It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees

I’m on a roll, you wait for ages for an update and then a second appears without warning!  The previous revolved around mommy and daddy – for once – this one is back on track and is about the people you really want to read about:  The Baguettes!

As one would expect for a write up around Christmas there is an awful amount of Christmas related shenanigans in the lives of the Bagnalls.

As per last year, our local garden centre, Vermeulens, opened their Santa’s grotto.  This year it took on a little more of a personal significance.  Vermeulens run the grotto for free but ask for donations for local charity and the charity chosen this year was Sam Beare Hospice who were so supportive with our family through Granddad’s illness.  Indeed, it is the charity that we have raised money for on Granddad’s memorial page, (which you can find here).

Unfortunately, I was working on that weekend, so I couldn’t visit Santa with the girls and Ezra, but Lucinda met up with a couple of friends and their children so there was a big group of them going to ask Santa for all the gifts that you had no idea that they wanted and haven’t bought!

This first visit to Santa was the day after the first pantomime of the season.  The local amateur dramatics society, the Riverside Players, put on a pantomime every year at the Memorial Hall in Old Windsor.  This year was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Again, I was, unfortunately, working and so Lucinda took Éowyn and Amélie with Éowyn’s best friend Aaliyah (Ezra stayed at Nanny’s – he is a little too young to sit through a pantomime just yet).  Amélie spent most of the show hiding under the chair, frightened of the Evil Stepmother – yet said how much she enjoyed it on her return.  As with all of their performances, the Riverside Players pantomime was of an extremely high standard and enjoyed by all.

Since I was at work for both of those events, we needed to book up secondary events so that I could accompany the Baguettes, on my weekends off.  Therefore the following Sunday morning we headed to Bocketts farm in deepest, darkest Surrey (Fetcham, near Leatherhead to be precise), to visit the Santa grotto there.  Bocketts do not allow you to pre-book your visit to Santa; you turn up then allocated the next available slot to visit Santa.

Therefore, we set out nice and early Sunday morning to ensure that we were there as soon as Bocketts opened so that we could find ourselves in one of the early slots.  Indeed, we turned up at 0915 and the girls were on the tractor-trailer (this is a grotto on a working farm) at 0930!  The adults walked alongside the trailer for the short journey to the converted barn where Santa has set up his grotto.

You walk through to his straw lined room and plonk yourself on the hay bales arranged as seats in front of Santa.  It was very well done, and he called each child (or group of children) up and opened his big book of presents and wrote their names down (even if he had a slight issue with our children’s names) and what presents they would like, before handing out a little present to them.

One aside to our visit was an event, which was a little strange and highlights the smallness of the world. A work colleague was looking through his Facebook timeline, when his niece’s husband posted a picture of their child’s visit to Santa. He looked at the photo and thought why is Baggie in that photo?  Therefore, he reposted it on my timeline to confirm that it was indeed me.  There, sitting on a hay bale next to Santa was my good self.  His niece and her husband had taken their child to see Santa at the same time, and same place, as us.  Two sets of strangers linked by a mutual acquaintance, mobile phone camera footage and social media.  What a strange world that we live in.

So, two trips to Santa, one with daddy and one without; so it was with pantomimes.  A second trip to the theatre beckoned, this time a ‘professional’ pantomime, Sleeping Beauty at Woking theatre.  Again, Ezra stopped in with Nanny while Mommy and Daddy took Éowyn and Amélie, around the M25 deeper into Surrey.

The seats were up in the gods and although afforded us a good view was a little vertiginous!  This was my first professional pantomime at a theatre as an adult.  Apparently we used to go to the pantomime as children with my cousins, but I have to rely on Nanny Fran’s memory as I have no recollection of these big nights out.  Obviously, I have seen amateur ones, my dad’s employers used to put them on for the families of the workers when I was a child.  My dad was very much involved in the productions, indeed one year he was one of the ugly sisters in their production of Cinderella.  Therefore, I am no stranger to the Pantomime but since we have kids I have been working in the weekends leading up to Christmas and so have not been able to attend this family tradition.  Now, my job has changed and I am actually off at weekends there will be more of these in the future!

