A line in the sand….

Have you ever felt like running away? Just dropping everything, grabbing your car keys/travel pass/comfy walking shoes & heading off into the sunset?

I know I have – more so now than I ever did as a child & I’m pretty certain that I would be way more successful at it these days too – given that I am allowed to cross a road by myself* & go further than the bottom of the drive way & have a credit card to boot!

That not withstanding, the actual getting out of the house process within a 5 minute window – without leaving behind bags, keys, medical supplies – would be nothing short of a miracle in itself!

*of course actually having 5 mins peace to be BY MYSELF to enact the running away plan might be a hindering factor…. but if I’m sneaking off alone, I suppose I wouldn’t need half as much baggage (or snacks) as the usual shenanigans dictate when going out en famille? 🤔

Equally however, if I’m running away, I’m NOT leaving my shoe collection behind…. Minx has already called dibs & I wouldn’t put it past her to gather up the lot the second my back is turned & claim finders keepers so maybe this adult running away plan is more difficult than I thought to pull off.

I’m joking I think;

I (on the whole) love my life & know that I’m one of the lucky ones: supportive family & friends, a husband I adore & I’m fairly confident he feels the same (after 26 years together, 23 married – medal or martyr?! 🤣) 4 amazing, incredible, infuriating, fabulous, (some times fatuous) children, 2 daft dogs & a long suffering cat.

In fact as a mere observer, I live a charmed life. I don’t ‘work.’ I live in a beautiful house (the bank own more of it than we do but even so!) We have good food, plenty of it & nice clothes. We have reliable cars, althoughI’m pretty sure just typing these words means I’ve doomed that to 💩

I *may* have a reputation for chugging Prosecco/gin etc like lemonade & coveting shoes (kind of deserved) & handbags that on occasion I’m spoiled enough to receive. So I recognise that I am indeed more fortunate than so many, way ahead of the game.

But appearances can be deceptive as we all know; and whilst I don’t dispute all the lovely, material things I have (& have gratitude for) and I do wholeheartedly recognise that having the love of a good man and others in my life, equally I wouldn’t wish some of the practicalities or heartaches that living in a family with medically/physically complex children & a young person on the autistic spectrum, brings.

The constant stream of appointments, the letters addressed to the parent or Carer of… the endless meetings (or zooms/equivalent thereof during this time of ‘covidageddon’) the never-ending stock taking and ordering of medications & equipment and feeding supplies; the physio regimes & preparation of drugs that Walter White himselfwould be impressed by.

I don’t want to gnash my teeth in frustration trying to rewrite not one but 2 Education Health & Care plans (EHCP) that are so loosely written you could drive a London bus through the holes.

I don’t want to justify why my young people need the support that I’ve painstakingly outlined and have to listen to a teacher, SENCO (special educational needs coordinator) or bod employed by the local authority to tell me there’s no more money in the system; I’m being too demanding, expecting too much. You’re damned right, where my kids are concerned, never mind Tiger King, I’m Tiger Mum.

Then there’s the FEAR

Hyped even more in these “Covid times”

The worries that niggles away every day of parenting complex kids where there’s no benchmark for normal.

Wondering whether we wait out the latest blip at home or if it’s time to “bother” the professionals in hospitals – and that’s another worry – am I that over-reacting parent? Will the Dr’s/nurses label me as “GAD” (generalised anxiety disorder) or think me foolish? More scary still – FII??? (Fabricated induced illness – a real worry amongst the undiagnosed community as this term seems to be bandied around more readily) Have I jumped the gun too soon by rushing in or worse still, left it too late and I should have trusted my instincts in the first place. It’s completely exhausting, overwhelming at times.

Then there’s the bloody beeping feed pumps or sleepless nights because your child is in pain and you are powerless to take it away.

Watching the clock until the next dose of medications can be administered and the hope that then they can settle into some kind of exhausted sleep before the day begins again and you pick yourself and them up, hustle them into uniform, a wheelchair, reassurance that they can make it through the day ahead. A bright (but forced) “you’ll be fiiiiine once you’re with your friends!”

The drudgery of ‘normal’ parenting: washing, shopping, cooking, cleaning, ironing and the times when I really don’t want to debate exactly what I said, when I said it and who I said it too; take note kids: DO as I Say NOT DO as I Do!!

