Pandemonium at Child One’s school. Girls weeping at the gates, and a rather ominous ambulance stationed outside. Obviously business as usual, I think – until Child One herself staggers out onto the pavement, clutching her arm.
‘It hurts, it hurts,’ she yodells, causing every pigeon in the vicinity to shoot upwards into the air and scattering my posse of Mummies. I am slightly irritated. We had just been having a very serious discussion about handbags, as lovely JAGS in the Village has a new consignment in. I take a deep, healing breath. There have been times – rare, I admit – when I have wondered whether my first born has a slight tendency to drama queenism. Could there be the faintest tinge of divatude lurking here? And if so, where on earth did she get it from? A complete puzzle.
But back to the grievously wounded child. ‘What’s the matter, my precious?’ I coo, though I might as well not bother, my dulcet tones are so drowned out by wails. Child One mumbles something indistinct into my shoulder – she is so tall these days! – and I gently ask again, like the devoted Mummy I am, ‘just stop that noise and tell me what’s going on this instant!’
‘Don’t you remember, Mummy? I told you 50 times!’ This mantra, I need hardly say, never works. I need to be told 51 times, at least. I look blank.
‘It’s Injection Day, Mummy,’ she says, raising her eyes to Heaven. Ah yes, I do now dimly recall Arm Against Cancer, the government’s clever scheme to innoculate all Year 8 girls against cervical cancer. This has caused heated discussion amongst the Mummies during our regular foregatherings in Cafe Rouge, sometimes even elbowing the handbag topic out of play. The injection has to be administered three times, and protects against the two viruses responsible for 70 per cent of cancer cases.
Government propaganda on the jab says there is usually only ‘mild stinging’ as a side-effect. I really think they should have told the girls this. Child One continued to clutch her arm for three days, yelping away. Someone fainted right next to her in the queue – before the injection – and several of her friends had to be held down by three or four nurses each. One girl got an instant fever. And a lot had aches and pains. And they asked them all before the injection whether they were pregnant. Arg! And the next injection is at the end of next month. I can hardly wait.