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Thursday, 30 January 2014

Reasons to be Thankful



We had nits over Christmas. I'm not sure which of us was on the naughty list, but whoever it was they must have been really naughty for Father Christmas to send us all such an irritating present. It was our first case. Each time the letters came home from nursery and now school, I would check diligently to be met with a louse free comb. I was becoming smug; eleven years and not a single egg. Either my children were anti-social enough to avoid rubbing heads with other children or they had 666 tattooed on their scalps. I didn't care which so long as I continued to dodge the issue. Imagine my disappointment when my investigations into our incessant scratching disclosed my worst fears - the girls weren't the Devil's spawn, but normal kids susceptible to childhood complaints after all. Bugger!

I manned the barricades, deployed my nit battling armoury and commenced slathering, spraying and combing for most of the day until the girls begged to be scalped rather than endure another hour spent locked in the bathroom with me and a metal nit comb.

When finally I was satisfied and released the girls from the bathroom of pain and suffering, Chicken announced, "That was the worst day of my life!"
Although I wouldn't have ranked it in my top ten best days either, I couldn't help be thankful that that was as bad as it got for my kids, and for that matter - me.

I was emailed recently by a woman named Heather who is an eight year survivor of a rare cancer called mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos. She had recently given birth to her baby daughter when she was diagnosed and given 15 months to live. 15 months. I truly can't imagine how I would react to such devastating news. I think I can safely predict anger would feature, along with hatred, guilt and a need to lash out for someone or something to blame. What's apparent is that each emotion is deeply rooted in negativity and would achieve nothing but bitterness, pain and regret. But that's me and my possible reaction. How Heather conquered the ugly and brutal truth to emerge the victor with strength and a will to inspire is overwhelming.

She asked me to help spread her story in an effort to highlight yet another senseless form of cancer, but I prefer to tell her story as a celebration of hope and determination, to inspire courage in all who find themselves in seemingly hopeless situations. Hopelessness can only exist if allowed to. Heather is not alone in being a shining example of overcoming the odds with hope, dignity and a near super human strength. May all their stories be told.

http://mesothelioma.com/heather

It certainly puts my nits into perspective.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Habits



nuns habits photo: bad Habits nuns-2-1.jpg


I find it fascinating how quickly bad habits are formed. Take this blog as an example, I let a puppy excuse my regular posting until the habit of avoidance became so bad I considered abandoning the blog altogether. But why is the reverse the case when trying to adopt good habits? All those good intentions, (usually formed the morning after each New Year's Eve when the memory of the second bottle of Tequila is forcing the resolution.)  - "I will go to the gym three times a week." "I will eat fruit every day." "I will stick to that yoga class." How hard can it be? Apparently harder than Arnold Schwarzenegger's knob! The gym winds down at a gradual pace from three times a week, to one, to never before the end of January; similarly the bags of apples fester in the fruit bowl until you could drink the fermented result and call it home brew along with the yoga class that almost makes it to half term until a new series of Ripper Street starts at exactly the same time and it's farewell Downward Dog and hello fat arse!

Meanwhile the bad habits wriggle into our being while we defend them with our lives. "I have to have the large bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk for my blood sugar levels." "Oh there's nothing wrong with 6 cups of coffee a day, at least I don't drink Coke." "I have to watch Jeremy Kyle after drop off to learn Street Patois."  "I need a bottle of wine a night to relax." That habit's the toughest one to crack of them all.

My alcohol consumption was quite measured before I had sprogs; social events aside, I hardly drank at all. A shared bottle of wine over dinner was the pinnacle of my habit, rarely done on week nights and often was the bottle left unfinished; so why, with the onset of kids, did I nurture a tolerance to the stuff  that would have given me a fighting chance against Russell Brand in a drinking contest?

