A man’s work is never done...

Mrs H and i do thank everybody who has expressed concern for Brat Minor. We are particularly grateful to the anonymous person who sent in the newspaper cutting detailing a possible illness.

Mrs H and i do thank everybody who has expressed concern for Brat Minor. We are particularly grateful to the anonymous person who sent in the newspaper cutting detailing a possible illness. There certainly seems some mileage in your suggestion; please let me know if you would like your cutting back.

As part of his therapy, Brat Minor is on a special diet - dairy-free, wheat-free - deadly boring to a lad who loves his pizzas. However, this has had some serious side-effects - on Mrs H and me.

To meet his needs, Mrs H often has to prepare two meals, but most significant of all is that Brat Minor has found he must eat at regular times. As you well know, arrival of the evening mealtimes at Fortress H can vary from 6pm to 9pm, depending on Mrs H's priorities, hence Brat Minor is fed and watered while my stomach rumbles on.

This has also impacted on that already tortuous experience, the supermarket shop. At the best of times, Mrs H spends ages reading labels to see what preservatives and E numbers we may be getting. With Brat Minor being denied so many ingredients, this has added what seems like hours to a session with the trolley. Wheat and dairy seem to be in everything.


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In a desperate effort to speed up the operation, I have struck a shaky agreement with Mrs H that, while she devotes her time to reading labels, I can get some of the regular bits and pieces. So if you spot a grey blur whizzing past the chilled counter, it is probably me on a mission. I am allocated a limited number of things to get in any one dash. I zoom off with the trolley like a faithful labrador chasing a stick. I return to the heel of my mistress ready for her to throw the stick again.

This may sound a well-oiled operation - but of course it's not. Even with the simplest of things my shelf-plucking is not up to Mrs H's exacting standards. In the half a dozen or so times I have been allowed these brief solo flights, the bananas I have selected have not made it to Fortress H. They're too green, too bruised, too small or too big. We have to revisit the stand and while Mrs H selects the perfect banana I am left to humbly extract the ones I chose from the plastic bag and put them back on the shelf.

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Then I arrive back clutching the milk.

“Humph! That's no good. The use-by date is only three days time. Take it back and look at the back of the shelf and see if there are any with a later date.”

All this special food has caused a storage problem in the Fortress kitchen. It has to be segregated so the likes of Brat Major don't take it when making a food raid. In fact I have already caused problems by inadvertently scoffing some coleslaw which had been prepared for Brat Minor with special mayonnaise.

Mrs H needs to extend her skill with food labels from reading them to applying them.

Nursing Brat Minor has seen activity increase to such an extent that it is all hands to the pumps to maintain the smooth running of Fortress H.

I have been seconded to vacuuming. I do not perform this simple task with the thoroughness that Mrs H does. However, my efforts are acceptable. I blame the vacuum cleaner. It is one of these powerful bagless jobs but, with the Fortress make-do-and-mend policy, it has seen better days. It continues to roar with scary venom but suction is not its forte. Over the years, the pipe that connects to the hose has become damaged where the accessories are inserted. They don't make spares for our model anymore. But this does not deter us; there is life in the old thing yet so the pipe is removed and we push the little brushes and nozzles into the end of the hose.

This makes it harder to use. It is necessary to perform certain aerobics to achieve suction at skirting board level. I suppose I should see this as a side benefit as it provides exercise I wouldn't normally get but the other day I unwittingly cut Fortress H off from the outside world.

I was allocated the hall and stairs to clean. Twenty-four hours later we realised the phone wasn't working. We checked everything, looked in the handbook and pressed all the buttons but nothing.

“I suppose you have checked it's plugged in mused Mrs H.

Ah, while following my brief to “get into all the nooks and crannies”, I had caught the phone wire and pulled it out.

I thought this might get me taken off vacuum duties but alas not. Next best thing, I thought it might prompt Mrs H to authorise expenditure on a new machine; again alas no. She changed the filters and the wretched thing began to suck a little harder so itbeen cleared for continued use.

Actually, vacuuming would be good therapy for say, a young man convalescing.

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