Giving Birth at The (posh) Portland, The Day My Husband Wore My Tights, and Prince’s Death on the Internet


Giving Birth at the Posh Portland (where the “scalpels are sprinkled with the stardust of virgin pixies…”)


I have recently been watching the BBC 2 series, Five Star Babies, set in London’s Portland Hospital, maternity playground of the super rich.

I had my own babies in St Mary’s, where the cash-starved NHS was too poor to give me the expensive anti-sickness drug until it became clear (five hours and still aboard the vomit comet later), that perhaps I really did need it.

At The Portland, for between 15 and 250 grand, one may choose everything from one’s birthing room, to one’s consultant.

If you are feeling too posh (scared stiff) to push, then your offspring can emerge from your womb via a c-section that has been carried out using a scalpel sprinkled with the stardust of virgin pixies, by a consultant whose little finger is probably insured for the sum of your house.

My own c-sections were born of medical necessity, but I don’t much care how babies arrive into the world, as long as they do so safely. The experience – including terrifying reactions to spinal blocks, and the special time that my wound burst open with infection – was a far cry from The Portland.

At The Portland, once you’ve given birth with your mascara on, and find yourself in need of recovery, your baby can be whisked away by bluebirds to the nursery. Here, Mary Poppins will swaddle them, until you’ve had a snooze and enough time for your milk to dry up.

The sleep-deprived Verity thinks that this sounds like heaven, but even my inner night-crawler is quite sure that I wouldn’t like it. I’d waited months to hold my babies, and when I was too poorly to do so, my husband did. It came as little surprise that some of the mums at The Portland seemed to have trouble bonding afterwards.

Not that this matters because I’d never have made it past security. The true Portland mother only appears to require a couple of Rennie’s after a sprig of kale too many, whereas I’d have arrived with a smear of Big Mac special sauce on one cheek and a hormonal spot on the other.


The Day My Husband Wore My Tights…

It’s a sad day when you realise that your husband’s legs look better than yours do when clad in tights.

My husband recently dressed up as Henry VIII (for the purpose of education I’m pleased to say, not delusion), and asked to borrow a pair of my tights for his homemade costume. Being a generous soul I acquiesced, but it took some persuasion. White Stuff hosiery does not come cheap.

Having seen, and laughed, at the subsequent photographic evidence (think ‘bearded lady does the coronation’), I’d suggest hiring said outfit if you’re contemplating dressing up as a member of Tudor royalty yourself in the near future. There’s nothing pretty when your husband looks like a hirsute sparrow in bad drag.


The Death of Prince, and Poor Old Joyce off the Internet.

The recent spate of celebrity deaths has caused much consternation on social media of late, and has also highlighted the necessity to read and think carefully before one posts anything in public (said she who’s writing a public column, proof-reading desperately).

One poor soul, known as ‘Joyce’, made an unfortunate comment on Twitter upon reading that Prince, he of diminutive stature and colossal talent, had died.

Joyce, whilst attempting to display her concern for the purple pocket rocket, said that she hoped the aforementioned musical genius would ‘be ok’.

Unless Joyce is possessed of previously unimagined, indeed, death-defying, medical prowess, then one suspects that she was the student in GCSE English who was repeatedly told to re-read the question.

First published in The Portsmouth News, Saturday 30th April 2016.

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Do You Believe in Ghosts?


Do you believe in ghosts?


What about when you are alone, and the dark has settled in around you? The house shifts and creaks itself into position for the night, and the older, more primeval connections in the human brain switch on, alerting us to all that is outside of our norm, amplifying each sound, or whisper of breath, that surrounds us.


In daylight, it is much easier to be logical. In daylight, the sun sweeps up the shadows and packs them away for the day, leaving us rational and with heads that are clear. Do you believe in ghosts? Your answer may differ depending on the time at which you are reading this, and the company you are keeping.


If you are keeping no company, and are perhaps alone, then ghosts can be easier to believe in. If we have lost family members, then the very concept of a life after the one that we are now living, is one to hold us steady, for the alternative is almost too much for our human selves to comprehend.


There are things in life that are inexplicable, things that seem beyond coincidence and that are, in many ways, too much for our logic to handle.


I’ve had experiences in my own life that seem to point to there being something after death. I am not religious, but there are 6 main world religions, and they can’t all be right, yet all suggest different versions of what will occur when we die. I am therefore not suggesting that our souls, should they exist, go ‘somewhere’, but I do wonder whether or not the force that makes you ‘you’, exists in some uncontained form.


My grandfather, for unknown reasons, was obsessed with his garages. He had allowed people to store things in them over the years and when he asked them to remove it all, repeatedly, they simply left it in there. Subsequently, my husband and I had these garages cleared last year, and my grandad was thrilled about it.


