Dependables: Chapter 4

This is a fourth chapter of my novel “Dependables“.

Chapter 4: Katie & Matt – Band Rehearsal

Katie’s workday had been full of dirty nappies, milk bottles and babies without a sense of danger. She felt more tired than usual. The whole baby care show was such a different ordeal than soothing temper tantrums and making sure the pre-schoolers did all steps in the routine of wipe your bum – pull up trousers – flush – wash your hands. She was used to all that. She found it harder to look after the younger human beings.

Anyway, it had only been for today. If Jenny got back to work tomorrow, she would be back with her usual group of under-five’s.

Now, Katie switched off the ancient laptop and glanced at the clock. At 5pm, you would think the teacher’s office would be nearly uninhabited, but it still was a hubbub of activity. Primary school teachers were signing incident reports and fixing the costumes and sets for the Nativity play. In middle of November, the school was already preparing for Christmas.

Katie gathered her stuff and shrugged her coat on, feeling hollow. Matt had his first band meeting of the week that day and that never ended without a round in a pub. Matt and group of his musically talented friends had formed a band early on their teens. They had regular gigs in the local pubs and had a small, local fan crowd. They never had progressed further with the band than that, which is why they all had day jobs.

Matt worked at the local radio station as a composer. He was the man responsible for those little diddles between pitches and advertisements, which purpose were to arouse you to pay attention. Matt felt his creativity was at a loss at the radio, which is why he still held high hopes for the band that he had been a member for nearly 20 years. 

Eileen, girls PE-teacher, caught up with Katie before she managed to get out of the office.

“Please tell me you are still coming on Saturday! We will really need your input this time. Then it would be me, you, Jenny and Camilla at the usual place.” Eileen grasped Katies arm and walked down the corridor with her. As usual, Eileen was full of brisk energy. Her red hair flowed behind her like a veil, and there seemed to be ceaseless springs under her feet. Katie always felt slouchy in comparison, with her naturally wavy and equally cheeky brown hair that didn’t gracefully do anything.

Eileen kept babbling, without needing a confirmation of any kind from Katie.

“Vince is taking Charlotte out at the same time, and he’s promised to do his very best to get hints out of her what she hopes for her hen do.” Eileen pouted in concern. 

Katie winced. “I don’t know Vince as well as you do, but do you really think that’s such a good idea? Men aren’t so good at reading hints and even worse sending them themselves.”

They reached the end of the hallway and stepped outside, where the rain was drizzling down. Eileen stopped to open her huge umbrella, under which they both fitted.

Eileen tutted. “He is my cousin and the only boy in the family, so it is he if who should be able to do it.”

“Right,” Katie nodded in agreement and then remembered. “Jenny was missing in action today, do you know what’s up there?”

“I’m sure she’s fine,” Eileen answered quickly as they walked through the school gates. She was unwilling to change the subject. “I just have no idea what Charlotte wants to do for her hen do, like, no idea at all.”

“We need to do something memorable, for sure,” Katie replied and remembered fondly her own hen do. Emma and Hanna had taken her to Amsterdam. They had travelled there by train, and Katie had had no idea where they were going. They had had such a brilliant weekend, with the traditional coffee shops, canal cruises and the eventful night out. But then, Katie had got married in her mid-twenties, so all that boisterous action had been expected for the event. Charlotte had just turned 45, so Katie felt out of her depth to imagine what a woman marrying in that age might want from her hen do.

They arrived at the bus stop. Eileen shook out the rain droplets of the umbrella as they sheltered from the rain at the little cubicle of the stop.

“Well, let’s have our most imaginative minds with us on Saturday. I take it you are traveling by bus there?” Eileen checked.

Katie nodded. “Unless I get Matt to drop me off, but most likely I will be taking the bus.”

Eileen nodded, but before she got to continue, her bus arrived, so instead they exchanged quick goodbyes.

Katie watched the redheaded girl disappear into the steamy insides of the bus. Hers was no-where to be seen yet.

It had not always been like this, but Katie, as hard as she attempted, could not pinpoint when it had become this, whatever this current affair was. As Katie closed her eyes as she leaned on the bus stop’s clammy wall, she could see the man she married. The thoughtful, fun, energetic boy who was full of loving gestures and huge ideas that he made come true. Like moving together to Manchester and somehow finding the funds to the flat they still inhabited today. He had been her miracle boy. The man who made all dreams come true.

The band had been the only one of his failings, even if Katie didn’t consider it as such. In her opinion, keeping up a regular practice and having all original band members as committed to the band as when it was first established was quite an achievement.

As so, Katie never waited for Matt on Wednesdays. While her husband was strumming the guitar and singing, Katie had her regular Pilates session at the local leisure centre. Afterwards she usually had a swim too.

Matt switched his phone off completely or at least silenced it at the practice, so Katie didn’t expect anything from him till 8pm the earliest. That is when the boys retired from their practice and went for their first round at the closest pub. They called it an inspirational round, as they claimed to be bounding ideas for their original songs or gig venues. Katie had been with them before, but the novelty of it had worn off quickly. Every time it seemed to follow the same pattern. Boys would practice in good faith; boys would drown themselves in alcohol as they hoped for the big break in the future. 

On her way home, Katie caught up with the messages on the group chat.

Katie: Any guesses for what state Matt will be in when he comes home?
Emma: Blastered, can’t remember leaving the pub.
Hanna: Ditto. How are you feeling, Katie?
Katie: Hollow and depressed. Though Pilates did help.
Hanna: You heard from him at all?
Katie: Not a word all day.
Emma: That’s not unusual for Wednesday though?
Katie: True.
Katie: So, what have you two been up to?
Hanna: Enjoying my first days of maternity leave. I feel like I’ve managed to do nothing at all today.
Katie: Well that’s good, as your body is doing all the action, growing a little human being inside you. Just take it easy!
Hanna: Yeah yeah, bossy boots.
Katie: What about you, Ems?
Emma: Had my riding lesson today!
Hanna: Did you gallop?
Emma: Well no, because Jack was not my teacher today but Ted, and Ted thinks I’m not ready for it yet. Surprise surprise…
Katie: What did you get to do then? Walk around the rink while he held the reins?
Emma: I am sure he would find that to be too dangerous for me too…
Hanna: Did he even let you on the horse?
Emma: Well to be quite honest, and I am surprised about this too by the way, I had the best lesson yet in my life.
Hanna: Really? Please pray tell!

You have just read the fourth chapter of my book, Dependables. If you liked it, please let your friends and family know about it. Make some noise about it in the social media too! As an amateur writer, I would love all the feedback especially from you.

Dependables Chapter 3

This is a third chapter of my novel “Dependables“.

Chapter 3: Hanna & Rick: Cravings

“GET IN THERE!” Rick roared with glee that made his pregnant wife startle.

 “Jesus, what was that for?” Hanna screamed. Only a fleeting moment earlier Hanna had been rubbing her swollen belly with a glowing smile on her face, but now Hanna was pretty certain she had just wet the couch. Her bottom felt awfully…warm.

“My team won! Oh wait, did I make you jump? Sorry,” Rick glanced at her with a quick reassuring smile and turned back to the flat screen, feverishly tapping on the game control.

Hanna rolled her eyes and started to get up. There was no other way about it, either she had done it or not. She screwed up her face trying to discern if her underpants felt wet. Maybe a bit? Or was she being too optimistic? Surely, she would know if…

Rick had the courtesy to pause the game to wonder aloud where his wife was going.

“Loo and the kitchen, if you must know,” Hanna answered breathlessly. Every day it was getting harder to get up from the couch. She slapped Rick’s helping hand out of the way irritably and wiggled her bum forward. She got to the edge of the settee and managed to shift her weight on to her feet.

She couldn’t believe she was just 30 weeks pregnant and only barely getting up from the couch without help. Was it normal? Or should she be worried? She had no trouble at the antenatal yoga class, but then the instructor had said something about the joints and the weight points and stiffness after sitting motionless for a while. Hanna glanced at the impression of her bottom on the couch and saw no tell-tale signs of dampness. A relief flooded her. Victoriously, Hanna shuffled towards the bathroom. Her legs did feel stiff, and she quickly shook them before hurrying towards the bathroom. She did desperately need to pee.

She praised herself for not losing the bladder control when Rick had startled her. That would have been so embarrassing. As she was sitting on the porcelain, she did the one thing she always pestered her husband for. She dug out her phone and messaged her friends.