I don’t want to referee another fight, don’t want to help with homework or home school or any permeations thereof. I don’t want to share the raspberry & chocolate mini magnums or the Maom sweeties I’ve secretely stashed.

I am selfish. I want to lie in bed late & get lost in a great book, drink too much coffee (maybe too many 🍹) not answer to anyone but myself, definitely not the phone. I want to watch crap TV, not get dressed if I don’t feel like it.

I want to eat junk food (sometimes) and not factor in how many portions of fruit & veg I’ve crammed into the offspring to try & prevent ricketts, scurvy or whatever else might crop up to (metaphorically) bite them and therefore me, in the arse.

I don’t always want to be the grown up, the responsible one. And yes, dare I say it, I want something of my own identity back too.

I know that above all else I love my children & other half fiercely and ferociously. I do not want (or deserve) praise or recognition for getting on with the hand that life has dealt us but sometimes, just sometimes, I want space to breathe and just be.

Where is the girl that loved singing, acting, dancing, Smash Hits & Just 17? The one who knew all the Top 40 bands & could name the song from the opening notes? The one who was going to marry George Michael (ok in hindsight that was never going to work itself out for a variety of reasons 🤣🤣) or one of the NKOTB’s? (equally as unlikely!)

Who was that woman who had ambition, studied, took exams, embarked on a (surprising!) career in finance, a 5 year plan?

Oh dear…. maybe it’s better not to look back too closely at old pics!!

Somewhere along the way of the adulting process, the parenting, school runs for the last 16 years, last minute magicking up of ingredients for a forgotten domestic science lesson, PTA bake sales, the medicalising & therapies, in amongst all the battles with services, social care and such like, I’ve lost who I was, who I am.

Sometimes I see a tantalising whisp of her on a day when she’s donned a posh frock, a fleeting glimpse at the edge of the mirror when applying her lippie or when she sings along loudly whilst Miley Cyrus* blasts out on the radio, loud and punchy.

*for the avoidance of offending Miley and her legions of fans, I’m definitely not claiming I’m anything like her in any way but dang that girl has amazing pipes (no lewd comments please!) & I’m loving her latest stuff, especially the Stevie Nicks Edge of Seventeen sample on Midnight Sky! Midnight Sky Miley Cyrus

Sometimes when I try to remember what it felt like to be just ME, not someone’s mum, wife, chief cook & bottle washer, it feels like a game of Guess Who, trying to pick her out in a line up of vaguely familiar faces and accessories.

👩🏻‍🏫🧒🏻👩🏻↗️🔙❓⁉️🔜👁‍🗨 ↖️👧🏻👩🏻‍🦱👩🏻‍🔧

Or maybe it’s more like those Usborne books? The series of “Thats not my…” insert unicorn/penguin/car? “That’s not my Mum – her eye bags aren’t big enough! That’s not my Mum – she hasn’t got any wrinkles on her forehead…” I don’t think this book would be one of their greatest sellers to be honest…

And it makes me feel terribly guilty to acknowledge all this; after all, as one of my young people is fond of pointing out, it’s not their fault, they didn’t ask to be born & if I can’t cope, I shouldn’t have had so many children…. ouch…point taken.

Recently I had what I like to think of as a “factory reset opportunity” & I snuck away with Mr DNTW’s as my partner in crime, or rather partners, 2 of them being of the 4 legged variety.

It was a glorious day, one that emphasises how very beautiful North Yorkshire is. Mr DNTW’s & I jumped in the car after loading up the pooches, headed up the A1 and went to the seaside *“sans enfants

*Before anyone calls Social Services, the younger 2 weren’t left home alone with a box of matches, baked beans and tin opener. We are lucky to have some very experienced and fully trained carers to call on for respite

I felt a split second of guilt knowing that the kids would have loved to come too…. but it evaporated quickly with the sun glinting off the road surface, the fields that rolled away behind us and the knowledge that we were getting ever closer to the water.

Admittedly the North Sea doesn’t have quite the same pull as say, the Med but having lived all my life (prior to the last 6 years) on an island surrounded by water, (yes I know the UK is an island but it is not the same as the Channel Islands!) the sea is the one thing I miss hugely and always feel drawn too.

