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Archive for January, 2009

You know how when you get married there are one or two guests at your wedding that you had never met before and never end up meeting again? Well, for me and One Little Bird (OLB) – one of my husband’s friends from his uni days and one-time housemate –  we were that person for each other for nine long years, especially since neither of us thought to get married again in order for our paths to cross. Oh, and living in different countries for most of that time probably also played a part. 

Then last weekend, we finally met again with our husbands and assorted children at the beach with slightly uncertain expectations – at least on my part. OLB had herself the advantage of occasionally reading my blog in the interim years (she’s my rarely-mentioned fourth reader) so she would have definitely been expecting a harried-looking woman in unironed clothes barely maintaining control of her children or her bladder. I, unfortunately, was worried that I wouldn’t recognise her without her wedding dress on but was reassured by the fact she would be accessorized by her sister Jools, with whom I’ve had the fortune and pleasure of meeting numerous times outside of “smart casual dress” occasions. 

But there was something else – some other, entirely self-induced expectation in the air. In the car on the way to the beach, I had found myself singing “First we take Manhattan… then we take Berlin” for no apparent reason. This little musical interlude was then followed by a short monologue about how I was pretty certain that it had originally been a Leonard Cohen song and how there’d been that 80s cover version by a female singer, but who that singer was I could not remember for the life of me.

“OLB or Jools might know”, my husband suggested, either because he had no idea himself or was hoping to put an end to the conversation. “Or even Mr D.”

All we knew about Mr D – OLB’s husband – was that he had resumed his studies since returning to Australia. “Perhaps he’s doing a degree in musicology at the School of Rock”, I said hopefully. 

“Or at least doing a thesis on songs that contain the word ‘Berlin’,” added my husband. 

“I wonder how many songs *do* mention Berlin,” I mused. 

“A hundred?” guessed my husband. “Certainly enough for a PhD.”

That was certainly heartening news – not just because I might get the answer to my question but also because those hard-earned tax-dollars (of my husband’s) might still be funding such Important Works.

But in all the excitement of meeting up on the beach with everyone and me cracking all the “Why aren’t you wearing your wedding dress?” jokes (my, how we laughed), I never did get to find out A) what Mr D was studying or B) the answer to my question (at least not at the time – thanks to the power of google, I now know the singer to be Jennifer Warnes but, quite frankly, it would have been much more exciting if Mr D had simply handed me his leatherbound PhD and said “The answer to your question lies within”.).  

And for the record, I totally lost sight of my children at least four times on the beach and ended up sitting in a puddle of cordial and so at least maintained the illusion that I had lost control of my bladder. And thus I neatly lived up to any expectations OLB might have had of me after all these years – just like that! You see, I do so hate to disappoint.

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After seven straight years of back-to-back pregnancy and breastfeeding, I’m finally getting rid of my maternity and nursing bras. 

And for those more Frugal Types who are no doubt thinking “Surely you could get a few more years wear out of them”, I’d like to present you with an arty shot I took of my two “skin” coloured ones (which these days would only match my skin tone if, say, I had been struck down by the Black Plague) as taken through the hole in one of my black ones, which has been sprouting small white elastic hairs for about a year now like an old lady’s chin. 

bras

Signed and framed prints available.

And so with the departure of these dear friends, a rather large vacancy has opened up in my wardrobe – and with it, the excuse to do something I have not done in years: to gaze upon my reflection under the unforgiving lights in the fitting room of the David Jones lingerie department. And my, what a sight I am to behold! All helped, no less, by some slip of a girl in the next cubicle saying to the shop assistant: “Yeah, the 10B fits just fine but I think I’ll have to go the size 8 in the g-string”. For the record, the last time I wore a g-string, Eiffel 65 was still in the charts and it only made me feel like I was giving myself a day-long wedgie. 

ANYWAY, people who know me well will know how hopelessly sentimental I can be and how I like to imbue objects and actions with capital S Symbolism. So with the metaphoric burning of these bras, I’ve been feeling I’m just one step further away from those child-bearing years I started lamenting in my recent post “The First Official Sleep-over“.

Gone now are those days (and nights) where the Mystery Guest inside my burgeoning belly  kicked and squirmed and even punched my husband in the head (Fact.) and when my stomach quite frankly looked its best (recently I tried on a dress and actually thought “If I was pregnant I could carry it off”).

