Monthly Archives: November 2011


“Mum, we need some new wood shavings for Duncan,” said Tom, as we walked past the pet shop.
“So we do.”
I searched my bag for change. The shavings are two pounds for a big bag, but I’d forgotten to bring my card out with me and didn’t have any cash.
“I haven’t got enough money Tom, we’ll have to get them tomorrow.”
We’d walked away when I reached into my pocket and found a two pound coin wrapped in a till receipt.
“Go on then, we’d better get them.” I said, even though it was biting cold and I wanted to get Tom home and fed.
Sods law says the gerbil dies tonight, I thought as I carried the big bag home.
And he did.
It was the middle of the night when I noticed. The house was quiet and I couldn’t hear him rattling about in his tank downstairs. I covered him with bedding, moved the new bag of shavings from where I’d dumped them in the hallway and went back to bed. After that, I couldn’t sleep. There were a few tears – for Tom and how much he loved his pet. He always included the gerbil when talking about his family and I couldn’t bear to see him sad.

“The thing is,” I said when the time came, “Gandhi died over a year ago so he will have been waiting for Duncan for ages in Gerbil Heaven and now that he’s got there, they’ll be racing round and running through tubes and digging and having loads of fun together.”

“Yeah. I am a bit sad but I am also quite happy that he gets to hang around with Gandhi again.”

I put Duncan in one of Tom’s little shoe boxes and padded it out with shredded paper. He was all curled up like a dormouse so it wasn’t too horrible. There wasn’t anywhere to bury him, so I paid a fiver for the vet to take him. I know it’s a freezer and an incinerator but it’s slightly better than the wheely bin.We said goodbye in the waiting room and off he went in his shoebox.

“Bye, Duncan!” shouted Tom, without any signs of sadness at all.

On the way home, we picked up some shopping. Afterwards, Mum rang and asked to speak to Tom.

“Tell her where we’ve just been,” I whispered.


“Tell Nan where we’ve just been.”


I have just sent my landlord a text message: “Hi it’s Emily. I hope you’re well. Is there any way on earth you would ever consider giving me written permission to rehome a cat?”



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Without stabilisers

“Right,” I announced on Saturday morning (Saturday afternoon) “Today’s the day you learn to ride your bike without stabilisers.”

I hate to admit it, but teaching a child to ride a bike feels very much like a man’s job (or at least not the kind of thing I’m any good at.) Still; the sun was shining, we had no other plans and it was about time.

We went to see Anna and borrow a spanner (that wasn’t a poem in real life, because her name isn’t actually Anna.)

“Shall I take some toys to play with?” said Tom.

“No way, we’re going to be in and out. We’re whipping off your stabilisers and whizzing straight off to that park.”

“OK, let’s go!”

“Mind the dog poo!” I watched as he sped off along the pavement, “..and make the most of it. This is the last time you will ever ride your bike with your stabilisers on.”

“Cool. I’m ready.”

When we got to Anna’s house, she removed the stabilisers in seconds. Next, we decided to make the seat a bit higher, seeing as how Tom’s got tall all of a sudden. We got into a complicated predicament involving a not brilliant wrench, rusty pliers, bolts, cut fingers and Anna’s living room looking like the floor of Kwik Fit [sic].

“Perhaps we weren’t supposed to do that,” said Anna, “Maybe the seat isn’t even adjustable.”

“Mum! Do NOT say the sh word,” Tom said, just as I was about to say ‘shit’.

“Sh shh..  should we get Andy?”

“I knew I should have brought my toys,” said Tom, lolling on the floor, playing with a pile of screws.

We summonsed Anna’s husband. Using a saw, a can of WD40 and a load of patience, he managed to sort out the seat. He also pointed out that the tyres needed inflating – and that his bike pump wouldn’t fit them. I looked out of the window, saw that darkness had properly fallen and broke the news to Tom.

“I wanted to go to the pa-ark,” he whinged in the beginnings of what would have been a quite justifiable tantrum.

