DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY

Some days are dull, ordinary days where nothing of any merit or note seems to occur (this is an accurate description of much of my time. This is not my fault, rather that of my parents who could hardly be deemed as ‘motivators’, their sole concern being desperately attempting to ‘catch up on some sleep.’ If it was left to me, if my still limited mobility wasn’t restricting me, I would probably be running the country by now, or, at the very least, I would have managed to get up and get rid of that extremely unflattering photograph of me from the mantelpiece. I look as if I am behaving as a conduit for electricity, my eyes wide, my hair on end. It’s humiliating.)

 

And then there are other days which are just that little bit extra special, which leave you feeling wonderful and as if anything is possible. This was one such day.

 

The day, however, didn’t augur well with my parents and I all waking in ill-tempers, my bad mood, I must confess was a heady combination of over tiredness and not enough sleep. Not that I would ever admit this to Mother or Father because to do so would be tantamount to admitting that they were right. ‘You need to sleep darling,’ Father had advised me around 2am. ‘You’ll get yourself overtired,’ he’d added, sagely. Of course, I duly ignored him; Father is not renowned for his expert guidance. I remember when Mother was bemoaning her boring diet (‘made up of mostly sawdust’ Father had joked at her plate of plain cous cous, a gag ill-received by a hungry, dieting Mother who has been known to have monumental meltdowns when there’s a rumble in her tummy) when he’d suggested she switched from cakes to ring doughnuts. ‘They’ve got holes in so that obviously means they’re fewer calories,’ he’d argued confidently. I’m four months old and even I know this is utter rubbish, and Mother’s icy glare suggested that she shared my contemptuous view.

 

Still, I didn’t take much notice of Mother either at 3.30am when she suggested that ‘go to sleep darling. If you don’t you’ll just get angry and upset and when you get upset, we all do.’ The reason I didn’t heed Mother’s warning was because – to her shame – she has been known to lie. For example, frequently at night she tells me if I go to sleep ‘right now then there’ll be a lovely treat for you when you wake.’ And, how many times have I woken to a treat: none, unless you count my morning cuddles which I most definitely do not.

 

After a few silent tears (‘she’s having a full-on tantrum’ Father had exclaimed, fearful) I did eventually get to sleep.  And asleep I’m sure I would have stayed, at least for a couple more hours had it not been for the motorbike revving his engine outside our window at 6am.

 

‘What the f-‘

 

‘Pound for the baby’s swear box,’ announced Mother firmly, holding out her hand.

 

‘Bloody hell, are you bloody kidding me?’ continued Father, ignoring Mother’s outstretched palm. ‘What sodding time is this? What the…’

 

I reckoned I made a good five pounds just from Father’s one sentence then. Which was useful as I still have my heart set on that beautiful white rocking horse I espied in the toy shop recently. Now, I just needed to work out how I was going to get into my ‘swear’ box money box, having, as it did, no discernible opening.

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My money box aka Father’s swear box. If things carry on as they are, I should have enough for the deposit on my first house in a few years.

 

 

As I always do on waking, I immediately remembered that I was extremely hungry. I accordingly gave my parents warning of this fact; I have found that the louder I scream the swifter Mother and Father’s movements are. This is an invaluable tip which I must remember to pass onto newborn babies the next time I see any.

 

We were downstairs in minutes, bottle satisfyingly attached to me. I allowed myself to relax and for a moment, I thought I was going to fall into a slumber but luckily I managed to bring myself back round in time. You see, sleep was the last item on my agenda for today, as I eyed my now beloved musical playmat out of the corner of my eye.

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My beloved playmat

 

 

Fortunately, Mother seems to have developed mind reading skills because as soon as I had taken my last slurp, I was promptly deposited on my back. ‘Play with the nice toy darling,’ Mother muttered. ‘Mummy’s just going to put her feet up for a moment,’ she added, tucking her feet underneath her and yawning ostensibly. I thought this was impossibly lazy of her; surely there were better things she could be doing with her time. And besides, why the need to ‘put her feet up’, especially given that she had just emerged from bed where her legs had been very clearly horizontal. I also noticed that she was still attired in her nightwear. Again, I considered this extremely slovenly and a poor example for me. (I was still in my sleeping garment but this didn’t matter as I was wearing a babygro and anyone will tell you that babygros are multi-functional and transition from night to day with stylish ease.)

 

 

Anyway, I didn’t have too much more of an opportunity to ponder Mother’s slobbish behaviour because before I knew what was happening, I was asleep. And I only became aware of this fact when I prised my eyes open foggily a little while later. I wanted to ball up my fists and rub them vigorously to clear them, as I have seen my Mother do frequently. However, whilst I managed to get my hands scrunched up appropriately, I didn’t quite make it to my eyes and instead accidentally punched myself in the nose, much to my fury. I let out a loud scream.

 

‘Oh hello darling, you’re awake,’ mumbled Mother, opening her own eyes. If I wasn’t very much mistaken, she too was rousing from slumber. I narrowed my eyes at her suspiciously.

 

I waited for the mist to clear from my eyes and when it finally did, I was able to make out my surroundings. If I wasn’t very much mistaken, I was still on my playmat. Well, things really were going downhill here if the inhabitants of this house were having to sleep on the floor, albeit with a blanket thrown over me haphazardly. I tried to give a loud ‘tut’ to express my disdain to Mother but it came out as a raspberry. I really have to get better at my noises.

 

‘Give mummy a moment sweetheart and then I’ll pick you up,’ Mother said, lazily. She really was sloth-like today, and she looked dreadful – inky eyes and pale, grey skin.

 

Anyway, I didn’t have time to wait for Mother to pull herself together because I had come to a terrible realisation – my good friend and teddy bear RoRo was out of my reach. He was more than an arm’s length away from me, a distance which felt like a mile. I reached out for him. ‘RoRo, come here,’ I said. ‘RoRo. Come here.’ But RoRo ignored me, as usual. He’s quite a rude teddy bear. ‘RORO!’ I ordered. ‘Come here so I can pull your ears and pinch your nose.’ RoRo stayed still.

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My good friend and teddy bear RoRo, for some reason, wearing one of my hats

 

 

Well, I wasn’t having that. I stretched. A little. Then a little more. And a little more. And before I knew it I was on my side. One more little stretch…RoRo was almost within grasp…and…

 

I was over.

 

I had rolled over.

 

At first, I just stayed silent and still, my face pressed into the carpet as I absorbed what had happened (to be honest, I had no choice. I was firmly stuck with no idea how I was going to right myself again).  But then, the silence was broken with a loud:

 

‘OH MY GOSH!!! My BABY! You’re AMAZING! You rolled over!’

 

Mother somehow found a hitherto hidden energy, lifting me up into the air like a trophy and covering me with kisses which I gleefully accepted. Because I realised she was right. I was amazing. And what’s more, this was a huge step forward for my mobility. Towards freedom! Now that I could roll over, the world was mine for the taking. Where to next? I was independent, at last after weeks of relying on Mother and Father. I was ecstatic.