No more shall I have those tell-tale wet spots on my shirt that announced “It’s dinner time!” and have little eyes look up at me so intently and solemnly while the Very Serious Business of breast-feeding was in progress – until, of course, I made a silly noise or tickled the feeder’s feet, in which case those eyes turned all merry and the milk ran out the corners of a smiling mouth.

And never again will I sit night after night in that feeding chair holding a baby and wondering how I managed to make something so utterly and divinely beautiful or why the hell this Thing never seems to want to sleep. Or both.

And so this is goodbye. Goodbye, goodbye to the crazy, beautiful, exhausting intensity of it all…

Recently, when I was watching my cousin L-Beer holding the little hands of her 10 month old daughter (the beautiful Baby C) and walk around and around the house, all with her back just slightly hunched over in that special way that all spinal-health experts advise against, I saw how far along I had come that parenting road. My children can walk around and even climb large unstable structures by themselves (without any help, thank you mum), they can now feed themselves (mostly), they are better at telling me when they feel sick or sad or angry or even bored (mostly bored), and I can even have a brief shower while alone in the house with them (with the door open, of course).

I know that there are many (many!) new dangers and delights on that road ahead: my son’s first forays into Saturday morning sports, navigating those Hannah-Montana and Bratz-infested waters, being able to have a shower or go to the toilet with the door closed and much much (much!) more… But here it is: that mummy-intensive time, when I was their entire world and they were mine, is over. 

So goodbye old friends. Thanks for the mammaries…

bras2

They never let me down during my let-down.

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It’s hard to imagine why a car’s central locking system would automatically lock itself if the drivers’ seat side was not the first door to be opened. And yet that’s one of the features of KT’s station wagon, which she has kindly lent me while the Love Bus is in Time Out at the mechanics (see “Road-Testing Times“). And it is a feature that she has warned me about in no uncertain terms, repeatedly advising me to always put the car keys on the top of the car while I strap the children into their seats.  And each time, I’ve said “Yeah, yeah, sure, okay, whatever,” in that casual way of mine which gives the very correct impression that I haven’t quite listened to what she has told me. No offence, KT. But lock the keys in the car… Moi?

Moi, indeed. Well, let’s just refer to the incident report that our neighbour the Mason might have submitted to the authorities, had he been peering through his net curtains  yesterday  morning (which he wasn’t) and had he overheard KT’s stern warnings about her car’s locking system (which he didn’t).  

10.00 AM: the NDM is sighted leaving the house with her children in a great rush and heads straight for the passenger side, which she merrily opens BEFORE the driver’s door, DESPITE ALL WARNINGS TO THE CONTRARY. 
10.01 AM: the NDM seems to realise her mistake and makes a mental note to keep the aforementioned passenger door open FOR THE DURATION 
10.02 AM: the NDM throws her handbag ALONG WITH ALL KEYS IN HER HAND onto the front seat, DESPITE ALL WARNINGS NOT TO DO SO.  
10.15 AM the NDM has managed to finally strap her two younger children into their childseats. 
10.16 AM the NDM runs inside to retrieve a forgotten item, giving her oldest child explicit instructions to run around to his side of the car and let himself in. 
10.17 AM: the NDM emerges from the house less than 30 seconds later to find the car alarm going off, all car doors firmly shut and her oldest child standing by with a “I didn’t do it!” look on his face. 

Sheesh! You’d think the Mason might have been included the events that occurred between 10.16 and 10.17 AM so that I might find out what the hell happened there. In any case, there we were, with all the car doors shut and locked, the alarm going off, and with the keys and two small children on the inside of the car. The alarm thankfully stopped pretty quickly, but those doors remained locked. Luckily the Pixie was able to reach the lock on her door from her seat so was able to ostensibly unlock it. But when I lifted the door handle, I found that it did not open the door at all, but instead rather kindly set off the car alarm again. Of course we had to repeat this little dance no less than three more times before I finally realised that it wasn’t going to work – all I needed to have done was to punctuate each time with a “Doh!” and the scene would have been complete. 

