Another Percy

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The Percy Pud, our local 10K, is popular;  finishers get seasonal desert.  I’ve blogged about it previously, but didn’t enter this year, being ill.

I had been out of hospital for a few weeks, when the Facebook market in second-hand places began.

The race, apparently, was tomorrow.

Gulp.  But hey – I probably could….

‘I’m sure you can,’ hubby agreed, ‘But I’m not sure you can navigate to the start.’

‘Course I can.’

Sounds simple, no?  Its not very far from our house.  Route to start-line into phone;  phone on charge.  Full running kit; write list; check eighty times.  Then I got something in my eye.  It itched like hell.  I fell to sleep with the ball of one hand pushing against my eyeball.

The next morning, my eye was glued to my palm with green slime.  My sclera looked disgusting, but the pain had gone.

I decided not to run.  I strode up and down for ages, trying to decide for definite, and decided not to run again.  Then I changed my mind.  Hunted round the house, checked everything I needed eighty times more, worried about the route.  Picked up the phone, squinted at it, started walking.  This was tricky:  the run was no-where near where I’d remembered.  But I merged with a parade of walking runners, some in costume, and followed them.  We came to a standstill outside a marquee.  I left my fleece by the third tent-pole to the left of the entrance, and wrote that down.

Then I looked at the sea of runners.  There were things happening everywhere – an overwhelming Where’s Wally? scene.  Suddenly, I couldn’t work out what to do next.

Someone explained that I have a clever sort of chip – on the back of my number, see? – and that I needed to wear the number;  ask in the tent for pins.

‘Right.  Thankyou.’

To the pin-person:  ‘Where’s the start?’


‘Where exactly?’

‘You stand next to the marker for the time you think you’ll run.’

Oh yeah!  I knew that, didn’t I!  But – How long does it take me to run 10K?????????

I didn’t ask that.  I’m forgetful, not stupid.  I looked back on Facebook at guessed an hour.  The people standing around me didn’t look intimidatingly fit.  In fact, they didn’t even look intimidating.  Okay, then.  I walked forward.  55 minutes.

There were some awesome costumes, but I can’t remember now what they were.  At some cue, the crowd began to shuffle.

Last time, running was the hard part.  This time, it was the part I knew how to do:  run.  Stay with the marker.  It was getting uncomfortable but it wouldn’t be forever.  After a very long time, we were on the home downhill.  With energy to speed up! – smugness.

The cheesy brass band made me feel quite elated.  I even remembered where to pick up my stuff.  But – oh shit – how was I meant to get home?

The story doesn’t end brilliantly.  Hubby and I found each other.  We were meeting family at the sculpture park.  The kids sang loudly in the car.  The conjunctivitis got worse and I got grumpy.  I lasted half the day with my family, then went for a rest in the car again.

Except – I didn’t make the car.  I’d bloody forgotten where we’d parked.  I wandered round lost for a while, then, after what seemed like hours, bumped back into the family, even shorter-tempered than before.

But let’s not focus on that.

A message came.  I’d done the Percy Pud in about fifty-seven minutes.  Better than last year, apparently.

Small victories.




Being More…..


“Remember:  the buzz-word is ‘moderation’,” one of my nurses said on discharge.

Moderation?  Really?  Not my kind of buzz-word it’s not.

Moderate people are not bright or stupid, tall or short.  They’re not sarcastic, laughably polite, or known for their interesting facial expression.  Moderate people don’t get carried away with mad ideas to change the world.  They wouldn’t make big romantic gestures, or spend whole weekends having sex.  Not that I’d want a weekend of sex with a ‘moderate’ person.  It’s the slightly immoderate characteristics that make a person shine.

I went for a run on my own.  The freedom made me ecstatic.  I ran with abandon until I could suck no more air into my lungs.  I was soon too knackered to continue, and less than a mile from home.

A friend later reminded me that real runners go slowly, which is how they keep moving.  I tried it and it worked.  When I finally remembered to turn around and go back, I’d already gone far too far..

Perhaps it’s better to run with someone.  I can go much slower and get further with a friend.  Eventually, the plan starts working:  and when you forget everything you don’t run out of conversation.



