23 Jul 2013

Happiness is a warm puppy

In my little country town, I've noticed several mums at the school gates are showing off their puppies.  And I'm not talking bazookas, lady lumps or jubblies.  It would be most entertaining if they did, but sadly I don't think that would happen. 

There have been 4 new dogs in as many weeks.  They get far more attention and cooing than the newborn babies.  What's going on?  Surely they couldn't be a fashion accessory?  The new Orla Kiely scarf perhaps?  In the UK we've seen the cast of Towie, the cast of Made in Chelsea, Pixie Geldoff, Kelly Brook, Billie Piper, Coleen Rooney, all sporting fashion pups.  But somehow I doubt that the average White Company wearing mum of this town wouldn't want to model themselves on Gemma Collins.

No, I think this is a middle aged thing.  A middle aged mum thing to be more precise.  More along the lines of Sharon Osbourne and Oprah.

These mums all have children who are growing up fast.  9 year olds and above.  They have children with their own opinions, with their own agenda on a Saturday and Sunday.  They no longer want to drag round Tescos with mum, they want to hang out at the skate park with their friends, or go round each other's houses and play on the wii.  It's all very natural and all good development towards eventual independence.  But what about the poor mums who are left behind?  I think they're feeling the empty nest syndrome early.  Where's the unconditional love?  It's now developed conditions such as do you give them enough pocket money and enough time on the ipad?

I think these puppy clutching mums aren't so barking after all.  Dogs sound far more appealing than growing kids and here's why...

1.   Dogs want to be with you as often as possible, not with their friends.
2.   Dogs don't want to sit on the computer all day.
3.   Dogs aren't too old to be cuddled and never too old to sit on your lap.
4.   Dogs don't argue back.
5.   Dogs are so excited to see you when you come home from work.
6.   Dogs don't need clothing, or the latest trainers.
7.   Dogs will do anything to please you.
8.   A well trained dog will obey all your commands.
9.   Dogs will eat whatever you put in front of them.
10. Dogs don't care how bad you look and aren't embarrassed to be seen with you.

As wise as he is beautiful, Johnny Depp was once said "The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants".

So, am I going to get a cute little puppy to love and worship me back?  Am I hell, I've had enough picking poo off the floor for one life time, thanks.

17 Jul 2013

The anxiety of choice

I've got a sicky feeling in my stomach today and an anxious knot deep inside my chest.  I've had my regular SRI Citalopram dose this morning, but it doesn't seem to be helping today.  Last night's conversation with my husband is weighing heavily on my mind, body and soul.  This is how it went:

"OK Tess, are you concentrating because I'm going to show you how to use the new smart telly" announces Ben.  Yes we have finally entered the 21st century and bought a 40inch, flat screen, HD smart tv.

"Isn't it just the same as the old one but a bigger picture?" I inquire naively.

"Well that's what I thought" says Ben, "but actually it's much better than that, we've got 4OD, BBC iplayer and loads of apps.  We've got a movie app with thousands of films to watch.  We can almost get rid of Sky Plus now because we've got a giant library of films, tv series, catch up........."  I stop listening and my heart starts to sink as he taps away at the remote control which is bringing up page after page of viewing material.

"But all I need is Sky Plus, so I can continue watching my recordings of Mad Men and One Born Every Minute" I objected.

"Well you can still watch those, but you can also watch whole series of other things like Dexter and 24 Hours in A&E, Come Dine With Me and there's thousands of movies organised by genre." enthused Dan as if all his dreams have come true.  I however began to pale.  Normal people would be delighted by this wealth of choice but I find it over whelming.  I suffer from choice paralysis and have to avoid certain cafes and coffee shops that demand too many decisions.  "Just a normal coffee" I like to order in Starbucks to the bemused glare of the Batista.  Or if I'm in a cafe I find it's quite reasonable to ask for 'A tuna salad please'.  But no, those days of simplicity are gone.  What follows is a long complicated list of choices which leaves me cold.