 

But it turns out that rolling over can be pretty exhausting and I burrowed down in Mother’s arms. ‘Let’s have a cuddle darling,’ she suggested, her cheeks damp with tears. I had no idea why she’d been crying; probably something Father had said earlier. I let her embrace me and I could feel sleep engulfing me. I was sure that I would dream of myself, rolling away into the sunset.

 

I was just on the verge of sleep when I remembered: after all that effort I still didn’t have RoRo in my hands. ‘MOTHER,’ I screamed so loudly that I made her jump.

A STRANGE DAY: CRISPY COW IS MISSING

 

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Crispy Cow was causing me a great deal of anxiety that day

 

‘We’re doomed. All doooooooomed.’

 

I woke to the sound of Mother wailing, the sight of her prone on the bed. The last time I had seen her in such a state was when she’d realised that the fridge was bereft of wine and chocolate. ‘The shops are closed now,’ she’d exclaimed, tearfully. ‘What will I do?’

 

‘Don’t be so melodramatic,’ said Father, calmly, now as he had then. ‘You’ll upset the baby.’

 

It suddenly struck me that something was amiss: Mother and Father were both awake before me. This certainly was against the norm, our more usual routine involves the pair of them stumbling out of bed, foggy-eyed and grumpy, at the sound of my morning cry. To be honest, I think Mother and Father would happily laze in bed forever if it wasn’t for my vocal alarm; they have a lot to be grateful to me for.

 

‘But…look….’ exhaled Mother, gesturing towards the television. I followed to where she was pointing. The screen kept alternating between various serious-looking grown-ups talking about something called ‘Brexit’, the flow of their conversation I simply couldn’t follow. I very quickly became bored and returned to my usual priority of screaming for milk.

 

‘But what about Italy,’ bemoaned Mother, a little while later whilst I lay in her arms, my appetite sated. It’s a shame that I haven’t yet developed the ability to roll my eyes because if ever there was a moment requiring such a response, this was it. I thought Father showed remarkable restraint remaining po-faced.

 

You see, Mother has this notion that one day we will move to Italy. She has had this dream, apparently since she was a child and watched a romantic (gross) film set in the country. ‘The countryside, the culture, the beaches…everything,’ she sighs, wistfully. Personally, I think this is a red herring; I think the main draws for Mother are the Prosecco, red wine, ice-cream and pasta. She has been diligently preparing for this life-changing event by developing her Italian culinary skills (bearing in mind that Mother can’t cook, this is limited to opening a tin of spaghetti in tomato sauce), and teaching me to count to ten in Italian (considering I can’t even count to ten in English – and neither can she sometimes when working out her credit card bill – I think this is a tad ambitious.)

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Mother’s diligent preparations for our new life have not really extended beyond wistful talk. These books are for show, though she would pretend otherwise.

 

‘Well, Italy’s still there,’ replied Father, mildly.

 

‘That’s not good enough,’ said Mother, shaking her head. ‘So I’ve started looking for houses there. We can just sell up and go.’

 

Father rubbed his hands over his face. ‘Nothing like being measured and thoughtful eh love?’ he muttered.

 

‘What?’ she asked.

 

‘Nothing.’

 

I’ll be honest, I doubt Italy would take Mother anyway. I understand it is quite the global fashion centre; Mother, in Father’s t-shirt and a holey pair of pyjama bottoms, would lower standards considerably…

*****

 

‘I voted for my daughter’s future.’

 

‘And I voted for my granddaughter’s future.’

 

I woke from my nap to the sound of Mother and Grandma shouting at each other. It reminded me of the time two neighbourhood cats had had a noisy disagreement outside the bedroom window.

 

‘Well my vote was for the future.’

 

‘And so was mine.’

 

I realised that they were arguing about the same subject that Mother and Father had been discussing earlier. Were we still on that? It was boring then and it was even more boring now.

 

‘I voted for the baby.’

 

‘So did I.’

 

Perhaps someone should ask me for my opinion in that case? Because if it was up to me, I would have voted for whoever was offering free babygros for everyone. As you may know, I am a massive fan of babygros – functional, stylish and just a genius invention.

 

At last, they stopped ranting, had a hug and Mother made a pot of tea. Good. I had more important things to worry about than this stupid thing that kept distracting me from my business. I currently had big worries about the whereabouts of Crispy Cow, my purple chewy toy. She had last been seen falling out of my pushchair; I had a horrible feeling that she had been kidnapped by the washing machine….

*****

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Tea can cure most ills. As can alcohol too, apparently, and you will note that there is plenty of that too in the background of this picture.

 

 

 

Was that television still on? How long could people talk about the same thing? Other people’s faces filled the screen. Again, I struggled to follow what was being said – I was preoccupied with my search for Crispy Cow: no, she wasn’t on my playmat. I’d been lying here for a good hour now and there was no sign of her. The voice on the television was talking about someone standing down from being in charge and who would be in charge now. Momentarily, I thought about putting myself forward: I have excellent leadership skills as evidenced by the way that I run this house – we’d be in complete disarray if things were left to Mother and Father. The moment quickly passed though as I realised I would have to be involved in exceedingly dull discussions, like the one raging on my screen. No, I had better uses for my time (like chewing on Crispy Cow, if she ever turned up again.)

******

 

Later, I was falling into a welcoming slumber. It had been a strange day, thanks to the grown-ups behaving quite oddly. I had a very strong feeling that you wouldn’t get so much trouble if us babies were put in charge of running things. Oh well. I felt the softness of Mother and Father’s bed cover beneath me. Even though I would fall asleep here, I would wake up in my crib. It was quite bizarre. I had yet to get to the bottom of how the transition happened; it was clearly magic. Besides me, book resting open on his tummy, Father was already snoring – my bedtime story seems to have a sleep-inducing effect on him.

 

I heard footsteps outside the room. I didn’t need to open my eyes to know they were Mother’s heavy movements; the woman has the grace of a lolloping elephant. And then I heard her whisper: ‘There are big, important things outside. But the biggest, most important things are right here.’ I had no idea what she was talking about. I also noticed that she had started talking to herself which was not a good sign.

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When I eventually found Crispy Cow, she was hiding in one of my stacking cups, strangely. Probably to get away from all the debate on the television.

 

 

Soon, I forgot about all of them and all the odd conversations I had heard today and instead took a moment to revel once again in the best news of all: Crispy Cow had been found! And with Crispy and my good friend and teddy bear RoRo beside me, I fell into a peaceful, untroubled snooze….

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Two great pals – RoRo and Crispy Cow
Pink Pear Bear

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A Mum Track Mind

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN

I was bemused how anyone could do this for ‘fun.’

 

‘Let’s have a girls’ day,’ Grandma had declared that morning. She had arrived early, a result, it would seem, of Grandad’s excessive snoring.

 

‘It’s like lying next to a warthog,’ she’d complained bitterly. ‘I roll him on his side, like you’re supposed to, but that doesn’t quieten him. It encourages him if anything,’ she added, angrily.

