SNIPPET 1 – LEARNER MUM
I love my life, my routine. There is absolutely nothing I would change, but then one weekend, I had a phone call that was about to change not only my sacred weekend but a part of me, too. For you to fully understand where I am coming from, let me tell you a little about myself, I promise it won’t take long.
I come from a very religious background. Regardless of my parents’ preaching hellfire and brimstone, I have spent my entire life rebelling, unlike my younger sister, Wendy, the role model of morality, who has done it all by the big black book: courted, engaged, married and now raising a family. Although I am a successful freelance journalist slash writer, when I introduced Steve to my parents, straight away they knew he was the ideal husband for their then-twenty five year old daughter. Finally, I had found a man who could add stability to my life of debauchery. Steve is a morning presenter on one of Nottingham’s local radio stations, and the only son of Clive Rutherford, MD and Susan Rutherford, a respected paediatrician.
However, Steve and I have been living in what my parents call ‘sin,’ for the past eight years. We are so happy with our life, but to their disappointment, there are no signs of wedding bells or the patter of tiny feet on the horizon. Why?
Because, I hate babies. Well, perhaps hate is a little strong, and honestly speaking, how can I hate something I don’t know a bloody thing about? Don’t misunderstand me, of course I’m fully aware of the biological know how, of how one gets a baby. Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of the practical, but NEVER, NEVER, have I been tempted in the least to follow the experiment through. I personally think all men’s willies should be tattooed with a baby warning, like the stickers you see about dogs and Christmas in the back of a car window. It should read: A kid is for life, not for one night of sex.
Another thing, what is all this crap about my biological clock ticking, or we just know when we are ready to start a family? So, what do these people do? One night they are sitting watching their nightly soaps and the wife instead of saying, “Shall I defrost a chicken for dinner tomorrow?” says, “I think we should start a family.” Then the husband considers for a moment, during an advert, and replies, “O.K. love, but after I’ve watched the news.”
So now, you know that I, Polly Wilkins, am not in the least bit maternal.
SNIPPET 2 LEARNER MUM
I rolled over gasping for breath. Reaching out my arm, I grabbed my mobile, seeing WENDY on the screen of my phone. “This better be bloody important, to interrupt my Saturday morning sex.”
I knew that this would make my prissy sister cringe on the other end of the phone. Well, why wouldn’t it? This was a woman who referred to sex as, “relations.”
“I’ll come straight to the point then,” said Wendy.
“Funny, that’s just what Steve was about to say!” I gave a smutty laugh down the phone, knowing that her face would now be pulsating with embarrassment, and her heart rate elevated at the mere thought of people copulating at this hour of the day.
“Yes, well, that’s hardly something one should share. Polly, I need you to listen. Brian has this two-day conference in Dublin. Normally, I stay at home, but this time partners have to attend. There is this gala dinner where Brian will get at least one award, and the Dublin CEO wants to meet us both. There is a big promotion coming up over there…..”
I was becoming agitated at how long my sister was taking. “Stop,” I interrupted. “Is this going to be a long conversation? If it is then I need to know, because my carnal desires are going off the boil here, Wendy.”
“You can be so crass, Polly. Mum is laid up with her back. Dad can’t get coverage at work. Polly, I need you to watch Josh.”
For a moment, I was speechless, and then I broke out into hysterical laughter. “Sorry, Wendy, for one minute I thought you asked me to watch Josh.”
Steve was being annoying, trying to grab the phone from me. I pushed him away, guessing the look on my face said I was now in no mood. I said with anxiety, “Either this is a joke or Wendy is drunk, but she has just asked me to look after Josh for two days.”
Steve rolled back onto his side of the bed, cracking up with laughter. Through the laughing I could just make out, “She must be drunk.”
“Wendy, are you ok? Is this some kind of after birth depression?”
Wendy gave a heavy sigh. “I think you mean postnatal depression, and no, I went through that after Josh was born. He’s nearly a year old.”
“Really, he’s one? Is this why you are depressed? Because, I always thought he was a little slow.”
“Polly,” Wendy screamed at me over the phone line. “Josh is average for his age. Now will you blinking well help me out or not?”
I sat bolt upright in bed. I could feel my heart beating faster, the tightness in my chest constricting my every breath. I was the last person my sister would ask to look after her first-born. Hell, Wendy knew that I couldn’t even look after their goldfish for a week without killing them. How the hell could I keep a baby alive?
Now that I was hyperventilating, Steve took control, as Steve always did when it came to my family.
Reassuring Wendy, Steve told her everything would be fine. Steve had learned the art of pacifying the Wilkins family down to a tee. It was amazing how just the calmness of his voice, and the serenity on his face, could get them to agree to anything when it came to me.
As he put the phone down, a wave of hysteria took over me, and I screamed, “What the hell were you thinking? Neither of us have any idea about bloody babies!’ Feeling a churning in my tummy, I ran to the bathroom to puke.
SNIPPET 3 LEARNER MUM
This was not me. I am Polly Wilkins, the independent career woman, a free spirit, who never lets anything get the better of her. Yet knowing it still did not stop the tears and mashed potato falling in globs from my chin, as I pulled congealed dinner out of my hair. All I wanted to do was lock the bathroom door, draw a hot bubble bath, and try to forget about today, in the hope that when I emerged fresh and revived, I would find Steve starting to prepare dinner and that it had all been a very bad dream. But I couldn’t. I left Josh, much as myself, covered in food, yet as happy as a pig in muck, grinding a rusk into the remains of his dinner on his tray. Shoving my head under the shower, I quickly rinsed my hair, grabbed a towel, and wrapped it around my head.
