Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Thank you for making us, us.

Sometimes in life, something happens that is genuinely momentous and life changing. Some people are fortunate enough to experience these events and I am one of them. More than that, it's happened to me more than once.

Sorry, I should actually say it's happened to us. As I write this tonight, Siggy and I have just celebrated being parents for the last sixteen years and it has been quite an experience. Nothing changes you more than becoming a parent and in our case, the twins turning sixteen has been something of a catharsis. Having your eldest children "officially" become adults - even if only in the eyes of the law, the lottery and the licencing board - is a time for reflection and, on reflection, that really is a cause for celebration. I don't mind telling you that I've had tears in my eyes on more than one occasion today and I'm not alone in that, although I'm not sure Siggy will admit that to anyone.

Sixteen years ago, things were very different and so were we.

Monday 27th May 1996 was a bank holiday and, like today, it was warm and dry. I was 29 weeks pregnant and frankly completely niave. I had woken up not feeling too well and had terrible, terrible back pain, which I just put down to being so heavily pregnant and having slept poorly. Anyone reading this who has been through labour will probably know exactly what I didn't at the time. I was not only in labour, I was in the fairly advance stages of labour.

On phoning the hospital, the fantastic Rottenrow Maternity in Glasgow, now sadly demolished, we were only mildly concerned when they suggested that we "just come in whenever you can and we'll check you out." I went for a bath, to see if that would ease the pain a bit and because one of the midwifes had suggested it might help, and with no great rush, we drove in just after lunchtime, fully expecting to be told I was fine, maybe having a bit of Braxton-Hicks and just to put my feet up and relax. On arrival and being taken through to the examination room, we found ourselves in what felt like a parallel universe, an out-of-body experience, a surreal dream and living nightmare all rolled into one.

I was told, in a calm, professional and efficient yet reassuring voice that I was 6cm dilated and in advanced labour. They told me they would need to give me some steroids immediately and some other drugs to try to slow down or preferably stop the labour. We didn't realise on that warm afternoon in the cool and clinical walls of the hospital, but outside the room all hell was breaking loose with on-call consultants, specialist nursing staff and various others were being alerted to the fact that they were about to have twins born very prematurely.

Siggy says that he had the experience of travelling at a thousand miles an hour inside his head whilst the world outside had basically stopped except for whatever was going on in the walls of the room, which we soon realised was not just an examination room, but a labour suite. I became aware that the bed was very uncomfortable and remember thinking that I'd need to ask for a change of bed if they were going to keep me in once they had stopped this labour, which, at that point, was what we genuinely expected to happen.

After a few hours, during which I began to feel as if I, and the labour, had stabilised a bit and I was in a bit less pain, Siggy and I talked about a lot of things we had talked about before -  what would we call them, what might the labour be like, how would we arrange things on a day-to-day basis, etc - but suddenly these things were all about to be real and somehow the situation still seemed absolutely unreal. Siggy had gone out and called both sets of parents to say I was in hospital "just as a precaution" and might need to stay the night. Now, he's not even sure if he managed to speak to both sets of parents until quite a bit later in the day and certainly didn't say in the first calls that I was actually in labour. There was a reason for that, though. As well as me being in labour, we were both in denial. We were so out of touch with the reality of the situation that Siggy even began to talk about how I could just stay in hospital for the next ten weeks and he would just come in and visit every night on the way home until they decided it would be OK to let me go into labour again. God, we were like kids ourselves, even though we had been married for nearly four years and were both in our late 20's. 

As the day progressed and the doctors and nurses had began to explain more and more to us, including why I had needed steroids (to help inflate the babies lungs) and how they hoped to stop the labour for as long as possible as they could give give me another does of steroids 24 hours later "to help give the babies a chance".

"Give them a chance" Four words that hit us like a train between the eyes.

Unless you have been through it, it is really difficult to explain what it is like to realise that your child could very possibly die. A million and two feelings and emotions course through you at the same time. Fear. Anger. Guilt. Fear. Pain. Questions. Puzzlement. Wonder. Fear.

Fear, though, didn't turn out to be the worst feeling - the seeds of helplessness had been sown and nothing, absolutely nothing, we could do would stop that awful, paralysing and disorienting emotion taking hold. 

By around 11pm, following goodness how many calls to anxious parents and one or two stunned friends, mainly to give Siggy something to do when he left the room every so often to just change the background for both of us, the staff were fairly confident that they had managed to stop my labour and they suggested that Siggy should go home and get some rest before he could come in tomorrow with some nightclothes and other bits and pieces for me as I was going to be in for a while whilst they  kept me under observation. Siggy, reluctant, scared and tired, eventually went home around half past midnight, leaving me to stare at the ceiling and will my unborn children to just keep fighting to stay where they were and grow as big and strong as possible in my safe keeping.

As a young girl who wasn't "properly" a mother yet, confused by these sudden and unexpected developments and with the pain of a previous miscarriage thirteen months earlier still feeling fresh, something inside was unconsciously, but very powerfully, turned on. Call it what you will, but somehow during those dark, frightening hours of the night, I came to understand what being a mother meant. What I didn't know at the time and have only found out now, sixteen years later and through the sweet tears of a painful but shared and incredibly binding experience, is that in those same dark hours, five miles away in our safe and secure home, Siggy also felt some strange surge of that powerful new force coming to fruition. That force was what comes with the realisation that everything has changed and nothing is more important in your life than loving and protecting that most precious of gifts - a child.

