Posts Tagged ‘Mother’

FOUR FINGERS AND THIRTEEN TOES – Dear Kate, Tempus Fugit … It really does

December 5, 2012

OMG!! The beginning of December and here we are on the round of festive greetings, shopping for all and sundry and probably spending far too much in the process. But, what wonderful news … we are all expecting a royal baby next summer. And I do mean “all” for we shall all share in every expanding inch in the development of the newest member of the Royal Family. Most of us will sympathise with the Duchess of Cambridge for having the news of her pregnancy announced in the way it was. No glorious fanfare to herald in the new year, but a rather hasty announcement, marked by the decampment of the world’s press (for goodness knows how long) to a hospital somewhere in central London … I bet Starbucks are rubbing their hands in glee!

With this in mind, I simply couldn’t miss an opportunity to cheer you all up, amid your Christmas preparation with a little blog designed to help the Duchess wile away the time she still has, until she has no time to herself!

Like I said, the announcement, and its manner was really unfortunate. I bet the Catherine Walker dress was all lined up for a suitable photo shoot and then we would have gone into overdrive as to the most suitable maternity gear for our future Queen. However, I am just glad they didn’t take up the invitation of Mat and Alex on BBC’s the One Show, and send a camera phone picture of them snuggled up with a pizza; and a slogan which said something like “Wills and Kate have managed to mate”!

How I well remember the moment when the line turned blue in my pregnancy test; and the look on Steve’s face when he realised his dream of ever owning an expensive car had disappeared in the hazy mist of a Chinese takeaway and an early night!

I read in the newspapers this week that all the female editors of ladies magazines knew straight away that something was up when Kate changed her hairstyle – Does that woman ever have a bad hair day!

The tell tale signs for me, were slightly more boring. No change of hairstyle, I just gave up the cigarettes and alcohol. Now for an Irish Catholic family that must have been a dead giveaway.

So, fast-forward to the latter stages of pregnancy and the obligatory anti-natal classes. Ours were held in the hospital about five minutes from where we lived. Therefore arriving for the first (and possibly the most important) class should have been a piece of cake. It would have been, but for one thing. In those days, Steve worked about 30 miles away, and try as he might, he could never get away from work and home on time for anything.

Before I continue with the anti-natal class story, I have to digress – It is relevant, especially as the Christmas party season is fast approaching. In the early 1990s, a certain 70’s pop star had made a successful comeback, complete with all his glitter (need I say more), and I had booked tickets for an arena concert to kick start our Christmas festivities. I was home from work, dressed and ready to go by 6.30pm but there was no sign of Steve. The show was due to start at 7.30pm and allowing time to park the car, we needed to be on our way by no later than 6.45pm.

Steve arrived at 6.40pm blustering profuse apologies for being late, and explaining that some emergency application had to be made to the Court. He threw a cup of tea down his neck, and without time to change we waltzed off into town.

Picture the scene, 3000 glitter wigs and more spandex than you could throw at Abba, and Steve … all togged up in his work suit! James reckons Steve was born with a briefcase in his hand, and looking back, I can just see why he gets that impression. Plonked on a seat at the back of Cardiff’s International Arena, and well out of his comfort zone, I decided that there was no option but to leave Mr. Conventional and launch myself into the sea of glitter and merriment. I returned two hours later to find Steve pretty much where I had left him, but with the addition of a glitter hat, and copious amounts of lipstick on his face after being attacked by some over-excited 30-something women, who apparently went wild for men in suits! As for me, I was happily contented that the (fallen) star in question had asked “D’you wanna be in my gang”. Phew. Am I now glad I didn’t say yes!

But back to the anti-natal classes. 1995 was a hot summer, and yes, you’ve guessed it Steve was late … again. By this stage of pregnancy, I was contented wearing floral dresses that flattered my ever expanding girth, and looking forward to an evening of relaxing meditation. Beware expectant mothers reading this blog – the reality is far from the dream (Branwen you have been warned!). On this occasion, Steve managed to have his tea, but again didn’t have time to change. Minus the jacket, but with shirt and tie in situ, we legged it (excuse the pun!) off to the maternity department. The first problem was getting into the building. Everything was security locked. From the outside, Steve managed to locate the room in which the class was being held. He attracted the attention of some bronzed Adonis of an expectant father, who kindly obliged and opened the door. The sight that awaited us in the room, was of various shapes and sizes but all with a common bump … and then we arrived.

