Milly sat at my feet the entire time acting as mute inspiration, delivery man sniffer and wet-nosed break time alarm clock. She's been recited to, sung at and even had her opinion sought on alternative paragraph endings and descriptions. I'm pleased to report that her work has been outstanding and she's quite simply the best Personal Assistant a writer could wish for (excepting the fragrant farts, of course. Then again, she could rightfully direct the same complaint back at me).
The 60,000 words were completed at a time when Sapphire's stomach issues had not only re-emerged but also joined forces with her 'plumbing at the front'. No-one likes placing their feet into stirrups and having a man approach with a cotton bud and what looks like an oversized creme brulee gas torch but when you're thirteen years old, tired, sick and scared it gets beyond funny. "So Mum, how's your day going so far," she said quietly, trying her best to get her mind off things. "Can you hold my hand please?" At least two days off school per week has become the norm but we thank modern technology, school website log ins and mates with mobiles for keeping her up to date with assignments and still in sight of good grades.
However with lingering illness, puberty, fluctuating friendships and a truck-load of pre-report card homework to do, she's been forced into the first row seat riding the rollercoaster of grumpiness, apologies, resentment, frustration, amusement, challenges, stomach aches, affection, anger, sulkiness and gratitude. Love Chunks and I sometimes want to hand our own tickets back to the booth at different times but, together, we're a pretty formidable - and empathetic - force.
My endlessly busted Achilles is minor in comparison but still makes my invisible tail droop at not being able to do my favourite form of exercise combined with sweaty singing and idea generating. As my stupid old woman muscle heals at snail-on-a-glacier pace, the treadmill has done a sterling job of getting bed sheets and towels dry, being so close to the window and radiator. Shame about the dog hairs and dust bunnies forming on the belt though.
It is here, whilst splashing up and down the lanes - right side here in Switzerland, by the way, not the left - that chapter ideas emerge, chlorinated and vibrant, ready for use. Hindsight flowers behind foggy goggles and offers decent alternatives in my reactions to Sapphire's tribulations; and Love Chunks' face appears on the bottom of the pool, smiling kindly at me.
It is also here that I discover rage. Rage is new to me, as I'm the, 'Oh let the guy in, it's just another three seconds of our lives' forgiving old soul when it comes to cars. Beeping horns are also alien to me and as long as I get that obligatory 'thank you' wave, life behind the wheel is calm and uneventful. The swimming lane provides a direct contradiction.
Unlike pools in Australia that are usually marked, 'Slow,' 'Medium' and 'Fast' with about two lanes for each speed, Geneva has just two lanes. One is marked with a green tortoise and the other with a red hare; a rather cute solution for swimmers with potentially little or no understanding of French. I'm egotistical enough to select the Hare lane as years of running have given me an endurance level that allows me to swim laps without stopping. Fat old girls can float, y'see. I was never particularly fast in Oz but always consistent, yet here in Switzerland, I'm a female Ian Thorpe without the fashion or the flipper feet. I leave middle aged Canadian blokes and skinny French ladies in my wake, lapping them over and over again. No rage yet, just overheated pride and vanity.
Lapping is fine, as long as there are six or less people in the Hare lane. When there is more, and some clod decides to wind down by doing the backstroke or the breast stroke, my irritation awakes. No-one, apart from Olympic athletes, can swim the back or breast stroke faster than freestyle which means that they no longer belong in the Hare Lane and should duck under the barrier and do their barely-floating version of a hungover frog in the Tortoise Lane. Irritation rises to anger when I have to overtake the hairy-backed old guy lazily attempting back stroke and have his overly long fingernails scrape my sides whilst doing so.
Rage finally appears when I've overtaken the third bloody breast stroking bozo and we touch the end of the lane at the same time and he doesn't take one single second to notice that I've thrashed the water to foam whilst making up three quarters of a lap and want to take off in front of him. No, this non-submersible turd ends up kicking me in the face as I try to get around him and not smack into the blind backstroker coming from the opposite direction.
The only thing stopping me from strangling these inconsiderate imbeciles with the cords of their speedos or pulling back goggle straps a metre before letting it sting their faces is the counting.
Numbers. Order. Routine.
I dare not waste too much mental energy on these public pool pinheads or I'll risk forgetting how many laps I've swum. Fourteen, Fourteen, Fourteen, is the chant until I reach the end. Fifteen, fifteen, fifte ----- oh for pharksake why does he think that swimming with a foam peanut between his knees means he'll be quick enough for the fast lane ---- bugger. Was it fifteen or thirteen...? If in doubt, don't cheat. Thirteen, thirteen, thirteen, thir----- maybe I'll swim over the TOP of that stupid back stroking bonehead instead of around her....
When forty is finally counted, I hoik my dripping bulk out via the pool steps and do my best to saunter back to the change rooms, walking in slo-mo for coolness but really to avoid slipping on the tiles. When I'm safely in the unlockable, saloon door individual cubicle, I slump down on the wet bench seat in exhaustion.
Three loads of washing to drape around the house, two specialist appointments to arrange for Sapphire, winter tyres to put on the car, a thrice-postponed lunch date and then, the writing. Love Chunks' face appears in front of me again as I find the hill back home rather hard going.
I'm so lucky to be here and will do my damnedest to make the most of it.