As the darkness passed, five miles from where I had awoken to an awful feeling of foreboding and some not inconsiderable pain, the phone rang just as Siggy was getting out of the shower. He had got up sharp so he could nip in with a bag of clothes and toiletries for me on his way to work, believing genuinely that this was the start of weeks of me being kept under observation and the twins being made to wait to make their big entrance. Siggy says that as soon as he heard the first ring, he knew. He knew that it wasn't going to be weeks of observation while I held on to my precious cargo or even days of uncertainty over whether I might even get home. As he picked up the receiver with one hand, his other hand was already reaching out physically for my bag, but emotionally for my heart and, somehow - spiritually? - for our beautiful, unborn children. He says that he knew in that split second that he was going to need to be strong enough for four of us for the rest of our lives, however long that may have been in the hours to come.

"Don't break any speed limits to get in, but get here as quickly as you can.Your wife has gone back into labour and we probably wont be able to stop her again"

Speed limits were, undoubtedly, broken.

Siggy arrived in the hospital just after 7am and for the next few hours I strained every single fibre of my being to try not to give birth. I had had an epdirual, but they weren't sure it would have time to take effect. I, obviously, went nowhere, but at one point, probably just after 9am, Siggy left the room to use the toilet and, he although he didn't tell me at the time, the scene that he stumbled across in the corridor has stayed with him until this day. Around the nurses station, there were lots of staff gathered around and it was only much later that he realised every one of them had stopped talking and turned to look as he came out of the labour suite. Every one of them, he later knew, had been gathered for the arrival of our twins.

At some point, just as the contractions were becoming unbearable and I was trying to listen to the midwife and Siggy at the same time but actually not hearing a word of what they were saying, Siggy says there were 19 people in the room - 21 if you counted the two children jostling for position at the top of the birth canal. We, stupidly in hindsight, thought this was the way births happened, but it was so far from the normal process in a modern birthing suite that it was more like an overblown piece of Hollywood fiction with everything but the dramatic soundtrack, unless you count the hums and beeps of fetal and maternal heart monitors, the low drone of half-whispered half-conversations and the far away but undeniably clear hubbub of "normal" life passing by in the corridor outside or drifting in in through the open windows along with the warm morning sunlight.   

At 1038, in a magical moment where time stood still before an explosion of activity from all the gathered staff, Peter was born. 3lb 6oz of terrifyingly silent and worryingly unmoving childhood. I was shown him only very briefly before he was put into a transportable incubator and all manner of tubes and wires were attached. Siggy, torn almost literally in half as he tried to keep hold of my uncontrollably shaking hand whilst at the same time trying to reach out to his struggling, tiny son at the other side of the room, also only had a very quick chance to look upon his face before he was whisked off to intensive care with almost half of the staff in the room.  

The room seemed eerily silent and half empty as I lay, panting and staring at the ceiling with tears of dulled physical pain but penetratingly deep and searingly hot emotional turmoil and anguish. In reality, there were still around a dozen or so people in the room and next thing I knew I was being told to push again as contraction after contraction shook my already weary but determined body once more. 

At 1053, in yet another life-altering moment, Gordon made his entrance into the world at a whole 1oz more than his brother but with the same quiet, tiny and helpless demeanour which neither of us could understand but both of us knew was was going to bind us forever. Siggy, this time, went over and peered in the incubator for a little longer before Gordon, too was taken from us and the whole room was suddenly and cruelly silent. 

"He looks perfect. Absolutely beautiful." Siggy half-sobbed to me as we held onto each other for dear life. Never before, and honestly only twice since, have we been as completely and perfectly one. Terrified but determined, each of us swore to always be there for each other and for them, although I'm pretty sure neither of us actually said so. We didn't have to.

Some time later, in some sort of a daze, I delivered the shared placenta and my part, physically, was over for the day. I went into the most uncontrollable shivering through physical and mental shock and time stopped to exist. 

Siggy left the room and went to check on Peter and Gordon. I don't know how long he was gone and he has no idea either. He tells me that the ICU, on that first visit, was an alien and strange world of half-light, beeps, alarms, whispers and shadowy figures of both nursing staff and numbed parents staring into the various incubators around the room.

When he came back, though, Siggy had two polaroid photos, one of each of the boys and those were the most precious things in my life for that moment. It is impossible in some ways to explain, but the very real and very present threat of your child, whether hours old or years old, being close to death is the most lonely feeling in the world. Lonely, even though it was the most intimate and undeniably shared experience we have ever had.

Siggy told me they were both ventilated and in incubators with heart monitors and fingertip blood saturation monitors on. These things were just clinical mumbo jumbo to us that day but over time we became incredibly familiar with all. Siggy, control freak and knowledge-sponge that he was, read charts like an expert in time and we learned everything we ever need to know over the weeks that followed.

