My Bundle Of Joy: Part Eleven

This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 815 words.

My thirty-ninth week got off to an unremarkable start. I had noticed a lot more movement, and a change in position of the bump. It wasn’t anything too drastic, but enough to make me notice the difference. Indigestion had got me up during the night, as well as two separate trips to the toilet needing to pee. Another lazy day followed, spent chatting to Rosa as she did my housework, me flopped on the sofa in front of the telly.

It was remarkable how quickly I had lost any feelings of guilt about another woman being paid to clean for me.

I must have dropped off watching some nonsense afternoon film, when I woke up feeling very thirsty. As I reached into a kitchen cupboard for a drinking glass, my waters broke with a gushing sound. It made me jump, and I dropped the glass onto the worktop. With my leggings and socks saturated, I felt like that time I had been paddling in the sea, and an unexpected wave had soaked me from the waist down. Pushing the pieces of glass away from the edge so they didn’t fall under my feet, I started to peel off my clothes right there, not wanting to drip everywhere on the way upstairs.

The main sensation was one of complete calm. It was happening, and I was ready for it.

After dumping the wet clothing on the floor, I walked slowly upstairs to have a wash, and put on a change of clothes. Still thirsty, I forgot about that for the time being, and rang the hospital. As always, they were completely unimpressed, telling me it could be a very long time yet. But as my waters had gone, they suggested I should come in and be checked.

The guy in the taxi firm was very efficient. “Ten minutes, love. He will sound his horn”. I scrolled down to dial Olly, and got a massive cramping pain across my lower abdomen that made me gasp. They had been right when they said I would know the difference. All the instructions came to mind, and I knew I had to time it. I checked the time on my phone, and started to walk to the door. In my head, I was doing my checks. Hospital bag. Yes. Maternity Book inside bag. Yes. Keys to lock the door. Yes. I hadn’t bothered to turn off the telly, that was the least of my worries.

I was standing behind the front door like someone waiting for a train on a platform, just in case I missed the taxi driver’s sounding of his horn. Then it came again, hard enough to make me bend double, and have to rest against the door to stop sinking all the way to the mat. A voice in my head yelled to me. ‘Too soon!’ Luckily, the taxi turned up just as I had recovered sufficiently to stand up. Blowing the air out of my cheeks, I went out and locked the door behind me.

As I walked to the car, the driver jumped out and ran over to grab my bag. “You okay, lady? Is the baby coming?” He spoke English with an accent that I took to be from the Middle East, judging by his physical appearance. I managed a weak smile, and told him he could relax. It was my first. I didn’t so much as sit in the back, as fall into it. I felt more like an Elephant Seal than a human, as I struggled to right myself. Unlike most cabbies of my experience, he didn’t tell me his life story, or say much at all. But he did say the same thing at least three times, perhaps four. “You go to Saint Mary’s, yes? In the city, yes?

After he had asked me the third time, I got a searing pain in my crotch, and shouted out loud. It made him jump, and he almost didn’t stop at a red light. I could see his eyes in the rear-view mirror, checking me out. He looked worried. Then I made the connection of a worried man, and me having a baby.

I had forgotten to ring Olly.

Pulling my phone from the handbag, I dialled his number. But it was answered by one of the juniors, who told me he was in the afternoon meeting. I asked them to go and interrupt it, and tell them Olly was about to be a father, if they tried to stop him.

When the taxi pulled into an ambulance space outside the hospital, I paid the driver and told him to keep the change. He handed me my bag after I struggled out, then wished me good luck.

It was a toss-up as to who was most relieved. Me for arriving at the hospital, or him for getting me out of his cab.

The Modern Salonnière

Pippa has let us know the sad news of the death of Sarah Vernon. Accomplished actress and artist, and one of the cornerstones of our blogging community for many years. She published the sites Rogues and Vagabonds, First Night Design, First Night History, and First Night Art. One of the first bloggers I followed, and someone I am proud to say I counted as a good friend.

Pippa Rathborne's SCRATCH POST

This is a post from 2013 dedicated to my great friend, Sarah Vernon, who died last week.