Sunny skies…. oh I do like to be beside the seaside….

So when we arrived in beautiful Saltburn-by-the-Sea, eventually managed to find a place to park and then the restaurant that made both of us go “oooohhh” (those of you old enough to remember the Bisto twins advert peering in the window, it was very reminiscent of that!) had a free (socially distanced!) table AND would accept the dogs, well it felt like serendipity, the stars were aligned and the gods were smiling on us!

I won’t bore you with the inanities of our lunch (delicious! Worth every penny) but the fact that we didn’t have to pick a restaurant based on how good it’s Wi-fi was (or wasn’t!) whether there was something on the menu that everyone in the family could eat or how we could seat so and so next to so & so but not next to them was an added and unexpected treat.

We hadn’t even really set out to find somewhere to lunch. We just stumbled across the restaurant as we began our walk. Having been so careful for so long about maintaining shielding, not socialising, not going out unnecessarily and so forth, I think we both felt a frisson of excitement, liberation I suppose.

Outside in the sunshine

We laughed, we chatted over numerous different topics, reminisced and remembered why we love being together so much in the first place.

We had 3 courses AND coffee without anyone moaning they were bored or too hot/cold/wanted to go home. We people watched and admired the decor inside (we were outside on the balcony because of the dogs) The toilet facilities had me in raptures and starting a new Pinterest decor board! (Octopus tentacle door handles are surprisingly pricey it turns out! 🤣)

The dogs too were happy under the table, loving being with their hooommmaannnss; occasionally small noses would snuffle up by our knees & 2 pairs of beseeching eyes would watch EVERY.SINGLE,BITE.OF.FOOD we took. They were content with the occasional bit of ciabatta surreptitiously smuggled under the bench and watched the seagulls with their beady eyes.

Beautiful Saltburn-by-the-Sea

Later with our bellies pleasantly full but not sleep inducingly so, we set off down the pier to walk off our lunch and let the pooches have free roam along the beach. There’s a stretch closest to the ice-cream shops, toilets & arcade that’s designated dog free or dogs on leads & not on the beach itself but just a little further on, miles of course golden-red sand that was perfect for them to run free, in & out the water, chase each other; investigate the tantalising seaweed, flotsam & jetsom of sea life that the incoming tide was depositing randomly along the shore line. Judging by the amount of sniffing and enthusiastic tail wagging, the short, happy sounding barks, they too were #livingtheirbestlives.

Actual footage of yours truly in the sea…. the NORTH-BLOODY-FREEZING-SEA!!

All in all we walked for around 2 hours. My ambition to keep walking until we drew level with the wind turbines further up the coast was perhaps a tad ambitious (apparently 10 miles or so further up the coast!!) and so mindful of the fact that we did indeed need to return home that same day, we about turned and made our way back to the car, happy, tired, a bit sandy but refreshed and exhilarated.

That day stands out to me. It made me feel like me again. It gave me a glimpse into the future of what times might be like when Mr DNTW’s reaches retirement age (a good while yet!….and not budgeted enough for!) and the knowledge that we will (hopefully) be able to be more spontaneous, jump in the car, drive up the coast, do something on a whim from time to time.

And it reminds me too that we are the lucky ones: too many parent-carers out there terrified that their children won’t make it and if they do, because their care needs are so profound, so complex, so costly, what the hell happens to them when their own parents are no longer around or no longer able to provide the care they need? A tale for another time…..

The Self-isolation Society…..*

*please feel free to hum/sing that to the Italian Job theme tune to get in the mood!

Never mind the Self preservation Society, for the preservation of society, we all need to be the SELF ISOLATION SOCIETY!

Today is Undiagnosed Children’s Day 2020!

This whole week should have launched joyfully with much fanfare and a variety of exciting plans and activities, guaranteed to generate awareness, interest and much needed funds. Unfortunately as we all know, the universe had other plans & so we are all stuck, if not totally inside, then only venturing out for the essentials, scurrying away from our fellow humans & hoping no one gets too close, breathes on us or worse still has the audacity to sneeze or cough in the vicinity.

How I miss the days when a public sneeze generated a polite “Bless you” rather than people backing away in fear and/or rage. It’s definitely not a good time to have hay-fever that’s for sure!

