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Billy, Don’t Be A Hero


Seven year olds can make their own fairy bread. That’s dinner for the rest of the year sorted. 

I’m a long way through the writing of this first book but I’ve hit a little wall. It’s not a big or hard wall, and it’s nothing to do with the book (which will be great and excellent so my publisher who reads this need not freak out and go into labour or anything), it’s just a wall with a sign on it that says ‘nearly there: reduce speed now’.

It’s to do with the fact that if I keep writing at the rate I have been I will finish it well before the deadline and then what fun will having a deadline be? For surely the only point of a deadline is for it to cause enormous trauma and misery to me and everyone around me, right? Like the deadline for my thesis at university, which was approached correctly, by doing bugger bloody all for months on end and then writing almost the whole thing the night before it was due.

Some might argue that that method, the ‘cruise along slowly then increase speed to smash through the wall at the last minute’ method, is more appropriate for young people. People who can go back to their parents’ house for the last few days, write like a fiend, have all their meals prepared for them and their mother and father provide moral support and love. It’s not really for people who are supposed to be the actual grownups in their house, and are meant to be providing that sort of support for children of their own. Not to mention people who are, in the fortnight before their book deadline, going to be living through the twin torments of a child’s birthday and Christmas.

Put like that, I realise I should crack on and finish the book sooner rather than later. I will. Once I’ve ordered all the Christmas presents and meal-planned for the next three months. And finished listening to the Best of the Eurythmics. And making jokes on Instagram. And watched all the clips that exist on the internet of Miriam Margolyes on the Graham Norton Show.

May Blossom turned seven this week. The day before her birthday, she had what I suspect may be the last of her parties with proper old-fashioned party games, which makes me a bit sad. She wanted the same party as she had last year, because it was awesome. There was to be a piñata, pass the parcel, pin the tail on the donkey and a disco. But the same kids who danced crazily together twelve months ago separated into boys and girls this year. The girls wouldn’t dance and the boys just careered around the house in their newly enormous bodies, making me fear for the walls and doorways. A number of kids attempted to not join in pass the parcel, but I bullied them into it. They found the prizes disappointing. (To be fair, the prizes were disappointing.)

By the end of the party, I was tired and dispirited. We cleared up the worst of the debris, and attempted to calm our kdis into a state in which they might consider going to bed. Because after they went to bed, we had to build an Ikea bookcase.

ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? I can hear you screaming at me from the future, where you are reading this from. Why would anyone host a kid’s party and then build some Ikea furniture? Marriage not shaky enough?

To really get in the right mood before we tackled the Billy, I whipped up a batch of mini chocolate cupcakes for May Blossom to take into class the next day, because I am a devoted mother and nothing is too much trouble. Except properly greasing the cake tins, apparently that was too much trouble. All the little bastards stuck.

I cried and declared myself a failure. I tried to find the number to phone to dob myself in to the Department of Family and Children’s Services. H took the road less dramatic and looked up on the internet how to get stuck cupcakes out of tins. We tried the first method recommended by the wise people of the internet, which was to put the tin of cakes in the freezer. They would pop right out, we were told. After that we tried the second method, which was throwing them in the bin.

Draped in that mantle of failure, I turned to building of the Billy. The idea was that now that May Blossom goes through about eighteen books a day, she needed a bookcase of her own. It shouldn’t have been hard. It was just a Billy bookcase. It’s designed to be assembled by people who are blinded by spousal resentment and incoherent with fury after a trip to Tempe. A pissed-off gibbon could assemble a Billy.

I just didn’t think I’d be cryingly tired and grumpy as fuck when it came time to put it together. The kids took forever to go to sleep, and since we needed to build the shelves right next to their room, they had to be asleep before we started. We wanted it to be a surprise, and if she’d heard the words coming from our room, May Blossom would have known for sure it was an Ikea bookshelf.

She’d have heard things like: “I need a Philips head.”

‘How big?’

‘It doesn’t matter.


‘It has to be smaller than that.’

‘So it does matter.’

And things like: ‘Well I don’t see why it even needs a back on it.’


‘The books will stabilise it.’

And: ‘What are all those bits for? We’re finished.’

The Billy eventually  got built and manoeuvred into place beside her bed. We got a few hours sleep before she bounced into our room in the morning, having walked straight past the shelves laden with wrapped gifts. Didn’t even notice the Billy.

May Blossom took chocolate Freddo frogs in to share with the class, instead of cupcakes. She didn’t seem to mind. What a good kid. Perhaps I shouldn’t ruin her Christmas by being in a deadline-induced tailspin. I’ll get back to the book.

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