Hanna: I can’t believe I almost wet the couch.
Emma: Excuse me?
Hanna: Seriously, I didn’t even realise I needed to go but then Rick yelled because his team won on Xbox. It startled me so bad I nearly lost the control of the bloody bladder!
Katie: How far gone are you again?
Hanna: Just 30 weeks! Can’t believe I’m so huge already, it was a struggle enough to get off the couch to go to the loo!
Emma: Is it normal to be that big yet?
Katie: Everyone’s different, the size of the tummy is really no indicator. Some don’t even show when they are full-term, like my co-worker!

In the kitchen she was looking in the cupboards and fridge-freezer for something to eat. No apples, she did not definitely want any bread, perhaps some cheese… No.

Frustrated, Hanna shouted to Rick: “Do you know if we got any blueberries?”

“Blueberries? In the fridge, maybe?” Rick shouted amidst his game.

“There’s only an empty packet, and no raspberries either…” Hanna slammed the fridge door shut. She wanted to scream. Why wasn’t there anything to eat? Huffing, she opened the freezer door. Could frozen berries do? Were they safe to eat when pregnant? Hanna picked up her phone to google it quickly. Even with her strong desire to stump this horrid craving, she didn’t want to make any mistakes. Whatever she ate, so did the baby. She had to be careful.

Rick turned up by the kitchen door. He was tall and skinny, which meant his slowly greying hair nearly touched the top of the doorframe.

“Don’t tell me, you really absolutely and no doubt in the world need some blueberries pressed inside raspberries, and mango sorbet?”

“Yes, and with some lemon sorbet too. Like yesterday,” Hanna growled, peering again in the freezer. Frozen berries were no good, there was a risk of listeria unless the berries were heated properly before consuming them. And Hanna did not want any microwaved, soupy berries. Even the thought made her gag.

They had chocolate ice-cream, but it had no appeal to Hanna. Not that she was allowed it either. She wanted fresh berries and sorbet. Nothing else.

“Fine,” Rick said and threw the controls to the couch, “I’ll get some from Tesco. Anything else?” Hanna stopped in her search and flushed with pleasure. She didn’t even need to ask!

“Oh, you are a sweetheart!” she gushed, but Rick was already banging in the hallway, looking for his tired, battered and trusted sneakers.

Hanna investigated their cupboards with a new mission in mind. She opened the fridge, checked the freezer, fruit basket, the pantry.

 “I think just milk will do, alongside my sorbets and fresh berries. Oh, and maybe some other fruits too? We’ve only got apples.”

“Anything particular?” Rick appeared again at the door, fully dressed in outdoor gear this time.

“Mmm, pineapples? Mango? Something sweet. Or maybe that’s just my sorbet yearning talking. Get something, but no apples,” Hanna looked sternly in the fruit basket, where a week-old patch of six apples were untouched. Bananas, pears, and oranges had all been eaten a long ago.

“Right, on it. If you think of anything else, text me. See you soon, mummy,” Rick murmured and kissed his plumb wife, whose usually slim body had filled up not only at the front, but equally around. Tentatively, he pushed one of Hanna’s naturally blonde hair strand behind her ear. Then off he went.

Hanna settled herself back down on the settee and grabbed her phone. She thought of her yoga instructor and wondered briefly, if instead of spreading her limbs on the couch she should be arranging them on top of the yoga matt in a series of pregnancy friendly postures. She dismissed the idea as soon as she saw that there were several messages from the girls, and she read them through carefully, trying to read between the lines. What weren’t they saying? Were there any underlying issues that they might be trying to hide? Then she fired up an update from her end.

Hanna: Rick just went to get me some berries and sorbet from Tesco. I didn’t even need to ask!
Katie: You lucky bastard.
Hanna: Sorry…
Katie: Don’t be! I wish mine was as considerate. Matt is still in the kitchen, I think he has beer number 2 on the go already.  
Emma: What are you going to do? Confront him about his drinking?
Katie: I’m not sure if it is the best to do yet as he has already been drinking… Don’t know. Really don’t know.
Hanna: If it was the other way around, if it was Rick who was acting like Matt, what would you tell me to do?
Katie: Nothing as he had finally knocked you up!
Hanna: Well okay if I wasn’t preggo.
Katie: … Couple counselling?
Emma: That would only work if he recognised there was a problem in the first place.

Rick came back, kicked off his shoes by the door and hurried to the kitchen. Hanna made a move to get herself back up, which Rick saw as he peered through the doors to check up on his wife.

“No no, I’m on it. The same way than yesterday?” Rick disappeared to the kitchen.

“Yes please,” Hanna replied and got herself comfortable again, “I did boil the kettle for you, it should still be warm.”

Instead of stuffing blueberries inside raspberries like Rick doing just then in the kitchen, Hanna scrolled on the group chat. She felt emotional affection towards these two women, who she had known for most of her life. If it wasn’t for the pre-school they all had attended, they might never have met. They were her sisters, not bound my blood but choice.

She sighed as she stopped to admire Ted’s handsome face. She couldn’t fathom how Emma had been living up in Scotland for 2 years now and not once had Hanna managed to go up there to see her. If she had, she would have recognised those warm, brown eyes and chiselled face features to belong to one of Emma’s bosses. Instead, all the people Emma talked about were only names to her. It broke her heart to be so distant from her best friend’s everyday life.

The three of them had grown up together here in Bournemouth, but now she was the only one left still potting about here by the best beach of the United Kingdom. Katie had moved in with Matt years ago, building their love nest in Manchester. She knows they are lucky to be so close as they are, against all odds and distance. Then Emma had left, but it hadn’t made them grow apart. The opposite had happened, their messenger app had been on fire ever since.

Rick came back in with a bowl of berries and sorbet. He extended his arm with the bowl to her like a lion trainer with a piece of meat, his eyes averted from hers comically.

“Oh stop it,” Hanna laughed and grabbed the bowl, dropping the phone to her lap.

Rick stopped to look at Hanna’s phone screen.

“Who’s he?”

Hanna had closed her eyes in pure ecstasy as the perfect flavour combination of berries and sorbet hit her taste buds.

“Hmm?” she managed to breath before the next spoonful was thrown into her gob.

“On your phone?” Rick asked, settling down next to her. Hanna opened one eye to see what her husband was on about and saw Rick pointing to the photo of Ted holding a little piggie in his muscular arms.

“Oh, him! Apparently, he is one of Emma’s bosses.”

“She interested in him?” Rick asked, picking up the Xbox controls again.

“No, you know what she’s like. She doesn’t do dating,” Hanna said, trying to scoop just tiniest spoonful of sorbet at the time, so that the portion would last as long as possible.

Rick grunted. A moment of silence was created as Rick waited for the Xbox to load up his game again and Hanna operated the spoon in her bowl like a surgeon making the first cut.

“Why though?” Rick asked.

Hanna had already lost the thread of the conversation. “Why what?”

“Why doesn’t she date? I know I’m the only man he likes on this entire planet, but still…”

“Oh, you big-headed walnut,” Hanna slapped Rick playfully, “She only likes you because you are with me. That makes you safe.”

“And there I thought it was because of my emotional intelligence and good humour that made me so popular…” Rick rolled his eyes.

“That does help,” Hanna agreed and turned her attention back on her bowl, scooping up a bit of sorbet and one blueberry within a raspberry.

“She never really liked Matt, did she?” Rick said absentmindedly, as the football game started.

“What, Emma? What makes you say that?” Hanna looked at her husband sharply. Rick shrugged.

“Just the impression I got.”

As Hanna placed the last spoonful of goodness in her mouth, the image of Matt popped to her head. Them all, frolicking on the Bournemouth beach, laughing and teasing each other. Now as she thought about it, she really did see what Rick meant. Emma had always been wary of Matt. Hanna wondered if she had been watchful of him for Katie, or for herself…

Reading her mind, Rick said: “Maybe she saw her dad in him.”

“Maybe,” Hanna sighed and sadly placed the empty bowl next to her. She picked up her phone.

“Don’t you say anything to her about it though!” Rick warned, not even pausing his game.

“Of course not, why would I?” Hanna scoffed.

“Cause you guys share everything in that group, don’t you? I wouldn’t be too surprised to know if they knew the size of my genitals too.”

Hanna burst with laughter. “Oh honey, your genitals are just for my eyes only – not to be shared even with my girls.”

