given hubby a long overdue day off and that he would, by now, probably be dangling from a rock somewhere on a rope.  (I exaggerate.  But he’d probably made it as far as the motorway).  So I swore and got out of bed.  Going round the corner, I met Toddler coming the other way.

‘Mummy.  Tiddler’s Crying.’

And I know that some glowy-positive parent would have put her arm around her, wished her a good morning and the two of them would have cheered up Tiddler together.  Let’s just say that’s not the response she got.

The day continued in this vein.

7.05:  Daddy hasn’t got any cereal in.

7.07:  Or many nappies. Yikes.

7.09:   Yes, Toddler, I know there’s porridge in the cupboard, but I don’t like making porridge….

7.11:    Luckily it’s instant porridge with instructions on the side.

8.00:    Daddy’s accidently driven away with the buggy in his car.

8.05:    I can’t get this bloody Toddler-sling on…..

8.45:    I know you think it’s funny, Tiddler, but I STILL can’t get this bloody sling on.

8.50:    (Hurls sling to floor)  BLOODY SLING!

8.55:     Hang on, the old buggy’s still in the garage

9.00:     Oh shit but the garage door is still off its hinges…..

9.01:     Toddler, stop smiling and make sure Tiddler is safe for a minute while I break into  the garage.

9.03:     Hate spiders.  Wound it be ethical to send Toddler crawling through this gap under the garage door instead, do you reckon….?  And pass the buggy out?  S’pose not…..

9.08:     Look!  A buggy!  In you get, Tiddler

9.13:     For F**ks sake I’m covered in oil now.  Stupid door.  I’m not going out looking like this!  Back into the house, everybody…..

….and then i had to laugh, because while I was shouting and stomping like a two-year-old, blaming poor Daddy for everything that happened to go wrong, the kids had been having a lovely morning.  They were now sitting on the doorstep waving to passing cars while Mummy waved her arms about.  But they were soaking up Mummy’s display of stress-management like little sponges, no doubt.  Ready for future use.

(Unsurprisingly, Toddler is ‘going though a phase’.  She complains about every little bump and hurt.  She says ‘no’ to me a lot.

‘Sorry Mummy,’ she said to me the other day, ‘but I’m too busy trying to concentrate on this.’

I wonder where she’s heard that before?

Oh bugger.  Mummy fail).

But do you know?  Mummy’s Bank holiday got better.  Because once we got the ricketty ancient buggy into Sheffield City centre, I decided to be positive.  That is, to say ‘yes’ when they wanted to play in the fountains.  And chase pigeons. And choose some street food.  And on the way back home, I forgot to get frustrated again.  The kids and I kept the whole tram amused with our rendition of ‘Heads, Shoulders Knees and Toes’ and – to cap it all – Toddler said, ‘where are we, Mummy?’

-and I said, ‘Look!  There’s a sign.  Can you read it yourself?’ –

and Tiddler said, ‘W-e-st St-r-ee-t.  West Street, Mummy.’

and the whole tram looked extremely impressed.

At least, in my head they did.

And on sunny, bright parenting afternoons like that, I have a little theory about parenting.

That being positive is a choice, like being confident:  not something we are all naturally good at but something we can all practise.

After all, nobody is naturally always pleased to be interrupted by a Toddler when they are doing something.  Nobody has a natural predisposition to pretend to be a donkey every time a child lands on their back when they are trying to weed the garden.

No.  An innate predisposition to responding perfecty and positively to your kids is probably a fantasy.  But it is still a choice available for us to make.

Just – anyone else find it cripplingly difficult?

Desert Island Discs


Go on (those of you who listen to Radio 4), admit it.

You have already planned your Desert Island Discs

( http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qnmr ).

Despite not being famous.

Or massively successful.

Oh, ok.

So it’s just me then, is it?

Never mind: I wasn’t going to share them with anyway.  I’m saving it all for Kirstie Lang.

Choosing my discs was hard though;  I’ve never had strong opinions about music, even though I grew up playing three instruments.  Mostly I just listened to whatever the people around me told me was good – and I don’t mean my peers.  So, I listened to Gilbert and Sullivan, the popular classics, brass band repetoire, songs from the shows and 70s folk-rock.  Friends and family looking to improve matters over the years bought me CDs, and a few of those – Billy Joel, Seth Lakeman, Bob Dylan, Bellowhead, The Cranberries – I still sing along to.

