Help, I’ve got a Windy Crotch

I think that my dog might fancy me. Certainly if past experiences of everyone who take bites out of my underwear is anything to go by. At last count Mister, the dog, has nibbled his way through at least fifteen pairs of my knickers, left significant bite marks in two bras and holes in various other garments.

Aside from being sort of carnally disturbing, it is increasingly embarrassing. In particular I recall the time he dropped a gnarled pant at the feet of the boiler maintenance man, trying to engage in him some kind of throw and fetch activity.


Undoubtedly it would make for a more visually appealing story if I conjured up the image of a bikini-style item of lingerie but, in truth, the one thing that my smalls are not is small. This was a giant, comfortable, black pant, one of a multipack that I believe the retailer describes as control-panel-full-briefs. (Sounds like something civil servants in Brussels should be preparing in advance of Brexit).

Anyway in what I suppose was a fortunate development, albeit one rather crushing to feelings of allure, Boiler Man took one look at the girth of the fabric and assumed that the garment was a T-shirt. “The hairy varmint is always making off with my son’s football shirts,” I confirmed.

What has become clear is that the hairy beast likes the cut of all my pants. High, low, with a visible panty line or not, he’ll scoff the lot. If nothing else the financial implications of this are becoming increasingly untenable. I took advice from the SAS guidebook that I once found nestling in a random toilet: SAS Urban Survival Handbook: How to Protect Yourself Against Terrorism, Natural Disasters, Fires, Home Invasions, and Everyday Health and Safety Hazards.


Although missing a chapter dedicated to “brief disasters’ I did garner sufficient advice to keep my undies in what I now call lockdown mode.

Unfortunately it remains a work in progress. Making my way back from school drop-off I fell into chatting with my neighbour, a fellow mum but not someone I knew particularly well. I said that I was dropping my dogs back home because I had remembered a school meeting that I had to go to.

Attempting a bit of bonding banter I said that I was going to look a little strange at this parent/teacher gathering because, despite the day’s clement outlook, I was going to have to keep wearing my raincoat. “My top is so small it makes my boobs look like they are making an aggressive bid for freedom,” I told my enchanted neighbour. “But I was just sort of expecting to be dog walking in the rain so I didn’t think that it would matter,”  I explained.

My neighbour pointed out that now I was actually standing outside my home I could use the opportunity to change my top and rid myself of the necessity of wearing my rain mac inside.

“Genius,” I said in something I latterly accept was an overstatement. 

I then spent five minutes at home in my laundry room and discovered things.

Some things that I thought it would be fun to share in a casual, getting-to-know-you, let’s develop this relationship a little better, sort of way. And this is why, like some kind of deranged performing seal with a medial personality disorder, I skipped through her gate and rang her doorbell to impart my news.

Almost immediately I realised that mentioning my unmentionables really equated to social suicide. My head screamed “Abort, Abort,” and I made a dash to their garden gate. But then I couldn’t decide what was more damaging: Being seen to ring the doorbell and scarper? Or saying what I’d come to say? At this point my neighbour’s quite serious husband answered the door and caught sight, of what I can only imagine, must have looked like me indecisively dry humping his gate.

“Hello,” I said in a querulously high-pitched voice, “I was sort of going to say a quick something to your wife but actually, you know, I think I’m in a bit of a rush,” I twittered frenetically.

At that moment his wife came into view and I realised that it was time to put up or shut up. Or talk about controlled parking zones. But I didn’t. Like a slow moving car crash my mouth started to open and form shapes. “I just wanted to let you know that I did go home and change my top,” I informed my rapt audience.

“That is good,” she said, not un-factually.

“Yes, yes, and then something happened, and well it made me laugh, and I just thought- ha- I’ll pop over, tell you and give you a quick laugh,” I said scanning exit points and wondering if I should move abroad.

