Warts and All

After years of ignoring my problem the time has come to take action.

I’ve got a crop of verrucas on my feet. They’ve been there for a very long time, but weren’t bothering me until recently. A couple of years ago I had them frozen and I thought that would be it, but they were just dormant, obviously so deep I didn’t notice them and now I have a new small dark-centred spot on the second toe of my right foot.

It’s 8am. I ring the doctor. To get an appointment for the same day, you have to ring my doctor between 8am and 8.30am. The answer machine tells me I am in a queue and will be answered shortly. I put the phone on speaker and shove the kids into the bathroom to brush their teeth. S is resisting. He grabs the brush, licks all the toothpaste off and wiggles it about on his tongue.

“Go get your shoes quick” I snap at A. “We’re in a hurry”

The assistant is busy and will answer your call shortly

I try to wrestle S out of his pyjama bottoms to put a clean nappy on him.

“No no no!” he shouts at me

Holding firmly onto his left leg I manage to open the poppers and pull the old nappy off. I try to lie him down on the sofa but he screams uncontrollably, tears are bursting from his eyes, he’s red in the face and he’s rotating from side to side.

To any innocent person who had never met a 2-year-old before he would look like he was having some kind of seizure.

The assistant is busy and will answer your call shortly

“Keep still” I’m pleading with him. A has to be at school in 5 minutes.

OK shall I push him down flat with all my force or just carry him to school with a bare bum?

The assistant is busy and will answer your call shortly

“Help! I can’t handle this anymore” I’m starting to have my own tantrum.

I run to the door to find my jacket, run back to S, try to lie him on the sofa, he pushes me back and escapes again, I run back to the door to help A with her boots, I run to the kitchen to grab an apple and stuff it in A’s bag.

The assistant is busy and will answer your call shortly

 P is on his way down the stairs and supposed to be leaving for work, but I‘m starting to panic.

“We’re late! We’re always bloody late! I’m just trying to get his nappy on! I can’t stand this!”

“Ok go, just go” says P “leave him here, I’ll wait”


I hold A by the hand and run out and across the road to school.

A is taking her coat and hat off in the hallway. The phone is still in my pocket. I can hear the same message still on repeat.

The assistant is busy and will answer your call shortly

We go into the class and A takes her place in the circle. The teacher starts her gentle lyrical singing. The room hushes and the children start to join in. I quickly move to the doorway of the classroom, turn the speaker phone off and hold it to my ear. The display tells me that I’ve been on hold for 11 minutes, so I’m not giving up just yet.

The assistant is busy and will answer your call shortly

…“Good morning, Dr. Meeuwvis, how can I help you”


“Um yes I need to make an appointment” I’m whispering in the hallway next to the open door of the classroom. As quietly as I can I try to explain to the woman on the other end of the phone that I have several verrucas on my feet (I’m actually using the word likdoorn which I think is the Dutch word for corn because I don‘t know the word for verruca).

I get an appointment, hang up and look around to see if anyone has heard my conversation. Then I creep back into the classroom and stand behind A until they sing the goodbye mums and dads song. I give her a big hug and head back home.

S has got his nappy on! Yippee!

Now for the trousers and shoes. P and I spend another half an hour coaxing him out the door with apple flavoured rice cakes. For a crazy moment I forget the crucial rules of managing a 2-year-old and I open the front door. No!

“me do it, me do it”

More screaming. We have to close the door again. Go back inside and spend 10 minutes of S trying to reach the catch, lifting him up, fiddling and straining, him pulling at the handle. Now we’re out and we bundle him in the bike. He goes rigid and won’t get in. We give him biscuits. He screams when I try to get the safety belt over his head, but I just have to go at this point and zip up the front of the bakfiets (bike with a front container). He’s kicking and yelling under the plastic cover as I cycle along.

The doctor is a stand-in trainee doctor today. A young man of about 30.

Yes they are ‘wratten’. Foot warts.


This sounds a lot more harsh than ‘verruca’ which is a rather pleasant word, and could almost be a girl’s name. Now the doctor offers to freeze them for me and I agree.

He fetches a huge tank of liquid nitrogen, some small sticks and cotton wool. We discover that I have a total of nine ‘foot warts’. He dips the cotton wool into the liquid nitrogen. There’s a white icy fog billowing out of the tank. He presses down hard onto the sole of my foot. Wow this is intense! It hurts like hell! S is looking at me closely. I grimace at him but try not to cry out. I breathe out in a long controlled out-breath. It reminds me of all those breathing exercises I learnt for giving birth. The doctor takes a new stick and continues on to the next spot.                                                                                   

S is standing glued to my leg with his toy bunny in his mouth. He peers at the white marks appearing under my feet,

“Mummy got a ow-ie”


When we’re finished with all nine we wait a minute or two and then the doctor repeats the whole process again.

“It’ll take a couple of weeks to heal”

I shake the doctor by the hand and we leave.

