Sometimes you just couldn’t make it up

This blog is called misliterature – the original idea being that it was misery literature – a genre that seemed to be in vogue when I started bashing away. It’s the Fault in our Stars genre of tragic stories told in a stoic way – teeth gritted against adversity. I hope I haven’t wallowed in self-pity too much over the years but I might tonight.

Post-Xmas has been quite tough as my mother hasn’t been very well. She lives next to us, so we are close geographically but also emotionally – she is my mum – obvs! But she has also been a massive support for us over the years, when Fo was ill after Otto was born, when Otto had eczema, through all of AJ’s various predicaments and just supplying us with quantities of wine and horses at crucial moments. She has been quite bed-bound and not eating very much at all, so we (well mainly Fo) have spent a lot of time checking up on her and trying to make sure she gets enough to eat. Mary and Fo have also been working hard to sort out the right caring arrangements for mum to make sure she is in the best hands possible. We have got to make sure that mum is well looked after. She reads this blog and I am sure that she wouldn’t mind me saying that people should give her a quick call or pop in for a visit if local.

But then obviously we also have a bit of AJ worries – well of course we have. I noticed that she was getting a funny yellow bruise building up on her chest. We had it checked out and it turns out that the metal stitching she had from one of her heart operations is rubbing. Most people don’t either have chest strapping when they are in their chair or spend their time rolling and spinning round on their chests when they are not. AJ does – she’s either in her chair or on the floor. So normally if you have had to have your sternum cut open, it is a good idea to have the stitching on the outside – turns out that this was not the best idea for AJ’s specific set of circumstances. So she had an appointment with a plastic surgeon. She just needs “a little operation” to sort it all out. “Little” it might be, but it means another round of general anaesthetics, being chopped open again and generally being messed about. Oh well, you can hardly say we are not used to it!

But all of the above is just the build up, sketching some background to the “you couldn’t make it up” headline.

I was on my way to work on the bus yesterday and got a text from Fo saying, “Call me now” with a clear sub-text that “and this is important”, so I had all sorts of worst case scenarios running through my head, mainly Mum being rushed to hospital. But no, all of sudden Fo was telling me that AJ’s taxi had been in a crash – so for all of you. as Fo quickly told me: she’s fine, she’s fine, she’s fine – everyone’s fine. Or not as it turned out.

Although we had been told that everyone was fine, Fo decided to take AJ to Accidents and Emergencies to get her checked out and who should be sitting next to them in the Waiting Room? The carer who was with her in the taxi and with a broken leg. Fo also noticed that the strapping in AJ’s wheelchair was all but torn through, which must have meant that it was quite an impact.

Otto and I were wondering quite how you would check AJ for concussion. If you ask how old she is, she will invariably tell you “five”, we think because she can the  neatly hold up the fingers of one hand. If they had asked her where she lives, she’d have probably said “doll’s house”. If you ask her to tell you the number of something, she will tell you a number, but just not the number of things you are asking about. So what she would have said if the doctor had asked, “How many fingers am I holding up?”, is anybody’s guess?  So the chances are that she would have been taken away for serious tests even though she was just bantering.

Apart from having been told that everyone was alright and it turning out that 25% of the people in the taxi had broken a leg, the more we heard about the whole, the more it sounded a bit fishy and that all due care and attention had not been applied. For e.g. another taxi just happened to rock up so they bundled AJ and her travelling companion in without knowing their names or medical conditions.

This morning we were umming and aahing about putting AJ back into the taxi that might turn up. Then they turned up in this jalopy! Neither the driver nor the carer could open the back door to get AJ in so who knows how they would have got her out again in the event of an emergency. Then the driver asked me to fill a 1-litre bottle of water to pour into the engine, then a 2-litre bottle, then the 2-litre bottle again, then both of them,

“It’s a big engine,” he explained. “With a fucking big hole in it,” I thought…

We decided against putting AJ into this particular wagon. The plot has thickened today – Fo has had meetings with the police and the county council and there seems to have been quite a bit of dodginess on the part of the taxi company but I probably shouldn’t go too far into that here. Just in case I don’t say it often enough and loud enough – my wife is fab. She looks after us all.

Here are some pictures of AJ pulling a sad face – I have even given one a noir filter (as per Ran Joe) for full mis effect.

I couldn’t really have a “you couldn’t make it up” headline and not say something about Brexit, could I? But you couldn’t really make up the fact that a government report says that all Brexit scenarios are bad and then have a government minister say we should ignore that report.

So just to recap for those of you who are still reading and vaguely engaged by this point:

David Davis – Brexit Secretary, Brexit Bulldog, assured us that they were carrying out all sorts of impact assessments into what might happen to the country once we had Brexited. This would have been the sensible thing to do IMHO.

A few months later he admits that no such assessments have been made. So we are going into this blind.

Then it turns out that some sort of assessment has been made. It’s all bad. A hard Brexit would be very, very, bad and soft Brexit would be pretty bad. But it’s all bad. And then a Brexit minister tells us to ignore the report because “forecasts by officials were always wrong” – these would be forecasts commissioned by his own government about the one job his department has been created to deal with. Ian Duncan-Smith came out with the same sort of guff – don’t believe what the people who know what they are talking about – listen to us because we believe (I paraphrase).

Having been a bit of sad leftie for all my adult life, I have often been accused of utopian, pie-in-the-sky thinking “yeah man, if we just paid all our taxes and got rid of the nukes, we would be able to pay for a fully functioning health service and maybe even not have to force the disabled into having to take inappropriate, demeaning jobs, I dunno, I am just putting it out there.” But if there was one thing you could rely on in a Tory, it was they were cold-blooded realists. They’d not pander to some airy-fairy theories, they’d get things done in the most efficient way possible. The economy was everything and everything had to be set up to ensure the economy was smoothly oiled. So if this meant exporting food from Ireland in the 1840s during the famine or importing coal from Poland during the Miner’s Strike or imposing austerity in the face of a massive global economic slowdown post 2008 – well this was just the common sense.  The Tories have never been ideologues – they are arch pragmatists, which is why they are one of the most long-lasting political organisations in the world.