I definitely don’t mean to make light of what’s going on with this awful pandemic causing huge isolation, suffering, financial panic and tragically, the death of far too many, dying much too soon. 😔

There are untold and incomprehensible ramifications of the wider fall out from COVID19. Much of which I suspect won’t even be clear for years to come; perhaps only even when future generations reflect on the past and the repercussions from these times. Splinters and cracks from the epicentre appearing like those on a broken mirror, spiralling out ever further and further.

For now though, it is at times like these, that my SWAN UK family are more important than ever. Who are SWAN UK and why so important you may ask? SWAN stands for Syndrome without a name. It is not a diagnosis but an umbrella term for a child who has a medical, physical and/or cognitive condition that is likely genetic in origin but of unknown cause. SWAN UK is the only dedicated network providing support to families with a child with an undiagnosed condition – A family like mine. https://www.undiagnosed.org.uk/about-us/

For those of you who know me in the “real world” or have followed me and mine via social media https://www.facebook.com/definitelynotthewaltons/ you may already be aware that I have been a parent representative for SWAN UK for the last 5 years. I am (allegedly) a mother of 4 children/young people and 2 of my youngest children are SWANS who like to keep myself and the medical profession on their toes. I have also been a member of the SWAN UK community for approximately 8 years and shared the highs, lows and everything in between.

Due to the nature of the vulnerabilities that our medically complex children present with, my family are currently shielding. Many of you reading this will be too. I know that many of my fellow parent-carers on SWAN are too. Ironically being a SWAN parent probably makes it easier to cope with the current challenges the world is throwing up at us. Many SWAN parent/carers are used to living their lives in uncertainty, in the shadows of those with mainstream, cognitively typical children. Too many SWAN UK carers and the siblings of affected children know that we live by plans that ever change, emergencies, sadly sometimes of the blue lights and sirens variety and far too many know the pain of losing a loved one before their time.

We have become used to feeling isolated, not being able to go out with our children because we don’t have enough support, be that in terms of carers or facilities – ever tried changing a 9 year old on the floor of a disgusting toilet cubicle? Probably not (I hope not) – but this is just one of the many realities for those who care for children with complex needs. So being stuck at home isn’t necessarily new to us.

Whilst every family with a SWAN child will have differing experiences – there is no common denominator of a SWAN child (apart from the fact that looking through the photo gallery of our community, they are all ruddy gorgeous, cheeky, amazing kiddos!) we all know that our children throw us curved balls, medical crises or meltdowns that just cannot be calmed with a soothing word, change of scene or face. We know the fragility of life and we know that we have to adapt and roll with the punches because we can’t change things – or change the world expediently for our children.

But we also know the vibrance of a life well-lived, of seemingly simple but oh so important triumphs – first steps tottered at 5, 6 or even later; first words painstakingly achieved by hour and hours of speech and language appointments and therapies practiced over and over again. Of new skills that come later in life, sometimes only fleetingly appearing and then regressing again, depending on the nature of our children’s difficulties.

Now more than ever SWAN UK needs any support you can offer, no matter how big or small. Although some of the activities we had planned to celebrate Undiagnosed Children’s Day 2020 have had to be curtailed, it hasn’t stopped our community spirit or our passion for highlighting the importance of belonging in a group of like-minded people who can be there for each other through out the day and night.

You can have a look at some of the things we have been up to: https://www.facebook.com/SWANchildrenUK/?epa=SEARCH_BOX or https://twitter.com/SWAN_UK?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthorhttps://twitter.com/SWAN_UK?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor You can sneek a peek at our instagram: https://www.instagram.com/swanchildrenuk/?hl=en

Never has social media played such an important part of our lives – a network on which we can connect, celebrate and commiserate. Our private Facebook group is a source of comfort and a wealth of advice and experience until we can meet again in the outside world. Please help SWAN UK continue to be there by sharing this post, others like it from the social media platforms and give what you can: https://www.undiagnosed.org.uk/donate/

6 Go Crazy On A Socially Distanced Adventure…*

* a very dreadful homage to all things Enid Blyton to hopefully offer some light-relief in these challenging times….