'Cos, rocket or baby leaves?'
'Uh, leaves'
'Cous cous, pasta, quinoa or Bulgar wheat or rice?'
'Oh, er, the first one'
'And which three things off the board?' says the cafe lady waving her arm towards a blackboard that is literally covered in lists of vegetables, shoots, nuts, dried fruits, egg, capers....  With a blur of white chalk in front of me and a long hungry queue behind me, I read out the first three off the list.
'And which two seeds?' continues the cafe lady.  This is getting unbearable.  I go blank.  I can't think of a single seed.   It's like I'm in the final round of Family Fortunes so to avoid blurting out a random sub conscious object, like 'sperm' I say 'No seeds, thanks'.  But the torture isn't over yet.
'And dressing?'
'Yes please'
'You choose' which is met with an 'How dare you ask me, that's not part of my job' stare.  And finally, thank the Lord,
'Tossed or drizzed?'
'TOSSED!' I cry with relief.  But by now I feel like screaming and what's worse I've ended up with a hideous mish-mash of pig swill.  I'm never going to enjoy it now.

Back in the sitting room .... the truth dawns on me.   TV viewing is one of the very few areas in my life where I can be in control.  I like having a list of shows to 'get through' but even better deleting them off the Sky planner once viewed.  Tick.  Done.  That's another thing dealt with, thank you very much.  Ooh the sweet satisfaction of it all.  My memory planner page is 91% free and I've been working on getting that figure up for a few weeks now.  All that's left are a couple of Modern Families and a Britain's Next Top Model, one day I could be 100% free.  If I can cram those in whilst Ben's at football then I WILL BE IN FULL CONTROL OF MY LIFE.  Imagine the joy, the freedom, the sense of accomplishment.  But not now, thanks to the smart bastard tv.

"We'll never get though the endless lists of stuff, Ben.  There's not enough free time in life to view all that.  By the time the kids are in bed and we've made and eaten dinner, there's only about an hour and half left before bedtime.  And even if we try to get through it all, they'll just keep adding new stuff" I despair.

'But the idea isn't to watch everything.  It's a library.  It's a choice."

"I can't cope with it all.  Yesterday I conditioned my hair twice just so I could finish the bottle off and throw it away.  It gave me a good feeling to throw something out that was used, finished, spent."

'But now you need to buy another bottle of conditioner.  You're not making any sense' retorted Ben frustratedly.  "We can't get the old telly back now.  I've taken it down the tip'.    Ben made it clear taht the conversation was over, so I sloped off to read my book in bed whilst he stayed downstairs with the mean machine.  When he came up to bed an hour later I asked,

'Well, what did you watch?'

'I couldn't decide' confessed Ben, 'It took me all this time to flick through all the apps.'

9 Jul 2013

The Dinner Party Catastrophe

A bloke Ben plays football with invited us both to dinner, along with another couple called Maz and Adrian who we'd never met before.  After the evening's events I don't think we'll be seeing them ever again either.

I really dislike dinner parties.  No, I hate them. They're too formal and they make me feel very uncomfortable.  I would prefer to have my tea at home and then meet the couples down the pub for a few drinks, a far more relaxed environment where conversation could flow naturally and you can wander around the pub at will, disappearing off to the loo if you get stuck in a boring conversation.   I just don't know how to behave at other people's dinner tables.  I always feel like I'm pinned to the chair with a spotlight on me (imagine the set of Mastermind).  Something as simple as how to hold cutlery becomes an stressful ordeal, and just how far down the stem of a wine glass should you hold without it becoming precariously top heavy?  Do my nails look clean?  Am I chewing too loudly?  This amount of social etiquette does not equal fun for me.  Eating is one of life's greatest pleasures - spoilt by dinner parties.

Saturday's dinner did not start well.  First I fell off the side of my shoe.  I really can't walk in high heels.  Or stand, it turns out.  As I stumbled a big splash of red wine sloshed all over the pristine white tiled floor.  To add to my dismay, moments later their King Charles Spaniel came padding in and immediately jumped up at my dress and started sniffing my crotch.  I had to nudge her away with my knee whilst pretending to be delighted to see her.  The stupid snatch sniffing mutt.  Our host Olivia whisked the dog up into her arms, from where she started trying to lick me.  "She's so cute" I fakely enthused and planted a big kiss on top of her soft white head.  A big red lipstick kiss.  A big red lipstick kiss on her snowy white furry head.   That would not come off, no matter how much I tried to rub it.  I stained the dog with my lipstick.  And then I smeared it all over her head whilst trying to get it off.  Olivia stiffly laughed the incident off, but I could see that she was not happy.  I was mortified.