Regulating my yoga-practice presents similar challenges.  One night in a back-room at the rehab centre, I suddenly clocked that I’d missed dinner doing sun-salutes.  My body was sore and my sugar rock bottom.

Next time, I followed an online class.  Until Lesley Fightmaster said lightly:  ‘you can take a downward dog instead, if that’s too big a stretch.’  She obviously didn’t intend the poor memory-less sucker watching it to feel patronized, pause the tape and practice ‘just one more time,’ and then again several times more because they forgot to stop.   I forgot to repeat it quite so much on the other side, and ended up hypoglycaemic and particularly tight in just one ass-cheek.

Hubby found us a real-life class.  It’s full of people older than us, and includes boring things like sitting properly, warming up and mindful breathing.  When you’re in a class, you can’t skip the boring bits.  You pay attention to your breath, just like they tell you to.  I’d forgotten that yoga was supposed to be relaxing.  The class gives me tightness in all the right places, and a kind of happy, yogic glow.

So moderate exercise is achievable.  Now:  what about parenting?  Tiddler’s homework was to make a model animal.  We had toilet-roll tubes, small boxes and brown and yellow paint.

‘Look!’  I showed him.  ‘What animal can we make?’

‘A dinosaur!’

Not what I’d had in mind, but I had sudden inspiration for a fabulous dino- tail.

Tiddler had a different plan.

‘But that’s rubbish,’ I told him.  ‘Look.  Brachysaurus was actually shaped like this….’

This ‘discussion’ went on awhile.  It got louder and climaxed with Mummy at the top of her voice, like a – well, like a Toddler, actually.  Then I went to bed thoroughly ashamed of myself, for not having had the mental agility to back down.

‘Are you going to read your reading book?’ I asked him another time.


Yes!’  I said, and he read it very well.

‘Now,’ I said, ‘You got a word wrong there.  Will you read that word for me again?’

Tiddler did, and got it right.

‘Good.  No, let’s go from – (shit, I’ve forgotten where we’re up to) – from the top of the first page?’

That’s when he kicked the book from out of my hands.

Overkill with everything:  perhaps that’s how Mummy’s going to be from now on.  People with strong opinions and poor mental flexibility annoy me:  I must equally annoy other people now.

There’s a way to deal with it, however.  I think I’m going to have to be quite kind to myself, you know?  Maybe – just floating an idea here – take some rests.  Not push myself too hard.  Look for moderate options, or something like that.

Moderate options.  Moderation.  Yes:  I think that’s it.

Moderation.  It can be my new buzz-word.





Forgetting Myself

What don’t you appreciate, unless it breaks down?

State education; the NHS; civil rights;  security; the ability to do our thing without some nutter shooting us.  That we can reveal our legs / hair / sexuality;  practice our religion;  swear in the street;  express our views; go to work without being groped.

These basics aren’t as reliable as they should be.  Not even in Britain, where we are ‘lucky.’  Not even in 2017, ‘modern times.’

This is the story of losing something else that I should have appreciated more.

Unaccountably, I was in Hospital.  Someone explained the situation to me, but a few hours later, I woke to find myself in hospital again.  I was just as surprised, because I’d forgotten waking up there the first time.  It happened again, and again, and again- until some of it started to stick:  I was in Hospital – in Bedford, actually (I didn’t need to remember that – it was helpfully printed on the sheets).

I didn’t know why I was there, so I kept asking.  They said I had some memory loss.  I asked them if they were sure.  So they asked me who the Prime Minister was, and the month and year.  I was wrong about both, but named some of the cranial nerves.  Then I went to sleep for a bit and woke up bewildered as before.




Over time – weeks – I became able to understand that I’d lost my short-term memory.  I still knew my friends and family.  I could still talk.  The nurses wished I couldn’t, because I repeatedly initiated the same conversations with them about differential diagnoses, worried I had a brain tumour because they’d ordered an MRI.  Afterwards, I kept forgetting that they’d given tumours the all-clear, and then they decided to order another (more detailed) brain-scan and we went through the whole process again.  ‘Don’t worry,’ they told me, smiling.  ‘Just keep asking.’

So I did.