The 6 DNTW’s have been holed up together under one roof for less than 72 hours and the wholesome, ruddy-cheeked (feckless) children are clearly feeling the strain. As are their parents.

After a mere 2 & 1/2 days of home schooling, Mr DNTW’s could be heard enquiring at what age teachers are legally allowed to retire and Mrs DNTW’s is contemplating ingesting the hand sanitiser that her very lovely, witty and glamorous (also childless therefore explaining the non-haggard visage and aforementioned glamour!) friend sent her in the post because she has read they contain alcohol.

In a time of national emergency surely it is obvious that both should be drunk not rubbed on one’s hands?! (In the interests of health and safety please don’t!)

Mrs DNTW’s knows she should be very grateful that she has thoughtful and lovely friends who think of sending her such precious things like alcohol flavoured hand-gel in these desperate times but right now she is wondering if she can drink the contents as they do in fact contain actual, REAL alcohol. She also feels it desperately unfair that Mr DNTW’s has refuted her suggestion of sacrifice that she consumes hard liquor and remains 70% proof at all times because apparently an alcohol content above 66% is necessary to effectively kill off bacteria and she is trying to protect herself from the dreaded “C” word so in turn she can nurture her family.

Unusually given the vocabulary of child number 2, it is not that ‘c’ word that she is worrying about for the time being, nor is it the BIG C but it is definitely a very unpleasant C which shall not be mentioned herewith 🦠

It is likely that Mr DNTW’s is not thinking of the health and well-being of his wife in pouring scorn on her proposal but is rather more concerned he will be asked to aid in the SPAG (spelling punctuation and grammar for those not in the know) work that has been set as part of the home-schooling curriculum by actual teachers who are laughing delightedly and rubbing their hands with glee hand-gel at those contemptuous parents who spout such nonsense as:

“huh! 6 weeks off in the summer! They should know what hard work is really like!”

In her defence, Mrs DNTW’s would very much like it to be known that she has never been one of those smug and belittling folk. In fact she thinks that anyone who has voluntarily and willingly decided, (not to mention paid out horrifyingly large sums of money for the privilege of doing so) to nurture and cherish young mind’s – other people’s children (Sartre’s quote “Hell is….?!”) – should probably be sectioned canonised.

Mrs DNTW’s has tried to instill a respect for authority, foster a love of learning and an oasis of peace and tranquility in the classroom that was once her dining room.

In truth she wasn’t very successful imparting these qualities to her older children in the past so it is unsurprising that the younger ones reject her request to answer the register, greet her politely with “Good morning Mrs Definitely Not The Walton’s” and yell “Oi Karen and BOOMER” at her periodically. Mrs DNTW’s wonders whether telling her precious off-spring that they will enjoy working in 45 minute blocks with 15 minute movement and snack breaks might have been a tad ambitious and perhaps it should have been the other way around.

After Mrs DNTW’s has spent 20 minutes surreptitiously consulting her phone for an explanation of fronted adverbials, preposition and sub-clauses, she wonders whether she ever learned anything at school all those years ago.

She and child number 4 finally crack on with the questions relating to the Harry Potter themed English work and she has been designated scribe because Minx’s hands are tired, despite the fact she has only held the pen doodling. Mrs DNTW’s is dismayed to find that they are only on question 4 and they have already spent an hour arguing over whether Hermione would have had an easier time at school if she had learned early on about the beneficial properties of argan oil and serum for frizz-prone hair.

Child 3 has left the room and embarked on his designated movement break, disparagingly retorting that it is his right to leave after 45 minutes whether he has finished his French set piece or not.

His movement break seems to have incorporated a trip back to the bedroom on to his X-box and when subsequently summoned to return, his dulcet bellows of “I just need 5 more minutes to finish this match” ricochet off the walls from the 3rd floor all the way down.

This prompts Child 2 who is “self-studying” in his room to angrily fling open the bedroom door, music blaring from the dark, fetid cave-like dwelling to announce he cannot possibly get anything done with such inconsiderate shouting around him and he needs to assume a horizontal position on his bed, encased in a furry dressing gown until at least an hour of order and tranquility has been restored. Fortunately Mrs DNTW’s is wise enough not to engage in that battle and beats a hasty retreat.