Stirred, but not shaken, I quickly ran inside for the handsfree phone to ring KT but without luck – she wasn’t home or answering her mobile phone. Doh! It was then that I proceeded to gently coach the Pixie on how to do a series of tasks she’d never done before (well, as gently as one can be when shouting through a glass window): undoing the button on her childseat harness (“Push and pull! Push and pull!”), wriggling out of the childseat altogether, lengthening the straps of the harness (“Pull and pull!”), and turning the window handle. She was trying so hard but getting absolutely nowhere – her Houdini skills have always been far less honed than her brothers’ – and I could sense she was on the verge of giving up all together and hitting the thumb Big Time after over three months on the wagon. 

It was then that I got the call from KT and got the green light to ring that Roadside Assistance company that I seem to be hangin’ out with a lot lately. And it was while I was on the phone that my 2IC Mr Justice took up the coaching role – but less in the style of a gently encouraging mummy and more akin to the father character in “Shine” – and he quickly whipped The Pixie into a Rachmaninov-style breakdown. And when the Pixie cracks it, she normally takes T. McGee with her – so by the time I was off the phone, I had the two of them absolutely bawling inside the car and the Roadside Assistant guy at least 15 minutes away. 

It was then I realised that I needed Flat Foods and I needed them fast (anyone who has read Douglas Coupland’s “Microserfs” will know what I’m on about). After furiously rummaging through the Treats Cupboard, I found some individually-wrapped Lindt chocolate squares to slide through the tiny gap at the top of the window. Which seemed to calm everyone down until I made the mistake of slipping through one of the 85% cocoa ones that tastes worse than dog shit to a young palette and McGee started wailing again, taking The Pixie with him. 

Luckily it was at precisely this moment that the Roadside Assistance guy turned up and, within a few minutes, my now chocolate-coated children were free and the whole ordeal was over.  

Now, not to blow my own horn or anything, I have to say that I was incredibly calm throughout the whole thing. And not just calm but Field Nurse Calm. It wasn’t until later, after I’d run my errands, dropped Mr Justice off at his play-date and thought to ring my husband with the news of what had just gone down, that I suddenly remembered the sight of those little crying faces trapped inside the car and me on the outside unable to help them or even hug them and the reality of it all hit me like a tonne of bricks. If this had happened two days previously when the air temperature outside soared to 38 degrees (that’s 100.4 for you fahrenheit types), I wouldn’t have had any time up my sleeves for gentle (or otherwise) coaching or flat foods. Instead I would have had to take a brick and just smash my way through the furthest window from my children without any thought of the inconvenience or costs of getting it fixed. That’s what mothers do: they go to any length to protect their children from danger. They just can’t help themselves. It would help, though, if that primal urge to protect extended itself to the careful listening to and obeying of sternly delivered instructions to avoid that danger in the first place… Just sayin’, NDM. Just sayin’. 

Yeah, yeah, I hear you. Or at least I hope I do.

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Two bloggers. Two different hemispheres. One vision (largely impaired by too much clutter, dirt and booze). Exposed for all the world to see as Housekeepers Of Ill-Repute, Proprietresses of Dubious Maternal Instinct and Woefully Neglectful Wives.

Here they are, flashing their dirty bits yet again in the third (and final) of three simultaneous postings. Click here to read the sister post.

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On a recent visit to my aunt and uncle’s home, I slept like a Queen in a bed that was a little something like this:

palatialbedroom

Your boudoir awaits, m'lady.

Well, it wasn’t quite like that but let’s just say it may as well have been, considering my husband slept on the floor like this:

dogbed

Luxury!

Yes. Yes, it’s true. I made my husband sleep in with the kids. On the floor. Like a dog.

And for the record, he said he slept okay, except for the three times Tiddles McGee woke up him and when Mr Justice dropped a bionicle on his head some time around the dawn. (An aside: have you ever stepped on a piece of Bionicle weaponry? And how many stitches did you require? Is it no surprise that Lego is behind all this Bionicles madness? Watch out, Lego. That class action of mine is a steam-train a’coming… see “Unwrapped” for more details).

Now, let’s consider the clothes storage arrangements in our household:

feast

For the Imelda Marcos of Jackets

VS.

famine

Knock yourself out, hubby!

And hang on on dog garn moment, Mr Important City Gent: what’s going on with those socks? 

One of these things is not like the other...

One of these things is not like the other...

Could it have something to do with this impressive assortment of odd-socks that I had AFTER I’d done the bi-annual Big Sort?  