The now red headed dog safely shut into the conservatory, we took our places at the table.  The conversation that usually crops up first on a night out in my world, is who is looking after your kids, how much are you shelling out per hour and let's get to the bar quickly as time's-a-ticking.  Both Maz and Adrian and our hosts Jeremy and Olivia both have live in nannies.  Olivia explained that whilst they were living in Hong Kong, they had a Filipino helper who lived in a room the size of a toilet and was paid £5 a week to cook, clean, shop and look after their children.  They got so used to her help that they simple couldn't imagine life without live-in help now.  So they have Marzena, a Polish girl.   "She's so wonderful that we can come in from work and say hello and goodnight to the children then disappear out again to have a coffee together and a catch up together." bragged Jeremy.   Meanwhile, the poor cow Marzena makes the kids' tea, washes them and gets them into bed.  Then she makes dinner for the adults and disappears out the way to her room as soon as they return to eat it.  I don't get this style of parenting.  Why bother having children?  Not even Mary Poppins did all that.  Not to mention poor exploited Marzena, who probably has family of her own to look after in Poland who she'd been forced to leave with a relative so she could look after some idiot, selfish, lazy-arsed British woman's kids.

Then to top it all off, Maz and Adrian agreed that they couldn't do a thing without their Czech live-in nanny Pippa.  Horror of horrors they revealed that Pippa was expecting her own baby with her English boyfriend.  They said that they were so desperate not to lose Pippa, that they'd hired her her own nanny!  THE NANNY WAS GETTING HER OWN NANNY!  Mental.  Completely barking mad, these people live in a crazy arsed world.

The fantastic thing about having a baby sitter who has her own home to go to, is you have a fabulous excuse to leave the party early.

12 Jun 2013

My best friend's kid is a dick, but worse...

...she has nits!


Warning:  I guarantee this post will get you scratching.  

We first experienced the joys of head lice a couple of years back.  And you never forget your first time, do you people?  Our first born had finished her first year at school and we were on Italy on holiday.  I was on mat leave with no.3 and Ben is a freelance, so we were able to take a mortgage payment holiday and bugger off to Tuscany for a whole month.  We hired a very remote 16th century stone farmhouse miles from any civilisation.  There was a mini-market, naturally (I'm not Laura Ingalls Wilder after all, a girl needs her wine and chocolate) but it was a 30 minutes drive down the most frightening, winding treacherous mountainside track I've ever nearly shit myself over.  There was a 300ft sheer drop, albeit a very picturesque one.  If you did plummet to your End of Days you would at least enjoy the stunning vista of endless olive groves nestled at the bottom of the valley.  Should a local drive past in their pick up truck, all you could do was brake to a stop, stay exactly where you were with your eyes closed tightly, as they screeched past at a suicidal speed. As you can imagine, after one trip to the Supermarket and back again, we swore not to do the journey again until we were actually leaving the country.

I dye my hair.  Brown, black, red, orange and sometimes all at once.  Smothering my head in chemicals occasionally gives my sensitive little bonce a little itchy rash and normally all I have to do is lay off the hard stuff for a while and all is well.  So after I had been itching furiously for about 3 weeks, I was at my wits end, yet I still didn't even suspect nits as the kids hadn't been itching.  Plus kids get nits, not adults.

Picture the scene, we were sitting on our terrace, sun baked and happy.  I had prepared a feast of prosciutto, fromaggio, breadio and fruit (I may have made a few Italian words up, it's all in the accent though, don't you know) .  It looked so idyllic I even took a photo of the food.  The stuff of holidays, sweet bliss.  As we were all tucking in to our mid day feast I happened to glance across to daughter no.2 and notice a live insect crawl out of her hair and down onto her forehead!  The brazen little fucker!  (The louse not my daughter).  A couple of seconds later..... THE DAWNING.   THE HORROR.  THE SHEER REPULSION.   The nitty penny had dropped, I jumped up and rummaged through her hair to find a whole colony of full grown little buggers merrily enjoying their British feast.  On searching my other daughter and insisting that Ben search me, we realised that the entire family (except the baby who didn't have any hair, the lucky thing and Ben - likewise) was infested.

Not being able to face the drive down to the shop, I took my husband's hair clippers and shaved the lot of us bald, one at a time.  Every last hair on our heads was removed, like Demi Moore in GI Jane.

