Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thanks for the mammaries... I mean, mammogram...

I was informed recently that our NHS district has lowered the age range for breast screening by 4 or 5 QUITE a few years.  Lots actually; lots and lots and LOTS and lots...coughcoughcough. Indeed.

Anyway, this is so that those of us who are, let's say, very much younger than 50, for example coughhackretch can be included in the process.

Along with this came an invitation to a screening - not, sadly, the sort of screening which involves, say, watching Benicio Del Toro looking moody in a ripped shirt (ahem), but one which requires medical humiliation. So, off I bravely toddled Friday morning to the local breast screening clinic. I say 'bravely' because about 18 years ago my lymph nodes went funny and I ended up being shipped off for a mammogram, so I've Done This Before.

Back in those days it involved, as I recall, pressing the girls between two plates which were then screwed tightly together as though the doctors were pressing wild flowers (which is of course, how I like to refer to my assets).  The resultant pancakes were then photographed and I went home feeling as though I'd just had sex with one of those blokes who like to use one's girls as a gear-stick.

...NOT, I must say for the benefit of any reading spouse or parental units, that I've ever done THAT.  No no no.  Not much, anyway... you know this really is a bad cough.

Anyway, it hurt a lot - so much in fact that I actually repressed the memory.  I'm not kidding; about 5 years ago someone I knew went for one and the memory came flooding back 'OH my god' I said 'I've HAD one of those... I had completely forgotten'.  'So it's not that bad then' she said.  I stayed quiet.

Needless to say I was full of trepidation.  Reassuringly the clinic was clean and bright and the machine spotless.  The nice young nurse had me stand up and gently laid a boob out on a plate attached to the machine, then, gently again, lowered a clear plastic tray on top of it.

I feel the need to interject here; as immediately I noticed that there were several trays of different sizes and, satisfyingly, she switched the smaller one for a larger one.  The small one had numbers up to 5 on it, my one went up to 6!  Just as I was preening myself I noticed there was another one that went up to 7, so there's me, just average.  Sigh.

Anyway, so she lowered the thing down and then, yes, screwed it tightly - and this time, miracle of miracles, it didn't hurt!  Wow.

As it was all over, I mentioned this to the nurse and expressed my gratefulness that medical science has moved on... it was then that she burst my balloon, so to speak.

'Ah yes, that would be because at that time your breasts would have been more glandular'.

'Really?' said I 'What do you mean by that'.

'Well, you know - that long ago they would have been firmer and more glandular.'

'You mean, because I was younger...' 'Yes' she interjected  '...and hadn't had a baby?' I finished, lamely.

'Yes' she said again and she laughed.

Right.  So there it is, incontrovertable proof that... the nurse is incompetent!    No, no no, proof that once I had young firm boobs, obviously... 

No, really.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

How much TV?

I need to ask all you parenting types out there how much TV your child actually watches; and whether you feel that their behaviour afterwards is normal - or does it change?

We've noticed that after a prolonged episode of TV watching, Charlie is irritable; he complains, he flops, he shouts - he's really not keen to do anything else at all. We limit his TV watching these days to a bit in the morning to get him up and a bit in the evening as a treat - anything more and we have childzilla on our hands.

It's the same with video games - those endless little tricks one can play on one's telephone. Perhaps it's because his brain is active, generating adrenaline and various emotional responses while his body just sits there getting tense - who knows.

Either way we're not worried about his physical health too terribly much as the boy is addicted to dashing around on his bike at the moment. We're not overly worried about his imagination, as anyone who's listened to him play with his trainset can attest; but I am vaguely worried about something and just wondered if any of you have had the same sort of thoughts about it - and if so, what you're doing?


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

London Riots...a Womble for the day...

Actually I hate the term 'London Riots' - it should be 'London Looting'... and of course it's not just 'London'... In fact it's more like the UK's lowest common denominator all acting out their 'what I did on my summer holidays' essay - clearly putting it down in joined-up writing is out of the question.

I was transfixed by Twitter last night, I watched the #londonriots hash tag in dismay for hours as things spread and spread and spread, listening to the sirens crashing past us.  Brixton was spared a second night of looting - the first was bad enough though - that's the Footlocker on Brixton High Street, burned out.

I then discovered #riotcleanup and like hundreds of others thought that I had to do something - as someone said - last night we needed Superman, now we need the Wombles... so I headed to Clapham where a clean-up was planned.

What I love the most about this is that overnight, someone set up a twitter account, organised places to meet to clean up and actually did the thing.  At the start of the day the account had over 20,000 followers he now has 85,000+.  @riotcleanup is now organising people to meet in Enfield to clean up the Sony Centre and will no doubt be carrying on to organise cleanups in other cities... the man had 3 hours sleep last night if you were reading his tweets and absolutely deserves a medal.

Practically the only shop in Clapham that didn't have its windows smashed in was Waterstones - the book shop - which rather tells you all you need to know about the looters.  This was all about the TVs, trainers and telephones, not about civil rights or liberties or any of the things people riot for in other countries.