 

Mother nodded sympathetically. ‘It’s the same here,’ she said, nodding in Father’s direction. ‘Like a pig snuffling for truffles.’

 

Father jerked his head up, ready to shoot back a retort but then seemed to think better of it, seeing both women eyeing him accusingly. ‘Pass the sugar,’ he said mildly, instead.

 

I didn’t blame him for his about face. Mother and Grandma are a force to be reckoned with when they get together; I think they think they’re an army rather than two rather small, squeaky ladies. There had been an incident recently when Grandma had claimed to be short changed in the local shop, a claim which had been met by accusations of lying from the owner. Grandma was incandescent and Mother wasn’t too far behind. After rather a lot of debate (which I had been privy to from the comfort of my pram, where, thank goodness, I could hide under my hood) Grandma had emerged triumphant, a five pound note in her hand. ‘That’ll teach them,’ she’d bragged later to Father and Grandad. She was, however, slightly less smug later when she happened upon said ‘stolen’ five pounds tucked away at the back of her handbag.

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Grandma was really rather red-faced to discover her ‘stolen’ five pounds

 

 

Still, I did think that Mother had quite some nerve with her slights about Father’s snoring, given her own excessive nocturnal noises. If she isn’t talking in her sleep – usually recounting her shopping list: ‘Wine. Cake. Crisps. Wine. Milk. Chocolate. Wine.’ – then she’s grinding her teeth, a noise which would, put my own teeth on edge, if I had any. And I know what I’m talking about. My crib is right next to her side of the bed so I have to put up with her shenanigans night in, night out.

 

‘A day out?’ asked Mother. ‘I don’t know. The house needs a clean…and I’d have to wash my hair…and what about the baby?’

 

Grandma batted away her concerns. ‘There’s no point cleaning the house, not now you’ve got a baby. It will just get dirty again straightaway. And just run a comb through your hair, or stick a hat on. It’ll be fine. And as for the baby, well, she’s coming with us. Would you like an adventure, darling?’’ she asked, turning her attention to me.

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This was the hat Grandma suggested Mother wear. She was definitely better off simply not brushing her hair.

 

 

I cocked my head to the side in consideration, only, I didn’t quite have the neck strength (almost, not quite) to pull it back upright (Grandma had to jiggle me in her arms to get me comfortable again). When I was settled once more, I had forgotten what the original question had been and instead had turned my attention to my more usual concerns for milk.

 

The conversation raged on whilst I ate. ‘Go on love,’ urged Father, keenly. ‘It will do you good, get out for a bit, treat yourself.’

 

Mother frowned. ‘But we said we would have a tidy. The bedroom floors haven’t been cleaned for weeks.’

 

A hopeful light glimmered in Father’s eyes. ‘They’ll keep,’ he suggested in a martyred tone. ‘Go on. It will be nice for you three to have some time together.’

 

‘Well…I could do with some new clothes. Now I’m losing the baby weight.’

 

‘See. Go on,’ he said, encouragingly.

 

‘Hmmmmm.’

 

‘Great,’ chorused Father and Grandma. ‘See,’ said Grandma to me. ‘We’re going on an adventure. A girls’ day out. How exciting.’

 

Well, now that she came to mention it, it really was rather exciting. An adventure. A girls’ day out. It all sounded very exotic. Where would we go? How would we travel? Who might we meet? What great mysteries might we uncover? I kicked my feet slightly to express my huge anticipation at the thrilling day ahead….

 

 

I could have envisaged few activities less thrilling than this. Even the laborious, excruciatingly screeched lullabies which I have to endure daily, courtesy of Mother’s less than dulcet tones, were preferable to this…this…’shopping.’

 

‘Us girls love to shop,’ informed Grandma. ‘It’s in our genes,’ she added, showing a flagrant misinterpretation of biological fact.

 

Mother nodded. ‘I can’t wait til you’re older and we can go shopping together,’ she gushed. ‘You and me, Saturday mornings, wandering into town, trying on outfits and stopping for lunch. It’ll be lovely.’

 

I shuddered. I was fairly certain that I would be ‘busy’ most Saturdays if this was the alternative on offer. I was completely confused what the two ladies in my life were so happy about; from all that I had seen, our excursion had been an unmitigated disaster. Had Mother and Grandma been on a different trip?

 

It had started badly when Mother had had a meltdown in the first shop we visited. She had been animated as she’d pulled hangers off racks, piling them up precariously in her arms. I didn’t, it had to be said, think much of her choices; all her trousers and tops looked fairly similar in muted blues and creams; where were the brights, like a really nice orange or yellow? I voiced my opinion from the comfort of my pram: ‘That’s absolutely disgusting,’ I screamed, as Mother picked out a very dull white blouse. ‘Try that luminous yellow top beside it.’ Now that I can see colours, I cannot understand why anyone would want to garb themselves in greys and blacks and whites. ‘That one, Mother,’ I shouted. I had to. It was so noisy I had to yell to make myself heard over the dreadful background ‘music’ – and I use the word in the loosest of terms. The song that was currently playing was reminiscent of Mother banging saucepans around in the kitchen when she is on one of her ill-thought out culinary endeavours. It was me versus tuneless racket as I tried to make Mother hear my fashion advice.

 

‘Shush darling,’ said Grandma, cuddling me to her in one of her vice-like embraces.

 

‘But Grandma,’ I screamed. ‘Mother is going to make a fashion faux pas.’

 

Grandma giggled nervously. ‘They’re full of beans at this age,’ she confided to the black-clad assistant leaning nonchalant on the counter.

 

‘I wouldn’t know,’ she returned in a cool tone, shooting me a look of disdain.

 

It was a good job Grandma removed me from the situation as I was gearing up for an argument with the curt young woman. Instead we hurried into a changing room where we found Mother red-faced and furious.

 

‘Nothing fits. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. NOTHING,’ she screeched. It was a familiar sound, and I realised then who I take after, vocally.

 

‘Well get the next size up, suggested Grandma, mildly.

 

Mother’s eyes blazed. ‘NO! If I can’t get into the size I was before the baby then I don’t want them,’ she said, sulkily.

 

‘You sound like a right spoilt madam, just like when you were a teenager,’ snapped Grandma. ‘Look, the baby is better behaved than you,’ she added.

 

I soaked up the compliment smugly, and was so wrapped up in the glow of Grandma’s words that it took me a while to realise that we had moved onto another shop.

 

And then another. And another. And another. All without success, if my female relatives’ empty hands were anything to go by.

 

Suddenly, Grandma hit upon an idea. ‘Reinforced undies. That’s what you need. C’mon.’

 

And after investing in something or other that would hold ‘all your wobbly bits in’, Mother was back in business, and back to the first shop where she happily handed over money for that dull white blouse, completely ignoring the glorious luminous yellow top again.

 

After several repetitions of this interaction, I had had more than had enough and was relieved to hear we were heading home. Good. I could imagine few activities more boring than shopping. I could-

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Mother seemed very pleased with her selection of bags.

