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30 December 2006

Baby's first...Christmas

Baby's first Christmas is something special, something to treasure, as it will never happen again. "Don't go to any trouble" was the stereo request from both Grandmothers. Aye, no more than usual, considering we'll have a queue of babysitters. Got to take advantage!

When we arranged Christmas Junior was still in a crib in our room, so the spare room was our bolt hole. Not wanting to lose this we came up with a plan. And that was for grandparents to stay in a local hotel, rather than have one set in the spare room and the other on my office floor. Then there was the other condition, so as to not have Junior knocked way out of routine with having constant attention, the invasion would be Christmas Eve and the liberation on Boxing Day. One idea mine, other other belonging to MOTS.

With everyone assembled by lunchtime on Christmas Eve, and that includes the Gents who called in on the way home, lunch was a bit pot of soup with rolls fresh from the oven. And we were relegated to the kitchen so all our guests could sit in the dining room. It felt like being 6 all over again.

Christmas Eve didn't have the sparkle that I'm looking forward to, that is the putting Junior to bed, keeping an ear out for excited little children, leaving munchies for Santa and the reindeer. That will start next year, so while I don't want to wish time away it is something I'm wanting sooner rather than later.

We came, we
Christmas Day was really nice with the full house, and of everybody there I guess I had the best time - "If it's for the little 'un then the big 'un's opening it". After a suitable breakfast (second breakfast for some) the unwrapping started. There was almost a break to let Grandad get his nicotine fix, but we managed to complete the pile of empty paper in a mere hour and a half. Not bad going I thought, especially as he's really taken with that pile of paper!

Just before lunch I pointed out that the grandson hadn't got the grandparents anything. "I never noticed" was the resounding cry. Oh well, not to worry, we'll keep these then... Hardly. I do hope the grandparents were made up with the present hand made by their grandson (and foot made too). A hand and foot print from 10 weeks old, Mummy & Daddy got one too but couldn't hang it at the foot of the stairs until after Christmas, for obvious reasons. I love them, and it has a discreet home, yet in a high traffic position. Thus it can go unnoticed yet looked at very frequently. I would guess that the other two will also get a good spot.

There was a nice few hours from Junior in the evening, enough time for Grandad to have his fag breaks, Granny to catch up with the soaps, and Grandma to walk all over everyone at Monopoly. With Grandpops being the last man standing Mummy & Daddy didn't get a look-in. Not even with it being the "Here & Now" edition, which we thought may be too high tech for the wrinklies, but alas no.

Boxing Day was the big goodbyes, leaving us with a house that looks like a tornado has gone through it. I say looks like rather than "looked like" to ensure correct tense. And I'm here on the 31st still wondering when the SWAT team are coming in to clear the mess up. Just a little something I rattled up on Boxing Day morning was a collage of pictures taken over the last couple of days, so there was something extra to take home. I had pictures to choose from with Junior and everybody, except Daddy. Daddy was the only person not to have his picture taken with the boy on the day. It really doesn't bother me as I had a massive amount of time with him cuddled into me asleep, which made my Christmas.

Christmas started around 8 weeks early with getting the prints done. And now it's all over for another year. But if next year is half as good as this year, I'll be a happy Daddy.

Finally, many thanks to the grandparents for being there to share in Junior's first Christmas, it would not have been anything as special without them.

26 December 2006

So this is Christmas, and what have you done?

Apolgies Lee, it has been far too long since I managed to get onto the site and do my "weekly" update! I had had big plans, every Saturday morning I would grab an hour and update everyone on how Sarah is doing with Junior Gent, every Saturday I would find myself either in Babies R Us, Mothercare, Homebase or on my way to Glasgow to some Pram Centre that a certain Curtis family told my wife about - thanks for that guys! :o) And so it is that I now find myself in the third trimester and I have the whole of the 2nd one to summarise in a shortish post! A lot has happened...

...yup, we entered the third trimester on the 23rd December! At the risk of sounding like Richard Wilson "I donnnnnt bellllliiiiiiiieve itttt!" That 2nd trimester flew by, you promised me it wouldn't Lee, promised! Dont get me wrong, I cant wait to meet Junior and Sarah cant wait to get labour out of the way, but we have so much we need to do first!

Anyway slow down eh, here's what we did in the 2nd trimester.

