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Martin Crimp
Advice to Iraqi Women  

Short text for performance first shown at the Royal Court Theatre, April 2003. First published in the Guardian, 10 April 2003.

Iraqi Women fleeing Basra, 30 March 2003 (Picture: Reuters)The protection of children is a priority. Even a small child on a bike should wear a helmet. And a newborn baby on a plane must be strapped to its mother. A child on roller-skates should wear kneepads. And elbow pads. A child on roller skates should wear knee and elbow pads as well as a helmet. Buy one of those plastic things to stop young children opening the drawer in the kitchen: there are knives in it. Don't give children small mechanical toys: they can swallow the moving parts. It's tempting, but just don't do it. Check the eyes of teddy bears. Don't buy a teddy bear if the eyes are loose. Check the squeak of the teddy bear. If you think the squeak might frighten your child, don't buy it. If you have a dog, muzzle it - and if you have a cat, mind it doesn't sit on your baby's face. If you have a mud-scraper outside your house, tie rubber over the blade. Your house is a potential war zone for a child: the corners of tables, chip pans, and the stairs - particularly the stairs - are all potential sources of harm. Your house is a minefield. Your house is a minefield - you only have to think about the medicines in the medicine cupboard - or the hard surfaces in the bathroom - the bath - the enamel sink - these are very hard surfaces. Avoid slippery floors. Avoid slippery floors and at the first sign of unremitting fever, do call a doctor, call a doctor straight away. The doctor will come straight away at the first sign of unremitting fever. She will have the latest drugs and the most up-to-date skills. If necessary she will intubate. Don't be frightened to call out your doctor: she is waiting for your call, she has spent her whole life waiting for it. It's not a good idea to give your child long pyjamas: they can trip over the ends. Mind zips. Avoid zips, especially metal ones. Give your child fresh produce. A child should eat fruit and the fruit should not contain pesticides. The fruit must be grown scrupulously. The growers of the fruit and the land itself must be treated with scrupulous respect if you want your child to thrive. Although beware allergies. Beware zips, beware allergies, test for allergies every three days, test for food allergies every three days, or more frequently in summer when pollen is also to be avoided. When driving in the country to see the country orchards, seat your child in the back and strap it down. Strap the child down hard and if you need to use your mobile, stop the car. Don't buy a car without rear airbags. Don't buy a car without side-impact protection. Don't let your child play under a car, or beside one, because a car is a minefield. Just like a home. A car, just like a home, just like an orchard, just like a zip, is a minefield for a child. If you have a toolbox, lock it. Lock the tools inside it. Don't let a child handle a chisel - not even a small child's chisel. Even a hard pencil used for marking timber is dangerous. Don't let children write or draw with a dangerous pencil. Mind the caps of felt pens. Make sure the caps, if inhaled, would not obstruct your child's airway. If an accident does occur, call a doctor straight away. The doctor will come and immediately remove the obstruction. Explain road safety from an early age. Explain that the traffic comes from two directions. Explain what a red man means. Teach your child the word "amber" from an early age. Explain how dangerous water is. Explain that just two inches of water is enough to drown in. Supervise all swimming. Make sure your child wears goggles because of the chemicals in the water. By all means inflate a paddling pool in your garden but bear in mind that your garden is a potential war zone. Like your house. Like your house, like your car, like your child's colouring book, your garden is a potential war zone. Keep sheds locked. Lock sheds. Lock garden chemicals out of reach. Secure hoses. If you have a greenhouse with seedlings in it, keep the child away. When your child is in the pool, screaming in the pool, supervise it at all times, and don't let it burn. Don't let your child burn. Even on a hazy day it still might burn. Even in the water. Even in the shade of a tree. Even in water a child can burn. Even in spring it's still possible. In the time it takes you to cut the grass and trim the edges, a child might have burned, because of the very strong rays. Avoid sunlight, and in strong sunlight, when there are fierce rays, apply cream. Use a good cream. Use a good brand. Use a reliable cream. If you use a good brand of reliable cream your child will not burn. Your child will not burn if you are liberal with a reliable cream. If you want advice about which brands of reliable cream to choose, talk to your pharmacist.

© Martin Crimp 2003

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