Down the Hatch

Thanks, Wikimedia Commons

Thanks, Wikimedia Commons

The pearls of wisdom dispensed to expectant mothers include a string of statements about the importance of breastfeeding though it may be ‘slightly uncomfortable‘ at first.  Perseverance, I was told, is your friend.  Soon I would be snapping and unsnapping my contented baby from my boob with the kind of careless abandon generally reserved for summer holidays.  It should not hurt.  Soft pillows and feathers would surround me.

After Sprout’s very medically assisted entry into the world, I was determined to breastfeed exclusively for the recommended six months.  I went to a class about it, I read books, I watched videos.  The latch, well-meaning internet videos opined, is all-important.   Just follow the easy steps and everything will be golden and glowing.

Ha.

I hardly know where to begin.  I am still exclusively breastfeeding, but if I had one iota less of bloody-minded resolve, I would have given up after six weeks.  I knew the first two weeks would be difficult; the information I had overloaded assured me that I would be trapped in a chair with a baby clamped to my chest.  If only that were all I had to contend with.

Those instructional videos might have been relevant for the 1% of mothers who have a perfectly calm hungry baby who obligingly gapes open its mouth while the rest of its body hangs relaxed.  Me?  I had to feed an angry octopus.  Trying to carefully manhandle a flailing fragile red-faced bundle of desperation into the correct position was a game I was destined to lose.

Oh, I won in the sense that it worked: he got enough to eat.  But the teeth-clenching toe-curling pain I endured for the first few minutes of every feed; the cracked and bleeding nipples which took days to heal; the number of times I almost sent K-man to buy an industrial quantity of formula.  These things will stay with me forever.  Sprout puked pink, and I worried about him bleeding internally.  No, said the midwife, he’s swallowing your blood and he can’t digest it.  For two weeks I used a combination of lanolin cream, nipple shields, and a breast pump: I stopped bleeding, and the pain lessened from severe to serious.

The assorted instructionals implied that this was happening to me because I was doing it wrong.  Maybe I interpreted it this way because I was a hormonal emotional wreck, but one thing I’ve learned so far about motherhood is that there really is a shit-ton of Blame the Mother flying around.  That’s a whole separate piece of writing I’ve got boiling away inside me.  The three breastfeeding advisers I consulted all checked the latch and pronounced it to be perfect.  One told me I have Reynaud’s disorder (I don’t).  I expended far too much mental anguish worrying about the need for a ‘correct’ latch and trying to follow step by step instructions and ‘bring the baby to the boob, not the boob to the baby‘ while Sprout wailed and tried to turn himself inside out.

After eight weeks, it gradually stopped hurting.  I believe several things happened concurrently to cause this.   First, Sprout’s mouth had grown so he could feed more effectively and not abrade the surface of my skin with his tiny tongue.  Second, my nipples had toughened like an old goat’s.  Third, I jettisoned the well-meaning advice about how to achieve a latch and just jammed as much boob into his mouth as he could take.  It worked.

I wholeheartedly appreciate, accept, and support breastfeeding and would never suggest formula is better for the baby, and would not have it any other way for Sprout.  But I still find breastfeeding a pain in the tit both literally and metaphorically.  But I don’t think it would hurt humanity if it were publicly acknowledged that not every woman finds it a blissful spiritual experience.  I cannot think I am alone in finding it very difficult but continuing because it is better for the baby.

Even without the pain, there are still major drawbacks.  Chief among these is that nobody can do it for me and sometimes I would like to spend more than two hours of my life without boomeranging back to my son to present my boob.  Pumping milk enables this, but means I have to prevent my milk supply dropping by either feeding or pumping as close as possible to the time I would have been feeding anyway so it seems rather pointless.

Sprout has gastric reflux, which means that after most feeds I need to give him Gaviscon Infant.  To do this, I have to dissolve lumpy powder in just-boiled sterile water in a sterile container immediately before feeding him, then find a way to get it into him at the end of a feed when he is full.  At home, this is difficult.  On the road it is virtually impossible.  If I were formula feeding I could simply tip the sachet of powder into his bottle, shake, and have at it.