* * * *
As I walked down the hallway, it hit me like a smack in the chops. “Oh my God, what is that smell?” Had old Mr Thompson’s cat sneaked into the flat again? Or worse, Mr Thompson himself, both were renowned for roaming the corridors, and wandering into any flat where they found the door unlocked? I’m not saying Mr T., like his cat, left a steaming package in a corner, or peed up a chair leg; let’s just say a quick hello to Mr T. left your eyes stinging from the pungent ammonia pong. Only last month, I had padded naked out of the shower to find Mr T. sitting on the sofa watching another gruelling rerun of Murder She Wrote. Needless to say, that social call not only cost us an arm and a leg in steam cleaning, but now left me trying to avoid Mr T., who, when he looked at me, obviously only saw me naked.
Wandering around the lounge, I could not find any cat poop, and the smell definitely was not as strong in here. When I retraced my steps back to the hall, it seemed to be coming from the kitchen. Strangely, as I got nearer to Josh, the smell got increasingly worse. I didn’t need to be Einstein to know, seeing the strain on Josh’s face, what was happening down there in the depths of his nappy.
I looked up to the heavens above, hoping that someone up there would know what to do in this moment of sheer need. “Please, if you really have any feelings for my weak stomach, Steve will walk through that door right now.”
I looked at the door, willing it to open. I had to think fast on my feet. After all, wasn’t that what mothers did in emergency situations like these? They would spin around, and turn into Wonder Mum, or in my case, Blunder Woman. Whatever. I had to get Josh out of his cackey nappy, not only for my sake, this was surely a hazard to the environment. It was then I spied my rubber gloves. “Good, now those will come in useful, it’s bound to be messy down there.” Just thinking about it made my tummy churn. Then, like resolving a mathematical equation, I pulled open a kitchen drawer. Rifling through, I found what I was looking for: a surgical mask. Steve had bought each of us one for our trip to Asia, when the scares were on about bird flu. Togged up in my rubber gloves and mask, I took Josh to the changing mat, holding him way out at arm’s length. Josh had a worried look on his face, not quite making out what was happening, and why his strange aunt seemed to resemble the masked person who had brought him out into the world. Perhaps he thought I was about to push him back. Believe me, if Wendy had walked into the room then, I would have.
Things were going fine. Josh seemed happy to lie there, as I took off his trousers. Then, peeling back the little plastic tabs, and opening up his nappy, I took one whiff, and instantly began to retch. “This is definitely not what I have just fed you. Dear God in Heaven, what does my sister feed this child, fertilizer?” I began to pull the nappy away from Josh. “Yuck, yuck, yuck,” I whined, trying not to look, but at the same time, trying to roll the nappy, yet the sticky tabs just would not stick. The last thing I wanted was it to unfold and... “Oh! I can’t bear to think what is inside.” Grabbing Steve’s golfing magazine, I wrapped the nappy inside. “There, that will teach him to leave me.” And then it happened, something that I was not expecting: a fountain of pee shot into the air. Jeeze, could this day get any worse? Josh, with a load off his mind, was visibly enjoying his freedom, his little legs kicking in glee—well, let’s face it, how would you like to walk around all day with a cowpat stuck to your bum?
Through the gagging and the heaving, I was managing to clean his bum, when the telephone rang. “You just stay there,” I instructed Josh, keeping one hand firmly on his tummy, as I reached for the phone.
“Hi, it’s me,” my sister said. By the sounds of her happy, slightly slurred voice, she’d had a pre-dinner sherry. “Just thought I would call and see how things are going.”
“Oh, it’s all tickety-boo here.” My response sounded more sarcastic than I’d planned, but hopefully Wendy’s one sherry had numbed her perception.
“Sorry, Polly, this is a really bad line, you sound muffled. Perhaps it’s being overseas.”
Yes, the Croft’s Original had kicked in. I had forgotten the furthest Wendy had dared venture on her travels was Jersey, and then she had worried about drinking the water, and if the food would be different. After all, Jersey had French connections. Fighting to take my mask off, my towel fell over my face in the process. My hair now felt like cardboard, from not washing all of the food out.
“So I thought I would just say goodnight to my little munchkin.”
My heart skipped a beat as I looked around frantically. Josh had disappeared off his changing mat. “He’s not here, because…” Come on, think, Polly think, what would Wonder Mum say? I had now jumped up searching for my nephew under cushion covers, behind the sofa, “…because, he’s already asleep. You know, after a full day playing with his aunt Polly, the little darling is knackered.”
“Oh, bless his little cotton sock. So give him a big kiss from me when you see him.”
“Oh, I certainly will. ‘Bye,” I said, and abruptly ended the phone call.
I scanned the room for the little fellow—well—he could hardly have gone far, but in the next few minutes he’d made it far enough to make my lounge look like a war zone. There was a mighty crash, and the tower of CDS fell to the floor, followed by a chortle. I dashed over to find Josh, crawling over Steve’s pride collection, making his way towards my bookcase. Before I had a chance to stop him, he began pulling out my cherished books. He picked up my treasured copy of Little Women, and began sucking the cover. In all the excitement, and nappyless, I could not help and smile as Josh peed on Steve’s autographed copy of Tony Jacklin’s autobiography.