OK, so I didn't but by God I almost wish I did.  Ben was sent down to the mini-market and 3 hours later each of our heads was covered in a thick black coal tar.  What followed, as many other unfortunate parents will know, was days of combing, screaming and crying (and that was just me).  The tiny village shop was only stocked to sell fresh bread, bottles of wine, milk and that type of thing.  The nearest pharmacy was another hour's drive away, on top of the squeaky bum ride down the mountain.  Over the next few days, on the advise of the locals, we tried olive oil and more combing.  Mayonnaise..... and more coming.  Coal tar shampoo... and more combing.  We were greasier than a KFC chicken bucket.  Fortunately, some friends from home were coming out to join us for our final week (the fortune was ours not theirs).  We managed to get a message to them to bring a suitcase full of industrial chemicals to kill these little bastards once and for all.  I bet they couldn't wait to come on holiday after that piece of information.

We didn't get rid of them entirely for another month or so.  That's the nits not the friends (you really have to watch sloppy grammar don't you?).  We learned the hard way.  Every fortnight or so now we have 'nit check night,' where after a bath and hair wash, the children get to stay up late watching cartoons whilst I pick away through their hair wit a NittyGritty comb, wiping the forensic evidence onto a white tissue and then studying the contents of the tissue with my purpose bought pocket microscope.  I kid you not...  And so far, no re-infestation.

PS.  I was going to call this post  'Once bitten, twice shy' but my friend's kid really is a dick and really does have nits.  The fact that she has nits just confirms her dickishness.  I am so not letting my kids anywhere near hers.  Eurgh.

PPS.  It could have also been called 'Nitaly' as that is what we renamed our Tuscan adventure.  But again, you wouldn't know about that dickish kid.

PPPS.  You're wondering why she's a such a dick, right?  She's whiny, irritating, got a face like a slapped arse, rude, unappreciative, ugly.... and you can put up with all that if she's your own.  But she's not.  And now she's got nits.

Holy Shit

One of the main reasons we moved away from London was to live in a town where all the schools are 'good' or even better 'outstanding', or at worst 'satisfactory'.  Not words you might think to describe a school by unless of course you have children and you have done your homework and studied the OFSTED reports of every school for 15 miles around you.
Before children you might describe a school as 'convenient' or 'brick built' or 'cute' even, but as soon as your first child has squeezed out of your lady flaps, the Secret Club start discussing OFSTED reports.  It turns out that the £272,000 you paid for your darling little London terrace, 10 minutes walk from a zone 3 tube station is now as appealing as pair of skid marked pants.  Your house is slap bang in the WRONG catchment area.  Not only does your local prospective London school have CCTV and 24 hours police surveillance, but the OFSTED report says it's 'under special measures', which basically means it's shit and that by the time your child starts in the school nursery at age 3 and half, she is going to enter a war zone.  You are left with two choices, either enroll her in a tots self defense class in early preparation, or move.

Then it dawns on you, THAT'S why all the house prices were so inflated elsewhere: it's because they're near to the only highly sought after, (and indeed fought after) decent school within a 20 mile radius.  So 'moving' actually entails leaving London for the quaint and quiet burbs, but at least you'll be able to leave your child at the local school gates, knowing that not only will they receive a decent education that day but they won't be stabbed in the eye.

The trouble is, most the schools in my little town are 'good', but one is 'outstanding' so where does every parent (read mother) fight tooth and nail to get their child into?  The 'outstanding' school of course.  A peculiar survival instinct takes over your brain and smothers every logical or carefree thought, your heart is telling you that your child MUST go to the best school in town, they must be given the best chances in life.  NO MATTER WHAT IT TAKES You simply can't let the other people's kids get further ahead than your child in life.  Except it turns out that your closest school, which happens to be the 'outstanding' one is also a CHURCH SCHOOL.  By Jesus's Holy Mother of Fucking Christ, you're going to have to start going to church.  Are you actually prepared to do this for the sake of your child's education?  Yes, people.  I am ashamed to say I answered yes to that question and I am now a secret church goer.  I'm a fake Christian.  Or a fakestian.  Better known (in the hushed voices of the coffee shop) as a pew jumper.

