The morning starts with a bang on my front door at 6.30am. I am stirred out of my wine coma. Knock, knock, knock. Whoever is doing this is going to die. I drank a bottle of wine ON MY OWN last night and now I loath myself but more than anything I hate the bastard that’s banging on my door because if they wake the children up I will kill them, I swear, and … ding dong – it’s the bloody door bell! I stomp down the stairs. HOW DARE THEY RING THE BELL?! I rip the chain off and open the door.
F***ing Fiona Smith (Married Patch queen bee, corporate PR & The General’s wife) is in her running kit jogging on my doorstep.
“Headache?” she says freshly.
Me: “It’s six in the morning.”
Fiona: “But you said you’d look after Basil.” Urgh. I suddenly remember our late night conversation. She hands me the extendable lead and I yank the dachshund over the threshold and pick him up. He’s actually very sweet but his psychotic B.A.N.T (Bony Arse, No Tits) owner has ruined him just as she’s ruined her children.
A white blonde child with sanguine cheeks and NHS glasses peers around the garage wall. “Oh, hi Fenella,” I say.
Fiona: “Bloody nanny’s called in sick. Could you have Fenella just for the morning, well, until 5ish? Thanks so much. Now Fenella, remember pleases and thank you and it’s not the toilet, it’s the loo.” She jogs off and never looks back.
“No,” I say to myself. “I’ve enough going on without taking in your dog AND child.” When she picks them up I’m going to bloody well tell her that.
THIS IS THE LAST TIME.
I usher poor Fenella in and shut the door and suddenly become aware of the screaming baby upstairs, and two year old Sienna shouting ‘Mummy’ on repeat, and now I have a strange red faced five year old and an incontinent dachshund to add to the mix.
I down a glass of water and Fenella asks me why. She glances at the empty wine bottle and says (I kid you not) “Ah, the evidence.” Seriously? I was thinking about adopting her five seconds ago to save her from her terrible life, but now I want to put her in the recycling bin with the bottle.
Me: “Come on let’s go upstairs and you can help me get the kids dressed.”
“Children. They’re not goats,” says the 65 year old child.
Shoot me now. In the face.
Sienna is thrilled to see Fenella (they often chalk together on the road outside) so I leave them to play, whilst I tackle Baby Beezebub, who yet again has done something akin to a dead badger in her nappy. I know a vet who will deal with every kind of animal s**t, putrid wound or dead beast, but cannot change his own children’s nappies – it makes him gag. I sympathise, but suspect it is a classic chauvinistic rouse to avoid mucking out.
I feed the children breakfast. Fenella is appalled by their lack of table manners and says she was trained by six months; what methods her SS mother employed I dread to think, but she has succeeded in creating the kind of child that knows every variety of melon but doesn’t have a single friend. “Ah, a cantaloupe,” she says looking at my paltry fruit bowl. “Very good,” I say, drinking Gaviscon from the bottle.
As Fenella feeds Vita her pureed fruits, I start to feel that this day might pan out better than expected. And then I walk in the living room and discover Basil has peed across the whole of the carpet in dot-to-dot patterns and, dear lord no, taken a chunk out of Blue Monkey who is Sienna’s joint third favourite toy. I try to hide the monkey, but Sienna spots it and wails dramatically. “Blue Monkey?” She looks at Basil. “Naughty.” And smacks him on the head with a pair of maracas, hard. Basil yelps and Fenella, witnessing the violence, goes mental barking like a dog at Sienna. Cue, the baby erupts in the kitchen…
I decide to ignore all of them and return to the kitchen to make a coffee. With caffeine I can deal with this but all hell is breaking loose – Fenella and Sienna are now pulling each other’s hair and rolling around on the floor and I have a niggling right rib pain and a strange purple bruising on my forehead.
The Rash of Death is back. And no one knows why.
I Google ‘right rib pain, purpuric rash’. Primary Billary Cirrhosis comes up, I scroll to the symptoms. Oh my god. This is it. I have dry eyes as well. And. It’s. Incurable. I sit down but the noise of the baby crying, the girls, now screaming in each other faces, and the incessant talking on Radio 4 starts to crowd in…
I break Fenella and Sienna apart, give Vita a dummy and put the kettle on to warm her bottle ( I am still determined to get her on a bloody bottle, if it’s the last thing I do …and it might be).
I get kitchen towel and soak up Basil’s widdle and that’s when I notice I have red palms and I know that’s very bad, because red palms mean cirrhosis. I have damaged myself with my binge drinking and now I am going to pay the ultimate price.
The girls start screaming again. “No!” I say. “Fenella you should know better.” She stops, looks subdued and becomes 65 again.
Fenella: “I think we all need a little fresh air.”
After a quick swing and slide at the park we head to the supermarket. I load up the trolley, navigate to the checkout and insert my card. It doesn’t work. I try again and again and then the cashier says maybe it’s been DECLINED and I say, of course not. Why would it be? And I break into a hot flush, my cheeks matching Fenella’s. I have no other means of payment because Simon cut up my credit cards because, well, I used them. A LOT. I scrape enough coins together to pay for some bread and milk all the while feeling the stares of other shoppers and Fenella burning into me. This has never happened to her mother. We leave the rest of the shopping with the manager and I walk off, head down, muttering that I am going to call the bank because I have money in that account. But I haven’t and I never have.
After an afternoon marathon of colouring, baking and Cebeebies, which we are now all watching together, the dog curled up on my lap, the day is almost done. The doorbell rings, I can’t wait to answer it because it means I can get rid of the weirdo and the widdler. I jump up, shove Basil on the floor and rush to the door.
It’s Doctor Nick.
He looks at my crotch, I follow his eyes down and see I have a massive wet patch on my jeans. He looks at me steadily.
Me: “Oh God, Fiona’s bloody dachshund.”
Dr. Nick: “Phew, I thought you had a serious problem with your pelvic floor.”
I laugh nervously. “No. Back tighter than ever, I’m always clenching wherever I go.”
Dr. Nick: “Good to know. Just wanted to borrow some butter.”
Me: “Of course,” I say dashing to the fridge.
He waves to the children in the living room and I hand over the butter. Pause. “Er, Doctor Nick, er, the Rash of Death’s back. Could you look?”
I get a baby wipe and take off the layer of foundation I’ve used to hide the purple marks. He positions me under the light, holds my chin and is examining me just as there’s a knock and Fiona storms the building like the SAS.
“Oh sorry,” she says. The doctor and I break apart making us look immediately guilty. Dr. Nick swiftly exits with his pat of butter. He thinks the rash is strange, but probably not life-threatening. I wanted to show him my red palms, too. Bloody Fiona.
Fenella appears at my elbow. “Basil weed on the carpet, Nessa says kids not children and her card was declined in Sainsburys.”
Fiona: “We don’t tell tales, Fenella.” Her eyes sparkle with the new information. “The doctor’s rather good looking, isn’t he?”
Me: “Yes, I suppose. He’s kindly helping me with a rash.”
Fiona raises an evil eyebrow.
Me: “On my head,” I say pointing. Right that’s it, this bitch is going to get both barrels. “I want to talk to you about leaving Basil…”
“I am just so so grateful” she says cutting me off. “I know you have your hands full, I honestly don’t know how your do it without a nanny, Supermum. I have something for you.” She hands me a chilled bottle of Gavi. (How did she know?)
“Well Fenella’s such a good girl and Basil is lovely,” I burble.
I break like a wet Kit Kat in Fiona’s capable hands.