I bet I’m not the only mother who occasionally locks herself in the bathroom to steal some ‘me-time’ when the house is full. When one child has declared the sofa in my office her ‘reading paradise,’ and her sister has taken up day-time residence in the master bedroom and refuses to budge, where do you go, if not the bathroom? So, that’s where I was on Saturday evening, sitting on the toilet lid, watching the second series of Netflix’s The Crown on my iPad when I heard my husband scream.
“Shit, shit, shit!”
He’s probably dropped the food on the floor or something, I thought and carried on watching.
Moments later my 11-year old knocked on the bathroom door,
“Mummy, you must come, it’s an emergency!” she said.
“I’m on the toilet,” I snapped, although it wasn’t entirely true, but whatever the ‘emergency,’ it was bound to be something the rest of the family could sort out.
The Queen was listening to news of President Kennedy’s assassination when the internet connection broke down for the umpteenth time, leaving me little choice but to vacate my temporary sanctuary. I went downstairs to see what the ‘emergency’ had been about.
“What happened?” I asked, trying to sound more concerned than I was. But as soon as I saw my husband, I knew. He was standing by the kitchen sink with his left hand held high, blood pouring from his middle finger. It wasn’t just a cut; he’d practically sliced off the top of his finger, the missing piece now lost in the kitchen chaos.
“Call 111,” he said, teeth clenched, as he wrapped his injured finger in gauze that the 11-year old had found in an old emergency kit.
111 is the number for the NHS non-emergency helpline, but surely, a severed fingertip counts as an emergency. Or does it? By the time I had been put through to a health adviser who refused to hear me out until she’d finished asking me a long list of questions, most of which were completely irrelevant, my husband’s brown face had turned a nasty shade of grey, and I feared he was about to faint. Having severed some nerve endings, the pain in his finger was almost unbearable, and in desperation, he swallowed an oversized amount of paracetamol, flushed down with the contents of an opened champagne bottle from the fridge.
“Just go to the hospital, now,” I told my him while the health adviser, having come to the end of her list, now wanted to know if my husband was still conscious. I hung up the phone.
Within five minutes, my husband was in a taxi heading for the A&E while I served the children dinner, hoping that the severed fingertip wouldn’t show up in the risotto.
Later, as I was cleaning up the kitchen, making sure to save the leftovers in a plastic container for my husband, I suddenly noticed an acrid smell. I turned around and saw a plastic lid rapidly melting on the gas top from which a tall flame rose.
“Oh shit!” As quickly as I could, I grabbed hold of the lid and threw it in the sink. Flames were now rising on two fronts, and for a second I was sure the whole kitchen would catch fire.
Desperate, I heaped buckets of water onto the flames until they finally died down. Soaked and covered in melted plastic, the cooker no longer worked but I was too relieved to worry about whether or not we had insurance that would cover the cost of repair.
Meanwhile, my husband was languishing in the A&E, waiting to be seen by a doctor. After five hours, he was given a new bandage and told to come back the next day for a plastic surgeon to have a look at his maimed finger.
The following morning, I woke up with a temperature, almost no voice and a throbbing pain in my left ear, while my husband groaned in pain.
“Give me the paracetamol, quick!” he said.
“Leave some for me,” I whispered as I handed him the half-empty packet and turned over, pretending to be fast asleep when the girls knocked on the door, wondering what’s for breakfast.