Rick smirked. “Just checking!”

Next chapter will be published on 12 am on Friday the 23rd of April 2021.

You have just read the third chapter of my book, Dependables. If you liked it, please let your friends and family know about it. Make some noise about it in the comment section too! As an amateur writer, I would love all the feedback especially from you. Yes, you! So, share away, and write me a comment, please!

Dependables: Chapter 2.

This is a second chapter of my novel “Dependables“.

Chapter 2. Emma: Trouble with the Big Mama

Emma found the physicality of the work one of the big positives. She didn’t need to pay for expensive gym memberships to lift weights as she did so five days a week and got paid for it. During her two years of working as a farm hand at the Drummond Farm in Scotland, she had developed a thicker skin for harsh weather conditions. When she had lived in South of England, she had never been assaulted with such diverse and vicious weather than in here – and mostly, the sting of icy wind and rain made her feel more alive here than anywhere else.

But not now.

She was ankle deep in waterlogged mud that sucked her knee-high bright orange wellies stuck tight with every step. To move, she had to balance all her weight on one leg and wiggle the other free from the pig sty’s sludge. Then she placed the freed limb in front of herself and repeated the whole process again. And again. And again.

Rain hit her yellow waterproof with surprising force. Instead of giving her momentum to help her get towards her target, it blew against her. Naturally. The pigs oinked and yelped from the pigpens shelter, urging her to carry on.

The pigs had seemed agitated when Emma had arrived with their lunch on her trusty minitruck. Restless, even. They had accepted their meal but kept squirming about. It was very unlike those placid, good-humoured creatures.

After finishing all her pigpen chores, she had looked around to see what the cause of upheaval was. Her heart had frozen in alarm as she had noticed the motionless heap of rose-tinted flesh in the muddiest bit of the pigsty.  Was that mummy pig giving birth in the rain? Was it stuck? Had it broken its leg trying to move in the thick muck and now it was… Dead? All she could see was pale pink heap of the pig that was not moving. Emma could not see its face or its rear, nor if the animal was breathing.

Her legs were aching. She was moving so slowly. The silent pig was at least eight metres ahead of her yet, even as she had been walking to it for an eon. She dared not to glance back to see how far she had managed to advance by then.

She persisted. One foot at the time, she pushed ahead, battling against the weather. Rain droplets managed to find their way inside her waterproof, drenching her clothes and making her shiver.

When Emma finally got close enough to touch the enormous mammal and saw the sow was barely breathing, Emma herself felt chilled to the bone in her soaked garments.

“Right, you, big mamma, what’s the matter?” Emma petted the animal’s side. The muddy Mummy Pig would have been an impressive size for a baconer, but instead of juicy fat, it was carrying a great number of yet-unleashed piglets. It was the one that was due to be moved to the birthing pavilion that week.

The swine was unresponsive, and that was alarming. Even more so, the pig was cold to the touch. Emma looked around desperately. Animal was laying on its side, the legs straight in front of it. Emma poked the pig, tried to lift its enormous head. No response. Emma could not understand why it had wandered to this corner of the pigsty. She could see no reason for it to be there. No food, no shelter, nothing. Its legs were unharmed, and no matter how much Emma touched, poked and pushed, the animal did not respond to her.

There was no way about it. Emma needed help. Even Ted’s would do. Emma snuggled out her minigrip bag that held her work mobile.

Ted answered from the first ring like he had been expecting her. His voice was swift and snatched to an attention once Emma told the man all she knew. After hanging up, it didn’t take no time at all that Emma could hear the roar of the tractor.

Ted was driving the one with two enormous spikes at the front. Emma was no good with the names of such technicalities, but at once she knew what Ted intended to do. He had placed a huge wooden slate on the spikes to transform it into a makeshift digger.

Emma’s bare hands were on top of the pregnant animal’s side, and for her absolute delight she could feel the little ones kicking and squirming within their mum. Emma watched how Ted hopped off the tractor and swung his legs over the pigpens fence. He locked the rest of the pigs in their shelter, which Emma hadn’t thought to do. Then he wriggled through the muck to the widest gate, which he opened for the truck.

In matter of minutes, he had driven past the gate and was by their side, assessing the pig mother with his serious gaze.

“I can feel the piglets, they are alive and kicking,” Emma said against the wind. Rain had gotten even heavier. Through its pounding to the ground Ted and Emma needed to shout to each other to get themselves heard.

Ted’s wide, bare hands were on the pig, lifting its face off the mud, trying to see if it was breathing.

“Oh great, she’s out of it. She won’t help us,” Ted swore. He looked at Emma tentatively, weighing their options.  Emma looked back at the tall, handsome man with a ring in her ears. She tried to push the thoughts aside, but Sharon’s words during their last encounter were hard to dismiss.

“How can you not like a man like him?” she had said.
“How can you?” Emma had retorted.

She hadn’t wanted to get an answer, but to her dismay, Sharon had given her an endless list of qualities why Theodore Drummond was the most eligible bachelor in the county. Even after that torturous lecture, Emma could not see the allure. Yes, the man was strong, as he had worked all his life at this farm, tall with wide shoulders and he was easy on the eye, but gosh didn’t he know it?

With his mind made up, Ted stood up against the wind and retrieved a green tarpaulin from the tractor. He threw the tarpaulin open from its folds, then wordlessly passed Emma the other side of the strong canvas, which they worked to get over the animal in quick movements, shielding it from the icy rain that felt like sharp harpoons on Emma’s skin. She had only been here a matter of minutes, and Emma shuttered to think how the animal might feel – if she even was alive anymore.

Emma’s mind puzzled over how they would get the animal on top of the tarpaulin as she worked on the opposite side of Ted, mirroring his movements. When he hooked a metal ring of the end of the tarpaulin over the pig’s front hoof, Emma did the same at the rear side. Then he pulled the tarpaulin over the animal’s back and towards the ground. He heaved and shifted the slippery hard canvas underneath the sow that weighed near 200 kilos. Emma wriggled and pulled hard with him to get the canvas go underneath the pig. When they had managed to get the canvas hallway underneath the unhelpful animal, they paused for a collective breath.  Ted was panting, red-faced.

As Emma was only 4”9, people often mistook her for a weakling.

Ted had always been one of them. He constantly treated her like she was a frail lady and not his equal, which infuriated Emma to no end. All her life she had worked harder than others to reimburse what she missed in height. Seeing Ted so out of breath now made it clear to her that right then Ted had pushed himself to the limit to do her share of the work as well as his own.

Emma growled.

They readied themselves to get the tarpaulin rest of the way underneath the animal. This time Emma did not only pull with her arms. She drove in with all her might, swaying her weight point to aid with the action. She cursed them all. Them who undermined her, because her genes hadn’t allowed her to grow an inch or two taller. She pulled and pushed, pulled and pushed, working with her whole body. Briefly she felt Ted’s questioning gaze at her, but she did not look up. She willed the garment to slip under the tight bulge of the pregnant animal.

When it finally did, it was a sudden release of kinetic movement. Emma slipped down with the garment, planting herself face first in the mud. Swearing aloud, she rubbed her eyes free of the thick muck and sat on her hinges. She wiped her hands on her waterproof coat and gathered the black, muddy hair back to a ponytail. She must have been a sight. Emma could just imagine how Ted saw her. A little girl covered in mud.

“You okay?” Ted shouted and extended an arm towards her to help her up.

Emma didn’t reply, nor she accepted the offer of help. She stumbled back up to her aching feet and looked at the pig, now covered in green tarp.

“What now?” Emma pointed to the sow.
“We free her hooves and lift the mama up!” Ted shouted against the wind.

Emma nodded in understanding and went to unhook the hooves, while Ted lifted the plank on to the ground, all the while glancing at Emma.

“Why couldn’t you carry her in with that?” Emma touched the tarpaulin.
Ted tapped the silent sow’s swollen flank. “Not risking it, it might not hold the big lady.”

Ted hooked the spikes to the tarpaulin’s huge eyelets, and slowly Ted used the tractor to lift the enormous pig up from its filthy trap. There was no reaction from the beast when it got lifted off the muddy ground and laid on top of the wooden plank. Once on, Ted reversed and carefully aimed the spears underneath the plank. With groan, the tractor lifted the plank with the oblivious pig on it.

“Care for a lift home?” Ted offered from inside the tractor to Emma, who was trembling with cold.