Yes, I know it is but a short section of my life.  I also know that the benefits for him outweigh the inconvenience to me.  But this inconvenience should be acknowledged as such: the fact that a benefit exists does not mean a corresponding disadvantage disappears.  I don’t need or want a medal.  I’m simply fed up of reading and hearing information given in a wrist-slapping chagrined tone, and which implies that women who do complain about breastfeeding or give up before too many weeks have passed are selfish delinquent mothers who are doing it wrong.  Breastfeeding might be all marshmallows and halos for some, but the truth is that for others it is a painful, dismal, lonely experience which they go through because they know it is the best thing for their child.

I refuse to feel bad for finding breastfeeding difficult and looking forward to its end.

 

Edited to add:  This morning, an envelope arrived from my mother containing a cut-out of an article by Eva Wiseman (my mother said it’s because she thought I’d enjoy receiving post, but I think she had no idea how to search for and email a copy of the article to me).  In the article Wiseman says pretty much what I’ve said above, only she says it better and more succinctly.  Find it here.

Broken

Everywhere I turn in my life, things are broken.  Not insignificant things like the zip on a little-used pair of jeans: giant ball-ache things.  Specifically, in the fifteen weeks since Sprout was born, these things:

  • At four days: the National Grid arrived outside our house to replace metal pipes with plastic as part of a regional improvement programme.  This required digging up our driveway, turning off our gas supply for two days and fucking about under my kitchen floor fiddling with my gas meter; our heating is gas-powered, they have statutory authority blah blah blah and although they are supposed to give five working days’ notice they didn’t.  Do they care that you have a warmth-dependent newborn or that it’s December?  Of course not.
  • At seven weeks: the central heating broke down, and shortly thereafter our only fan-heater blew a fuse.  I found myself flailing around the house trying to think of heat-generating appliances from which I could purloin a 13A fuse to get our only source of heat working again.  I did it, but it was not easy with a wailing baby in tow.  Lesson learned: always store a variety of fuses in an easy-to-reach location.
  • At eight weeks: the car broke down when we were in the town centre and an hour away from company arriving.  The car is a complicated electronic hybrid thingy and once its variety of warning! imminent death! flashing lights start illuminating and the engine doesn’t start, you have no choice but to call the vehicle rescue service.  You’re going nowhere without their help.
  • At ten weeks: while we were in The Province for the weekend, our central heating leaked into the kitchen and dining room ceiling.  Only the dining room ceiling actually fell down, but water damage ruined the carpet, walls, curtains, and (typical) led to a massive restoration bill for the most expensive item we own – my piano.  I had to move to my parents’ place for a week while the repair work was completed.  I will forever be grateful that I was not standing under the ceiling with Sprout when it fell.  I am not grateful to the insurance company, which required a different assessor for each category of damaged item to visit at a time of their choosing.  We’re still arguing about the value of our carpet.

After that heartbreaking incident, I looked at K-man with tears in my eyes and wondered aloud what else could possibly break in our house.  I should not have tempted fate: at thirteen weeks, the toilet broke.  Gone are the days of a simple ballcock arrangement that can be fixed with a piece of coat hanger – now one must have full and half flush options and they come complete with specific-to-your-toilet part numbers and internet orders and three day delivery times.

So, all that might explain why I haven’t had as much time to write as I hoped.  I’ve been practising positive thinking, so I can confidently say that I’ll have more hours at my disposal from here on out.  Unless this computer breaks down.  In which case you will find me under the desk curled in a ball, sobbing.

Rites of Parenthood

640px-Explosions

Wikimedia Commons, credit Jon Sullivan

It seems this parenting lark comes complete with several rites of passage, inexperience of which leaves you outside the inner circle of the knowing parental head-nodders.   Several of these rites are in the category ‘poo’, and I had personally cleansed Sprout of several episodes each requiring a two-layer costume change.  Embarrassingly, the first one happened at a friend’s house in the relatively early stages when I had even less idea what I am doing. However, I had been avoiding second on the list in the category ‘poo’.  That is, until yesterday.

