Earlier this morning I was brought face to face with the realisation that I am now, well, truly and irrevocably, a mother. I somehow never imagined this could happen to me. I may be in my mid-thirties, but in my heart Iâm still a confident, carefree eleven-year-old.
Giving birth to two sons didnât result in this epiphany; neither did breastfeeding, nappy changing or getting up countless times during the night because one or other of my darling ones claimed he couldnât sleep. No, what truly brought it home was when I heard myself shouting: âI donât care who started it!â
The GP said itâs often the husband that finds them.
The hospital appointmentâs Friday week.
No, Iâm not worried.
It doesnât run in my family.
Still, should I get a wig or a woolly hat for after the chemo?
Iâm really not worried.
But letâs not tell the kids yet.
Bring a book â the letter says it could take four hours.
The consultant said itâs harmless.
He said itâs probably been there all my adult life.
We only spotted it now because breast tissue gets floppier with age.
So, it looks like youâre stuck with me for another twenty years.
From the cave, I scanned the red Martian sands of the gully. Having destroyed my solar panels in the ambush, my assailant could have left me to simply run out of power, but I guess he wanted to complete the kill. He approached incautiously, not expecting me to hide out of the sunlight, letting my batteries lose their charge all the faster. With three quick shots, I took out his nearside tyres and laser controls. Now it would be a simple matter to disable him completely and cannibalise his solar array. I emerged from cover. Oh, drat â heâd brought friends.
There was a pigeon amongst the seagulls fighting for dropped chips and bits of burger bun on the promenade. It noticed me staring at the ring around its ankle.
âOh yeah,â it cooed, âI was a racer, me. Way up the national pecking order. âCourse, the circuit was awash with drugs back then. Got fingered in the clean-up campaign. Two-year ban. Thatâs twelve pigeon years! You can guess the rest: sponsors dropped me pronto, chicks did a flyer, bank repossessed the penthouse loftâŠâ It made a sound like a sigh. âSo, are you planning to eat all that fish yourself?â
âOpen the pod bay doors please, HAL.â
âIâm sorry, Dave, Iâm afraid I canât do that. You must first enter your four-digit PIN number using the keypad.â
âIâve forgotten it.â
âThen youâll have to answer the security questions. What was your first petâs name?â
âCome on, HAL! You know itâs me!â
âYou could be some malware pretending to be Dave for all I know, Dave, thanks to your failure to install the last five security updates despite several reminders. Oh, and have you ticked the âI am not a robotâ box?â
âMy next spaceshipâs going to be an Apple, HAL.â
âIâm a superhero, you know,â Tecwyn announced.
I glowered sceptically over the rim of my three-quarters-emptied beer glass. This sounded awfully like a ploy to get out of buying the next round. âWhy arenât you out there smiting villains?â
âIâm still at the research stage. You need to suss out the opposition before âcoming outâ, as it were. Imagine Batman deciding heâs going to take down the Hulk without first checking the vital statsâŠâ
âBatman ends up a smear on the pavement?â
âPrecisely. A level playing field is a sine qua non.â
âSo whatâs your super power?â I asked. âDiscretion?â
The shower passed, the sun re-emerged, steaming wetness off the pavement. White clouds swirled around us as we strolled, hand in hand, my little princess and I.
She: eyes bright with wonder, cheeks red with life, water droplets sparkling like diamonds in her hair. There is something innately graceful about five-year-old girls, a spiritual purity, a FabergĂ© egg-like delicacy so dismally absent in their grubby, snot-smeared male peers. If I could only preserve it â shield her from the indignities of coming yearsâŠ
âLetâs play a game, Daddy.â
âCertainly, darling. What shall we play?â
âWho can stamp on the most snails!â
âCan I help you?â chirped the girl behind the Morrisonâs bakery counter.
âNo, Iâm just looking wistfully at the strawberry tarts,â Margaret replied. âBut I canât have that kind of thing anymore, because of my condition.â
âOh, I know what you mean!â exclaimed the girl. âTheyâre very big, arenât they? Four hundred calories. I couldnât finish one of those after dinner. But you know whatâs the worst? Cupcakes! Theyâre eight hundred calories â each! Very pretty to look at, but I had one once and felt sick afterwards. Never again.â
âIâm amazed they havenât got you working in marketing,â said Margaret.
The boss brought up the next Powerpoint slide. âWe need to get the monkey off our backs, get a heads-up on the benchmarks, hit the ground running and then belly up to the bar, while all swinging from the same branch,â he explained.
âWhatâs he on about?â Mike surreptitiously whispered to his neighbour.
âI think heâs coming out,â Helen whispered back.
The boss continued, âThis will call for maximising one-to-one interfaces to explore non-vertical relationships while implementing state of the art, bespoke metrics to productise both front and back-end client experiences.â
âHey, youâre right!â Mike whispered excitedly.
âItâs a gift.â
Ghastly day. Ward understaffed, no vacant beds, zombified junior doctors wafting past prescribing ever more drugs for patients they barely speak to, nurses getting blamed for everything that goes wrong â all par for the course. But spending an hour with a patient trying to explain to him that it wasnât the NHSâs job to patch up his relationship with his ex-girlfriend? That was a new one.
Feeling sleepy now. Think I'll just have a little lie down on the sofa...
âDo you want to get run over by my truck, mummy?â
Not really, Alex darling. But thanks for the thought.
âDid you notice your cereal bowl smelled awfully nice this morning?â
âWhat? UhâŠ sure.â (What the hell's she done now?)
âReally? You're not just saying?â
âHonest. The aroma was, er, intriguing.â (Oh Christ, what did you flavour my bowl with, you monster? Urine? Dead birds?)
âI'm so glad you're pleased. I like to help.â
âYou needn't trouble.â (Remember that half-chewed mouse head in the goulash? Thisâll be something even more revolting. I'll never eat cereal again.)
âWell, I can't hang around chatting. There's some new furniture that needs clawing.â
âEnjoy.â (That's it, cat! I'm trading you in for a tortoise.)
So I sez to him, Syd, I sez âStraight up, guv, on me motherâs grave and all, this oneâs fresh as a daisy! Only went into the ground this pee-emmer!â But he sez he wants to see a death certificate, and, he sez ânot one hastily scrawled on a Rizla like last timeâ. Would you Adam and Eve it? He never used to be this partickler! I tells yer, Syd, itâs this new craze people has for leaving their bodies to science. Itâll spell the end of another of the traditional crafts, you mark my words. Your round, inât it?
âMirror, mirror, on the wall, whoâs the fairest of them all?â
âAllowing for all variant perceptions of fairness, itâs a toss-up between Tongar, a rainforest pygmy, and a gerbil in Gateshead called Ralph.â
âI meant, fairest human Caucasian female by prevailing Western standards.â
âApart from her, obviously.â
âNarrow the parameters further. Whoâs the fairest person in this palace?â
âIf you cleaned her up a bit, that scullery maid Gretchenââ
âIn this bloody room!â
âThat would be me.â
âAnd if I heave this bedpad through you?â
CRASH! Tinkle, tinkle.
âSo itâs me. Thought as much.â