The only child is forever

Corfe Castle 3One child is the ideal number, says writer Lauren Sandler.  In her book The One and Only (and in quotes all over the media) she reckons having more than one child gets in the way of success, especially for women writers.

Why?  Kids don’t necessarily stifle creativity.  But I agree that they eat time.  My three children, all born within two and half years, needed constant attention.   To carve out time for writing, I’d put the twins in the car and drive around till they dozed off.  It was a lesson in churning out copy quickly.

Today, interruptions still come thick and fast.  My elderly mother just asked me for the third time whether she took her painkillers.  And she’s uncertain of the dose: ‘It says one twice daily on the box. How many should I take?’  She dithers about what to wear and what to eat, and she’s increasingly impatient, but most of all she forgets.  She can’t even remember that I’m getting married.

I loved it when I read my kids, when they built tepees from fallen branches, or when they just laughed.  They kept me on my toes, like the day one of them trapped his twin’s head in a bucket.  One morning, another son made off with his big brother’s school tie.  How was I to guess he’d shoved it out through the cat flap?

Now it’s my mother’s things I search for, her lunch I prepare, her hair I cut, her bandages I change.   She checks with me whether she had a shower this morning, but she doesn’t hear my answer.  When I repeat it louder, she accuses me of shouting.   It’s tough looking after elderly parents, and I’m not as young as I was either.  But there’s nobody to share it with.

My eldest son wanted siblings, and here was one clue: as a toddler he’d hide his friends’ shoes when they came to play so they couldn’t go home.

I too longed for brothers and sisters, but I never got them.  It was no fun playing board games against myself, though at least I always won.  I look back on my childhood as a lonely time, but it’s a lot worse now.  You never grow out of being an only child.

Back to the ideal number of children.  What do you think it is?

My first time

Yes, it’s my first time.  My first post. Here, that is.

Although I’m a doctor, don’t expect this blog to cover worthy health topics. The one on thehealthcounter.com does that.  Today I won’t be going on about the BRCA1 gene, measles outbreaks, a vaccine for Dengue fever, the dire state of the National Health Service, or why you should have a smear test (though obviously you should).

This baby blog is my sabbatical from medicine:  a space to share what I’m writing and doing, and for you to tell me what you’re up to. But please don’t ask me about your fungal toenail infection.

I’ll be writing a bit about my novel One Night at the Jacaranda which I started a couple of years back. It’s hard not to now that it’s become part of my life.

While it’s completely fictional, the characters are real to me.  Like my three sons, they don’t do rules. They get up to things I don’t want them to, such as saying things they shouldn’t and jumping into bed with the wrong people.  But they’re looking for someone special, and everyone makes mistakes.  I’m talking about my Jacaranda characters, not my sons.  I’m sure they do some of those too, but they’re wise enough not to tell the world about it.

Characters do things because they want to (or they did at the time, as when getting a tattoo after a few drinks too many).   In much the same way, I’m blogging because I want to.

This won’t be Danny Buckland’s blog FuturePills. Or Ben Goldacre’s.  Or Joanna Penn’s.  It’s mine,

I’m on the steep part of the learning curve and I don’t mind borrowing crampons to help me stay on.

It all takes me back to my first day at high school. Remember tiptoeing around in squeaky new shoes, trying to work out who the cool kids are, and smiling at everyone in case they want to be your best friend?  Yes, I am cringing that much.

Or maybe it’s more like a first kiss, that first love.  As daunting as it is, you still throw yourself into it.  I think I’ve taken all the precautions though you can’t insure against getting dumped or your heart being broken.

So let me know if you’ve got some great tips on blogging. And please be gentle, cos after all it’s my first time.

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