Down & Out In A London Kitchen

Esther Walker started a food blog called Recipe Rifle in 2009 when desperate and unemployed. In 2010 she married restaurant critic Giles Coren and far, far too quickly had a baby daughter, called Kitty.

To be a parent is to be a nurse

Posted by Esther Walker
Esther Walker
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on Tuesday, 07 February 2012

There is no time in parenting more claustrophobic or suffocating than when a child is ill. And they're ill an awful lot. No-one ever told me that. No-one ever said "By the way, to be a parent is basically to be a nurse." Vomiting and diarrhoea is the worst, as it's not only claustrophobic but smelly and requires an awful lot of laundry. Well, I say an awful lot, I mean even more than the normal gargantuan lorry-loads.


I took Kitty to the library the other day, that was my first mistake. It's a cheerful and welcoming place, the childrens' section of the library, and Kitty loves it. But clean it is not. And discerning about the health of the children it lets through its doors even less not. I saw more than one green and peaky face but tried to suppress my hateful bourgeois preciousness about preserving Kitty's health. "She needs to get ill," I try to tell myself. "If not now, then at nursery, ten times worse." But when I saw a four year old standing in the corner by the Harry Potters, coughing on and on, greenly, phlegmily, foully, for a full five minutes, I wrestled Kitty into her buggy and made a bid for the High Street.


But she didn't get tuberculosis, as I feared; she got norovirus instead, the next night. She was sick - so sick. Sicker than I've ever seen. By the morning the house smelled like it must do after a dirty protest in HMP Holloway. The usual time-killing routines of trips out and meals were defunct and we flopped about the house, trying to save the TV for moments when we were so bored we were going to mad. At about tea-time, as the last load of laundry had been hung up to dry, I looked up and realised that I hadn't left the house for 24hours. I made dinner and when my husband got home I offered to go out for a non-vital ingredient that would much improve supper. "I'll go," he said. "No, no," I said, pulling on my boots. "I could do with some fresh air."

As I left the house and walked up the hill to Sainsbury's, I had a split-second moment of identification with those people who go out for cigarettes and never come back. But as I breathed in the cold night air, I could feel it expunging the stench of vomit from my nostrils; my head cleared and my spirits lifted. I bought my item and returned, almost a new person.

Then that night, I got norovirus. But that's another story.

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