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EVERYTHING had been going swimmingly well at home: my oldest son, Jamie, had decided that it wasn't so bad having a new baby in the house after all; the baby had started taking long naps; next door's cats had stopped digging up my tulips.

And then, one rainy morning, I woke up feeling ill. My husband had to work so I packed Jamie off to play with his friend Rosie, and retired to bed. By lunchtime, I had a temperature of 103 and a terrible pain in my right breast. I took a closer look: there was a large red patch on the outside and a throbbing lump inside. I looked up the symptoms in the Penelope Leach book: it seemed to be mastitis - you know, like cows get. The book advised hot and cold compresses and warned that breast-feeding might be 'memorably painful'. It was.

I tottered downstairs in search of aspirin, and discovered that the conservatory was an inch deep in water. I blinked, hoping that this might be a feverish nightmare, but no, the water was definitely oozing out of a drainage cover in the corner of the room, soaking into the carpets. We would probably all get cholera, I reflected gloomily.

When the phone rang, it was Rosie's mother, Melanie. 'Bad news, I'm afraid,' sounding harassed. 'Jamie has just been sick on the bathroom floor.' (This was probably worse news for her than for me: it's bad enough clearing up your own child's vomit, let alone someone else's) She brought him back home and he got into bed with me and the baby, looking pale and forlorn. Then Jamie was sick again, and so was I. Downstairs, the water kept rising. Upstairs, we were all weeping.

The reason that everything had gone wrong, I decided, was that I hadn't expected the worst. That's what happens if you think life is fine and dandy - you get punished for being smug. And these calamities always arrive in malevolent little clusters.

It is at times like this that I start believing in an Old Testament God - the one that I used to draw sitting in the clouds when I was six. What had I done to deserve it, I wondered? It was obviously something bad, because when my husband came home, he dropped an amplifier on his foot, fell over and twisted his ankle.

I stayed in bed, dreaming sweaty dreams of burglars, floods and plagues of greenfly. Luckily, before my persecution complex got out of control, the doctor arrived. Dr Gor is a very good doctor, with a wonderfully soothing, yet commanding bedside manner. 'Show me your breasts,' he said authoritatively. I complied. He took my pulse and told me I'd be over the worst in 36 hours. I immediately started feeling better.

So now I'm taking vast quantities of antibiotics and quietly muttering. I'm not talking to myself; I'm trying to talk to God, a man with a long grey beard and a vengeful look in his eyes. -