Could the Gluestick Family be Scandinavian Royalty?

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Frozen is out on DVD today. For anyone with a girl in their family between the ages of about 3 and 10 this is a VERY BIG DEAL.

Frozen seems to have struck a chord with every single little girl I know. And their mums. (And their dads in some cases. ‘Man, Elsa is the hottest cartoon character since Jessica Rabbit,’ one of my friends’ husbands sighed as she transformed from uptight heir to the throne to strutting snow queen.) The conversation in the changing room at dancing pretty much revolved around ‘Best Song in the Film’ whilst we listened to the ballet class caterwauling along to Let It Go.

But no one could possibly be as enthralled as Boo. It’s gone from a like to an obsession. We even have fake snow to hand for Frozen-related fun.

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Never too old for Disney.

‘I wish I was Elsa or Anna,’ Boo sighed.

‘What if you sort of were?’ I replied.

‘What?!’

‘Well, your ancestors could have been Scandinavian princesses like Elsa and Anna.’

Really?!!’

I’ve never seen eyes open so wide.

It’s a possibility. My paternal grandfather’s family are from Norway. My great-grandfather was called Olaf. (Although he wasn’t a snowman.)

As a child I had white-blonde hair and big blue eyes just like Elsa. Sadly the hair dulled and went mousey, but whilst she was alive my great-grandmother loved my Scandi looks and hoped that I would learn Norweigan. (I didn’t – there’s not a lot of demand for Norweigan classes in West Norfolk. But if I ever do the first thing I want to learn to say is ‘How much?!’ Unless there’s an inheritance to be had amongst the fjords I couldn’t afford to visit, much less live in Norway.)

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With my little sister, aged about 3. Why couldn’t I have grown up to be as smoking hot as Elsa?

But there are a lot of people in Norway. It doesn’t mean that we have any royal blood.

But Eve’s and Noodles’ eyes suggest that we might have. Or, more particularly, their left eyes, as both of them have Sectoral Heterochromia. They both have odd-coloured eyes, or more specifically brown flecks in their left eyes.

Apparently this rarer than Heterochromia Iridis, which is where two eyes are completely different colours and can be caused by genetic mutation or circumstance, such as with Mila Kunis and David Bowie.

Sectoral Heterochromia (I can’t tell you how glad I am that it comes up as predictive text on my phone!) is always genetic and when present in the left eye is seen as ‘The mark of Swedish royalty,’ (according to my internet research). Sweden’s only a short jump from Norway. Could it be true that we are royal descendants? That would be pretty awesome.

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Noodles’ eyes. His brown flecks are only just developing – Eve’s have become more pronounced over time, but I don’t have any close-up photos of her.

Now, knowing the Gluestick luck, our family would have been the result of some Swedish prince having his way with a wench and then banishing her to Norway. I doubt there are any crowns with our names on them.

But still, maybe, just maybe, we have some Scandinavian royal blood in us. Which makes Boo about the happiest girl ever.

Now, will you excuse me whilst I go and don a tiara and dig out some fake snow.

If only the cold never bothered me anyway.

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Love Is All You Need

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It’s not about the material things, is it? Not when it comes to family. What matters is the unconditional love. Although a bit of appreciation goes along way.

Which is why I was thrilled to pieces to open my Mother’s Day card from Eve to find the following message. I didn’t get it until the early hours of the morning – I’d fallen asleep putting Noodles to bed. Eve must have popped it in with me as it fell out of the bed as I did. It really meant a lot, so I wanted to share.

For all my grumbling, I’ve got good kids really. (It’s the Husband that really needs working on.)

To Mum

The past year or so has been filled with lots of events – from planning University, failing to get in and then being pregnant too and the arrival of Teddy. All of these things have been exciting, at times difficult and most definitely emotional.

And you have been there every step of the way.

However, through all of your support I don’t think I’ve ever shown you my full appreciation, or how much you really mean to me.

Thank you for helping me throughout everything, for being the BEST mum EVER, and for being the role model that I can only hope to be myself.

The front of the card sums it all up really.

I LOVE YOU
– Eve x x x

Awww. It’s enough to bring a tear to the eye. Plus it’s a relief to think that the muddle-through approach to parenting hasn’t screwed them up completely. I guess sometimes the glue does stick.