We bought the pram from Glasgow Pram centre. Its got mod cons, convertible this, clip on that and a GSOH. The GSOH is that it's easy to use when others do it but when I try it you're having a laugh. I'm happy with it - its a Pliko Pramette which is an anagram of "Top Prat Like Me"- seems apt. Try it...

Junior had its first holiday, it flew to Sweden. Whilst sitting at Prestwick airport at 7.30am on October the 30th I was swigging my second super size Stella Artois (I dont like flying). Sarah looked at me and smiled - I think I just felt something she said. Thats funny I replied, so do I - and I rushed to the toilet. Sweden was fantastic, I was kicked in the face many times but loved every minute as I felt my child for the 1st time.

Other purchases in the 2nd trimester included a dresser, a carpet for the nursery, a radiator for the nursery, a child on board teddy bear, wipes, nappies, paint for the nursery and a cuddly toy (I'm getting all Larry Grayson!). Many many purchases and a savings account being hit left right and centre!

We also bought the cot - well in fact my parents did but we chose it, eventually. Another trip to Glasgow Pram centre, then John Lewis in Glasgow, then Babies R Us in Livingston before returning home dissapointed and finding it on the internet 15 minutes later. If at first you dont succeed, sod it, use google and let it come to you.

Another thing that happened in the 2nd trimester was Sarah got a little, well, dippy. How we laughed as she forgot to take home turkey from her mothers at Christmas, we laughed till we cried at her coming into a room, looking at me and then walking out, and we chortled hysterically as she stopped at the green light at Sheriff Hall round about causing a Toyota to swerve around her and then started driving again when it turned red causing a large Tescos truck to hit the brakes and sound its horn at us. Once I could breath again and did ask what was going on - apparently I had put her off I was speaking to her. I am now a mute passenger. I have also not found colour blindness in ANY book about pregnancy, not one!

We attended our first antenatal class - the midwife talked for 30 minutes about how hard labour could be, how women would not get any sleep in the ward, how depressing it could be etc. As the kleenex came out she left and the physio came in. She talked about some of the exercises the women could do, some of which were fun to try as the bloke. Especially the pelvic floor excercises! "Imagine you are holding in a pee for 10 seconds and let it out" she said. I felt like shouting "Imagine?? Try every Friday night out in the taxi coming home at the end of the night! My pelvic is trully floored!". I have signed up for fathers to be classes - will keep you posted on how they go. Sarah has her antenatals in January. I have also signed up for 3 fillings and a wisdom tooth to be removed - thats another story though.

Sarah has grown a lot in the past 3 months. Her bump is now very much on show! She still looks great with it, her hairs lovely, face is spotless and all in all she is glowing. She also just mentioned she will read this entry when I have posted it. ;o)

Christmas was a funny time this year! Inevitably we thought of future Christmas days - next year Junior will be 9 months old. I cant wait to have a child around to watch opening their stocking, opening their presents, throwing them all to one side and playing with the wrapping paper! In all seriousness we have talked a lot about it and I said to my own dad yesterday how I would not spoil the kid - he just smiled.

One major event this trimester was that we picked names! After countless Pop Idol vote type moments where one unlucky contender went home dissapointed we narrowed it down to one boys name and one girls. I know Lee and Debs had a number to choose from on the day but for me I could not do that - I am USELESS at making decisions and the child would have remained nameless for months if I had not done it up front. As for looking like its name, I will settle for it looking like me to be honest!! We have not had milk for 6 months...

As a summary of the second trimester I would say it all hit home over the past 3 months! All of a sudden the excitement of first knowing led to "Oh S**t, what do we do now?". The answer was make lists, buy things and panic (me more than Sarah I think). I think the third will be similar. Dont get me wrong, the excitement is still there, but there is more thinking around the practicalities. Sarah is concentrating on labour, I am thinking about the next 18 years. I have bought too many books and read too far in advance. For the third trimester it is time to pull in the reins, slow down and get the essentials done. Right, I am off to buy Gina Fords Book of Good Weaning...

March 18th here we

Merry Christmas and I hope you all have a great 2007!

23 December 2006

Merry (first) Christmas

We're almost set for Christmas, the decks are being cleared ready for the invasion. Sounds a bit like Dunkirk, just hope it's not! Poor Jared, having a house full and no baby's first Christmas as an excuse. That's what you get for sending me pictures of pints of Tetley's and Seabrooks crisps!!!!

