Monday, February 19, 2007

In sickness and in health

My morning so far.

I am asleep in a large wooden bed, unusually a husband slumbering by my side. I do not see enough of this bed. I like it. I enjoy its company but somehow we have drifted apart. I have been asleep for nearly two hours. The hands of the Mickey Mouse ticking clock march on and reach their destination. It is 2.40am. The silence lets out its breath and the door opens to reveal my six year old caught in the landing light. "Mummy, I feel like I'm going to be....bleaurgh". Our rented house has carpets. I sweep the wretched boy into the bathroom, trailing sickness after us and my husband wrenches himself from the warmth of the bed to fetch a bucket with soapy water for the carpet. My son refuses to go back to any bed but the one in my office so he and I curl up together with an empty tupperware box close by in case of emergencies. (Best to say "No thank you" to biscuits when the biscuit tin is full in my house although I am always very careful to wash it afterwards.) My poor white-faced, black-eyed child is sick at 3.15am and again at 4.20am. At 5.45am, his sister wakes up to be fed and I bring her in to bed. She is far from happy when she has to stop at 5.55am when her brother needs the biscuit tin again. I tuck the poorly one up and take the baby downstairs for a cock's crow breakfast with my husband. At 6.55am, he leaves for London. "Bye, darling," baby on my hip, I wave to him cheerily as he drives away.

When my four-year-old comes down for breakfast, I pour him a china bowl of strange rice crispy shapes, add semi-skimmed milk and lie on the kitchen floor with a soft woollen jumper for a pillow. The baby comes over to sit down on my head, then crawls away again. As I lie there, slightly chilly, I debate whether curling up on the kitchen floor is a symptom of mental illness and decide no one can see me so who cares. I have to get up when the doorbell rings. A mechanic stands waiting to fix the Volvo. I cannot find the keys. I say: "Give me a minute," and close the door. I clench my fists and beat my head with them to see if that will help me find them. It does.

Surprisingly, I found the china bowl for cereal without self-harming. My cousin who came to visit, organised my kitchen with startling ferocity. She talked me through her reasons for putting pots, pans and raspberry jams away. They have been placed around my borrowed cupboards and shelves with the same gimlet-eyed efficiency Wellington would use to deploy his troops in battle. Since I am the sort of general who would be hopping up and down with one foot in his shiny leather boot looking for the other one when the trumpet sounded, I have not got a clue where anything is. Last night, I ate my dinner with a spatula.


Newmania said...

Ho ho ho celebrity and as is entirely inevitable the intitially positive blogasphere now hate your guts . Especially the women.

Excellent everything is as I would expect it to be. You are accussed of
1 snobbery
2 Feyness
3 Dippiness
4 Dishonesty
5 Scoolgirl creative writingitis

I `d get use to it . Actually now I see your photo you are quite a dishy minx in a sort of wierd way and I find this excuses all your supposed sins.

I think you are good and in any case you are vastly better than the horror Rachel of North London who "stands for victims everywhere " and is about to be published . She really is a pain

sarah said...

i empathise so much with you-being an indian woman living in a small cumbrian town!most of all, i hate the 'waiting outside the school'brigade with their cliques.sometimes i feel postively muderous and then worried cos that is not the normal me.i am escaping to a bigger place and hopefully more people like me(not indian, just nice and normal!!).

Anonymous said...

Well your experience is neither particularly interesting nor unique. I imagine that many Mothers of wee ones - myself included - could have written something similar whether or not they had been uprooted from their metropolitan comfort zone. Those Mothers who did write anything chose to keep it tucked away in our diaries and journals, or the backs of envelopes...or perhaps we danced in the kitchen when the babies were asleep or we held them tightly to us while we danced away our angers and frustrations... Are we to sympathise with your chaos and the abandonment and isolation you feel or to fume at your apparent ineptitude at dealing with so much change? Northumberland is beautiful! This too will pass...and meanwhile your husband probably needs you to keep the home fires, and perhaps even his dream, burning while he brings home the bacon...

Calamity Jane said...

I let out a loud guffaw at the biscuit tin warning. I have a similar all purpose container - a yellow washing up bowl that gets used for throwing up in, soaking feet in and soaking certain items of clothing in Biotex at certain times of the month. Never at the same time I hasten to add and it it never gets used for its primary function of washing up.

Not sure where the blogosphere hate reference comes from but then I haven't waded through all the comments. I'm insanely envious of the book deal of course, but credit where credit's due - you're a talented writer, congratulations (i'm sure the building work will eat up most of the cash).

I hope your six year old gets better soon.

Eileen Cole said...

Dear Judith,
I love your writing - you are amazingly sincere, and very funny.
A born and bred Londoner, I moved to Manchester -for love of course- thinking it was the end of the world. I used to cry when I heard the traffic news of London!!! By the time I moved - 10 years later, I loved it there soooo much!
Am glad to have found your blog - well done and very best of luck!
With love, Eileen

Anonymous said...

everybody I know is thrilled by your book deal. surely you should mention it though??

Good luck

Arthurian Legend said...

Yes, Rachel North approves of Red Ken forcing Londoners to pay nearly £2million or face Pentonville gaol to pay for his fluttering penants that act merely to promote his ego.

And she calls herself "liberal"...

Congratulations on the book deal, WINT!

Anonymous said...

Love it
Life can only get better from here. After similar experiences with 4 I can recommend hanging in there> Grandmotherhood is great.

Lisa Taylor said...

