An important, puke-soaked milestone

November 2016

Vomit has been an everyday part of life for a while now. Possets here and there, surreptitiously and silently deposited on bibs, over the backs of shoulders, or dribbling down sleeves and trousers. Sometimes you don’t find them until the end of the day, when you’re getting ready for bed, and you wonder how long they’ve been there, and how many people have noticed them without saying so much as a word. They manifest themselves as sticky patches of white that reek of milk or, in recent weeks, orange splats with a faint aroma of regurgitated mango, sweet pepper, or whatever the mush of the day was.

A couple of days back, my daughter reached an important new milestone in vomiting. A day that I shall certainly remember; a day that merits being recorded in a few lines for prosperity. Life from here on in, no less, shall be regarded as being different. A new era – AV, after vomit, as I’d like to call it – contrasting with BV, which already recalls happier, less complicated times.

The last moments of BV were normal enough. Sunday evening. I was sat on the sofa with my daughter sat on my lap. Mummy was upstairs, sorting washing. E had been out of sorts for a day or two, and the previous night had been a disruptive one with little sleep for any of us. I was tired, Evie was tired. A Top Gear repeat played on the television, which both of us, in our sleep-deprived state, were held in thrall by.

And then, out of nowhere, a horizontal column of puke arched out of E’s mouth. This was no posset. It was very wet, warm, had the nostril-burning fragrance of bile, and was flecked with carrots and other vegetable matter. A moment of silence ensued, with both E and myself not being quite sure what had just happened. Then, as the first round of puke ran down her dress, over my arm and onto my jeans, a second round quickly followed. “Mummy!?” I cried.

I quickly drew my knees together in a bold effort to contain the vomit in my lap, lest it trickle onto the floor, like some kind of perverse water feature. A third, fourth, and fifth expulsion followed in quick succession, which, in their force and regularity, made me think of a pint being pulled in pub. More silence and disbelief followed. How could so much sick come out of such a tiny body? Top Gear continued, oblivious to our plight.


As what had just come to pass sank in, and as the vomit sank into our clothes, E began to wail, while I began to think of enterprising solutions to our shared problem. Perhaps, I thought, I should just get up, and the two of us, fully clothed, stand under the shower, or climb into the bath. The big problem was the puddle of sick now collected on my lap. What do you do with that?

Happily, both E and I survived the experience. Much sick was mopped up. Many clothes were washed. A faint aroma of sick now permanently inhabits the hallway, stairs, and the inside of my nose. Now, in this AV era, I’ve learnt to expect the unexpected at any moment. I’ve also realised that I need to buy more trousers. In times of great uncertainty such as these, the few pairs that I presently own simply aren’t going to be enough.

Another cardboard box

On the eighth day of Christmas a delivery driver left with me, yet another cardboard box.

Brexit trade deal passed: fine, whatever. Juggling homeschooling and work for most of January: an inevitable disaster but we’ll manage. Right now my most pressing concern is what in God’s name to do with the sea of empty cardboard boxes we’re accumulating. Concerns about freedom of movement are currently focussed on getting from the kitchen to the living room without tripping up.

It might be eight days since Christmas Day, but we’re still three days away from our first post-Christmas rubbish collection; that’s what happens when your normal rubbish collection day coincides with festive bank holidays.

Yesterday evening, the sight of our neighbour’s recycling and rubbish bins put out on the drive prompted a moment of self-doubt as to whether I’d read the council’s festive rubbish collection date changes properly. There’s probably a German word for this feeling, Müllabfuhrdatumselbstzweifel perhaps? What should I do? Be strong in my resolve and not put the rubbish out, trusting in my initial reading of the festival collection calendar, or look weak and play safe by following my neighbour’s suit? In the end, I decided to trust those initial instincts, letting my Müllabfuhrdatumselbstzweifel give way to a certain smugness at our neighbours’ schoolboy error.

That Christmas Day yielded numerous cardboard boxes wasn’t a great surprise. Our weekly veg box delivery is hardly a surprise either, though current lockdown restrictions mean they’re not taking old boxes away. It’s the unexpected deliveries and purchases that cause problems. Last night, another late-arriving Christmas present, another box. 

“What’s this?” I asked my wife.

“You remember” she sighed.

We opened the box. Ah yes, another toy, purchased with a £10 note that had slipped out of a card from generous family friends. I sighed. We both sighed. 

You know that your cardboard box problem has got out of hand when the expectation and anticipation of what’s inside the box is outweighed by the dread of having to find a way of disposing of yet more packaging, and, moreover, you find yourself beginning to care what the refuse collectors will think of you.