Those of you who know Steve, will understand when I say getting on the floor was always going to be challenge, and to this day, I do not know what possessed him, but he decided to avoid the floor and sit on a pile of springy rubber mats. Not a good idea when you have a full complement of legs, but when you don’t there is only one result. Steve sat down, the mats went up in the air, and he ended up in a heap on the floor, with me cringing at the thought of my moment of anti-natal glory forever scarred with this memory. Still, I consoled myself with the fact that things couldn’t get any worse. The lesson eventually started and having completed a session of relaxation, it was time for a break. The mother superior, or should I say the anti-natal nurse said we could all go and have some Squash for a small charge. Squash!!!! My old man needed something far stronger than Squash after the effort it took to get him off the floor, but Squash it had to be. Back-track to when we left the house. Late as usual, and with the suit jacket left in the kitchen we didn’t have a bean to bless ourselves with! A saviour came in the form a lycra-clad angel, who ended up having her baby on exactly the same day that James arrived. Oh don’t you just hate those people who look good in lycra with an enormous bump out front. The class finished, we bundled ourselves into the car, and made a sharp exit from the hospital – only to see said lycra mum power walking up the road … Ahhhhh! After that, we made sure we were on time for the classes, Steve tried not to fall asleep in meditation, and we always had change for the Squash.

If Kate (by some small miracle) happens to be reading this blog, the next bit of advice is crucial. Just make sure you are nowhere near electricity when your waters break. Me? I had a lucky escape. I had just waddled onto the loo when the whoosh occurred. I was about five seconds away from a curly perm courtesy of an electric wheelchair. Our family seem to have a thing about electric wheelchairs and water – not a good combination.

So, the Cambridge’s will settle into a cosy life with Nannies and servants. Entertaining the little one/ones will be a breeze, just as it was for me. James loved books. His favourite game was to look at the books I gave him, promptly throw them out of his pram and then look quizzically at me when they weren’t retrieved. However, I can’t forget the occasion that my Mother’s help had left for the day, and James was (at that time) sleeping contentedly in his play nest. Not 30 minutes after Anne left, he woke up and decided to bring the house down. Even my singing (I could do it reasonably well in those days) wouldn’t pacify him. There was nothing for it. With child screaming wildly in the kitchen I made for the living room. I did think about stopping off at the drinks cabinet, but motherly instinct took over. I bounced from my chair onto the sofa, rolled from the sofa onto the floor, and managed to get from the living room back into the kitchen. Within seconds the little **** had fallen asleep, leaving me propped up against a play nest for the next couple of hours until Steve came home. I cannot help but laugh as I recall the look on Steve’s face, when he saw us both on the floor surrounded by the devastation that was the afternoon play session.

The new arrival will progress to playing in the garden, and that is good fun. We are blessed that James is so patient – perhaps not so much these days, but back in the days of doing what you are told, he was pretty good at alternative sport. The best alternative game had to be mop football. The rules are quite simple. All you need is a little toddler, and football net in the garden, a mother wielding a floor mop and you have a recipe for an instantly satisfying afternoon. The mop was designed to stop the ball going into the net, but when the cute little one soon twigged that if Mum’s hands are full with the mop handle, she can’t move her chair to stop the ball going into the back of the net, our future David Beckham was never going to miss a free kick.

Snow was always good fun too, and so it will be with Wills and Kate. Back in the days when Steve was still able to get about quite well, we had our first fall of snow when James was about two. Excitedly father and son got togged up in winter woollies and gingerly staggered to the snowiest part of the garden. “Bigger Daddy” was the cry as oxygen was needed to make a ball of snow big enough to even resemble a snowman’s body, rather than an obese snowball. When the bonding session was over, I swear even the Borrowers would have been bigger than the snowman that adorned our patio for all of two hours before it collapsed in a very slushy pile, complete with branches for arms. Ironically the branches had two little twiglets sprouting from each side. “It looks just like Mummy” was the declaration as the wellies were deposited by the front door. Was my child seriously suggesting that I looked like a huge ball of soggy cotton wool? Please, do not answer that one!