I still can’t remember the name of the lady in the bed opposite, but I tried to learn it every day.  It was hard to decipher her speech so we wrote notes; I could look back at these for reference.  I started trying to write everything down:  names, diagnoses, news events, recent political history and, especially once I’d been moved to a hospital nearer home, my visitors’ news.  We’d been visiting good friends in Bedford and they were amongst many lovely people who bent over backwards to help us in this period.  I was later gutted to realise that I’d forgotten a years worth of their news.  They were married!  And that’s not all:  other friends had more kids than I’d thought.  A low point was asking a neighbour after his wife.  I think I was at her funeral.

Even with visitors, I kept forgetting to thank people for things but repeating the same news over and over again.  Someone else’s visitor said she’d once worked with my husband in an office:  I refused to take her number because my husband’s a climbing guide, but later I remembered she was right and that I’ve missed the chance to put them in touch.  En route to Sheffield, my wedding necklace came loose and  I refused to let the ambulance guy look after it. Or at least thats what I think happened; several weeks later, I realised I didn’t have it on any more.

I tried to record visits and conversations; to cram my friends’ histories, love-lives and secrets back into my head.  I tried to remember news events;  what I’d had for dinner.  I couldn’t reliably hold on to any of these things, and spent a lot of time in tears.  One day I realized how exhausting all this was and tried to let go of the compulsion to know everything I ‘should’ know.  Another day, I had the same thought and this time managed to write it down.

My glucose control in hospital was terrible, because it was hard to remember what I’d eaten and whether I’d had my insulin.  The doctors wanted to take me off my amazing pump in favour of a system they understood.  I fought them about that until they ran out of diagnostic tests, sighed and moved me on to neurological rehabilitation.

I must have been the most able-bodied person in rehab, but it took weeks to learn the route between the toilet and my bed.  The rehab centre had a garden, and they found me a yoga space, and thanks to books and You-tube I started remembering what to do.  It was a relief after weeks of a hospital bed, not allowed to do physical activities and unable to do cerebral ones.

Actually, that’s not entirely true: you don’t need memory for jigsaws – in fact, to my surprise, I enjoyed them.  I also rewatched films I’d seen before, and remembered the plot.  I  became able to read novels I knew well in one sitting.  This was best done at night, because I’d get lost if I was interrupted.

But now, I also did craft with therapists, sang with musicians, painted bad pictures and wrote tired inspirational quotations on them.  I cried- a lot – after seeing a psychologist, who told me simply that it was okay to be sad.  Losing your memory is distressing, especially when you forgot the fact you’ve lost it and have to relearn the whole trauma several times again.

After that, there was no more they could do to help me, really.  They reckon I might get better, and might even go back to work in a year. Whatever happens, you can read about it here, because a friend reminded me about this blog.  Welcome back, every body and if you haven’t enjoyed it, just be grateful that you can remember it so you won’t be clicking on it again.


A Novel Question



My novel question is this:  why admit to trying to write one?

Why confess to spending hours in a head all by yourself, obsessing over things that aren’t real and trying to write them down?

The vast majority of novels are barely read;  people who write them must be egotists. How else do they persuade themselves for thousands of words to keep writing; that their work is good enough to finish the thing?  There lies, perhaps, a barely distinguishable line between someone with confidence in their outstanding abilities (like JK Rowling), and someone sad, deluded and hopelessly over-committed (like me?).

Yes- that’s right.  Deluded!  I nearly fell off my unicorn at the thought.  Honestly though:  why admit to trying?  Who wants to publicly end up like the woman who wrote this?

In the beginning, I decided not to answer such pivotal questions.  Sidestepping is easy:

–   *surprised look*  – ‘But I’m not trying to write a novel

–  ‘You’re not?’

–   ‘No.  i’m just writing a story.  For fun.  Just for me.’

It’s a great line.  It re-frames the whole idea:  suddenly, I am not some desparado bent on creating a masterpiece, but someone who sits there for hours rearranging the structure of a few sentences because it gives them mental satisfaction.  Readers?  Smeaders.

Reputation intact then.  But is it true?

Who cares?  I used it anyway.  I used it when I started to ask my friends about stuff I didn’t understand.  If they smiled to themselves, I didn’t notice across cyberspace.  I just appreciated it that they helped me out.

In fact, I grew in confidence until I stuck a few of them in a Facebook group, and even sometimes picked up the phone.  I found myself having all sorts of hypothetical conversations with this generous expert gang.

