The Gift of Laughter #BlogBattle#shield



I have always prided myself on being able to use humour to cope with life’s peaks and troughs.  “Whatever life throws at you, bat it away with a laugh or a chuckle” – that’s my motto.  Use laughter as a shield to deflect all the rubbish that lands at your feet in copious amounts on a regular basis.  It seems to have worked quite well so far.

Until serious illness hits your child.  It’s pretty hard to find the humour in that.

Seeing your son laying in a hospital bed with tubes and pipes everywhere, being pumped with horse-strength doses of nasty but vital meds, every day a battle to find something that works.  That’s terrifying.  As his big, blue eyes reach to find yours and he utters in the weakest voice possible, “I’m so frightened”, and all you can do is stroke his cheek and reply, “Me too.”

So that’s how we spent our summer.  I sat by his hospital bedside every single day, taking it hour by hour, willing him to get better.  The first week was utterly dire, not helped by a sudden heatwave engulfing the country and making the critical care ward hotter than Satan’s sauna.  The poor nursing staff found it a real struggle – it’s not an easy job at the best of times, but when every single one of your patients is running a high temperature and you don’t know if that’s due to infection or them overheating, it can complicate matters a little!  Ever the professionals, they rotated cold compresses like a production line, slapping them on the patients with one hand whilst mopping the sweat from their own brows with the other.

We had a daily tour of the hospital, with a whole barrage of tests and investigations being carried out in quick succession, with ruthless efficiency. Blood tests were another matter – they were giving blood transfusions in one of our boy’s arm and taking numerous vials of blood from his other on a daily basis (one day they actually took 12 vials – I felt like suggesting they cut out the middle man – our son – and just took it directly from the drip stand before it reached the cannula).

New plumbing

Son no 1 was most impressed with his multiple plumbing lines

As time went on, and we settled into our surroundings, we began to listen to the people around us.  One day an interesting chap was brought in and shown to the bed next to us.  When I say ‘brought in’, I mean he was handcuffed to a burly police officer who never left his side.  The doctor came round to ask for his medical history (the man’s history, not that of the police officer – I’m not sure that would have helped). “So what brought you in here?” asked the doctor.  “He did!” the man replied, nodding towards the police officer.  After some dialogue that son no 3 would have described as ‘banter’, the conversation continued… “Well, there was a knock at my door, so I opened it because I have nothing to hide (cue honest expression and a shrug of the shoulders) and the police arrested me and took me to the station.” “So why did you come here?” asked the doctor, checking his watch and wondering how many more hours he would be able to spend on just the one patient.  “Well I just felt crap,” came the reply.  Not sure there was a box to tick for that one.

After 10 days, our boy was more stable so he was allocated a bed on a general ward.  And what a ward that was.  There were 3 men facing us in the bay (but not in the same bed – that kind of thing wasn’t allowed on the ward).  I shall call them A, J and P.  A was one of those people who you need to meet in your lifetime – a straight talking scouser with a heart of gold and a sense of humour that belonged on the stage.  He had us laughing from day one on that ward.  The 3 men didn’t really enjoy the hospital food, so they often ordered a take away to be brought in by a relative or even delivered to the hospital entrance.  Many a day, they could be found huddled over a menu, deciding which burger to pick.  They each needed their blood sugar testing several times a day too.  It was reminiscent of a mini lottery as each man tried to guess the other’s result before it was revealed.  The prize?  A jelly baby or two.

A had been in hospital a long time and took great delight in telling us that not only was he approaching his 100th day in there, but that he was going to have a party to celebrate.  He didn’t disappoint.  His family came in and decorated his bed with “100th” banners, flags and fairy lights. He wore a large 100 badge and piled on his bedside table was a vast array of cakes and sweets – enough to feed every single member of staff who had helped or treated him since he’d been there.  Unfortunately on the same day, our boy had a visit from the nutritionist as he was very malnourished.  She didn’t notice A’s stash of food until she finished talking to us and pulled back the curtain – there was A, surrounded by every kind of forbidden food you could think of.  She gasped loudly, but then had to laugh when she saw the look of horror on A’s face.  “It’s not all for me!” he protested.  We lost count of the amount of people who called in to see A that day – many just because they saw the ‘100’ signs and couldn’t believe how young he looked for such a grand age – he was quite put out since he was actually only in his 50’s.