 

 

And then I saw them. They were glorious. They were beautiful. They were bright red shoes. And from my position in Grandma’s arms, I could see every fabulous part of them.

 

I don’t know what happened to me in that moment, it was as if some inner voice took over. But I knew I had to have them.

 

I had never seen anything quite so fantastic, and that included my good friend and teddy bear RoRo.

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The beautiful red shoes

 

 

I opened my mouth to let out a scream but before I did so, I saw that Mother was already in the shop, pointing my beloved red shoes out to the assistant and handing over her card.

 

She was magnificent. It was as if she knew, instinctively, what I needed.

 

‘There you go darling,’ she said, popping the bag holding my lovely new shoes under my pram. I didn’t even need to yell to thank her; I just knew that she knew what I was thinking.

 

And as we headed home, my Grandma, Mother and me, I felt satisfied and happy, knowing my wonderful new shoes were coming with us. I had a feeling that this would not be the last time that such a purchase would be made.

Prose for Thought

 

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Pink Pear Bear

 

The Pramshed

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND NINE

‘Let’s do something different today.’

 

I felt a sliver of fear course down my spine. I have been around long enough to know that no good can come from those words. Father looked equally doubtful. He had been engrossed in a car race on television, as he often is. His expression said that he would much rather continue with this norm, that new experiences were the antithesis of what he wanted to be doing. Of course, he didn’t express this viewpoint. Instead, he asked: ‘Like what, love?’

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A clue as to the ‘different’ thing we did today

 

It wasn’t long before we found out exactly what Mother had planned for us. ‘Is this her first time?’ asked the lady behind the counter.

 

‘Yes,’ replied Mother. ‘We thought we’d start her early.’

 

‘She’s an absolute poppet isn’t she?’ cooed the woman, smiling at me.

 

‘She is. We’re hoping that she’ll be little water babe too.’

 

I must admit that I didn’t pay too much attention to Mother’s response; it is a terrible trait of mine but I must confess, I do love to be the centre of attention. I soak up compliments greedily and although my face might be grim, this is only to hide the pride within at the praise which is showered upon me. A side effect of this is that I can sometimes lose concentration on what is going on around me, that I get caught up with my own smugness. Sadly, this is what happened now; if I’d have known what that comment had referred to, what was coming next, then I would have surely done something to prevent my parents’ course of action.

 

Mother and Father and I squashed ourselves into a small cubicle where I was promptly, and rudely, relieved of my Babygro. I screamed furiously. ‘It’s freezing you fools!’ I yelled. ‘What on earth are you thinking?’ Fortunately, Mother had a bottle of milk on hand to placate me. It is curious how food can cure almost any ill; a couple of slugs of that and I forget all my troubles. I have often wondered if grown-ups have any such liquid substance which brings instant relief and delight; I have concluded that the red wine which Mother and Father sip when they think I’m asleep has similar qualities.

 

I was thoroughly expecting to be returned to a new Babygro, so you can imagine my surprise when Mother pulled out of her bag an odd little rubbery suit. It had a zip up the front and holes for arms and legs and it was brightly coloured. It looked pretty slim, certainly much smaller than me. For one silly moment I thought they might be going to dress me in it, and then I realised that was a ridiculous idea.

 

Unbelievably, I was correct in my initial thinking.

 

‘You hold her, then I’ll lie the suit down and we’ll put her arms and legs through.’

 

‘Will she fit?’ asked Father, sharing my concerns.

 

Mother batted Father’s question away and sighed. ‘Yes,’ she said firmly. ‘It’s meant to be tight. It’s a wet suit.’

 

I was duly laid down on top of the ‘wet suit’ at which point I wriggled around furiously. I was pleased with the effect of my movement; every time Mother got a leg through, an arm popped out, and vice versa. This was excellent progress, and I think showed just how big I am getting. Pretty soon I will emerge the champion of our dressing tussles.

 

Not yet though, and as Mother pulled up the zip on my suit, I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I looked….really quite bizarre. This was like nothing I’d seen before, and certainly unlike any garment I had ever donned. I turned my head to the left. Actually, I looked rather good. It was quite a smart look, and one that I could certainly carry off.

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‘Here’s looking at me!’ It’s fair to say I carried off the wetsuit look with aplomb.

 

 

My parents shared my opinion. ‘Oh what a cutie,’ and ‘She’s soooooooo sweet,’ and of course, cameras were hauled out for the obligatory shots. By now, Mother and Father must have enough photos of me to open an exhibition. Every move I make, whether I’m asleep or awake; every new outfit, every slight shift in facial expression, every stretch that looks like a different pose, is captured for posterity. I mean I don’t really mind but sometimes these photo opportunities can go on a bit.

 

‘Excellent. Now hold her round her tummy so she looks like she’s floating like a mermaid.’

 

‘Like this? And then let’s get one of her on the side so it appears as if she’s leaping off a diving board.’

 

Once every permeation of shot had been exhausted, and Mother and Father were satisfied that they had plentiful evidence with which to embarrass me when I’m twenty-one (as I’ve heard it be said is the real purpose of all this obsessional photographing) we were off.

 

And straightway I knew something was wrong. As we walked out of the cubicle, we passed under a shower which covered Mother and Father in water. What was going on? My anxieties weren’t helped by the people we passed who were all soaked wet from their clothes (which, I now noticed, were similar to the brief items worn by my parents) to their dripping wet hair. There is only one time when I ever get so wet that the water drips down off my back and that’s during bath time. That little tub, which Mother and Father plunge me into twice a week, is my nemesis. Every time I’m pulled out of it, screaming furiously, I hope that will be the last time. But despite my hopes, a few days later, I’m back in it. ‘You’ve got to get clean!’ Mother exclaims over my screams. ‘Why?’ I spit back. ‘I’m quite happy being dirty if this is the alternative!’

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Put as many toys in as you like, it’s still a bath

 

So, knowing this about me, I couldn’t help but stare bemused, and angry, at what was before me. It was what could only be described as a giant bath.

 

What the….? What kind of sick joke was this? Wasn’t it enough to wash me in my little tub at home, they were now bringing me here, to a mega bath, if you will. I let out a squeak of concern.

 

‘Oh bugger,’ hissed Mother. ‘She’s going into one.’

 

‘Look,’ urged Father, who was holding me. ‘Look,’ he said, pointing towards the giant bath. ‘Everyone is having fun. Look at that little girl with the rubber ring. And look at him with the lilo.’

 

I followed Father’s finger. Now that he said it, I could see others in the water. Smiling, happy children. I narrowed my eyes at them; what was going on?

 

‘Come on, let’s just get in,’ said Father to Mother’s worried face. ‘We’ve paid now, let’s give it a go.’

 

‘But she’s going to kick off, she’s gone all red and grumpy.’

 

‘When doesn’t she go all red and grumpy,’ laughed Father. ‘Stand by for high velocity screaming,’ he added with a chuckle. But I thought there was nothing to be so amused about. How dare he cast aspersions on my good name? I am a placid, even-tempered baby, it is just sometimes, when pushed, I may let my emotions spill out.