“And so I took off my anorak to change my top and realised that I had a windy crotch,” I SAID OUT LOUD TO MY NEIGHBOUR WHO I DO NOT KNOW VERY WELL.

“It’s because the dog had decided that he likes eating my pants and trouser crotches,” I CONTINUED TO EXPLAIN OUT LOUD TO MY NEIGHBOUR WHO I DO NOT KNOW VERY WELL.

“I just thought that it was funny that I had been so worried about my top not fitting and keeping my anorak on when all the time I could have been sat there with a giant, gusty gusset,” I finished with onomatopoeic aplomb.

There was then a pause, a brief expression of departure by me, and a dim memory of looks exchanged that it still makes me hot to remember.

The solace I have gained from my over-sharing of dog-munching-undies related stories is the subsequent, unexpected sharing of similar anecdotes by sympathetic dog owners. I truly have enough to fill an, admittedly niche, album.

Of note one friend who was kind enough to tell me about her experience of the vet, herself and two practice nursing assistants, silently watching the re-emergence of her lacy thong from the gastrointestinal depths of her Cavapoo.  “He then held them up to the light with tongs and asked me if I wanted them back,” she recalled. “Really I was just relieved that they weren’t my new tasselled pasties,” she said, necessitating an immediate and quite different discussion altogether.

This is dedicated to Steve C, who shall remain partially anonymous due to possible reservations about being publicly affiliated with my windy crotch. But thank you so much for your encouragement to keep writing. You are a literary giant, a superhero of a human-being and an official decent spud.



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Stick it where?

“What a fine pair” said the lady as I entered the park. “He just wants to show you his big stick” said another on the green. “He just seems to adore other people’s balls,” said chap to husband.”  Sometimes it all just gets a bit “Carry on Walking your dog,” in my neck of the woods.


Bodily functions are a part of dog ownership. From the obvious picking up poo to the merits of squeezing anal glands. Optimum timing for castration and where to walk a dog on heat. All these topics are discussed and opinions proffered on the open greens of North London.

For me there is always something joyful about watching two strangers politely trying to untangle their dogs that are frantically trying to hump each other. “I’m so sorry but he just can’t seem to get enough action at the moment,” said one lady of pensionable age as her Welsh terrier effectively attempted to rape some chap’s schnoodle. It’s bloody fascinating social anthropology in action.

In no other context, or certainly not for a few years, have I found myself discussing how randy a male can be even though his bollocks were chopped off a mere week ago. “Aargh still some spirit in the old boy,” I heard myself saying in a sort of transcendentally middle-aged way.

This laissez-faire approach to sex is having a knock-on effect to life in general. (Don’t panic no one is actually having it) A friend couldn’t drive home quickly enough when he found himself engaged in a lengthy discussion of sperm with my six-year old daughter. What he didn’t know is that this all stemmed from our explanation of our dog’s castration.

I actually think that this exposure to bodily functions is one of the real benefits of pet ownership for children- along with a sense of care, compassion and commitment. A friend explained how her daughter now shares the daily responsibility of using an earbud to reinsert the prolapsed willy of the family guinea pig. And so. Tap, jazz, ballet, synchronised French horn. Who’s better prepared for real life? My bet is on the earbud kid.





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Pam, my dream Dachshund

“You could try just being nice to him” suggested one friend, after a lengthy conversation about how to encourage a reluctant husband to consider getting a dog. “If I start acting strangely he’ll see straight through me,” I replied. And so the conundrum. How to persuade my allergic other half to ‘give dogs a chance?’

The husband had known for sometime that I was keen to have a canine companion in our lives. Years before on a Sunday evening when we were reading the papers I began to contemplate the future and a life when the children had left home. Even the thought of it left me feeling bereft and lonely. “I am going to need something to lavish all my love and affection upon,” I said. He briefly, and entirely without expectation, glanced up from his paper. “That’s it. I’ll get a sausage dog and call her Pam,” I announced joyously.