Through bad health and bad luck, Sarah’s acting career was cut short. Like many actors’ children, she could never be sure if she would have gone into the entertainment industry if her parents had not been actors. It wasn’t an industry for Sarah: it was a romance and an art. Being an actor wasn’t a job for Sarah: it was body and soul, an act of love uniting emotional aspiration with technical accomplishment, a child’s dream of perfection made real. Don’t put your daughter on the stage.

Sarah could have been a casualty of the devil’s profession, but she had a brain, a life-sustaining sense of humour, and other artistic and literary talents. She engaged in the present and the past with equal intellectual force, she was computer and internet savvy, and…

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My Bundle Of Joy: Part Ten

This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 730 words.

I have to confess that ringing my boss and hearing her reaction was very gratifying. She had obviously expected me to roll over and accept her terms, but when I said I would confirm my resignation by email, she appeared to be stumped for a reply. After another pointless attempt to get me to come in from midday to five, she said she would work out any oustanding annual leave, and contact the HR department about any pay that was due, and my pension entitlements.

I would like to add that she wished me well, and asked me to reconsider. But she didn’t.

I wasn’t going to count on much of a reference from her in the future.

Olly threw himself into making sure that I didn’t do anything remotely strenuous. Without even asking me, he employed a local company to send someone in to clean the house. Four hours on Mondays, and two hours on Friday afternoons. It was good to see him being in control for once, to be frank. He had long left almost everything to me, even the bills and paperwork.

The cleaner’s name was Rosa, and she was from Poland, like Mariusz next door. There was quite a large Polish community in the area, as we had soon discovered.

When she found out that I had quit my job, my mum seemed to see that as a signal that she could come over more often. Every time she arrived, she had bagfuls of things. Clothes for Leah, groceries that I didn’t need, as well as gadgets like a baby monitor and a thing that hung over the cot side to play lullabies. I didn’t mind those visits as much as I thought I would. Being at home all day had been fine at first, but only seeing Rosa for a few hours left me devoid of company until Olly got home. I had started to watch too much daytime telly, and stuff myself with unhealthy snacks.

Although I had never kept in touch with most of my friends from my teens, even those few I saw now and again didn’t fancy the drag out to the suburbs to visit. Most of them seemed to be waiting for the birth, when they could show up wth a suitable gift, cuddle the baby for a while, then think of a reason why they had to leave. Mum wanted to arrange a baby shower, but I told her not to bother.

There was every likelihood we would be the only ones there.

By the time I got to thirty-five weeks, Olly had built the cot from a flatpack, and my baby bag was packed and ready by the door. There was a stock of newborn nappies in the second bedroom, as well as a pile of baby clothes. Olly had become an expert shopper in just a couple of months, refusing to hear about me accompanying him, even when I told him that there was only so much rest a person could have.

I was wearing bigger bras, and a size larger shoes. And I was still peeing at an Olympic Gold Medal level.

Some occasional sharp pains had scared me enough to contact the midwife at Saint Mary’s. She rang me back and reassured me that everything was normal, and told me I would know the difference when I was in labour. I told her I couldn’t feel Leah moving around that much, and she glossed over that too. It seemed that whenever I had any doubts or fears, I ended up feeling like a panicky time-waster.

I avoided asking my mum anything, as she would launch into a monologue about how she had me and my brother as easy as shelling peas. I doubted that of course, and knew that she thought she was sparing me the worst in case it upset me.

Olly and I had a talk about not calling an ambulance when I thought I was in labour. I was scared they might take me to County General again, and though everyone had been lovely there, I wanted to stick with my first choice. He said I should ring him first, then ring a taxi. No point him commuting home to take me in the car, unless it happened while he was at home of course.

But when it happened, he wasn’t at home.

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4 out of 5 stars The Title and the Cover are only to suck you in to a not handholding and bouquets romp Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2020

First, I don’t read books like this. It requires no more suspension of disbelief than any other genre, but ghosts and vampires and sex and all that? I leave it to experts. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. Did I agree with it? No. Did I find the characters…

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Waking Up To Snow

Late last night, it was still feeling very cold despite leaving the heating on until almost bedtime. I thought about the old and rather silly saying popular in England. “Too cold for snow”.

Sure enough, I woke up to see around three inches of snow settled on the back lawn, and needed no further prompting to go straight back to bed until 9:30.