This is how I found myself one Sunday morning (when I should have been eating bacon sandwiches, nuzzled next to my children in our king sized bed as we all watch CBeebies together) standing in a draughty church, mumbling along to a hymn.  Me!  Tess Harrison.  Who's only religion to date has been to worship at the altar of the Debenhams Blue Cross Sale.

Ben made his thoughts on the subject very clear.  He was not even going to pretend to like God, he wouldn't even nod politely if he spotted God across the street waving frantically.  He wouldn't step foot near the church and plumped for the weekly Tesco shop instead.  So it was all down to me to take on the challenge of Jesus loving.  I thought I would try it for a week to see how I got on.  The kids shuffled off into Sunday School in the hall next door to the church with a sweet old lady called Margaret to do colouring and eat biscuits whilst I stayed behind, under the watchful eye of GOD.  As it happened I enjoyed almost a whole hour of complete peace and quiet.  OK, so I had to stand up, sit down, find the page, murmur some words prayers, but most of the time I was able to zone out and relax.  Occasionally my eyes wandered around the congregation and I would spot another highly likely pew jumper.  Proper pew jumpers play the game very well.  There are unspoken rules:

1.  You don't talk about fight club pew jumping.  You NEVER talk about pew jumping, even to your cousin's best friend's dog who lives in the Outer Hebrides.  You certainly can't blab about your deceitful worshiping to the next person who asks you how you are, which as you can imagine is on on-going concern for me.  You definitely certainly can't blog and tweet about it. (Oh...!) Proper pew jumpers will take their secret to the grave (buried in the church yard if you're that good).

2.  In order to look genuine, you must volunteer for everything like a good Christian would.  This may involve cooking sausages at the church BBQ, attending church walks, hoovering the church halls from time to time,  taking the occasional Sunday School class, hosting meetings at your house, delivering prayer cards around the town.  Endless... the work involved in running a church is endless.  And you must volunteer to do it ALL.  The irony is that you may end up more involved in the church than a regular Christian person.  Guilt will kick in and you will end up over compensating for your lack of religious belief.  I wouldn't be surprised if the Vicar herself started off as a pew jumper and got so involved a cakes sales and hosting Bible meetings that she's actually roped herself into being Top Dog!  I bet she doesn't believe in God.

3.  Longevity.  A transparent pew jumper will go to church for approximately 6 months.  As soon as the Vicar has presented the letter of recommendation that your child is churchy enough to attend the 'outstanding' school, then the obvious fakestian disappears never to be seen again.  This is actually harder than you might think because you will have a diary full of cake sales, church fetes and meetings that you've signed up to.  Christians are savvy little souls and know exactly how to ensure 'bums on seats'.  A clean break is a very tricky manoeuvre to pull off.  Indeed, I would say impossible.  Unless you fake your own death, or move town.  I have sniffed out many an inferior pew jumper who has tried to slope off out the backdoor from god's party, but they always end up 'showing their face' a couple of months later for the nativity play, or the church anniversary lunch.  I have now been going to church (as seldom as I dare) for FIVE YEARS! I haven't held a job for as long as that.

4.  Your church attendance will become stressful because you must hide your dirty secret from all your non-church going friends and work colleagues.  I imagine it's like having a love affair.  You can't let on to anyone what you've been up to, you must hide all traces of evidence, always look over your shoulder to see if anyone has spotted you going into the hotel church. You must get very adept at making up excuses for what you did at the weekend.  Here are some suggestions you are free to use:
  • I buried the family dog (If you have a dog you must remember never to mention it again, if you don't then you need to quickly invent a name, breed and personality for it).
  • I was bed ridden with genital herpes (this should stop any conversation right there and then)
  • I prancercised
  • I'm having an affair (preferable to the truth)
  • I most certainly did NOT go to church.  Why would I?

Now if there's anyone reading this that genuinely does love Jesus, then good for you.  Seriously, I am very much of the belief of live and let live.  I respect all religions and I am even quite envious of people who follow a religious belief.  I'd love to have faith.  I'd love to know where I was going when I carc it, at least I'd get back to sleep at 3am when I'm awake in bed wondering what the hell it's all about.  I think some religions have some very sensible rules like 'Don't kill your neighbour's cat' and 'Respect your elders' and 'Don't eat pork if it's been sitting around in the hot sun in a smelly Moroccan market for hours on end'.  Hell, I married a (technically) Jewish boy and I even ended up staying in a Buddhist monastery for a week:

Reader:  "Fascinating stuff Tess, were you travelling round the world at the time?  Nepal?"
Tess:       "Hemel Hempstead" (Junction 8 of the M1)

4 Jun 2013

What's the worst that could happen?