So then I got brave and contacted Sheffield University.  I told them I was a writer doing research: technically true, because I write.  They invited me in and were nice to me and showed me their department.  I went out feeling as though I’d been right to go there and was a step closer to my goal.

Nearly a year later, I’ve finished the first draft of my 110,000 word ‘story.’   Unable to contain myself, I Face-booked that I’d just written a novel.

Then I read it back and gulped.  When had that happened?  Was ‘novel’ actually my word for it now?  It must have crept in steadily over the course of a year;  I’ve become one of those weird egotists after all.  A potential delusional being who likes to spend all evening with her lap-top.  I felt as though, in using the n-word, I had just laid myself bare.

I was still sitting blinking, when a strange thing happened:   ‘likes’ started pinging in.

In fact, people were saying positive things.  Quite a few who’d enjoyed the blog even asked to read it, which made me happy.  Then I thought:  ‘Not yet.  I’ve got to make it as good as I can get it, first.’

So I’ve nonchalantly sent it to a very few (well, two) trusted people, to try and flag up the story’s main problems.  Nonchalance is a must:  I’m obviously not on tenterhooks to learn whether my perception of the current draft’s problems is anywhere consistent with theirs.  I don’t want to put them under any pressure, other than to be honest and tell me every tiny bit that is shit; not to give it praise it doesn’t merit.  I know everyone says that, but it’s true.  I want to know how to make it better, after all.

Anyway, where was I?  Nonchalant.  Yes.  I nonched home from printing and posting out the snail-mail copy, then nonchalantly sat down.  Hubby looked over at me and said mildly, ‘So your sent it second class, I take it?’

Well, obviously – er – I mean, no.

But there’s no point in being ashamed, I suppose.  I’ve put more hours of my life into that than my career for the past year.  I am a person who has invested hours in hoping that I might write something that someone might want to read.  One day.  After some small improvements.  Possibly.  And then, I’ll let it loose on someone.  Somewhere.

So yes.  I am presumptuous.  I am weird.  I am possibly delusional.  I am, after all, an unpublished novelist.  And what’s really weird about it is that I am actually okay with that fact.

Only since I started using the N-word, I have realized that I am not as much as an out-lier as I thought.  Did you know that Sheffield has a novel-off, where people read out bits of their novels in a competition a bit like the X-factor?

In the library, I found out that there’s a group, with other people, all trying to write novels, too!  They are probably human, because they meet in a pub.  I might slink in there one day, and join in.

Before-hand, I’m going to do a recce though.  I’m only going in if there’s a ring on the wall outside, that I can tether my unicorn to.

Running Fails and Christmas Puddings


“What did you fail at today?”

I ask my daughter this a lot.

I myself have multiple failures most days.  I am particularly prone to forgetting things that seem minor until some crucial moment, like how many carbohydrates in the biscuit I just ate (for insulin purposes); or that my current work-place requires me to manually write any drug I use in a book for reordering; or to sign in when I arrive (£100 parking ticket for that one – ouch!) or how to spell my daughter’s spellings when I get home.  I still occasionally snap at my children when what they really need is a hug.  This morning I even got sucked into an argument with my five-year-old about the feelings of a teddy:

‘Muuuuummyyyyy!  We forgot Bruce!’

‘Bruce is fine, love.  I looked in on him and he was fast asleep.  He’s had a very busy few days-‘

‘No Mummy!  He’s not sleepy at all!’

‘He really was, love.  He had his eyes closed and everything.’


I raised my voice slightly.

‘Yes he was!’

‘No he wasn’t!  He slept last night, when I slept!’

‘Well bears must need more sleep than girls, because he was honestly fast asleep.’  (in a ‘case-closed’ sort of voice).

‘He WASN’T!’

‘I told you, he had his eyes closed.’

‘He DIDN’T!’

‘He did!’

Becky, my friend, decided to step in.  ‘It doesn’t matter, does it?  He’s at home at the moment and there’s nothing we can do about it.’

My five-year-old and I probably both gave her the same glare then, but nothing fazes Becky.  She teaches teenagers.

