You have different obsessions at different times of your life; breasts, sweets, sex, a job, a lover, a baby, sleep and, finally, when and how you die. It is possible to strand yourself in one or other but I have swept through and out the other end of most. I have not yet begun to draft my final words or plan my soily grave; I swear to God, though,I would be a nicer person if I got more sleep.
Three out of the four last nights have been disturbed by one or more children; two out of three nights, I have had to sleep - I use the term loosely- in the spare bed in the study to be closer to a cough-filled baby. Last night, I had a choice of distractions: I could listen to the gusting wind outside the house as it harried red-brick chimneys and bare-branched trees, or, I could tune into my hacking, pilgrim baby who tumbled her way round first her cot and then my bed, trying to find some peace. By 2.45am, I decided either she had to be medicated or I did. I carried her back into the darkness of her own room and found the new bottle of cough syrup. I pressed down and twirled away the child-proof cap watched by a murky Peter Rabbit, and groped for a silver spoon in the gloom. She coughed against my chest. "Ok darling," I murmured, "Mummy will make it better". (I don't know how long that one lasts - I figure it should hold until she is two.) I sat down wearily, bundled her gusting warmth into the crook of my arm and tipped up the sticky bottle. It emptied itself all over my bare leg. "Oh dear," I said out loud in the dark. "Mummy's poured cough syrup all over herself." For a moment, the wind outside died and there was silence. Carefully, I scraped a spoonful of blackcurrant linctus off my skin and swallowed it.