Anyway, here we go, all systems ready, all rooms tidy, I'm looking forward to this, all pigs fed and ready to fly.

Merry Christmas to all and see you on the other side..

19 December 2006

Suppliers - Moans & Praise (Part 3 - Christmas Special)

It's that time of year for the Christmas Specials, so who has won the wallet awards and who just scraps around for the change?

Find out in the Alder's Tone Christmas Winners & Losers Awards. Don't get excited, no long speaches, no tears on stage, no thanking Auntie Betty's dog's trainer's cousin's maid for looking after the tea.

Starbucks. A quiet haven in the major panic that is the Christmas shopping rush. So much so we have dedicated our java spend unto them and got a Starbucks card.

Toys R Us. A couple of great offers that have been so tempting, but to buy three games when you just want the one just to get one free, well, it does make sense but then again it doesn’t. And with something practical on offer all the time there’s reasons to keep going in for a look.*. Despite a large order being dispatched as individual items over a two day period, everything arrived within a reasonable time. They key phrase being “everything arrived”.

And, in depth, the losers…
The management at Fort Kinnaird, Edinburgh. Or rather lack of management at Fort Kinnaird. Traffic chaos, eejit drivers who have no clue what a one-way car park system is, or what a disabled space is, or a parent and child space, 4x4s clogging up the pavement areas, lazy bastards parking in the aisles instead of finding a space, all helped by the fact there is no traffic management in the car park to keep things flowing. And the bricks and mortar retail sector wonders why we turn to the online stores? Just look outside the door, that’s why.

Pier, George Street, Edinburgh. On a quick visit with the family this lunchtime we needed to go downstairs. Not a problem, there’s a lift. However, the lift was occupied by a large stack of shopping baskets, but with enough room for the pram and one of us. On exiting the lift downstairs, a young (and as it transpired blissfully ignorant) member of staff who stared at us coming out of the lift proceeded to put a chair in the lift. The chair was still there a few minutes later when we needed the lift to go back upstairs, so MOTS duly dumped the chair back on the shop floor, leaving the baskets as they were. The member of staff in question was nowhere to be seen.

Directusbstore / Royal Mail. MOTS placed an order, chased it twice, got two responses on the same thread stating despatch on the 4th and the 6th. So which one? And an item was wrong. And Royal Mail attempted delivery on the 7th but failed to leave a card, there was a great risk of it being returned as recorded items are only kept for one week. Thankfully it was still there, so when we finally got the tracking number I managed to collect it. MOTS is still waiting to hear regarding the incorrect item.

* No links in here for, if you want to visit click here and follow the links for, it all helps Richard over at filmstalker!

12 December 2006

Growing up so fast

It never really sank in when people used to say "enjot it while it lasts" because you hear that so often in so many contexts. But when it comes to the newborn child it couldn't be more true.

At 16 weeks old, Junior is growing so fast, both in size and as a person. Yes, a person!

First off, the size. At birth he was 7lb 7.5 ozs in old money, came home slightly lower (but not near the maximum 10% permitted drop) and since then it's been on the up ever since with no respite. I could be talking about myself here, but alas not, still talking about Junior.

He's been on the 50th percentile for weight and the 75th percentile for height (length) all the way through, so he's sticking to the growth charts perfectly.

What does this mean then? Well, a couple of angles to look at it. The mathematical and the mathematical. In terms of percentiles his weight means that 50% of babies his age are lighter then him, and 50% heavier, so he's bang in the middle. For length there are 75% shorter than him and 25% longer than him, so he's on the longer side. In proportion he's the opposite to his daddy who is more heavy than long.

The other mathematical can be measured in many ways, but it all boils down to the same thing. He's "retiring" a lot of clothes at the moment, we're squeezing him into the largest of his "up to 3 months" clothes while boxing up the smaller ones. His vests are almost off-the-shoulder numbers now, but being a true Yorkshireman "there's wear in them yet". Weigh the clothes, price the clothes, do what you will, it all boils down to £££££££££££££ that we need to spend to get his wardrobe sorted out. Now he's too big for the crib he's moved full time into his cot, filling the pram, car seats looking like the inserts will have to come out shortly. All extra £££££££££.

