The Thing Is with Steve Canavan

Nappy sacks can pose a danger to babies.
Nappy sacks can pose a danger to babies.
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She probably needs her nappy changing - will you do it?’

The words of Mrs Canavan at 5.40am the other day, words that, as it turned out, were to change my life slightly forever.

“Are you sure it needs changing?” I said, struggling to keep the annoyance out of my voice. I’d got to bed at 10.30pm, so had only had seven straight hours of sleep.

‘Don’t get narky,’ she hissed. ‘I’ve done the last four changes and have been up three times already during the night breastfeeding. Do you not think it’s your turn to do something?’

I made an exasperated noise - as if the whole world was against me - ripped off the duvet cover in dramatic fashion, and said, ‘fine, if you want the nappy changing, I’ll change it’.

And so began the worst hour of my life.

The thing about babies - and no one really likes to admit this - is that they’re horrid. They whinge, whine, trump, burp, poo, scream, don’t sleep, vomit and basically do everything that it is not, as an adult, socially acceptable to do.

The majority of babies make up for this by looking adorable and cute. Unfortunately my seven-week-old, Mary, hasn’t even got that going in her favour - she’s inherited my large ears and has heavy bags under her eyes; I’m already pretty certain no one is going to ask her to dance at the school prom.

Anyway, I scooped her out of the Moses basket - putting my hand, as usual, in a pool of foul-smelling dribble and sick that she seems to eject from her gob on a nightly basis (she takes after her mother in that respect) - and took her into the ‘nursery’. I’ve put inverted commas around nursery because for the last five years it has been the box room, but suddenly, on the basis that we’ve shoved a cot and a tub of Johnsons baby oil in there, Mrs Canavan seems to think it merits the term nursery.

Bleary-eyed and still smarting at actually having to do something (I mean I had work in a couple of hours time, Mrs Canavan has a full year off - where’s the justice?), I de-robed Mary and undid her nappy.

It was, I noted with fury, empty, which meant it didn’t need changing after all. Cursing Mrs Canavan and making plans to put something in her evening meal - cyanide perhaps - I lifted up Mary’s legs to slide on a new nappy … which is when it happened.

Right at that moment, with a force and volume I’d not thought possible for a being of that size, Mary emptied the entire contents of her bowels, and I mean entire. Because I was holding up her legs at an angle of about 45 degrees, it kind of looped through the air in a graceful arc. I watched, transfixed, like the witness of a serious car accident, before - just as I began to think ‘hang on, I really need to get out of the way here’ - it splattered all over me.

Having only recently got out of bed, I was dressed in a T-shirt and boxer shorts. What had previously been inside Mary’s bottom now covered said T-shirt and boxer shorts, as well as the table I was changing her on, the carpet, the chair behind where I was standing, and a large portion of the wallpaper too.

I stood in mute horror for several long moments, trying to come to terms with what had just happened.

‘I don’t believe it,’ I said, out loud, expecting Mrs Canavan to come dashing in to help. No response. I said it again, louder. Then I heard from the other room the sound of Mrs Canavan gently snoring. Rarely have I detested her more.

Meanwhile I stood looking like someone just finishing a shift at a sewage treatment plant.

Mary stared up at me, with - I swear to God - a look of slight amusement on her face.

With the clock ticking on for 6am, I stripped off my clothes, ran downstairs for disinfectant spray, several J-cloths and a sturdy pair of Marigolds, and began the clean-up operation. I then put a wash on and jumped in the shower, to my shame leaving Mary slightly precariously perched on the edge of her changing table but kind of half-wanting her to fall off to teach her a lesson.

Eventually I returned to my daughter, put on a fresh nappy (on her, not me), and dressed her in a new outfit - at which point she promptly vomited all over herself. With gritted teeth and teaching her a wide variety of swear words, I re-dressed her.

A full hour after I had first taken her into the nursery to conduct the simple two-minute act of changing her nappy, I returned to the bedroom and placed Mary back in her basket.

Mrs Canavan looked as though she was in the midst of a gloriously deep slumber.

As I slid back into bed I accidentally kicked her quite hard in the shin. She stirred and woke. ‘I’m sorry darling,’ I said, ‘didn’t mean to catch you’.

Babies. Who’d have ‘em?

Pace Egging is great fun - and I’m not yolking!

Have you heard of Pace Egging?

If you are of sound mind and have a healthy social life, you won’t have. However, if you’re like me and come from a family of slightly eccentric mad-men, you’ll know exactly what it is.

Pace egging is a play which began in the 1600s and I daresay was considered slightly bonkers even back then.

It features eight or so blokes dressed as characters ranging from St George to a shifty looking doctor to someone known as the Bold Slasher.

Another fella wanders around with a horse’s head on. It’s the kind of thing that when watching, you have to sniff your drink to check no one has spiked it with a Class A drug.

Anyhow, Pace Egging took place in villages around the UK on easter Monday for hundreds of years until it abruptly stopped during The Great War, for the simple reason that most of the men who performed in it were slain in the trenches.

But in 1967, in Middleton in North Manchester, folk singer Mike Harding decided to revive it. Problem was - for me at least - he was best mates with my dad and so for several years Harding, my father, and several other like-minded lunatics went around the pubs performing the play.

Fifty years on it is still going strong and, being slightly unhinged myself, I and a very reluctant Mrs Canavan (she only agreed to come if I promised to take her out for lunch afterwards), plus baby Mary (she didn’t have a choice), drove to Manchester to watch.

I thought it was marvellous, Mrs Canavan less so. What we could agree on is that neither of us had the faintest clue what was going on - but then again a member of the cast I spoke to said he’d been doing it 40 years and still didn’t understand what on earth the play was about.

It’s quite mad, but we lose these weird and wonderful traditions at our peril. Next bank holiday Monday, you know where to go.