All that first day, though, I didn't get to actually see my beautiful, tiny boys and I'm sure that my heart broke time and time again throughout the day. I was moved back to the ward and time passed in a chemical- and love-induced haze that still manged to allow the waves of pain to permeate through the strange forcefield that had settled around me. Proud new grandparents came in full of the joys and left, still proud but confused and uncertain of the future as Siggy explained what had happened and what we had been told, the whole time looking for all the world like he wanted to split himself in two and leave one part with me and one part with the boys in ICU.

36 hours after having given birth, I was taken down to ICU in a wheelchair and for the first time got to gaze upon the wonders that I had brought into the world. I cried every single piece of me out in the unit in the few precious moments I had with them.

In the early days, every hour counted - "the first 12 hours are vital", "If they make it through 24 hours, we can consider the next steps", "72 hours in we will have some idea of their chances." At the same time, we were being given updated "odds" on their progress; "They probably have a 30percent chance of surviving" was possibly the worst moment of the first couple of hours, that changed after a week or so to "40/60, but there may be some lasting effects," until we eventually reached what was becoming the holy grail, firstly "it's probably 50/50 that they'll get through ok" and later "they're definitely more like 60/40 chances now." Fear of tempting fate meant that we stopped asking any more then. 

I stayed in hospital for ten solid days whilst Siggy ran around between work, home and the hospital day after day and then we had a further 41 days of commuting to and fro before the boys were finally allowed home. In that time, they put on around 2lbs each and had countless transfusions, tests and scares. In Gordon's case, he basically died twice when he had stopped breathing and  Peter, not to be outdone, had terrified us when a scan had shown asymmetrical brain growth and a degree of fluid where fluid shouldn't be.

On one unforgettable day, Siggy was called in from his work when Gordon had stopped breathing for some considerable time and staff had been "working on him" for what seemed an eternity. Speed limits were again, doubtlessly, broken.

Even on the day we were due to bring them them home, Peter caused a scare by turning blue and he - and I as I had been rooming in again overnight - had to ensure one more night in hospital before our lives together could start, properly. Maybe, just maybe, we knew all along as his name actually means "fair warrior".   

Life has a way, though, of paying you back and Peter and Gordon are now both 6'3" rugby players who have barely had a day sick since. they will try anything, do anything and with the slightest smile, light up our world. they also light up a lot of other worlds, most of them female. Siggy, six years after they were born, had just changed jobs and one of his first cases was to help out the registrar who had twice saved Gordon's life. He helped him get a fair bit of backpay, but could never repay the fantastic gift that he, and all the other Rottenrow staff gave us.

As you all may know, they never put us off and their two brothers had their own fair share of drama when they came into the world, but thankfully not quite as dramatic as the twins and not requiring so long in hospital. Those stories though, can wait for their birthdays. 

Siggy and I had been together for eleven years when the boys were born, but on this fantastic - and of course in our house chaotic - day, I just want to thank Peter and Gordon and Donald and Scott for just making us, us.  

We love you. Always. 

Friday, 25 May 2012

Was it Chubby Checker?

This week has been a bit of a quiet one for me - almost too quiet as I've had such a tough time writing this blog. I have even gone as far as contemplating porcicide. I don't know if that is a real word or not but, yes, I was so desperate tonight I almost killed my pink chocolate Percy Pig Easter "egg" that Scott bought me (I say Scott bought me, but I strongly suspect Siggy was responsible for it as Scott seemed quite surprised that that was what he had got me on Easter Sunday). However, I have resisted so Percy lives for another day. Mind you, with the fantastic weather we've had this week, he may melt soon and I'll be forced to put him out of his misery, but I'm going to try to keep him as a special treat at the end of term. I'm sure he'll appreciate it.

If the weather keeps up, of course, I can always put him in my exceptionally cool new fridge - and when I say cool, I don't mean it's hip, trendy, "rad,man",at the cutting edge or any of that nonsense. I mean cool. Actually, no, I mean cold. Our old fridge was on its last legs some months ago but we fought on bravely as, with three TEMs (Teenage Eating Machines) in the house, it is very seldom that we have food in the fridge for long enough for it to be a problem. And, of course, Siggy was absolutely determined that the only problem with the fridge was that the boys were incapable of closing the door properly. I have to say, I do agree with him on that.

Which is another weird thing, Siggy and I have been doing that a lot recently. No, not that "that". Agreeing.

We've agreed that the boys need to study more, by which we mean they need to study, full stop. We've agreed that pear cider is actually quite nice.

We've agreed that Siggy should at least put the ironing away after I've gone to the trouble of doing it. OK, we didnt actually agree, I just kept putting it back on his side of the bed every night until his resolve was well and truly broken and he had to put it away. Must be getting old, he never used to be so resistant to an excuse to go through my knicker drawer. 

We've agreed that the TEMs really ought to be able to watch Scott for a few hours during the day as long as we're not too far away, which is how we managed to escape to Ikea on Sunday for the new fridge. That was as close to free time we've had together in a long time.