It started innocently enough; the odd snifter with fellow mums while discussing sleep deprivation and Mastitis, but faster than I could say AA I was yanking the cork out of the bottle come the girls' bedtime at 7pm like a woman being involuntarily sectioned while cursing the sodding cork and vowing to only buy screw tops from then on. It probably didn't help that Bob joined me in this new found recreation, but it made it more acceptable that he did. When once we could have been spotted enjoying an evening swim after a hard days' work, perhaps having a salad for dinner to complete our smug virtue, now our nights were spent in drunken conversation and later and later meal times. If having children meant we couldn't go to the party then we would create our own. And so it was that the habit was formed with remarkable ease believing it an aid to marital relations; who needs marriage guidance when you can simply open a chilled bottle of Chablis? What I didn't know then, was the wine was rapidly morphing into a crutch which I used with increasing skill while adapting to the new life I was carving when we had children. Call me mad, but endless washing cycles and Annabel Karmel recipes just didn't float my boat. I didn't give a shit how cute she made a baked potato look, with chive whiskers and radish ears, my kids weren't having any of it!

My days plodded along between the mundanity of daily chores and the hedonism of the evenings until Tuna started nursery and I went back to work. That was when the wine stopped being a crutch and became a wheelchair. The mood soothing properties of the fermented grape became necessary on my return home to stop me snapping at the girls for dragging their heels over bedtime because they hadn't seen mummy all day. With the first sip the world adopted a rosy glow and I could cope with anything.

Until it stopped helping me cope and started exacerbating my utter exhaustion. In my busy day to day existence I ate little of nutritional value (unless the cheese in cheese and onion crisps counts. Probably not!) and propped myself up with coffee and plonk before picking petty fights with Bob culminating in sleepless nights of regret. I was a train wreck. I knew I needed help before I ran right off the cliff edge.

 
 

I had read an article somewhere that hormone imbalances in post children and forty plus women can be misdiagnosed as depression as the symptoms are virtually identical. Armed with this knowledge I skirted round the doctor and sort the help of a Naturopath. She discovered that my adrenal glands were on the floor and needed urgent attention if I was to return to a happy, balanced disposition. (I'm not sure I've ever been balanced, but I didn't mention that!) Supplements and tinctures specific to my needs were prescribed along with recommendations for a healthy diet, all of which I swallowed religiously along with putting a cork in the bottle. Bob also leaped to my rescue by preparing meals so chocked full of veg my plate resembled an allotment each night.

Within six months I was back to my mostly usual self with thoughts of cliff edges a distant illusion in my memory. All it took was physical maintenance. I wouldn't have treated my car as badly as I treated my body - in fact, it's illegal to put an unfit car on a road, and yet the potential damage bald tyres could inflict is nothing compared to the destructive consequences of a neglected body.

And now, three years on, I no longer need the supplements, enjoy alcohol in sensible quantities, maintain a balanced diet and most importantly, enjoy my life again. It's not rocket science, and yet sometimes, it may as well be when those bad habits retain a firm grip. So stop looking at that apple and pick it up and eat it, unless it's the apple wielded by the witch in Snow White, it won't poison you!

www.ruthsharif.com
A Naturopath brimming with knowledge and human compassion. She also loves dogs!



Friday, 11 October 2013

Eddie

                     
                                                                              

So I've gone and done it haven't I? Rocked the balance in our home and provided Bob with a male heir; selflessly given our oestrogen rich house a boost of testosterone. Someone Bob can scratch his balls with; shout obscenities at the TV with when Man City's eleven men morph into ballerinas for ninety minutes, and someone to roll his eyes with when we girls morph into dragons once a month.

I can't pretend I wasn't apprehensive at the prospect of sleepless nights and toilet training all over again, but there are no lengths I won't go to in the pursuit of Bob's happiness; and I'm happy to report he's been sleeping through since day one and seems to have accepted that the lounge floor is not his private lav.

