A nice American reader just told me he had to wikipedia Northumberland to see where it was. How cool is that? I wonder if I tell the local people that I have been acting as an ambassador for their country, in cyberspace y'kna, whether they will douse their burning brands before they set light to the house.
When I was not dealing with the backwash from Andrew Sullivan's kind mention, I was at the doctors with the children who were due to get their jabs. I am convinced that I am already marked down as a bad mother with the health visitor (God, don't you just hate health visitors?) because I regularly forget to turn up for one or other child's appointment. It is not that I do not care about my children's future welfare. I am their mother and when it suits me, I care a lot. It is possible, however, that I do not write things down as I should. If at all. Apart from on my hand. I write things there because you cannot lose your hand, unless you are very unlucky. You do wash it though which is where my system occasionally falls down.
I went on to lose further brownie points with the nurses because we are still not MMRing. I realise this is an incredibly "yesterday" standpoint, the debate has moved on and we probably should be ramming needles into them willy-nilly for the sake of the public good. But we spent so long agonising about it for the eldest, I cannot bear to go there again.
After the deeply unfashionable MMR confession, I then had to admit to the entire waiting room, that I had lost not just the baby's "little red book" where all the medical notes are kept, but the four-year-old's as well which made the nurses sigh deeply and the other waiting parents look at me in wonder. "Call yourself a mother?" hung unspoken in the air. You just know they all keep their children's little red books in manilla folders with the words "Children's little red books" marked on them. At least I didn't fall for the obvious trap laid by the nurse who shot the baby up, after I had been chatting to her about how violent boys can be.
"All you can do is say to them, 'I don't hit you, so don't you hit your brother'."
Nope. Wasn't falling for that one.
But the closest they came to calling social services was the moment I started picking up leaflets from the windowsill with the dusty money tree on it. Picking up leaflets in the doctors' surgery is definitely something no-one should ever do. It is akin, up here at least, to taking out an advert in the local paper admitting you have gonorrhoea. I hasten to add that was not the leaflet I picked up. Instead, I gathered together a little package of paper guides on "panic", "shyness and social anxiety", "stress and anxiety" and "stress". I was intrigued by the fine distinctions at play. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the nurse watching which leaflet I was picking up next. She was thinking: "It'll be the gonorrehoea next you know."
The guides, it turns out, are stuffed full of handy hints like this one from the panic leaflet.
"THE TRUTH IS: NOTHING AWFUL IS GOING TO HAPPEN, AS PANIC ATTACKS ARE NOT DANGEROUS."
Theses words are written in really big letters, some of them in bold, presumably in case anyone who might have been reading the leaflet had been relaxing for a change.
Meanwhile, the shyness and social anxiety leaflet warns that if you think you suffer from social anxiety: "You may think 'I'm boring' or 'I'm strange'" and goes on "After you've been in a social situation you think 'that was awful', 'I looked so stupid'." Doesn't everyone feel like that all of the time? Apparently not, I have just been suffering from acute shyness and social anxiety all these years and all I needed was a leaflet. Anyway, I find it hard to believe that anyone suffering from shyness and social anxiety would even pick up the leaflet. Someone might see them and shout very loudly: "Nurse, this woman just picked up the shyness leaflet."
Now that you have American readers, you have to translate. What's a "health visitor"? It sounds awful.
WITN - You're fucking lovely you are!
Having had time off work with stress myself, and thus spent more time in a doctor's surgery than a 39 year old should have, I can sympathise hugely.
And of course as with taxes, authority finds it far easier to harrass good old fashioned honest types like you, than turn the tide of ignorant chavdom that is taking over the rest of the country.
I must stop now before I turn into full blown 'grumpy old git' mode.
[Well I have by now turned 40...]
p.s. Don't worry what anybody else thinks - I think you are fantastic as a mother. I was one of two boys, and my sister has 3. And the tough discipline may have a few downsides but at least we, and my nephews, do have some kindness and manners..
Fear not ! Don't worry about the loneliness and isolation of your area - I and several thousand other fans of yours are going to relocate to your part of the country to keep you company and do your ironing, enjoy your cooking and do your babysitting.
Do you think you can cope.
Lots of love, and get those crispie cakes and chocolate in the pipeline.
You make me smile. Keep on.
Hello There WITN from Southern California! I'm a kiwi living in the US, so lots of the "where the hell am I" sentiment I totally get.
It's great fun being an observer tho, isn't it?
Hang in there, spring will bring lots of bulbs and bouncy lambs to make you smile.
Just in case you were worried that no one else in the whole world who lost their baby's "little red book" I have no idea where my son's is. However, here in Boston, the book is blue. The medical staff reacts pretty much the same however.
Well, Americans don't know diddly about their own country (or politics, how do you think that psychopathic clown got in the White House?) much less any other.
But some of us rabidly Anglophilic American do know about Northubria, and Anglia and the Coteswolds and are even bent enough to do Morris Dance and Playford English Country Dance.
I even took a semel cake to M.M. Kaye on Boxing Day.
To really move to the primitve howling wilderness, come to America.
Having been linked to you by Mr. Sullivan, I must say that I have great sympathy for your situation. I spent a month living in Northumberland and doing research on Hadrian's wall. I had a three mile walk to work at Vindolanda, a two mile trek to the only restaurant in Bardon Mill at which I could eat, and one public telephone in a 15 mile radius to phone home. I now live in New York City, which I am sure bears some similarity to the experience of living in London. The differences in food, culture, and general welfare were/are shocking to me. I was originally born and raised in the rural south of the United States, and I must say that I have never seen anything as rural as Northumberland. God bless you and good luck.
Anyone wanting to relocate is fine by me providing they are willing to babysit.
Re simpletruths and nathan: I think my experience is one a lot of us have shared - on the outside in a new place. I look forward to the daffodils.
You say you loathe Health Visitors, you want to try being one!!!
Er, no, we don't want all these loons relocating up here thank you very much.
The reason Northumberland is so beautiful and bleak is because it's not crowded like your beloved London.
A health visitor is a person who comes round to see you when you've just had a baby to check that your house is a suitable environment for said baby, and that you're not making it sleep in a cardboard box under the sink or anything. They usually arrive when you're managing to grab five minutes sleep on the sofa in between feeds and during a cosy chat over a cup of tea make you admit that you're shit scared of coping on your own having just come out of hospital with a hideously sore tail end and excrutiatingly painful rock hard breasts, and no idea at all of what you're supposed to do about anything. Then they make you go to a baby clinic in an overheated noisy health centre, where they insist you strip your purple screaming baby so that it can be laid in a filthy wee soaked scale to be weighed, and terrorise you by asking if you've started solids yet, when you really know you shouldn't, but have in fact resorted to sneaking in a half teaspoonful of baby rice in the last feed in order TO GET SOME FRIGGING SLEEP. Afterwards, you don't see them again for five or six years when one suddenly turns up on your doorstep demanding to see the baby, who is now at school. They seem surprised when you tell them that you are on the way to collect the baby football practice, and scuttle off to terrorise someone less bolshy than you. That's my experience anyway.
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