The point, anyway, is that no-one’s perfect, especially not me.  Toddler (5) needs to learn to accept and even laugh about her mistakes, to believe that she’s still a decent person and focus on what she can do better next time.  I don’t want her failures to trigger feelings of shame, or the blaming of other people.  I hope that talking about mine for five minutes every night might somehow help both of us.

Anyway, there’s something big that I’ve failed at this year:  writing my blog.  I sincerely hope that you’ve missed it.  I’ve been writing another novel, you see (having figured out where my last one failed) and it’s taking up a lot of time.

With the blog, come more failures.  Why would you keep a new years’ resolution about only eating when you’re hungry, if you don’t get to blog about it?  I failed to do exercise most days, because there’s often time for novel-writing or exercise but not both.  I failed to train properly for a repeat run of the 9-edges, although I trained better this time than previously.  I even got so fit that I could run so fast that my legs ached, which has never happened to me before.  Then I forgot to get a delivery of cannulas organised for August, ended up reusing old cannulas on holiday and gave myself a cannula abscess just before race-day.  Upshot:  I failed to run.

I entered the Wirksworth Undulator, though.  Andy ran it too and we had a conversation at the start about how it doesn’t pay to start too fast.  I failed to listen carefully enough:  I was struggling after the first hill.  I was three minutes slower than two years ago (when I almost caught Mick Fowler) and Fowler was three minutes faster.  Damn.

I got a place on the Percy Pud however, and proclaimed it to be ‘Run-vember’ with the idea of training every day (growing a mustache is so old-hat).  I kept this up for the first week, before the temperature dropped.

‘Why did you fail to go running, Mummy?’

‘Because I could go running in the dark, or I could be at home snuggled up reading with you, which is a far nicer option.’

She smiled.

Anyway, with a few days to go I mailed my friend to discuss whether to run together.  I run (very slightly) faster than her, but hadn’t trained.  Had I trained, it would have been a no-brainer:  I’d have run on my own.  Having not trained, the choice was between doing my best (and risking being even slower than I thought I was – mortifying if my friend showed up and beat me) or running round slowly with rare and fabulous company.

‘No!’  Hubby said, when I explained my dilemma.  ‘You’ve been saying for ages that you need to know how fast you are.  You have to try.’

My hubby was right:  I went for the riskier, selfish option.

Apart from the company (last year I ran with the fabulous Bea Marshall, whose jolliness and camaraderie I missed) 2016 was even better.  It was sunny, the brass band were playing, the atmosphere was buzzing and there were guys dressed up as a beer-bottle and a Christmas tree and a team pushing a guy in a wheelchair, all moving admirably fast.  The guy at the front won by miles, smashing the current record with a sub-thirty time.  The fastest woman broke a course record, too.  And at the end, a food-bank pitched up, so those of us who had failed to eat last-year’s Christmas-puddings could donate this year’s to a better fate.

I went home, all excited, and tried to spot my time on the results list:  it wasn’t there.  I searched by number, which came up with someone else’s name.  Then someone online told me to check that I wasn’t looking at the wrong year’s results – DOH!  I looked up 2016s results.  It wasn’t there, either.  I knew I’d been between 52 and 53 minutes, (enough to justify running alone; not outstandingly good).

I went back to the Strider’s website to pinpoint where I’d gone wrong.

‘Did you wear that electric tag thing that goes around your ankle?’

Bugger.  ‘Yes I did, but I wore it round my wrist….’

Reading the instructions:  utter fail.

Never mind though, because when she’s forgiven me for leaving Bruce the teddy at home today, I can tell my 5-year-old all about it.

Picture:  Mark Gray, Sheffield Steel-City Strider’s Website (that’s me in pink)

Wasps, Screams and Coffee


We’ve just been camping with family, and experienced some of those screams.

I don’t mean the excited screams when they see their big cousins.

Or the offended sobs followed by a distraught cry of:  ‘Mummy Mummy!  Tiddler said I was naughty!‘  (Toddler is now 5 and easily offended).

Nor even the sounds that accompany knees hitting gritstone, gravel or tarmac, which seem to happen thirty times a day.

No:  I’m talking about real screams.   The ones that make your blood run cold because you know there’s actually something wrong.

The first wasn’t serious; Toddler had an encounter with a wasp.