Then there will be the family photographs. Of course there will be the pitfall of making the little one look in the right direction at the right time, but I am sure the Royal photographer will be able to cope. Who knows, the photographer may even be one James Moriarty-Simmonds of JMS Photographs fame. Whatever the occasion, the garden will always be the focal point for photographs. The only difference between us and the royals, is the size of the garden and the number of gardeners you have to keep it looking good. First day at school, last day at school. First detention, Last detention and all other occasions in between are recorded in glorious colour in the photograph album. Talking of which, how many people have photograph albums that come to an abrupt end at a crucial developmental stage in a child’s life. I think we have about fifteen years of photos which need to be put into albums in time for the cringe-worthy wedding power point that will run continuously in the background at the reception and embarrass the socks of our once bundle of fun.

Kate and William should not be put off by the financial cost. It does plateau (not sure when – as we haven’t reached that point yet), and of course there will be striking differences. James had his first Reading Festival experience in a tent bought from a budget supermarket, whereas our newest young royal will doubtless enjoy Reading or Glastonbury (or Glasto – as I understand some sets like to call it) in a hand built tepee complete with ensuite for that delicate royal behind.

But, all in all, the most amazing thing is how “Time Flies”. It only seems like yesterday that we made our grand entrance into the anti-natal class, and now we are being hounded to check the UCAS website for progress on university applications and cash for petrol. A little black book has also been opened for the subs.

Would I change anything … Not one dirty smelly nappy of it!! And as I close this blog and look forward to Christmas, I wish the Duke and Duchess the most wonderful time as parents, and may their reflections on parenthood be as wonderful as mine.

Happy Christmas, Joyeux Noël, Feliz Navidad, Glückliches Weihnachten, Gelukkige Kerstmis, Nollaig Shona, Natale Felice, Szczęśliwych świąt Bożego Narodzenia, Счастливое Рождество, Nadolig Hapus, and here’s to a New Year full of fun blogging.


September 23, 2010

In the Northern Hemisphere, today is officially the start of autumn, and it got me thinking about what different seasons mean to different people.

For some, when the kids first start school, autumn marks the start of a whole new chapter of events in family life.  The first Halloween party, the first Christmas school play, and the endless round of chasing your tail going from one activity to another, until your car virtually does the rounds from after school club to friends house, to swimming and karate all in auto pilot.

Then, of course, you get to the last autumn term before they are due to leave school, and you wonder where the time has gone.

My most favourite season is the summer, and when the time comes, at the end of the holidays, to persuade my Dad to come and pack the cases away in the loft for another year, I get quite melancholy.

A couple of weeks ago, I dusted off some old photograph albums that had been nestling quite nicely in more years of dust than I care to remember, and had a good laugh at the photographs from summer holidays that I have enjoyed with family and friends.  Some of my friends reading this blog will remember America ’87, and some may even go back as far as America ’82.  Some may even be able to reminisce about Haighmoor in Jersey and the summer of ’81.  Charles and Diana got married and we rolled around the garden in plastic bin bags – without any dubious thought even entering our heads as to what the use of black PVC would look like.  How times have changed!

Looking back, some of my most memorable achievements have come to fruition in the summer.  Aside from being lucky enough to pass my School, College and University exams, I was blessed with the birth of a wonderful son in the summer of 1995.  And not to be forgotten, I published Four Fingers and Thirteen Toes during the summer months of 2007.

Looking through those old photographs made me realise that we all evolve rather like the seasons.  The priorities, goals and ambitions that we had 25 years ago do change.  Expectations become more realistic, and are tempered with an appreciation that moving into another generational stage in life, should be viewed as a challenge.   My roots are now firmly entrenched in making sure that my family are happy and I relish every moment I spend with them – even if we do have the occasional battle over whether James should do his homework before going off to the gym.

Steve’s favourite seasons are early summer and early autumn.  If anyone has been fortunate enough to spend time in London or Paris during those times, you will know why … Early summer blooms and early autumn colours – what more could you ask for.  Well, only perhaps for a summer that is a little longer so that I can keep my suntan for a couple more weeks; an autumn that keeps the leaves on the trees with those stunning autumnal colours for a while longer, and a winter that is just a little less cold.