Sprout had not, as medical professionals so delicately describe it, moved his bowels for nearly three days.  I suspected his digestion had gone awry and practically begged him to take a shit, if only to save us both from his third trip to the doctor.  Though I did fear the what might happen when the floodgates opened.  As I sat listening intently during a paediatric first aid course, a faint waft floated up to my nostrils.  There were other babies in the room so I couldn’t be sure, but I hoped my offspring had followed my instruction.  After class, I rushed home to change him and on our arrival he was, unusually, still awake and looking pleased: my hopes rose further.  Nappy-removal unveiled a smallish turd.  No constipation, no trip to the doctor.  Feeling smug, I changed him with liberal praise.  Later, he was crying for sleep and needed another change so I proceeded upstairs thinking I could look forward to a blissful hour of not having to tend to any of his needs.

How is it possible for babies to curl out a turd that’s over half the length of their entire body?  Sprout filled one nappy and then, after a quick-draw nappy-shuffle, a second.  Like pride before a fall, my smugness soared to new heights. I left the nappy open and, hoping to release all his discomfort-inducing waste products in one session, executed the wind-relieving yoga pose the teacher sold us.

Seconds later Sprout released his sphincter again, only this time there was no containing the carnage.  My jeans, top, and the surrounding carpet area were comprehensively covered in diarrhoea.  I should be grateful for small mercies: the bum-trajectory was horizontal rather than arcing up to face height.  Nevertheless, I took an involuntary leap backwards and yelled out, which made him cry.  We both looked like we’d taken a tumble into the bog of eternal stench.  I cleaned him up, put him in his cot, and then – him still screaming – went to the bathroom and tried not to cry over the possible ruination of my favourite, most expensive, jeans.

Once I had recovered myself sufficiently to be an effective parent again (it is remarkable how little time this takes when one has a needy bundle of scream) and changed my own clothes, I calmed him down and then we laughed at each other for several minutes before calling K-man for advice on how to remove baby-shit stains from various fabrics.  And it was alright again.

Modern Life is Irksome, Part the First

Sometimes my TV channel of choice is marginally more intellectually challenging than E! Entertainment! Network!  and lately I watched some talking heads discuss the problem that some people are paying too much for their electricity.  The problem is, claimed the heads, people aren’t switching companies to the one offering the lowest price.  If only people would switch companies, they collectively sighed, their household debt would evaporate.  It was the verbal equivalent of a pitying head-shake at the laziness and stupidity of many consumers, with a raised eyebrow of blame.

Now.  I’m going to leave aside the contextual issues including that, for example, many consumers of electricity surely find the switching process extremely challenging (they might for example be older and unused to internet-slash-call-centre trauma, or not speak sufficient English, or have a disability).  Let’s assume we’re talking about the person accustomed to, able to cope grudgingly with, and infuriated by, commercial labyrinths.  Like me.

I have quite strong, yet inexpert, opinions regarding the true nature of the ‘problem’ that some people aren’t switching back and forth like politicians.  I have not yet heard my opinion expressed within the current narrative that more competition is better and people are stupid.

I am, like so many people living Modern Life, time-poor.  Switching electricity company would be bearable if I only had to do it, say, thrice lifetimely.  But that’s not how it works.

Each of the largest six power companies (92% of market share between them) have hit upon the obvious corollary of commercial competition for an essential resource: periodically ensure that theirs is priced lowest, for a Limited Time Only.  So the consumer is bombarded with price packages that include a (relatively) fair rate that rests slightly lower in the murky depths than the second-cheapest deal.  However, there’s a nasty bite in those depths: after the first year or so, the Introductory Special Offer Super Hot Deal disappears and the poor chump who hasn’t diarised a year in advance to research electricity offers during a particular month, and organise switching company, suddenly finds their wallet open and their hard-earned notes blowing away.