One day, A and P were selected to trial some new hospital beds.  We couldn’t think of a better pair to provide honest feedback.  They quickly realised that these beds had a large range of movement – from lowering just 40cm off the floor to rising so high that A quipped he’d be able to “do a Sistine Chapel job” on the ceiling.  One of the nurses was particularly short, and A and P decided to play a joke on her.  They both raised their beds to the maximum height and then called her into the bay.  How they laughed as she berated them, wagging her finger as she shouted up at them, before striding off whilst shaking her head, albeit with a wry smile on her face.

One weekend, we were lucky enough to receive a visit from a rather distinguished, semi-retired Professor who was doing the rounds.  “You are on the ice cream and Mars Bar diet, young man!” he exclaimed.  A discussion about food followed, during which our boy said that the hospital apple crumble wasn’t as good as my home made efforts.  “But I’m always in here with you, I don’t get chance to bake,” I replied.  The Professor looked at me.  “For Goodness’ Sake woman, go home, get some sleep and bake the boy an apple crumble!” he bellowed.  I did just that and rose at 6am to bake a fresh apple crumble.  Upon my arrival at the ward, A called across, “I’ve just ordered custard for lunch, nothing else.  That’s right, isn’t it?”  My son and I looked at each other rather puzzled, and then back at A.  “You’ve brought in a large crumble,” he added, “I assume it’s to share!”

As the days rolled by, we felt buoyed by the joviality in the ward.  All the patients received an anti-coagulant injection as they spent most of their time in bed. One day, after the nurse administered an injection to A, he muttered just loudly enough for us to hear, “Trousers down, oh just a small prick, full of insults today, how rude…!”  I could write a book of all the goings on in that ward – maybe one day I will!

Some days there may have been negative news for one of the patients.  A subdued respectful silence would fall upon the ward, each man lost in his own thoughts.  Then someone would pipe up with some gentle words of encouragement, the shield of humour would gradually be raised and the mood would slowly lift again.  It worked well.

All the staff at the hospital were amazing, from the nurses, doctors, consultants, radiographers, phlebotomists… to the porters, catering staff and cleaners.  Each played a vital role in getting our boy well enough to come home.  We could not fault a single one.  But the icing on the proverbial cake was the support given from the other patients on that ward, in particular A.  He made a difficult and frightening situation so much easier to bear, restoring our ability to laugh through the pain.

A, this post is for you.  So glad we met.


Is Anybody There?


Hello!  IMG_5900

Remember me?

Chief Staff Member for Gloria Chufflepuff, the chuffin cat, Head Poo Picker for the thick chickens, referee and chef for 3 fetid boys.  Yes, that’s me – ring any bells?

It’s been a long time.  Too long.  This poor little blog has been neglected and filed away in a dark corner with only spiders and the odd errant mouse (Gloria’s latest house guest) for company.  I think it’s time to bring it back – who agrees with me? (‘It’ being the blog, not the mouse, if you’re listening Gloria).

It’s been something of an enforced break, but more on that another time.  For now, I’m sure you’re all desperate to hear the latest news.

*cue tumbleweed* IMG_5873

Gloria is as rambunctious as ever.  She has grown bigger and poofier, as has her attitude.  Her headbutts can knock you into a neighbouring room, particularly with 14 pounds of force and sassiness behind them.  She was out in the garden yesterday, now that the sun has finally made an appearance.  As she patrolled across the lawn, tufty feet pounding the ground, tail wafting in the breeze, I noticed that her belly fur was actually touching the grass.  Bearing in mind that I recently mowed the lawn, it made me realise that she’d been caught unawares – her summer body is a long way off (I know the feeling!).  That’s what a prolonged winter does for you.  Well, that and a voracious appetite for Dreamies treats…

IMG_4294The thick chickens, of course, moulted in the middle of winter, with snow heavy on the ground.  As I ran around the coop trying to collect up the discarded feathers which were being buffeted by the hurricane-strength winds, I did wonder whether to sew them into mini jackets for the hens.  I mean, obliging little souls that they are, I didn’t really want ready-plucked frozen chucks, even if it was Christmas-time.


The boys have also grown.  In size and in noise.  And in messiness.  My cupboards are always bare as they manage to eat every single morsel they can find, however well-hidden it may be (even my Mint Choc Club biscuits from the secret compartment in the fridge – how very rude!) Have you ever seen a boy inhale a jaffa cake?  I have.  And don’t even get me started on the husband.

So I’m still here, and planning to do lots more writing.  Which leads me to my main question: is there anybody left to read this?


You Know it’s Autumn When…



1  You go for a walk in the woods and emerge looking like Miss Haversham, complete with delightful, new cobweb-infested accessories.