The truth is I think I've always been an anxious person. 
So when the doctor asked me "Do you think you've always been anxious?" I had to wonder.  "Well nooooo, surely not" I scoffed.  Doesn't everyone have an endless stream of mind chatter like little voices constantly arguing with each other?  No?  They don't?  Oh.  Just me then (and possibily the other 9.2% of the British population also suffering from anxiety disorder).

I come from a very stable family and had a very happy home.  OK so my parents did pretend to ring the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang every time I misbehaved which sent me into screaming panic attacks.  It is true that my brothers' favourite game was to hide around the house and jump out on me screaming and pointing like the alien Donald Sutherland in the final scene of the 1979 classic Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.  I too would scream in helpless anguish like Nancy in the film.  Except I wasn't acting.  It is also true that my parents were incredibly forgetful, disorganised and late for everything, especially when it came to retrieving me from social functions.  Once I stood outside Brownies at 8pm on a Wednesday winter evening, waiting for my parents to collect me.  Finally the caretaker from the school who was on his way home noticed me and had to begrudgingly unlock the school again to go back in and call my parents from the school office to remind them that I had been waiting for two and half hours in the drizzle and somebody needed to retrieve me.

Likewise when I was 13 I went to Spain for a month to stay with my best friend and her family who had just emigrated.  It was the first time I had ever flown on my own and I was very nervous and intimidated by the whole process.  On the return journey I trotted excitedly through the arrivals hall looking for my welcoming parents' faces, anxious for their warm comfort after my grand adventure in the big wide world.  "I bet they can't wait to see me after all this time" I thought.  Two hours later, I stood alone in the arrivals hall, my shoulders slumped all my hopes of a happy reunion dashed.  A little tear started to trickle down my face.  A stranger noticed my distress at being abandoned and kindly gave me a coin for the payphone so that I could call them and then another pound for a fizzy pop and a muffin whilst I waited.  "We thought it was tomorrow, your plane" announced my mum breezily as she arrived 4 hours late to finally reclaim her offspring, as if the airplane company had decided to change their flight schedule just to mess with her day.

I got lost in the local indoor market when I was about 6 years old.  A kind old lady responded to my sobbing and took me to the market office, where they sat me in a plastic garden chair with a packet of Jelly Tots and made an announcement over the tannoy system that a small child wearing flares and a tank top (no doubt my brothers' hand me downs) was waiting in the office.  My tears dried and I began to feel safe, saved even.  An hour and 4 more announcements later my Mum finally walked into the office.  "I was in the queue at the veg stall and I didn't want to lose my place" she explained.  "But Mum I've been here ages" I whined in protest.   "Well yes" admitted my Mum, "I decided I might as well finish all the shopping as you were safe in here, and then I had a very quick cuppa at the tea stall".

The irony is of course, that now I am a busy working mother of 3 I find myself following in my mother's footsteps.   History is repeating itself.  Or if it's not history then it's some gene that is missing in our family lineage - the one that deals with calmness and organisation.  Though I have yet to leave a child stranded at an airport... but there's plenty of time for that.

But surely this is all very 'normal'.
Isn't it?

Doesn't everyone lie awake at 3am with sweaty existential angst?  Wondering why the hell I am here?  How long will it be until I die?  Who am I supposed to be?

Isn't everyone terrified of tsunamis?  And not especially keen on big waves either, if they're honest?  If you owned a flat in Brighton for example, wouldn't you have planned your escape route in great detail, the one which involved smashing the window of the local motorbike shop to steal a scooter, so that you could make your Hollywood style get away over the hills to a high and safe refuge point?  Actually, it still bothers me how I'll get the Scooter to start without any keys.  I expect they leave some behind the till or in the staff room.  Surely they all have keys as the bikes must be taken out on test runs.  Oh shit balls, what if they're locked in a safe?  Oh God... I need to work out this plan better.   Ah, no I don't.  I've moved, I don't live in Brighton anymore.  That must be why I moved.  It's way too stressful a place.