The other great tradition of this time of the year is the ubiquitous school nativity play.  With two children of school age then that means two nativity plays to enjoy.  However, Éowyn attends drama classes after school and thus there was an additional end of term performance to attend.  With a stroke of fortune, or just good planning on the part of the school we were able to attend performances of all three plays on the same day.

Neither of the girls had starring roles, Éowyn had been asked to be a narrator but had declined because there were too many lines to read, and she was the narrator last year.

Amélie’s play was based around a Christmas tree and the toys that come to life on Christmas Eve.  Amélie was a dancing doll and had a song to sing and a dance to perform – along with the other dancing dolls.  You could see the concentration in her face and she was obviously enjoying it.  With nearly 100 children, all with roles to play it is quite a testament to the teachers and staff that the play was so entertaining considering the ages of the children (4 and 5).  The main issue was the number of parents that stood up throughout the play blocking the view of everyone else.  There is an inherent selfishness in too many people.  By all means, stand up and encourage your child, and take a photo if you want but half a thought for the other 100 people who are also there to see their child and would also like to take a photo. Indeed, one of the mothers gave another mother a piece of her mind regarding her inconsideration.

Éowyn’s play was entitled ‘Behind the stable door’ and told the story of the nativity from the point of view of the animals that had been kicked out of the stable to allow Joseph and Mary to spend the night.  Éowyn was in the choir.  Now, I love my daughter dearly but she is not the greatest of singers so it was a brave move by the casting director.  Nevertheless, she sang her heart out and it sounded more than passable.  Perhaps because the parents watching Éowyn’s play have sat through a number of nativity plays by the time they reach year 2, there was very little standing and blocking of views; much more consideration.

The third play of the day was Éowyn’s Sense Theatre production of a highly abridged version of Annie.  Now I don’t want to be disparaging but considering that for an hour a week for the last 12 weeks they have been practising this, and the children there all want to do drama after school I felt that the two nativity plays that we saw earlier on in the day were much more polished.  Is that a testament to the teachers and staff of the school or a slight on the drama teachers I am not sure.  Saying that, there were some very good individual performances and Éowyn was definitely putting the effort in and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying herself.  Shame she didn’t have a bigger speaking part, but she was one of the youngest in that group.  It will be interesting to see if she wants to continue with drama and whether she wants to take it any further.  You will have to watch this space.

Therefore, after two quick updates, all before Christmas I had better leave you there so that you can look at the photos and put your feet up while you drink your mulled wine and eat your festive nuts.

Peace and Love


P.S.   As was the case last last year, the International Space Station will pass over the UK at approximately 1730 on Christmas Eve.  Therefore, if there are clear skies you can look up and wave at the British astronaut Major Tim Peake as he hurtles through space.  However, if there are any children reading, at 1730 Santa’s sleigh will be visible in the sky as he rushes to India to hand out presents to the good boys and girls in that part of the world.

P.P.S.   One more little astronomical note:  If you are younger than 38 this will be the first time that you will have seen a full moon on Christmas Day.  The last time this happened was 1977 and the next one will not be until 2034.  So, again, if the skies are clear take a peek at the moon after the Christmas festivities and marvel at its fullness.  Is it any coincidence that the first Star Wars film was also released in 1977?  Nah!

P.P.P.S.  Any guesses for this year’s Christmas Lyric title?  Award yourselves 25 points if you said River by Joni Mitchell.

The first cut is the deepest

I have been regaling the world with tales of my enclave of the Bagnall family for nigh on four years.  Many of these updates are planned; some are written out of necessity and are difficult because there were no major stories to base them around but there have also been a number of them that have been thrust upon me.  This is one of those.