Instead of climbing up to the driver’s unit, that would have been warmer but too close to Ted for Emma’s liking, Emma sat down on the edge of the wooden plank near the lifeless mammal.

Ted shrugged and drove towards the birthing pavilion.


Emma stretched her short limbs out in her little cottage. She had had a soak in a warm tub and even still she felt stiff and sore after the day’s adventures. Not only had she played a vital part saving that pig family from the harsh Scottish weather, but she had done all the rest of her chores too.

The birthing pavilion was divided in two. On the visitor’s side, the crowds could pet their chicks, piglets, kittens, bunnies and so forth. It was a huge indoor space that was a farm visitors dream come true, with seats for the adults and loads to do for the little people.

The unconscious hog had been placed in the area closed to the visitors. The vet had been called, little piglets delivered, and the mum resuscitated with the warmth and the vet’s magical touch. It was still unclear what had happened to the poor creature, why had it wondered to the far end of the pigsty, but at least it was safe now with its new drove of piglets.

While Emma stretched, her nervous foster pup snored contently in its basket. Her phone beeped, but she didn’t pay any mind to it just yet. She kept seeing the little soft snouts of the new-born piglets and their mum’s hazy eyes when it had opened them for the first time. Even though Emma was quite certain pigs cannot smile, it had seemed that was what the animal had done. Smiled at her rescuers before getting acquainted with her new offspring.

When she felt her muscles were as loose as she could get them by stretching, she allowed herself to glance at the phone. It wasn’t a surprise to her that all the notifications were from her favourite group chat. She swiped the screen lock away and started reading, getting up slowly to go the kitchenette for a tea.

As she read, she felt sorry for Katie. She had once been so happy with Matt, but now the alcohol seemed to really mess up their lives. Emma clicked the kettle on while trying to decide for the best action plan. Engage or distract? While she was waiting for kettle to boil, she cosied herself up on her little loveseat settee with fluffy throws and started typing.

Distraction, coming up!

Emma: Well…

Emma: I saved a preggo mum with 12 babies.
Hanna: 12 babies? What, your foster pup?
Emma: No, she’s not due in another couple of weeks, though you couldn’t tell from the looks of it.
Hanna: I feel its pain.
Katie: What was it?
Emma: A pig. It was unconscious in the muddiest pit of the sty, it was bloody hard work to get it out from there.
Katie: Oh, did you take any photos of the piglets?
Emma: Did I ever…

Emma sent girls some of the cutest photos of the sweet moist snouts she had managed to snatch with her personal phone when Ted wasn’t looking. It was not like you were not allowed to have your personal phone with you or take photos with it while working, Emma just felt uncomfortable faffing about with it when her grumpiest employer was about.

Katie: Who’s that hottie?
Hanna: Ditto! Who is he?
Emma: What who?
Hanna: That one holding one of the babes. Was he the vet?
Emma: No, he is Ted.
Katie: Really? The grumpy git who looks down on you?
Hanna: Is that how he looks like? I thought… I don’t know what I thought.
Emma: Yeah, that one. I guess the mud treatment suited him.

Emma looked at the mentioned photo, where Ted was giving a sneaky cuddle to one of the pink additions to the farm.  The girls were right, Ted did look abnormally handsome in that still shot while holding the pig babe and gazing at it with his big brown eyes. His face had softened with warm wonder, his very dark brown hair framed his face and made him look annoyingly beautiful. And was that a speckle of freckles just under his eyes?

Maybe he was checking if the infant were viable for life, but his face had that glow of pride on it that girls around the globe would swoon over. Emma wondered if she should pass the photo to the farms social media team that was Sophie, Jack’s fiancée, so she could post it to the Instagram. The photo had accidentally managed to capture one of the farm owners most affectionate side, real or not, and the piglet was very cute, indeed.

Emma made a mental note to show the photo to Sophie at lunch break, if nothing else.

Hanna: Mud treatment? Is that something juicy and kinky that you are about to share…
Emma: In Your Dreams. He was the one on call today, so he helped me get the Mum Pig out of the mud.
Katie: You really don’t like him, do you?
Emma: With every right to do so too. He seems to think I can never do anything right. Or that I need protection from the harsh farm life as I’m so tiny. As if!
Katie: Ted is the single one?
Emma: Yes. You interested?
Katie: Could be in the future if this drunkard doesn’t clear up his act. Does he drink?
Emma: Yeah, but not that I’d see it to be a problem. Though I never saw it to become a problem with Matt either…

Emma sighed. They were back at Matt again. She glanced around in her small cottage for inspiration for ways to distract and delight Katie, when the phone vibrated again.

Hanna: I can’t believe I am about to say this, but… I nearly just wet the couch.
Katie: Excuse me? What, how and why?

Next chapter will be published on 12 am on Friday the 2nd of April 2021.

You have just read the second chapter of my book, Dependables. If you liked it, please let your friends and family know about it. Make some noise about it in the comment section too! As an amateur writer, I would love all the feedback especially from you! Yes, you! So, share away, and write me a comment, please!

Dependables: Chapter 1.

This is the first chapter of my novel Dependables.

Chapter 1: Katie & Matt – Date Night

For anything that is good in the world, where is he now? Katie’s fingers drummed against the dark leather couch, where she had curled up to watch TV. She tried to pay attention on the fictional characters love lives, but it was pointless. She was too immersed in her worrying, trying to guess the whereabouts of her own hulk of a husband to care about who was cheating on who on Eastenders. Or was it Coronation Street she was watching? She didn’t even know or care anymore.

Matt had promised to come home straight after work. No, not only promised but he had sworn to be home.

Katie tutted as she checked the time on the wall piece once again. The simple black and white clock that she had found from the local charity shop was relentless.

Matt’s shift had finished four hours ago.

Four hours, and not a single message or text to her, nor he had answered her phone calls. Nothing. Either he had vanished into thin air, out of reach, or the most likely explanation had taken place.

Katie turned to see out of the window, where rain splattered the screen, forming intricate streams like vein structures on the glass surface.

For five years she had been married to her husband. Five years, she thought as she twisted her wedding ring on her finger. When had married life turned into this waiting game? She spotted a pinch of yellow playdough stuck on the side of the ring. She rubbed it off.

It kept coming back to her. Their fifth wedding anniversary. The way he had celebrated it with her, champagne a loft, wide grin on his face. It wasn’t that different to how he had celebrated their actual wedding, but there was a distinctive disparity there. The horrid after taste. The red rims of his eyes and blotchy cheeks.

She shook her head to disperse the memory.   

When she finally heard the familiar clatter from the hallway leading to their flat, Katie muted the TV, stretched her legs out and got up. She clutched her lukewarm teacup to her chest as she braced herself for the worst.  

Matt stumbled in, flustered and wet. He slammed the door shut giggling to himself. He looked up to see Katie and grinned, his eyes dancing in the eye sockets.

He was drunk. The vile disappointment twisted in Katie’s guts as the insistent hope got squashed. There had been no misunderstanding or a catastrophe at work that had consumed him. He had done what he vowed not to.

He had gone to the pub.

Matt bellowed his greeting to his wife while kicking off his shoes.

He looked like Thor, his chestnut, shaggy brown hair falling on his face and his eyes sparkling with good humour that drew everyone in. She had fallen for it too. When he straightened his spine, he towered over her – a feature that had always made her feel safe. She was tall herself, being 5”9, and to fall in love with a man that was taller than her had been such a stroke of luck. Or so she had thought at the time.

Katie bit her lips together as Matt stopped himself before hanging the soaked clothes on the usual pegs by the front door. Instead, he disappeared into the bathroom. Katie heard him throw the clothes onto the airer.

“I did make dinner,” Katie said. Her voice was hollow, not unveiling any of the feelings storming within her.

She didn’t meet his eyes when Matt backed away from the tiny bathroom. The smell of alcohol danced towards Katie. It made the hurt multiply.

Matt grinned and dried his hair on a tea towel.
“Jolly good, what are we having?”
Katie turned towards the lounge to hide her face.
“Yours is in the fridge,” she managed to inform Matt over her shoulder and slumped back on the couch.
“You had yours already? What, and you didn’t wait for me?” Matt yelped in surprise.

As Katie avoided looking at Matt and inspected the insides of her teacup instead, Matt dropped his hands in exasperation. He glanced at the kitchen clock and stopped to stare at it. Then he glanced at the lounge clock, and back to the kitchen clock. He swayed on his feet while he tried to make sense what he was seeing.