Here’s the thing with wasps:  they aren’t actually out to sting people.  The don’t think to themselves: ‘Look!  There’s a little person down there eating a sandwich.  Well, as a wasp I must give them a sting to spoil their day.’

No.  Wasps are like everyone else:  out for what they can get.  Stinging a human doesn’t get them anything (other than maybe squashed).  The jam sandwich in the human’s hand, however…

The Thing is, just don’t wave your sandwich.  And when the wasps do notice it, don’t flap at them or make them feel threatened.  If they want to walk up your arm, let them walk up your arm.  They see a surface near the food for walking along, not a weak spot to sting out of malice.  Chris Packham, wildlife expert, told the Guardian that he used to smear jam around his kids’ mouths to teach them this lesson.

Anyway, Toddler listened to my wasp-talk like is was Gospel, didn’t she.  No hysteria for her; her calmness and collectedness were cool.  While other people were flapping their way through breakfast, she concentrated on more important things, like making sure she got her turn at pushing the plunger on Grandad’s cafetiere.

Then one of the little shits, completely unprovoked, flew down and put its stinger in her hand.


One of those screams.  Although, five minutes and a fascinating chat about the inflammatory process later and Toddler had almost forgotten.

I had not.  I even considered leaving a jelly out in the sun (a trick of my mothers:  the wasps stick to it, then it sets overnight; the following day, you top it up a bit with boiling water and repeat the process.  The dead wasps make neat layers.  Art.)

A few mornings later I was lying in, when I gathered from voices outside my tent that one of the cousins hadn’t been seen for a while.  Perhaps she’d Toddled to the toilet.  Someone went to check.  They returned:  she hadn’t.  At this point, I got the impression people were mounting a search so I mounted my own search for some clothes so I could go out and help.

Then there was the scream.  A pair of quick little feet scampered past the tent and the voice, still screaming, articulated: ‘Daddy!’

I would have run out of my tent completely naked then, but Hubby was clearly there.

‘Hot coffee from the cafetiere,’ he called.  With the adults distracted, Tiddler had spotted his chance to have a turn at pressing the plunger.

‘Shit. Cold water for ten minutes.’

I dressed and followed the screams up the campsite to the hose-pipe.

The thing about Consent is, if someone doesn’t want you to do something, then you should stop doing it.  Again, my kid had taken Mummy’s words to heart.

‘I don’t want you to, Daddy,’ he was screaming, while struggling, and kicking.   ‘MUMMY!  Mummy tell Daddy I don’t want to be wet!’

But when your child’s skin is blistering before your eyes, you just grab them and hold them still as you can for the hose-pipe.  He was beyond being reasoned with.  Then you remember to check that your missing niece has been located, wrap Tiddler in cling-film, cuddle him them all the way to minor injuries (it hurts too much to get him in the car-seat) and carry him in still screaming.

‘He’s got some very major minor burns.’

There followed a long, harrowing day.

By the time we left minor injuries, Tiddler was wearing a net to hold his dressings in place and had some pain relief on board.  He was quiet and cuddling a special teddy (importantly in his favourite colour) that he’s been very attached to since.

By the time we got to the Burns Unit, he was positively cheerful.  He spotted lots of toys in the waiting area and had to be told more than once not to ride the scooter into the other patients.

Then the nurse gave him more pain relief

‘What’s that?’


‘But he’s not really painful n – Oh.  Is that because you’re going to change the bandages?’

She was.  And she pulled each blister away, too.


I have to say that the care was excellent.  Tiddler had two relatively superficial burns, one one his inside wrist and the other on his abdomen.  There was a lot of waiting about, but that meant we were lucky: a burns’ unit is not the sort of place where I’d want to be at the top of a doctor’s priority list.  Tiddler is going to be fine.

Meanwhile, hubby had very soggy feet from the hose-pipe and I was suffering slightly from the disorientation of a short-sighted person who has left their tent with no glasses on.

By the time we got back to the campsite, Tiddler was asleep and it was natural to make a coffee.

But I didn’t quite have the heart.




My Family and Other People




Bigger parenting mistakes than mine have been made;  you must have heard about the woman whose child fell into a gorilla enclosure.

