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Wednesday, 21 April 2010


5 and a half months? Who’s counting.

5 and a half hours in A&E it was the other night. I was counting then. Me and F11. Yes, he’s gone up a year. He’s also, in this 5 and a half month hiatus, passed for one of the best schools in the country, aka a “super selective” grammar, passed with a pleasingly high mark. E and I cried, we really did on opening the letter. The boast will end with recording that we reckon (deciphering the results takes some doing) that he got full marks on the notoriously difficult second paper, this despite having freaked us out a-plenty by having finished both papers with 10 minutes to spare and finding them "easy." How the parental heart sinks while dwelling on this folly in the long wait for results.
Clever, difficult little beast. Tank feck there’s a reason for his, well, oddness: it be brains.

Brains were sadly most def forgot on Sunday when he went out on his bike (brand new, 24 hours old). Sensing a 4x4 looming behind him he dived for the ditch, fearing that she’d splatter him. Maybe she would have done, but she got out of the car and asked very nicely if he was OK. I imagine he growled at her and she retired hurt and he limped home nursing his wrist; his helmet crushed, his amour propre in tatters but his bike unscathed. I left a caring ten seconds before asking about the bike. And he seemed fine.
I know that I’m not a natural nurse, this mainly to counterbalance E’s quite unacceptable hypochondria, but I did ask about him first, and bike second. I really did. I think.
Monday he was booted into school; me deaf to bleatings about the wrist and murmurings about a stomach ache and and and... Typical back to school stuff. Get on with it. Off. Go.
He managed well at karate, too. He seemed fine; after all there was no bone poking through the skin, no swelling, no bruise even. What's a mother to think? But at supper E, nice E, said, “I really think he should go to A&E.” So off we went. Each with a book. F11 finished his; I managed 100 pages of mine which, since it was “The Children’s Book” by A S Byatt is good going.

The waiting room was heaving with kids. “Trampolines are our bread and butter,” said the nurse. There was also evidence of a football ankle, a climbing frame elbow and a skateboard knee.
There were 3 Poles, jabbering over ownership of a tripod;
an ancient man, so very old, shouting into a bells and whistle mobile phone: someone appeared, he handed them money for fish and chips before returning to bellowing into his phone.
A glamorous woman, glamorous enough to have been a man in full slap, held a finger dipped in a purple cup. I longed for details.
Another man looked so confused turning in small circles round his holdall, round and round, that for the first time in months I felt comparatively well sussed and smart and up together. And so we read on.

Life passed slowly under the neon gaze. A TV too loud to ignore, too quiet to follow babbled in the corner of a room littered with torn magazines, abandoned plastic tumblers of leaking coffee dregs, and crumbs. Lots of crumbs. It wrote off quite half a dozen chairs and the place was nigh-on full. A serious place for the munching of snacks. Enough to turn the strong-stomached weak (and I am not strong-stomached) contemplating the snarfing of meat pies and slurping on sub-standard beige liquid; crumbs, crumbs and pools of squalid damp. People in public don't bother with bins. Another reason not to be a nurse, the fumbling with damp and the finding of crumbs in odd places. Spare me.

After what seemed like a week but was in clock time 90 minutes, a triage nurse prodded and poked and mispronounced F11’s name and called me "Mum" and then back out again we were, turned round quick like the loon round his holdall and back out onto the hell of the hard metal chairs. In the interim, ours had been taken by the next lot of oddballs who'd trooped in, being a group of four adult children. It’s the only way to describe them, not care in the community as such, not 100% fresh from an institution, possibly passing for normal in some circles, but still. Large, lined, one clutching a bag which dangled at chest height as if from eager paws. Very jolly, but slightly unnerving. Too loud, too friendly. They stood very close and touched each other a lot.
“Don’t catch their eye,” I muttered sotto voce to F11. A mistake.
“What? Who?” he demanded loudly looking all around him with avidity. “Oh, them.” He stared.

Eventually we ended up in the X-Ray department. Empty and a bit scary.
“It looks fine,” I said, expertly surveying the images on screen.
“Not allowed to say,” the handsome radiographer said.
“Oh?” I said.
“In case we get it wrong.”
I felt that this was code for “Yeah, he’s fine,” so I nodded slightly patronisingly, one radiographer unto another. But it seems, from the doctor who was allowed to say, that he has a buckled radius – the bone isn’t meant to splay out like that – and bone flecks in his palm. The doctor was called away mid-explanation to speak to the police about someone in the cells. Feeling like a teenager, I managed to take photos of the computer screen with my phone. Imagine.
“It’ll need a cast,” the doctor said, swishing in all important from police business. “We’ll isolate the thumb since I’m worried about these flecks.”

When young, the now T13 used always ask hopefully, on hearing of illness, “Is there blood?” I feel his interest now. Illness should show. There should be a clue. The wincing of a child is not clue enough. Not with Monday and back to school on the cards. I felt mean and defeated. Buckled. Bone flecks. Another reason why I’m not a nurse nor ever could be: bad, so very bad at all the ill stuff.