Yes, this great gift to Bob has come in the form of a puppy. Overnight we turned from a twelve legged family to sixteen - just like that. Well, actually, not just like that, we did spend a few weeks checking daily the website of Pound Puppy, (the same rescue centre we found Sally six years ago) waiting for the right dog to appear. And appear he did. I knew at a glance he was the boy for us; not that I had many stipulations; all he needed to be was small, a puppy and male. He ticked all three boxes. Two phone calls, five days and 126 miles later, he was spewing in my lap as though my life wouldn't be complete without another travel sick youth to contend with. To his credit though, he was infinitely more subtle in his nausea than Chicken and Tuna, vomiting his breakfast daintily into a tissue before attempting to tuck in once more as though he'd magically produced another meal.

To say he's a distraction is like calling The Vatican a church. (Hence my tardy blog post.) Since I sat down to write today - a mere ten minutes ago, I've had to pull him off my computer lead, pull him off Sally's neck, wrestle him for my flip flop and race him to the letterbox before he reduced the post to shreds. His waking hours are spent inadvertently wreaking havoc. Nothing escapes his inquisitive gnashes - doormats, tea towels, gas fire coals, candle wax, school bags, toilet rolls, (no one's told him he's not a golden Labrador) violins, (although, I suspect that's a deliberate act as he howls and yelps from the first flourish of the bow!) socks, snails, magazines, toes, fingers, noses, even a full bottle of wine, dragged from the wine rack in our absence became the victim of his scrutinising explorations. In fact, the only thing he doesn't chew is a raw hide chew; these he barks at suspiciously and leaves lying around to be tripped over by unsuspecting feet. When he's not trying to reduce the house to an apocalyptic wasteland and terrorising Sally, he's yanking branches off shrubs in the garden and dead heading the geraniums.

                                                                             

But it's Sally who suffers the most as it's she he invariably springs upon when the egg box loses its allure. She accepts his assault with surprising good grace with only the occasional snap of retaliation while I tell her reassuringly that she'll thank me when he's grown up and they're the best of friends. She's still to be convinced. All in all, he's a PPP - Puppy Pain in the Posterior! Although, have you ever met a puppy that isn't? It's their duty to the canine species; a test of our worthiness as guardians and protectors. If we pass, and see them through to adulthood, the rewards are infinite - loyalty, devotion, unconditional love, laughs and a soothing coat to stroke. Dogs don't bear grudges or judge you or point out your moustache and bingo wings. Sure, they might crap and piss in corners of the house you never knew existed until you finally pinpoint the smell, but so did Chicken and Tuna!

Dogs don't need new shoes every five minutes because their paws have grown again ("What do you mean you can't feel your toes? I only bought those last week!"). Dogs don't require spring, summer, autumn and winter wardrobes; Chicken's favourite alliteration is SSS - Spring / Summer Shopping Spree. Dogs never say, "Can I have an ice cream?" "Are we there yet?" or "I'm not eating that!" They'll never ask for a pony or storm off in a sulk because you won't let them join Facebook. My list could go on and on until it rivalled War and Peace for page numbers.

 
However, what dogs don't give us is enough time, especially when they're snatched from us prematurely. Their seven years to our one ensure an all too brief love affair. I firmly believe the pain inflicted by each lost pet can only be soothed by another - hence Eddie. A tiny rascal of teeth and mischief now, but on that dreaded day when Sally leaves us for doggy heaven, Eddie will guide us through our grief with a furry paw and a wagging tail. Well, that's the plan anyway. Maybe I should have stuck to kids!

 
For Monty 2007 - 2013
A happier dog you couldn't hope to meet. x

Monday, 30 September 2013

The Beach


If you were about to conjure images of a semi-clad Leonardo DiCaprio, I advise against it, you'll only be disappointed.

Although the beach, along with my holiday, is now a distant memory, I had the draft for this written so you're getting it anyway!


I don't know about you, but a beach is integral to my summer jollies. The thought of a holiday spent in the mountains or doing anything other than toasting myself to within an inch of crisp is simply not a holiday. Sightseeing is for the cooler months and city excursions are for weekends, but summer holidays must include a beach where my body can recover and recharge after the toil inflicted upon it during the arduous twelve months.