Pam has always been my go-to, back pocket, plan B. Way back when Mr Right was proving elusive I would comfort myself with the thought that I could always find Pam. In contrast to Bridget Jones, who envisaged being single, alone and eaten by Alsations, my Dachshund and I would watch quality box sets together, eat ice cream, go for walks on the beach and enjoy fireside cuddles.  The very sight of a sausage dog fills me with joy and makes me laugh out loud. I figured that if I owned one I’d basically be in a constant state of delight.

The arrival of Mr Right and three children put a temporary halt to my Dachshund dream, but when my smallest went to school I found myself returning to the idea of owning a dog. The fact that I work from  home and that I’m surrounded by beautiful green parks made this dream seem within grasp. The one stumbling block is that my husband has recently developed lots of allergies, including it seemed grass and animals.

And so this is the stage of my life when I forced my long suffering husband to have little needles inserted into him in the name of allergy alleviation.  My friends wept with laughter as I told them his reaction to being informed he was booked in to see a Chinese acupuncturist. When he refused to attend the second session the compromise was a trip to the doctor, a series of blood tests and intense conversations with a number of pharmacists. At one point he actually asked the doctor to write me a note saying that he wasn’t allowed a dog.

With medical options proving futile I researched various hypoallergenic breeds, googled hairless dogs, rubbed his reluctant face into our startled neighbours’ dog and considered enrolling him into a six month dog allergy clinical trial based in Mexico. That last one isn’t true.

It began to take a toll on our marriage. One lovely friend counselled me one night. “The way that you are going it might even seem to him that you are saying its the husband or the dog. You really need to take a breath, remind him that you love him and just chill out for a minute.” She had a point.

So the next day I reminded him that I really, really loved him. And the day after that I got a dog. My friend had helped to crystallise things. I realised that I needed to put the pooch thing to rest. My husband had to actually try and see if he could live comfortably with a dog in the house. I had to accept that if this was not the case I would abandon hopes of dog ownership.

After careful consideration I had narrowed down our choice of canine to one that was a part poodle mix, supposedly one of the more “allergy friendly’ dogs. Even then there are no guarantees and every dog and human react differently to each other. I bought myself an industrial size air purifier from Argos and prepared with bottle of Petal Cleanse, a solution that traps the dander and allergens on the coats of furry creatures. Then it was a case of fingers crossed.

The lovely home breeder was patient and responsive to my many questions and worries.  I could not in good conscious begin the process of adopting a dog if I did not give her the full picture and have in place a plan should things not work out.  The breeder agreed that we could trial the dog over a weekend and if things did not work out she would take her back. I told the children that we were simply looking after the dog for a few days. Both to remove unfair pressure on the allergic one and to avoid heartbreak if she had to go back.

Driving to pick up the puppy I had butterflies in my tummy. I have not felt this excited since I was a child examining the outline of my stocking in the very early hours of Christmas morning. This time the bundle was small, furry and with large anxious eyes. I assured this gorgeous creature that I would do everything to look after her and give her a happy life.


(my tail is wagging a little but I am still feeling most anxious)

Back home my husband gave the crate a withering glance. I carefully set about pouring him a glass of fine Merlot and serving up a slow cooked shoulder of lamb. The whole house then went into watch mode. Closely scrutinising the hairy depths of both the puppy and my husband’s nasal passages. It only took two hours, and another two glasses of Merlot, before he conceded that of all the dogs in the world she was probably one of the sweetest.

Forty eight hours later and the old man was still breathing. He actually had no ill side-effects at all. She could stay. We were all in the living room and my middle girl, my eccentric, curly-haired dog-lover, who is bravely battling issues at school, was gazing in concentrated bliss at the small pup on her lap. I asked her what she would wish for if she could have any wish in the whole world?”  “That this dog was ours and that we could keep her forever,” was the reply. I will never forget her face when I was able to say. “ OK you can have that wish come true.”


