Have been visited by plagues, several and diverse. A plague of boils. Maybe not boils, spots then. It is fair to say I have not had spots like these since I was 16 when I spent a considerable period of time staring at my nose thinking: "How spotty can you get?" Not only spots, a skin rash has reappeared which I have not seen since I was locked in a job in TV which I hated and which hated me back. When I went to a cosmetics counter in the nearest city last week and explained I needed the magic potion I had once used to get rid of the stress rash, oh yes and I had spots. The woman found the magic potion, then said: "Try a pore minimizing serum." A pore minimizing serum? That is to say, I have spots, a rash and enormously large pores. Why don't they train these women to say things like: "Well, I think you are beautiful as you are but perhaps you would like to try this shaving foam?" or "I hardly noticed the adult acne because I was so taken by your enormous blue eyes." Managers are trained to do something similar: "On the one hand, you make a lovely cup of tea; on the other, you have just cost the company £32 million pounds and you're fired." I want to know whether these women look at their sisters and say: "Do you know what? I think you are just too ugly for me to help."
And it is not just the boils, we have so many flies in the cottage, it is difficult to think we are not damned. They are everywhere; they surround my post-ironic chandalier (I have to call it post ironic since one of my closest friends up here said she did not like it).They drop from nowhere into your tea cup or onto a half emptied plate. I have sprayed and closed doors, I have stalked with tea towels, newspapers and heavy books (they jump backwards, did you know that?). I am trying to get hold of one of the blue butcher's lights which will make us look like we are living in a French movie. Either that or an electronic tennis bat you swing at them; hanging, after all, is too good for them and tieing nooses that small can be very time consuming.
We are also a house of pestilence and disease. Not only did my six-year-old, my husband and I all fall to vomiting and bile, but we have had a family staying with four boys and their seven-year-old and nine-year-old also came down with it. Last night, my baby girl caught it. I moved a mattress into her room, right by her cot. She would say: "Feel sick" and we would play catch into a plastic bowl. Say: "Wata" and I would hold a sippy cup. Vomit and I would say: "I'll be right back, OK?" and she would lie there, nod and I would go wash an unlucky panda, or fetch another towel or sheet. We lay together on the mattress and she pressed her perfect apple face into the dark place between my cheek and cotton pillow. I said: "I love you darling one." I do not think there is a word, nor ever can be one, to catch and paint the all at once rush of a mother's love. It is as if you catch a leaky boat to ride the rapids; tip and swirl around the rocks, gasp to see the rainbowed, unmapped waterfall, then plunge - not downwards into the white and foaming water rush but up and up and up.