More waiting, then in with the nurse. She wheeled in the plaster in its own stand. Another nurse lounged in the doorway waiting her turn with it. Seems they don't run to 2, trampolines notwithstanding. Meanwhile, one of the adult children was pulled across on a trolley through the corridor at the back. Back and forwards a few times she went, the orderly taking touching pains each time to open and shut with care the double doors impeding his progress, anxious lest they bang the trolley. She looked thrilled, she clutched her bag the tighter. I imagined the other 3 big children watching, hugger-mugger in the corner, squealing, bouncing flat-footedly.

I felt like a child myself, watching one of those mesmerising educational films, as the nurse wound various layers round F11’s arm.
“Ah,” I said approvingly at one point, “you’re isolating the thumb.”
She gave me a look. At the end, having tossed the protective apron she’d laid over F11 in the bin (“Don’t want this plaster getting all over you”), she fumbled with the paperwork. A curse escaped her. “Gotta isolate the thumb!” she said. Plaster splattered everywhere. “It’ll wash off,” she said.

He’s back at school now, the cast hidden under his jumper. “He might need a scribe for his SATs,” said his teacher.
“Can you imagine?” I said.
His teacher blanched. F11 does ramble so. A clever boy, but random.

I’d taken a photo when it was done that night, to text with the x-ray to E and T13.
“Not T13!” F11 said.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because he’ll forward it to all his friends and then put it on Facebook,” he said.
I told T13 this. “What!” he said outraged. “I wouldn’t do that, I wouldn’t go round telling people. I know what he’s like.” A beat and, “Oh, all my friends are really concerned, they all, like, say Get Better and stuff.”
“It’s private,” said F11.
T13 looked baffled. By now he would have arranged a press release, a photo call and a rota of willing helpers to carry his bag. Much the same as when he last stubbed his toe.
“It’s not private,” I said, “It couldn’t be less private.”
Every other child in the Western world would be displaying their cast with pride. I put a hankie-sling on Catty, “Look, Catty’s hurt, too.”
“No!” he wailed, “Not Catty. Catty can’t be hurt, I can’t bear it.”

So Catty got better very very quickly, about as quick as it takes to snatch a hankie off his head, while narrowly avoiding breaking his neck. Human time will be a little slower. But not as slow as A&E time. I hope.


Frances said...

Well, Milla, what a night. And this post of yours has certainly taken all of us readers right into that A&E maze.

Before more hospital comments, let me pass along huge congrats to all involved in F11's scholarly triumph!

Back to A&E, now. Around 1980, I spent many, many hours in the "bleeders' waiting room" of the vast Emergency Room department of NYC's St. Vincent's Hospital. St. Vincent's is in Greenwich Village, has always had a great rep for taking care of emergencies, and played a huge role after 9/11. It is about to close, due to long-running financial probs that could not be taken care of in the bleeders' area.

Back in 1982, I'd sliced my thumb making supper, and for many hours had said thumb dipping into a cup filled with purple liquid. My thumb is fine now. Oddly, there were many artists in the bleeders' room, and we chatted away to take our minds of our injuries. I met someone who know someone who became my first etching teacher. So...I do have some good memories of my night at St. Vincent's.

Hoping that F11 will also recover soon. Also hoping that we will be treated to more of your way with words soon. xo

Chris Stovell said...

So there you are! Congrats to F11 in his Giant Hat of Cleverness mode, swift recovery to damaged bones. Was the finger the glam woman was holding still attached to her?

Edward said...

I wait five and a half months for a new blog, only to be insulted. Well, really.

No, jolly good obv.

Expat mum said...

Blimey - I had you down on the missing persons list!!!
My man-child has just come out of a full arm cast, which, in case anyone missed it, he decided to have wrapped in neon pink!banta

Expat mum said...

Banta was my word verification - no idea why it came up at the end of my comment.

Milla said...

seems strange, being back.
Hmmm, Frances, how nasty a phrase is "sliced my thumb"
Chris, being squeamish, rapidly regretting fingers and just Do Not Want to contemplate what how where. Which brings me back to Frances' purple liquid, shudder.
E, hurriedly changing the locks as we speak.
I know, Expat, I did sort of vanish. thanks for banta clear up, thought it was some Yanky business and you'd forgotten we wouldn't know.

Preseli Mags said...

Hurrah! You're back. I was counting.

Well done to brainy F11, commiserations over the break and the ages in A&E. It reminds me of a girl who broke her arm falling off a horse. She threw her arm into coat at the end of the day without a wince, was totally fine overnight and at school the following day, then was plastered the day after that. Breaks, it seems, are not always immediate in the young.

hairyfarmerfamily said...

I once made my then-boyfriend walk about on what later transpired to be a broken leg for 24hrs, because I was in far too stinking a mood with him to drive him (he couldn't drive) to A&E. He could walk! Kind of! It was patently FINE! Stop being such a BABY... oh...

Amy said...

I have missed your great writing and it's worth the wait!! Congrats on your brainy one and i hope the wrist gets better soon xxxxx

Milla said...

dear PM, that makes me feel better. I feared while E was neurotic I was most certainly negligent.
hff, yes, my sort of girl. all that fuss and bother. Just get on with it.
Amy, bless you - do people know this woman is YOUNG (as in born in the 80s, AND on her way to her 5th child). Way to feel old.