However, that wish-list won’t please everyone, and so it is probably just as well that we are stuck with what we have.  But never despair, just think … in about three months time, included in the Sunday paper supplements we will find the 2011 holiday guide.  The weather men will be predicting another record breaking sizzling summer; and I will then be thoroughly depressed because I will be the mother of a school leaver, rather than the “Mummy” of an early year’s primary school pupil!

By then, a significant birthday will have passed, I shall start to receive unsolicited mail from SAGA and my roots will need more attention that the old beech tree in the garden.

So what will I take into the new seasons?  Well how about pleasing myself about what I do, and when I to do it … and starting that philosophy immediately.

Now, the first thing I must do is not to get Dad to put the suitcases in the loft, and then I’ll get my PA to pack my summer gear.  Next I’ll book a ticket to Greece, and change my name to Shirley Valentine or even Τριαντάφυλλο (meaning Rose) …

Alas, there is just one problem; a Greek waiter could never do my hair to my exacting standard.  Thank goodness for a long-suffering husband who can wield a heated hairbrush as well as mine can!


July 14, 2010

So, summer is finally here, and one of the biggest problems for us girlies, is finding the right clothes for the right occasion.  The occasion usually, being a walk, or in our case a wheel, along the promenade with an independent air.  Or at least that’s what the song tells us.

Hence, last week, we made one of our family bi-annual trips to the shops – The kind where every member of the household comes along, and each has a different agenda.  One pulls in the direction of the video gaming shop, one wants to go in the direction of the mobile phone shops and me, I just want to window shop in the skinny section of the latest fashions for forty-somethings – wondering – just wondering …

However, thirty minutes into this family ritual, and in my usual efficient manner, I called a Board Meeting over a rather frothy cup of latte.  We needed a plan of action.

The first essential step was to bring Steve kicking and screaming into the summer – after all there is only so long you can tolerate your hubby turning into his father!!  Secondly, we needed some intelligent summer reading.  I did try and persuade both Steve and James to parade a copy of Four Fingers and Thirteen Toes around the swimming pool, but I was met with cries of disbelief.  “What about my street cred” came the answer from one side of the latte cup and “Well, I had rather banked on brushing up on Cheshire and Fifoot’s Law of Contract” came the other response.  But, little do these two know how persuasive I am in the book department!!

Then, we would have the essential sojourn to take a little peek at the latest gear, in any store that passes for a place with a very expensive price tag on each item of clothing — pressing our noses up against the window and ogling at the contents within.

The last port of call would be to indulge me.

And there it was, our shopping planned, and all in the time it took to scoop the last remnants of coffee from the cup.

Off we marched in the direction of the big man shop.  High and Mighty (or was it Short and Portly – I’m really not sure) which offered some rather fetching coloured polo shirts and various other items of summer fashion.  Having handed his credit card to the shop assistant, Steve promptly went into mourning at seeing all his earning power going into something that would eventually find its way into the washing machine.  However, after the mass hysteria of grief that followed his diminished available credit card balance, Steve was cheered by the thought of me buying the pizza.  How true they were when they said the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach!!

Next, to the Newsagents.  How I chastised the young man on the summer reading stand when he told me he couldn’t even pronounce phocomelia let alone spell it.  So, I sent him off to find me some easy summer reading.  He came back with a Psychology Made Easy magazine.  I decided to rise to the challenge to refresh my psychology knowledge.  Apart from that, why not buck the trends of reading a glossy magazine full of size zeros and opt for the more academic look whilst sipping a Piña colada.

By now James had decided enough was enough and marched off in the direction of the trendiest of trendy shops leaving his mother and father outside.  I gather there are some places that you just don’t go with your off-spring!!  We felt like a pair of ornate stone pillars left sitting there either side of the entrance to this ‘no go’ area.  Eventually, said teenager emerged from this black hole, grinning from ear to ear and clutching two brown paper shopping bags. Their contents — shorts, T-shirts and underwear with lettering on the waist that would allow the most visually challenged person to read, were, I am told, would be an essential part of any self-respecting teenagers’ summer suitcase.