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The Saddest Place on the High Street

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Sometimes shopping is fun. Sometimes it really isn’t. It’s all dependent on a few variables:
– Can I afford it…or at least justify its cost…after dividing the price for Husband’s benefit anyway?
(A bargain is obviously the pinnacle of this and equals a very good day.)
– Do they have it in my size?
(Frustrating as hell when they have every size but the one you’re after. Sometimes it can feel as though you have a doppelgänger whose constantly 5 minutes ahead of you grabbing everything in your size.)
– Do I look smoking hot in it?
(Because with all the tricks they pull with their mirrors in the changing rooms, anything that looks just ‘meh’ deserves to be left behind.)

Boo had tickets to go and see The Gruffalo on stage with my sister this morning. Husband had said that he’d pay for us to have lunch as he’d forgotten to sort out a Mother’s Day gift before he left for his football/soul weekender (although he then forgot to give me any cash too – d’oh). But it meant that I had a couple of hours to kill and a plethora of shops to choose from. It’s obvious that my family DON’T read my blog (phew – no need to dilute the truth for fear of offence) as I didn’t get a single thing from my Mother’s Day Wish List. So I felt justified in splashing some cash. (We can eat baked beans for dinner every night for the rest of the month, right?)

It started well. I got the cutest bag of free samples with the perfume I bought. Who doesn’t love a freebie? Especially when it’s presented in dinky packaging complete with a ribbon.

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Jo Malone perfume: even more gorgeous when accompanied by a free gift!

I should have stopped there though. But I didn’t. I decided that I needed some new bras.

Big mistake.

Now, Noodles only stopped breastfeeding 10 days ago. He wasn’t feeding much, only once a day out of habit more than need. So we stopped. He accepted that the ‘boobie juice’ had all gone. It wasn’t a big deal.

At least it wasn’t for him. For me, I’ve had a decent, pert chest for three years now (early pregnancy boobs are the best). But no longer. Now they are a shadow of their former selves. I don’t miss feeding a toddler. But miss my boobs. My new bras were going to have to have some very specific requirements.

Shop 1
Oh, they had some beautiful bras. Bright colours, lace, the ability to make something out of nothing. Works of both art and structural engineering.

And then I saw the price tags. I could neither afford them, nor justify their expense.

I left empty-handed and forlorn.

Shop 2
I knew they did underwear that I could afford. In fact, I’m wearing one of their creations today, albeit in a back size that’s slightly too small. They may be more practical than beautiful, but they would at least give me the silhouette I was after.

Except they didn’t have my size. A mass of cleavage-boosting bras in mega-size cups, but nothing for the more modest bust. A bust that actually needs a boost.

I left empty-handed and annoyed.

Shop 3
An entire lingerie shop…that didn’t even cater for my size.

I left empty-handed and feeling like a freak.

Shop 4
They had my size! And within my price range (just)! But with this being a new body I’m dealing with I thought I’d better try things on, just to check. Finding the perfect bra is harder than finding the perfect partner. So many offer so much, yet become annoying very quickly. And bras aren’t any different. (Boom boom.)

Undressing I assessed my new shape. It was not a pretty picture. But these bras would re-dress the balance a bit, surely.

Except, no. It was all wrong. So very wrong. Bits bulged where they shouldn’t and sagged where they should bulge. I was a long way from ‘smoking hot’.

According to a survey 10% of women have cried in a store’s changing rooms.* Today I felt like joining them.

(*Actually, I’m surprised it was as low as 10%. 64% apparently said that trying clothes on in public lowered their self-confidence. And that’s with flattering mirrors and adjusted sizing. When shopping goes wrong it really does suck.)

I left empty-handed and wanting to cry.

I went and bought make-up and chocolate instead.

When shopping works it’s amazing. You find you’re a size smaller than you need, the clothes fit to perfection and it’s a bargain to boot. You leave feeling on top of the world. But when it doesn’t work and you feel as though your body is an anomaly not catered for by clothes designers then the changing room really is the saddest place on the high street.