2  It’s communal shower time again, when your ablutions seem to be shared with all manner of uninvited moths, spiders and insects.  What’s worse than finding a spider in the shower?  Just finding the leg of a spider… leading you to die inwardly as you check the soles of your feet for the rest of the innards *shudder*

3  You step out of the shower, go to grab your towel, and instead find yourself shaking hands with a large spider.  It’s very nice of him to introduce himself formally before taking up residence in your bathroom, but I’d say his timing is a little off to be honest.

4  The chuffin cat develops a new coat – consisting mainly of dead leaves and garden debris – which she gleefully spreads around the house at regular intervals.  As a bonus, she might even bring you in a slug or three, stuck to her belly fur.  Having thrown the slug(s) across the room (any room, she’s not fussy), she will then provide you all with some evening entertainment as she proceeds to noisily suck all the slug snot off her body in a particularly uncouth manner.

5  You realise it might be time to invest in some little tin hats for the chickens, as the coop is positioned directly beneath a giant oak tree, and a heap of hooligan squirrels take obscene delight in lobbing acorns from a great height.  Alternatively, just rename your chickens Chicken Licken, Henny Penny, Turkey Lurkey and Cocky Locky, and live out your very own live version of the children’s classic tale.

6  The apple tree in the garden bears fruit, not that you get the chance to eat any of it as the marauding gang of squirrels snaffle the lot, once they’ve finished using the chickens as target practice that is.


Reasons Why I Can’t Sleep


Need to sleep...

I used to be one of those annoying people who could drop off to sleep in an instant: any time, any place, anywhere… sometimes when people least expected it (apologies to anybody from my past who was left chattering away to my slumbering, dribbling form – my student years were, at times, a blur…)
This has all changed.
So much so that, whilst lying in bed desperately waiting for sleep to descend, I decided to make a list of all the things that had kept me awake over the course of 1 week.
Yes, believe it or not, these are all true!
The reasons why I can’t sleep:

1  The raucous laughter of an intoxicated duck;

2  The chuffin cat using my stomach as a springboard to practice her double back somersault with half twist (the twist being a claw up my left nostril);

3  Two owls trading insults either side of the bedroom window: “Whooo?” “Yooooo!” “Noooo!” “Yoooooo!” “Yooooo?” “Noooo!”

4  The sensation of desperately needing a wee but realising it’s simply too cold to get out of bed;

5  The same 2 lines of a song going through my head. Playing on repeat. And I can’t for the life of me remember any more of the song. Despite the fact that I was merrily singing along to the entire song just a few hours ago;

6  Mr and Mrs Fox having a very public domestic dispute;

7  The shadow on the window that resembles an axe murderer hiding behind the curtain;

8  The sound of the chuffin cat pouncing on her squeaky turkey at random intervals;

9  The fact that the weatherman has forecast “a chance of wintry precipitation” so I have to keep sneaking a peek through the curtains to see if it’s snowing yet;

10  The Police helicopter hovering 2 foot above my house (clearly looking for the axe murderer behind the curtain).


Ten Things to do in a Hospital Waiting Room


1 Tap out a tune using your foot on the floor and see how many people join in.

2 Watch the pattern the fluorescent lights make on a bald head. More than 1 bald person? Compare and contrast patterns.

3 Count the squares on the ceiling and practice a bit of multiplication.

4 Make pictures out of the stains on the carpet – a bit like cloud pictures on a summers’ day, but dirtier.

5 Listen in to other patients’ conversations and try to diagnose their ailments.

6 Play a game of elbow wrestling with the patient sitting next to you.

7 Place the skeleton models in obscene positions and see if anyone notices.

8 Turn the doctors’ names into rude anagrams; just remember to use the correct name when you eventually speak to them.

9 Count the seconds between each cough, belch, sneeze and fart.

10 Yawn loudly, then watch the ensuing tidal wave of yawns spread around the room – rather like a Mexican wave of gaping mouths.

A tidal wave of yawns...

A Cup of Tea


What a beautiful day. Determined to make the most of the glorious sunshine, I ventured outside. As I inhaled large lungfuls of fresh air, I noticed a pretty yellow butterfly. Perched on a fox turd. Nice.

I could hear the perturbed chickens shouting obscenities at me from the bottom of the garden. Accompanied by the chuffin cat, I went to release them from their coop. As I opened the cage door they looked up at me, squawked and hurtled off onto the lawn. As opposed to the chuffin cat who hurtled headfirst vertically up the nearest tree.