Mind you, I apparently nearly wrecked that before it began. He's so bloody touchy at times. We were drawing out of the driveway and, because he had no rugby on Saturday and had got around to cutting the front lawn, he said "Well at least the grass looks better, amazing what a difference a weekend with no rugby or football makes"

"Yes and we can get started on the upstairs rooms now too if you've got all those free weekends," I replied innocently.

Well, can you imagine the petted lip that produced! No? Just imagine a small child who's just had their favourite lollipop taken away and you're about a quarter of the way there. All he said was "Be nice if you could just accept one job completed without adding ten to the list once in a while." He didn't so much say this as mumbled it into his chest, but I could hear him ok. Still, that didn't mean I had to answer, so I just asked what else we could maybe get whilst we were at Ikea and whether I should check if Pheobe still wanted the king size mattress she had been talking about. I bbm'd her and left him to stare, open-mouthed, at the road ahead for a while.

Pheobe had been saying the previous night about the mattress when we had gone out to the local "Brewers Unfair" as it has now been christened. It was one of those spontaneous decisions to nip out for a meal when we realised that two TEMs were out, so we took Donald and Scott and I invited the SPOT  group around. Pheobe and Bobby came along for dinner with their 13 year old son as their daughter was away to an "unders" disco (I'm sure you're not supposed to call them discos any more, but it annoys the hell out of them and I thought I should mention as a tribute to the sad passing of both Donna Summer and Robin Gibb this week). Toni and Jack said they had already fed their kids, so they said they'd come along later just for a drink.

The pub is one of those order-at-the-bar-with-your-table-number jobs and we were struggling at first as we didn't have a table, but the barman helpfully pointed out a couple sitting near the door at a table for four who were just about to finis, so said if we waited for ten minutes, we should be able to get their table. Pheobe, though, was hungry. I think it must have taken all of 90 seconds before she strode over to the girl who was sitting on her own as her partner had gone to the toilet. From a distance, we saw her obviously asking if they were using the two spare seats at the table and was obviously told "No," so Pheobe sat promptly sat down and, bluntly, STARED HER OUT whilst she had one, maybe one and a half  more spoonfuls of the huge chocolate fudge cake before getting up and flouncing out the door. We went over and sat down and I'm sure I saw a rather embarrassed and slightly disoriented boyfriend come out of the toilets and look around hurriedly before heading for the door too.

The meal was fine and either Siggy or Bobby had texted Toni to let her know we were eating our main course so she could head over anytime - they're only two minutes from the pub, but we all appreciate how long it takes to get  a 5 year-old girl, her ten-year old sister and 12 year old brother ready - not to mention her 43 year-old hubby - so we wanted to give her time to get there. Toni, super-organised or gagging for a drink or both was there within about three minutes. She really is a marvel, especially when there's the promise of a drink involved.

On arrival, however, the plan went, frankly, totally tits-up! No sooner were they through the door than the "helpful" barman was over explaining that no children were allowed in the bar area after 9pm. We did point out that it was only just after 8pm, but apparently the kids are only allowed in if their eating and they stopped taking orders at 8pm. So Toni and Jack had to make a hasty retreat.

First time I've ever seen Toni thrown out of a pub sober but we made up for that as she and Jack had us back to theirs afterwards and we had a really nice wee night. Cheers, guys!

So following the night out, I got my new fridge fitted and have been enjoying ice cold milk on my cereal all week as well as really nice cold meats, cheese which isn't sweating and, best of all, butter that doesn't spread itself (not actually butter, that pretendy-butter stuff that's OK because it's not margarine)

So, once the weekend was over, I had a very quiet week. I got around to booking our November weekend away and thereby proved why we need to book early - bloody place was fully booked by the time I went to book it on Tuesday after it had been available all weekend when I'd checked. So we're going back to the same place as last year.A hot tub's a hot tub, right?

I really stuck to the menu Siggy had carefully written on the whiteboard, how I was supposed to know that "week 2 " meant the second week of the menu. I mean, how is "this week" really that obvious? Once he'd explained that all the stuff on "week 2" was frozen and most of "this week" was fresh (in my new fridge), I suppose it was kind of obvious.

I went to a couple of meetings in the town - even parked in the space as last week and didn't lose my ticket in the space between the dashboard and the windscreen.

I even went for a very slow jog with Siggy and Dappy in the park. So a really quiet week with no slip-ups, disasters or comedy moments compared to the normal. I don't care what Siggy says, falling backwards into the dogs bath whilst it was half full of water so my a**e got wet and I got stuck, lying in the back garden like an upturned turtle whilst shouting to Siggy in his office and disturbing his videoconference is not a slip-up or a disaster.

Spending the afternoon sorting out six months worth of receipts for work expenses, putting them in nice, month-by-month piles, then going in to grab a coffee and finding the wind has taken them all over the decking is not a slip-up or a disaster.

And its not a comedy moment either.

A comedy moment is when your friend BBM's you from a wedding to tell you the bride has been taken to hospital because she twisted her knee at her first dance and the only response you have is "Was the first song Chubby Checker?"

Face it - every one of you is now adding to the list of alternatives that created - Twist and "ouch", Everybody "Kneeds" Somebody, anything by Twisted Sister or Kneel Diamond...... just send them in as comments!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Why do they gang aft agley?