 

I’d show him. There are times in life when you have to screw up your fears, put aside your worries and just be brave. And this was what I was going to do now. I’d show this gormless pair just what I was made of.

 

Still, that didn’t prevent me from emitting a rather loud screech (an old lady in front of us jumped as if stung) as I was handed into the water. It wasn’t as warm as my bath. I felt my bottom lip wobble. Be brave, I chastised myself. I duly complied.

 

‘Do something! She’s screaming!’ exclaimed Mother, looking rather stressed.

 

Father, looking a little bemused about what to do next, held onto me tight and then he started floating along in the water with me. And then we were bobbing up and down, up and down. And then back to floating. I fell silent. Well. This was like nothing I had ever experienced before in the bath. The movement was actually…rather pleasant.

 

Mother then took hold of me, gripping me tightly, and she lay me on top of the water. ‘Kick, darling,’ she urged. ‘Kick.’ She gently got my foot and started kicking the water. Then she did the same with the other one. As she did so, the water splashed up high, and made a forceful sound. I realised it was me making that impact, little me with my little feet. It was incredible. When Mother let go of my feet, I carried on kicking anyway.

 

‘She’s kicking!’ exclaimed Mother, and I could hear the gasp in her throat.

 

And I was. I was strong. I was powerful. I was making the water move by myself!

 

‘She’s smiling,’ said Father.

 

I could feel it on my face, the corners of my mouth turned up. No wonder! I felt so free as I kicked the water with even more force.

 

‘Maybe bath times will be a bit easier now,’ suggested Mother, an undertone of hope in her voice.

 

Pesky woman. She had to go and spoil it all. There was no way I could give them the idea that I had suddenly developed a positive regard for the water else I’d be bathed every night. No thank you.

 

So, I did what I always do when I want my own way. I started screaming. At the top of my lungs, with as much verve as I could muster. My parents sprang into action, and I was swept up and out within seconds.

 

Only, as we left, I had the slightest pang of regret. I had really been enjoying myself. I secretly hoped that we would return soon. And as I was carried out, still struggling a bit, I relieved that wonderful sense of being powerful as I kicked the water up as high as I could.

Mumzilla

 

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The Pramshed

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND THREE

An ill wind had blown through our house, if the expressions on my parents’ faces were anything to go by.

 

Mother looked as if she was sucking a particularly unwieldy sweet in her mouth, her cheeks pinched, her look martyred. Every now and then she would emit a loud sigh, designed to attract attention. But when it did, from Father – ‘what’s up?’ – she would simply retort ‘nothing’, as if surprised by the question.

 

Father, meanwhile, wore a frown instead of his usual gormless expression. He looked as if he had discovered a once lost, now found box of doughnuts – only to discover that said box was empty.

 

Their grumpiness was spilling out beyond their faces. For the last hour they had been bickering on and off about who had been responsible for buying another bottle of washing up liquid. The debate had disintegrated rapidly: ‘Fine. That’s fine. I’ll just buy paper plates in future seeing as how you’re too lazy and too selfish to do one tiny thing,’ and ‘What was wrong with my suggestion of using shampoo? It cleans, doesn’t it?’

 

Of course, the argument was ensuing sotto voce, as part of their determination to protect me from all things negative (shame they hadn’t taken this stance with scratch mitts which surely are the most negative creation known to man. There is nothing good about any garment or object which prevents you having a good itch when you need to). But, I knew what was going on, I could see from their faces that they were ‘having words’ (the throbbing vein in Mother’s neck was a bit of a giveaway).

 

They had been like this all morning and for the life of me I didn’t know what was wrong with them. Had one of them done something mind-blowingly stupid to upset the other? This seemed the most likely course of action. Mother was still furious about the time when Father had given her best cardigan, dress and blouse to charity after he had got confused between his left and his right. ‘I said right! The pile of clothes on the right. The pile on the left was for the dry cleaners.’ ‘An easy mistake to make,’ suggested Father, meekly. ‘Easy, yes. If you are a moron.’ Father was duly dispatched to the charity shop to buy back Mother’s mislaid items. ‘I didn’t get much change out of fifty quid,’ grumbled Father. ‘I’m not surprised,’ returned Mother, haughtily. ‘Good quality clothes those.’

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Father’s inability to distinguish between left and right caused him enormous problems

 

So yes, the probability was that one or the other had managed to wind the other up. That had to be the answer. What else could there be? The only other person who could have put them in these ill tempers was me and that seemed very, very unlikely.

 

Yes, I hadn’t managed to get to sleep particularly early the previous evening but that shouldn’t have had any effect on them, I was sure. My mind had been racing last night, a plethora of new questions dancing around my brain, such as why was Mother constantly on a diet if it made her so miserable? I had noticed a direct correlation between the amount of cake and chocolate she consumed and her mood. More than once I had seen Father grimace at Mother when she was chewing distastefully upon a rice cake, knowing that a scolding was imminent. For example: ‘That bin is starting to stink. I asked you to empty it three days ago.’ Half a packet of biscuits and a bag of crisps later and she would be cracking jokes and laughing heartily with all the lightness of a cloud. I wondered why she bothered with the diets, and her explanation to Father didn’t hold up if you asked me: ‘I want to look good in a bikini.’ Considering that a) we didn’t have any holidays planned that I was aware of and b) when we would go away I imagined it would be for a short space of time, it seemed like a whole lot of misery and effort for very little gain.

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This two-pieced garment was the cause of a lot of food-related misery for Mother

 

I was also musing upon the question of Father’s hat which he had taken to wearing. It was an orange cap with a peak. ‘I saw a chap on the telly in something similar,’ he told Mother when she looked at it uncertainly as it balanced on his head precariously. He looked ridiculous and whilst it would surely suit other men, it made Father look as if he was sporting a brick on the side of his head. But the great mystery to me wasn’t that Father wore it – I have long since worked out that Father has very little sense of style and tends to wear whatever he finds lying on the bedroom floor or, failing that, tucked away at the back of the wardrobe. No, the confusing issue for me was the way that people were blatantly lying to his face. ‘You look really….trendy,’ suggested Mother encouragingly, though her eyes danced with horror. ‘Cool. You look like a Hollywood star,’ complimented Mother’s cousin, obviously biting her lip to stop herself from laughing. The only person who was anything less than supportive was Grandad: ‘You actually handed money over for that?’ he’d asked, doubtfully.

 

So with so much on my mind, it did take me a long time to get to sleep, I would probably estimate it was around three am. I must confess, the hours preceding my snoozing were perhaps rather noisy on my part. I did scream a tad, in frustration mainly, at my inability to resolve the riddles in my head. I don’t think Mother and Father minded, I am sure they understood; after all, I have seen Father agonising over the games he plays on his phone, only to let out a rather loud and unseemly expletive when yet again he is bested by technology. They did look a little fraught in the run up to my sleep but this how they look most days, and I was confident that I was not the cause of the tension in the air. I am, after all, well aware of my popularity in the house (if it came to a competition, I would suggest I would definitely win it. It would be a battle for second place, and some days, I am not sure either Mother or Father would garner the runner-up position. It would probably go to my teddy bear and good friend RoRo).