Year after year I honed this practise into an unfailing formula when I would return from a fortnights R and R and launch head first back into the stresses and strains of daily life with gusto, ready to thwart fatigue and rugby tackle stress.(For a week at least!) Until, that is, (you can guess where this is going can't you?) children stamped all over my perfectly cultivated formula with their tiny, little feet rendering the point to my holiday null and void from our first venture together.

My days at the beach, as they were once enjoyed, consisted of swimming, reading, listening to music, people watching and sleeping; in a nutshell - slobbing. At the risk of sounding strange, I am at pains to find a more luxurious sensation than waking gently to the sounds of lapping waves and mellow chatter in foreign lilts while my bones crack after having spent an hour asleep on the bare earth with nothing more than a straw mat for padding. You can keep your swanky health spas; so long as my chin is plastered in my own dribble and I have a perfect impression of my beach towel imprinted on my cheek, I'm in paradise! Once full consciousness had been restored, I would then saunter into the sea, stomach sucked in, oblivious to the fact that half my bikini bottoms had worked their way up my bum. I could only guess at the positions I adopted while in my public land of nod. Happy days indeed!

Much as with 'Walkies' (blog #14), when it took the entire morning to get out of the house to walk the dog, a black hole similarly sucked away our time when fraught mornings were spent gathering equipment and applying sunscreen in layers so thick a flame thrower couldn't penetrate, in an attempt to reach the beach before the dreaded clock struck 12pm when we would have to race back under the cover of shadows to avoid the slightest ray of post midday sun touching their delicate pink skin.

If, by some stroke of order, we managed to reach Mecca for 10am, I would hastily unpack the plethora of buckets, spades, revolving things, seahorse moulds and plastic sieves that had threatened to break our backs in their transport, in the never dying hope that Chicken and Tuna might be occupied sufficiently to allow me a little time in which to tan my hide to leather like in the good old days.
 



There is clearly a law declaring that desperation should never, under any circumstances, be rewarded. Not only did the buckets, spades, revolving things, seahorse moulds and plastic sieves sustain their interest for no more than four and a half minutes, but even my enthusiastic attempts at building a sandcastle were met with alarmed expressions while I knocked seven bells out of Ariel on the side of their bucket only to produce a 'plop'. Their indifference to the point of boredom left me exasperated to the point of adoption.

Chicken and Tuna, as toddlers, just didn't get the point. The soft shingle should have proved a sensory mystery as it ran through their inquisitive fingers, rather than the child torture they deemed it to be. Each time their hands grabbed mindlessly at the tiny, smooth stones, they would look at their palms in horror as though they had plunged their hands into a vat full of scorpions before thrusting them at me to rid them of the vile offender.

As for the sea; how dare I allow the gentle swell to lap over their feet - was I mad? It was wet! Defeated, I would begin packing away our beach paraphernalia while casting dagger like glances at the mothers smugly achieving their all over tans while lazily watching over their offspring frolicking predictably in the surf like the children of my dreams.

So, for the past ten years, when offered words of sympathy in the form of the old adage "A change is as good as a rest", I would respond either, b******s or, "Why didn't I stick to dogs?"!

                                                                              

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Pause

I'm sorry I haven't been posting, the summer holidays proved too big a distraction and now I'm working on another project. I hope to be back in the saddle mid September.
See you then.
Martha

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Pears



The day Heather died was a sad, sad day. Chicken was nearly four and Tuna had just turned two, both old enough to feel the acute pain the loss of a pet inflicts. Knowing that only another dog could fill the gaping hole, we began the search and found Sally within a couple of weeks. Sally is a Labrador cross rescue dog, abandoned with her litter crawling with all sorts of mini beasts. It took the rescue centre six weeks to get them into shape when we became the grateful custodians of Sal aged twelve weeks. Even though Heather's puppy months were years past, I remembered all too clearly the havoc she wreaked, so Bob and I weren't against the idea of taking on an older dog who had cut its teeth on somebody else, but the girls were adamant they wanted a puppy, and as it was their childhood memories we had at heart, a puppy was what they got, complete with a mouthful of teeth just waiting to be cut.

