Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Longest Hour

Saturday started off in much the same vein as most of our Saturdays do. DH was in a benevolent mood and generously let me have a lie-in. Josh was happy and just a tad more boisterous than his usual exuberant self as he'd invited a friend round to play in the afternoon.

The afternoon arrived rather sooner than I expected as I hadn't quite finished luxuriating in my lazy Saturday morning. DH, continuing in his mood of benevolence, decided to take the dogs along with Josh and his friend for a walk across the Common. How sensible, thought I! He'll wear the dogs out and the boys can run around playing frisbee, chasing each other or hunting for the newly acquired boomerang which never does seem to come back regardless of however closely we follow the instructions.

Josh had mooted the possibility that Daddy could walk the dogs whilst he and his friend played in the local storage area for spliff butt-ends, used condoms and syringes. I believe that Bournemouth Borough Council calls the area "a playground". This possibility was negated immediately by the cruel Mummy on the grounds that the apparatus in the so-called "playground" was far more suited to children much younger than Josh and his friend and, invariably, the "children" frequenting the playground were, given its catchment area, doubtless parents themselves and given to roughly shoving aside those kids who genuinely wanted to play. DH and I both agreed and voiced our opinion that a good run along the Common would be a far better prospect for two little boys with excess energy to burn off. So with those instructions clearly ringing in their ears, the intrepid walkers set off ...

I installed myself comfortably in front of the computer and settled down for an hour or so of uninterrupted twittering.

After about 20 minutes, my 'phone rang. I answered it and heard the words that no mother wants to hear. An uneasy silence then the voice of a husband trying very hard to sound calm and "matter-of-fact", asking "Is Josh at home with you?"

Well, of course he wasn't and neither was his friend.

I'm writing this well before the watershed and cannot therefore repeat the response I gave to the now not so terribly "Dear" Husband.

Keys grabbed, bag grabbed, 'phone grabbed and into the car. Poor car's suspension may never recover from several high speed launches into mid air over the "traffic calming" humps in our road. I parked at the Common and began hunting for two children. They were nowhere to be seen.

Several more increasingly fraught telephone exchanges between DH and I ensued. No-one batted an eyelid in the playground as I was using vernacular that was everyday speech to the people who frequent it.

I gave up looking in the playground and jogged the entire length of the Common peering behind bushes and trees as I huffed and puffed my way along. I saw lots of children but none of them were "mine".

By this point in time, I was already rehearsing the appeal I would make on TV that night and the cinema in my head was replaying every horrifying occurrence involving lost children that I'd ever seen.

My 'phone rang once more. My hands were trembling as I answered it. A very small voice said "Hello Mummy, I'm back at the house".

Tearful and exhausted I went back to the car and drove back home.

I did that "bad Mummy" thing of not waiting for explanations and just ushered Josh's friend into my car and took him back to his parents.

When I re-appeared at home, a Josh with a very wobbly bottom lip flung himself into my arms and told me what had happened. It seems that his friend had "really, really" wanted to stay in the playground and as he was "our guest", Josh had persuaded DH that they would not move "an inch" and would be there waiting for him on his return from walking the dogs. Josh's friend had wanted to explore "the bit behind the playground" and Josh - ever the polite and accommodating host - had "innocently" and "grudgingly" agreed. Hence, when DH arrived back at the playground, the boys were still exploring "the bit behind" and DH couldn't see them - which is when I received the first 'phone call.

Josh was grounded for the weekend. The very worst sort of grounding that only involved homework, meals and early nights - no TV and no computer AT ALL.

DH - for his complete inability to adhere to the simplest of instructions and total ineptitude at controlling two small humans who are 46 years his junior - is grounded until further notice.

Mother's Day was wonderful. After the initial relief, I suffered the nervous reaction of a full-blown migraine - so bad that I could barely read the sweet words on Josh's card.

The memory of that hour will stay with me for as long as I live. May it always and only be "just a memory".


  1. Karen we have all been there. Especially us mothers of 'onlys'. Time for Josh to have his first mobile? I can remember stalking Poppy's first half dozen shopping centre trips - even with a fully receptive mobile."Don't you DARE leave a shop without calling me first!"

  2. Oh Lordy Karen....what a weekend! I panic when mine go off in supermarkets to hide behind the fizzy drinks! And when I think that I used to go off from 6am till 6pm with no mobile phones at all.....how times have changed. So glad he is safe.

  3. Josh has got a mobile. It was on the desk in his bedroom and switched off! He IS usually pretty good at taking it with him. He takes it to school in case of "emergencies". I didn't think I needed to worry TOO much because the person whom I thought was a responsible adult in the currently most unattractive shape of DH was with them! That'll teach me!

    And I, too, remember long Summer halcyon days when I'd be out exploring with my friends from dawn 'til dusk. And those times will never, ever recur.

  4. A very good look into domestic bliss that I am not experienced in. It is a nice piece, Karen. I enjoyed reading it. I hope I will have more time to browse around other blogs when this week is over. I will be submitting my manuscript on or before Friday. Take Care, Clive.

  5. Here's one for you. Nine-year-old goes from school across town to bus stop to go the 7 miles home. Stops in telephone kiosk to phone Mummy. (Reason no longer on hard disk). Boy from other school (11 or more) comes into telephone kiosk and assaults nine year old while Mummy is on other end of phone. Wasn't funny for little boy but probably a lot less funny for Mummy.

  6. That is horrible, Nick. I spend most of my time trying really hard not to think - and when I do think, I have to remember not to say. Last thing I ever want to do is make Josh a fearful person. I have the most severely bitten tongue in Southern England. And I tremble inside.

  7. Frightening for you. That feeling of OMG where are they is awful even when it's only for a few minutes. I lost my youngest boy for about ten minutes at a zoo last year and the fear was horrendous. Of course he reappeared with his big brother and sister (whom I'd sent off in search) and mentioned something about he thought aliens had abducted us! Imagination eh? Good blog, glad all was well in the end x

  8. Ak, that is horrible.
    I lost both of my children (6 and 3) in Ikea once (and you know what a maze that place is) and I felt sick. I was so relieved to see them hours later (ok ok it was only 5 minutes, but it felt like hours) that we all collapsed in a heap on one of the display beds.
    i don't think the store assistant had the heart to tell us we weren't supposed to sit on the beds!

  9. I felt sick just reading about this. I lost One for about five minutes which felt like an eternity inside our garden a month or two ago and thought he might have let himself out the gate into the street- couldn't find him anywhere and Four and I were running around SHOUTING for him, crazed with worry. I had the phone in hand about to dial 911 and put out an Amber Alert for an abducted child when we found him behind the house under a tarpaulin eating an old piece of bread. I just burst into tears and howled with relief. I think DH is lucky you allowed him to remain in the house!

  10. Oh you poor thing - I'm so glad you found him. My daughter wondered away at a fairground when she was two and I will never forget the absolute feeling of helplessness I had. I felt so guilt that even to this day I have not told my husband. She was eventually found about 10 minutes later and I think I may even have cried...

  11. What a truly cracking piece of writing ! I can't wait to catch up with the rest of the blog . Went there from Twitter after wondering who all the various snoring characters were . Meanwhile I trust all those people are still grounded .