My favourite tweet of the day 'It's like Hogwarts, everyone getting off the train at Clapham is carrying a broom'.  I was initially quite embarrassed on the bus like some obsessive mad-woman with her brush but I wasn't alone, there were several people self-consciously hiding their bristles then getting braver and braver about waving them about as we got closer... it was all sort of beautiful and surreal and quite funny, given the shit circumstances.

Clapham didn't really need us to sweep up, the council had it well in hand and in the end it was a completely symbolic gesture; I guess we all just wanted to stand up and say 'fuck you' really. Not often you get to say 'fuck you' by waving 100 brooms in the air.

I managed to be in the group of 200 or so they let in to do the initial clean-up and after a bit of a wait while shopkeepers were allowed in, we headed down.  The theme of the day was to see two or three people crouched over some near-invisible splinters of glass with their dustpans, surrounded by cameras - there were almost as many media as cleaners (there's a massive camera lurking in the shadows to the left of that green van).  I did actually get to clear some glass though; I met a lovely girl on the bus on the way down and we bagged up some huge sheets of window between us... it's amazing how quickly 200 people can clean up a street.

We may not have been needed for the actual clean-up (at Clapham, anyway) but we were needed so we could stand up and be counted - there were hundreds more Wombles cleaning up today than there were rioters the night before, and that's a good thing.

It may have only been a gesture but at least it wasn't a two-finger 'fuck you', or a pathetic finger gun.  We're not just about the riots here, it's only the miserable little cretins who are about that.

All in all, I'm pretty happy to have been able to stand up and be counted. I came, I swept, I went home.

And now, I'm going to bed.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Childhood memories... and all that...

I may be revising my ideas on parenting, at the moment.

I thought about it the other day and frankly, I barely remember a single thing from when I was 4, I could have been locked in a box for all I know.  Alain de Botton wrote an interesting piece for the BBC the other day, effectively saying that I'm actually spending my time building up my boy's general picture of the world; but do I HAVE to go the Transport Museum EVERY MONTH to do that? 

It just doesn't seem fair - we float about doing all the lovely things one is supposed to do - picking berries, visiting museums, riding on trains, baking... he tells me he loves me, at last count, more than his buses - surely he'll remember THAT?

I suppose it makes some sort of sense however... The other day I was walking with one of his best friends while he rode beside us on our way home for a playdate:

'Mummy, Mummy Mummy look! Look Mummy, I'm not going to ride into the road' (crash).  'Ants live in holes you know.  There are lots and lots of ants - see, there was one there, there, look there it went there' 'Mummy my horn isn't working properly, listen' phwarp porp squeeak  'wait there's another one, I think that's a red one' phwish yeek 'Max, if a red ant bites you, you DIE' phwonk phwonk PARP PARP 'Don't be silly Charlie' tweorp 'Charlie PLEASE that horn is giving me a headache 'but I'm fixing it, I'm fixing it' (CRASH)  'WAIT WAIT, stop it's a flying one, a flying one look, Charlie, a flying ant' 'Hold my bike Mummy, hold it, hold my bike Mummy, Mummy Mummy HOLD MY BIKE' (drops bike and runs back to Max, then runs back to his bike)   'Look there's an ant hole, did you see, did you see' peep peorp phupurb 'Max come on, Max, Max, Max, Max I'm winning come on' 'Charlie isn't being very nice racing his bike and look I think this is a different kind of ant hole' CRAAAAAAAASSSHHHH 'WAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh' and there goes all the skin on my son's elbow.

So possibly the loss of memory has it's upside - for him, that is.  He may forget all this stuff but sadly, it's going to be clogging up my neural pathways for some time to come. 

Perhaps a box isn't such a bad idea?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

You know you watch too much F1 when...

...your 4-year-old brings out the Safety Car on his racing track...

I've spent my life in the 'racing is a polluting waste of money and fossil fuels' camp, however having married an F1 enthusiast the thing has rather grown on me and for the last 5 years I've watched quite a lot.  I wouldn't say I'm a big fan, but I did get a twinge this summer when I found myself at the fun-fair (again) while the Frog was cosily ensconced in front of the Monaco Grande Prix...

The thing is though that we are clearly raising an F1 enthusiast and I'm not sure how I feel about that.  It's not really about the waste and pollution, it's not even really about the fact that if he decides to become the next Lewis Hamilton it's going to cost us a bomb, not to mention shred the last of my nerves.  It's just that F1 fans don't go out to the park for a race-about in the same way that footie fans go for a kick-about.

F1 makes one want to drink champagne and drive fast cars and subtly encourages one to hope for a big disaster... so when I see my four-year-old kicking a football like a girl and then going home and setting up ginormous car crashes in his bedroom, I rather begin to wish the Frog was a football fan.

Still, the boy is becoming equally obsessive about riding his bicycle and the other day raced a friend on it for the first time so I've not been that worried that he's becoming a couch-potato - in fact I'm actively encouraging him to get back out onto the BMX track and he's quite keen. 

This will be all well and good until he starts trying to do the tricks and jumps he's so excited by - and there, my friends, is the rub; ultimately, he's not going to break his neck playing on his bedroom floor... so excuse me while I head into his room to race my car from the other end of his track.  If you do it hard enough, one of the cars flies right up and off the track - safety car it is, for today, at least.