Despite her teeth which could slice through flesh like a shard of glass, she was an instant hit, endearing herself to us with her silky fur, hazel eyes and zest for fun. The girls were always forgiving of her explorations into their toy cupboard when beloved cuddly toys would emerge missing noses, ears and stuffing in her pursuit of all things needing to be chewed. They even forgave her gnawing on them with tear streaked faces when she regularly mistook their wrists and ankles for juicy bones, such was their love for her. In their eyes, she could do no wrong. My eyes were not so easily swayed.

With the doggy shrink's words still fresh in our ears, (our lesson had been well and truly learnt with Heather) we were determined Sally should know her place in the family from the start, and that place was not at the head. (A place she still tries to dispute even now, six years on.) This was demonstrated primarily by confining her to the downstairs of the house and the floor - the furniture is for none molting species only. The kitchen had the added bonus of being tiled, thus facilitating easy wiping of inevitable accidents whilst in the process of house training; accidents which seemed to occur with far more frequency during the hours of darkness. A suspicious mind might read malice into the coincidence, suspicions which could be further aroused by her favoured spot (partially obscured behind a pillar near the kettle ensuring a sleepy brain never failed to feel her night time endeavours between their toes), but I couldn't bring myself to believe that an innocent puppy could have a contriving mind - she was a puppy - not a criminal mastermind. 

We passed a few tense nights while she whined and wailed at the injustice bestowed upon her, but she eventually settled into acceptance and the whining abated. My ultimate goal was to have her so well trained that her enforced confinement would become unnecessary, her own obedience would keep her from venturing up the stairs, but I knew that was some way off - of course, she was still just four months old after all.

After a couple more months, she appeared content with her position in the family and we heard fewer and fewer complaints until eventually the nights passed in silence. Similarly, we were presented with fewer toilet mishaps each morning and were becoming quietly confident that it was now safe to enter the kitchen without encountering a poo lurking between the door and the kettle. I began to speculate on the necessity of the door, nothing more than speculate, but the seed had been planted and was preparing to germinate after one particularly drunken evening.

One day, I came across a handful of pears rotting in the fruit bowl which I immediately removed and left next to the waste disposal to await their fate. As children are unfaltering distractions, that was where they remained until Bob came home and questioned the pears.
"I'm chucking them away," I informed him not expecting a counter attack.
"Why? There's nothing wrong with them."
"Nothing wrong with them? They're practically compost!"
"No they're not! All they need is a bit of surgery."
"Well you eat them then!"
"I will!"
And that was the last either of us thought about the pears as the wine flowed a little more freely than usual that night. (It must have been the fumes from the pears that put us in the mood!) As the evening drew to a close and our thoughts turned to bed, I was left to lock up and Bob retired before me. As I came to shut the kitchen door in my customary fashion, I looked at Sally. She was sleeping peacefully in her bed as though nowhere in the world could be as comfy. My drunken eyes saw the epitome of obedience. I decided to speculate no further on the necessity of the door and decisively left it open.

It was just as dawn was breaking that I began to stir, aware of a particularly rancid smell in my nostrils. At first I blamed the miasma on Bob, who was not usually innocent of such actions, but then it penetrated my sleep fully and I recognised it at once; even Bob was not capable of such a revolting stink - there could be only one culprit. I got up and allowed my nose to lead the way. It led me to the vacant bedroom below which had recently been re-carpeted in small looped, Pure New Wool (imported from New Zealand if my memory serves me). As I tentatively approached, I already feared the worst not realising that my worst was nowhere near bad enough.

I peeped my head through the door with eyes screwed shut while preparing myself for the scene. Where once there was an expanse of pristine carpet in a neutral shade of Clotted Cream, it now sported chocolate coloured splats putting me in mind of a Dalmatian. It was immediately apparent that Sally had not only succumbed to the temptation of upstairs, but she had diarrhoea as well. It was also apparent, that the only way she could find to alleviate her discomfort was to deposit it all over the one and only spanking new carpet we possessed, as opposed to - anywhere!