Not this lot – they have inhaled some pretty potent and noxious gasses. They’ll take us off a precipice before they’ll admit they are wrong.



2017 – well, yeah

Blimey, it’s blowing a hooley out there. The weather is feeling suitably wintry and I am feeling reflective. I have said it before, and I will say it again, as a blogger you have got to mark your milestones. It’s that dead period between Xmas and New Year, I saw a funny meme (oh God I have spent too much time with an 11-year old) about how you feel festive in the run-up to Xmas and then just fat for most of January but in this in-between time you eat cheese and wonder what day of the week it is. So, tis indeed a time to reflect upon the greater cycles that govern us.

I was out this morning tackling a pile of wood that we chopped down last year. It’s now the time to collect it from the field and stack it inside to dry fully to keep us warm next Christmas. It’s why we make chutney, you lay things down to pick up further down the line and enjoy the fruits of your past labours. Oooh, I think I am going to go full Lion King and present a child to the future generations and chant.

Failing that, let’s look back at 2017. I was putting together a “Faces of 2017 Quiz” for New Year’s Eve, so went through the People We Lost pages in the paper and 2017 was a lot kinder on the great and the good than 2016… obviously not for the people who actually died in 2017. But where 2017 we lost David Bowie and Victoria Wood, for 2017 it was Bruce Forsyth and Johnny Hallyday. So, that’s errr, great.

Well, I should probably steer clear of politics, but I won’t… We had a General Election and it was well, basically, the biggest political miscalculation we have seen since someone decided to call a referendum to resolve the “European Issue”, way back in the mists of time when dinosaurs roamed the sunlit uplands and David and George were masters of all they surveyed, circa: the year before last. How we managed to go from what looked like a dead cert of Teresa May consolidating her hold on power to do with it what she willed, to Jeremy Corbyn looking like the sensible option, is certainly beyond me. I think it’s great but I certainly didn’t see it coming. For what it’s worth, I didn’t vote for him and I wouldn’t until he had a clear plan for Europe. But what a complete, total, fascinating mess.

If this wasn’t the actual reality that I, my family and so many people I know and love were living in, the current political landscape is a thing of scandalous beauty for the beholder. Who cares that Kevin Spacey is too morally repugnant to continue in his role as President Underwood in House of Cards, the U.S. remake of the classic BBC series? Neither of those series have got anything on the reality unfolding before us. On the “oh, come on you are really taking this too far” test, real Trump scores far more highly than fictional Underwood. “Oh, come on, just a whiff of collusion between a U.S. President and Russia would bring the whole house of cards tumbling down! …surely…? wouldn’t it?”

And what’s more! While some 25 years separated the airing of the U.K. and U.S. versions of the series, we have the two running concurrently! Exclamation marks!!!!

Meanwhile on the home front… Otto has hit secondary school and… and I really shouldn’t write about him anymore online. So no more photos of him in the bath, marked Public on Facebook and certainly no rants about “What the bloody hell happened there? Why did no one tell me that just because you had got them to sleep through the night and not poo in their pants you hadn’t actually Achieved Parenthood? That there was a whole lot more poo to come and very much outside of the pants (I feel I am stretching this metaphor)”, however cathartic such a rant might be.

So, onto Ava-Jane, after all this blog is supposed to be all about her… well, she is still the most fabulous creature alive. She is still having the occasional fit but I think we are getting the meds balanced and they seem to be less frequent. They do leave her a bit shell-shocked. Fo could see she had had one today even though she saw her a long time after it had happened. But other than that she is really progressing with her language. She managed to tell Helen that she had had a bath yesterday and didn’t need one today – needs must! Really importantly, I think she can focus on things for longer stretches of time.

I am not someone who generally or genuinely reflects much about the future. It has always seemed to have crept up on me, which I enjoy. I like history and the cycles of nature, viz chutney above. But the future, who knows? I think this is especially true for AJ, no one lives for the moment like she does. If she is having a drink of milk and you put a fluffy toy on her table to cuddle with while she drinks her milk, she’ll chuck the milk on the floor and cuddle the fluffy toy. Then when she has had enough of cuddling the fluffy toy, she’ll chuck that on the floor and say, “milk, please,… floor” while transfixing you with her piercing blue eyes. I don’t think she really feels complicit in the milk being on the floor, so exhorting her not to chuck it on the floor again doesn’t get you very far.

So we should all be more like Ava-Jane: live for the moment, giggle as much as you can and if you have made a bad decision and chucked something on the floor that you want back again, you only have to ask and look cute (FYI in this laboured metaphor, which is even more stretched than the one above, the milk represents the EU, so remember: Milk = EU.) Essentially all we need to do is realise that we didn’t want to leave the EU after all because it wasn’t that bad and all this leaving was a bit of a pain in the arse, flutter our eyes at some Eurocrat and ask to come back in again, bitte schön and Roberto is your mother’s son. So, all very unlike AJ dropping her milk or likely to happen. I think our milk is staying on that floor and even if we do a really sad face, no one is going to pick it up for us, that’s where it’s staying, down there with the fluffy toy and our table will be empty and we will be hungry and thirsty and bored.

And on that happy note, I bid you all a great 2018 from us all.



AJ with Auntie Lau-Lau


Zac’s Engagement Party

Efforts to get all nephews and nieces into the same picture at the same time proved fruitless – herding cats. So I have added Molly leaning seductively on Josh’s should and looking beautiful almost impercetibly into this one.