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RoRo is quite a shy teddy bear, hence his hiding behind his ears

 

Eventually, as it always does (in spite of Mother’s ridiculous comment: ‘That’s it! She’s never sleeping again! She’s just going to stay awake FOREVER and torment us’) sleep overtook me and I fell into a slumber. Which, as it turned out, was rather brief, thanks to my impressive hunger. It was my appetite which forced me awake with a hungry yell a couple of hours later, a yell which was the trigger for Father stumbling out of bed to prepare my bottle. By the time it arrived (what on earth was he doing downstairs? Had he fallen asleep on the kitchen counter?) I was in rather a state. This was entirely my parents’ fault. They know full well that I do not, I cannot wait longer that a minute for milk. Otherwise I become alarmingly angry. Mother says I’m like the Incredible Hulk: ‘One minute, she’s lying in her crib like butter doesn’t melt. And then, in a nano second, she turns into this raging ball of fury.’ I think she’s a little excessive in her description (as usual. Mother has such a taste for the dramatic) but by the time Father FINALLY came upstairs with the milk, I had gone past the point of being upset, I was LIVID. And even my much-wanted food couldn’t stop those screams.

 

‘Do something!’ said Mother, hopelessly.

 

‘What?’

 

‘Anything,’ she snapped. ‘This is all your fault anyway. What took you so flipping long?’

 

Father shrugged.

 

‘Is that jam around your mouth,’ she asked, peering closely at Father’s face, cross-examining him like one of those television detectives of which she is so fond.

 

‘No,’ he replied meekly. But if the jam wasn’t the giveaway, then the crumbs on his t-shirt were. ‘I was starving,’ he admitted, realising the game was up. ‘Tiredness always makes me ravenous,’ he added, and I recognised the sentiment. This was clearly a shared trait between Father and daughter.

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Father didn’t exactly hide the evidence of the snack he gobbled when he should have been making milk for yours truly

 

After a good hour of cuddling, coaxing and caressing, I was calmed down to mild disgruntlement rather than all out hostility. Mother and Father looked a little stressed but I imagined this must have been because of their earlier disagreement about Father’s snacking; they are well used to me now and know that I do settle down eventually.

 

Happily, that was the end of my mild protestations (or, as Father described it, ‘all out flipping declaration of war’) and I fell into the rhythm of the day. I was pleased to discover that in spite of perhaps rather less snoozing than usual, I was full of vim and vigour and was able to make my usual demands: to be carried to my playmat, to be put back in my Moses basket, to be taken back to my playmat, to be turned over from my tummy (immediately), to be given my mirror, to be given a book, to be given RoRo, to have RoRo taken away when we fell out (I don’t want to talk about it), to be put in my chair, to be taken out of my chair, and to be given a rather large feed. I am sure Mother and Father were pleased to see that I was going about my business as normal, I know that they worry when I am quieter than usual.

 

‘Right, that’s it,’ said Father at last. ‘Sit down, put your feet up and give me the baby,’ he ordered Mother, taking me out of her arms and causing a break in my feeding (which I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear, now that you know me well, I was furious about).

 

But Father persisted. ‘We’re going to rest today. No housework. No rushing around. Just relaxing. We both need it,’ and he rested his feet on the table in front of him.

 

I thought this was exceptionally lazy of them. I also thought that Father was taking a risk putting his feet up on the furniture; Mother wouldn’t like that one bit. Instead though, Mother just smiled at Father and tucked her own legs underneath her. She looked as if she was drifting off to sleep, which I thought was an absolute dereliction of duties.

 

I was going to berate her but strangely, the warmth of Father’s strong, comforting arms began to lull me into a sweet slumber. Perhaps a lazy day wasn’t such a bad idea; I was feeling a little weary if I was honest. Just before I gave in completely to my dozing, I pondered on what on earth had put Mother and Father in such bad moods, but an answer to my query remained wanting. I guessed it would remain one of life’s great mysteries….

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A Mum Track Mind

DAY NINETY-EIGHT

I have seen some distasteful sights in my three months out of BabyLand. The portrait, for example, my Father painted of me having discovered a previously hidden interest in art. ‘But you complain if you have to so much as give the fence a quick lick of varnish,’ said Mother, surprised, when Father had proudly announced his idea to capture my image for posterity. Father had shrugged. ‘I was pretty good at drawing at school,’ he’d retorted in the face of her disdain. ‘And I’d quite like to do something special for her, y’know, something that she can hang on her wall when she’s grown-up.’ Well, all I can say is that the only place the resulting masterpiece will be hung is inside a rubbish bin; Father’s artwork was massively insulting to me. One, my head is not anywhere near as big as Father’s outrageous representation, and two, my eyes are not somewhere back near my ears. It’s a good job I am a confident baby, otherwise I might have been hugely upset by Father’s ‘work.’ Mother tried to be positive but even I knew she was appalled: ‘If people ask, we’ll tell them that you were drunk when you did it.’

 

And if that wasn’t bad enough, a recent outfit that Mother had chosen for me had been horrendous. Pink, fluffy, sparkly and with layers of layers of fabric that made me look like a giant marshmallow. ‘What a cutie,’ cooed Mother gently. ‘You look so fab. I just love your outfit!’ ‘If you like it so much then you blooming wear it!’ I’d spat angrily. I was just grateful that there had been a very timely and well-aimed projectile vomiting incident later on that day.

 

But these memories, these scenes, paled into insignificance now when compared to the one before my eyes. It was Mother and Father, moving with abandon, stepping over each other’s feet, losing time with the beat of the song and showing no sense of any rhythm whatsoever. I had seen my parents dance before, of course, but this had always been for my benefit, their exaggerated movements designed to garner my pleasure. But this time was different; those moves were serious, meant to impress the assortment of people crammed into this noisy room. I would have liked to have been able to put my head in my hands but with my neck muscles still wanting, and my coordination a little lacking, I had no choice but to stare at the pair of them in horror and wait for the nightmare to be over.

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Note the awkward body position as Mother ‘shook her stuff.’

 

‘Ah it’s lovely to see the young ‘uns enjoying themselves,’ suggested Grandma, nodding in the direction of Mother, who was shuffling backwards then forwards as if she needed the toilet, and Father whose efforts were obvious from the sheen of sweat covering his face.

 

I looked up at her from my position on her lap. There was so much to correct her on. ‘Firstly, Mother and Father can, in no way, shape or form, be described as youthful. They are extremely ancient in my eyes. Secondly, it is not nice to watch people enjoying themselves when those people happen to be related to you and are therefore clearly humiliating you.’

 

As ever, my remark came out as a scream – this was really getting on my nerves now. How can I have such erudite and considered thoughts in my head but nothing but babble come out of my mouth?