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In pursuit of other people’s bodily excretions

In an unexpected and unappealing twist to dog ownership I found myself last summer chasing my dog around a park trying to extract a bloodied sanitary towel from within her jaws.

They say that you cannot know abject, white-hot, week-later-wince-inducing humiliation, until you have tried and failed, while wearing Birkenstocks, in a very public arena, partly made-up of stoned teenagers, to repeatedly throw yourself upon a small white fluffy dog gripping a menstruation device. And I think that they might be right, about the humiliation bit.

Good King Karma stitched me up like a kipper.

It was one of those balmy summer days in the city and my children were behaving within the parameters of irritating but not loathsome, so I decided to get a bit ‘Swallows and Amazons”, pack a picnic, don some gingham and head for the park.

The little blighters were looking sun-kissed and beautiful, the smell of early barbeques wafted us along our walk and our new hound Moxie was looking resplendent in her neon pink collar and lead.


Little people chased ahead looking for daisies in the grass, while I brought up the helm, stylish wicker-clad picnic bag slung over my shoulder, thinking – Hot damn I have this mother thing down.


(Little old me, looking so cute, smelling like roses, I’d never do anything really nasty)

As my fluffy white hound gazed up at me adoringly, I draped my pink lead around me like a colour pop necklace. It seemed we were also managing to embody the modern manifestation of the special prehistoric bond between dog and humankind. The complete family unit, at one with nature and our environment.

That was until our dog disappeared into the public convenience. And my pastoral bubble of midsummer bliss burst.

She shot out of the latrines like a rocket with what was immediately, and unavoidably, identifiable as a well-used sanitary towel clamped about her chops.

My children, keen to ensure that no one in the park missed out on spectating this exciting situation, were loudly screaming, shouting, gesticulating and debating ‘what is that thing.’

Fleetingly I considered walking out of the park and establishing a new identity abroad. But then I did what any mother would do and told my children to run after the dog and get that thing out of its mouth.

Despite some new and truly imaginative threats and bribes the blighters would not be bought. And so the chase began. After twenty minutes of my life that I both wish to forget and will never get back, I positioned myself within metres of the fluffy beast.

Utilising ninja distraction and misdirection I pounced in a dramatic, and completely unsuccessful, double tumble manoeuvre. As I gazed at the sky above I could hear the sniggers of the chicken-chowing stoned teenagers watching me from a bench nearby

Irritated I decided to take their obvious preconceptions about me, mad dog woman and bad parent, and raise them several notches of weirdo.

And so it was to my surprise, and that of my children, that I paused in my pursuit of the dog to declare in a fake Scouse accent: “It’s the ultimate test of dog ownership boys. Pursuing a dog with a USED sanitary towel in its mouth. No gimmicks, no special effects. It’s just you, the dog and the pad.”

I could tell that they were impressed. By happy chance it was at this point one of yoof’s own friends turned up with a dog on a rope. Gnawing through its leash in a nanosecond said hound lunged at Moxie prompting her to immediately release the pad. I then had the pleasure of watching a bunch of stoned teenagers playing chase the bloodied ST. Definitely better as a spectator sport.

Next week: The red hot race for a fully-loaded nappy



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The LOVE BOMB hit. And she is the business. A small fluffy Cavamalt called Moxie arrived on Valentine’s day 2016 and since then we are all about the love. The love she has for us, the love we have for her, the love she generates in others. This love in turn giving us a little more of, you’ve guessed it-the love feeling.

The husband, who never wanted a dog, caught singing her a personalised version of “you are the sunshine of my life.”

The grandmother, appalled at the prospect of canine bacterial infection on her grandchildren, proudly showing her friends photos of Moxie kissing her cheek.

The school kids that have adopted her outside the school gates. In particular one Mum who said to me recently: “We live in a flat and we can’t have a dog. But we feel that we have a share in Moxie. We look forward to petting her before and after school and we talk about how she has grown and what a great jumper she had on that day etc. So thanks.”