Most of these updates have photos to illustrate the stories behind them.  A few have no photos.  This is one of those.

So what has happened to necessitate an emergency update prior to Éowyn’s birthday?

Our story begins in the early hours of Wednesday morning.  Lucinda had gone to bed feeling a little discomfort in her abdomen which we had put down to pregnancy grumbles, but at 0100 she woke me up saying that the pain was a little stronger and it felt like she needed to go to the loo.  We put it down to a virus that is going round and although she had a disturbed night thought it was nothing more.  I went to work the next day but kept in touch with her through the day to find out how she was feeling.  She didn’t seem to be getting better and she couldn’t get an appointment at our local doctor’s surgery so I left work early so that she could go to the walk-in clinic at our local hospital (Ashford) – it no longer has an Accident and Emergency department like many hospitals around the country, it used to but now it just has this walk-in clinic.

She was at the clinic for around 90 minutes before she was seen and they worried her: her symptoms seemed to indicate appendicitis and that she needed to go to the ‘local’ Accident and Emergency department at St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey (the hospital where both of our children were born).  This is where living in the same village as your parents and brother comes in handy.  With Éowyn and Amélie in safe hands we headed around the M25 (in rush hour) to St Peter’s.

We reported in to reception and were quickly seen by the triage nurse.  Bloods were then taken and a cannula inserted in her hand and we were led to a bay to await a visit from the on duty doctor.  Appendicitis in pregnancy is not uncommon, and in fact appendectomies are the most common need for surgery in pregnant women, however appendicitis in pregnancy can be notoriously difficult to diagnose as, due the growing foetus, the appendix will have been pushed up and back from its usual position.  In addition not all of the usual symptoms (especially a fever) will be present.

The doctor we saw was excellent, she had a great bedside manner and quickly concluded that Lucinda did indeed have appendicitis and that she needed to be seen by the surgical team as soon as possible.  As you are probably aware appendicitis is the clinical term for inflammation of the appendix which, if left untreated, leads to appendiceal rupture (a burst or perforated appendix) which can lead to peritonitis, septicaemia and even death.  Obviously being pregnant complicates this somewhat.  A conservative estimate for the mortality rate of a healthy adult with a perforated appendix receiving treatment is about 0.5%, for a pregnant woman it is 8 times higher with 1 in 25 of patients dying and the prognosis for the unborn baby is worse with 1.5% dying in women with appendicitis and over 1 in 3 dying should the appendix burst.  Thankfully we were unaware of those odds at the time.

It is with those odds in mind that medical teams will err on the side of caution and always opt for the appendectomy.  It is far better to remove a healthy appendix than run the risks of the above, especially since the risks of the procedure are far lower than hoping that it can be tamed with antibiotics (which is only in the case of a ‘grumbling’ appendix).  Hence the removal rate of healthy appendices in pregnant women is higher than that in the population at large.

We were taken from the Accident and Emergency area to the Surgical Assessment Unit to await for the surgeons.  Unfortunately we had just missed the surgeon’s rounds and they were not expecting him to come back for several hours.  After waiting for several hours Lucinda and I decided that it was probably best for me to head home at relieve Lucinda’s dad of childcare duties and allow him to get some sleep.  Lucinda had her phone and strict instructions to call me when the surgeon came.  At 0200 the surgeon assessed Lucinda and basically told her to get ready for theatre.  She called me and was obviously very scared especially as there seemed to be a debate between the surgical team and the obstetrician team over who was in charge and what pain relief and medication she was allowed.  As many of you know when you are pregnant the only pain relief you can be given is paracetamol, nothing stronger and any medication given needs to be proven not to cause any issues to the unborn baby.  Not necessarily what you want to hear when you are pregnant, in pain and scared.

