Friday, 25 November 2011

Not natural

There has been a lot of talk on the radio this week about the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines regarding caesarian sections. Apparently the number of instances of women having this major abdominal surgery continues to rise. There was discussion about emergency operations, but it was those opting for elective surgery that was causing the most debate. It would appear that much focus is on whether the guidelines will change anything or whether, actually, this is what happens any way: if you have been given the facts about both forms of delivery, and still ask for a Caesar, you will be given one – even if it is not thought you need one for a medical reason and despite the fact that they are more expensive than a vaginal delivery. Much comment included the view that such surgery might be ‘easier’.

This is the moment to declare an interest: Eldest’s birth was a complete nightmare resulting in me, no longer compos mentis, being knocked out and cut open to get out the baby who was also in difficulty. The doctors never did seem to know why it hadn’t happened naturally, and it frightened the life out of me. When Youngest was due I went into panic mode and the kind doctors said I should have a planned C-section. I felt less of a drama queen when they announced that if Eldest had been in the same place as Youngest there was no way she was ever going to be born without interference. Since I didn’t actually give birth naturally I don’t really know what my recovery would have been like, but it didn't feel 'easy'. I can only add that a planned Caesar is a great deal better than an emergency!

When news of yet another celebrity birth was announced followed by pictures of the slender after-baby figure out shopping I got to wondering about caesarians in a different way… It had never even crossed my mind that ‘too posh to push’ wasn’t really about not pushing, it was about having a tummy tuck without having to admit you’d had surgery.
At no point did anyone mention giving my stomach a helping hand in recovering by nipping out a bit of the excess. I’m assuming it’s not something you could have done on the NHS. I’ve always presumed it was just my complete failure to do any sufficient exercise that means there is a roll of stomach that never flattens out even when lying down. I’m working on forgiving myself for failure in this area as a result of this new insight.

I have never yet discussed birth with another woman without a frank exchange of experiences. So, at the risk of inviting a deluge, how was it for you?

Friday, 18 November 2011

Not quite Christmas

I went to Manchester on Wednesday for reasons explained further down the page. Despite decorations and signs to the contrary it turned out they weren't quite ready for Christmas!

Youngest, as predicted, had a ball in Spain last week.
She’s been taken all over Madrid, but also to Toledo and Segovia and indulged with a variety of gifts – from a calendar of teenage fairies through a variety of sweet treats to a copy of Don Quixote (in English) and a Peanuts sweatshirt. She was exhausted when collected on Friday at midnight but also too excited to go to bed until we’d been told more news than we could be expected to absorb. We didn’t see her ‘til lunchtime on Saturday. The gifts we sent went down well. The flapjack was a particular success: they want the recipe! We'll teach Spanishgirl to make it when she visits in March.

Eldest received a conditional offer from Nottingham and an invitation to Manchester for an interview last week. I was requested to accompany her (joy!) and Wednesday was the day we went up. We left the house at 7.25am and parked at the station in time for the train to Cheltenham Spa. There we waited for 40 minutes before getting on a train to Manchester arriving at midday. A hasty 20 minute walk across town took us to the Alan Turing Building for a buffet lunch (pastries with a variety of fillings, rather dry) where we were invited to listen to a lecture on the delights of studying Maths at said university plus a taster lecture. This was to be followed by a tour where parents would be taken off separately. We agreed I didn’t need to hear the lecture and had pretty much had a tour marching through from the station so I decanted at that point for a little retail therapy. Eldest, meanwhile, got on with the programme.
She and Husband had visited earlier in the year. The lecture was the same as the one she’d heard, though the taster was interesting (but perhaps not useful?). The tour was also the same and, as last time, failed to show them any accommodation: apparently you have to come on a different day for that… Her interview lasted little more than ten minutes and, apart from a Maths problem, consisted of a chap asking questions whose answers could have been found on her UCAS form. I hope she made a better impression on her interviewer than he did on her!
We met up again at 3.30 and pottered around the town centre before heading for the station and some supper. I reduced the cost of the day by booking a 7pm train home so we had a certain amount of hanging about to do. The same route back brought us to our front door just after 11pm. I had good company for my outing, we enjoyed the occasion, but I’m not at all convinced it was worth the cost or the time! When I described the day to Husband he declared me 'Mrs. Grumpy', I dispute this: the day was a novelty and the only other time I went to Manchester I saw no more than the station the inside of a taxi and a meeting room, so I enjoyed my exploration… but I do think the university got the plan wrong, and I am cross about the £130.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


I love to read, and what I love to read is fairly eclectic. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy reminded me that I used to read a lot of what might loosely be called ‘boy’s’ fiction. I started with Ian Fleming falling in love with everything Bond. I moved on through Alistair MacLean, Geoffrey Jenkins, Clive Cussler and Leslie Thomas to John Le CarrĂ©, Len Deighton, Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum. When I find a ‘new’ author I look out for them at the library and work my way through their oeuvre. But tastes and interests sometimes move on before this has happened. So, while I think I’ve read every James Bond book, as well as the Charlie Higson Young Bond stories, for instance, I find on looking back that my Le CarrĂ© reading has been patchy. I have started again at the beginning! His first book, Call for the Dead, introduces us to George Smiley. I plan to work my way through the Smiley stories.

Another knock on my door came in the form of the schedule for BBC Radio 4 Extra. They are rebroadcasting Len Deighton’s Bomber on Friday. This was a heart wrenching but fictional account of a bombing raid on Germany on 31st June 1943, a day that has never happened in that or any other year, and told from every angle and in minute detail. So we hear the aircrew being briefed about their task, meet the civilian population in a small town in Germany, follow the flight, watch the bombs fall, are bombed on the ground, shot at in the sky and hope to get out of the book alive. It is a standout novel. But so is the BBC production: it is striped over the day’s drama slots in ‘real’ time. It will be a poignant listen for Remembrance Day.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Relief not panic

Youngest will go to Madrid, Spain this afternoon. It’s an exchange through school: we will have a Spanish girl to stay in March. There ought to be worry and perhaps panic; instead there is only relief!

We had an active half-term and did nothing you could call useful: a blustery walk to Old Harry’s Rocks, a trip to see a ridiculous film (The Three Musketeers, at which Youngest cheered and the rest of us laughed derisively), trawled the charity shops for items to be turned into three costumes for the school play, read the newspaper, fought over the puzzles, tidied the garden after the builders and before the greenhouse turns up…
And this week has been busy: school, tidying for Swedish visitors, altering aforementioned garments to make a day dress, beachwear and an evening gown that look vaguely 1920s, a coffee morning spent filling Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, upholstery (still taking out staples!), and finding suitably British presents to send to Spain. Not to mention that ballet is back of course and Youngest has been out babysitting two nights, had two after school rehearsals for said school play (The Boyfriend) and been to Rangers – a bonfire party last night.

Let’s face it: the family has been through two French Exchanges, went to Madrid earlier this year and Youngest went to Switzerland in the summer. Sending Youngest to Spain to an unknown family in somewhat of a rush is just a relief all round that she’s off! Except that this is Youngest: when we got in the car to go to school this morning she burst into tears, and again when I left her there. She managed some watery laughter in between, and she will be fine, she will love the experience and get on with the Spanish family regardless. She is good at making friends.

When she went to France Husband had to actually go to put her on the bus (as opposed to them leaving from school). Stood waiting to wave her off the mummies around him were discussing the poor girl in bits on the coach and how they wouldn’t be sending her, they’d be whisking her home at once, it was just too cruel… I told her this story on the way this morning, it made her laugh because she’d had a wonderful time. She’ll be fine, and she’s back in a week, hardly worth tidying her room!