Son no 3’s voice drifted across to me: “Mum! I’m stuck on the trampoline!”

I ambled across to him to see what the trouble was.

“Every time I move, I get an electric shock” he complained.

“Best sit still then, love” I replied with a smile.

Chuffin cat on a slideThe poor little chap was having a bad day. He’d already spent half the morning tied to a tree, courtesy of his brothers. Having struggled free, he’d then had a fight with the chuffin cat as she wouldn’t let him play on the slide – she was having far too much fun clambering up and down it and completely refused to take turns. Now this.

I left him in his bouncy prison, rocking a funky new static-spiked hair do, and went inside to make a drink. I love a nice cup of tea, particularly Earl Grey … although my family don’t call it that after son no 3 once misheard the name, causing much hilarity: he thought it was called ‘Old Gay’ and the name stuck.

I looked through the window to see the chuffin cat was now playing hide and seek with the chickens. Well, she was hiding, they were seeking. A large crow suddenly landed in the garden, a menacing gleam in his eye. He didn’t stay for long – who chased him away? Yes, that’s right: Cobweb Gladys the small white hen, whilst the chuffin cat bravely cowered behind a blade of grass.

I brought my cup of ‘Old Gay’ outside and wandered towards a garden chair. The chickens instantly spied me and came running full pelt, their little spindly legs working hard as their fat, feathered bodies waddled from side to side. I placed my cup on the ground and they took it in turns to peer impertinently at the tea. Much to my annoyance, a small black fly decided to nosedive directly into my cup. Chuffin cat stuck up a treeIn a frenzy, Cobweb Gladys plunged her beak into the hot tea. It didn’t stay there long: she shook her head in a stupor, knocking the cup and spilling the entire contents all over the grass. Not to be outdone, Doris DooDah decided her errant sister should lose her ‘Head Chicken’ status at that precise moment, and she launched a full scale mutiny. The chuffin cat hit major panic mode and shot up the apple tree, her claws splintering on the trunk in her haste to escape. There she remained, shouting loudly as if to provide a running commentary on the battle unfolding below her.

I sighed in frustration. How could a simple cup of ‘Old Gay’ have turned an idyllic afternoon into a scene from Gladiator?

Son no 3 appeared, evidently having managed to extricate himself from his static cell.

“Mum, I’m hungry. What’s for tea?” he asked.

“Roast chicken!” I replied tartly, looking at the squabbling heap of feathers fighting at my feet. “Take your pick!”

"Got any grapes?"

A Twerking Mouse…?


A strange thing happened the other night.  As I was driving along the lane that leads to our house, I saw a mouse. That in itself isn’t strange. We have a large mouse population in the neighbouring hedgerows and woods. Just ask the chuffin cat – she’s on first name terms with a whole variety of local rodents. This mouse was different. It wasn’t scuttling along the dirt track or bouncing through the shrubbery. No, this mouse was poncing about on my car bonnet.  That’s right, on my car bonnet. How very absurd.

I continued to drive slowly down the lane, one eye on the hedgerow, one eye on the mouse, an eyebrow raised in disbelief. The mouse seemed to be having a splendid time cavorting up and down across the bonnet. Every so often he turned and put both front paws on the windscreen, like an open invitation to play pat-a-cake.

Then the ultimate insult: he turned round and stuck his rear end in the air towards the windscreen. Not only that, but his body jigged up and down as the car jostled along the bumpy track. Yes, that’s right – the mouse was brazenly twerking on my car bonnet! Most uncouth for a rodent of any standing in the community. Bizarrely enough, I was actually playing a Robin Thicke song in the car at the time too.


Pulling up outside our house, I grabbed my phone and took a photo. As you do with a twerking mouse. Quite satisfied with its achievements, the romping rodent then disappeared underneath the car bonnet. I went indoors and told the rest of the family about my experience. Having assured them that I hadn’t been eating magic mushrooms, we all laughed at the photo and promptly forgot about the whole episode. Until a week later when exactly the same thing happened again – yes, driving along the lane, Robin Thicke started playing in the car and up popped the twerking mouse on the bonnet again!

Now as far as I’m concerned, one appearance is an isolated visit; two appearances make it a residency. I wondered if I should track down the mouse to try and extract some rental income. Let’s face it, he wouldn’t be difficult to find – just look for the mouse with the muscular fingers (from clinging onto the bonnet) and pert buttocks (that amount of twerking must be great for toning!).