As I’ve said before: “If you can’t love a puppy in a Christmas jumper then you might as well pack up and prepare for death.”

Here she is. Moxie. Her name means feisty, adventurous, intrepid and daring. She is all these things and more. She is always up for a jaunt out, she loves snuggling by the fire, she is the guardian of family mental health.




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Little things

Sometimes it’s good to slow down, think simply and notice beautiful things.

My garden after a bit of rain.


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Bottom-dwelling, snail-eating loachfish, and all that jazz

We have not so much introduced the children to the joy of fish as we have introduced them to the cycle of death. It seems there is more to this aquarium malarky than you might first think.
With hairy things off limits, due to my husband’s nasal challenges, it was to fish that we turned to fulfil our dreams of owning a family pet.
Of the first batch of four fish only one survived beyond three months. Two died in under a week. One never made it out of the plastic bag we brought her home in. Looking after fish was beginning to make childcare look like a piece of piss.
We had opted for a tropical tank on the grounds that it allows you to buy some slightly more exotic and interesting fish than your bog standard goldfish. Although as a friend recently remarked it is a curious thing that we then went on to buy a bunch of fish that bear an uncanny resemblance to goldfish.

It is one of these goldfish doppelgängers that is our survivor, our veritable Beyonce of the fish world. She is a heart-shaped brilliant red platy called Ruby and has become an important fish in the family. In moments when I have doubted my ability to keep a biologically viable tank I have oft thought of Ruby, and her will to live, and it has given me the confidence to carry on.
It has been a learning curve. On my first visit to the pet shop I decided I wanted a small tank and a very beautiful angelfish. What an amateur I was. Angelfish require a minimum of about 90 litres of water. The tank I was looking at was 9 litres. “They need room to swim and turn around,’ pointed out the shop assistant, eyes rolling.
It really is worth getting a decent sized tank. That way you can get an interesting number of fish and be confident that they are enjoying a decent quality of life. I think a minimum of 50 litres, a heater and a filter and you have what you need.
Unfortunately the design and style of fish tanks has not really evolved since the seventies. Being an interior snob (see other posts) I was determined to find a solution. I found a wooden cased tank that I was able to paint in the same Abigail Ahern Mercer Green as my kitchen and then used House of Hackney’s house print as the backdrop to the aquarium.


For decoration I added lots of lumps of lava stone that have interesting nooks and crannies for the fish to hide in. I do feel a bit bad about not putting in my kids’ choices of accessories that included a replica of the Eiffel tower, the Roman Colisseum, a shipwreck and a bubbling bum air filter. Actually I don’t feel that bad.
We chose from a rainbow coloured cornucopia of fish, including five-banded barbs, Strawberry and Blue Neon Dwarf Rasboras, disc shaped Gourami and beautiful, vividly coloured scarlet and neon tetras. We are the proud owners of two lamp eye fish, tiny, grey and with bright blue eyes. Ours are called Honda and Fiat.
In an imaginative use of alliteration we decided to call our red fish by names beginning with R. We have Ruby Ray and, and chosen, rather brilliantly by the phonically focused five-year old, a fish called Arse. Curiously the other name that he is wedded to is Isabella. Give that our mortality rates mirror that of sixteenth century royals, we are currently housing Isabella III.
I am really trying hard to embrace life as an aquarist, but there are limits. Pleasantly surprised by my enthusiasm, the shop assistant asked if I had considered purchasing a bottom-dwelling, snail-eating loachfish. I reminded him that he was dealing with a woman only recently robbed of her dreams of owning a big brown-eyed, fluffy cockerpoo. One step at a time.

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A feline legacy

Early on in our relationship my husband and I set off for a doomed romantic break in Paris. The inklings, that this might not be all candlelight in Montmartre, were flagged up early. He announced that instead of staying in a room with a rose petal-covered levitating bed at a contemporary romantic gem of a hotel, we were instead borrowing the flat of friends. This, on the proviso, that we looked after their cat and fed it cancer medicine twice a day.