 

‘She’s tired,’ announced Grandma confidently to Grandad. I had never seen Grandad looking this happy. Beside him were several empty glasses and one half-full of a yellow liquid that he kept sipping enthusiastically. I wondered what was putting him in such a good mood; I suspected it was my company. I tend to have that effect on people.

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Grandad seemed happier than I’ve ever seen him. I tend to have that effect on people

 

 

‘She’ll go to sleep in a minute,’ added Grandma assuredly.

 

But I had no intention of snoozing off, how could I, after all with that noisy music playing so loudly. My eyes returned to the floor, reluctantly, where Father was now spinning Mother round. Mother looked as if she was going to fall over but bravely managed to retain her poise if not her dignity; that had been lost quite some time ago and I doubt she would ever be getting that back.

 

Still, if Mother and Father were embarrassing, then they weren’t alone. There were several other people alongside, shaking and stepping and jumping and twisting, and in one unfortunate incident, falling over. Without fail, every single one of them was smiling beatifically, as if they were having the best time imaginable. How bizarre, I mused, to find so much entertainment in making an utter fool of yourself. But then, this whole day had been rather odd.

 

It had started with our unusual choice of attire. I had been dressed, after some resistance, in a rather delicate pink dress made up of several layers and covered with a sweet flower pattern. As someone who prefers the comforting embrace of a soft Babygro, or a relaxed tracksuit, affording easy movement, I wasn’t impressed and I let my feelings known. Usually, a good kick around, a few screams and attempts to wriggle off the changing mat result in me getting my own way, but not on this occasion. ‘Sorry darling,’ said Mother, through gritted teeth. ‘But you’ve got to look nice today.’ Later, it struck me that she was perhaps indicating with this comment that I didn’t usually look nice. I duly expressed my annoyance, but I don’t think Mother made the connection with her earlier faux pas.

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My pretty dress which, as usual, I objected to wearing

 

I wasn’t the only one forced to wear something they didn’t want to, by the looks of Father’s expression. His suit, it had to be said, looked as if it was suffocating his body with its tightness. ‘For goodness sake,’ hissed Mother. ‘What do you look like? When was the last time you wore that? Your school disco?’ Father did what he always did and pretended he couldn’t hear. I have to admit, Mother looked rather pleasant. She had brushed her hair and was wearing a red dress. I haven’t seen her in a dress before and I couldn’t help but think she looked softer than she does normally in her skinny jeans or her pyjamas.

 

I had no idea where we were going but the next time I woke up – that damn car seat, tricking me to sleep as usual – we were in a large room, decorated with flowers, tinkly music playing in the background. In the distance I could see a man in a suit – fortunately better fitting than Father’s – and a lady in a tight, white dress. I wondered how she was managing to move around in it; it seemed to be gripped tightly round her top if the protruding bumps were anything to go by.

 

I dislike waking up in surroundings unknown to me. It makes me short-tempered, as I think it would most people; not knowing where on earth you are can be quite disconcerting. I did what I always do and I let out a massive scream which reverberated impressively in the hollowness of the ceiling and came out significantly louder than I intended. Everyone turned to look at me, eyes from front, back and to the sides of me. ‘What?’ I snapped angrily. Mother looked mortified and Father wore his usual I-don’t-have-a-clue-what’s-happening expression. ‘Well,’ announced the lady at the front holding a big book. I hadn’t noticed her before. ‘Well,’ she continued. ‘I think we’ll just presume that’s not an objection, in spite of the tone.’ The people in the chairs surrounding us laughed heartily. I didn’t get the joke.

 

Shortly afterwards, we were getting ready to exit the room behind the new ‘husband and wife’, as apparently they were, when a rather unfortunate mishap occurred. Mother had spent the entirety of the ceremony we had just endured feeding me. I knew what she was up to. When I get a little more vocal than usual, perhaps in circumstances where she wants me to be quiet (I know her better than she thinks) then she buys my silence through the use of milk. Of course, I’m not going to argue with that. Only, as we were leaving, I realised that I had taken on board a little more food than I could accommodate and sadly a large part of it ended up over the lady in front. ‘This is silk,’ she said in a cold, stern voice as the vomit dripped off her sleeve. ‘Sorry,’ squeaked Mother whilst Father rubbed away at the sick with his dirty hanky, only stopping when the lady slapped his hand away….

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The bride and groom…sort of

 

 

‘And then there was the time when….’ I wondered if the man would ever stop talking. He had been going for what I imagined to be a good eight hours but Father had reassured Mother it was only half an hour. It seemed quite odd to me. He had outlined every aspect of the life of the lady in the tight dress who I now knew as the bride. He was so boring that Grandad had fallen asleep at least three times, only to be woken by a sharp elbow in the side by Grandma. I didn’t blame him. I wished that I could doze off too – his real-time description of the bride’s attempts at ice-skating aged seven had been perhaps the dullest moment of my young life so far.

 

At last the man fell silent (I think someone switched his microphone off) and it was over to the man in the suit who I now knew as the groom. ‘I’ll keep it brief,’ he said, earning sighs of relief from his guests. ‘Just to say, you aren’t just the love of my life, you are my life,’ a comment which earned lots of ‘aaahs’ and ‘oooohs,’ especially from the old ladies, of which there were many. Personally, I didn’t get it; it was completely nonsensical. I glanced across at my parents, expecting them to share my confusion but they didn’t seem to. In fact, they weren’t looking at the bride and groom but at each other, holding hands. And then Father kissed Mother on the head. I shuddered. I thought this to be quite gross…

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The flashing lights  man was getting on my  nerves

 

‘C’mon party people, up on the floor.’ The man behind the flashing lights, who seemed to be operating the music, was getting increasingly on my nerves. I would have preferred people to ignore his orders just to annoy him but sadly they didn’t and were throwing themselves across the room with a total disregard for health and safety. I wondered if this was what happened when you got older; if overnight you ceased to be able to’ move your limbs in a coordinated fashion to music.

 

‘And now, the bride and groom,’ boomed the annoying man, and everybody else cleared out of the way to make way for the lady and man who, it had to be said, were looking rather more dishevelled than before. The bride’s white dress appeared to have sprouted various stains, and the groom’s jacket and tie had gone missing in action. The groom pulled the bride towards him, extremely closely, and they circled around the floor slowly. They kept slobbering over each other, earning adoring glances from the crowd. Not from me though. I thought it was disgusting.

 

‘Look darling,’ urged Grandma. ‘One day, this will be you and your new husband.’

 

I flinched at this outrageous suggestion. How dare she. One thing of which I am sure is that I am never having a husband. It must be horrible to have someone stuck by you all the time, constantly talking to you and kissing you. I was absolutely confident that this vow I made now, at three months old, was one that I would honour for the rest of my life. It would be a bachelorette life for me.

