My guest this week is the very talented Carol Cooper. Carol has a book coming out on 30th June, and she has kindly allowed me to publish an extract on my blog. If you enjoy it, you can pre-order Hampstead Fever today. Here’s a little bit about Carol in her own words:
I’m a journalist, novelist, and doctor in London. In The Sun newspaper, I get to have my say on important health news, from radiation spills to celebs hurting themselves as they stumble out of night-clubs.
After a string of parenting books and an award-winning medical textbook, I turned to fiction in 2013 with my debut novel One Night at the Jacaranda. My second novel, Hampstead Fever, is due out on June 30 as a paperback and ebook.
I have three grown-up sons and three step-children, and, like my fictional characters, I live in leafy Hampstead.
Carol has a blog: Pills & Pillow-Talk.
Extract from Hampstead Fever
Poor Jack. Not even autumn yet, and here he was with a stream of green candle wax from each nostril.
Laure tried to wipe the snot away as he wriggled and kicked. The hard edge of his first proper shoes hurt her shins. “Keep still, little man. I’ve just got to wipe your poor nose.” She was using cotton wool because it was softer, as she’d read in one of her childcare books.
He was still drinking from a cup and eating his meals, but it all took longer. Breastfeeds were especially fraught, and the green stuff got on her skin.
His first winter, Jack had been plagued with a string of colds, along with coughs and snuffles. He’d also gone off his feeds for no reason, and developed ear infections, strange rashes, and unexpected fevers, which made it little short of a miracle that he’d reached his first birthday. Agonizing bouts of teething had preceded each of his four teeth, and no doubt there’d be plenty more of that to come.
Not to mention all the trouble the other end.
Laure had studied and restudied all the parenting guides. It still amazed her how often babies had the runs, and consequently how quickly buttocks could become as red as a monkey’s. Baby experts said parents needed to be aware of the signs of dehydration. Nobody could have been more aware than Laure of sunken eyes, dry tongue, lethargy, irritability, and a sunken soft spot. Just as assiduously, she observed the contents of each nappy. She could have drawn her own baby stool colour guide.
Dan would come home to find the bin stuffed with peach-coloured nappy sacks. “Bloody hell!” he’d say. “How much did that little lot cost? Cheaper to wrap his bum in ten pound notes.”
Then he’d go and play with Jack, making him crack the loudest laughs ever, until they both got tired and crashed onto the sofa.
Dan had no idea what it was like looking after Jack twenty-four seven. It was the most satisfying thing Laure had ever done, and the most frustrating. Since when had commercial contracts wailed for two hours non-stop? Or up-ended her handbag and pulled the books off the shelves?
Jack was toddling now, with a confidence far in excess of his ability to balance. To stop himself falling, he’d grab at whatever came to hand. It could be a tablecloth or a lamp. Today he got brave and weaved his way unaided across the middle of the living room, screeching with pride once he reached the little table on the other side of the room. He lifted one foot after the other off the floor, then took both hands off the table. He squealed with glee a few more times and promptly fell, mouth open, onto the edge of the table.
Laure rushed to gather him in her arms. The bleeding was torrential. Had he torn an artery in his mouth? Or knocked out one of his new teeth? She struggled to take a look but he screamed and wriggled and kicked and cried. Each scream pumped out scarlet blood mixed with saliva.
“Poor baby, poor baby,” she incanted as she got paper towels from the kitchen. Now she could see a jagged wound right through his lip to the inside of his mouth. No wonder he was howling.
She felt her breathing change. Harsher at first, then faster. And her heart was beating all over the place, especially in her chest and her temples. Her hands trembled despite herself.
“There, there,” she intoned, barely audible above his screams. He had spat out the paper towel. She could smell his blood, his baby smell, her own helplessness.
Who was there to call? The health visitor was elusive after 10 a.m., and the GP was never available. She’d had to leave a message on countless occasions. He or she would always ring her back later, by which time it would be too late. As she rummaged through the first aid kit, she realized there was nothing suitable for injuries such as this. Briefly she considered Accident and Emergency, but a long wait would be inevitable.
The bleeding was easing off. Calmer now, Jack dribbled a little blood-stained saliva onto his beloved blankie.
In the end she rang the practice nurse who suggested ice and assured her that it would heal in the end. “But you can come in if you’re worried, and I will take a look.”
Jack didn’t like the ice. As he was happily playing with his toys now, Laure left it. She also left the bloodied paper towels on the kitchen counter as exhibits for Dan when he got in.
He breezed in from work, his kiss reeking of garlic.
She gave him a blow by blow account.
“Relax,” said Dan. “He’s learning to walk.”
“He could have really hurt himself.”
Jack chose this moment to beam at Dan and say, “Car,” as he offered him a wooden vehicle.
“But he didn’t. It’s only a cut.”
“It’s a very deep cut. Have you actually seen all this blood?”
“It’s stopped now,” Dan pointed out.
Sometimes Jack had been feverish and off his feeds all day, and Dan would insist he was the picture of health. Which showed how obtuse Dan was about kids. It was impossible getting the right attention from him.
Laure wished she could have hit Dan over the head with something, got it out of her system by clubbing him with a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. But the bottle was plastic and she wasn’t the type. So instead she got upset and the horrible pounding in her chest would begin again. She went to the bathroom cabinet for some of that Bach rescue remedy, while knowing it made no difference.
If you’d like to see your work in my Guest Writer Spot, please contact me here or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. I accept stories, poems, articles – in fact, anything and everything. All you have to do is make sure your prose is no longer than 2000 words and your poems no more than 40 lines.