After five minutes in the flat I watched the face of my beloved start to swell and blotch, nose running, tears streaming, constant sneezing. It became apparent both that I would not always find this man alluring and that he had developed an allergy to cats.

What ensued was the most ridiculous of holidays. We stayed in a hotel but spent our mornings and late afternoons travelling to the flat to give poor Mog her medicine. The entire holiday itinerary was dictated by our feline friend. I should have bought one of those T shirts: I went to Paris and fed a cat cancer pills.

And so you might think it a queer choice to buy a kitten ten years down the line. But hope burns eternal and our small people were desperate for a family pet. My husband felt a dog was too much hard work, I felt a fish wouldn’t give us the requisite warm feeling.



So a small black fluffy bundle made it’s way into our home last November. I had not told my children that he was coming and when they opened the kitchen door and found this little bundle, enveloped in a giant plush bean bag, latterly known as the womb, they could not believe their eyes. One declared it the “most exciting day of my life. I feel like I am in a dream.”

All three children sat down and gazed in awe at the small feline creature. After a lengthy debate, google search and reference to various literary works, my eldest child instructed everyone to put down their colouring pens, water bottles etc and prepare for a show of hands. It was a moment that called for gravitas. They solemnly voted and the name Sooty was chosen for the kitten.

Niggling at the back of our minds was my husband’s allergy but the hope was that he might acclimatise to a cat. We had told the children that the kitten could only stay if their Dad was able to tolerate him. We even had a back up plan that he could go to a lovely local family who adore cats if it didn’t work out.

But after 24 hours all seemed to be going well. My husband was still breathing with relative ease and there were no outward signs of any major reaction. Another upside was that the kids skipped out of bed in the morning, rather than the normal half hour of cajoling, in order to spend time with kitty before school. With photos printed out of our new addition my kids were able to show their teachers and classmates the new member of the family and my son made plans to do a live ‘show and tell’ session that Friday. My middle girl was planning how soon she could get the kitten to sit on the end of her bed and sleep with her throughout the night.

They threw balls of wool, dangled toy fish and did everything in their powers to entrance their new friend. She spent most of her time hiding under the dishwasher. Every hour Kitty’s water was replenished and I had to hide the packet of dreamy treats to stop the children from overdosing her on cat goodies. They took it in treasured turns to feed her.

Then, 48 hours after she arrived, my husband awoke in the night to say that his breathing was becoming very laboured. He was in sufficient pain that he could not sleep. That was that. It may sound harsh but when we realised Sooty had to go we wanted it to happen quickly.

When the kids got up I had to tell them that they needed to say goodbye to their kitten because he was going to have to live somewhere else. More heartbreaking than anything was the fortitude of my middle child, the real pet lover of the household. She carefully gathered up all of the toys that they had bought him, with their pocket money the day before, because she thought this might, “make Sooty feel more at home in his new house.”

It was a very quiet walk to school. My friend, who so kindly agreed to rehouse kitty, suggested that the children might find it useful to go to her house after school and see him happily established in his new home. The thought behind this was made kindly and with generosity but the reality was brutal.

I watched my children watch other kids going wild with joy and delight over their new kitten. We fell silent as they excitedly discussed renaming Sooty to something else. I hadn’t expected this and hadn’t prepared them. “Tonight he is going to sleep in my room” said one of the children. I saw my middle girl blink back tears and I felt as though I had trampled all over her tender heart.

He was with us for a short time but he left a big impression on our family. The total trust and responsibility of caring for another living creature is a big thing to experience at any age. It is a lesson that my children will never forget.