The falling flakes have now turned to hard sleet. Driven by gusty winds, it is cracking against the windows, and beginning to melt the snow.

Other than taking Ollie for a walk later, I won’t be going anywhere today.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Nine

This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 725 words.

A very tired-looking female doctor turned up twenty minutes later. Reading through some notes, and inspecting the two monitors, she smiled. “We are sure everything is okay, but I am going to keep you in tonight, just to make certain. You must rest, try not to worry, and trust us to look afer you. You will be allowed home tomorrow lunchtime, I expect. I am suggesting lots of rest and feet up though. No heavy lifting or exertion, and avoid driving or standing for too long”. She breezed out of the room before I could ask her any questions.

But I had forgotten what I was going to ask her anyway.

Olly stayed for about an hour, until the big midwife returned and suggested he should leave me to try to sleep. Given all the shouting and toing-and froing outside the room, I doubted I would. Olly said he would phone my boss for me, and take time off tomorrow to come and collect me. I told him to get a taxi home, and not to try to work out what buses he might need.

The same doctor came to see me not long after I had hungrily demolished a breakfast they brought me. The monitors were taken off, and I had another ‘downstairs inspection’, before I was told I could go home as soon as Olly could collect me. I wondered how long that doctor had been awake, and whether or not she had got any sleep during the night. A porter was arranged to wheel me to the main reception, but I had to get dressed in the same clothes I was wearing when I arrived the previous evening. I just wanted a proper sleep, after a much needed shower or bath.

On the drive home, Olly spoke to me seriously, after first asking me not to interrupt. He talked about the possibility of me leaving my job. With the cheaper mortgage, it wasn’t as if we needed the money to get by, and last night had given him such a bad shock, he had been awake most of the night deciding to broach the idea of me becoming a stay at home mum. At least until Leah started school. When he had finished, he looked over at me anxiously, probably expecting me to reply with a flat out no.

If so, he was wrong.

I told him that I had been thinking too. We had already both taken some unscheduled time off, and there was a long way to go until I qualified for maternity leave. I agreed to call my boss that afternoon, and ask her whether or not I could work from home using my laptop. I confessed that I hated the train journey, and being squashed in the carriage with so many people. I couldn’t imagine how horrible it would be once the weather warmed up, and I was much bigger. By coincidence, Olly’s suggestion had provided me with a way out that I hadn’t wanted to talk to him about myself.

Work was not as accommodating as I had hoped. At first, she suggested I go in part-time. Just in the afternoons, to avoid the crush on the rush-hour trains. Olly shook his head at that, so I pressed the work from home idea. She said that just wasn’t suitable, and admitted that if she let me do it, she expected a few others to ask for the same concession. After leaving the call hanging in the air for a while, she dealt her last card. “Maybe you should rethink if this job is something you really want to do, Angela? Why not take a week off, and let me know whether or not you want to come back?”

It had been on speaker, and as soon as I hung up, Olly shook his head. “No way. Just ring her back next week, and tell her you’re resigning. Once Leah goes to school in five years or so, there might be other things you want to do. We can manage perfectly well on what I earn. In fact, we are better off than we were living in the flat, even without your salary”. I nodded, and agreed to think about it.

Becoming a pregnant housewife was a big change, and not something I had ever considered.

Special Birthdays In Lockdown

(**Update**. I am aware that so many people are spending birthdays alone today, or worse still, in hospital. This post is not meant to suggest that either Julie or I are badly off, in any way.)

Most of us feel something different about birthdays that announce a new decade. Whether it is 30, 40, 50, or even 80, there is undeniably something special about them. When you are 20, you are no longer a teenager, and if you see your 90th year, you are doing pretty well even in this day and age.

My wife Julie is 60 today. Bad enough having a January birthday in winter weather and so soon after Christmas in any year. But in one of the worst periods in living memory, a lockdown birthday when you have to go to work puts the tin hat on it.

When I was 50, Julie treated me to a long weekend in Rome. It was mid-March, and we enjoyed exceptionally warm weather. When she was 50, I took her to Prague to celebrate. Cold but dry, and very interesting. A couple of years ago, we started to plan where to go for Julie’s 60th. A few days in a place neither of us had ever been. Perhaps Valetta in Malta, or Gibraltar. Our neighbour kindly offered to take care of Ollie in our absence. Our plan was to book that holiday in January 2020, a year in advance.