Hi, found this at the w/end thanks to media exposure. your agent is good! sunday times front page no less. met him a couple of times last year.

am enjoying reading back through your archives as someone who years ago refused to move for love and thus lost love of my life - well one of them at least....(move would have been to Rome no less, a better option than london one would say but alas, I love London)and still I need daily reminders that I suffer through commuting for a reason, ie mostly what i get to do at night, who i get to meet in the big city and so on.
nice style.

Helen Sparkles said...

Well I have been brought here by the article at the weekend, so that's very nice for me.

I wish I had known about blogging when I moved, from London to Leicestershire, for a great job which turned out to be not so great. It might have prevented any of the loneliness I'd felt, but perhaps it wouldn't, & I suspect it would have been a miserable diatribe. I should hasten to add that it only took 2 years to feel less miserable, & I had arrived without children, or a partner, both of which I thought would leave me conveniently unencumbered, but when the folk at work felt like aliens, it left me a bit stuck for accessing company.

I admit I came here with my very London attitudes, & was probably quite obnoxious on occasions, but mostly I just missed all the arts stuff, not to mention the spontaneity of going out just that night, rather than booking weeks in advance for that National Theatre regional tour.

My saving grace was the tennis club, which I nearly didn’t join because I though the other ladies were too old to be my friend. Not only did I have to get less fussy, I also realised I no longer want to go out in the same way as the thirtysomething Helen who arrived here, & now my inter-generational friendships have become one of the joys of my life. I have also been lucky enough to meet another Londoner in exile in the next county, though she would never go back, and I would if I hadn’t acquired a husband who is rooted here.

One of the other comments referred to ethnicity, something I might have missed in the article, & though I know there is so much discussion about multiculturalism at the moment, I really miss it. Leicester has a really diverse population, but none of that was reflected in the ring doughnut of the county, which surrounds the city centre, and it was the biggest shock to me to arrive here & see how white it is.

Anyway, enough about me, me, me! I envy you your landscape should that be any consolation. Leicestershire is not that pretty, & I would love to live where you are for the views, but it will be a long time before I move again! Congratulations on the book.

geoffh said...

"but none of that was reflected in the ring doughnut of the county, which surrounds the city centre, and it was the biggest shock to me to arrive here & see how white it is."

No, the real shock is how black/brown/yellow or whatever our cities have become.

I was born in rural Leicestershire 60-odd years ago. How could it possiby be a shock for a rural county of the United Kingdom to be seen as white?

Incidentally, would you write how much of a shock it is to find Africa is black or India brown?

wife in the north said...

re newmania: do you use that line a lot? does it ever work?
re anon: looks like I might manage to toss in a rasher too now
re helen sparkles: I know what you mean about intergenerational friendships
(Thank you for congratulations but if I talk about the bookdeal, it might disappear. I am thinking what to do re posting on it. None of it seems particularly real from here.)

Mandy36 said...

I think you are doing a good job, as a single parent mum with 6 children I know how hard it can be when they get sick. I came to your blog through the paper at the weekend, and so far I can relate to you.
I have my own blog, have done them before but never managed a book deal, must be who you linked to!!! I wish I could get someone posh to link to mine :-)
Keep up the good work, writing is fun and infectious, I love it, and hope all goes well for the book deal.

Patience said...

Yes, parenting in a new place with an often absent husband was much as you describe for me too. But cheer up! Its nothing to the unrewarding pressure your elderly parents may exert as infirmity and age proresses. As my three have left the nest, I find myself parenting a soon-to-be nonagenerian. You are just glimpsing that future. Courage!

Anonymous said...

I love your prose, tiddley pom. Have you ever read any Ruth Picardie? She was mordantly funny too...

Most people would envy a lifestyle that seems to involve not working PLUS a nanny. In a beautiful part of the country too. I meantersay, whinging about what would be most gals' dream, how self-indulgent CAN YOU GET?

But then I got reasonable and remembered that although not working was never really an option for me, I do truly love my job, and the delicious feeling of making a truly positive contribution. It's all about feeling valued, isn't it? Childcare just doesn't feel rewarding in the same way.

Good luck with the books and the builders too.

Newmania said...

do you use that line a lot? does it ever work?

Yes well you look so imposing standing on your wallet......

Anonymous said...

Like many others, I came to your blog via the Sunday Times. Thanks for the warning about the biscuit tin (mine was a small mixing bowl which I still rewash before reusing though my children have since moved to Uni and buckets) I love your writing because it so beautifully describes motherhood, and I am still an outsider in my village in Rutland after 12 years so I can relate to a lot of what you say. I shall read you daily now (between breakfast, bracing walk and smiling genially at the neighbours) Congratulations on a well deserved book deal.

sarah fleetwood said...

celebrate your publishing deal and keep writing to keep the rest of us sane.

it;s nice to hear someone else's children puke into unsuitable containers- mine use an ice cream tub and it does regular car journeys - the lid comes in handy so you don't have to stop. and lying on kitchen floor is entirely normally, I do it regulary - probably because its the only heated place in our house.

Alan said...

Dear Wife,

I heard of you thru the political blogger Iain Dale, and have read down this far. It is late at night, so Iwill stop, but wanted to let you know that you write with such accuracy and joy about the most dreadful of parenting activities that I am laughing out loud and probably half in love with you. Shades of "Cold Comfort Farm" - PUBLISH !

Alan Douglas

wife in the north said...

re alan:which half?