He had told Katie he would be home by six o’clock.

It was half past nine now. 

“Oh God, I’m sorry,” Matt said and shook his head in disbelief.

Katie hissed between pursed lips: “Actually, I am surprised to see you home so soon. It wasn’t like you let me know or anything…” Her voice was full of hurt menace.

Matt hid his face behind his hands. He had left the phone on silent. The situation was only getting worse and worse.

Katie looked for the TV remote and unmuted the television. She was blinking fast, trying to keep the tears at bay. She wouldn’t cry now, not now, when her message might have just got through to Matt. She wondered if she should tell Matt about her phone calls to the A&E and the police. She had even phoned his place of work too, not that anyone had picked up the call. She had trusted his word, so when he hadn’t arrived in time nor replied to her calls or texts, she had feared for his life. She didn’t want to admit either how nearly she had driven past Matt’s usual pub. Just to check.

From the periphery of her vision, she could see Matt rocking on his feet, those hurt puppy eyes of his flickering towards her. He made it seem like she was the one to blame; like she had slapped him, wronged him. What did he expect her to do? Run up to him, all forgiving and happy just because he had finally made his way home?

Eventually, Matt clambered towards the kitchen. Katie was tense, barely breathing, as she listened to her husband fling the fridge door open. It didn’t take long when she heard the unmistakable hissing sound as Matt opened a can of beer. It echoed in the silence, stamping over the soap operas chatter. It cut through Katie.

Matt stared at the dinner plate prepared for him, eyeing up what he had to take pleasure in instead of the laughter of his co-workers. Soggy fish with burned chips, gloomy pale mushy peas and some salad, garnished with unpleasant company of his moody wife. He wished he had stayed in the pub. Katie would have been fuming, but it wasn’t like she was overly jovial with him now either.

Matt scraped the rabbit food off his plate and placed the meal inside the old microwave. He sighed and leaned on the counter, sipping from his can, waiting for the food to warm up.

“It might help if you turned the oven on,” Katie shouted after several minutes had passed by.

Matt blinked at the microwave. Truly, he had not twisted the timer knob at all. He cursed and did so. The microwave woke to life with lights and insistent humming.

Katie crossed and uncrossed her legs. She wanted to stand up and scream all the chafing anger out, she wanted to hit Matt, to wake him up. She wanted to make him see her. Really see her, how he had made her worry and wait yet again.

She cringed as Matt burned his fingers on the heated plate, letting out profanities that only a drunk teenager would have been proud of.  Matt knocked cupboard doors open and shut, looking for a tea towel to help him get his dinner out of the oven. Katie listened to it all, trying to recall a day when her partner hadn’t had a drink. Why couldn’t she remember one? She worked hard not to let her emotions get the better of her, so she just sat there. Unable to do anything else than stare at the TV screen unseeing, her attention elsewhere. She knew from experience that shouting wouldn’t help, or even carefully worded emotional plea. She had tried it all. He just didn’t get it.

Matt dropped the plate on the dinner table and sat down with a pointed oomph. He sipped from the nearly empty beer can. He could only see the back of Katie’s head. He wanted her to turn around. He wanted her to join him at the table, but his pride prevented him saying so.

To break the silence, he mumbled: “So how was your day?”
Katie huffed. Before she could stop herself, she turned to face him and blurted out:
“Why, Matt?”
“Why what?” Matt said, pushing the fish around on his plate.
“Why did you go to the pub, of course, and didn’t let me know? We were supposed to have a date night tonight, remember?” Katie was seething.

Matt flinched. He opened his mouth to reply but closed it up again. What could he say? That he forgot? He swallowed hard.

“We were working on this campaign,” his voice was weak when he finally spoke. He didn’t meet her eyes, though Katie’s gaze was scorching his scalp. “And the guys said to continue at the pub and I just thought… One drink, that would be it, we’d finish the talk about the ad and I’d come home.”
He sighed. “Obviously, I lost track of time.”
“Obviously,” Katie repeated, disparagingly.
“I am sorry, Katie,” Matt pleaded, peering through his thick eyelashes.
“You could have let me know,” Katie said, unmoved, “Or you know, not have the beer.” Katie stared meaningfully at the beer can, that was protectively cradled by her husband’s wide hand.

Matt looked at the can like he had never seen it before. Then his eyes finally met Katie’s. His posture changed from apologetic to defensive.

“What’s the beer got to do with anything?”

Katie saw the change and stiffened, frustration flaming. They were back at this again. It didn’t matter how many times or ways Katie tried to make Matt see how often he drank, it wouldn’t change a thing. It would just make him angry at her, for nagging.

“It’s got everything to do with it,” Katie sighed, deflating. Before Matt could start his usual parade of excuses and faulty reasonings that she was expecting, Katie stood up and left the room.

In the bedroom, she messaged the girls.

Katie: Matt is drunk again.
Hanna: Again! Didn’t he promise not to go to the pub?
Emma: Wasn’t he drunk yesterday too?
Katie: Yes and yes. He seemed very confused as in where the time had gone.
Hanna: Weren’t you planning on having a date night tonight?
Katie: Yes. Luckily I didn’t make a fancy dinner or anything. He is eating his portion alone in the kitchen now.
Emma: Still. That is so awful.
Hanna: How are you feeling?
Katie: I’m so disappointed. I had high hopes for tonight.
Hanna: I’m so sorry.
Katie: Please tell me about your day, I want to concentrate on something other than my drunken husband.
Emma: Well…

Next chapter will be published on 12 pm on Friday the 26th of March 2021.

You have just read the first chapter of my book, Dependables. If you liked it, please let your friends and family know about it. Make some noise about it in the comment section too! As an amateur writer, I would love all the feedback especially from you! Yes, you! So, share away, and write me a comment, please!

We got help from Paws on Board

Black labrador looking at the camera with border collie. text says "we got help from paws on board"

What is it about asking for help that is so damn hard?

I would be honoured to help, if anyone blessed me with a genuine request for help. But to ask for myself… I have to be at the very near to the end of my wits before I do, and I know it’s very foolish of me.

Black labrador and border collie stare at a camera. Text says: We got help from Paws on Board.

We have a lovely, energetic and bonkers 2 years old black Labrador called Freya. We got her as a puppy at a time when I had time to train her and take her for walks.

Introducing Freya the Labrador.

I needed help.

First of all, Elisa’s muscle tone was getting very varied, she would suffer from very painful muscle spasms and cramps that are what is diagnosed as “dystonia”. Often, she would only be comfortable enough to be sort of content was when cradled in with a firm cuddle.

Then Melody started having seizures, and after necessary checks she was diagnosed with epilepsy (I realised I haven’t blogged about this – I will).

This inevitably meant neither of us parents felt comfortable being left alone with both kids at the same time, as each of them required a minimum of one adult to keep them safe.

The worst-case scenarios haunted our minds – what would happen if Elisa suffered from dystonia and was cuddled by the lone parent, only to see that Melody dropped to the floor having a seizure?

That meant no more taking turns to have some alone time while the other parent minded the kids. No more long walks with the dog, unless we got a carer to look after Elisa.

Labrador cuddling a child

Looking for ways to help Freya

From very early on our newly founded restrictions on walking time with Freya, I stumbled upon Absolute Dogs. I was looking for different ways to engage with Freya, give her focus and burn some of that energy at home, without me leaving the premises or going too far in case Dan needed me with the children.

I signed up for the “Sexier than a Squirrel”-challenge as it seemed like fun, which it was. Me and Freya enjoyed the challenge games and the whole experience did wonders for both of our confidences and Freya’s recall.

Unfortunately, it didn’t change the fact that Freya was not having enough exercise. I could throw treats on the floor in the garden all I wanted so she could go out for a sniff… I could play the games, I could teach her tricks so she would use her brain… But still, she needed the exercise. I could see her physical form getting worse. She was loosing muscle. She was getting restless and frustrated. Pressure was building up within her.

Black labrador laying down on a picnic mat.

Even after we got Melody’s seizures under control with medication, the fear stayed. I only felt comfortable taking the dog out for a proper long walk, if I knew Dan wasn’t alone with the children.