As a person he's getting his major motor skills tuned. No that's not him getting into fast cars, but perfecting the art of moving. He's showing signs of wanting to roll, but with the norm being from front to back first that will be a challenge as he does not like being on his tummy. Grip has come along in the last couple of weeks, really quickly in the last week. The toys on his bouncy chair are fair game, as are the dangling toys on his play mats. The whacking has changed to grabbing, with one hand initially but we're seeing two handed attempts along with some two handed successes. Just pull a little harder on that one son and it'll play a tune. Sitting up isn't a problem any more as long as there's suitable support, and the head is upright for longer periods. And next week the dash down the left wing before following the cross and he shoots, he SCORES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, his favourite TV show at the moment is Match of the Day.

The best part about being a dad at the moment is coming home, being recognised, and seeing the joy on that little face as he welcomes his daddy home, genuinely pleased to see me. I didn't get that in the newborn stage, so there are positives to this development lark.

Weaning. No there's something to look forward to, food everywhere, shit everywhere, what joy we have to come. We're not there yet. What's that, a letter inviting MOTS to the weaning class? Oh fuck, here we go...

So yeah, newborns. Not for long at all. Enjoy it while you can.

11 December 2006

Child prodigy (according to Nationwide)

We have a child prodigy! It's official! According to Nationwide, at least.

According to them our 15 week old son can handle his finances on his own, can understand the function of the PIN and password scheme, and can actually read.

Nationwide have a very dubious policy of allowing customer information to leave their data centres on, worst of all, laptops. This is shocking enough, but when one of those laptops gets stolen and the company who loses it puts the onus on the customer to protect their personal details, well I no longer want to consider doing business with that company.

The theft happened months ago, and Nationwide failed to make the theft public for quite some time, "for security reasons". Well, "for security reasons" you shouldn't allow thieves into your data centres, which is exactly what happened when you allowed a customer database to leave the premises on a laptop. I can see why Nationwide kept it quiet. Imagine if it was made public immediately, every stolen laptop would be the focus of major hack attempts. The chances are this was scrubbed and resold without the thieves actually knowing the true hidden value of their swag.

Nationwide have written to their customers, not apologising, but as I say shifting the onus of security to the individuals. Even Junior got a letter this week, despite not (a) being a customer or (b) even being born at the time of the theft.

Reading at 15 weeks? Daddy's proud to have a different child!
Nationwide know his date of birth, they have a copy of his birth certificate. They know he's too young to read, never mind know what a PIN or a password is. Yet they write to him telling him the importance of keeping them secret. So was this just a blanket letter to account holders with no regard to their age? No, if it was I could have understood it. In big bold letters acrosss the top was the message for him to read it carefully, then pass it to a parent or guardian for them to read too.

Nationwide did take into account he's a child, but did not take into account he was too young to read. So not only do they not care about customers personal details, they don't bother to look at them before writing either.

Needless to say the written response I will send them will be something suitably sarcastic, pointing out his new found "child prodigy" status.

08 December 2006

Fathers - needed for health?

Health is always a worry, especially for someone who eats too much, exercises too little, and is a prime candidate for diabetes due to the sedentary lifestyle. Is it lifestyle, or hereditary, or what? Well, I just keep the blinkers on and take the line "it depends what books you read".

So the news I got last night that my father is in intensive care with pancreatitis was first and foremost met with fear, a fear for my son. The multitude of "what if..." scenarios went through my head with respect to hereditary ailments. Thankfully, it doesn't look like I have too much to worry about on that score for Junior after looking it up, but being under exercised and over weight I decided to go for a diabetes test today, mainly prompted by the news my father has been borderline for the last 2 years.

Health - don't leave
it to Chance...
Lloyds pharmacies do the test for free, on a walk-in basis. 5 minutes to fill in the consent form, do the test, and get the advice was all it took. The only advice I was given was to retest every two years, as my result was well in the safe zone. Not bad for a bloater like me, so I'm happy with that, safe in the knowledge that despite diabetes being present in both sides of the family I’m not in imminent danger. I am in imminent danger of changing the lifestyle, though, to reduce the risk of that changing, which is a shame considering I’ve just bought a lovely jacket that might not fit for much longer if I do.