Petite Pudding
Mumzilla

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DAY EIGHTY-FIVE

There had been some big changes in my day-to-day entertainment recently with the exciting news that I had graduated to a new playmat, gifted, apparently in recognition of some good behaviour from yours truly. It had been a few days ago when Mother had exclaimed excitedly: ‘She slept through.’ There had been tears in her eyes as she’d danced around the bedroom in her nightie. ‘I know love. I can’t believe it. I never thought this day would come,’ agreed Father and he grabbed her in his arms and they waltzed round the bedroom in the most uncoordinated fashion imaginable. I thought the whole display utterly unseemly, and quite frankly, unnecessary; what was so great about snoozing solidly anyway?

 

Still, they were both in good moods, so much so that Father declared: ‘C’mon, let’s take her to the toy shop, she can have whatever she wants,’ he said magnanimously. I must admit that in spite of myself, I felt a ripple of excitement. I had heard about these establishments which were, I believed, the very epitome of childhood fantasies made real. It was my understanding that they offered a veritable cornucopia of treats, all designed for children’s delight.

 

Well, I wasn’t disappointed. The shelves were absolutely bulging with games and toys and teddy bears in all shapes and sizes, and best of all, a huge white horse which appeared to go backwards and forwards. I watched jealously as a rather boisterous youngster vigorously bounced up and down on it until he was ordered off the thing by an angry parent. Good, I mused happily, as the now-screaming boy removed his grubby little mitts from the object of my affection. I admired the graceful face of the horse; I did so hope that she and RoRo would get along.

 

I also hoped that my parents would pick up my hints about my required purchase (I was screaming vociferously) but the idiots instead picked up a large box, contents unknown. ‘She’ll love this,’ said Mother confidently. No I won’t, I screamed furiously, I want my horse. ‘Definitely, especially now she’s getting a bit more active,’ confirmed Father. Yes, active enough for my horse, I tried to convey, desperately trying, and failing, to point towards the beautiful white creature. I managed to lift my hand almost out of the pram but I just couldn’t get it into position to point towards it. At one point, my hopes soared when Mother followed my eyeline and said: ‘She looks like she’s looking at that rocking horse.’ Father chuckled: ‘She’s probably wondering what it is, funny looking thing. And besides, she’s much too young for it.’ I bristled indignantly. It was anything but funny looking. And what’s more, I was definitely old enough for it; I was, after all, almost three months old.

 

My pleas, which I did my best to ensure were measured and reasonable, fell on deaf ears: ‘Quick, get her in the car, everyone’s looking because of all the noise she’s making,’ muttered Mother, panicked. Instead, I was gifted the big box which my parents had selfishly chosen in the shop. Only, once the contents were emptied and put together, I started to have a slight change of heart. What is it? I pondered bemused. I didn’t have to wait long to find out as I was laid down on it. It seemed to be another playmat, an arch above me including a mirror and some animal shapes which I could pull down. Hmmmm, maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. I wriggled in excitement. And as I did, I heard a noise. It sounded like a musical note. I wriggled again. It happened again. And again. And again. It took me a while, a day at least, to realise that it was me making the noise every time I moved my feet.

 

Well, this was the business. I smiled gleefully as I threw myself wholeheartedly into my new toy. What I liked about it was that it had the ability to surprise me as yet again I jumped at the sight of myself in the mirror.

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Not quite the horse that I wanted, but my new playmat was proving to be an entertaining toy

 

 

‘Nice to have five minutes eh love?’

 

Mother exhaled deeply and nodded.

 

I eyed my parents carefully. I wondered what on earth they had done to entertain themselves before I came along. Right now, they were sitting in their chairs, Father had his feet up on a stool and Mother had her legs tucked underneath her. In her hands, Mother had a cup of tea and a magazine and Father was flicking through the television channels. They looked absolutely blissfully happy, as if lazing around this morning was a long-awaited treat.

 

I returned to my playmat and resumed my kicking and grabbing. But, after what felt like about six hours – I guestimated roughly -of play I became bored very suddenly. And I decided that I needed to be removed from my mat with an immediacy that I simply couldn’t express enough.

 

‘ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH,’ I wailed, firmly.

 

Father got up sighing. ‘I knew it was too good to be true.’

 

‘Still, we had five minutes break,’ added Mother stoically.

 

Father picked me up and cuddled me but still I cried. I was in one of those moods, I am sure we’ve all had them. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do but I wanted to be entertained. And, in the absence of any alternative options, crying felt like the best course of action.

 

‘Is she hungry?’

 

‘She can’t be. She only ate half an hour ago.’

 

‘Nappy?’

 

‘Just changed.’

 

‘She can’t be bored of her playmat already,’ said Father, bemused.

 

But I was. I was also bored of this conversation. And the dolly which Mother waved in front of my face saying, in an affected voice: ‘Hello, it’s me Emily, do you want to play?’ Nice try, Mother, but I can tell that’s you. I also didn’t appreciate the noisy book which was held up close to my face. ‘Will you stop pressing that button! I am well aware that Old McDonald had a cow, I don’t need to hear it mooing over and over again,’ I screeched, exasperated.

 

‘She’s getting angrier,’ suggested Father, nervously.

 

‘We’re running out of options.’

 

‘Wait.’

 

Father laid me down on the carpet, a move which only made me even more irate. ‘Oi! Pick me up again. I much prefer being held, thank you very much!’

 

But before Father could answer me, he’d disappeared. What the….? One minute he was there, and the next, all that was left in his place was a white cloth. Where did he go? What happened to him? And why wasn’t Mother looking more concerned? I wondered if we should contact the emergency services but then he reappeared as quickly as he had vanished. How on earth…? And then, in another flash of white cloth he was gone again. What the…? Where was he? And then he was back. But just for a moment before he was gone again….and again….and again…

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Try and suspend your disbelief for a moment but Father used to be sitting where that white cloth now hung. Incredible.

 

 

Once I had gotten accustomed to Father’s disappearing act, I stopped feeling concerned and started feeling entertained. And after a while, I began to feel amused. Very amused. I felt my cheeks loosen into a broad smile. But the smile quickly moved and started jiggling and with it, a noise came out from me that sounded thoroughly pleasant.

 

‘She’s LAUGHING!’ shouted Mother, in excitement.

 

‘I made her laugh!’ exclaimed Father, the look on his face as beatific as if all of his dreams had come true.

 

‘Keep doing it! Don’t stop.’

 

And Father did. And I carried on laughing. It felt rather nice, and I liked the way it sounded in my ears. How incredible, I thought, to have the ability to do something as wonderful as laugh.

 

Only, after about eight hours of the game (felt like), I must admit that I got bored again – I am starting to realise that I am quite a demanding child – and Father hung up his white cloth for good.

 

‘Feed me!’ I cried, annoyed, as I realised just how hungry I was.

 

Normally my parents get stressed when I start to express my furious need for food but not this time.

 

‘I have never heard anything quite so beautiful, my darling daughter, as your delicious laughter,’ said Father in a voice that to me sounded a little choked with tears. And then he gave me a big, wet kiss on the head.

Petite Pudding

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The Pramshed