The Joy of Odd Socks

The Joy of Odd Socks

And as for this common household appliance that I literally have not used in over three years:

Sorry. Have we met?

Sorry. Have we met?

Are you getting the picture here? In case I have to spell it out for you: my husband is a second class citizen in his own home. And that home is a sock-eating slum, run by a slovenly witch who merrily exposes her décolletage in country pubs but wears neck-to-knee nightgowns to bed at night. Who not only blogs instead of reuniting his odd socks or ironing his shirts, but blogs about about his Ultimate Sacrifice (that pissy little day-surgery procedure also known as the vasectomy) and every single time he enters his own Private Hangover Hell, and then posts photos of her Gross Domestic Neglect for all the world to see. And all with the full knowledge that People From His Work will read it (even if he, himself, will not). 

Yes, my husband has himself a wife who got Decidedly Grumpy with him when he a) slipped a disc in his lower spine instead of resettling the baby; and b) tried to get out of reading books to his firstborn by lying on the ground with a dislocated arm. A wife who will only kick the cat when he’s not around to Take The Brunt of it All. Who will not let him slurp his tea within a 100m radius of the house. A wife who, time and time again, puts him at the very bottom of her list of priorities because he is the least likely to throw a tantrum or shit his pants. Who gets set off by the smallest thing and raves and rants because That’s How She Really Feels and then the next day is sheepishly “raising the Japanese Flag” and reaching for the tampons. Who stands between him and his Other Woman, the motorbike, by rolling her eyes and stamping her pudgy little foot. Who tells him she loves him but yawns mid-sentence. Who. Can. Not. Make. Yorkshire. Puddings. Like. His. Nana. Used. To. Make. 

And yes, I am that slovenly witch, that bitch of a wife, that woman he has vowed to have and to hold (no easy task in itself considering my rapidly increasing girth) for the term of his natural life. And yet, somehow he still loves me. Or so he claims. And actually, now that I think about it, it’s a good thing he will never read this blog because I’ve just put together a far more convincing Dossier of Evidence than George Double-Ya and Mr Blair ever could. So if you ever happen to meet him on the street, don’t mention this post, okay? Just pat him on the back and tell him he’s one hellavu lucky son of a gun. Because he is, right?

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It’s probably worth remembering this: never wear an op-shop top that you haven’t properly road-tested when you embark on a long car journey. Why? Well, your less-than-reliable vehicle might suddenly break down and you’ll end up having to hang out with three children at a country pub for hours and hours amidst the Friday Arvo drinking crowd with your breasts on the verge of popping out to join the revelry at any given minute. 

And yes, that’s what happened to me. Honestly, the hotted-up utes were pulling up thick and fast, as if one of the guys had sent a text around that said “Get your arse here. City housewife flashing tits at pub.”

My husband was, in the mean time, wrestling with his own demons. “Bacchus is testing me,” he said, referring to the God of Wine and All Alcohol-Related Fun whom he had foresaken for an entire month in the name of “Dry January”.  (For the record: my “Dry January” ended up being “Dry January Day” as I took much pleasure in star-jumping off that boring old wagon at my earliest convenience). It turns out that the pub we’d ultimately broken down in front of had its own micro-brewery and the roadside assistance company was on the phone was offering us free accommodation at the B&B next door.

“Be strong!” I urged, whilst secretly planning to order myself some tequila shooters at the earliest opportunity. After all, I’d been wrangling the kids in various locations (the car, a paddock, the pub) for many hours while he tried to fix the problem and sort things out with the roadside assistance people. And, let’s face it, there were more than a few men in the front bar who’d be willing to buy me and my potential wardrobe malfunction a drink or two. 

Anyway, in the end, nobody drank anything except water and I played “What’s the time Mr Wolf” with the kids on the verandah of the pub while those utes kept rolling in. And then the Mother of All Towtrucks came to take all five of us and our Love Bus those final 104 kilometres home. At over eight hours door to door, our original three hour tour had almost ventured into Gilligan Island territory – though, arguably, a coconut bra might have helped me out some.