Child Number 1 who actually left school several years ago and under usual circumstances would be at work, is also now confined to barracks until further notice. He chooses this time to grace us all with his presence and wonders down to the kitchen, bleary eyed, whereupon he opens the fridge door and gazes in forlornly until the beepy noise kicks in. With much dramatic sighing on his part, there is opening of multiple cupboard doors, also the freezer and trips back and forth to the garage for essential supplies. Mrs DNTW’s informs him that “no we don’t happen to have any lovely part-baked rolls, fluffy pancakes, nor lashings of beer, ginger or otherwise” to meet his brunch criteria.

Children 3 and 4 return to the dining room class-room and survey the bits of paper, pencil sharpernings and crumbly bits of broken rubber that seem to be peppered about the place despite Mrs DNTW’s not having witnessed any usage of items that would give rise to these annoyances. Mrs DNTW’s sighs and wonders weather by some form of stealth osmosis her dining room is absorbing waste matter from the many dormant class rooms scattered over the UK, indeed the rest of the world as the “C” word holds us all in captivity. In fact come to think of it, she notices that the room seems to be giving off an aroma most usually associated with the lingering scent of school dinners, pine disinfectant, sports lockers, lynx and farting. She makes a mental note to add Febreeze to her online shopping order which is scheduled in the earliest available slot, 9 week ahead.

Perhaps Child 1 is responsible for the odours as whatever he is doing in the adjacent kitchen (the door between is firmly closed) requires a lot of banging of saucepans, running of taps and occasional expletives.

This reminds Mrs DNTW’s that she has not time-tabled any musical activities for her sweet darlings and after briefly contemplating hunting down the old recorders and music books, she gives her head a wobble and reminds herself why she hid them in the first place. She decides that an afternoon of listening to Billie Eilish over and over again with a running commentary from the Minx detailing the video montage and seven gazillion You-Tube quips will serve this purpose perfectly. Child 3 can make do with revising his spotify play list.

After what seems an age but in reality is only another 45 minutes, the children are getting fractious and Mrs DNTW’s is feeling mutinous as she made the rooky mistake of opening the door to let the scrabbling dogs into the class-room – (what fun my darlings, we can do a live biology/veterinary course!) and caught the scene of utter carnage and devastation that was once her kitchen but is now a scourge of dirty cups, burnt bits on the hob, crumbs everywhere and judging by the greasy paw prints on various surfaces, Child 1 has left the butter out which the bl**dy cat has taken advantage of.

Dismissing the class, she briefly contemplates hauling Child 1 back downstairs and bludgeoning him with a rolling pin until the sanctity of her once pristine kitchen is restored but decides actually that some TIME OUT from her children and some vigorous scrubbing might be good for her blood pressure and rising feelings of wanting to puncture things (including people) with sharp objects.

Verily as she has cleaned down the last surface and re-stacked the dishwasher so that it contains more than one awkwardly loaded frying pan, 27,000 cups and glasses (so the off-spring had indeed previously been hoarding them in their bedrooms after all!!) and single spoon, her little urchins meander their way back into view and piteous cries of “we are starving/going to faint with hunger and die of thirst” reach a crescendo.

Equilibrium restored, Mrs DNTW’s tells her children she is just putting the finishing touches to home-made chicken noodle soup which WILL BE DELICIOUS and nutritious.

The steely glint in her eye almost but not quite convinces the heckling mob not to argue with her on this matter. Protestations are stared down (Paddington would have been impressed at the hardness of stare) and Child 1 dishes out Tiger Bread with lashings of dairy free spread that should have fed the family for a week and been usable to rustle up a couple of cakes (for the home economic lessons naturally!) but apparently merely only feeds a man-child in the last month of his teens. This causes such a cacophony of noise and uproar that Mr DNTW’s appears from the garden looking concerned, holding something that looks suspiciously like it should have belonged in the clean laundry cupboard and possibly masqueraded as Mrs DNTW’s favourite face muslin.