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There’s a rat in my kitchen

They say that until you inhale the feculent stench of putrefying rat right up your nostrils, you cannot truly feel that you have teetered on the abyss of olfaction. And I think that they might be right.
“And just how long might this aroma last” I gingerly enquired of Rat Man, whilst clasping a lime, basil and mandarin Jo Malone citrus scented white linen hanky to my mouth.
“That all depends on the size of the body, the ambient temperature and the absorbency of the surface it is resting upon,” said the voice of pest experience, looking sadly at my hanky.
And that particular question has yet to find a distinct answer. Visitors to my home no longer gag on entry but we still do keep at least four windows open throughout day and night, wind and snow and several storm warnings.
This is probably the key lesson learnt from our recent vermin tempest. Never agree to putting down poison to kill these home invaders. It will work and they will die, but almost certainly within the confines of your home and almost certainly just outside of reach of any vermin captor, bar a £5000 structural excavation exercise.
It has been a testing time. A few months ago one of these malodorous mammals was spotted in the kitchen. My hopes that this was a socially ostracised beast and lone invader were quickly shattered.
The basement of our home, AKA the receptacle of all household items without an obvious, immediate use, was packed to the gunnels and only entered infrequently when we needed a light bulb or to flick the fuse box. But upon entering it didn’t take long, only a quick google search of rat pooh for confirmation, for me to realise that we were in a state of invasion. (My middle daughter has also queerly become quite obsessed with googling rat pooh.)


(I have included a picture of a hamster in a blanket eating a carrot because, until it becomes strictly necessary, I’d refrain from googling pictures of rat pooh)

In times of crisis I can be impulsive. A rat infestation was certainly one of those times. I googled rat eliminators London and called the first number that came to hand. I was assured that a rat expert would present himself at my house within the next four hours.

I answered the door to a man trapped in a Dickensian time warp. He bore an unmistakable resemblance to the animals he had spent so many years tracking to kill. A pinched white face of dead eyes, narrow yellow, almost brown, teeth gnarled to sharp points, and a low slung, thinning Friar Tuck hairdo, informed me that he was the answer to my dreams.
Friar Tuck’s thinner, dirtier, and less genetically gifted brother, strolled through my house with the frays of his jeans flapping on the ground. After a perusal of the sodden rodent latrine in my basement he came up the stairs and looked very surprised to be asked to take off his shoes. I explained that, short of levitation, there was just no way he hadn’t trodden on rat pooh and piss, and I wasn’t keen for this to be spread throughout my house.
He responded by slowly running the palm of his hands down the soles of both shoes and then lifting them languidly to his nose and inhaling deeply.
“Nothing there” he said, as I tried to stop myself dry heaving.
He returned to the basement with his kill gear, this time donning a pair of plastic gloves. After removing bodies, faecal matter and laying poison and traps, he sat down to fill out the form and receipt for his services. I could see what was going to happen. Internally screaming I searched increasingly frantically for a pen. It did not come in time.
“Please sign here” said Tuck, proffering me his pen from his latex encased hand.
I signed and then poured bleach and hot water on my hands for the rest of the day.
Clearly I would never have wanted to see Tuck again even if had been professional but his fate was sealed when I spotted he’d put mouse traps down for the job that i had clearly articulated was a rat problem. “They’ll still work,” he promised.
I told him that I was talking about rates the size of small dog and that there was no way that was going to be effective. We parted company and latterly I managed to secure a refund.
And so, like a hero in a moving eighties action film, rolled in Rat Man two. Here was the acceptable face of rodent control. A chap who seemed far less likely to be found Morris dancing in a loincloth made up of the tails of his past conquests.
Rat Man two, as he became moderately affectionately known within the family, was pleasant, professional and normal. A couple of steel no return rat valve traps later and the rats are having to find other drains to make home. The smell of the final body is ebbing away and spring bulbs are pushing their way up through the earth. What a scene of North London pastoral bliss.