I raced downstairs fully expecting to find a trail of liquid poo, imagining the poor thing had lost control, but I found nothing except Sally, fast asleep once more in her bed, and an empty space where the pears had once been. She lifted a sleepy head, exhausted from her night's exploits and attempted a wag of her tail.
"Don't you dare try to get round me with those soppy eyes and faux innocence!" I shouted at her, my suspicious mind working overtime.
"I knew I should have stuck to dogs - not bloody puppies!"


 
Sally - aka - Moriarty 

Friday, 5 July 2013

Spew

 If you're new to this, then you won't yet know,
    To keep abreast with my story's flow; to Percy Street you need to go.


 
I hadn't realised they were travel sick when they were babies; a milky spew was a regular feature of our day whether we travelled by foot, car, bus or train, so my mental leap to travel sickness didn't happen until they were toddlers when it became hard to mistake as anything other. Any more than twenty minutes in the car brought forth biblical gushes from Tuna which I would attempt to catch in a carrier bag before it reached anything that would necessitate a valet. Sometimes this was hard to achieve. If I were driving and unable to pull over safely, I was forced to let the spew fall where it may and sniff the consequences. As toddlers are generally not yet acquainted with curries and red wine, the spew came out more or less resembling the way it went in - orange, and thankfully, odourless, so I never found myself dry-retching while doing eighty MPH down a motorway.

I was hardly new to the concept of travel sickness, my mum is a long standing sufferer; even Heather was car sick as a puppy. Within the first mile of our first journey with her, when she was a small, trembling wrinkle of black fur, we watched with dumb expressions as she deposited something in Bob's lap that looked like it should have had legs and a personality. With travelling to work by van our daily ritual, she was exposed to the tedium of travel sickness twice a day, regurgitating her meals on each trip. (It was easy to determine her condition as travel sickness as Bulimia is uncommon in dogs.) I kept a stash of carrier bags in the glove box and quickly became adept at spotting an immanent flood, expertly timing her expulsions until I had a near perfect success rate at catching them in a bag, despite her efforts of avoidance, still apparently preferring Bob's lap. Thus began our long relationship with the vet, where we learnt regular exposure was the only cure to allow her system to acclimatise, which eventually it did and she soon out-grew it; the same can be said of Chicken and Tuna - except on trains.

Trains have long been our preferred mode of transport, largely due to the fact that Bob won't fly, so the South of France became our annual excursion as it was the furthest we could get over land within a reasonable time. We were grateful for the opening of the Eurostar by the time we were venturing on the journey with the girls, sparing us choppy channel crossings on the Hovercraft which tested even the strongest of guts.

I don't know why it never occurred to me that they could be train sick; buses, cars, planes - yes, but trains? Being a travel sick child myself, trains had never posed a problem, so I assumed the same for my children. Hmm, you know what they say about assume don't you? It makes an ass out of U and me. Of course, the trains I travelled on as a child rarely got above thirty MPH, while the Eurostar and TGV have added a hundred to that when they're dawdling; but that still didn't explain why Tuna sent her breakfast on an outing down her front before we'd even reached Waterloo, a twenty minute local journey. Perhaps that's why I still didn't make the connection with train sickness, choosing instead to speculate on a bug. Or perhaps my brain categorically refused to accept the prospect of thirteen hours spent with a train sick child; that would have had me land locked on Blighty until she was old enough to catch her own sick in a bag!

Blinded by my refusal to allow the nagging doubt at the back of my mind a voice, I instantly brought out the bag of entertainment carefully chosen to keep the girls amused through the long hours to be endured. Then I smelled it. A large man sitting across the aisle produced his mid-morning meal that smelled like the grease tray at MacDonald's had made passionate love to a hillock of brie. He proceeded to eat as though he had trotters rather than hands and swilled it down with a sizable bottle of coke. Although he tried to contain the inevitable burps, (he ate it faster than a Japanese eating contestant) they were feistier than he could control, and we were forced to listen as they escaped in a series of grunts. I was nearly sick myself until I was distracted by a plastic bottle systematically hitting Bob on the head. It appeared the child behind us had presumed the crown of hair in front of him was demonic and needed a good beating. Try as the mother might to restrain him, the little shit resumed his efforts at every opportunity, forcing Bob to perch forward on the rim of his seat to avoid the blows, but fear ye not, he's made of strong stuff, and it proved only a minor distraction from FourFourTwo.