I have to start with an apology for not having blogged last week and depriving my reader of their Friday feeling. You see, it was my birthday weekend and Siggy whisked me away to a hotel for the night to wined and dined and just to generally chill all day on the Friday because he's so thoughtful with stuff like that. It was truly wonderful - lovely champagne, a delicious meal, really plush room and hours relaxing in the spa on the Friday.

Well, that's the way it should have been. Siggy was due to be working way up north on Friday and so, given it was my birthday coming up and he had the choice between driving up late on Thursday and arriving about midnight or getting up at 5am to drive four hours, work for 6-8 hours then drive back again, we decided I could take Friday off, drive up with him on Thursday and have a nice relaxing day with a book.

That was the first plan to gang agley.

Turns out that after me booking the day off, arranging my mum and dad to babysit overnight and getting myself all excited about the trip up north, Siggy found out that the feuding parties he was going to see had sorted their problems out. I think it was the thought of Siggy grilling them for a whole day and telling them why they should start talking to each other again or lose their business. He's not as scary as they obviously thought though, because he just couldn't bring himself to spoil my excitement by telling me trip was off (or maybe it's that I'm that scary when someone spoils my excitement). So, do you know what he did? He booked another, closer hotel so we could have the a nice night out, arriving earlier, having the meal, the plush room, the spa and most especially a day of doing nothing on the Friday.

Plan number two was therefore afoot without me even knowing. Of course, agley it ganged.

Siggy, knowing we had less than a half hour to drive to the hotel, was more amenable to helping out his last appointment of the day - which started at 6.30pm so he was much later than he expected to be coming home. I was left to endure over an hour of Witter Mobile® (it's not nearly as entertaining or as mobile as Twitter, although it follows you round everywhere in the house, it has no off switch or volume control and it's My Mum-shaped) whilst he sorted out the best price to charge for syringing someones ears in a nursing home. I know where I'd rather have been, to be honest. Anyway, that was the calm, relaxed start to the evening up the spout and I moaned and moaned all the way to the cut of where Siggy had to take a different route.

Then believe it or not, I IMPRESSED HIM with MY SENSE OF DIRECTION! We were only a couple of hundred yards of the M80 when I noticed we had turned off and the road and I said so. I have to be honest and say I was a little unsure about the idea of not going away up north, but I soon warmed up to the idea when I saw the hotel. Then I cooled down again, the room was bloody freezing. Undeterred, we went for our meal, which really was lovely, and settled down for a drink after the meal.

Now I know what you're thinking - where did that plan gang agley? Well, it did and all I'm saying is that Siggy couldn't get home quickly enough the next morning. He claims it was because he had to get home to get on with work, but I know it was because the phone call he got from one of the four boys just put him off all night. in fairness, it put me off too, but hey, what's the point in having teenagers if they can't be teenagers?

And so we bumbled on into the worst - and best - weekend of rugby all year. It's the final weekend for the minis and always means a double-header of tournaments at Strathaven and Helensburgh. The boys played poorly on Saturday, but Siggy felt they had been put in too difficult a pool and, in any case, he came revitalised in his refereeing skills, which was nice to see as he'd been a bit put off since the last game which featured an all-out brawl on the park and accusations that the try he gave in the last minute, which put his team through, wasn't a try at all. To be fair, he is adamant that it was but the all-out brawl did take a bit of sorting out.

That's why Sunday was a bit surprising. As usual, I had to run around beforehand, dropping Gordon at his work and collecting him again before  I headed down to Helensburgh to meet Scott, Peter and Siggy at the tournament. When I picked up Peter, he was really poorly, so I took him home then set off - just me and Dappy the mad cocker spaniel - in my shorts, but well prepared with the Hunters and matching poncho in the boot. When i say "well-prepared", I kind of mean "totally and utterly unprepared". I had sat nav, but no postcode and a "broad" understanding of where Helensburgh was. Of course, this was another plan about to gang up it's own backside, but I was getting used to that.

I found my way by getting Peter to text me the postcode and was going along nicely with only the gathering rainclouds to worry me - even though I had the wellies and poncho, I was wearing shorts and irritated that I might get wet at the rugby. Oh, the other worry was Dappy deciding that my gearstick was a really comfortable chinrest, but she does that a lot and usually stays over her own side of the car.

Amazingly, the way my week had been going, she did stay on her own side and I happily turned off onto the Erskine Bridge.

Oh dear.

"Toll Bridge" the huge Orange signs declared.

No handbag.

No purse.

No change.

No anything to pay with and I was halfway across the bridge.

At this point, could I just ask everyone to remember that I am a good, law-abiding citizen and thus in no way would I have risked using my mobile phone whilst driving. Equally, I am so law-abiding and not in any way daft enough to stop my car in the middle of a huge, busy suspension bridge. I will therefore leave you to make up your own mind about how the next twist in my week unfolded. Equally, I will let you make up your own mind about the vocabulary and phrasing which follows. I may not have recalled it perfectly as I was under a little stress. I rang Siggy:

"Oh my goodness," I said calmly to Siggy after he hadn't answered his phone and I had to call Peter instead (I can't remember exactly the briefly conversation with Peter but I think it went along the lines of "Hello dear son of mine, please pass the phone to your father if you don't mind"). Sorry, getting off track.