That was when Andy came to the rescue, promising to take Tom to buy a new bicycle pump in the morning, before teaching him to learn to ride without stabilisers.

I woke far too early the next day to the sound of a little boy singing the chorus of Feeling Good by Nina Simone. I came downstairs and he was lying on his front, making a thank you card with a monster on the front for Andy. That was before he had picked him up and taken him to Halfords, bought him a new bicycle pump and a Ben 10 Alien Force cycling kit (with bell), made him a picnic and taken him to the most beautiful tucked-away bit of Manchester countryside we’ve found yet.

Anna and I sat on the picnic rug, watching as he tried, fell, grumbled with frustration, veered off to the left, fell dramatically to the floor and tried and tried again. He managed a couple of metres, so he’s definitely getting there. And I think I might be able to take up the reins from here. I’m not going to try to refit the bloody stabilisers, anyway.

I couldn't find any decent cycling pics but the sunset in the park was good.


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Kwik Fit 2

Children who are learning to read like to read every single sign they see out loud. Really loud. My child is especially good at three letter, constonant-vowel-constonant words. And sometimes, he shouts them out five times, in the street, before I see the thing he’s looking at.

Now he really, really, really wants to know what it means.

Answers on a postcard (or in the comments section) (please) …


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Kwik fit

“Mum, does that say quick fit?”

“Yes, but that is not how you spell quick.”

“Don’t be horrible, they’re trying their best. The English language is really hard.”


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Wonderful world

I’m always having a nightmare. Having a nightmare trying to juggle work and Tom and writing the book, having a nightmare because I forgot to pay dinner money and am now in arrears, having a nightmare because slugs keep coming into the house.

Of course, none of this stuff is as bad as a real nightmare. You know; the kind where you’re crying out but no one can hear, or trying to run away but you’re stuck fast. The kind where you wake up in cold sweat, so frightened that you don’t even want to open your eyes, nevermind venture out of your bed and across a dark landing.

Tom has been getting lots of nightmares lately. I’m hoping it’s just a phase, perhaps fuelled by all that ghoulish imagery that was knocking about last weekend. I remember how frightening that walk across the landing was and I want to make him feel as safe as I possibly can. He came into my room the other night.

“Mum, I had a nightmare.”

“What do you mean, you had a nightmare? It’s the morning. Go downstairs and put the telly on.”

It felt like the morning, anyway. He’s always getting up at six these days.

“Mum!” He wailed up the stairs, “The telly won’t work.”

“Wha?” I grabbed my phone off the bedside table. It was actually 3.16.

“Oh come here, I’m so sorry.”

I leaned over in my sleepy stupor, tried to kiss him and got a mouthful of eyelashes and a taste of his tears.

“I’m so sorry I told you to go downstairs,” I said, “tell me what happened.”

He gave me a quick synopsis of the dream and the nasty-sounding characters and we talked about how there was no way any of it could possibly be real, then had a big cuddle and tucked him back into his own bed.

On Friday, I’d invited Anna to come and see the Lighting the Legend Parade at Ordsall Hall. Tom and I were both tired because of the lack of sleep and it was tempting to stay in out of the rain. We wrapped up and dragged ourselves out and we were so glad we did.

I still can’t quite believe Ordsall Hall, standing there amongst the council flats and factories. It was the perfect setting for a beautiful parade of lanterns and a brilliant outdoor theatre piece. The smell of crushed grass was so strong that it could have been June – and the sense of community spirit was uplifting. It all ended with a spectacular fireworks display to Madness’ Our House (one of Tom’s favourites) and Joey Ramone’s What a Wonderful World.

“That was amazing,” Tom said, from atop Anna’s shoulders, smiling wider than he had all week, “I fink to myself what a wonderful wor-or-orld.”

“That was the song on your cot mobile when you were a baby,” I said at bedtime, “Well, not that version, anyway.”

“It’s true though, it is actually a wonderful world, isn’t it?”


And there were no nightmares that night.


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