The shielding didn’t make matters any easier – it meant every time I was out with (or without) the dog, I would pass the other pedestrians as far as possible, keeping my distance. Which meant zero socialisation prospects for the furry pet of mine. Brilliant for learning to pass other dogs, but very bad for Freya’s mental health and canine social skills.

What is best for our dog?

I started to wonder if it was best for Freya to be rehomed to another family, where she would have all the exercise she craved for and the attention she deserved. We had had her for two years, and she was part of our family. Still, we were not providing the life for her that we thought we would when we originally considered bringing her home to us. The pandemic, shielding, the children’s diagnoses, it all were on my way of being the dog owner I had thought of being.

Dog being cuddled by her emotional owner.
Freya giving me emotional support at the time when I was upset over Melody’s seizures.

Something had to change.

We had to take Elisa in to the hospital for third time this year (post about this here). I knew something had to change. Even when Melody went back to school, I didn’t have the time to take Freya to blow some steam as I was on the beg and run to go to the hospital during school hours.

I started to research local dog walkers.

I wanted someone experienced. I needed someone who would know how to handle an energetic Labrador, who hasn’t had a chance to really be a dog for a while. Who would make socialising with other dogs safe and fun for Freya, who had been lucky if allowed to sniff another dog in touching distance for such a long while. Even if Freya wouldn’t pull as such on a lead, I didn’t want to give her to someone who wouldn’t necessarily understand her.

Which was why I hadn’t just given her for a friend either to take for a walk – I didn’t know how Freya would react to someone else walking her. Would she behave?

Child watching videos on a tablet while cuddled by a black labrador
I’m not just a dog. I’m a cuddly dog.

I watched lovely videos that dog walking entrepreneurs had posted, where they had taken a punch of lively canines to a forest and they were having zoomies and crazy, fun times. I read reviews, checked websites, read posts on Dog Friendly Dorset’s Facebook group, trying to get the feel of the people behind the profiles.

I asked my friend, a fellow dog owner, for recommendation and she told me about Vicky.

I checked out her website. While reading about the training service she offers, I noted she has been trained by the same people behind Absolute Dogs. I felt a spark of excitement: she would have same ideas for dog ownership and training like I do. I smiled as I thought of her training Freya to surf, of all things. I looked at her Facebook Page, and got the feel of calm, controlled but fun.

I contacted her, and I watched her face on the video call when we talked. I felt reassured. I felt connection. This woman seemed to know what she was talking about. We arranged a trial walk, and she came to pick Freya up the very next day.

I was nervous.

For nothing, in the end. When Freya got back, Vicky reported same things I already knew about my dog – that she had lost muscle on her legs due lack of exercise which could potentially be a health risk in the future, and she played rough with the other dogs and didn’t really understand all the social cues the other dogs were giving her, which was due the lack of socialising. Freya was lacking in confidence, which manifested itself in many ways.

Vicky also noted how loving dog Freya is and how in tune the dog is with me. Freya reads my moods better than I do. She truly is our emotional support dog. For the whole family but especially for me.

Vicky gave me some exercise ideas to help Freya build up strength on her hind legs and back, and there we had it – a beautiful working relationship between a dog owner and a dog walker/trainer. She started to come and pick Freya up couple times a week, and after each session I would see Freya trusting Vicky more and more, and she would come back from her walks tired but happy.

labrador laying under the table, leaning on her owners foot
“Mum, you are not alone. I’m here, laying on top of your foot. Just so you won’t forget.”

I have already noticed she is calmer around the house, the ever present near to the boiling point pressure within her has just about vanished.

She is still very much in tune with my emotions.

On the day of Elisa’s surgery in Southampton hospital, I was very anxious and so was the dog. She was clingy. She followed me everywhere, touching me on my legs, her ears drooping, tail low. I walked around the house, cleaning and picking up stuff to only put it down again somewhere else, and all the while the dog followed.

The surgery was to be long one. So I called Vicky and she came to collect Freya.

Freya didn’t want to leave my side, but she got lured away with yummy sausages… And when she came back, she was like another dog. She was content. She still watched me like a hawk, never letting me out of her sight – but she did so from the armchair, where she got herself comfortable. She kept her tabs on me, but wasn’t clingy.

When I was near a peak of an anxiety attack, Freya trotted to me and placed her head on my lap. I gathered her in my arms and hugged her tight, and Freya was there, calm, collected, snuggling into me. She felt my worry, but it didn’t overflow her bucket. She had had her run and fun, her body was tended for, she wasn’t bursting with nervous energy – so she was there for me. Helping me to keep me together.

This blog post is not paid advertisement.

Is merely an acknowledgement for amazing person for the work she does and what a difference it can make. For £12 a walk, my dog is safe, but has an adventure. She is allowed to be a dog, she learns to socialise with others of her kind and she gets the exercise she needs. If anyone ever asked me for recommendation on dog walkers or dog trainers around BCP council area, I would full-heartedly recommend Vicky.

And so would Freya.

Check out Vicky’s website and Facebook for more details:

Thank you Vicky, for all you’ve already done for us. Thank you. My only regret is that I didn’t find and contact you sooner.

Mother at Home: Child at the Hospital.

So much of missing Elisa is guttural.

Usually, when I miss someone, I either call them or text them. Usually the latter. I can keep in touch with my stepdaughter and nieces that way, I can call my parents who live in Finland. I can even write and receive simple sentences from my 5-year-old or have a chat with her over the phone if a need arose.

With Elisa, none of the above communication methods are usable. She is non-verbal, and cerebral palsy makes it nearly impossible for her to master any sort of meaningful movement in any of her limbs or body. She is deaf, and when she is poorly, she hardly ever tolerates her cochlear implants as she prefers to heal in complete silence that her body naturally engulfs her in. Her eyesight is not a lot better, even though she can recognise people and animated characters by looking at them. Still, eyeing Elisa through a screen knowing that it is possible she might not even recognise me on the screen at her end does not provide the equal comfort than actually seeing her.

So much of communication with Elisa is done through touch. We cuddle her to shower her with love. I stroke her hair, I gently trace her facial features with tips of my fingers. I tickle her, or give her a firm, strong massage. I smell her hair, the curve of her upper lip, where I can feel her breath. I love breathing in the smell of her breath when she’s healthy. When there isn’t that sickly sense that she’s got a flu,.

I can’t get any of that through the screen.

When she is not at home, the house feels utterly empty. Even if everyone else was filling the space, the lack of Elisa’s presence is so immense that none of us really know what to do with ourselves. Even the cat and the dog look like they’ve lost the plot, wandering around aimlessly, looking for something. Looking for Elisa. Even if she doesn’t do much, she does so much more than any of us realise, and it only comes painstakingly clear when she is not around to do it.

What is the hospital life like during the pandemic as a parent at home, when your child is an inpatient?

I recorded this voice clip on the 2nd of March. I attempted to answer the simple question of: “What is the hospital life with your child like during the pandemic, when you are the parent at home?”

I made it into a little slide show, with subtitles.

There are many reasons why me and Dan have made these care arrangements; why he is the one looking after Elisa at the hospital while I’m at home with Melody. One of the reasons is as simple as me being the one with a driving licence, therefore doing the supply runs between home and hospital.

Today is 9th of March 2021.

Elisa is still in hospital. I got to go and have a cuddle with her this morning before she got transferred to Southampton hospital with her Dad.

During the pandemic, Elisa’s muscle tone has been getting worse. She suffers from dystonia, which is “unintentional sustained muscle contractions leading to abnormal postures.” The lack of physiotherapy and occupational therapy may have contributed towards the worsening muscle tone.

Two weeks ago Elisa got admitted to the hospital due a lot of stress from dystonia – she was in so much pain. We took her in for the third time this year.

While doing their examinations the hiatus hernia was discovered nearly by accident, and since then we have discovered her fundoplication has loosened up as well as her hips are not doing really that well either.

She will have a surgery tomorrow. They will tighten up her fundoplication and get rid of that hernia that is letting her bowels push her lungs. I can’t even imagine how painful that has been for her. I mean, I’ve seen how much in agony she’s been – but to actually know how she’s felt…

 I just hope she will recover quickly and come back to being her happy self, without pain, as soon as possible. I am also so very scared. It’s going to be a major surgery.

Today is 12th of March 2021.

The surgery lasted 8 hours, but was regarded a success. Afterwards she was on a ventilator for nearly 24 hours in Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), but has already been taken off the ventilator and moved to High Dependency Unit (HDU) . I wish we could go up there with Melody to visit, but it’s not possible nor safe. Melody has been back at school, so even if the hospital would allow siblings to visit, we would not recognise it being safe.


