I have two friends with small babies in my village. Me? I’m closed for business on the baby front. Sometimes I feel a teeny bit sad that I don’t have a little baby to cuddle and look after but on the whole I’m completely fine with it. Two's enough for me and frankly I don't think my pelvic floor would hold another one in.
One of the more positive knock-on effects of our decision to stop the baby making is that we will no longer have to endure visits from our Child Health Visitor, known to us as, The Angel of Death. One of those two aforementioned friends has completely lucked out and I spotted The Angel coasting up her front steps this morning. I ran hastily inside lest she spot me.
The Angel of Death has no kids herself, but knows everything about bringing up a kid since she learned it at college. Apparently. She manages to do her job despite the fact that all children and their parents are visibly terrified of her.
She is broad country farming stock and looks like a big knitted bag that is filled with runny porridge. She has unrestrained, unsupported, massive, pendulous breasts that end somewhere around her waist. The upper front part of her body is not so much a décolletage as flesh-mountain landslide. It’s truly remarkable and may be visible on Google Earth.
Whatever the weather, she always wears jumpers, with a pattern that looks like the vomit you see on a Sunday morning beside a lamp-post outside the pub. She must knit them herself as I have never seen the like on sale in a shop anywhere.
Moving past the jumper area and up to her head, she has a haircut like a bloke, a bit like fifties crooner Perry Como or bewigged late stages Frank Sinatra. She wears those horrible Reactolite tinted specs. You know the sort; they instantly make someone look sinister. The more light there is the darker they go. They lack the coolness factor of sunglasses and retain all the geekiness ofprescription wire-rimmed specs with an ever changing gradient of brown insipid tint. My gran also has a pair and they make her look like Dr Strangelove.
There’s a whole catalogue of incidents with the Angel of Death, but I think our first meeting gives the most succinct impression of her. It's the occasion of my son Indy's 2nd birthday and hence his 2 year developmental assessment. We've just moved into the area and have not met the Angel of Death in the flesh yet. Of course, being as it is the day after Indy's birthday, I have forgotten that she is scheduled to come round.
At that point, I was the only one of my friends to have a kid, so Indy’s birthday party had consisted of our friends coming round for a barbecue, getting pissed and watching the wee fella do cute things for our entertainment. So at 10am Indy and I are sitting in the debris of all yesterday's parties eating leftover birthday cake for breakfast in our jammies watching Clifford the Big Red Dog on telly, with me nursing a slight headache and all the barbecue dishes still in evidence.
I spot the not inconsiderable frame of the Angel of Death lurching past my living room window. It's too late to do anything about the situation. Hiding is futile as she has already glanced through the window giving me quite a start. And as it's particularly sunny, being May, the Reactolites are in sociopathic full tilt tint. I have to let her in. Stopping her from entering would look even worse.
Once in, she starts to "assess" my boy, whilst no doubt making a mental note to contact social services as soon as she leaves.Her assessment is frankly odd. For one she does not speak directly to me when Indy is in the room, she talks through Indy like he's some kind of parent medium. She also shouts at Indy the way that ignorant people shout at deaf people or foreigners.
"SO HAS MUM STARTED TOILET TRAINING YET?"
"SO IS MUM THINKING ABOUT ENROLLING YOU IN PLAYGROUP?
I have done none of these things. A cross is indelibly marked somewhere on an official sheet as my failings as a parent are recorded forever.
The most hilarious thing about her is her accent; it’s not just broad Aberdeenshire, which is impenetrable enough. No, the Angel of Death appears to have her own language.
"Aye jist wait, we'll hae Thunner and Lichhtnin'" she says by way of small talk about the weather as she arrives.
Lichhtnin'? How does one get from light to liccchhht via making the sound of a cat bringing up a hairball? This is taking Scottishness too far. Even I can see that.
I fixate on this speech affectation..I go into a dream...I wonder if she wears tichhts on her legs.
- If she goes on holiday, does she go to the Isle of Wicchhht?
- Does she wear the Reactolites to compensate for her failing sichht?
- Is her favourite Elton John number, Saiturday Niccht’s alricchhht for Ficcchttin’?
To this day, if we hear the faintest rumble of thunder we say,
"Aye jist wait, we'll hae Thunner and Lichhtnin'"
The Angel of Death goes on to test Indy’s development on ridiculous things that can’t be part of any recognised programme. She gets some little Thomas the Tank Engines out of her big black bag. She then asks Indy to point out which one is "James" and which one is "Henry" .
Now, we don't like Thomas the Tank Engine in our house, so Indy knows none of these characters and is no more able to pick out Thomas than he would be to pick out the Prime Minister put in a line up of insurance salesmen. Oops, this is not good, the boy can’t even pick a well known character out of a host of other well known characters. I demand a recount. But given that I'm in mismatched jammies, reeking of Chardonnay, un-showered, hurriedly shuffling around trying to collect what seems like hundreds of wine glasses with chocolate fudge on my face, I haven't a leg to stand on.
“We don’t really know the Thomas the Tank Engine characters,” I say, “I couldn’t even tell you the answer to that one!” I squeak.
She looks at me blankly and puts another mark down on another official form that probably says something like,
“Does the child have any skills- Yes/No”
As the years went on I had another child to offer up to her. She would give me advice on breastfeeding, despite her ample bosoms never having seen a hungry baby, only terrified ones trying to get away from her grasp and back to their mothers. She would talk me through childbirth, despite never having possibly even seen a grown man naked, never mind getting pregnant. I am unsure if there is a Mister Angel of Death; I suspect not.
So goodbye Angel of Death, we won’t miss you. But as I sit here, I’d like to think of her on her way right now, to terrorise a family with a new baby, trundling along a street in her Vauxhall Vectra and looking out her windscreen at the skies and weighing up the possibility of “thunner and licchtnin”.