Well, I say sing along:  I can’t sing.  But I can remember all the lyrics.  I’ll be mouthing along to them in the BBC studio.

But you know the really sad thing?  Living with a few tracks on a desert island is supposed to be some sort of challenge.  Where as actually, there would be more music on said Desert Island than there is now in my normal life.  I barely listen to music now. It was brought home to me that my only surviving CD player is in the car when my daughter asked me to play her some music and I had to go to U-tube.  I really need to hurry up and get some MP3s together to subject my kids to.

Anyway.  When I was a teenager I had a crush on a singer.  That is, ‘crush’ in the way that patronising grown-ups used to use the word ‘crush.’  Nothing major.

That is, the all-consuming, daydreaming, fantasising, hero-worship sort of obsession that teenaged girls (and possibly boys) get on singers, that’s all.

So far so normal.  Except, my singer was a real bloke.  Someone I went down the pub with.  I’d never heard him sing.

Anyway.  Enough of that.  Move on a decade to the Facebook era, when I spot his profile picture online.  ‘Singer / songwriter,’ it says – and the inevitable happens.  That is, I’m on U-tube within minutes..

And it’s a bit of a shock, because – you know – he can actually sing.  I’d never suspected this.  I listen to something he’s recorded and there’s the familiar voice and it’s – Wow.  So when we get talking, I tell him I’m impressed.

The singer / songwriter calls me up on it.  He wants to know which songs.  Which lyrics.  So I go to his page and scroll back.

And then I realise.  The stuff that stopped me breathing – those songs were the covers.  The original stuff was cool, but not what stood out.  I felt a bit disappointed – in me, not him, because clearly I didn’t get it, did I.

The singer points out with all the patience of someone explaining to a 5-year-old, ‘Yeah. They’re better songs.  Those are the songs I wish I’d written.’


I go away and chew on this for a few days and come to the (slow) conclusion that the fact that I was automatically comparing his stuff to the massive international hits – the stuff you hear played all the time – is probably more signficiant than the fact that it’s the covers that first made me say ‘Wow.’  I conclude that he’s probably doing OK.

Now.  I suspect that my singer has been songwriting – successfully, too – for a few decades longer than I’ve been trying to write a story.  And he already knows he can sing.

But of course, I’m just discovering writing and when I first read chunks back I sometimes think:  ‘Listen to that!  Maybe I can write!’

But now that I have finished my first story, my general impression is this:  ‘I put five months work into this?  But it’s so ‘Meh!’

But wait! – the main other thing I read, apart from my own work and veterinary textbooks, are novels that are already extremely successful.  So what do I expect?

In fact, there will be a lot of that before I write something that is expected to end up in the same concert as an International Hit.  There will be a lot of ‘meh’ feedback.  A lot of ‘that bit didn’t work for me,’ I lot of ‘I got bored,’ before I ever write – which, with 2 children and the job, I probably won’t – something that’s going to take over any bookshelves.

Anyway, there is a happy outcome to all this gloomy thought.  About a week after my chat with the singer, something occured to me:  I could still hear his songs in my head.  Not just the hits, but his songs as well.  I could still write down a few of the words.  Maybe it’s in honour of my teenage self, but I went back and I listened again.

Two lessons learned here.  First, in asking for feedback on the novel I’ve just finished, I have to understand that people will always compare me to whatever decent, published thing they’ve read lately.  At least they’ll be able to tell me when I finally get it right.

And the other?  Yeah, you guessed.  Just when you think you’ve got it sorted, it will always turn out that you haven’t.  Because now I have to go back and rethink things.  I’ve found a cool new entry for my Desert Island Discs.


Teach your daughter to say ‘vagina’ loudly and clearly and not to be embarrassed by the word.

So said a Facebook forward.  Crikey – was this even contraversial?

I read through the comments just in case.  And yes, it turned out to be.  I found people commenting to the effect that we don’t teach our children to say ‘brachium': we just call it an arm.  So why use ‘posh’ medical terms for the private parts?

Well, because I don’t know a ‘common’ unloaded, child-friendly universally-recognised equivalent for ‘vagina’.  The words all sound demeaning, jokey or rude.  As though you’re trying to avoid referring to something by its real name.

‘My tuppence looks a bit funny….’

As a vet in South Yorkshire, I have examined a lot of tuppences. The first time I gritted my teeth in case i’d guessed wrong.  But I had not.

