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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.