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

Hello Milla and welcome back! There's never a dull moment in your household! Here's wishing F11 a speedy recovery and congratulations on gaining entry to grammar school. Lesley

her at home said...

Milla you have my greatest heartfelt sympathy. Youngest navigates but hospitals ( is pontivy where I had my head operated on or where I had my scan? he asks as I go green and sweaty at the memory of both events!)

her at home said...

Meant to add before I got distracted by eldest that it is good to see you back.

Faith said...

First blog I've read in weeks, and well worth it. I'm sure I know more about A&E than any mother alive - my daughter was never out of it as a child, and this year - April to April - she's been in hospital three times though she's coming up 22. Hope your son recovers quickly, and doesn't need a scribe! Well done to him for getting into the good school - must be your fantastic upbringing - have a pat on the back!


Fab to see you back, Milla - You Have Been Missed. And, yes, in my experience the brainiest children to seem to get the most complicated ailments for some reason. Hope he recovers quickly - silly old SATs hardly count after doing so well in something so much more important (excellently well done, by the way).

PS How are you getting on with The Children's Book? I'm battling with it somewhat. Too much convo and not enough getting on with the story IMO. Have popped it on the back burner for a while while I get on with some more immediately engaging Barbara Pym.

PPS I've been trying to convince the world that brains are the reason for my oddness for years, sadly without any success.

Berridon Farm said...

Vintage Milla. Almost worth waiting two trimesters for.

There is something quite comforting about A&E departments. They never change. You can rely on life's random souls to gather at the beverage machine.

I do long for the days when you blogged every day. Is there any chance service will resume on a more regular level now the ash cloud is dispersing?

Mud in the City said...

So glad you're back. Please don't run away again so soon!!

elizabethm said...

Hello! Great to have you back. Congrats to the brilliant F11 (think he was F8 when we first virtually met). Time and all that.

Milla said...

how lovely to see these familiar names again. thanks all for comments and nice thoughts.

Carol said...

Lovely to have you back hon!! Poor F11, I just love how his quirky mind works!!

Oh, and if it makes you feel any better....My Mum send me to school with a cracked bone in my wrist that then swelled to the size of a golf ball and I had to go to hospital....

C x

eleanor's byre said...

Much like your boy genius's wrist, that was a cracking blog, Milla. Congrats to him and beyond wonderful words to have you back.
Amazing how we all have our neglectful parenting/A&E nightmare t-shirts.
I am reminded of the occasion when Surf Bum, then aged 11 came running into the kitchen crying 'Mummy, mummy come quickly, BB has broken his arm' 'Oh for goodness sake, don't be so hysterical' huffed I, only to find 4 year old BB lying under a tree with his hand at right angles to his wrist. There then ensued a six hour wait in fracture clinic while they rounded up a surgical team to operate. Being a Saturday, we were told there was a major transplant going on so it seemed churlish to complain about a four year old with a snapped radius and ulna. When we eventually made it to surgery TF made a comment to the anaethsetist (SP?) about their busy day. 'Oh no' he said calmly, 'we only got the call about 15 minutes ago.'

Elizabethd said...

Great to read one of your posts again, you always make me laugh, even on a somewhat serious subject.

I have to say one reaches an age when it is a relief not to have children who cut themselves, fall over, dive off trees, get fishing hooks stuck in fingers , et al. Grandchildren? Well, they are their parents problems, she said heartlessly.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Congrats to F11 and commiserations on the arm - from a caring mother who didn't quite believe middle son when he was all of 9 - that his arm hurt - it wasnt until big bro actually massaged it for him whereupon he went through the ceiling that I caught on and trolled off to a&e - yep it was broken - he had a plaster on sort of two days after the event and people looked over their glasses at such a hard hearted mother!
The word verif is FLEXUAL!

Tattie Weasle said...

Grief 5 and a half hours in A&E and poor wee bairn 5 and a half months in a plaster while you dip your fingers in purlple stuff....I don't think I got that quite right but all the same great to have you back and brilliant for F11: see brains will get you everywhere but perhaps not in my case.

Sallys Chateau said...

Good to see you back on form and congrats to F11

Exmoorjane said...

FABULOUS blog... Well done for enduring A&E and above all for enduring 100 pages of the AS Byatt. Gave up, gave it to friend - too turgid, too many POVs, too WTF.
I was with you every painful step of the A&E way. We have been there - I think - five times? I could do the plastering myself by now I think.
And huge congrats of course to T11 for his pass... What is it about Year 6 though? Like you, we now seem to have this hiatus of bugger all until September. Trip, play, cricket,no homework....why not start 'em off on Latin, I say! jxxx

CAMILLA said...

Hi Milla honey.!

Good to see you back, we have missed you.

So sorry to hear about your son's break, hoping that he is making a good recovery. Huge congratulations to your son for entry to grammer school.


Bluestocking Mum said...

Well done F11 and good to see you blogging(I know I can't talk.) But no-one does it better than you.

Thanks so much for all your lovely comments and messages. It means a lot.

Ooh yes, and get that children's book done girl!