Now while there’s no love lost between me and my father, ie I haven’t spoken to him in nearly 2 decades and having last seen him at my grandfather’s funeral 15 years ago, the only thing I have missed out on through this is not knowing what medical ailments I have to watch out for, and that has crossed my mind on numerous occassions. But in reality I could get hit by the number 37 bus tomorrow and that worry would be removed.

While I’ve missed out on a very small portion of my life through this, my father has clearly missed out on a massive amount. Such as my coming of age, going to university, graduation, engagement, marriage, having kids, Junior’s first Christmas and everything that will follow. I’ve seen a close friend and his dad fall out (dad’s fault, as per), and he’s missing out too despite living two streets away. While it’s too late for mine, I’d say to “GB” to grovel and apologise until you’re blue in the face, hands and knees job, start accepting responsibility for your actions (who would leave his daughter-in-law just before Christmas with no water downstairs at 8 months pregnant?) before you die a stubborn, bitter, spiteful and despised man.

My guest author put it well to me in an email today, having sent him a list of my irrational worries that I have for my son’s health and the general future of the world he’ll live in.

The worries:

how much is he going to pay for gas, when will it run out, will he afford to go to uni, will the global domination of religious fundamentalists take hold before he embraces atheism, will his national anthem be the star spangled banner, will the world he lives in be waterworld or mad max or terminator

And the response:

Gas will be replaced by nuclear power and we will alll look like the ready brek advert, you will pay for uni not him, religion will be replaced by computerism and the worship of the PS9, the national anthem will be "I'm Lovin it" and feature Ronald McDonald, teach him to sail and to ride go karts.

Which reminds me, is my guest author still registered to post entries?

05 December 2006

Baby's first...tooth?

The time comes when that happy smiling face turns into the red face of the devil incarnate. And that is called teething.

Junior is showing some of the symptoms just now, with a bit of dribbling, desire to constantly suck and chew his hands, flush cheeks, irritable for no reason, sleep patterns not quite right (although he is sleeping a solid 8 hour night).

Gnasher's coming?
I found this website which explains the process and symptoms pretty well. What I don't like about the site is the fact it says symptoms could be present for 2 months for a tooth appears.

2 months? WHAT? I just hope the symptoms he's showing so far are only an early warning, that he's not really teeting, that he's really going to stay a happy and content baby and that he's going to be the freak that pops his gums overnight with the blink of an eye.

I could, of course, win the lottery this weekend.

30 November 2006

Baby's first...stone

Most folk do this the opposite way at WeightWatchers® but for any parent it's a milestone and a half.

The first stone...

That's not the first time some angry bloke comes round whining about a pane of glass or a dent on his car's bonnet, but crossing the 14lb marker. New money aside, that's about the weight Geoff Capes was was he was born.

All I can say is, thank f**k I wasn't his mother!

14 weeks, 14lbs. Make sure Saturday night's lottery numbers have a 14 in there somewhere.

08 November 2006

Baby's first...million

Junior’s well on his way to his first million. At only 11 weeks old I can’t believe just how much cash he’s got. And of course it’s being well looked after. Well, some of it is.

First account opened was a Rainbow Saver account with RBS to hold the cash he got with his new baby cards.

Nationwide’s Smart account offers up a higher interest rate, the service was superb (even down to getting into the branch before opening, out of the cold rain with a cuppa), so his next account was opened there. Spreading the risk already…

Money from England
Money from Scotland
What about the Child Trust Fund? Oh dear, dilemmas. Cash or Stakeholder? We haven’t seen a stakeholder that tells us what we need to know yet – what are the performance figures since they started, taking into account the maximum 1.5% charge (that every provider seems to charge, haven’t seen one lower than maximum). Sure, they are quite good at showing stock market figures for the last 18 years, but no accounting for the annual 1.5% drop. Even some of the major players say “invested in the stock market” and don’t elaborate. Is that the FTSE 100? FTSE 250? All in George Wimpey plc shares?

I’m not keen on the FTSE 100, there are too many movers for my liking. For example, a company drops out, a 100 fund has to sell its shares. Inevitably at the lower price now they’ve dropped out. A company comes up, a fund has to buy shares in them, inevitably at the higher price now the company has moved up. Seems wrong to me, selling low and buying high, it just means the rest of the 100 has to perform well enough to cover these transactions. To me, buying low and selling high makes better sense, but what do I know.

