One minute it’s June and the next it’s October. At least that’s what it feels like. Time flies when you’re changing nappies and chasing after offspring all day. When I was ‘on the road’ so much happens in so little time that an hour can feel like a day and a week can feel like a month. Still, I know I’ll be on the road again but with a few extra sets of mini wheels beside me. And probably a pannier-full of nappies.
Molly can now make it in a scoot-a-long fashion on her bike up and down the two-mile stretch of road from our home. Next stop Africa.
When Daisy flopped out at the end of April I felt my small fleet of potential cyclists was increasing in promising style. Daisy was a cheap birthday present for Gary’s mum, Nanny Val, as she was born on her 69th birthday. Unfortunately, Nanny Val was completely unaware of her small, compact and somewhat noisy present because she was rushed by ambulance to Dorchester’s A and E. So I maybe didn’t time Daisy’s entry into this world quite so well after all.
Nanny Val aside, giving birth to Daisy proved quite an amusing event. First there was the middle of the night 20-mile mercy dash down to the hospital during which an astounding array of badgers, foxes, rabbits, deer and rodents attempted to throw themselves under the wheels of the camper van. It was like being on some Wild West Sussex safari. Who needs Africa when we’ve got our own suicidal excitement on our doorstep? Gary said that any minute they’d be flying heifers launching an aerial attack on the roof.
My ‘birthing partners’ (as they’re called in the trade) was the chippying husband (who came armed with a woodturning magazine for any dull moments – huh! – as if they’d be any of those!) a bag of Hula Hoops (or finger hoops as Molly calls them) and a pair of spare underpants (in case we were in for the long haul). My other partner of a birthing nature was my sister-in-law Mel – the one who, when she wasn’t yet my sister-in-law but a mere brother’s girlfriend, rang me up from work in 1988 and said she was bored with her job. ‘Let’s cycle to Morocco, then,’ I said. So we did.
Mel came armed with the most comical party trick ever invented. The day before she had been to the dentist and sustained a masochistic barrage of five injections in her upper gum to have her front tooth removed that was now temporarily filled with a denture-like replacement. With a simple yet impressive flick of the tongue, this impostor of a tooth could go flying across the room like a Frisbee. One midwife nearly lost an eye thanks to this flying tooth. The fact that it resembled one of those little scoops that come with mini ice
cream tubs only added to the amusement factor. All this, I hasten to add, was going on while I was trying to push what felt like an impossibility out of my birth canal. The midwife said she had never known anyone to laugh her way through labour.
We’re probably getting a bit of a dubious name for ourselves at this hospital because apart from arriving there on my bike the day before I gave birth and given sideways looks, I had another incident there last year when, post miscarriage, I was ushered into a windowless room to have an internal examination. Gary was with me and for some reason numerous items of medical equipment kept falling out of cupboards on their own accord. Then the male doctor dropped some more bits so Gary said there must be a strong gravity area in the room. In my precarious hormonal state of unpredictability this comment struck me as very funny. On top of this, my hospital notes had me down as Josie Appleton (my married name) but, just as the bearded doctor was levering himself into his surgical gloves and prising my legs apart he said, ‘Are you also Josie Dew?’
‘I’m afraid so,’ I said.
‘Ah, I thought so,’ he replied. ‘I’ve read all your books! I feel I already know you.’
‘You’re about to know me even better!’ I said.
It was all a bit embarrassing but most amusing all the same.