"Oh my goodness," I briefly, succinctly and very calmly began, "It appears that I have left my handbag and purse at home"

"You called me to tell me that?You do that everytime we're going anywhere. I'm watching this game and the refs a total and complete tosser. See you when you get here and I'll get you a coffee." He went to hang up.

"Darling, there is a slight problem," I gently said just before he hung up.

"What is it?" he said really brusquely and, I think, a bit too angrily for someone who was only being asked a simple question.

"I would seem to be on the lane for the tool bridge and don't have any money with me" I very coolly said to him in a matter-of-fact way.

"Where the heel are are you going?" he yelled, half-laughing down the phone. "The Severn Bridge is a bit out of the way"

"Severn Bridge?" I said calmly, "I'm on the Erskine Bridge"

"You a**e," he said, "there hasn't been a toll on there for at least five years" and hung up, which I thought was a bit snippy.  

In the end, I got off the bridge ok but when I arrived at the tournament Siggy, the guy who was so pleased with how well he had reffed the games the day before was standing at the side of the pitch absolutely losing the plot with the ref for their games. Losing to such an extent that opposing supporters actually came around to his side to point out that the ref was doing his best. Big mistake, but for once he was right. the ref was a complete idiot and even I could see the errors he was making - "offside" is clearly not a concept he understands and as for his knowledge of quick free kicks and the fact that you cannot take two in a row, don't even start me. The ref, though, seemed to think that Siggy reminding his team of that was some sort of implied criticism of him and so he did tell Siggy to shut up.Siggy, predictably, didn't. The team, picking up on the energy from the sidelines, played with a lot of aggression and won easily in the end.

Still didn't stop Siggy moaning about it for the rest of the day - or at least until he had something new to moan about when I told I had no petrol and he would need to fill the car. Amazingly, he actually left me to fill it myself whilst he filled his own as well.

"Is it unleaded?" I asked, again calmly.

"Of course," he moaned back.

"Is that the green pump?" I again enquired politely.

"Yes." Grumpy sod.

Then he had the audacity to make put the petrol cap back on for me. In fairness, I have only put fuel in the car twice before and twice, he claims, the petrol cap has fallen on when he opened the fuel door. He is such a moaner.

Mind you, this week has been better. I started Uni! It was so exciting - I had gone and bought new pens, highlighters, paper, folders, pencil case, everything pink I could find in the stationery aisle and could hardly sleep the night before. When I got up, I was ready and out the house in loads of time and even arrived a bit early, found a parking space and found the room no bother. What could possibly gang agley?

I sat at a table with a group of girls I vaguely recognised. Turned out they were all from Stirling and, although I may have been picking up some of the accent wrong, they all really liked some guy called Ken. They must have done, because nearly every other sentence began or ended with "ken, like." How was I to know that this was actually going to be the naughty table in the class?

I mean, we're being told everything about induction, credit units, minimum essay lengths and all that stuff and I was keeping up really well. I know I was because I was even able to hold three simultaneous bbm group convos with Toni, Phoebe and, the girls at the nursery and Siggy. The lecturer seemed to be a little put off by some buzzing from our table, well, my hand bag (it was the phone, nothing else) but you'd think he would be a bit more professional than that.

Anyway, after playtime - they try to be all sophisticated and call it coffee break, but it's playtime as far as I'm concerned - the nice lecturer had obviously noticed that I had accidentally sat myself at the naughty table with all Ken's groupies because he said he'd kept me a seat down at the front. I think he's got the hots for me.

So the day was going really well and then I remembered I had to top up the parking meter. I was dead well-prepared.I had plenty of change with me and I had taken some out of my purse at playtime and had it in my jacket pocket so I could slip out at the appropriate time and top up the car.Some of the girls, I noticed had been trying to sneak out and I thought their shuffling was a bit distracting. I could hardly keep track of the bbm convos at one stage. I bided my time, tough and waited until there was just about three minutes left on my ticket. No shuffling for me - I stood up at the front and told the lecturer I had to go out and top up the car.

He smiled in a kind of grimacing way and off I skipped  to my car. I went to the machine and beamed with pride. Exactly on time. I put my pre-prepared £3 in the meter and printed my ticket, went to the car and gaily slipped it onto the dashboard. I have to say I was more than a little stunned to watch it slip down the slope of the dashboard and disappear down in the gap between the dashboard and windscreen.

I am not proud. I can say it. I panicked.

No handbag.

No purse.

No change.

No anything - not even a pink pen or a pair of tweezers to get the bloody thing back out, even if I could see it!

I ran like the wind back into the uni and up the three flights of stairs. Shit. I ran back down a flight as I had forgotten I was on the second floor after playtime. Ran into the room, breathless and slightly dishevelled to find the class was empty. Completely empty. I turned around, panic rising and saw the hot lecturer in the classroom across the corridor. Damn, must remember left from right in future.

