Taking the good with the bad

I’m coming to the end of a fortnight’s visit with my youngest daughter. Partly for some quality time with Rosie and her beautiful family, and partly to baby-sit whilst Rosie and her new(ish) husband go away for four days. It’s really lovely to be home alone with the grandchildren, if rather exhausting – it being half term and having sole charge for 24 hours a day

My 22 month granddaughter is a little angel, strong minded but easily distracted and very, very cuddly. Even though she hasn’t seen me for three months she welcomed me back into her life as though we had been playing together only a few days previously. On the other hand (or other planet) my almost six year old grandson is a boy!

I have two daughters and have always been very happy about that. Boys are definitely made of a different mixture altogether (as in sugar & spice v slugs & snails). He is unremittingly boisterous, finds it necessary to tease his little sister in equal measure to being adorable towards her, and he chatters NON-STOP. Please don’t think I don’t love my grandson with all my heart, he is funny and loving and bright and entertaining, but he never stops talking, and he always expects an answer. I am used to living a very quiet life and can happily pass many hours without uttering or hearing a word.

Amongst many other chores, there were two tasks that I had to take care of on this visit – one very pleasurable. Rosie and I realised, after the event, that we didn’t have any photos taken of the two of us at her recent wedding. That was a shame and we put it to rights with a visit to her friend, who is a professional photographer, for a ‘winter’ shoot. Lisa has the patience of an absolute saint and managed to get some lovely natural shots of the children and a couple of nice ones of Rosie and me. We haven’t got the un-watermarked copies yet, but here are a few images from the viewing gallery. If anyone local to the Bristol area is interested in a shoot, contact Lisa at lisavictoriaphotography.co.uk.


Warning…Stop reading now if you are at all squeamish. I sent a preview of this post to a friend for her opinion as to whether it was too gross to share, but she felt strongly that it was an important subject matter that we should all take seriously (although I hope you will also see the humorous side in my description).

The next necessity wasn’t such a treat. In fact it was a bit of a sh!tty job. I had been invited to take part in an NHS bowel cancer screening programme. I had done this last year, but it was such a horrible job that I had flushed the details from my mind.

This time around I had already spent more than a week tending to my granddaughters pooey nappies (and they were pretty disgusting), so I thought doing this exercise couldn’t be so awful. Wrong! There can be few things so very gross as having to deal with your own poo at such close quarters.

A helpful leaflet accompanies the ‘poo harvesting pack’. No 3 of the instructions is entitled “Collecting the first sample” and suggests three ways “to catch your bowel motion”

  • hold folded lengths of toilet paper
  • cover your hand in a small plastic bag
  • use a clean disposable container, eg an ice cream or margarine tub

Well, I wasn’t about to try any of these ‘helpful’ suggestions. After some serious thought (and you know where the best ideas are hatched!) I decided I would make a sling out of several layers of loo-roll that would hang inside the toilet bowl whilst the two ends would extend across the seat and would be anchored by my weight. Good plan I thought.

  • First attempt I missed altogether.
  • Second attempt, good catch, but unfortunately I had peed on the paper and it broke almost immediately, jettisoning my prize into the water.
  • By day three I had learned the exact positioning required, had remembered to completely finish with my weeing before I got to work on the job in hand, and bingo, I had my catch of the day. I was able to take the two tiny specimens required for the first of my three days’ samples. I felt a ridiculous sense of achievement – I had this task sorted. Two further successes ensued on the following days and the test kit was complete, and is now safely on its way to the poor guys at the testing centre. What a job!

The last time I did this I took the envelope with me on my way back to Spain to post in the letter box at the airport. When I arrived at passport control I reached into my handbag to extract my passport and instead found myself extending a poo envelope in the direction of the customs officer. I’m glad that he didn’t think that I was offering him a bribe and ask me to open it! I eventually posted it back to the UK from Spain. My poo is very well-travelled.

There is an obvious serious side to this tale. A good friend has just been operated on for bowel cancer, thankfully caught in time and contained. But it was a wake-up call – we all (particularly those of us of a ‘certain age’) need to do all we can to proactively look after ourselves.

I am sure you will be overwhelmingly relieved to know that I don’t have any photographs to share with you on this subject.

Better by far are a couple of snaps from a trip to the beach at sunset with my two little darlings…



About magwood

Trepidatious Traveller - camino blog is about preparing for and walking the Camino de Santiago. Many future pilgrims have found the blog useful and inspiring, and many who have no plans to walk the camino have simply enjoyed the dialogue http://www.magwood.me
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12 Responses to Taking the good with the bad

  1. jeanandmike says:

    Hello Maggie,
    This is one of the funniest descriptions I have ever read regarding the
    Poo Stix test. Thanks for a really good belly laugh. Jean


  2. Margaret Gardner says:

    Wish I’d has a much fun when collecting mine!! xx


  3. sixwheeler says:

    Oh dear, we’ve all been there. Next year you’ll be trying to remember “your” method so useful to have your blog to look back on. But very important to do the test. Best Wishes from Bath.


    • magwood says:

      By next year I will probably have forgotten that I wrote this piece and will have to start from scratch. I’ve received some good alternative ideas though.


  4. mqry lynch says:

    Gorgeous photos Maggie. A friend of mine was freaked out having been told to keep the samples in the fridge until she had all three. I have to say I thought what a lot of fuss about a bit of poo, The plastic bag on the hand sounds like the best bet. I do it all the time for the dog and that’s much more disgusting than human poo I imagine. Much love xx


    • magwood says:

      It is odd Mary, I pick up after the dog without a second thought, and change Sophia’s nappies with no worries. I will complete the task without any fuss next year (hopefully!) xx


  5. Marian Liebmann says:

    Hello Maggie
    I really resonated with your account of the poo business, I used a potty but will keep your method in mind for next time!
    If you are still in Bristol and have time to say hello, please do.


    • magwood says:

      Hi Marian, lovely to hear from you. I didn’t think about using a potty – what a good idea. There was one in the bathroom.
      I’m back in Spain now, but will get in touch next time I’m over. It would be lovely to meet up.


  6. marilyn van graan says:

    Maggie you are priceless – but also brave you share this crappy story. Keep well and hope to have some news from you soon.


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