Haven't you thought long and hard about the best way to jump out of a moving car should the situation arise?

Or if your train derailed and crashed over sidewise, how you would avoid getting squashed by the fat knacker in the seat next to you and make it to the escape window?

I am a Worst Case Scenario kind of girl.  Ben bought me the book Worst Case Scenario Survival handbook for a laugh.  He honestly thought I would enjoy the pocket sized joke book.  I do, but I use it as an indispensable companion for every journey I ever go on and NOT for amusement.  Because in my mind what the hell would you do if you were struck by lightening, lost in the desert, charged by a bull or attacked by a shark.  Holy shit balls, these threats are real.  We need to be prepared, people. 

I even fear talking on the telephone and actively avoid using it a altogether where possible.  I fear I may actually hear out-loud the nonsense that is spilling uncontrollably out of my own mouth.  This is a problem I have even when faced with the challenge of a normal face to face conversation.  A simple verbal human exchange, how hard can it be?  Well bloody hard if you're like me.  I find myself starting well, then at the first sniff of a pause I panic and my mind chatter takes over and I take off on a tangent...

Social Acquaintance (SA):  Hi, Tess. How are you?

ME:  Great, yes, thanks.  Well OK actually... well I dunno, you know, the usual normal stuff I guess.  Just trotting along like every one else.   Getting by.

SA (looking a bit awkward and sorry they asked):  Oh......?

ME (beginning to panic about what we should now talk about):  I've got a bruise on my boobs!

SA (a little suprised and embarrassed at the extra information):  Oh......?

ME:  Yeah and a massive hang over because I went out on Friday night..., (realising that it is now Tuesday), Yeah it takes me ages to get over a hangover these days... (realising that I went to the pub with some other friends not including this one) Well, it was just a a few mums in the pub, nothing big or anything, in fact I don't know if you know any of them, there's this woman I barely know actually and, well it was quite boring so you wouldn't have even wanted to go.  Not saying that you did want to go because I expect you had something else on, but you know what I mean.   And anyway I thought I should cycle home to save money but as soon as I got onto my bike, I fell straight off the other side.  Jane - not the Jane you know, a different one who I know from somewhere else, said "You're not going home in that state on that bike" and packed me off in a taxi.  A fiver it was just to come down the high street.  Anyway I didn't even know you could bruise your boobs, ha ha ha ha ha.  The handle bar banged me right in the chest.  Do you wanna see?

SA (backing away now, wishing they'd just smiled and walked by):  Well actually, I've... got to... do this thing.  Bye.

I end up spending lots of time on my own just to avoid embarrassing myself in social situations like these.  And this was just a "hi, how are you" conversation.  Why didn't I just say "Fine, thanks - you?".  I'm sure there are better ways to deal with every day life.   NORMAL PEOPLE must learn these ways.  Maybe I wasn't at school that day.  Maybe my parents forgot to take me.  On the other hand, in my mind it's FAR more important to know how to survive if you become adrift at sea than it is to hold a social pleasantry.   You're not going to pack a bullet wound with a little small talk, now are you?

When I lost it

It may not come as a complete surprise that after my third child I went totally do-lally, had a bit of a mental breakdown and ended up on a double dose of that well loved anti-depressant Citalopram.  "Oh that, I hand that out like Smarties" my GP friend once told me.

The final straw was after a long weekend in which my in-laws were visiting.  We had all gone out for a pub lunch for a nice Sunday family meal so that I didn't have to bother cooking, and they were well fed for their car journey back up to York.  It was a lovely idea in theory, except I was still struggling with breast feeding.  That's an understatement, I was finding breast feeding so hard that even to attempt sticking my boob in the little blighter's face I had to be in my arm chair by my bedroom window (the one with the comfy arms), baby stripped down to her nappy (to avoid her falling asleep) and propped on my Breast Friend.  10 deep breaths ...... and then the latch on.   Toes curled in agony.... wait for it, 10 more deep breaths.... and relax the shoulders, release the grip on the back of my poor baby's neck!  Just a minute.  Back up.  Did you say....?

