It's three weeks before we go and over a month since I signed up to www.Mindmyhouse.com after a cursory reading of a Guardian article on house sitting in Costa Rica. Around the house I've had post- its reading, 'What's the big idea for 2010?' This seemed to fit the bill, that is before I saw a consultant about my arthritic hip. After suggesting he compare mine with Rhys' pre-op, he said,
'On a scale from mild to severe, I would say...'
He must have seen me dragging my leg up the corridor, like Chester in the 60's cowboy series 'Matt Dillon', except I hadn't been shot or had polio. I was born with a dislocated hip and in those days there weren't regular checks so at the age of nearly eighteen months an aunt noticed my Chester impersonation and brought it to the attention of my mother, who must have had other important things on her mind. Most children at that age would have been able to stand and walk. I just crawled dragging one leg behind the other. I was hospitalised at St Ormond's Children's Hospital and scolded by the ward nurse for crying when I saw my parents on the other side of the port- hole window abandoning me to her mercies. (The NHS had no child/ parent friendly policies then.) I believe it accounts for my anxious separation attachment style.
My legs were pulled apart under anasthetic into plastered splints. Once removed I was subjected for several years to my father's nightly physiotherapy while we listened to 'The Archers on BBC Radio. With scrunched up toes on my left foot I picked up hundreds of marbles one by one out of an old Dundee fruit cake tin and placed them carefully in another. Then reversed the procedure until the programme had finished.
It worked. By the age of seven I was given the all clear, but taken round the Children's Ward to see limping children in brown leather and steel calipers and reminded of how lucky I was that Aunt Queenie had noticed me in time.
'...it's severe,' Mr Jones proclaimed. 'But I must say Great Ormond Street did a great job for the time. It's amazing it's lasted this long. I think you should have a hip replacement very soon, before it collapses and gives you and me big trouble.'
I didn't like to tell him I'd already signed up for the whole of April to mind Larry's houseplants in San Miguel Allende, Mexico.
When I told my daughter she immediately took on the personality of Saffie in 'Absolutely Fabulous '
'What do you know about this...Larry'?
'Why does he want someone to come from Wales to look after his houseplants in Mexico?'
'Why can't he get someome local to do it?'
'Could house plants be a code for something else?'
'Where is San Miguel?' What is the place like?'
I couldn't answer any of these questions and hadn't even thought of asking.
This was to be the big idea for 2010. That was before my hip replacement operation, provisional date 18 May. Leave for Mexico via Houston March 30. Holy Week and according to the Rough Guide, the time when the whole of Mexico is on the move. Return May 3. Lots of time for Mexican adventures looking after a retired nurse's 'house plants.'
In Mexico, it seems, you are guilty before proved innocent.