To get somewhere approaching the best deal, you have to switch companies anything up to once a year and choose from a quite bewildering array of tariffs.  Will you be boiling the kettle every day and twice on Sundays?  How many people live in your house and do they shower in the middle of the night?  Do you open the window after a particularly malodorous fart?  Given that the last time I engaged in the switching process it took up quite a bit of my time in research, providing meter readings to two separate companies and then listening to them argue over who had made a mistake when they recorded what I told them, several trees sacrificed to confusing paperwork, a month of actual earth time to switch the supply and a further few weeks to refund me for the financial loss resulting from the aforementioned error, this is irksome.

I further note that the average Modern Life household is not expected to limit this approach to electricity.  See also: gas, broadband, telephone, mobile telephone, TV, savings account rates, and insurance deals and find yourself swirling around in a competition-driven nightmare having lost all sense of which way is up.  Or don’t, and get screwed.  Depressingly, a parasitic industry has sprung up amidst the carnage: the switching ‘service’ that uses computer algorithms to do the research and organise the switch for you and pretends the process isn’t that cumbersome.

Before I carry out acts of tedious household expenditure, I perform a rudimentary cost-benefit analysis and recall that I am reasonably cash-rich and very time-poor.  The generalised ball-ache of switching is significant.  The saving might be a few quid or maybe as much as a three-figure sum and I don’t know which in advance.  Even then, it just isn’t worth my time, folks.

Last time I switched company I vowed never again.  Why oh why, I wailed amid rending of garments and through rose-tinted goggles, can’t we return to the days where you signed up with a company and paid a fair and transparent price for your power, building a happy mutual relationship with them, rather than being fiscally whipped for not shopping around constantly to get the best deal?  Put simply, I do not have time for this shit.

So I dropped out, at least where power is concerned.  I finally found a company that appears to share my perspective.  They charge all customers the same (slightly higher) rate regardless of when they became customers or how they pay (aside: many power companies charge poor people with no credit-rating exorbitant rates to load up a plastic pre-pay access key with credit – this should immediately be made illegal).  There are two tariffs, your choice depending on how much you care about renewable resources versus how much you can afford to care.  They don’t have call-centres or choice-menus.  For as long as they continue this approach to their business, they will have my custom.

I resent being impliedly categorised by the meedja and politicians as a lazy simpleton for not constantly switching companies.  I am making a calculated choice taking into account my priorities and resources.  I resent that my options are to either engage in the switching shenanigans, or to pay more.  I resent that many more people who simply don’t know they are being overcharged, or are too busy getting on with life to be able to address it, continue to be overcharged and that according to the received wisdom they are faulty consumers not properly clicked in to the glorious world of commercial awareness, rather than that the companies are mercenary for taking advantage of them.  It is the government’s responsibility, having privatised the power industry, to sort out this mess so the burden rests less with consumers.

</soapbox>

Yet Another Birth Story

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A card-carrying hippie, I was bursting with ideas about how Sprout’s birth would be.   I read the unfortunately-named Grantley Dick-Read’s work on why most women find childbirth excruciating, and how it need not be so. I bought the hypno-birthing books.  I practiced deep breathing, and diligently attended pregnancy yoga.  I went to the antenatal classes that pushed the drug-free birth agenda, one into which I wholeheartedly bought.  I travelled from seeing childbirth as a necessary evil, to actively looking forward to the spiritual experience it would be.  I was encouraged to write detailed birth ‘preferences'; mine could be summarised as get the fuck away from me unless there’s a medical necessity.  I saw unicorns and rainbows, and heard angels’ voices float gently from undulating cloudscapes.

Three days before Sprout’s ‘due’ date I had a few stomach grumbles during the night, which I attributed to K-man’s poor-quality cooking.  At precisely 5.30am the following morning, a gush of fluid woke me up and I found myself reaching in an undignified manner for the incontinence pads and the telephone.  Joy of joys, the hospital voice said, I needed to be ‘assessed’.  Hospital is a 20 minute drive away in clear traffic.

