Clearly, since it has been several weeks since we last graced their doors, it must be time for a trip to the local Casualty department, and Lashes sweetly obliges with a gash to the head. I get a call from the gulag in which the school secretary explains to me that while he is Absolutely Fine, I must take my son to hospital. Just To Be Sure. Sure of what? Sure that there is a hole in his head?
I rush down the street and find him wanly standing in the corridor next to a fearsome blonde woman holding a bucket and bloody sponge who again assures me he is Absolutely Fine. He has a giant, ridiculous bandage around his head and he looks all wan and bedraggled. Dirty tearful smudges around his eyes. Poor Lashes. For some reason he has got a rotten combination of the varous elements of our genetic make up that make the CFO break his limbs and me bash into things constantly. Fingers falls over all the time too, but when Lashes does it he breaks. There was the time the CFO dislocated his elbow playing aeroplanes. The time he got a seesaw in the chin. The World's Nastiest Blister requiring antibiotics. The mumps even though he was vaccinated. Croup in the middle of the night, requiring a mercy dash to Whitechapel casualty department, which turned out to be in the throes of an interesting vomiting outbreak. Even as a baby, there was the Crazy Sudden Appearing Rash, that needed blood tests.
"C'est pas mon jour de chance" he says sadly as I crouch down next to him and kiss his grubby cheek. His giant eyes are mournful and uncomprehending. He's right - it hasn't been his week really. Every day when I have collected him some minor tragedy has left him tear streaked and wan. Fingers is a tough egg. When I see him in the playground he's either uproariously playing with a gang of other tough eggs or pursuing some singleminded project of his own devising. Lashes isn't. He's not always on his own, but he might be drawing in a corner, or very cautiously sitting on the bottom rung of the climbing frame. He has this diffident, downcast way of walking towards me across the playground. That he loses and breaks things all the time wouldn't bother me, but it makes him so sad when it happens.
I gather him up, bloodstained coat, and tissues and insurance document to be filled in at the hospital Just To Be Sure, and we head off to casualty.
Here, let me just add a parenthesis about the wondrous nature of Belgian casualty departments. So swift! So kind. So empty of raving lunatics with cans of Tennants Extra. The nurses are kind and efficient. Within 5 seconds of arrival Lashes is whisked away into the paediatriac triage room (British people, try and contain your sobs), assessed as needing two stitches (shit, I shouldn't have told him I didn't think he would need any. In Belgium you ALWAYS need stitches), given anasthetic gel and sent away for 45 minutes until it takes effect.
We repair to the café/gift shop which is a thing of beauty and a joy forever, with Pierre Marcolini chocolates, fresh smoothies, a selection of international magazines and delicious food that is actually better than you get in Pain Quotidien. There is a giant trainset built in under a glass floor that you can operate with buttons on the wall and they can even make cappucinos without squirty cream on top. Through the tears and the pain, Lashes senses an opportunity and makes me agree to buy him a build your own robot T Rex. He wanly eats a ham sandwich and drinks a smoothie and we admire the wrestling cards of ridiculous men in spandex knickers I have also bought him to make me feel better.
"Ok, we'd better be heading back"
"The gel will be working by now, they can put your stitches in"
"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA NOOOOOOOOOOO NOT STITCHES"
"What? But you knew! The nurse told you"
And so on all the way back to Casualty where a cheery goblin of a doctor pep talks Lashes into lying face down, wailing all the while. The paper that covers the bed is soon a mass of snot and tears and blood. I stand at the other side, whispering promises of Pokémons and ice cream and dancing karate lizards. After a few more minutes writhing and wailing, it's done, with warnings not to let the dog lick his stitches, or his mates poke at them. The wailing slows to the occasional tremulous sniff. I hand over a Kinder Egg and we are free.
In the ultimate act of parental betrayal, I make him go back to school afterwards. We are received by the hags in the staff room who take the certificate, one of them saying he should be more careful on benches in the future. Eh? You should be more careful around my index finger lady, or I'll be sticking it in your eye. I deliver him to the yard and watch him amble off with a small convoy of ambulance chasers. His receding back makes me want to cry a bit, but I don't.
Now I need a stiff drink.