At this point of reappearance, Mrs DNTW’s suddenly realises that Mr DNTW’s has been suspiciously absent for his part of the educational responsibilities of the morning and her voice reaches that steely tone when you are not quite sure if she is spitting a bit whilst talking (Mr DNTW’s is standing the requisite 2 metre distance to comply with BoJo’s social distancing policy so can’t be certain) Mr DNTW’s acts afronted and tells her he has been cleaning up the garden doing vitally important repairs and necessities that form MEN’s WORK and in fact she should be responding with gratitude and affection. Oh and could she possibly wash his trousers because he had forgotten when he embarked on the pressure washing etc that he was still in his favourite ones and not his old man’s saggy bum, paint-stained jeans. Even the children realise this was a mistake of epic proportions given her current frame of mind.

Lunch is served, after hands have been scrubbed red raw for the umpteenth time, in something of an orderly fashion. Perhaps the jewels of her eyes are cognisant that Mum is not to be trifled with for now. There is the merry clinking of spoons in bowls and Mum tries not to think too hard about her lovingly purchased-month-by-month flatware, in terms of economic-chippings-to bowl- basis for it is not really the children’s fault, she supposes, that she seems to have raised a gaggle of baboons. Clearly it is their Father’s.

The lively chatter around the table turns to afternoon activities. Mum thinks that it will be delightful and heart-warming to get out for a family walk, thus sticking to the new government rules of one daily activity in the open air, en famille and exercising the pooches all in one fell-swoop!

Mum is proud of her genius and plans to allow electronics to be used for the purpose of identifying flora and fauna in the fresh, sun-light filled air, thereby covering science AND exercise in one. Whilst mentally patting herself on the back, she cajoles the children to find suitable foot-wear and coats. The children are stunned that Mum has agreed that electronics can be taken on the trip and haven’t yet figured out that Mum has no intention of letting them listen to music with gratuitous swear-words and You-Tube clips of Yoda from Star Wars giving advice on sticks, bushes of love and Sea Gulls Stop It Now! (If you have a moment look up Bad Lip Reading quips like the gem below;it’s worth a giggle in these troublesome times)

Child 4 notes that it is sunny and despite living in Northern England and there having been a hard frost on the ground when they awoke in the morning, appears in Daisy Duke style shorts, flip flops and a crop top. Mum manages not to swear and instructs child to return to bedroom and re don the sensible leggings she had on earlier. They compromise on the crop top under a wooly jumper and weekend trainers.

Child 2 appears in joggers, 7 layers of tops, winter coat with a furry lined hood and furry boot style slippers. Mum asks him to take at least 2 layers off and put on sensible foot wear.

Child 3 is nowhere to be found and when roared for, appears from the back of the car where he has been patiently sitting, wobbly of lip and wild of eye given the baying mob that are his family yelling in such unbecoming tones. Meanwhile the neighbours are wondering if contacting the police on 101 for an ASBO constitutes a genuine emergency in the grand scheme of things, especially given the “C” word crisis.

Child 1, in spite of being the oldest, is rushing around the house, whipping the dogs into a frenzy of excitement by hurling various toys at speed and excitedly yelling for them to retrieve. The dogs are delighted that FINALLY they are being given the attention they deserve and that everyone else seems to be joining in with the shenanigans, given the through traffic that is going on with various children traipsing up and down the stairs. The cat merely narrows her eyes witheringly and hopes they will all leave very soon so she can regurgitate the grass she has eaten on the parents bed. She is feeling a tad queasy since ingesting the butter.

Mr DNTW’s is BUSY doing things that involve removing all the shopping bags from the car, re-configuring seats to get the wheelchair, dog-crate and all children ensconced within. Not for the first time he reflects that he could have had a rather nice sports car for far less aggro & probably money too. He reminds himself that he is #truly blessed# & living his #bestlife though.

Everyone is now settled in the car. Although there were fisticuffs over the calling of shotgun, Mrs DNTW’s resisted clipping child number 2 round the side of the head (what would the neighbours think?!) and fought her corner so he resorts to sitting in the back, flicking his siblings randomly to annoy them and plotting 17 different ways to disembowel his mother.

Mr DNTW’s goes to start the car. However in a bid to be more ‘eco aware’ the family have recently purchased a hybrid vehicle which is still plugged into the outdoor charge point so is going nowhere. Frankly perhaps their green credentials might have been more impressive if they had resisted the urge to procreate all together but as Mrs DNTW’s is fond of saying “that ship has long since sailed!”