As the tow-truck pulled up outside the house, some of our neighbours, upon hearing the commotion, came out to enjoy the show (the Love Bus being taken off the tow truck and not my breasts, apparently). “Yes, we’re home!” we announced to the neighbourhood at large. One neighbour was notable in his absence, however. The Mason across the road, who had sold us the Love Bus in gleaming new condition just three years ago, was no doubt watching from behind his lace curtains, looking at his beloved Tarago and saying “Oh, Mojo!! What have they done to you???” And if you didn’t get that reference, kindly take your eyes off my cleavage and go watch yourself some more Simpsons, please.

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I almost jumped out of my seat with excitement when my cousin L-Beer recently told me about her mothers’ group. It was just as well I didn’t, as I was in a moving vehicle at the time and we all know that jumping out of one of those seats either leads to grave injury or, at the very least, being issued an official warning by a passing policeman. 

You see, L-Beer lives in the Eastern Suburbs of Another City – an area famed for  its New Mothers working off their baby fat two days after the birth by doing “pramercise” along the esplanade and frequenting solariums with creche facilities. So when I caught up with my beloved cousin at her parent’s house recently, I asked her about her mother’s group, thoroughly expecting that her description would make me clench my fat lily-white fists in not-so-silent rage. However that’s not what happened at all. If anything, those pudgy white fists o’ mine were punchin’ the air when she was done.  

Firstly, she reassured me that her mothers’ group was nothing like the horror stories I’d heard (and no doubt bored her with in that bombastic way of mine) and that she’d fallen in with a great bunch of girls. And to prove the point, she went on to tell me about how, on the first night they went out together, they went around the table each sharing with the group what they’d done BC (Before Children). I think I might have stifled a yawn at this stage of her story, expecting that they’d all revealed themselves to be PR reps for footballer’s wives or professional Brand Advocats for Prada. But no! One of them – somewhat reluctantly – admitted to the group that she was a Psychic. 

“Oh, oh, oh!” I exclaimed, perking up immediately.”Does she ever say stuff like ‘Let’s not meet at the park next Thursday because I sense rain…’ or are you ever tempted to ring her up with those day-to-day parenting dilemmas like ‘Should  I put Baby C down for a nap at home now and be late for my lunch date or should I run the risk of her not sleeping in the car and be on time?’ or even ask her what the hell to make for dinner tonight? Or… or… or…”

I might have gone on (and on) with that oh-so-amusing tangent, except L-Beer told me to Stop Right There, Sister-Girlfriend-Cousin-Whatever because the Psychic wasn’t the night’s biggest “reveal”. That came from an even more unassuming woman who owned up to being a Dominatrix.

“Aarrrrggghhh!” I shouted, literally beside myself with excitement by now. “Does she dress her baby in leather onesies? I can bet there’s one household where the Naughty Spot’s not just a chair in the corner but a room with chains and spikes and…. Oooh, does she ever say stuff like ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’? Do you think she ever threatens anyone with the whip?? Hmmmm, I guess you could count on her children being extremely well-behaved. And… and… and…”

I started groping around in my handbag for my pen and paper to  a) write some of this Comedy Gold down before I totally forgot it and b) to get L-Beer to sign some kind of release form to allow me to use it on my blog. 

“Wowzers!” I enthused, looking up from my notebook temporarily and noting the rather bemused and possibly frightened look on L-Beer’s face. “This blog post is writing itself!”

As it turned out, the blog didn’t exactly write itself and as usual I’ve had to “write it in fits and starts… with small children dangling off me like christmas decorations” (just to somewhat tragically quote myself – see “The NDM Guide to Blogging“).  And doesn’t it just show? But I love it how, just when I think I’ve come to the end of my bloggin’ road, I have a conversation like that one or the cat walks in with a mouse in his mouth or the children get possessed by the devil at the local shopping centre or the Love Bus turns a 3 hour trip into an 8 hour one by breaking down in the middle of nowhere (that post is still to come), and lo! I’m back in Bloggin’ Business, baby.

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Personally, I blame it all on having read Orwell’s “1984” at too young an age. To put it plainly: my fear of rats makes The Pixie’s brief bout of galeophobia look like shark-fancying (see “All At Sea“). My fear helpfully extends itself to mice, too –  if only because I have no way of distinguishing them from rats. Apparently you can tell by the width of their tails and the number of nipples they have, but since I’m really not planning on ever being that close to one to actually do any measuring or counting, the distinction is still completely lost on me. 