Do you remember the old British Rail Intercity advert with shoes morphing into slippers and chess pieces yawning while being gently rocked to sleep by the rhythm of the train and a lullaby softly whispering to kick off your shoes and be lazy? Well that was just like our journey - if you'd smoked the entire grass stash of ten Jamaicans!




I turned my attention to Chicken and Tuna while trying extremely hard to close off my nostrils from the culinary onslaught of the fat man across the aisle who'd brought out seconds, and dodging the occasional missile launched from behind. We began the journey bristling with more tension than an electric fence and the best was yet to come. As though the Gods were using me as a demonstration of stupidity, I force fed the girls fruit. Not nice, solid fruit like a banana, but berries; black, straw and rasp. I can't tell you why, they weren't even hungry! I suppose the 5 a day propaganda had me well and truly hooked. Next I brought out the colouring books. As every seasoned travel spewer knows, attempting anything other than complete stillness with eyes trained forward is asking for trouble; but the brave, naive, trusting things that they were coloured Dumbo and Baloo with grim, unquestioning faces.

As we were approaching the outer suburbs of London with leafy pastures of English countryside just visible in the distance, all the colour drained from Chicken's face except for a pasty grey. "I feel sick Mummy," she whined. (Why do they never tell their dads?) Thinking I could dispel the feeling with positive thought, I instructed her to put down the colouring pens, lie back and try to go to sleep, which she unquestioningly did. Then I looked at Tuna who was barely eighteen months old. She stopped scribbling a messy knot of blue ink over Snow White's face and I watched as her own face melted like the German Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark when he gazed upon its deathly contents.

"Tuna! Do you want to be sick?" I asked with stupidity reluctant to leave its willing host. I've often wondered why I ask, "Do you want to be sick?" Of course she doesn't want to be sick! Who the hell wants to be sick? You may have to be sick, but that is completely different from wanting to! So I should never have been surprised when the answer was a flat "No" just prior to an almighty heave. I really need to re-phrase the question to a more specific, "Are you going to be sick?" the results may be less messy.

She trained her large, brown, tear filled eyes on me and I had my answer, but nothing of use to hand having not yet invented my SEK - Sickness Emergency Kit containing nappy sacks (due to lack of holes) and more tissues than a Kleenex factory. I snatched FourFourTwo out of Bob's bewildered hands and thrust it under the flow of liquidised berries, instantly realising that magazine paper has all the absorbency of a duck's back and my stupidity knew no bounds. I was powerless as the sick rolled down the page, across Thierry Henri's midriff and toward me like an avalanche speeding down a mountain. With Tuna still gushing like Linda Blair in The Exorcist, all I could do was watch it pour into my lap. At that moment Chicken sprung awake with inflated cheeks. "Use her dress!" I shouted at Bob. His perplexity passed in adequate time for him to grab the dress she was wearing, which thankfully had a very full skirt, and hold it under the flow. The material bulged like a bowl under the weight but mercifully held up under the pressure.

After the longest few minutes of my life, I was shuffling them into the toilet while Bob produced fresh clothes from our cases (an advantage of travelling by train). On returning to our seats, I couldn't help notice how quiet our carriage had become with only a lingering whiff of grease and brie.
"Where's everyone gone?" I asked Bob who had resumed position and was casually flicking through The Times.
"Moved seats," he said uninterested.

As I watched the girls snuggle down into their respective bunny and lion cunningly fashioned into pillows, I couldn't help a broad smile stretching across my face. I turned to Bob and said, "Well, that's one good reason not to stick to dogs. Heather never cleared a carriage like that!"


The summer holidays are now upon me so my posts will become fortnightly.