It is strange being home without Elisa and Dan. I’m trying to keep Melody as busy as possible, as this time around she has found it very tough indeed. She was so used to us shielding, all of us being constantly at home together, and all of a sudden half of her family is out of reach and mostly to be communicated with through screens.

We do not know how long Elisa will be in the hospitals for this time. She won’t only need to recover from the surgery, but most of her medications need to be fiddled with again to provide the relief from dystonia and other problematic by-products of her disabilities.

Will keep you posted…

My 4-year-old will be expected to do longer days at school in UK than a 12-year-old in Finland

In 2020 our youngest will start school and I am terrified.

She is too little for school!

I think she is not ready. She will only be 4 months shy off being a 5-year-old when she starts.

But then, I am from Finland. There children start school at age 7. Till then, they can be at home with their parents, being care-free about numbers and letters and just enjoy playing.

Let’s briefly compare some aspects of Finnish education system to UK’s one

At age 7, Finns start school and only then start to be taught to read, write and do maths. As they should at year 1.

At age 7, children in UK are in year 2. They have done their reception class at age 4-5 and then moved on to year 1 at the age of 5-6. At age 6-7, they are expected to already learn to …

So they are obviously expected to be doing more advanced maths than their age peers in Finland, who have only just started their education journey at school. It is no wonder though, as the British kids would have already spent 2 years in school and are on their 3rd year!

Even more disturbingly…

Here in UK the pupils spend about 6 hours a day, 5 days a week at school. That is a whopping 30 hours a week!

The Finn in me is distressed as a 6 hour day at school was always a long day for me, or any Finn, at school.

My little helper shopping in Finland.

In Finland the councils are required by law to provide at least a minimum amount of hours of school lessons a week, but the requirement increases with the age of the children. They do not expect a 7-year-old to be spending as long at school than a 13-year-old.

In Finland, they do not expect a 7-year-old to be spending as long at school than a 13-year-old.

Those minimum hours are

The minimum hours for 7-9 year olds (years 1-2) are 19 hours a week,
9-11 year olds (year 3-4) should have at least 22 hours a week,
11-13 year olds (years 5-6) should have at least 25 hours a week and
13-16 year olds (years 7-9) should have at least 30 hours a week at school…

By comparison in UK, once the child turns 5 years old they are expected to be getting a full-time education, so from as early as in reception class the children are expected to spend 30 hours a week.

So a 5-year-old in UK does the same hours at school than a 13-year-old is only starting to do in Finland.

Me, then Melody (4) and Ruby (14). Isn’t it mind-blowing to think that these two sisters will be spending as many hours at school a week, despite the age difference?

I know British schools do not perform too bad on the international rankings when comparing educational systems.. but what about Finland then? How will the children, who spend less of their childhood at schools, do in those international tests?

I found this interesting video ..

I kept a close eye on Finland and United Kingdom on that video – and Finland always scored better than UK.

Finnish education system do differ from United Kingdoms schools in other ways too.

Finland’s education system is one of the best in the world – this is how it works

Best of 2019: Top of the class.📕 Read more:

Posted by World Economic Forum on Wednesday, 18 December 2019

But someone more experienced could write about the other differences.
(But if your interest has peaked, there is a blog by an American who lives in Finland called Taught by Finland.)

As a conclusion,

I am excited as we are reaching a new family milestone with Melody. I anticipate the school runs, homework and all those normal school-life activities that are almost within the reach for us.

But also I am saddened by the fact that she will be spending most of her childhood within school walls. She will have so many years more of compulsory formal education than I did. But then, that is the consequence of us living in the United Kingdom, where we are content and which I do identify as my home. (There are plenty of reasons why we live here and not in Finland – maybe that’ll be another blog post.)

What do you think? How many hours children should spend at school a week?

Three Dorset based Charities have made our Christmas full of joy

Three local charities have done so much for our family for Christmas that there have been so much to be thankful for!

Julia’s house

Dan, Elisa and uncle Andrew as their driver got to go and meet some professional football players and their manager at the hospice. These are Dan’s posts about it:

The photos are from Julia’s house Facebook Gallery, photos taken by Simon Ward.

Dan’s photo:

AFC Bournemouth’s video about this event

Dorset Echo wrote about the event here

Amelia’s Rainbow Toy Appeal

Santa and an Elf came to visit us bearing gifts for all of our children and I could not be more grateful. Knowing our application had been accepted took a huge pressure off my shoulders: I knew my children would have so many lovely presents to open this Christmas thanks to Amelia’s Rainbow and to all, who had donated to them.

Unfortunately Elisa was asleep when they came to visit and Melody felt too shy to pose for photos with Santa, so we have no photos from the occasion.

We let Melody choose one gift from her sack of presents to open then, and ever since the Barbie and Unicorn have gone with her anywhere – literally, anywhere. She has slept with them, taken them to have a bath with her, and I’ve allowed them in the car too… Elisa and Ruby both have all of their gifts yet to be opened, and Melody has more too waiting for her!

Thank you Amelia’s Rainbow again for all this joy!

The Dorset Children’s Foundation

Within December, we’ve got more than four events with the DCF, the regular football sessions excluded from the count.

A Christmas party

where we got to see Santa, climb on board of a fire engine and Firefighter Melody got to spray water with a firefighters hose.. There were Squidge and Pop doing bubble magic and DJ Nose It got us all dancing… with a princess and a Spiderman!

Elisa slept through most of the party, but she had her friend Dolly looking after her the whole time. Everyone should have a friend like Dolly – we love her!


Christmas edition of Comotion dance session was another blast. We all loved it, and not only because the ever-so-lovely Dorsey Bear came to visit!

Afterwards we walked to around the corner where there were some market stalls and animals to see and cuddle from Mill Cottage Farm Experience – Melody’s favourite was the guinea pigs, Elisa loved a bunny rabbit and I liked the goat. There were also a sheep, alpacas (that I accidently called llamas – ups), turkeys, ducks, chickens and roosters.

Honeybrook Farm

We had bought tickets to Honeybrook Farm, Wimborne, through the DCF. We went to see some lovely farm animals and played with tractors and in the play equipment in muddy conditions for one lovely sunny afternoon – and we had a tractor ride, a tour led by a funny Elf and visited the Santa’s Grotto, where we got to have our photos taken with Father Christmas. Kids got to choose their gifts, which was a nice bonus, as even the teenager found something she was interested in from the options available! All and all, we had a nice, relaxed family afternoon in a friendly atmosphere, surrounded by friends and other visitors.

There wasn’t enough room on a tractor ride for Elisa’s wheels – so Daddy and Elisa met us in the end of the ride.

Melody thought the pigs were the best!

Amazing big sister Ruby followed her little sister everywhere, making sure she was okay and played with her – even if it meant getting muddy! Ruby truly is the best big sister.
Because Elisa’s wheelchair would not have fitted in the Santa’s grotto, Father Christmas came to see Elisa outside. Melody was already inside eagerly waiting for her turn and I was there with her.
Elisa loved this extra attention, and amazing Ruby is making sure Elisa is okay.
I wanted to have a family photo with Santa, but with Melody waiting for Santa eagerly inside and Elisa not being able to follow with her wheelchair it seemed to be impossible, even though the staff were very accommodating to our family. Melody would have got very upset if I was to take her outside again promising that Santa would be there, when she knew everyone else went to see Santa to the next room.. I almost cried as I got so upset about it – but then Dan carried Elisa in and all was good.
Can you see it from my smile how happy it made me, having this photo?

The Giggles

Giggles is a soft play centre in Bournemouth where we have DCF session once a month. Towards the end of the Christmas period we have a Christmas spectacular party awaiting us at the Giggles, which will be fun!

Elisa with Patsy, the co-founder of the Dorset Children’s Foundation

I feel so incredibly lucky that we have already had so much to do this December and more still upcoming – as to previous years our activities were focused at home and highlights would include seeing “only” family.

It is so much easier to be active when a whole community full of friends is waiting for you to join in the fun; people who understand your struggles and need no explanations. When previously we had nothing specific to look forward to, only having our fingers crossed for a healthy holiday season without hospital stays, now look at us, having a calendar full of fully accessible events for the whole family.