Sleeping Beauty Syndrome: Shaking the Twins Awake

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I suspect that even without the aid of an enchanted spinning wheel, odds are that a 16-year-old Aurora would have taken to her bed for the remainder of her adolescence, if not for 100 years. Waking her, however, may have taken more than a single kiss from a passing prince. Away from fairytale magic, what it actually takes to fully rouse a slumbering teenager is still a mystery.

Moreover, it’s a mystery that I’m currently struggling with myself. I can’t remember having any dealings with Maleficent following the birth of the twins and yet I feel that I’m still trying to wake them after they fell asleep at the start of their adolescence. They’ve both got handsome princes who manage to rouse them temporarily into wakefulness, but it’s never a permanent solution.

I’ve tried micro-parenting, hovering over homework diaries and chaperoning to appointments. I’ve tried laissez-faire parenting, allowing them to suffer the consequences of their inertia. I feel an overwhelming desire to physically shake them. I know it’s not a good idea to shake an actual proper baby. But can you shake your nearly-grown-up babies when they fail to stir from either threat or bribe?

The health visitor came to visit Eve and baby Teddy this week. Had Eve registered Teddy with the GP? No. Had she applied for child benefit? No. Did she plan to go back to school soon? Yes – next week*. Had she made arrangements with the school? No. Had she started expressing milk to cover feeds during her time at school? No. Had Teddy tried a bottle? Yes. He’d hated it.

*The announcement that Eve was thinking about going back to school next week was news to me. And I’m the one whose going to be looking after him! Thanks for the heads up, Eve.

‘Good luck,’ the health visitor said to me, giving me a you’re-going-to-need-it look as she left. Eve returned to her dream world upstairs. I felt deflated.

Meanwhile, Indy is home for Easter. Not that we’d know – she’s pretty much ignoring us.

‘Has Indy left already?’ I asked Eve this lunchtime. ‘I only got a chance to nag her about one thing.’

‘Yes, that’s why she left,’ Eve helpfully informed me.

Oh.

But she also has so much to be getting on with, and yet is attacking things with all the energy of a comatose sloth.

Home for five weeks, had she got a temporary job? No. Had she been in touch with the temp agencies at least? No. Had she written her CV? Yes. But it was on her ‘uni computer’.

Ok, it was looking unlikely that she’d be earning any cash this holiday (again!). Had she sent the paperwork off to claim a matured savings policy? No.

This morning she received a letter from Student Finance reminding her that she hadn’t applied for next year’s student loan. All she had to do was sign a pre-completed form and post it in the pre-addressed envelope. And yet she hadn’t.

Aaaaaarrrrrghhhhhhhh!!!!

Ok, growing up is scary. I can’t say I’ve always done a terrific job of it myself. But to see your kids being lethargic is beyond frustrating. There comes a point where they have to recognise that there are responsibilities that don’t just go away. They have to wake-up and face up to them, not just take to their beds.

Besides which, when they bury their heads in pillows, no matter how cosy and stuffed plump with feathers, they’re going to miss out on so much. If Indy got off her backside and got a job she’d find so much freedom. The jobs at the bottom of the pile may not be especially inspiring, but they are what you make it. Working as a waitress for £1.80 may not have been the most prestigious of jobs and there were shifts that sucked, but I had a blast all the same. I had a social life, I had a disposable income, I had savings. And I grew in confidence, which is just what Indy needs.

But the fear is holding her back. She doesn’t want to fail or face rejection so she’s taking to her bed rather than putting herself out there.

Can I shake her? Can I? Please.

Meanwhile, Eve has lost her sense of purpose beyond Teddy. There’s no structure or immediacy to her days beyond feeding, changing an sleeping. Even with the things she does need to do, why do today what you can put off til tomorrow?

Teddy is thriving. He’s feeding well, he’s sleeping better than Noodles, he’s smiling and responding to the world around him. But the only time we see Eve animated is when she’s dealing with Teddy. Then she glows. But the rest of the time she seems to be sleepwalking through her days.

But no matter how in love she is with her handsome baby prince, inertia doesn’t bring money in and get paperwork sorted. It’s frustrating to watch.

So can I shake her too? Can I? Please.

Or how do you wake teenage somnambulists and get them to engage in the real world? The world of chores and paperwork, deadlines and humdrum, rather than the fairytale world where you can fall asleep and wake up to a life that just falls into place.

