In the wilderness and starving

trees forest snow winter cold


Only son is getting into religion. He announced the other day that he had renounced Christianity for Hinduism because “the artefacts are cooler, mum”. Only son is seven and is at a Church of England School and has a Lent assembly next week. He expressed concern that Jesus had to fast for 40 days. Only son finds it hard to go without food for 40 minutes. He’s on a growth spurt. “Jesus is a bit like my uncle,” he said, referring to my brother who he has never met, but who has clearly made quite an impression. “He is also in the wilderness and starving.” My brother is about to move into an ecological house he built in a forest in the foothills of the Andes. He never has any money, but under the current government in Argentina household bills have gone up by a huge percentage. Only son has inferred from this that my brother has Christ-like tendencies.

I haven’t seen my brother for a while. Not in person for almost 10 years and not even on Skype for the last few months. This is because he has been planning to move into the ecological house for a long time and so, to save money, has not had internet connection in his house. The only place he can get connection is in a chocolate ice cream cafe. I track him on Facebook to see when he is in the ice cream shop. At first I thought he was eating an awful lot of chocolate ice cream, but I know better now. His forays to the ice cream shop rarely coincide with when I am able to speak to him because most of his spare time is spent mixing straw and mud and the like.

One day I will hopefully get to Argentina with the kids so only son can meet him in person. I hope the picture he has of my brother will live up to the reality. That picture is mostly based on the stories I have told him of my brother dancing with sharks [they were very small, but only son is not interested in details], being obsessed with dinosaurs and the Bermuda Triangle, owning an enormous amount of teddy bears and, of course, building an eco house in a forest. Only son will be expecting him to walk on water.

With all his new-found DIY skills my brother might have been useful in our house in the last few weeks. We’ve had a bathroom disaster. The tiles have come loose and the water from the shower has been dripping down into the kitchen. The reason the tiles have come loose is condensation caused by us turning off the extractor fan when only son was born because it kept waking him up. We just forgot to turn it back on and then hit the teenage years which involves half the family spending inordinate amounts of time in the shower.

I got the whole team on tile and tile glue removal last week. Daughters two and three were particularly effective. The tile man came on Tuesday and we now have a black and white bathroom. It looks a bit like something from Alice in Wonderland. We also had to get rid of the toilet because it wasn’t flushing. We bought a special offer one at the weekend which looks a little bit like a small ocean liner. The only problem is that it didn’t fit onto the pipe. Fortunately, the plumber had a spare toilet in his van and we now have a beautiful new bathroom and toilet. It is a joy to go into it. Daughter two is already planning to fill it with plants and fragrant oils. We may soon move into the toilet because it now looks a whole lot better than the rest of the house.

*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of

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