There is little more frustrating than knowing that you’re about to make a pointless drive through rush hour traffic only to be sent away again.  Apparently, I needed to sit in a waiting room for an eternity to have my incontinence pad examined and it confirmed that my waters had indeed broken.  Then, I needed to wait again for a woman who looked like she finished school last week to carry out an internal examination and proclaim that I would need to go home and come back later.

At about midday I commenced my unicorn-hunting using soothing music, candles, and dimmed lights.  I started using the TENS machine.  Things proceeded nicely until about 6pm, when I met the Go To Hospital criteria of three contractions in ten minutes.  At hospital I went to triage to wait for a second eternity.  Triage was the tenth circle of hell: heated to nuclear temperatures and full of people with non-labour-related baby fears.  The TV was tuned to one of those competition shows where the contestants can’t sing and the judges reach for superlatives strong enough to disguise their disgust.  Eventually, I was examined in a be-curtained area and told I had made minimal progress but couldn’t leave before seeing the registrar.  I should return to triage for a third eternity.  Forty minutes later I succumbed to rage and went outside to find out why the hell I wasn’t being seen.  After all, as far as I knew I was the only person in triage in actual labour, and I was sick of being stared at.

The registrar revealed himself to be an arrogant nonchalant tool whose evening mission was to give himself something to do by getting me to consent to an immediate hormone drip to ‘speed things up’.  Ha!  I thought.  I’ve read the books and been to the classes.  I know what that drip does and I want no part of it.  I lobbied to go to the midwife unit, to no avail.  My choices were to stay in hospital and accept the drip in the consultant’s unit or to go home.  He also kept telling me I wasn’t in labour according to the medical definition, and I kept sitting on my hands so I wouldn’t punch him. I oscillated, until the registrar uttered the fateful words ‘You can leave if you want, but you won’t make it through the night with the pain.’

Well.  Well.  I politely told him he could shove his opinions about my fortitude up his backside, and left on the condition that I would reappear early the following morning to have the drip.  Doctors get twitchy when patients want to colour outside the guidelines, and by morning I would be doing so and my infection risk would double from infinitesimal to extremely unlikely.

And thus began the longest night I’ve ever experienced.  Neither K-man or I could sleep, and I had a shower at 3am.  The warm water was revolutionary pain relief and so I made Stupid Decision Number One: why not have a bath!  The bath was so blissful that I saw a unicorn, and my contractions virtually stopped.  A fourth eternity later, we went back to the hospital.

By this time I was 3cm dilated so now suddenly it was my ‘choice‘ whether to have the drip.  Hello? Everything that happens to me is my choice, unless you wish to be prosecuted for assaulting me.  Obviously, I pointed out, I didn’t want the drip in the first place so if I could just stay here and quietly birth my baby in my own time that would be dandy.  Can’t you see the rainbow?

A fifth eternity later I was deemed to have made ‘inadequate progress’ despite some fairly serious pain – with which I coped using paracetamol, gas and air and the TENS cranked up to 11 – and a few splurts of blood.  I was ‘strongly advised’ to consent to the drip and finally, beaten down, I agreed.

Did I want the epidural?  The midwife asked.  Hell no, I said, because I am stubborn as a mule and was confident I could butch it out.  After all, how much worse could it get?

Somewhere in the ether, a unicorn snorted derisively in my direction and the words Stupid Decision Number Two were written in rainbow colours.

I was attached to the hormone drip, and every physiological monitor known to medical science.  There followed six hours of progressively worse agony, a quite spectacular vomiting episode, my causing a chair to look like it had been a prop in a Quentin Tarantino film, and doctors determining there was a problem with Sprout’s heart rate.  It was dropping too far and not recovering quickly enough.  They thought he was reacting to increases in the hormone drip rate so they turned it off and progress stalled.  Anxiety tweaked at the edges of my consciousness.

A few hours later, doctors were satisfied the problem was not the drip, and it was recommenced.  This was when all hell broke loose.

I was contracting every minute and a half, sobbing, and telling K-man I thought I might die when I finally accepted that I needed the epidural.  Blinded by feelings of massive failure, I mentally hurled the hypno-birthing books and the antenatal teacher against a wall.