It gave me false confidence in my guessing though.  A few months later, a bloke in Newcastle brought in a huge, uncastrated male great dane and asked me to look at its dominoes.  His face was a pretty colour when he had to explain he’d meant its teeth.


So can you think of a better word?  (For vagina, not teeth).  Is there a word as sensible and unloaded as ‘arm?’

Obviously, I googled it.  There were descriptive ones:  ‘Box,’ ‘Bearded clam,’ ‘Badly wrapped kebab,’ ‘Sideways smile,’ ‘Melissa’s mop-bucket.’  There are ruder ones (I’ll spare you those) and then there were things like FuFu, Fanny and Pussy.

So. ‘Vagina’ it’s going to be.  As soon as Toddler realises it isn’t part of her ‘bottom.’  And I have already heard her explaining very cheerfully to strangers that her bother has a ‘penist.’

Talking of Tiddler; Tiddler’s talking too.  He says the usual sort of thing:  ‘Quack-quack,’ ‘more,’ ‘mum,’ ‘Uh-oh’ and ‘No.’  Especially ‘no.’

Now is a traditional time for ‘Mother-ease’ (as researchers used to call it in the sexist seventies), more commonly referred to as ‘Baby-talk.’  You can imagine I’m not the sort of person who does this naturally (‘Shall we put our socky-wockies on our piggy-wiggies, then?’)  which is a shame because it’s supposed to be useful for the kids. Parents apparently have an evolved or cultural urge to do it.  But not this parent.

Still, I’m good with silly poetry and animal noises. I focus on that.  Toddler could make all the farmyard noises before she got ‘Mama’ and ‘Dada.’  Except for rabbits, of course.  There’s always that awkward silence when they want me to make a noise like a rabbit.

Pig noises cause issues, though.  I nearly died when Tiddler was the only one at Cathedral playgroup who did loud, realistic pig snorts in ‘Old McDonald’ instead of squeaking ‘oink, oink.’

There are times when linguistic development is not something to celebrate.  Soon they will learn that ‘bad’ language that shows a lack of imagination.  Of course, I say this with my tongue in my cheek: ‘Fuck’ is one of my favourite words:  it can be used as a noun or a verb, or adapted for adjectives with numerous different meanings.  Or simply as an emphatic space-filler.

You’d never have heard my Grannie say ‘fucking.’  She used to use the word ‘Damn,’ but it didn’t quite have the same versitility. ‘Damn’ was a polite swear-word harping back to a time when words to do with hell were even more evocative than those to do with sex.

Anyway, ‘Damn’ it was. And occasionally, ‘Sugar.’  But surely it takes as little imagination to say ‘sugar’ as ‘shit?’  ‘Damn’ as ‘Fucking?’  Sure, your choice of swear word marks out your generation but swearing is the way you use the word, not the word itself.  I thought I’d try ‘crocussing’ out, to describe my singing.  It is spring, after all.

I don’t want to “convey my frustration, isolation or embarassment at being unable to vibrate my vocal cords at such a speed that they resonate with those of the people around me in church.”  This is not what I want to say.

I want to say….

“How crocussed off am I not to be able to crocussing sing!”

You see?  For the introduction of a swear-word, the meaning comes out far more emphatically.

But there are words that make me wince.  I don’t like the c-word much (not ‘crocus,’ the other one).  I’ve already mentioned that words to do with sex were last generation’s shocking (following on from those about hell which were dying out by my Grannie’s time).  Well, one of my generation’s most evocative swear-words is to do with the female private parts and that ,makes me feel very sad.  Did I mention that I like the word ‘vagina,’ myself?

But back to the point: what should i tell the kids?  That I don’t swear?

Perhaps if they were stupid.

Sadly my kids are brighter than me.  They seem to win battles where, given the size and strength of the competetors, you would have thought the odds should be stacked against them.  They spot double-standards everywhere.  (‘Stop whining, Mummy,’ said Toddler the other day,  She sounded like my mother…..).  ,

Anyway, they’ve heard me swear so they are going to have to learn the more complex version.  About assessing situations before breathing out certain words.  I sometimes get that wrong and doubtless so will they.  I worry about getting into trouble with their school-teacher.

