I tend to think, if it is not one child, it is the other; if it is not the children, it is my parents I am worrying about. Most recently, it has been my six-year-old. Having clambered up the climbing wall at the agricultural show (did I mention how much I enjoyed it?), he duly climbed a tree and promptly fell out of its branches. No great harm done, I thought. A bumped head, hurt and boyish pride. The next day though as I was shopping in the local market town, he started sobbing, clutching at his side, teeth bared, nose wrinkled in agony. He ratchetted up the hysteria to the point I had broken open the bottle of Nurofen in Boots rather than wait to give it to him outside. Apart from drugs, I could not think of anything but throwing all three children into the car and driving to the hospital in case he had cracked a rib and had only just realised it because he had in fact been concussed for the previous 24 hours.
As soon as we drew up at the hospital, the hysteria subsided and he began to look quite perky again. As is the way with these things, one of the mothers from school is on duty in the hospital. I am wondering as I gabble to this capable health professional of my child's hysteria-inducing pain whether she will think I am making it up (people think that sometimes) or just plain useless in a crisis. The doctor comes and looks at me as if I am the one in need of medical care when I say I did not know whether my boy had perhaps cracked a rib or punctured a lung in falling from the tree. He shakes a head, but says there is tenderness and there could be a gastric problem some time soon. There is. The night after the day after the expedition to the beach (did I mention the expedition to the beach?) I start throwing up, my six-year-old starts throwing up and my husband starts throwing up. I am deeply hacked off when my husband starts throwing up as I wanted him to look after me. We eventually stop throwing up in time for today's outing to the big city hospital to look into my son's nut allergy. They cover his two arms with solutions and prick them through the skin. It turns out he is also allergic to cats, dogs, horses and grasses. I tell my husband if he was allergic to sand and bad coffee, we could all go back to London.
The children's outpatients is busy with intent artists carefully sticking sequins onto cardboard sillhouettes of children who run and jump for joy. Next to them, small boys gaze rapt into virtual reality, only their fingers and eyeballs moving as the game plays out. Pretty girls wear golden princess frocks while others storm a grey and plastic castle with battlements and an orange slide for a quick getaway if small barbarians make it through the gates (did I mention that they have?). As my sons played in and around the castle, I noticed a small engraved and silver plaque, then its shiny brother hung on a different wall, each hardly bigger than a matchbox. They said: "With love from The Family and Friends of Katie Grant Aged 2". I wondered who she was, this lost child, whose parents thought to gift a toy to others. I asked a nurse. Asking, I thought, I hope she is remembered and not just in a plaque. She was. As she cleared away the glitter, the nurse said: "Ah yes, Katie". The nurse said people were so kind, a fire engine, a doll's house. Each toy to mark a missing child. She said: a shame, the slide was broken, the castle, it would have to go. But Katie's silvered name will not lie among plastic and forgotten ruins, the plates will be unscrewed from castle walls and fixed to something else. I thought how right to keep her name; right too, that a toy should break from hard and eager play. That is what toys should do.