Monday 8 October 2012

From dysentery to disbelief

16st 0lb, 2.1 units. The keen observer (if this blog possesses one) will note that I appear to have gained more than 8lb of avoirdupois in just one week. And so my bathroom scales attest. What the keen observer will be missing, owing to my failure to write this blog more regularly, is that I also lost the aforementioned 8lb in the course of the week before my last entry.

My exclusive dietary secret? Recurring stomach cramps and the more or less instantaneous and explosive ejection of anything I ate. This in turn encouraged a total loss of appetite. Precisely the formula for obesity reduction that I have been seeking for the last 25 years.

I was so pleased with the resulting weight loss that I resolutely ignored Mrs H’s advice to go and see a doctor. It was clearly some sort of bug. Or at least it was to me, even though those with a smattering of medical knowledge advised me that no known bug would keep coming back every other day for more than a week.

It is pretty annoying, to be honest, to have piled all the weight back on in the course of a single weekend of reasonably normal eating. Though, to look on the bright side, I still have stomach pains and feel distinctly under the weather, so perhaps it will all have gone again by the time of my next blog entry.

If I haven’t died in the meantime.

The aforementioned weekend of reasonably normal eating fell into two distinct parts. In the first, I stayed at home and read a book while the rest of the family went out to a third birthday party. This was the condition in which they returned home:

I meanwhile got through a whole book in the course of a single day. Once upon a time this would have been wholly unremarkable. But that was before my attention span came under systematic assault from having a young family and, much more importantly, from e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

I was spurred on by historic acquaintance with the author and by total astonishment at the Marianas Trench-like depths of self-delusion on which his thesis was based.

Yesterday, Mrs H reactivated her Plan A for last weekend and we went out to play trains. First, at the pub near Wrexham where the local model engineering society offers free rides behind their miniature locomotives in an adjacent garden. Then on the Llangollen Railway, which I had not visited since I paid quite handsomely for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to drive the Flying Scotsman more than a decade ago, only for that jinxed locomotive to be pronounced unfit for service shortly before my date with it rolled around. I spurned the BR 2-6-0 offered in its stead, though an ex-fiancée and her father took my place on the footplate and had, as I recall, a thoroughly satisfying day.

Mrs H always likes to give trains, boats and planes a sporting chance to leave without her, so we duly arrived at the station at 14.59 for the 15.00 departure, which was also the last of the day.

I was glad we caught it, because it is a pretty line and The Boy was clearly enthralled, particularly by watching the locomotive uncouple and run around at the far end.

Though he insisted on addressing all his many questions to Mummy, who knows as much about trains as I do about childcare, and accordingly had to redirect them all to me. I think I acquitted myself quite well.

At one point I was moved to observe that “When Daddy was a little boy, all trains were like this” as the living museum chugged and rattled along. But I could tell that no one quite believed me. I must make contact with the author of that book I read on Saturday, and assure him that there is at least one person on the planet who knows how he must feel.

Monday 1 October 2012

Who knows where the time goes?

15st 6lb, zero units. I note, with little surprise, that it is three months since I managed to add so much as a word to this blog. My principal excuse is that I have been writing a book. Though this isn’t a particularly good excuse on two grounds.

First, it was only ever supposed to be a very short book. A “micro-book” as Mrs Doyle might well have called it, had Father Ted been invited to write it rather than me.

And, secondly, because I actually spent the first seven weeks of the three months available for the project thinking, “Oh God, why on earth did I sign that contract to write a book?” before putting in a single week of moderate activity which convinced me that I had more or less cracked it.

“It’s reached the stage,” I blithely announced to Mrs H, “of one of those child’s colouring books where the outline is all drawn. So the hard bit is done. Now I’ve just got to get my crayons out and do the colouring in.”

There was quite a lot of crayoning in the course of September. It was a bit like how I imagine a high level Liberal Democrat meeting to fill in the details of their next election manifesto, only with more chance of a successful outcome.

Then on Friday, which happily coincided with my publisher’s deadline, I pinged the thing off to my editor and prepared for a weekend of well-earned relaxation.

Only we made the mistake of involving The Boy in the decision-making process. And, despite my best efforts to sell him the delights of a sunny Saturday on a steam train, he insisted that what he wanted to do above all was to feed some animals.

Adding, when we were en route to a farm somewhere in the heart of England, that after that he wanted to go to a beach and build sandcastles.

We arrived at the farm in time for lunch, which was largely inedible. Quite an achievement on a working mixed farm, that.

The Boy said that he wanted a hot dog. Until it arrived, when he realised that it was the last thing he wanted. Mrs H read him the last of alternatives from the short menu.

“Is there anything else?” he asked, ever more plaintively.

He finally settled for a cheese sandwich. Processed white bread and Cheddar. He had to be bribed with the promise of an Oreo cookie if he got through a quarter of it.

The Boy enjoying his lunch
The Baby had a slightly better time, but then we brought his lunch with us

Then I was despatched back to the admission desk to buy a bag of animal food for what was, after all, the entire object of our visit. Only to be advised that feeding the animals had been banned on Elfin Safety grounds after the Great E.coli Scare a couple of years ago.

I naturally anticipated a meltdown on delivering this sad news, but somehow we got away with it through a process of distraction involving: (a) seeing a cow being milked

(b) making the acquaintance of a cart horse

(c) looking at some cute bunny rabbits

(d) playing in a sand pit

(e) watching some pigs racing and

(f) introducing The Boy to the concepts of:

(i) the space hopper and

(ii) the bouncy castle.

We got home exhausted and I bought fish and chips for tea, providing the cue for 36 hours in bed with a recurrence of the terrible stomach upset that had already ruined Monday and Wednesday of the preceding week.

It would be nice to be able to sue the owners of the farm on the grounds that it had been caused by contact with their animals, but in the circumstances I fear that it would be hard to make the charge stick.

Meanwhile The Boy went to bed “not happy”. Because he never got to feed his animals? No, because “there is a giant octopus in our garden.” At least that is one worry that will not be keeping me awake at night in the weeks ahead.