So when Genghis Cat casually sauntered in with a live mouse in his mouth early the other morning, my reaction was less than mature. If someone were to ask for the transcript of that moment it would read something like “Eeeeewwwwweeoooooooo aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Farrrrrrrrk!”. Which truly represented exemplary role-modeling in showing my children how to deal with their fears.

Upon hearing this profoundly pithy exclamation, ol’ Genghis dropped the mouse, which limped as quickly as it could under the fridge. Genghy then proceeded to sniff vaguely around the “Dust Baffle” area and, realising that there would be enough biscuit crumbs under the fridge for the mouse to live off for a year, he wandered off with the distinct air of someone whose work here was done. Panicked, I immediately rang my husband at work for advice – replacing more traditional telephone greetings with a strangled “Faarrrrrkkkkk!”. My husband calmly and quickly came up with a plan of action for me. 

“All you need to do,” he said. “Is move the fridge, grab the mouse, put it in a plastic bag and then take it outside and drop a brick on it.”

Now let’s just run through that action plan step by step:
1. Move fridge
2. Catch mouse
3. Put mouse in plastic bag
4. Drop a brick on it

Shuh! Like any of that was going to happen. Well, maybe I could have done Step 4 but without completing steps 1-3 it would have been as pointless as, well, dropping a brick on an empty plastic bag.

Luckily, my husband pretty much realised his plan wasn’t going to work the minute he’d presented it to me. My reaction no doubt had something to do with this realisation – again, that transcript would have read something like “Uh, guh, guh, guh, can’t, uh, do, uh, it, aaggghhhhhhhhh.” Under normal circumstances, he would have advised me to leave the house with the children for the day and then sorted it out himself after work. But the problem was that on this particular day, I was picking my husband up from the city and we were all driving straight off to a special holiday destination for a few days. And if the mouse stayed and died under the hot fridge in the hot weather, it would have effectively turned the house into one giant Dutch Oven. Clearly something had to be done and I wasn’t the person to be doing it, blubbing like a baby as I was.

In two words, the answer was Uncle B. 

Now, the definition of True Friendship is being able to call someone with a mouse-in-the-house problem before 7am. KT – wife of Uncle B – answered the phone in a cheerful manner – or as cheerful as someone whose children habitually wake before 5:30am can manage. But because Uncle B was still sleeping (having worked til midnight the night before) she immediately offered her mouse-removal services instead, fearless girl that she is, and was there on my doorstep with her children less than ten minutes later. 

Immediately, KT set to work. She bravely approached the fridge, while I rather less bravely put a closed glass door between me and any mouse action – although, in doing this, I cunningly claimed to be “nobly protecting” KT’s very curious daughter, Cyclone Bella. Since the fridge was too darn heavy for her to move it by herself, KT instead rocked it slightly, and then proceeded to poke the injured mouse with a long stick for ten long minutes. Which got me wondering about how when we say things like “more chocolate and champagne than you can poke a stick at”, it suggests a glorious abundance of something, whereas “more injured mice than you can a poke a stick at” doesn’t quite have the same happy overtones. Because if it was a matter of “want to” rather than “can” when it came to poking those injured mice, the desired number would definitely be NONE. Which is not the case with the champagne and chocolate. Although I would obviously prefer to consume them than poke them, stick or no. Which is all just a good example of the little mini-breaks of the mind I go on when facing my greatest fears. 

ANYWAY, after all that brave poking of the stick, KT had to admit defeat and went home to wake up her husband. Once she’d returned with Uncle B and he was on the job, KT and I were both free to go hide in the front bedroom with the children – and with that bedroom door firmly shut and a story tape on the stereo, we created ourselves a kind of Disney Bubble which could not be penetrated by the mouse’s (or Uncle B’s) screams back in the kitchen.

Less than five minutes later, the Dreadful Dead had been done, the corpse had been disposed of, and I was making suburban hero Uncle B a Very Strong Coffee Indeed. And because he’d had to get down the microwave from on top of the fridge in order to move it, I took the opportunity to give the microwave a good wipe inside and out, plus the top of the fridge, before he put everything back. Which just shows that the mouse didn’t die in vain and from such adversity came a nice clean microwave and fridge top and the reminder of how lucky I am to have such Great Friends.

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