The poor anaesthetist.  By this time, he had approximately 30 seconds to get the needle into my spine without paralysing me, a flailing tear-stained emotional wreck.  Admirably, when I screamed that I needed to move NOW! just as he was about to pierce my skin he merely explained that it was very important that I stay completely still, and was incredibly quick.  That’s the first moment I flash back to.  He returned later to check on me, and I could have kissed him.  The epidural was both magical and extremely freaky.

During my subsequent sleepy state, Sprout’s heart rate continued to cause concern.  Every so often I would wake up and enquire whether the baby was OK and I was still contracting.  At one point, there was significant midwifery debate about what to do because the heart rate was not OK and the chief midwife leaned into my ear and whispered to me not to worry but she was going to press a button and in ten seconds there would be 15 people in the room.

Yeah, whatever, I thought, and before my brain could articulate anything further I heard the sound of people pelting down the corridor. The door flew open, and someone jammed an oxygen mask over my face asking me to breathe deeply.  Panic jolted through me: either Sprout or I was in serious trouble, and neither eventuality was acceptable.  That’s the second moment I flash back to.

The crash team quickly realised they were superfluous to requirements: the midwife, frustrated that her requests for a doctor were not being heeded, had done the one thing that guaranteed attendance.  I think K-man’s blood pressure is still recovering.

Assorted medical procedures later (the in utero foetal blood sample being particularly memorable) it was determined that Sprout’s oxygen levels were OK and we could all relax.  Well, except for me.  The obstetrician arrived, and I cannot say enough good things about her.  She was calm, reassuring, authoritative, gentle, and expert.  She explained that it was now urgent that Sprout be removed from me, and somehow did it without causing alarm (though it probably helps if your patient is exhausted and past caring about her own bodily integrity).  I may as well have been holding a sign saying do what you like as long as it’s over soon.

I pushed.  The attendants exclaimed that I was good at pushing.  Hell, I said, nobody wants this kid out of me faster than I do.  A midwife explained that I would be unable to have the natural third stage of labour I preferred.  Look at me, I said, I gave up on my preferences hours ago.  I’m delightful in a stressful situation.

A total of 47 hours, one hormone drip, one epidural, an episiotomy and some gentle forceps action later Sprout was eased reluctantly into the world.  Unicorns and rainbows it was not, and he had the cord wrapped around his neck.  7lb13oz of completely fine, healthy screaming baby entered our world.

I will never be the same again, but it was a small price to pay.

Firstborn

This post is brought to you by the winning combination of maternity leave and infant slumber.

In the waning days of November 2014, I had a son.  Let’s call him Sprout.  He’s upstairs now, asleep on the very sensitive pressure pad that assures me he’s still breathing by emitting a loud alarm should it not detect movement in 20 seconds.  These days, eardrums and even digital sound monitors are not enough.  Expensive parenting gadgetry is all the rage, though we are trying to keep it to a minimum in this house.

We never had that in my day, says my mother, and you’re still alive.  This is the woman who let me wander the streets of London alone aged oh, ten or so, and who would boot me out of her country abode to go play in grain silos.  That may not have been her precise instruction, but it was the consequence of her attitude.  My parents eschewed wrapping children in cotton wool: their preferred goal was developing independence and self-reliance in their offspring.  Plus a healthy regard for one’s own bodily integrity.  I think it worked, but I also think that in many ways I am lucky to be alive.   We’ve had some interesting conversations lately.  

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In the last three days I have had two nights of largely uninterrupted sleep, broken only by me waking up to question why I hadn’t been woken up.  My newfound energy led to an astonishing recollection: I have a blog.

From the dim grey recesses of my mind, I grasped the username and password.  Shortly thereafter I was confronted by a largely unfamiliar user interface.  It turns out that the world doesn’t stand still when one is working, commuting, and lounging about playing Candy Crush while mainlining any available Kardashian programming.  What?  You thought I sat studiously reading War and Peace in my downtime?