Well, we all know what happened.

On the 26th of December, the second lockdown arrived. I couldn’t take her into Norwich to choose her special gift from the jeweller’s shop, as it is non-essential. And the restaurant where we had hoped to celebrate can only supply a takeaway meal. The one we had chosen doesn’t offer that option.

That leaves Julie celebrating her big Six-O with no gift from me, and an Indian takeaway that we could have any other night of the week. And she has had to go into work. As she works for the NHS in a local doctor’s, it would have seemed rather lame to request holiday leave because it is her birthday.

And just to remind us that we live in Beetley, and it is January, it has been raining solidly for 24 hours.

Happy Birthday, Julie.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Eight

This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 746 words.

Despite the discovery in my knickers, I was surprisngly calm, and decided to enjoy that hot bath anyway. But when the water turned pink, I lost my nerve. I wanted to be sensible. I already knew that such bleeding wasn’t that unusual, so I rang the NHS non-emergency helpline as I sat wrapped in a towel. The young woman went through her prompt screens in a very sympathetic tone, and I managed to answer all her questions without raising my voice. But when a peek under the towel showed fresh bright red blood, I lost it. “It’s starting again! I’m bleeding onto the towel now!”

It was decided to send an emergency ambulance, so I quickly dragged on some clothes and sent Olly a text telling him to meet me at the hospital, but not to worry. How stupid was that? Like he wouldn’t worry reading that text.

The ambulance arrived in less than twenty minutes. The man and woman crew were very nice, but insisted on going over all the questions I had answered on the phone, as well as taking my blood pressure a couple of times before they got a small wheelchair to take me to the ambulance. They had left the blue lights flashing, and I got the first sight of the immediate neighbours when I saw them standing in their open doorway watching the proceedings.

We had met Mariusz, the retired widower who lived on the unattached side, but had never even seen the neighbours in the house attached to ours. They looked to be either Indian or Pakistani. The woman had a veil covering her face, and the man was wearing one of those little white cotton hats.

Unbelievably, I waved to them as I was wheeled up the ramp into the ambulance. Why did I do that?

Before the ambulance drove off, the girl got me to lie flat on the stretcher, then inserted a needle into the side of my wrist and attached a bag of fluid to the connector. “Just normal saline, nothing to worry about”. I was clutching my Maternity Book as if it was a first edition of the Gutenberg Bible. Nothing would have prised that out of my hand. The drive was sedate, no sense of urgency. The ambulance girl wrote all my details down onto something, and chatted amicably on the way. When she asked me if I had ever been to The General before, I suddenly panicked. “No, no. We are supposed to be going to Saint Mary’s. That’s my hospital. Look, it’s on my book”.

She patiently explained that they had to take me to the nearest hospital, unless I was full term, and in labour. The County General was easier to get to than driving into the city, and closer in terms of miles too. Then I got in a flap about Olly, who I knew full well would be heading across the city, and might even be at Saint Mary’s already. I asked if I could send him a text, and she nodded.

When they got me into the Casualty Department and spoke to the nurse in charge, she decided to send me to Maternity, to see a midwife. The ambulance people put me in a wheelchair, and a chirpy porter wheeled me along a maze of corridors until we got to where I could hear women yelling and swearing from behind a row of closed doors. An enormous West Indian midwife came up to me. “Okay, lets go in here and have a look at you, my darlin'”. And she had a good look. Someone else arrived with a monitor that was attached to my belly, and we could soon hear the fast beep of Leah’s heart. The first midwife smiled, perfect white teeth glinting in the bright lights. “Ah, baby’s doing okay, honey”.

They had bleeped a doctor to come and see me, but the next time the door opened, it was Olly who walked in. He looked ashen, and was visibly trembling. “Are you alright, Ang? The baby? Have we lost her?” I managed to calm him down, and listened as he told me how he had actually run all the way to Saint Mary’s from work, before reading my text. He had then stood in front of a taxi to make it stop for him, telling the driver his partner was ‘critically ill’ in County General.

Then I started to sob uncontrollably.

My Bundle Of Joy: Part Seven



This is the seventh part of a fiction serial, in 816 words.