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Go forth faithful hound



It didn’t take a Freudian wise arse to work out why I was busy googling miniature Schnauzer puppies. As the image of one popped up on my screen, at the same time as my smallest cherub, the similarities were only too plain to see. Gorgeous big brown devoted eyes, full of unconditional love and adoration. Cute rufflesome tops and an air of energetic youthful joy. It was time for my smallest hound to leave home and join big school. And I was going to miss him very much indeed.

The wider implications of my youngest and last child’s departure into mainstream school, had been building in my mind for some time. Somehow the physical departure of him to legally obligated education became synonymous with the end of my fertile years, impending old age and death. “Glad to see you’ve kept it all in perspective then,” said one wise friend.

I have to pre-empt this tale by explaining that my child was entirely stable, rational and indeed looking forward to going to school. If he had at any point shown nerves or worry I would have immediately transformed into Mrs Topsy Turvy. But he didn’t so instead I turned into Mrs Sobbing Screwball.

It didn’t help that in the month leading up to him joining school we had been given the unique opportunity to be together everyday. In reception class they stagger pupil’s arrivals and we had landed one of the last spots. As such, with his sisters at school, we indulged in some glorious one-on-one time. We hit the park, searched for early conkers, ate lunch at the new bistro in town. We visited museums, brunched in Covent Garden, laughed at booby jokes and spent quite a few days at the zoo watching the new baby gorilla. My boy is great company and we had a brilliant time hanging out together.


In many ways he is my perfect man. He is my chivalrous knight, who likes to carry heavy things and open doors for me. He is my court jester, who laughs loudest at my jokes and loves to wiggle out a salsa to make me laugh in return. He is my confidante: we agree who is crazy and who sells a good burger. He is my comforter. He never seems to tire of kissing and hugging me and lets me sniff him regularly. He misses me when I leave and cheers when I return. He loves me no matter what I do, weigh or wear. He appreciates my dance moves and thinks I am a brilliant artist. I wept at the thought of no longer being able to spend days with my loyal companion.

But inevitably it came. On the day school starts they go in just after lunch, as a gentle introduction. This meant that I had a few more hours to kill. Luckily a fellow mum needed advice on wedding outfits so I was able to distract myself for a few hours. Then, hand in hand, as we have for many months, we made our way to the supermarket. As is our routine my boy fetches the shopping basket and carries it for me until his hands are hurting. Then I hold the basket and we browse the sandwiches for about three minutes before both settling for a tuna and sweetcorn sarnie. A small debate about a suitable treat ensues and we settle for some fruit and a biscuit.

We headed home, quietly ate our lunch together and then sat on the sofa for a quick last view of Numberjacks on the telly. As we sat there I felt a small hand came to rest on my knee. Then his whole body leaned on me and small fingers worked their way under mine. As I sniffed away at the back of his head it became became very very damp. My heart hurt.

“Mummy you are really going to have to try and stop crying,” said a small pragmatic voice. I agreed that I needed to try harder. Minutes later, with that clearly not working, he came up with a masterplan: “I will give you penguin. That will help,” he said.

Thank God for wise friend who at that moment telephoned to see how it was going. She had thought that he was starting in the morning and was, I think, anticipating that by now I would be in chilled-out decompression mode. What she got instead was a hyperventilating freakoid.
Laughing her head off at me she promised to remind me of this emotional breakdown over a glass of wine later in the week and then happily distracted me with talk of workplace shennanigans.

By the time I put down the phone it was time to grab his school bag and run.
We made it into school and my boy raced off to find his peg and some dinosaurs. As I turned my red, fetchingly swollen face towards him and asked him if he wanted me to stay, he made the only sensible decision. “No Mummy, you go. See you later,” he said and ran off to play with sand.

I made my way back along the road, dark glasses on, silently weeping. Once I’d closed my front door I wailed like a banshee. It felt like, and was, a full stop to a very certain and very special part of my life.

And then the next day came. It was fine. He was happy, with a lovely teacher and making new friends. I was peeing solo, enjoying silence and beginning to do some writing. Here we are. Life goes on. What’s next I wonder.

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