Sighing with effort and exhaustion from his earlier MEN’s work and the ear-splitting levels of bickering about who is breathing whose air, who has more leg room and other such scintillating snippets of conversation, MR DNTW’s climbs out of the car & disengages the charger. Having returned, clicked the seat-belt & started the engine, Mr DNTW’s is alarmed by the frantic arm waving exhibited by his good-lady wife (she is now on her mobile phone) and wonders whether she is demonstrating one of the latest on-trend dance crazes or having a fit of the vapours, when he realises she is indicating that he has left the hatch open on the side of the car where the charger had been connected. With bad grace he exits the car again to close the hatch.

Sarcastically asking the tribe if we can go now, Mr DNTW’s realises he has left the dog poo bags in the kitchen drawer so bad-temperdly goes back into the house to retrieve. When he returns, the car smells of farts which all are blaming on the poor dogs whilst Child Number 2 sniggers.

The engine is once again switched on and the family car begins creeping down the drive. Mum has now finished her phone call and asks if anyone brought the dog lead. There is an awkward silence. Mr DNTW’s is muttering viciously & attempts to re-enter the house, having forgotten the house alarm has been set. He finally emerges complete with lead, muzzle, dog-treats, gaffer tape, rope, Stanley knife and vaguely serial killer-esque grimace.

The DNTW’s collective make it onto the road and drive to the very beautiful, natural park for their uplifting outing and commune with nature. By the time they arrive, one of the dogs has been car-sick and 2 of the children are no longer speaking. At least this means it is relatively serene…. for the time being.

The dogs are let loose from the lead & promptly spot a RIVER. This is indeed a most excellent adventure and before Mrs DNTW’s has time to enquire whether anyone remembered to pack a towel, the dogs are happily wading in the shallows, ignoring the human’s instructions and proving that the doggy obedience training classes they attended really were a waste of time. Mum is reminded that there is NO SUCH thing as a BAD DOG only a BAD OWNER. She also reminds herself that since she failed dismally to train the children, it is hardly surprising that the dogs are feral and witless too.

Not THE river but a fab great big puddle anyway!

After 5 minutes of walking, child number 2 moans that he has had too much fresh air, he is hungry, he is thirsty, he is tired and he doesn’t understand why he had to leave all his bl**dy gadgets in the car, especially as all of nature is just 💩.

Child number 1 is as excitable as the throughly bedraggled and soaking dogs and has been reminded by his father that if he too enters the river, he will have to walk home. In his underpants.

Child 3 steps in something unpleasant. So does Child 4. There is much wailing; not just by Mum. The wheelchair wheels are also covered. Dad begins to wonder if nature is taking the proverbial. The dogs, now muddy as well as wet, debate rolling in the thing that their humans seem to be covered in. It might be fox 💩 which is definitely a favourite.

Child 2 asks whether he can buy a drink at the shops. And an ice-cream. Mum tuts and reminds him they are “socially distancing” and will not be frequenting the shops, especially as this does not constitute essential supplies. She retreats when he withers her with laser-eyes.

Child 2 asks if they have at least bought a picnic with jam sandwiches and slabs of cake, plus fizzy pop since this is what all good books detail as “essential” picnic food stuffs. He is unamused when Mum explains that the daily exercise allowance rules expressly forbids such tomfoolery in the time’s of the “C” apocalypse 🦠

The walk continues, punctuated by Mum’s squeals of delight that she has spotted a white flower, a yellow one & a big, twiggy-blossom-covered bush. Unfortunately, despite balancing on one leg, leaning precariously at an angle and dancing widdershins round a fallen log, she has no internet coverage and is therefore unable to identify any of the pretty flora.

It is fast becoming apparent that the children are merely a hares-breath from shoving one another & possibly their parents as well, into the river. The lovely walk turns into a break-neck speed hike back to the car in an effort to get the whole farcical adventure over as quickly as possible.

All breath a sigh of relief when the car is in sight, apart from Mr DNTW’s who realises that transporting this motley crew home, will render the previous days car-valeting that he spent many hours performing and perfecting, null and void. Ah well, when he gets home, as Mrs DNTW’s has had a lovely afternoon off, she can resume educating their precious darlings whilst he gets out his stellar assortment of cleaning products and cloths, especially the very nice, soft one he found in the clean laundry pile …..