Monday, 20 October 2008

A better place

Well, the inevitable has happened. I am sad to report that our little bunny, sweet, innocent Jiffy, who has been menaced for weeks by the Puma of Peckham, has finally gone to a better place.

The spare room. Unfortunately.

As you know, I was never keen to have her in the house. Or, indeed, the garden. The pet shop seemed like a perfectly fine place for her to spend her days, frankly. But Child One and Child Two were not to be gainsaid and, as usual, guilt got the upper hand. Was I stunting their development by refusing them to care for a small furry creature (though what about the cat we've already got?). Was I just the meanest Mummy on earth? And could I stand the nagging a moment longer?

No I couldn't, and thus we became proud bunny owners.

Already, it's getting a bit frosty here in Herne Hill. And the Puma has stepped up its attentions - the second gardening glove was left abandoned on the lawn last week, in a similar grisly state to its twin. As True Love said, down a crackly phone line, it does make you wonder what happened to the gardener.

All this meant that, at the weekend, I found myself wandering miserably through Pets At Home, looking at delights like dried pigs' ears (apparently dogs like to chew these, yeeesh!) and a million different flea products. The joy of pets! Sixty quid later, we had a spanking new ghastly plastic cage for Jiffles, and plethora of dried sweetcorn cobs, looking a little like those shrunken cannibal heads, to garnish it with. Harumph. I tried not to think of the lovely cardi I could have bought in Hobbs for more or less the same amount, give or take a hundred.

Still, it was worth it as Child One snuggled up that night to sleep with little Jiffy in her cage at the foot of her bed. Though I did revise my opinion at 1am when Child One insisted I remove the bunny as it was chomping its hay too loudly. Jiffy was despatched to the spare room and everybody was happy.

Except, apparently, the Puma. This morning, we found a horribly dismembered sports sock on the lawn.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Jury's Out

A nice white envelope drops onto the mat, with the address all beautifully written in black ink. Things are looking up, I think - certainly a lovely change from all those horrid beige bills. I rip it open, only for an official Summons to leap out and bite me.

Yikes! The Coroner, Mr John Sampson, to whom I have not even been formally introduced, is demanding my presence at Southwark Coroner's Court next month. For a moment, my mind goes blank. Have I accidentally killed Child One during one of our spats over why the correct position for school uniform is not on the shower room floor covered in shampoo? Did I run over Child Two by mistake when pretending to leave for school without her in a flurry of rubber? Well, no. They are both still present and correct, despite enormous daily provocation. Even True Love is still living and breathing somewhere, I do believe.

Why on earth does Mr Sampson want me, then, if not as a defendant? I'm definitely not a lawyer - by some ridiculous oversight I forgot to get the training and become filthy rich.

Aha, further down the horrid summons I see what it's all about. I am to become one of the twelve 'good men and true' - and sit on a jury.

Well, of course I can't do it. I'm a woman for a start. A divorced woman, with no childcare in place.

And, the thought strikes me, a journalist. Aha, this is how I got out of it last time - claiming that I had privileged information about the way trials run. We hacks in the know, the theory runs, can tell the way the evidence is stacked by the angle the barrister wears his wig.

So I make a mental note to Google coroners' courts proceedings the moment I have the time, scribble down Professional Journalist on the 'pathetic excuses' portion of the form (how all my employers would laugh!), send it off, and keep my fingers crossed. Later on, I pop round to see the lovely B, who is icing the most gorgeous birthday cake for one of her adorable, talented offspring (the type, naturally, who would never smear their uniforms in shampoo or keep their mummies waiting). 'Jury service? Oh, I got off that once,' she says airily, putting the finishing touches to a plate of party sandwiches, shoving a lasagne in the oven for her husband, making a batch of fairy cakes with her right foot and supervising the (rather handsome) gardener with her left eyebrow.

'How?' I say idly, thinking she can't possibly top my years of non-training as a feature writer. My last piece on education in Europe alone ought to convince anyone I couldn't possibly sit on a jury. 'Oh, I just said I was depressed. Mentally incapable,' smiles B, filling divine little party bags with sweeties and lining them all up just so. Sometimes, I could swear she has a magic wand.

There is no-one more mentally capable than B. Why on earth didn't I think of doing the same? I sit there, mired in gloom, reviewing my shortcomings one more time - a lengthy process these days - then realise the wonderful truth. I really am depressed! Yippee, they can't make me a jury member now. Can they?

Monday, 6 October 2008

Armless Fun

Pandemonium at Child One's school. Girls weeping at the gates, and a rather ominous ambulance stationed outside. Obviously business as usual, I think - until Child One herself staggers out onto the pavement, clutching her arm.

'It hurts, it hurts,' she yodells, causing every pigeon in the vicinity to shoot upwards into the air and scattering my posse of Mummies. I am slightly irritated. We had just been having a very serious discussion about handbags, as lovely JAGS in the Village has a new consignment in. I take a deep, healing breath. There have been times - rare, I admit - when I have wondered whether my first born has a slight tendency to drama queenism. Could there be the faintest tinge of divatude lurking here? And if so, where on earth did she get it from? A complete puzzle.

But back to the grievously wounded child. 'What's the matter, my precious?' I coo, though I might as well not bother, my dulcet tones are so drowned out by wails. Child One mumbles something indistinct into my shoulder - she is so tall these days! - and I gently ask again, like the devoted Mummy I am, 'just stop that noise and tell me what's going on this instant!'

'Don't you remember, Mummy? I told you 50 times!' This mantra, I need hardly say, never works. I need to be told 51 times, at least. I look blank.

'It's Injection Day, Mummy,' she says, raising her eyes to Heaven. Ah yes, I do now dimly recall Arm Against Cancer, the government's clever scheme to innoculate all Year 8 girls against cervical cancer. This has caused heated discussion amongst the Mummies during our regular foregatherings in Cafe Rouge, sometimes even elbowing the handbag topic out of play. The injection has to be administered three times, and protects against the two viruses responsible for 70 per cent of cancer cases.

Government propaganda on the jab says there is usually only 'mild stinging' as a side-effect. I really think they should have told the girls this. Child One continued to clutch her arm for three days, yelping away. Someone fainted right next to her in the queue - before the injection - and several of her friends had to be held down by three or four nurses each. One girl got an instant fever. And a lot had aches and pains. And they asked them all before the injection whether they were pregnant. Arg! And the next injection is at the end of next month. I can hardly wait.