My baby daughter was sick for five days. Ear infection - "My ear hurts"; eye infection - "My eye hurts". Every little while: "I feel sick." Every wake-up time: "I want medsun". She wanted so much medicine I began to worry I had made her a Kalpol addict. The good thing about it was my husband was home for four of the five days and caught two of the cough-induced vomits. This is what you call a result. A messy one but a result. He is hardly ever home when the children are sick. Ever. And they used to be sick a lot courtesy of the younger one's stomach migraine. Like clockwork. Daddy would pull out of the road to go catch a train and the four-year-old would start vomiting.
One night she called out and I staggered out of bed and grabbed my dressing gown. My husband had only got to bed in the early hours because he was mired in a work crisis and was dead to the world. I had carefully left the bedroom door open because I figured she would wake up and by golly I was right. She did wake up and it was indeed much easier to hear her with the door open. Only problem was I forgot it was there and walked straight into it. This gave me a large lump on my eyebrow and cut my lip which immediately swelled up so that I looked like Marge Simpson, only without the blue hair. Naturally enough, as soon as I had whacked myself nearly insensible on the door she stopped crying. I crawled back into bed having inspected the damage and I lay there whimpering, thinking: "I am going to wake up in the morning and look like I have been walloped. People are going to say: "What on earth did you do? And I am going to say: "I walked into a door" and they are going to think "Yeah right"." But by the morning it had gone down. Now all I have left to show for it is a sore eyebrow and an ulcer on the inside of my lip from the cut.
Meanwhile, I decided I could not keep wandering around without a mobile phone. I do not have a good history with mobile phones. I have come to the conclusion, cars would rather I did not drive them and phones think I do not deserve them.
I have two mobile phones. I gave up using them because they were either flat or I could never get a signal. The reason they were often flat is that there is no incentive to charge them if you do not think you will get a signal. It can be a bit of a vicious circle and you fall out of the mobile habit. On Wednesday, I thought: "Enough. Call yourself a modern woman. You need a mobile phone so that when you run into trouble you can ring a man to get you out of it." Every now and then I try to sort out the chaos in which I live; one decision I made recently was to change banks. This worked very well but paying the mobile phone bill fell down the crack and when I picked up my old phone I discovered that the company had cancelled my service and I could not even use it if I wanted to. I paid my bill and the girl said to reconnect the service would be £35. I thought: "I am not paying £35 for a phone that never works" so I said: "It's been great but no thanks."
I picked up my pay-as-you-go. Pay-as-you-go is great till you discover you have run out of credits and cannot figure out how to top it up. There is no signal where I live. Unless you count the pigeons I occasionally snare and send back to London with coded messages like: "Send more coffee beans." I took the pay-as-go outside. I came back in because it was too wet. I took off my lambskin slippers (I feel guilty about them but not that guilty) and put on my wellies. I went out again. I walked along the access road waving the phone about as if I had poured gin and vermouth into it and was looking for a glass with an olive. No signal. I swore then went down on to the drying green where we dry our clothes in the North wind (whenever the tumble drier breaks down). Still no signal. I stood on one of the 44 molehills. Success - a signal. I tried to ring a number and a message came through with a three digit number to press. I called it and kept pressing "1" as you do till you talk to a real person. The real person was charming. I explained I wanted to top up the phone and he said: "No problem. What is your mobile number?" I said: "I have no idea." He said I had to ring off and get my sim card out and get the sim card number. I swore - but not at him. I went back in, trailing muddy footprints across the kitchen floor. I opened up the phone, swept away the sand which had inveigled itself into it and eventually extracted the sim card with my teeth. I wrote down the number and went back outside. I stepped back on to the mole hill, realised I had inserted the sim card in the wrong way round, swore and went back in. I unclipped the back of the phone, extracted the sim card, turned it around, clipped it up and went back out. I breathed deeply. I did the three digit thing, the pressing the "1" thing, and got another real and equally charming person. The signal was not as good this time, I think because I was slightly lower courtesy of having flattened the molehill from the earlier call. I explained I did not have the phone number but I did have the sim card number and gave it to him. He said: Great, thank you. May I have the first two digits of your four digit personal security number?" I said: "No, I have no idea what they are. Is that a problem?" He said: "Give me a minute please" and went to talk to his supervisor. I imagine the conversation went something like: "I have an idiot on the other end of the line. I am not sure she has any idea what a mobile phone is for, should I let her keep it?" Luckily the superviser had sex the night before and decided it was OK I could register myself, my debit card and get myself a new security code. We did all this, then the nice man in the call centre said: "I am afraid we are having problems topping up. You will need to ring back and do it yourself automatically." I contemplated burying the mobile phone in one of the molehills and telling the children they could have it if they could find it. I said: "OK, thank you for your help." I meant it, he was lovely. I called back and topped up the phone. It is simple when you know how. Yesterday, I go to use it and it tells me my sim card is not working. My friend who is with me when I realise this says: "I never have any problem with my mobile phone." I swear.