Shouldering the burden

Not a wonderful weekend. This is merely a vent. Do not read it. It does not add to the sum of human happiness in any way at all other than the faint and passing relief obtained by one who vents.


Live-in ex is unclear about his activities. “Saturday night?” and “Sunday” on the list of “when I’m going to be out” has, on Saturday morning, turned into “away for the weekend”. But departure time and the fact that this involves taking the car are not mentioned.

The latter is only revealed when I am about to depart, in the car, with firstborn to take him to a party on the other side of London. I offer to go in my van and take secondborn as well so l-ie can depart in the car at some still unspecified time. Secondborn has tantrum of Brobdignagian proportions. L-ie suggests I take firstborn in the car and he waits to leave until I get back. Twenty minutes into the journey my mobile rings. L-ie says secondborn is abjectly apologetic about being so difficult and is prepared to go in the van. Suggests I turn back. I refuse.

Drive firstborn to birthday party. One hour. During journey firstborn informs me that he’ll be staying for a sleepover. Until that point my instructions were “pick-up time 5.30pm”. No pyjamas, no toothbrush, no flannel, no advance notice = no sleepover I say.

Drive back from dropping firstborn at party. One hour.

On the way back I realise that the friend with whom l-ie is spending the weekend lives a short distance from the venue of the party. I reflect on the synergies that could have been achieved had l-ie not been the sort of person whose inflexible default position is that it is my job to transport children.

I have a new ailment – a pain in the socket of my left shoulder. It is exacerbated by driving.

Two hour break at home before having to embark on the two-hour cross-London odyssey once more, this time in the van. No heating, no power steering and no functioning petrol gauge. It indicates a completely empty tank. Secondborn’s tantrum before leaving is, mercifully, of slightly smaller dimensions than his morning version.

Half an hour into the journey a new noise joins the cacophony of loud sounds that is part of the charm of driving an ancient VW camper van. There is a hole in the exhaust.

We have just backed into a tiny parking space outside the party venue when my mobile rings. It is firstborn, begging, pleading on his bended knees, to be allowed to stay for the sleepover since the mother of celebrant said sleepware etc could be provided. I point out, at some length and rather forcefully, that I have just driven an hour across London and am parked immediately outside the house it being the time I was told to pick him up. I further indicate that, had such permission been sought precisely one hour previously it would have been far more likely to be granted. Further begging ensues. We agree that he owes me, big time.

Drive back from failing to pick up firstborn from party. One hour. Hole in exhaust sounds bigger. Petrol gauge still registers absolute zero. Which reflects the temperature inside the van. Secondborn has a tantrum because his feet are freezing. Can barely hear his screams above the sound of the broken exhaust. Decide against stopping for petrol since this would necessitate turning the engine off and thus rendering the screams audible.

We watch Gremlins 2. I decide that on balance I would rather be driving my camper van along the arctic circle.

The pain in my shoulder has spread from the socket along the top of the shoulder, up the left side of my neck and is now also drilling holes in the back of the base of my skull with a blunt, off-centre bit mounted in a hand-drill as well as stabbing red-hot needles into the joint itself. Wake up repeatedly throughout the night as I try, during sleep, to get into my preferred position on my left side – impossible because of the pain.


Set out again to pick up firstborn from sleepover. We leave an hour later than we should do because the pain in my shoulder is so debilitating I have to take aspirin and rub in a topical anti-inflammatory (best before date: May 2005) and then wait for them to work.

Wrap secondborn in many layers of warm clothes and several pairs of socks. Discover I left the van’s lights on all night. By some miracle the battery is not absolutely flat and the vehicle actually starts. Eventually. There is a hole in the roof probably in about the same place as the hole in the exhaust beneath. Sound roars through the latter. Water leaks through the former as the torrential rain hammers on the roof almost drowning out the engine and exhaust noise.

Due to the lateness I decide to continue ignoring the zero petrol indication. We drive, for an hour, across London. On arrival firstborn informs me that he’s lost his mobile  somewhere in the house. Which is large. I sit in the van repeatedly dialling his number from my own mobile until he locates his phone. This seems to take several hours. On the way back we go to the nearest petrol station where we have to queue for ten minutes to get to a pump. Maybe the gauge isn’t so inaccurate after all – it takes more than 50 litres to fill the tank.

Drive home, bothborns tantruming because I refuse to buy crisps and sweets from the petrol station. One hour. I can’t even sigh any more because, bizarrely, breathing in causes exquisite pain in the shoulder.

12 Replies to “Shouldering the burden”

  1. This was actually quite entertaining, but I am so sorry about your pain in the neck, er, shoulder. Sending a virtual knot-untying neck and shoulder massage. And consecration as saint; not the one with swords stuck through, but something nearing that.

  2. Oh, lord: what a weekend. And yes, Leslee has it right: it sounds like a huge pain in the *neck* (or something somewhat lower), not shoulder. Maybe your pain simply has terrible aim.

    My Mom always says that being a mother means there’s always *someone* who hates your guts, no matter what you do. It sounds like this saying kind sums up your weekend.

  3. “This is merely a vent. Do not read it. It does not add to the sum of human happiness in any way at all other than the faint and passing relief obtained by one who vents.

    I have to agree with Leslee, this was very funny. Sorry about the crapness though.

  4. Kind of gives “I share your pain” a new meaning. You *are* very funny though. Hope you feel better soon. Heating pad. Vodka.

  5. Glad that some small amusement can be found in the situation. I’m beginning to wonder whether the recurrent shoulder problems are actually an elaborate psychosomatic ruse being perpetrated by my mind on my joints. If so I wish it would stop. However all treatment advice is gladly welcomed. Since my last shoulder ailment most of my hits have been search queries asking how to treat a similar range of symptoms. I should perhaps regard my misfortune as an opportunity for the propagation of health-care options. I prefer scotch to vodka and am about to retire to bed with a large hot toddy.

  6. Oh, God. Hugs, pobrecita. And here I was vaguely & wistfully imagining your constant round of gaiety in the great metropolis. xoxo

  7. Yes, thank goodness! There has been no embroidery for dramatic effect. However there is one factual inaccuracy… the cream is best before 2003. I misread the date. Still seems to work – or maybe it’s a placebo. Nutmeg oil liniment sound like just the ticket. Warming and also spicy 🙂 (I wish I could say “just like me” but it would be factually inaccurate too).

  8. Try St John’s Wort oil on the shoulder – it’s really wonderful, wonderful stuff; I cannot recommend it too highly (and although bright red in the bottle does not turn your skin red). You need to buy it from somewhere like Neals Yard Remedies – Holland & Barrett-type places only have St John’s Wort for internal consumption and won’t have heard of it. You want the oil – macerated oil.

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