And the Dad who got so angry with his rock-throwing 7-year old on a forest-trip that he got in the car and drove away.  Obviously he looped back to pick him up, but by then the kid had vanished; he was missing in the Japanese forest for another six days before being found safe.

Anyway, both parents probably feel shit already and their position makes them very easy victims of social media outrage without my adding to it.

Instead lets explore greyer areas of parent-criticizing; let me tell you about my bank holiday.

We arrived at the campsite late, a biggish party of us.  We put up our tents, gossiped and  laughed, probably slammed more car doors than were strictly necessary and after a while the lady from the tent opposite came over to tell us, politely but assertively, to shut up.

Fair cop.  But of all the noise we were making, the thing she specifically focused on was how far the children’s voices carried.  In particular, Tiddler had woken up as we unpacked the car, wanted to get back to sleep and was sobbing gently.

We weren’t ignoring him.  Having established that Tiddler doesn’t have removable batteries, hubby was doing everything he could to jiggle and soothe him, including walking him a long way away from the tents while it was at its worst, while the others helped me to assemble the bedding compartment.

I understand that the woman has a right to a quiet campsite.  We shouldn’t have been laughing, talking or banging doors.  But it’s hard to know what else I could have done about Tiddler.  It’s not that we particularly like his crying voice ourselves.  I assured her that I was on it and then breathed a huge sigh of relief because once I could get into my sleeping bag, he slid in next to me and was out before he’d even finished demanding a story.

But it made me fret.  Next time we go camping he might not wake up, but perhaps I shouldn’t take him, just in case?  Should we only go if we can arrive at a civilized time (that would be never, with my job)?  Or carry a sign that says:  ‘Don’t worry!  He won’t do this all night, I promise!’

But what if something else, something largely unpredictable, made him cry in the middle of the night?  Is it OK to assume the goodwill of neighbouring campers in that scenario?  Of course the answer lies between two extreme viewpoints; that of  a mother who wants to camp and a childless couple who want peace.  The lines will always require negociation.  If you’re pregnant and have a bit of spare time, never underestimate the value of practising sheepish smiles.

At the pub the following night, despite having booked, our group waited an hour and a half between ordering our food and its arrival.  My kids were knackered – but they were also awesome.  They didn’t argue or fight or scream much; they read books, chatted in a civilised manner and went in and out of the open side-door to play hide and seek on the lawn.  Sure, one of them knocked my glass over at one point, but they were great.

Or so I thought.  The lady at the next table calmly complained that the children walking past to access the lawn had been impinging on her ability to relax.  She obviously had no idea what an achievement for a three and five-year-old she had just witnessed, or how much worse her ability to relax would have been if I’d have insisted they sat at the table with their arms folded.  I’m afraid that I (equally calmly) explained it to her.

Those who don’t want to have to run into children during their bank-holiday breaks are always welcome to stay at home with the door locked, because I’m of the view that kids are part of our society and should be accepted in public life.  Yes, their needs and abilities are slightly different to most adults, but then we wouldn’t tap an elderly person on the shoulder and complain that they got up to pee too much, would we?

Anyway, on the last morning of the holiday the kids were being little sods and knowing their limits, I hadn’t bothered to do anything about the fact that they looked as if they’d been dragged through a hedge backwards, twice. Spotty faces (midged), covered in cuts and bruises, with hair you couldn’t have got a cat-brush through, at least one of them had lost its shoes (the other might just have been refusing to wear any – or any trousers).  The pub we stumbled on turned out to have a gorgeous beer-garden, an expensive menu and an exciting condiments tray.  Tiddler ate more condiments than anything else.  He was having a great time.  We sang ‘we’re going on a bear hunt’ more than twice (with a supermarket:  ‘scuse me, scuse me, scuse me’) which caused loud hilarity.

I winced when I saw a woman walking towards me.  I nearly picked up the kids and ran.  But when she said hello she had a North American accent, which stereotyping suggested was a good sign, so I stayed.

‘I just wanted to say, how nice it is to see children who aren’t overly controlled.  You know, shoes thrown aside, hair tangled up, being allowed to be a little bit wild.  It’s just great.’

I nearly hugged the woman.  But I didn’t in the end, because parents can be dangerous animals.  If you interact too closely with the other species and an outsider interprets it wrong, you never know when up might end up getting shot.