I flew across the corridor, swung the class door open wide enough to almost take it off it's hinges and dived into the class, panting in the HL's (Hot lecturer is going to be too long to type every time for the whole course) direction. He smiled sweetly and very kindly looked towards the ceiling to save him any embarrassment. "Need... change" I said, I hope a little sexily as I was out of breath. I grabbed my bag, knocking over the chair it was hanging on and HL very kindly, although with what i thought was a bit of an overdramatic flourish, held the door for me.

It's a heavy door that, because it made quite a loud bang that echoed down the corridor after me as I sprinted back along the corridor and down the stairs. I ran out, crossed the road and got back just in time to get a new ticket and STICK IT to the windscreen before a traffic warden came round the corner. I told him all about it, he nodded a lot, looked at the new ticket STUCK to the windscreen and walked off. Funny man.

So, lots and lots of plans this week, including getting this out on Friday morning to cheer you all up but, as so aft, that ganged agley too.

Normal service will hopefully be resumed next week, but if anyone has any comments and thinks getting this on a Saturday is better, please just leave a comment.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Life through a whiteboard

Life in our house is complicated, but it is governed by a very simple device.

We have a whiteboard in the kitchen. Just like you might find in any office or school. A simple, effective and absolutely essential addition when there are six people in the house who are likely to be travelling in at least three different directions at any one time. So a year or so ago we invested in a whiteboard and since then have came to absolutely depend on it. The calendar industry is very narrow minded. You cannot get a "Family" Organiser with more than five columns on it. Why? Simple really: Marge + Homer + Bart + Lisa + Maggie = 5. They don't like Santa's Little Helper because he's a dog. Pooh + Piglet + Eeyore + Tigger + Kanga = 5. They don't like Christopher Robin because he's, well, "special" 

Of course, I can't claim any credit for discovering the massive benefits the whiteboard provides. We stole the idea, plain and simple. Worse than that, this was theft from a friend, but I'm sure they don't mind. And even if they do, it was hardly a copyrighted idea, was it? Our friends Susan and Paul are simply fantastic for me. They were friends-of-friends and I was always aware of their growing family when we were younger and have to be honest and say that I was mildly surprised when they finally stopped the six kid mark. They had had five girls in a row and then one boy and they are fantastic for me because they know exactly what it's like to live in a house that's never quiet - which reminds me of something weird that happened this week. Siggy bbm'd me on Sunday to say that he had suddenly found himself home alone.Every child had left to go somewhere and taken their friends with them (more about that later). His message read curiously "Strangely alone in the house - all out  and not really sure what do with myself". Now I know what some of you are thinking and to the best of my knowledge no, he didn't. To be clear on that "To the best of my knowledge" means that I didn't actually ask him, but the fact that I got another bbm shortly afterwards saying "Donald home, that was nearly seven  minutes" gives me a degree of confidence that he couldn't have got up to much in that space of time.

Enough of that though, back to Susan and Paul. We have Mount Ironing in our hall cupboard, permanently attached to which is Ben Sock. The strange thing is, Ben Sock can at times be higher than Mount Ironing, but of course Mount Ironing goes down every so often when I get a surge of domestic godessness and attack it in a cloud of steam and heat. Ben Sock, on the other hand, only ever grows and grows. We gave up properly pairing socks some time ago and as long as they are vaguely the same colour and length, they will be worn as a pair. Siggy was delighted with himself on Wednesday because he was actually wearing TWO socks that said Wednesday on them. He's achieved that before, but they were different designs and one was embroidered whilst the other had one of those kind of stick-on motif things.

Sorry, I digress again. Paul , as the only adult male in a room with six women, has commented on the fact that they have  a black leggings room - a whole room - where black leggings live in perfect happiness and appear to breed in a similar way to Tor Sock in our house. So similar in fact, that at least one of their girls has been known to wear two or even three pairs at one time just to get both legs fully covered. She swears that she didn't need to as ripped leggings were the in thing at the time but Susan, in an uncharacteristically concerned way, felt compelled to utter the maxim she never thought she'd utter. You know the one - "you're not going out looking like that, young lady."  This is not the same girl who climbed - no, wait a minute, really can't tell that one. Nor is it the same girl who, no, never mind, can't tell that you that either. You get the point. We live an a madhouse, they live in a madhouse. And we're all very happy about in our respective asylum.

So when we were at theirs for dinner one evening, my eye was drawn to their whteboard which contained scribbled notes, shopping lists etc and a very strange big number - I think it was 21 or something and it changed daily,as it was the number of days since both of them had given up smoking (I'm delighted to report that they are both still off the ciggies - very well done both of them). Anyway, we then went out and got a whiteboard.

There is a difference with our whiteboard though. It has been subjected to my OCD (or CDO, to put the letters in the correct order as Toni keeps reminding me to do) and it is all neatly drawn lines and colour-coding. Menus are in black, shopping green, appointments for everyone in a neat box for the week in red and finally blue for any notes or reminders. Siggy occasionally rebels and writes notes in red and puts items on the shopping list in blue. He still only writes in block capitals though, he's not that brave. Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a foolproof system. I had a BIG note - in blue - for weeks reminding Siggy to put oil in my car and he just ignored it. Eventually, I asked about it and he said he didn't respond to instructions in pictures - just because I had drawn (very neatly) the car badge on it as well. What an ar*e he can be.

