August 2008


I have twice recently found myself in this uncomfortable place.  The first time was on Sunday, when I agreed to go to a bring-and-share lunch after church and instantly found myself wishing I hadn’t and wanting to go home by myself instead, where there would be no chance of awkward conversations and other social unpleasantries.

This is an aspect of motherhood that I don’t much enjoy – having to seek social contact for my children, which doesn’t always coincide with the social contact I would choose.  My poor children are getting tired of being away from their home and their friends, moving around and seeing different faces in different places – and too much time just with each other…

Anyway, of course I went, motherhood being a great education in the art of selflessness – and, unsurprisingly maybe, had a lovely time.  It was very different from how I’d expected it to be: there were just a dozen or so people there, so no chance of someone lurking unnoticed and uncommunicative in the corner, which seems to be my natural role in big gatherings!  I spoke to everyone and felt I was getting to know people and becoming part of things at a church I have up till now only flitted in and out of.

My second experience came the next day, with a birthday party for R.  Organising parties, as you may guess from what you’ve just read, is not a great skill of mine.  This one had the potential to be a particular flop, having been planned for a bank holiday Monday but not organised well in advance, because we had only known a few weeks before that we would still be here.  On the actual morning, with the event scheduled for the afternoon, the final guest gave regretful apologies.  I sank into a deep gloom, convinced I was heading unstoppably for a farce without the humour: a party without children.

In the event, all was fine.  The few tantrums there were from the birthday girl seemed quite compatible with her newly achieved age, and most of the time she revelled in being the centre of attention.  I sold to her the idea that her party had been split, as we’d visited a family with children on the actual birthday and had a cake with candles then.  So, children and cake with candles one day, Daddy, balloons, pizza, jelly and fun decorating-cakes activity on another!  Ha!  I pulled another day back from the brink of disaster!  And I suppose that could be considered a skill…?

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I had a lovely day yesterday.  Quite relaxed and simple.  Opened lots of lovely cards in the morning and was able to take my time over them because the children were all in the other room.  Then off to the library – a lovely walk as the weather was just warm enough to still feel summery.  Unexpected detour home via the public toilets (probably spent longer there than in the library) – but we can handle that sort of change of plan!

We had lunch in a well-situated Italian place over a river on the site of an old mill.  Some of the tables are glass-topped and hollow so that you can see down to the rushing water below, but the weather was good enough to sit outside, so we didn’t have the worry of children knocking over glasses while looking through the table!  I enjoyed a lovely three-course meal – food being vital to my enjoyment of a celebratory day.

On our return home (after a long time at the local – huge! – playground, where I shivered at the sight of near-naked wet children running from the paddling pool to all the climbing frames; my children will have to wait for Africa before I let them do that now that the hottest weather is gone here!), I was treated to a treasure hunt in the garden, which E and R set up with the help of Grandpa.  I had to be quick finding the treasure as R headed straight for the ones she’d hidden and retrieved them (just as well, as they were right in the middle of a plant and I don’t think I’d’ve found them).  And then they even helped me eat the treasure – how kind!

And at the end of the day, with no children to share them with, I opened some fantastic presents – and spent the evening playing with them (the sudoku book, at least)!  Hard to imagine how the day could’ve been better, except of course with the presence of my husband.  (Ah, but this way I get another birthday when I next see him and he takes me out for dinner!)

Have just had a relaxing long weekend in Bath.  It was a good distraction for us, having left M at Heathrow on the way down.  Nasty weather, though.  Could’ve done with a few more distractions for the under 5s.  I have not yet got into the habit of looking at a weather forecast, which is funny, really, because for the year I was away, I always knew the temperature back home – I got an automatic update whenever I checked my email.

Today was another example.  It was a beautifully sunny day when we got up (at 6am).  So I put on a big load of holiday washing and pegged it out in the garden.  This took quite a while because E and R wanted to help, too, so they pegged a few things onto a clothes horse that I brought outside.  An hour later, we were ready to go to the playground, but there were heavy, threatening clouds filling the sky by that stage.  So we stayed in and rescued the washing instead.  It would’ve been a waste of time, except that E and R had so much fun!

Actually, we did get to the end of the road on the way to the playground before turning back.  I was all for keeping going, but E suddenly started wailing that it was windy and it was going to rain and maybe there’d be a thunderstorm…  Very odd.  Just last week, she refused to cross a busy road with Grandpa, just panicked, apparently.  Poor child.  Hasn’t had much experience of walking anywhere, or of rain…  Mind you, you’d understand that sort of thing more at the beginning of the summer than now, when we’ve been in the UK for three months!

Oh my goodness, it has really been three months!

Anyway, regardless of the rain, the break in Bath must’ve done some good for the children because they were in high spirits on the journey home.  (More rain meant we had fantastic views of a rainbow for maybe an hour of the journey.)  At one point, E got tired and put her head on R’s lap, saying, tell me a story.  And R’s story began like this, with no discernable hesitations to speak of:

“Once upon a time there was a girl called Little Red Riding Hood and she had a village.  In her village, there were lots of monsters.  Not scary monsters.  They were happy monsters. …”

She has the storytelling skills of her older sister, I see!

I finally saw the specialist today.  And a highly impressive nurse specialist, too.  Felt in safe hands…  And this is what I discovered…

Firstly, the MRI scan I had two weeks ago showed nothing abnormal.  Phew!  They asked a lot of questions today and did a number of tests.  The main discovery seems to be that I am quite unusual and there is no easy answer as to why this is happening.  So now they want to do more tests, still hoping to find a reason for it all (but I think they acknowledged a possibility that they won’t be able to find one).  In the meantime they want to control the symptoms (which are: alarmingly high blood pressure; low potassium – worrying only because without enough potassium the heart can stop; and one or two other things which are way off what they should be doing).
 
The specialist didn’t want to commit himself to a timescale till I’m free to return to my expat home.  He did, when pressed, say, “a few weeks”.  So I’m assuming I’m here in the UK at least till the end of August.
 
So it’s not much clearer than it was, but I didn’t really expect it to be.  I’m still feeling basically well, but I’m getting increasingly tired (the doctor mentioned ‘fatigue’ which is a good word for how I feel) and not really relishing the thought of entertaining three energetic children in a country where most entertainment has shut down for the summer and most grandparents are unavoidably busy this month (to say nothing of their ever-busy father on another continent – ah, just like old times…).