The King and Queen in the fairytale were lucky. The whole royal household fell asleep alongside the princess. I wish that was the deal for the rest of us too. Does anyone have an enchanted spindle I can borrow by any chance? It won’t make much difference to Eve and Indy’s behaviour but it will save a lot of frustration for the rest of us if we can just snooze alongside.

MasterChef Gets Real

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Yay! MasterChef is back on our screens. It’s one of the rare occasions when Husband and I will unite in our viewing to judge based on presentation and the facial expressions of Greg Wallace and John Torode as to whether someone is a culinary genius or complete and utter fool. Other criteria for assessment are how good-looking they are and whether they come across as a dick. Which is how I knew Tim Anderson was going to win as soon as he stepped up to the hob in 2011. I loved Tim.

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Tim Anderson. A bit geeky, but cute, not a dick and great at cooking. I ❤ him. He could never not win.

It seems incredible that it’s now in its 10th year. That’s 10 years of Greg and John shouting at each other about how ‘cooking doesn’t get tougher than this!’ still in an uncomfortable, forced way. And the thing is, its standards have got higher and higher. I’ve got a cookbook based on the early series. I can actually cook some of the dishes for myself. But now, by round one alone you’ve got people offering up macro herbs, froths and foam. I have a kitchen, not a science lab.

Which is why I think MasterChef needs a bit of a reality check. We’ve had MasterChef the Professionals, Celebrity MasterChef, Junior MasterChef and MasterChef Goes Large (although mostly it was Greg and John who got large from all the food sampling). Why not MasterChef Gets Real?

Round One

Round one is the ‘Calling Card’ round. Contestants turn up at the studio and cook a well-rehearsed dish that inevitably involves intricate playing strategies and multiple pans in order to reflect their personalities.

In MasterChef Gets Real round one would require contestants to cook the dish they’d serve up as a standard evening meal. Nothing too pretentious. Just good, honest food. I’d serve my Cottage Pie, which no one can eat without going for seconds.

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Gluestick Cottage Pie – it’s all about the leeks in the mash and the cheese topping.

Round Two

Round two is the ‘Invention Test.’ Rather than choosing between mystery boxes of either sweet or savoury food; food that invariably comes from the more specialised aisles of the supermarket and deli counters, in MasterChef Gets Real the challenge would be to come up with something from a realistic fridge and store cupboard, reflecting one of those days when you can’t get to the shops and everyone needs feeding. Inevitably it would use either pasta or rice. Contestants would have the further challenge of having to check the ‘Use By’ dates on dodgy-looking packets at the back of the cupboard.

Round Three

In proper MasterChef contestants have to come up with a two-course dinner to serve to previous winners whilst Greg and John heckle nearby. Nerve-wracking.

In MasterChef Gets Real contestants would need to cook a two-course meal for their family. Except little Johnny would have only just got back from football club and little Jane would need taking to gymnastics in an hour. Various children would pop in and out of the kitchen to whinge about what was cooking or to whine ‘I’m hungry. When’s tea ready?’ The other half might wander in to prod at a pan with a wooden spoon before returning to Facebook.

Bonus points would be available in this round for the following:
– Multi-tasking the cooking with putting the washing/feeding the baby/clearing out the kitchen cupboards;
– Having the entire family seated at the table at the same time;
– Everyone putting their tablets/phones down and removing their headphones;
– Everyone willingly eating the same food without complaint.

Unfortunately at this point some of the contestants would be eliminated, presented with a box of ready meals as they go.

The Quarter-Finals

The taste test. As it stands, contestants currently have to recreate John Torode’s signature dishes. Whilst he watches over them being all sarky about their efforts. They then get a food critic in to guest judge their choice of dish.

In MasterChef Gets Real, however, the challenge would be to recreate the taste of chain family restaurants so that the picky eaters of the family, who will happily tuck into a Nandos, McDonalds or Pizza Hut will eat similar offerings at home for far less expense.

Part 2, the kids would invite their most food intolerant friend round for tea. Those eliminated would be the ones who end up in A&E when a forgotten-about allergy comes to light.