Then, for me … I needed dresses that flopped and flounced around like a TV model trying to sell a rather flaky chocolate bar; unmentionables just like the ones sported by Bridgette Jones, and a new pair of sunglasses to keep the glare of the summer sun off my Psychology book.

With the job done it was off for pizza, and a little liquid refreshment.  But it was then that I began to wonder whether the purchases I’d made were really what I wanted.  Did I really want to look like a TV model … Would those flouncy patterns really suit me … and was I being lulled into a false sense of trying to be something that I’m not.

It was then I decided that the dresses would be returned the next day.  I would revel in the summer dresses that regularly come out my wardrobe and are comfortable and homely.  Yes, I would strike out for the cause for the ordinary woman – whether with or without a full complement of limbs.  Suddenly I knew just what Emily Pankhurst or more latterly the Women Libbers felt like.

I would be proud to parade around the pool in something that looked as if it fitted me, rather than me fitting it.

How I now look forward to the admiring glances of those tanned life guards, as I negotiate that fine line between trying to look cool, and desperately avoiding the consequences of a scientific equation which goes something like, water + electric chair = frizzy hair!!

The answer to preparing for summer is quite easy.  “Don’t worry, be happy.”  Just be yourself and enjoy the summer for what it is.  Remember, that next year, you could be looking at the fifty-something fashions, and then we really will have something to worry about!!

Happy Holidays, whatever it is you are planning to do.

Four Fingers and Thirteen Toes

July 29, 2009
I must confess that blogging is a whole new ball game to me. I want to say so much about so many things that I’m not too sure where to start.Born and brought up in Cardiff South Wales (UK) I am the eldest of three children from parents who are of Irish decent. But what makes me unique is that I am one of the 1960’s generation of so-called Thalidomide Children, who are now fast approaching middle age. What a thought. Those kids from yesteryear looking so cute on the television doing all sorts of “tricks” — are now entering a mid-life crisis.

I’m known to most as Rosie. A regular forty-something, who likes to think I’m still eighteen, with just a subtle difference, in the form of Four Fingers (two sprouting from each shoulder) and Thirteen tiny Toes, on legs that end just about where the average knee happens to be.

I’ve learnt to drive, I run my own Disability Issues Consultancy, I’ve been happily married for over 20 years and I have a gorgeous teenage son. So, having achieved all this, I decided it was time to put pen to paper and tell the world about me.

My book, aptly titled “Four Fingers and Thirteen Toes” is the story of my life, interspersed with the history of the drug Thalidomide. It’s not littered with “what if’s” and “may be’s” but rather it tells the story of (as Lord Morris of Manchester puts it) “triumph over devastatingly severe disability”.

What I have tried to do is to emphasis that you make the most of what you do have rather than what you don’t have.


Here are some snippets from four of the chapters:

Chapter 1

: … I doubt that there were three happier people in the whole world than Stephen, James and me. And then our joy was shared, if not quite so personally, by everyone that had known us through my pregnancy.

“So what’s so wonderful about all this?” you say. “Lots of women have babies.”

But …

Chapter 6

: … my mother told me of the first time that she had taken me out shopping with her. A woman, looking into the pram said, “Oh, what a beautiful baby.” Then, pulling back the covers a little, she saw my little stumpy arms with two fingers sprouting from each shoulder.

She screamed, “My God, it’s a freak,” and went running up the road as though afraid that I might be contagious. …

Chapter 8

…Solicitously, they treated us with crash helmets, transforming us into ‘Metal Mickey’s’, a process that rather defeated their avowed purpose of making us less conspicuous in the world. One particularly ingenious device involved artificial arms powered by compressed gas, carried in a cylinder on your back, hardly something that could be easily concealed. …

Chapter 22

… The pharmaceutical departments of the IG Farben cartel used the victims of the concentration camps during human experiments, such as the testing of new and unknown vaccines and drugs. In the Auschwitz trials, correspondence was discovered…

I would welcome comments on the snippets and of course, any comments you would like to share if you have already read the book .


I have a whole host of views on most things in life, and look forward to sharing these views with other interested people. I like a challenge, and am not afraid to say what I think, even though my views may be controversial.