On the bright side, it could be quite a good selling point if you like a spot of unusual on-board entertainment in your vehicle. Imagine the marketing campaign:

nice car, low mileage, careful owner
includes electric windows, central locking, twerking mouse

A twerking mouse? On the car bonnet? How disgusting.  Ill catch him and teach him to do the salsa instead.

A twerking mouse? On the car bonnet? How disgusting. Ill catch him and teach him to do the salsa instead.

Kidney Chaos


I hate hospitals.  I am the world’s worst patient.  It’s not that I’m squeamish – I can handle blood and guts, but only if they belong to somebody else.  My doctor has diagnosed me with significant ‘white coat syndrome’.  By that, I assume he doesn’t mean that there’s a significant risk that the men in white coats will be here to cart me away.  No, I see a white coat and my instinct is to run as far as possible in the opposite direction.  Probably straight into the path of an oncoming truck, knowing me.

So I had to go for a kidney scan.  The last one didn’t go too well.  The letter sent from the hospital clearly stated to “drink 2 litres of water at least 2 hours before your appointment time”.  It should have added on the end “if you have a bladder like that of an elephant”.  I duly complied, then wished I hadn’t.

The road leading to the hospital was littered with speed bumps, randomly scattered at various heights to ensure that each one caught you and your exceedingly full bladder completely by surprise.

003Upon arrival at the hospital, I had to sit in the ultrasound department along with a queue of other full-bladdered people.  In a row, outside the toilet.  Seriously – who planned that?  It was like some form of cruel torture, our eyes bulging as we scanned the toilet door, bladders fit to burst.  Yet nobody moved.  What amazing willpower we had; either that or we were all terrified of the nurse marching up and down the corridor, clipboard in hand ready to slap anybody who stepped over the toilet threshold.

After what seemed like an eternity, my name was called and I staggered behind the nurse as she led me into a darkened room.  It was in that room that I discovered something about myself: I have a new ticklish spot.  Well 2 to be precise, one on each side of my waist which just happen to be exactly where the radiographer needed to prod me to scan each kidney.  Bingo!  Each time the poor man thrust the transducer probe into my side, my leg shot up uncontrollably, my knee connecting with his body on several occasions.  I didn’t realise that being a radiographer was such a dangerous occupation.  Neither did he, judging by the lack of humour he exhibited.  I lost count of the amount of times he barked at me to “please try and keep still!”  I was giggling too much – no mean feat with an exceedingly full bladder. By the end of the scan, I wasn’t the only one staggering out of the darkened room, although I was the only one with a smirk on my face.

Then it was decided that I needed a repeat scan.  Deep joy.  Proud as I was of my immense bladder control at the last scan, I decided to go for the more sensible option and drink less beforehand.  Joining the queue by-the-toilet-but-not-FOR-the-toilet, was less painful.  In fact I almost felt a little smug that my bladder wasn’t as pin-poppingly full as those of the other cross-legged people waiting.

As I entered the consultation room, I noticed that it was a different radiographer: a pleasant young man who seemed to be pressing his palms against the walls in the corner of the room.  Clearly news of my killer karate kick action had spread.

He approached me warily with the words, “This might hurt a little.”  Huh?

He placed the probe not on the side of my waist, but on my lower rib.  Then he pressed down. Hard.  As I winced, he said, “I’m sorry, it will be uncomfortable.”  Of course it was uncomfortable! He might as well have grabbed a large mallet and smashed my lower ribs to smithereens – there, that would have given him a perfect view of my kidney!  Alternatively I could have given him a pair of drumsticks and he could have serenaded me with a tune of ‘nick nack paddywack’ on my ribcage.

The scan didn’t take long.  Maybe that was due to my furrowed brow and clenched teeth.  Who knows?  “Well,” he said with a very big smile, “that all looks perfectly normal!”  We breathed a collective sigh of relief: me that I had the all clear; him that he could put away the armour plating and never see me again.  Well not for another year anyway.

So what did I learn from this little episode?

  • 002Speed bumps and full bladders don’t mix
  • I can get quite violent when I’m being tickled
  • Radiographers aren’t generally into kick boxing
  • Sometimes it’s necessary to break a rib or 2 to check if a patient’s kidneys are healthy


Oh, and a final note to self: when using the ladies’ toilets after having crossed your legs for a couple of hours, don’t choose the cubicle next to the hand dryer.  No matter how desperate you are to empty your bladder, it’s highly embarrassing when someone dries their hands, and the rush of air blows under the cubicle door and wafts your frock up over your head.