I hobble into the lift. S has a great time pressing the buttons and then we go outside hand in hand.


Being British/Dutch my children have two separate names for grandmother. My mother is ‘Grandma,’ P’s mother is ‘Oma’.

My mother is visiting. She arrives late at night while the kids are sleeping so doesn’t get to see them until the next day.

Grandma from England. Here we go.

“What are the plans for tomorrow” she asks

“Well Oma looks after the kids on a Thursday, so she’ll get here early morning and unfortunately I have to work”

The first thing she needs to do she explains is find out where this ‘action’ is taking place.

“One Billion and Rising” she tells me

“It’s a mass global event tomorrow to raise consciousness about violence against women and there’s going to be one of the meetings right here so I need to go, it’s at 12 in the centre of town.”

I look up the location on the website for her and hand her a map.

“Do you think Oma would want to come along with S?” she’s asking

I can’t see it happening; the two grandmas have pretty different priorities when it comes to going out in the cold February snow to attend political rallies.

I don’t get to witness her reunion with her grandchildren because I rush off to work before daylight, but when I get back the house is busy and there are tales of adventures.

“I’m afraid I failed at the first hurdle” she says referring to cooking dinner.

“I couldn’t work out how to turn the gas on.”

There’s a pile of raw chopped veg in the kitchen waiting to be cooked into something.

“It’s just a safety feature.” I tell her, “see, you push down the knob and click the ignite”

She shrugs.

“Grandma brought presents!” A is telling me.

While I finish off the dinner they settle down on the sofa to watch a Dr. Seuss animation that grandma has brought on DVD.

From the kitchen I keep hearing some typical Seussian lyrics about butter-side up, butter side-down, sounds fun and they look like they’re transfixed.

I stir the sauce.

“Spaghetti or pasta bows?”

I walk across to A. Her face has dropped and she’s slightly whimpering. She points at the screen. There is a battle ensuing between these two breeds of scrawny bald headed beaky creatures. They’re pointing multi-headed canons across a wall at each other and barking on about buttering bread.

“It does seem a bit sinister” I say

“It’s about the cold war” says my mum

“I can see that, but maybe they’re not ready for this lesson just yet” I say

We eat dinner and my mum produces the goods for all kinds of treats for dessert. The obligatory T-bags and fudge for me and P and chocolate bunnies for the kids. Not strictly allowed and it’s not even Easter, but I guess that’s what grandmas are for, breaking the rules here and there and upping the sugar-quota.

“Hey, by the way” I ask

“Did you make it into town to do the One Billion and Rising thing?”

“Yes, yes, it was good; there were only about 25 of us dancing.”

“Dancing?” I say, “It was freezing”

“I know, but it was a sort of flash-mob. It was absolutely perishing, but the feminists lent me a hat and a scarf”

I can’t believe my mother just said “flash-mob.”

She offers to make up for the encouraging the sugar overload by brushing the kids teeth but she’s foxed when she can’t manage to work the electric toothbrush.

How is this difficult I wonder? I thought electric toothbrushes had been widely available since about 1983?

A couple of days pass and we try to rub along in our usual way. Me trying to maintain a modicum of order, my mum trying to provoke the odd rebellion to that order. I find it hard to contain my irritations on seeing not only the usual scatterings of crumbs and debris, but the sofa covered in an unfolded mass of newspaper and huge numbers of tea-cups. (My mum always delights in trying to show-off that she can read Dutch newspapers. Well I don’t know how long she actually stares at that same article, but if it saves me from having to listen to her pseudo German attempts at speech then I’d rather leave her to it).  

One morning we seem to have got back onto the subject of buttering bread on both sides.

“We don’t need to have wars about things you see” my mum is explaining to my 5 year old.

“What we need are new governments”

I go into the kitchen to boil the kettle. When I come back in all three of them are shouting at the top of their voices.

Grandma is clenching her fist and punching the air.

My 5 year old and my 2 year old are standing up on their chairs raising their arms up clutching cereal spoons and shouting “revolution!”

Any moment now they’re going to knock that carton of milk over, I’m thinking.

“Hey, come down from the bench! You’re going to fall”

My mum is cackling. She thinks she might have crossed the line in my code of behaviour and she revels in it. She wants to see how far she can go. Now she starts singing:

“Nkosi, sikelel’ I Afrika
Malupakam’upondo lwayo;”

The familiar tune of the African National Congress anthem rings in my ears. 30 years ago it was the enduring soundtrack to a childhood of being dragged up and down the country on one march or another.

“Can you say that? Nkosi sikelel’i Afrika!”

A repeats “Nk-o-si sik-e-le-l’i  Afrika!”

My mum looks over at me.

“No no don’t mind me” I say, “Never did me any harm, a bit of indoctrination with breakfast”

Actually I’m looking at my two kids with swelling pride and I’m thinking, wow A has got great pronunciation!