Which brings me to a lowlight of the week. The twins are sitting their exams just now which, as I'm sure all of use remember is a hellish time. I have never understood what the kind of a civilised society takes the most fantastic years in the lives of its youth and totally and utterly buggers those years up by making them sit awful exams just at the best time of the year  - spring heading into summer - at an age where no matter how their parents want, they can't kick them out of the house because they're still just too young to get jobs and house of their own. Come the revolution, when I'm in charge,exams will not be legal until you are at least 22 years old (although no-one will sit them because, as a favour to parents, I'll also make it legal for people to start working at age 13 so they ca be booted out of the house into their own flats on precisely the day after they first announce that "it's not fair, you don't understand what it'slike to have fun") 

I know, I know, get back to the point. Siggy, in a strange bout of support for the twins study plans - he never had study plans himself because he was a self-confessed lazy and disorganised git as a teenager (he still is, just isn't self-confessed now). Perhaps that's what made him feel he had to use the whiteboard to put up a study plan for the twins and write - in black and in capitals - a reminder that they should check on Tuesday that they had calculators for their exam on Wednesday. It probably also explains why he remembered to ask Gordon on Wednesday morning if he had his calculator. Amazing though it is, Gordon actually did have his calculator, showed it to Siggy and left, which meant Siggy could get on with some work and start his videoconference at 10am. 

Siggy hates videoconferences. He says that when you work from home, it feels so much more of an intrusion to have your work colleagues peering into your home, but more than anything else, he hates the fact that you have to sit in the same bloody place for hours and cant just get and make a coffee, which he generally does every 20-30 minutes when he's working. He has even considered just recording himself for a few hours some Sunday when he is hungover and not feeling like moving too much so he can then feed it it in to videoconferences instead of actually sitting there. he gave up on the idea when he realised his colleagues would the wonder why he only owned one shirt and never said anything, which is the genuinely hard bit for him, argumentative so-and-so that he is.  

Anyway, he gets onto the videoconference at 10am. at 10.05, he received a BBM from Peter:

"Are you still in the house"

"Yes. Why?"

"Forgot my calculator, can you bring it up" 

"No, am in VC. Will BBM mum"

So he sent me a message, which I received just as I finished with a psychologist (for one of the children at the nursery, not personally of course), so I bolted out of work and came straight home, flew into the house and ran around - really quietly because I hate anyone on the other end of Siggy's videoconference hearing me - couldn't find the calculator, but eventually did. I went past Siggy's office, waved and jumped back in the car (which now has oil, I'm pleased to say). 

Twenty's Plenty? As Jim Royle would say,my arse. I must have hit sixty before I was 200 yards down the street and didn't slow down from there until I screeched to a halt in a cloud of smoke and burning rubber outside the exam hall. I abandoned the car and ran in the door, waving the calculator madly in the air at the girl behind reception who smiled back and pointed. In hindsight, that should really have alarmed me more than it did and it should certainly have alarmed her as they are really strict on exam rule and the like. Unfortunately, as has been pointed out to me by every "friend" I have spoken to since, the school are so used to my being in and out of the place that they barely batted an eye.

I spotted Peter - hard not to when he's 6'3" - but couldn't get anywhere near him. Luckily, however, about half of the 200 or so kids shaking nervously waiting to go into the hall have, at one time or another, been served breakfast in our kitchen after staying overnight in the garage, so before I knew it, one of them had seen me,seen the calculator and said "Oh Cheers, Mrs A, which one's it for?"

I think I mumbled, "Peter," in response and the next thing I knew, all I could see was the calculator being crowd-surfed across the hall at a rate of knots with a slight buzz of "Peter" moving through the room like a whispering wave. Next thing I knew, I just saw a thumb up in the air some 80 feet or so away and the boy who had taken it from me turning and saying "Sorted" 

Seconds later, the room had cleared and they were in the exam hall. Made it by the skin of my teeth. I went  home, played commando again to pass Siggy a quick note telling him that it was delivered safely (Note:"Playing commando" isn't as much fun a it might sound. I once inadvertently went into Siggy's office when I didn't know he was on a videoconference and took some paper out of the cupboard behind him. As I walked out of the room, without him having said a word to me, all I heard was Siggy saying "Oh yes, that was Aud." followed by "Probably not, I'll tell her later" and laughing. I asked him about later and he said it was just Richard at the other end  asking if I knew my bum was on screen for whilst I stretched to get the paper out. Therefore, I now have to play commando to get any messages into the room).

So, need to go now as the Whiteboard says it's a big weekend of rugby and I'll need to get organised for it all. 

I "heart" my whiteboard. I hate that phrase. See you next week.

PS - Admit it, how many of you scrolled back up to see if Siggy used the right colour for the calculator note? He didn't, that's why it didn't work.

PPS - As i finish this weeks blog, Siggy is taking out the recycling bins. In case anyone passes and notices that the glass bin is overflowing and has a box full of bottles on the top, we missed it last month.  Honest.