The Semi-Finals

The remaining contestants would be through to the semi-finals where they would be presented with increasingly frantic challenges, including:
– Providing the children with a packed-lunch that passes government healthy eating standards, whilst still appealing to the kids;
– Catering for a kids’ party whilst simultaneously entertaining 30 5-year-olds;
– Cooking four different dishes to cater for a host of faddy-eaters, all to be ready at the same time;
– Mass-catering for the school fete with inadequate equipment and an ever-increasing queue. Without swearing;
– Barbecuing during a torrential downpour.

The Final

The Finalists would end the competition creating a Christmas dinner for 16, including their harshest critics: the in-laws! All preferences would have to be catered for whilst trying to find enough chairs to seat everyone and keeping their personal Prosecco stash a secret from everyone else. Along with keeping their opinions to themselves and not launching into a drunken tirade about ‘Why It’s Always Down to Me’ and bursting into tears when the gravy doesn’t thicken.

As for the prize? There would be no prize. No book deal or spot on a daytime magazine show or leg-up to starting a restaurant. Instead it would just be the same relentless slog, day in day out. If lucky, the winner might find someone offering to do the washing up once in a while, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Still, at least there’s always dessert.

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A reminder, kids: it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday. Now, how much do you love me?

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It’s Mothering Sunday in the UK and across Europe this Sunday. This is unfair already on two counts:

1) Because it’s linked to the Christian calendar (as it’s not about us mums at all, but rather the time when we should return to our ‘mother church’) it’s slap bang in the middle of Lent. Therefore, all chocolates come with a tinge of guilt. Just in case mums don’t have to feel guilty about enough already.

2) This year it also falls on the same day as the clocks adjusting to British Summer Time. So instead of being entitled to a lie-in, we’ll lose an hour in the night and any lazing in will just bring us up to even.

My hopes for any indulgence for this year are even lower. For one, Husband is away. Despite fraping his Facebook account and announcing his expensive intentions for Mother’s Day, he’s still not taken the hint and football comes first – again!

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Seriously, how could he not pick up on this?!?!

Secondly, Boo and my sister are going to see The Gruffalo in Norwich on Sunday morning. I promised I’d buy them lunch, so rather than a lie-in and breakfast in bed I shall be losing an hour’s sleep, getting up early and lunch will probably turn out to be a Maccy D’s at Boo’s request.

And thirdly, Eve completely ignored my birthday, Indy bought me a dress that wouldn’t fit my child-bearing hips, so I gave it to my sister. And not forgetting my ‘delightful’ glittery green plastic ring from Boo. So my expectations are low.

(Mind you, it won’t be as gloomy as the Mother’s Day when the twins were in the Brownies. We went along for their church parade and as part of their service sat through a talk on child prostitution in Thailand and how teaching the girls about Jesus meant they could be rescued!!! Cue an afternoon spent answering very difficult questions. Worst Mother’s Day ever.)

But, if my children do wish to surprise me, there’s STILL TIME to get me an amazing gift. (As my email is taking great delight in telling me today. Personal translation: ‘Look at what you could have. But they won’t get you any of this. Your family doesn’t care.’)

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Here are my suggestions of some of the things my children could get me. (Here’s hoping they’re reading):

Jo Malone perfume – Nectarine and Orange Blossom, please.
So that something in the house doesn’t smell of poo.

A charm for my Pandora bracelet.

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They don’t seem to do ‘Intrusive,”Perpetual Nag’ or ‘Exhaustion’ yet. But some ‘Respect’ or recognition of my ‘Wisdom’ would be nice.

Subscription to the gym and approval from Husband to go at least 3 times a week.
Especially as Husband has made comments about me needing to lose weight, but gets huffy if he has to do the bedtime routine or ‘babysitting’ in any shape or form.
Alternatively, if I could just have my 17-year-old stomach back without the need for hard physical work and childcare arrangements, that would be even better. The one I didn’t appreciate at the time. I’d really appreciate it now.

A cleaner.
Not necessarily to take care of my own mess (I’d feel too guilty and would do that for myself before she arrived) but to sort out the rest of it.
We may also need a skip.

At least 6-months’ worth of Sunday lie-in permission slips.
It’s not fair that Husband is the only one who ever gets to sleep in at the weekend. Somehow it’s never my turn.