I feel so blessed to be living in Bournemouth, with these brilliant local charities giving so much to my family. Regardless what next year brings us with Brexit and the new UK parliament, I feel reassured that there are these amazing organisations fighting our corners and giving our family so much opportunities to enjoy life and be part of it all.

All the charities mentioned

All the companies mentioned

We wish You Very Merry Christmas!

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Special Siblings Burden: our example from one weekend

There are times when I wonder about the effect on Ruby and Melody for having a disabled sister. They endure a lot. Only recently I watched them plough through an eventful day like it was nothing.

It all started on Friday.

In the afternoon it became clear all was not well in our household – after my swimming session with Melody she didn’t seem right. She was pale and unusually quiet; she only wanted cuddles. Had she swallowed some water? Maybe she overdid it at the pool?

Then Elisa came back from school and she wasn’t right either. She had had some paracetamol for discomfort at school and her school book noted that she also had had some chest physio for chesty and rattly cough at school. Oh dear, we thought.

She didn’t yet have temperature and staff from Julia’s house, who had come to look after Elisa for couple of hours, decided to stay indoors with her and do quiet, relaxing activities.

Dan had a rare evening out that day

In the evening, Ruby and Dan went off to the local SEND hustings event that Dan had organised, and I was home with the younger girls. Our CHC – funded carer showered Elisa and got her ready for bed. I had no trouble getting Melody to bed – she hadn’t perked up at all since coming back from the swim and she fell asleep without a hitch.

I came back downstairs to find that Elisa was already tucked in bed too, but she was awfully pale. We attached the Nurofen FeverSmart Thermometer under her arm to keep an eye on her temperature as I had that feeling… (link is to Amazon page; not affiliate)

Sure enough, in just hours time her temperature spiked up to 38 Celsius Degrees.

But that’s not all, folks!

Melody woke up with blotchy red cheeks. She was hot, but shivering. I found a traditional thermometer to check her temperature and it climbed up to 39.3 Celsius degrees. Melody complained that her arms and legs hurt, so I took it that she felt achy.

I send a cheery video message to Dan saying:

“Hello there! The one time you actually get to go out and this is what happens and what you come home to… To poorly Elisa who has got temperature of 38 degrees and Melody, who’s got 39.3. Both have had some paracetamol, Elisa is with a night carer and I’m just taking Melody back to bed… I hope you have had fun and take your time, all is otherwise good here…”

Maiju, while taking Melody back to bed

Both of the girls reacted positively on the pain killers, but temperatures spiked back up when the medicines wore off.

We had very restless night with both girls

In the morning it was clear Elisa was struggling. Her saturations (oxygen levels in her blood) kept dropping; she was working hard to breathe and her temperature was too close to 40 Celsius. We called our local hospital where Elisa has open access to and started arranging to take her up there.

We had to take Elisa to the hospital to be checked out

I went to wake Ruby up with the news that we are taking her sister to hospital. As a sign of what an amazing special sibling she is, she didn’t panic about it – she has experienced such wake-ups before.

Her first words to me:

“Okay, well I don’t have to go to boxing today, I could always catch up during the week so don’t worry about that, it would be too much hassling about if we went.”

My beautiful step-daughter.

Her first instinct was to make it all easier for everyone.

She loves boxing and I never want her to miss out on anything because of her sister’s conditions, but she insisted it was fine.

She was right – it did make the day easier.

Around the time she was supposed to be boxing, she was looking after Melody while I dropped Dan and Elisa off to the hospital.

Later, me and Melody took Ruby home to her mother’s place so she could enjoy more of her weekend and to better her chances of not getting what her sisters had.

Melody hadn’t been herself all day.

She was tired, but had no breathing difficulties. There were no rashes. She didn’t even cough. She didn’t really have an appetite, but she drank fluids okay. When the pain relief was working her temperature was only mild.

Late afternoon I had just noted that Melody’s temperature had jumped up again and was wondering if it was time to give her more pain relief, when I got the news that Elisa could come back home from the hospital. They had diagnosed her with viral throat and ear infection; her lungs and flu test were clear.

It was time to witness 3-year-old Melody’s special sibling skills

When your sister is disabled, your own needs get surpassed often. Even when you have a temperature of 39 Celsius degrees, you might have to be wrapped up in clothes and climb up to your car seat. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to do it and that you feel horrible, as you do have to pick your big sister up from the hospital with your Mummy.

Thanks to Christmas decorations, she was a superstar

To start with, she did complain and cry as she felt achy and uncomfortable. All she wanted was “mummy cuddles”, and not to be sitting on her own in her car seat. I felt for her and tried to think of something to cheer her up…

So, I made the car trip into a game of “spot the prettiest Christmas lights”. Thank you all in Bournemouth and Poole, who already have decorated their front gardens – you made it all so much easier for me and Melody! My poorly girl forgot about her aches as she kept looking out for Christmas characters, stars and snow projectors and colourful flashing fairy lights.

Melody looking at Christmas lights last year in Bournemouth Gardens.

Soon we pulled up by the hospital and got the wheelchair girl and Daddy back in.

Melody then would have wanted to have Daddy sitting next to her, but that is another impossibility when Elisa is in the car as Elisa needs an escort that can assist her during the car journey… Again, before Melody had an epic meltdown over the lack of cuddles, I was able to divert her attention to the different flashing Christmas decorations. Would we see a reindeer one? How about an elf?

The following day both of them were better and only had mild temperatures.

Those events keep running through my head. What little Melody had to endure even when she felt terrible herself; how Ruby didn’t only miss out on her boxing lesson but a weekend with her sisters. Elisa can’t help her disabilities; she has breathing issues without a cold, and with an illness she struggles more than others in our family.

I keep feeling guilty for strapping Melody into her car seat when all she wanted – and needed! – were cuddles and snuggles with Mummy on a sofa. I know we had no other choice; we needed to get Daddy and Elisa back home and we surely did not have the money for a taxi. Also it was a weekend and it was not planned appointment, so we could not use the hospital transport for the trip.

I do not feel bad that she was with us when I took Ruby home, as then her temperature was down and the trip seemed to cheer her up. The main difference is in the timing.

I keep worrying for them all. Could I have done something differently? Did we do the best for all? Do we do all we can for all of them, the best we can for them in the long run?

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3-year-old’s logic with a step-family: which house is whose and whose mum is who?

We are blended family or “step-family”, which in itself is nothing unusual. Dan has a 14-year-old daughter called Ruby from his previous relationship, and he’s got two daughters with me – 6-year-old Elisa and 3-year-old Melody.

“Ruby’s house”

Ruby lives with her Mum and comes to ours every other weekend and sometimes between. Melody has started to question it recently, asking every day when Ruby will be with us and that where she is. She does know where Ruby lives – she calls it “Ruby’s house” – and like all of us, she misses her when she is not with us.

To make matters more confusing for a 3-year-old

Elisa has been going to Lily’s Place for respite care once a week, staying there overnight. During school holidays Elisa has gone there for two nights a week.

Therefore Melody is quite used to seeing her big sister off to Lily’s place that she promptly calls “Elisa’s house”.

How does Melody view this?

Melody is the only one who doesn’t do “sleepovers” just yet. As stated earlier, she calls Ruby’s mum’s place as “Rubys house”. Lily’s place is “Elisa’s house”.

The house where we all live in she calls as”Melody’s new house”. “Melody’s house” is the old place where we moved out of in October 2019.

Aren’t we lucky as all of our children already have their “own houses”?

In Melody’s new house, there is “Elisa’s room”. The biggest bedroom upstairs is “Melody’s room”, where she shares a bunk bed with Ruby. She claims the bottom bunk is hers and the top one is Ruby’s.

Order is crucial.

It get’s weirder though. As ever since Dan quit working and took on a carers role for Elisa, Melody has learned that Daddy looks after Elisa and Mummy looks after her. Now she has started to tell that Daddy is “Elisa’s Daddy” and Mummy is “Melody’s Mummy” – and she laughs and yells “Nooo!” if you correct her saying that Melody, Elisa and Ruby has got a same Daddy and Mummy is also Elisa’s Mummy.

So just that you know

– all of the girls have a same father, and Elisa and Melody are biologically my daughters. Do not believe the youngest of the family…

I can’t wait when her mind is blown with the fact that Grandma is Daddy’s Mum, and “Mummi” is Mummy’s Mummy and “Ukki” is Mummy’s Daddy…

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