Needless to say I didn’t sleep very well and I am sure that the girls knew that something was up and they had a disturbed night too.  I got out of bed early and phoned the Surgical Assessment Unit.  They told me that Lucinda was now under Midwifery care and so to call the Joan Booker ward.  It took three attempts to get through to the Joan Booker ward to be told that they had no record of Lucinda and were just about to hang up on me when I became a little more assertive and before I really did get angry with their dismissive attitude they suggested that perhaps she might be on the Labour Ward.  I called the Labour Ward (thank Tim Berners-Lee for the internet!) and got through to a very helpful Midwife.  She went to check on Lucinda while I was on the phone and said that both Lucinda and our unborn son were in good health even if Lucinda was a little groggy.

Plan A then went into action.  Amélie was dropped off at Nanny and Granddad’s after which I took Éowyn to pre-school before taking supplies to the hospital.  Lucinda was a little groggy and in some discomfort but in good health and not in the pain that she was in the night before.  Obviously the Labour Ward has a high demand for immediate bed space and so we were temporarily moved into a delivery room to allow more immediate needs to take Lucinda’s space on the ward before she was to be moved to the Joan Booker ward.  In a quirk of fate the delivery room that we were moved to was the same delivery room that Amélie was born.

Before we were moved to the Joan Booker Ward the surgeon came to see Lucinda.  He seemed very pleased with her progress and was quite happy to discharge her from his care into that of the midwifery team.  He did confirm however that her appendix was extremely inflamed and close to rupture and because of its inflamed nature and the fact that in pregnant women the appendix will have moved he was unable to perform keyhole surgery and hence why she now has a 2 inch (5cm) scar.  Again in a quirk of fate she received her first operation scar thirty years to the day that I received mine (although mine is slightly more impressive: a 10 inch sternotomy scar from open heart surgery).

Before moving down to the Joan Booker ward we requested to listen to the bubba’s heart beat.  We knew that the midwife team were happy that all was OK in there, but we wanted physical reassurance of our own.  We were both relieved when a really strong heartbeat resonated through the room.

Lucinda got stronger throughout Thursday but was starting to feel the two nights of lost sleep, so I left her in the late afternoon and headed for Nanny and Granddad’s for a home-cooked meal and to see my little girls.  Again both the girls seemed to pick up on the fact that something was amiss and it took quite a while to settle Amélie before I could actually sit down and relax and eventually try and get some sleep of my own.

Friday morning started as Thursday: drop Amélie off at Nanny and Granddad’s, Éowyn at pre-school and then to St Peter’s.  Lucinda looked much better but was still feeling sore.  As anyone that has been in hospital would know it is not possible to get a good night’s sleep, especially when you are being woken every four hours to have your blood pressure and temperature taken and so it was for Lucinda.  It wasn’t long before we were given the news that we wanted, Lucinda had been discharged from the surgical team and the midwife team were happy to do the same and so it would not be too long before she could go home.  She also let us listen the bubba’s heartbeat once again and it was loud and proud.  By all accounts if a pregnant woman is to have appendicitis the best time to have it is in the second trimester.  In the first the foetus may not survive and in the third it can bring on contractions (indeed, one of the drugs Lucinda was given was an anti-contraction drug so that the surgery did not bring on labour).  Therefore Lucinda chose well to suffer appendicitis in her 17th week.

Just after lunch the duty midwife came with Lucinda’s notes and medication – Paracetamol for pain relief and Enoxaparin, a anticoagulant to thin the blood to prevent thrombosis.  The paracetamol was in the usual tablet form but the Enoxaparin is in a pre-filled disposable syringe and Lucinda has to give herself an subcutaneous injection once a day for the next five days, a small price to pay.

I have to praise the staff at St Peter’s and especially the midwifery team, they looked after Lucinda extremely well and the head midwife especially took an active role in Lucinda’s care.

So you will forgive the lack of photos and our elusiveness over the last couple of days but I think that the above is fair excuse and I thank my lucky stars that I still have my wife and unborn son even if Lucinda is making me honour the wedding vow ‘In sickness and in health‘.

Peace and Love