Yes I did, my Breast Friend.  A large piece of foam that clips around your middle (I wouldn't call it a waist for at least another 18 months) and all for the small sum of £45 of your finest pounds.   Day light robbery I hear you cry, but this baby's life depended on it.  If I didn't have my Breast Friend, the baby wasn't being fed.  With baby no.2, it came on holiday to France with me.  Once I had packed it into my suitcase I could fit very little around it, just a few size 18 maternity vests stuffed into the whole in the middle.  And some bottoms, I wouldn't have gone around in a vest only, showing the French and his wife my vagine (my French for vagina).  We were a large group of 6 couples, all with children.  All of the mother's could whop out their boobs anywhere and everywhere to feed their babies of course.  But dammit, I struggled on much to the cruel amusement of my so called buddies.  They would wait for me to go to bed (at about 9pm!) and then take turns to wear my Breast Friend balancing their beers on it.  The bastards.  If I hadn't have been so hormonal I might have found it funny too.  In a kind act of solidarity my husband Ben decided that he would wear it every time he cuddled the baby "to support his back".  Kind act my arse, he was taking the Mickey just like the rest of them.

On learning from this and other similar experiences of how unportable my Breast Friend was,  I'd decided that the pub gastro dining room was no place to take it even if I could bear the conspicuous nature of it.   2 hours later we were dangerously close to feeding time.  Little did my boobs know that the service would be slow, the in-laws would linger for coffee and the time would tick by so quickly that as soon as my daughter's eyes pinged opened I knew we were on a countdown to melt down.  Hers and mine.  We said our goodbyes as quickly as we could, bundled the 3 girls into the car and drove home at break neck speed.  OK, so we didn't.  You can't really do stuff like that with 3 kids in the car.  You can't even get into the car at break neck speed with 3 sets of seat-belts, various teddies, arguments and 'I'm hungry' comments (despite the fact that they were just leaving a restaurant - on a full stomach).

As we pulled into our driveway the baby was screaming her little lungs off.  My boobs were on the point of explosion and my anxiety level was through the roof. "We are minutes away from feed time my little bird", I pictured myself running indoors, stripping off and clipping on my dear old Breast Friend.

Just then I noticed the other car in our driveway.  Friends. Getting out of the car now.  The mocking friends we'd holidayed with in France.  The exact friends who were so apt at feeding, one of those lucky cows who had no difficulty what so ever feeding.  She could even strap on her baby in a papoose and wander round chatting at parties with a cocktail in one hand and a canape in the other, whilst the baby noshed happily away at her boob. 

That was it.  The breaking point.  Where I felt I just couldn't cope any more.  The tears fell.  Actually some of them got stuck in the lines of snot that came pouring out of my face.   I was a wet and snotty emotional wreck, with burning hot boobs.  I refused to get out of the car until everyone (except the baby had gone away).   So heads hung, they all trooped off in the direction of the park.

That evening I apologised to the friends.  They'd come bearing gifts, good wishes and even better - my favourite lemon drizzle cake.  Home-made and absolutely delicious.  I fed the little one with a rock hard ball of a tit and fell asleep exhausted, as did she.   When I woke, my bed was drenched in sweat, I could barely move my limbs and my busta was burning hotter than ever.   Mastitis.  Dear old mastitis.  The nasty bitch.  Just when you think you can't struggle with breast feeding any more, mother nature knocks you out with one final left hook.  Mother nature?   Surely something like this wouldn't come from one of the sisters?  It has to be Father nature, this one.

I would never wish mastitis on my worst enemy.  It's the closest I've felt to death.  Over the phone the doctor diagnosed me and said a prescription for antibiotics would be waiting for me first thing in the morning.  My mum was going to collect it, as I physically couldn't get out of bed.  That night Ben slept in with the baby and I was told to rest.  I was so weak and cold that I couldn't call out for help to put extra blankets on.  It took me 2 hours to summon up the strength to crawl to pull up the quilt from the bottom of the bed. 

My Breast Friend was redundant after that as I could never really work up the quantity of milk back into my mammies that my little girl needed so I abandoned the boob altogether.  I don't mean I left it behind in Tesco car park and drove off, I just left them both in my bra to shrink down and down to the floppy spaniel's ears they are today.  Instead the kitchen surfaces became cluttered with sterilizers and bottles and formula milk cartons and my doctor diagnosed me with a hefty dose of post-natal depression and so here I am.  I've enjoyed a warped sense of reality ever since.  I've always been a little odd, eccentric some might say batty, but the great thing about selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors... is you don't really give a shit either.