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London - Halloween came early to the Candy family last week with the arrival of the ghoulish-looking chicken pox. As we drove to Cornwall for half-term, I noticed two suspicious spots on the toddler formerly known as baby Mabel’s neck.
By the time we reached Exeter services she looked like she was wearing a “onesie” in the style of a pink dalmatian.
It took three days for her many hideous blistery welts to scab over (apart from the ones on her tongue, obviously) at which point she accidentally ran into the corner of the TV cabinet (yes I know you’d think someone would have been watching her wouldn’t you? What can I say? She’s number four and it’s like trying to watch Road Runner).
The next morning, after another sleepless night, a black eye had formed and there before us was a look far scarier than anything I could have managed with my rudimentary Halloween face-painting skills.
Frankly it was a nightmarish vision which Stephen King would have struggled to dream up and it meant we were about as welcome everywhere on holiday as a pack of repellent zombies, which are quite rare in Cornwall.
Every time all six of us trooped into a fish and chip shop, waitresses and customers alike recoiled as they caught sight of poor Mabel (whose siblings had taught her to say “I got the pox” to “the starers”).
Families near us on the beach subtly moved their kids away behind creeping windbreaks, Carry On Camping style.
Visitors to the local Lobster Hatchery looked like they were about to leap into the tank as I loomed behind them thrusting little Mabel forward for a closer look at one of the sea’s uglier offerings.
But when did people become so terrified of chicken pox? Nearly a decade ago when my first child caught the virus, people held chicken pox parties hoping to pass the infection between children as quickly as possible.
Everyone believed it was best to get the disease out of the way before they were of an age where you had to Sellotape oven gloves to their hands to prevent itching.
My middle daughter had it a record three times, necessitating one trip to casualty.
She was so contagious I contemplated charging other moms to let their offspring shake her spotty hands on our doorstep! But now people seem terrified of the pox.
Mabel still has the spots 14 days after the first one appeared and she wasn’t welcome on a play date this weekend.
She doesn’t care of course and it is everyone’s choice about whether they want a spotty visitor, but I fear we’ve all become too sensitive.
After all, the moment you have more than one child (and they are at school), chances are they’re all riddled with invisible germs or an infection of some sort unless you live in a bubble.
I don’t know about you, but there is no space in my brain to worry about dousing them with disinfectant every time they go outside the kitchen.
Gracie concluded that shunning “chicken pox Mabel” was unfair and “lookist”. Rather illogically she compared it to getting older “like Mary Berry”.
Now I have a girl crush on Mary Berry (star of the Great British Bake Off) so I won’t have a word said against this rather beautiful woman.
“What’s Mary got to do with this?” I asked.
“Well, some people say Mary is older than most ladies on our telly, and that is lookist isn’t it,” Gracie explained, “Because Mary has just been alive longer and eaten more cakes than us.”
I sort of understand, and like Gracie’s thinking, but she then added that she didn’t mind Mary looking older but she minded me looking older.
When I asked why, she looked at me with a frown: “Do you have any idea what it feels like to know exactly what you are going to look like when you get old? Well I do and it’s not pretty.”
She pointed at my face.
And indeed she is right (Gracie is the image of me as a child). So she knows.
“But that’s definitely lookist,” I replied before heading to the loft to find last year’s Halloween masks for all of them. - Daily Mail
* Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of ELLE magazine.