Still, they can always revert to their wonderful childish charm they carry about in their mouths.  Toddler now has sentences, and the ones that don’t begin with ‘why’ are beautiful.  I’ve never been more proud than when I heard her say she’d ‘putted’ something away – and not just because of the tidiness, but because she had taken the past tense rule and applied it to the word ‘put.’  She hadn’t copied ‘putted’.  It was something to celebrate.

And then there is a chestnut that still makes me smile every day:

‘Look, Mummy.  I’ve found snowdroppings.’

Thoughts on a First Draft


When I was about fourteen (which would make him about seventeen) my big brother set me a challenge.  He didn’t mean it as such.  He probably only said it to counter my whinging and has probably long forgotten:

‘If you think everything you write is so rubbish, why don’t you try and write a story you think is good?’

But I haven’t forgotten.  It has been bothering me even since.

You see, it would be impossible – or at least would require an ego even bigger than mine – to think your work is perfect.  But ‘Good?’  Well.  ‘Good’ should be acheivable, shouldn’t it?

Which is basically the reason I am still trying to write a story.

* * *

Actually, I have written a story.  Kind of.  I am sensible that it doesn’t work and wouldn’t call it ‘good.’

I’m not sure that it begins in the right place or ends in the right place, or that it is told in the right order.

In fact, I am sure that it is not told in the right order, but I can’t decide which the right order is.  Or even if I’ve told the right bits.  In the right voice.

Or even, to be honest, if I like the story any more.  You can suffer over-exposure to stories, you know. Even to good ones, like Frozen.

All I can say for sure is that the quality of the writing deteriorates from the place where I started to write to the place where I stopped.  That was my spirit flagging as I wrote.

And having written it, I am full of confusion as to what to do next.  So I save it as ‘First Draft’ and send it to one or two people who have never seen it, who I hope are going to give their different takes on why it doesn’t work.

Maybe, I think, I can put it right.

* * *

I am about to hit ‘send’ when a thought occurs:  what if my friends think these characters are ME?  Sure, there is a bit of me in every character.  A different bit of me:  people are so complex that you can take a bit of yourself and invent a whole new person around it.  But what if people assume I am writing about myself?  One of my characters actually commits suicide.  Bu you don’t need to worry, folks:  you don’t have to hammer my door down to check I’m still alright.

There’s conventional wording of course, that I could use:  This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to anyone living or dead is entirely coincidental.

But I hovver of the send button:  is that entirely true?

Then I think: some of the situations in this story are based on a small part of my own experience, but not beyond the first extremely basic idea and usually not really that.

Bit wordy, though.

Even wordier:  don’t worry I haven’t done a William Horwood.  I was half-way through his first memoir when i was struck by how similar his life was to my favourite of his characters, Jim Stonor.

Or how about:  I am an oversharer.  If my sex life or job or feelings were like the more extreme of those of my characters, you can guarentee I would already have written all about it in my blog.

It still sounds too much like denial.  I delete it.

These characters are not me or anyone I know.

I delete that, too.  Write it back in again.  Delete it.  Rewrite.  And eventually I get bored of this process and get round to pressing ‘send.’

* * *

Imagine you congratulate a runner on their time, then look at their face and realise that  they are disappointed.  Although, as a runner, I like to pretend that I am completely uncompetitive and think it’s better to run a race slowly than never having run at all.

I try to apply these scenarios to story feedback.  If people say my story is wonderful, it will be a bit embarrassing because I know it’s nowhere nearly ready yet.

If they think it’s rubbish….. I can pretend I’m not competing with anyone except myself.

In 2005 or thereabouts I showed a bit of writing to a guy.  At that time, I had never asked anyone except my school-teachers for feedback before (I don’t know what my long-suffering writer-friend Viv did with her spare time in those days) and neither had I been very critical of my work.  Anyway, the bloke (I happened to know) fancied me, so I sat down and waited for a complement.

Unfortunately he was studying film at uni.  He knew a bit more about storytelling than me.  He scanned the first page and said ‘Meh.  That character’s compeltely flat.’

My arrogant little head nearly rolled off my shoulders in shock, but it was the best thing he could have said.  I went away and started practising writing characters.  I’m still not sure they’re convincing yet.

* * *

Self-delusion is terrible.  I’m trying to write something I think is good so that I can share it with you all.  But honestly, this may take some time because I have to like it first:  I won’t be self-delolved (real word, that).  Meanwhile I tell people I write ‘stories’ or ‘am pretending to write a book.’

Gareth raises his eyebrows.  ‘Has it ever occured you to stop pretending and just write one?’

