I had lunch the other day with my father, who explained to me that he had discovered a sort of ‘cancer club’ of which he is now a member; “it’s not an official club, more of a wink wink, nudge nudge, sort of group” he said. “The worst thing about it is knowing that, sooner or later, you’re going to end up spending time with these people in the after life” He went on to share his absolute dismay at the prospect of sharing his hell-space with Jade Goody. I was too surprised to discover that my father even knows who Jade Goody is, to be disapproving of his warped sense of humour and lack of respect for others.
His viewpoint brought to mind Alice Sebold’s sensational Lovely Bones, where heaven is whatever your personal nirvana happens to be. For anyone who has ever lost anyone, Sebold’s book is a talisman; a masterpiece of insight and perception. One can only assume that the same premise extends to hell; that one’s destination is tailor-made for each voyager, reflecting the protagonist’s nemisis.
So, rather flippantly, I began deciding on my own personal hades; a creative writing class with Jeffrey Archer? Over sixties yoga with Carole Chaplin? Personal shopping sessions with Trinny and Susannah….
Given the premise that hell is related to your machinations on earth, my own private purgatory would undoubtedly be child-related. Perhaps the joys of travelling with kids, or of supermarket shopping with three small children. Or perhaps the devil will chuckle with delight as he flicks through the catalogue of possible underworlds, before hovering over one particular option with palpable delight, and handing me… Bath Time.
How I envy those friends with the perfect night-time structure, who bathe their babies nightly and adhere strictly to their ‘bath, milk, story, bed’ routine. Can I just point out at this stage that they only have one child. It’s easy with one. Even I managed beautifully when I only had one to soap down and towel off. First I have to get them all upstairs (the Toddler requires supervision on the stairs after his recent attempts at body-surfing into the playroom). The cruising twin likes to go up on her own nowadays, and celebrates each step by standing up and clapping her hands vigorously, leaning back precariously as she does so. I bring up the rear with the crawling twin, who is – for the time being – happy on my hip.
Once upstairs I gate the stairs and let them loose to roam the bedrooms, which I like to think fosters independence (yesterday, however, twin two emerged from our wardrobe with a pair of boxer shorts on her head, which realistically is more likely to foster a cross-dressing complex than a sense of autonomy). I run the bath whilst stripping three nappies and laying out the requisite sets of towels and nightwear, before plonking the Toddler unceremoniously at the tap end, to get him out of harm’s way. I place both babies in the bath and from here on in things go horribly, yet predictably, wrong. The babies begin splashing like dolpins on speed, and their brother responds with equal enthusiasm. There is a split second when I revel in the joy of sibling affection, before the Toddler goes for an over-exuberant arm swipe, and twin one begins the domino effect and slices through the water with her sister. Hauling a baby to the surface with each arm, I have learned to work through the subsequent screaming (“four little speckled frogs…”), and towel-dry a child in less than three seconds (“… sat on a speckled log“) whilst never taking my eyes off the Toddler, who is still more than capable of drowning himself/getting his little toe trapped in the plug-hole/ingesting a flannel.
Needless to say, baths in our house are sporadic and driven by necessity. It just isn’t worth the stress-induced hair-loss. Consequently I’m fond of claiming that our aversion to baths is prompted by our keen desire to reduce water use. We save a lot of water this way.
And so I invite you to share you own personal hell…
Photo credit: Krikit