If Olly hated his commute to work, he didn’t complain. The work was done quickly on the house, and despite some considerable disruption with the installation of the wiring and new heating system, the worst was soon over. He had given up on the idea of the folding doors, as that involved major reconstruction, but new double-glazed doors and windows had been ordered, and everything was slowly starting to feel like home.

The glazing company claimed that they would replace all the windows and the back door in one working day. I thought that was a boast, but when six blokes turned up at seven one morning, I was amazed to discover that they had fitted the lot before I got home from work. Olly had taken the day off to be around, and he had nothing but praise for their efficiency. Just as well, as it had cost a mint.

And as I got bigger, I felt better. I started to embrace my bump, which we both now called Leah, and to even feel sexy again. That certainly pleased Olly. Mum and dad had been over twice, and I managed not to argue with her about her unwanted suggestions regarding decoration and furniture, The early insecurities were wearing off, and I really felt like a mum-to-be.

Even though I had started to walk like a duck.

The far too big sofa went up on Gumtree, and Olly warned the prospective buyers that they would need a big van and some strong hands to get it around the side entrance. Two dropped out when they realised we were not about to deliver it, but the third couple actually turned up, and bought it for fifty quid less than the asking price. That left us sitting on big cushions until the two smaller sofas arrived four days later. With the dining room empty, my dad came over to help Olly set up the dining table, which had been dismantled for the move. Once we had that back in play, I felt we were finally in a home, and not a warehouse.

I did feel gulty when Olly finally put his Citroen up for sale. But it was over thirty years old, and it had got to the stage that if it started first time, Olly would do a fist-pump with joy. The funny thing was that it attracted a lot of attention, and became involved in something of a bidding war. Olly was very pleased to tell me that confirmed its classic status. He had owned it for almost twelve years, and it sold for twice that he had paid for it.

We got a taxi to the Ford dealership next to the supermarkets. There was a bus, but it was a long walk to the trading estate from the bus stop. I liked a Focus that was an ex-demonstrator, top of the range model. Olly had to admit that the otherwise dull-looking grey car was indeed packed with features that his Citroen could only dream of. Heated windscreen, electric mirrors, reversing beeper, and air conditioning. And that was only the start. Built-in Satnav, amazing fuel economy, and a very quiet engine. I stood back and let him haggle with the salesman, and he was happy once the deal was done.

It would be sorted out for us to collect in a couple of days. On the way home, I asked Olly to add my name to the insurance. Although I had passed my test when I was eighteen, I hadn’t owned a car, and had no desire to ever drive Olly’s Citroen. But I was quite looking forward to running Leah around in the new Ford. When I told my parents, mum insisted on ordering a swish baby car seat that lifted out to become a carry-cot. Olly laughed at the news. “Bloody Ford Focus, and a baby seat in it too. Now I know it’s all over, Ang!”

We had both kissed goodbye to the last vestiges of youth, that was certain.

The decorators that Olly found online were surprising efficient. In the first three days, they stripped off all the old wallpaper using some fierce-looking steam machines, and filled in all the holes caused by the rewiring. When they came back the following week, they started to paint the rooms using the colours we had chosen, and did the lot in ten days. Two coats.

I was even getting used to having to stand on the train journey to work. People don’t give up seats to pregnant women, even those with big bumps. They look at their phones or newspapers, and pretend they can’t see you. One night I got home with a bad backache. Olly sometimes got back later than me, so I decided to go and have a hot bath. As I got undressed, I noticed something in my knickers.

Tiny spots of blood.

Don’t Sign!

A warning from Stevie, based on her own experience!

Stevie Turner

This is a scheduled post and I will answer any comments tomorrow.

Recently I read a blog from a self-published author who was thrilled to bits to gain a publishing deal. She had signed the rights to her book over to the publisher, and of course now looked forward to the royalties from many future sales.

However, I’ve been on a steep learning curve over the past 8 years regarding the integrity of small publishers. In order to satisfy my own curiosity I went on to Google and typed in ‘Writer Beware‘ and the name of the lady’s publisher. As I suspected, there were many complaints about this particular publisher regarding the amount of ‘set up fees’ needed and the lack of any royalties.

I’m sure most of us have been taken in by small publishers at one time or another at the beginning of our writing careers…

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