He passed away a month or so later, and on the morning after he died, we popped notes through the doors of all the neighbours that he considered friends, and one of these, a lovely lady named Maria, came over to speak to us in the afternoon.


Maria told us that, although she had not seen my grandfather for years, she had dreamt of him that night, the night that he died, and had come downstairs, still highly aware of that dream, to find our note waiting on the doormat. In the dream, my grandfather had been stood in one of his garages, the door open, surrounded by men in overcoats. He was facing her, and he smiled and they waved to one another.


Two days later, my husband and I met my mother who had agreed to drive my grandad’s car back to the house for us. I gave her the keys and said that we would meet her there, and we all set off, my mother travelling behind us. The plan was to finally use the fabled-garages, now that they were clear, to store the car inside.


However, as we approached the house, the garage door – for which there was no key and which we could only unlock from the inside – stood wide open. Wide open, as if awaiting the arrival of someone, or something.


My rational self says ‘coincidence’. My rational self also, occasionally, pipes up with ‘what if?’ Food for thought.


First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 12th April 2016. This will be my final Tuesday column with The News, and I shall be making my Saturday debut with a larger and central-page column on the 23rd April 2016! Thank you for reading – without readers, there would be no words.



The one in which I am diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.


I’ve noticed that, as I get older, I tend to think more about health and fitness. I’ve always exercised and, like many people, tried to maintain a decent weight, but now that I’m approaching 40 I think more about not only my personal health, but that of my children and husband, too.


Given that I’m the main unpaid chef and food-shopping slave (I’m not bitter, Mr Lush), I am also therefore the one who decides what will go into the stomachs of my family. Given half a chance, all 3 of my sidekicks would subsist on nothing but processed packets. Around a year ago, I decided that enough was enough as regards snacks in the house, and the sidekicks have been reduced solely to fruit, or yoghurts that have as little refined sugar in as I can scour down on the shelves.


They get treats, but the concept of not having treats in the building with us, 24/7, works better than my continually saying “NO”. The initial crescendo of moaning has been replaced instead by a general consensus that Mum is a miserable killjoy, and that’s just fine by me.


My husband is the kind of swine who eats whatever he likes, whenever he likes, and gains no weight whatsoever. However, as I like to remind him, he may be lithe and smug on the outside, but inside he’d be morbidly obese if it weren’t for me. Luckily, I’m the one with the metaphorical padlock on our fridge, and he is thwarted at every turn if he accompanies me on the food shop.


I recently had a cardiology appointment to check on a benign ectopic heartbeat that I’ve had for years. When I visited QA, I had an echocardiogram and suspected that something was awry when the nurse asked me, for a second time, whether this was the first time I’d ever had a heart scan. I affirmed that it was and, in a very British manner, kept schtum, whilst dwelling on what this might mean, and ignoring the indignity of having my boobs manhandled in the dark by a complete stranger with a probe in his hand. (Given that the hospital was deserted and there was no chaperone in the room, I also suspected at one point that I’d been duped entirely into disrobing by a random member of the perverted public, but that proved to be the product of an over-active imagination and one two many late night episodes of Crimewatch.)


When I was called through to see the consultant, I was told that my dodgy beats are indeed fine with no underlying cause, but that the scan had picked up an entirely unrelated issue. It transpires that I have a ‘bicuspid aortic valve’. He asked if I had heard of this before (I resisted mentioning Holby City), and went on to explain that this means my aortic valve is divided not into 3 tiny sections, but 2.

Fortunately for me, my valve is functioning just fine and in two-thirds of people will never cause a problem. It would often be diagnosed via a heart murmur, but I have never even had that. If the valve does ever cause an issue, which would essentially be a stiffening and a narrowing with age, then it’s unlikely to be for many years, by which time, keyhole surgery will be the norm. I did find it extraordinary though to discover that a part of my body, since birth, has not been as I assumed. Not that I’ve ever given a passing thought to valves and the like. Perhaps I should have done.


So, to be further on the safe side, I have started running again. I used to run 30 miles a week but, following a hip injury, had to stop. I have missed it ever since – there is nothing like the runner’s high – so I figure that a couple of short runs a week are better than none. My girls and my husband come along with me, whenever possible, which makes it far more fun and models good habits for when they’re older. We look like a bunch of track-suited muppets en masse, but I’ve always thought that if you’re willing to run in public, then you’re willing to look a mess anyway. The fact that they all sprint past me, chatting whilst they do so, as I snatch any gasp of oxygen going, is something I’m working on.


Also, as a note of interest, my appointment at QA was at 7pm. This flies in the face of the flack that doctors get, and the impression that the media can portray of our health service. The appointment was quick and efficient and the staff, Probegate aside, extremely courteous.


First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 5th April 2016

Image courtesy of twelve