I probably pull a face, and don’t mention that he sounds a bit like my big brother sometimes.

Toddler (3) and the trip to A&E

It’s five minutes to bedtime.  Today the stars were in allignment: nobody currently has chicken-pox, the weather has been sunny; we had picnic food in.

We have only needed Frozen once today.  And they ate all their veg at dinner.  What’s more, they are now chomping apples while Mummy loads the dishwasher, singing ‘For the first time in Forever…..’  because she’s awarded herself a Golden Mummy Star.

A full evening’s writing beckons.  What could possibly go wrong?

 * * *

I think I might be at the laid-back end of risk-assessment the spectrum.


Yes I did let my kids play on the stairs / swing / grown-up swing / slide / climbing frame as soon as they felt ready.  Yes they did feed the animals at the farm / look a little too closely at the cow-pats / let Canada geese take bread straight from their hands.  Yes I do let them walk on the ice without holding on / eat out-of-date food / eat things that have touched the floor (within reason) / climb on chairs.  I even feed them my own cooking.

So I never go a month without somebody forecasting some terrible accident for them:

– that kid’s going to hit the deck.

– you’ll be in A & E with both his legs broken

– I can already hear the sound of his skull hitting the table.

Now.  I am not so stupid as to maintain that it will never happen to my children.  But I am also averse to teaching my children to be afraid.  Let’s just say there’s a balance point and that if you place any two parents in a room together, there will always be two different ideas of exactly where the balance falls.  There will always be someone in your life more paranoid – and someone shockingly less paranoid – than you.

It still makes me chuckle that Naomi was stopped in a department store by someone ‘not wanting to criticise her parenting style’ but just wanting to point out that she was exposing her daughter to the risk of being kidnapped by standing too far away from the pram.

Anyway.  I don’t think even Naomi’s concerned woman in John-Lewis would have found fault with my letting the children eat apples while i filled the dishwasher.

But I’m sure you realise there is an A&E trip coming.  It went like this:

‘Mummy.  I’ve got something up my nose.’

‘What sort of something?’

‘A bit of apple.’

‘How did that get up there?’

‘I poked it up!’  The word ‘poked’ was given animated, high-pitched emphasis.

‘Let’s have a look.’

Actually, I have pulled something out of my daughter’s nose before:  a furry red pom-pom about the size of a small conker when unsquished.  For that I used a headtorch and a pair of forceps (I wouldn’t have got a gold Mummy star that day).  Anyway, here we go again.

I can see the apple.  I banned those pom-poms after that (can you imagine one in a small intestine?  Shudder!) but at that moment I was regretting it:  bits of apple are harder to grab.  I don’t try too hard because she keeps wriggling, and because I know it’s badness to push it further in or damage the mucous membranes.

*sigh* What I ought to be doing is getting an educated opinion on the matter.

‘Mummy,’ says Toddler, looking over my shoulder at the letters on the screen.  ‘Is that word ‘Google?’ ‘

Anyway, the NHS website suggested A & E.

What a gruelling place.  Tiny babies look limp or fight for breath; toddlers cuddle up to their parents.  A happy, bigger child plays in the soft-play bit, completely oblivious to the grotesque-looking eye / wound / head-lump that is worrying the rest of us.

My two just look excited.  It’s past their bedtime and there’s soft-play!  A girl accompanying her toddler sister is soon chasing them around, pretending to be a shark.

I want the ground to swallow me up.

‘Scream quietly, Toddler!’ I hiss, as she leaps over a pile of foamy blocks and bounces, giggling, off the wall.  ‘Calm down!  Look ill, can’t you!’

‘Why?’ says Toddler

‘Because we’re in hospital.’

‘I like hospital.’

(Sometimes I think we give kids the wrong idea.  They also think that ‘medicine’ means ‘special treat’, ‘Mummy’s Medicine’ being wine gums and their medicine being Calpol).

Anyway, the triage nurse was fab.  What I should have done when my kid got something smooth and round lodged in her nose:  blocked off the opposite nostril with a finger, made a seal round her mouth as though doing mouth-to-mouth on an adult, and blown.

Fine.  We could go home.  Which was just as well as the risk of my children being strangled by some other parents was probably rising.

‘Oh no! You ddin’t venture into A & E!’ says another parent the next day.  ‘They’ll probably come down with viruses now.’

And 48 hours afterwards of course, they did.