Outrageously expensive face/eye cream from Creme de la Mer
To help with the frown lines that parenting has caused.

A day at a spa.
To re-align my muscles after too many nights wedged in with Noodles in his itty-bitty toddler bed.

Some cash to spend on myself.
For guilt-free shopping without thinking that actually, I should be spending it on the kids/the house/food/the bills.

More realistically, some tulips would be nice. They’re selling them for £1 a bunch on the stall outside Argos. Surely I’m worth £1 split between the four of them?

No matter where you are, if you’re a mum anywhere may you be loved and cherished this Sunday. If you’re not a mum, but have one, give her a hug if she’s in reach or a phonecall if she’s not.

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Things That Go Tap Tap Tap in the Night

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I hate having a baby monitor. The way it fuzzes with static after the baby has made any sound, leaving me spooked and waiting for the next whimper to come from down the hall.

Or at least that’s what I’ve always put that no-reason static down to. A slow response time. But now I’m not so sure.

Last night I clambered into bed just before midnight and switched the alarm on, hoping that Noodles would at least give me an hour of sleep before he stirred. I wasn’t to be so lucky. I hadn’t even dozed off before the monitor flickered into life.

But it wasn’t the sound of Noodles that followed. It was the sound of footsteps. And not sleepy, stumbly footsteps of a toddler waking and testing his luck by getting out of bed. But adult footsteps. Then they stopped. And then nine more.

Husband was still up, but they weren’t his. I would have heard him coming up the stairs for a start, switching lights on and off as he went.

These footsteps were a mystery. One I wasn’t overly keen to check out.

Similar has happened before. Not long after we moved Noodles from our room to his own. Unused to having him apart from me I’d sleep with one ear open. So I was immediately awake when I heard the monitor fuzz.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Three rhythmic rappings on the bars of the cot. Not the sound of a baby hand randomly banging against the side. More like the sound of a ring against the wood.

A pause. My heart thudding.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

Three more.

No baby stirrings. No crying. Just back to silence. So I stayed in bed, no clue at what the rappings could have been, but not keen to find out. If Noodles was sleeping soundly then I was fine to stay where I was. (Chicken!)

But last night the footsteps were followed by a cry from Noodles. I couldn’t ignore it this time – I was going to have to see what was going on. I braced myself, checked that Boo was still sleeping peacefully in her bed next to Noodles’ and called ‘Its ok, Mummy’s coming,’ as I pushed the door to his room.

And there Noodles lay, bedclothes kicked off, on his tummy with his bum in the air, as per usual. He hadn’t particularly woken – just cried out in his sleep. My entering the room disturbed him more. But what were the footsteps? Nobody could have left the room without me seeing and I’d definitely heard steps in his room. But there was nobody there now.

I don’t particularly believe in spirits or ghosts, but as I climbed in next to him to settle him back to sleep I mentally willed away anything that might be with us.

A spiritual friend says that you can easily ask spirits to go on their way. But to say out loud, in the dark, snuggled up to the most vulnerable of my children, would have been to acknowledge something that I couldn’t explain. Somehow verbal acknowledgement makes it worse.

Like the time I saw a figure of a man in our hallway as I played with a baby Boo in the lounge.

‘Oh, look. Grandy’s home.’

But then I realised I hadn’t heard Grandy’s keys, it wasn’t actually anything like Grandy (who wasn’t due home at the time anyway) and nobody was actually there. So what had a seen? Even if it was just my mind playing tricks with a shadow it had looked enough like a person for me to say something aloud.

Or my friend who told her children to hold back whilst a car started up to pull out of a car park. Except the car didn’t move as there was nobody in it.

‘You just saw someone in that car, didn’t you? her friend said to her.

‘Well, I thought I did,’ she replied.

‘I saw him too.’

Can two people see the same thing that isn’t there?

I know that I could ask my spiritual friend to come round and see if she senses anything. If she did she could do a cleansing. But why would I do that when it’s something I don’t (want to) believe in? Would it make me sleep any better to have to question my belief systems? Can’t I just quiver under my duvet and put it down to reading too many Barbara Erskine novels in my younger days?

The only thing I know for sure is that I hate the sodding baby monitor.