I’m going to have to re-learn blogging, and folks, that could be a struggle.  I always enjoyed writing: I just reached the point where the twin inhibitions of there being nothing I could say that others could possibly find interesting, and a considerable lack of time, overtook any impetus I felt to put finger to keypad.

I’m going to give it another shot.  It’s not going to be a mother&baby blog (well, OK, there will be the occasional posts loosely connected to my experiences of child-rearing) and I’m going to throw caution to the wind (except in any way that might cost me my job) and let inspiration take me where it will.  There might be pro-socialism pro-feminism pro-hippie-environmental rants, photo journeys, tales of the extent to which I amuse myself, and general cathartic writing designed to keep me sane.

I’m actually looking forward to it.

The Destroyer

I hate waste.  This could be attributable to my parents’ having carefully raised their children to appreciate the few material possessions we had near the poverty line. In our house if you broke it or lost it, tough shit there wasn’t money for a replacement water pistol or another forty hours in my mother’s life to sew a new costume.  We counted ourselves lucky for the shining moment of having possessed the thing in the first place.  

Now I’m older and wealthier, it has more to do with wanting to respect possessions and do my part to help the natural environment not to drown under a sea of pointless human consumption.  Every time the bin-lid clangs another penguin chokes to death.  For a good long while Christmas made me melancholy because of the conspicuous waste. 

I’m constantly amazed by how much stuff others have.  I’m not big on stuff.  A good proportion of my waste is either carbon from long-haul travel, or unnecessary calories.  But I could certainly do better.  As we’re about to find out.

Just occasionally, I’ll fall in love with a tangible thing.  I fell in love with my Mac and five years later we’re still together with no sign of an argument. I adore my books, and my new camera is so coveted it has its own special bag. 

One of my favourite places is the local junk emporium.  So, there I was, perusing a darkened corner and trying not to get crushed to death by a pile of teetering treasure.  I spied this: 

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Now, it may not look like much to you.  And that’s after a spit and a polish.  But something about its shape spoke to me.  It is made of metal, so you would think it’s virtually impossible for me to break it.  Always a bonus. 

Things got even better when I lifted off the lid: Image

OH MY GOD inbuilt ceramic tea-strainer.  Hey. I know, right?  Sold, right then and there to the girl with the big grin, for the ten remaining pounds she has to her name after paying for her commute to work.  

I got the thing home and checked the internet for wisdom.  The internet said it’s very likely a 1930s item, making it very old and probably quite loved by someone.  If not then it could be grateful for rapidly rising in my affections.  I pictured our long and happy union; me with tea, the teapot gently keeping things warm. 

The base of the teapot is heavy. Properly heavy.  So heavy and flat-bottomed that it looked like it was intended to be placed on the stove, with the tea in the strainer while water boiled all about it.  After I polished it up, I decided to give it a whirl. 

I filled it with water and tealeaves, and placed it on the gas-burner.  I turned away to tidy something up and there was a huge bang. Metal had expanded. Violently.  

Still I was not shopping at the emporium named ‘CLUE’.  I let the situation continue, looking forward to my cuppa and virtuous feeling.  

When molten beads of metal started to leak from the inside of the base of the teapot and some odd fumes appeared, I clicked. It was just a normal teapot, and my attempt to imbue it with absent qualities of ancient wonder had cost its life.  

The teapot is, to the untrained eye, fine.  But look closer and the painful truth is that it now wobbles on its base, and is irreparably tarnished brown near the bottom.  Heating it (even from the inside with boiling water) results in fumes that are clearly not water vapour. 

After approximately 85 years on this earth, this thing had the misfortune to cross my path, and I have ruined it. 

The guilt. The guilt.  I feel like I killed a living thing.  I tell you, I have spent the last three weeks trying to console myself with the thought that it was unusable anyway because it’s probably made of toxic metal and that I (and all other future owners) narrowly escaped death by poisoning.

I’m still feeling bad about it, and the teapot has yet to hear the clang of a bin-lid from the inside. I can’t bring myself to throw it away.  

I should probably get a grip. After all, I’m sure this is how hoarders take their first few steps toward being buried under their own mental illness.  


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