With the markets currently running high I’m scared of a stakeholder CTF, mainly because his £250 voucher from Gordon Brown wouldn’t buy many units. I’m waiting for the inevitable downturn, then I’ll buy. But what to do in the meantime? Well, thankfully, you can open one type of CTF and then change it, so it’s a no-brainer. Cash for now, then when the FTSE drops it’ll go into a Nationwide stakeholder. Why Nationwide? They’ve got the clearest literature on who they invest in and what past performance has been.

And if he wins the Christmas Premium Bonds super draw then I’m sure that Ferrari F340 daddy has his eye on will turn out to be a good investment.

And the final tip we read in a parenting magazine, submitted by a reader. Child Benefit is currently around £17.50 per week for a first child, add this to the trust fund and even if there’s nothing else added there’s over £16,000. Of course, it goes up a little each year, add interest annually, and you could be looking at over £20,000. 20 grand at 18, the parties are endless!

01 November 2006

Baby's first...Hallowe'en

November 1st is All Saints Day. Just like April 23rd is St George's, March 1st for St David's, November 30th for St Andrew's, and just to keep the Irish happy, March 17th for Paddy's. So what was the significance of and "All Saints" day? Well, it was a Church attempt to control the masses, to convert them form their Celtic past, to make them "turn" to Christ. Just like Christmas then.

Back in the good old days when Celts were Celts and Snickers were Marathons, we had new year on November 1st. And just like any New Year, there's a celebration to see out the old and bring in the new. And that was the festival of Samhain, meaning end of summer. To this day the pagan festival still exists, but now, like then, it varies, depending on the position of the moon.

When the Church stuck its oar in and wanted a slice of the congregation they came up with All Saints day, otherwise known as All Hallows. And as the night before was All Hallows Eve, Hallowe'en came about. There's extra stuff about the original festival having the dead wandering, leaving offerings etc, but I can't be bothered typing any more.

What a load of old codswhallop. Hallowe'en was invented jointly by Tesco and Wal-Mart to sell sweets and costumes. And over the last few years here in the UK we seem to be going the way of our American cousins who seem to have been at it for ages.

Junior had a present sent up from deepest South Yorkshire in the form of a bat suit and a "trick or treat" bib. The suit was a hit, the hat part was a miss (he hates hats in general) and the bib just looked so cute. The mums of the kids knocking on the door were all cooing (so if there's a baby boom around here in 9 months time we know who to blame). MOTS was not best pleased when it came to bedtime that she hadn't managed to get a photo of the bat suit with the hat (and therefore ears) on Junior without him crying, and was once again weepy when I duly presented one that fit the bill. I'd managed to get a sneaky one while she went out for an hour. Where's the HRC when you need it?

Junior's first "guising" as it's known in these parts. What, a third Hallowe'en story? Why "guising"? Because you go round in disguise, d'uh.

31 October 2006

Santa List

MOTS has started a Santa List for Junior. There's a few things there just now just to get it going. Not holding out much hope for a new Beamer, but you never know.

I'm not posting the URL here, so if you would like it please email me or leave a comment asking for it.

28 October 2006

Algebra in parenthood

Can you remember the formulae for calculating the area and circumference of a circle from the radius? Working it backwards? Did you ever think at school "this is a waste of time"?

Well, it is vital you know how to do this when looking at playpens. I kid you not!

How many pies?
We're looking at a couple of options for playpens, one of which is this one. The alternative one has the diameter listed, but this one doesn't, jut that each side is approx 61 cms. So how big is it?

Well, there are two mathematical approaches that can be taken. One involves meat pies, the other some guy called Pythagoras. We opted for the pies.

What's the circumference? 6 sides of 61 cms is 366cm. Now a hexagon is almost circular, so given that the circumference of our "circle" is 366 cm...

circumference = 2.π.r
366 = 2.π.r
366/2 = π.r
183/π = r
58.25 = r

So our radius is approx 58.25 cm, with our diameter being 116.5 cm.


OK, retired maths teachers, give us the Pythagoras route!

Resumption of the sex life post-birth

Why is it that when you have a baby the first thing they ask about in hospital is whether you've thought about contraception? Even at the six week review the doctor was at it. So after 24 hours of induced labour, a cut & shut, and 6 sleepless weeks do they honestly think there's any bedroom action going on?

Paging the men in white coats...

It is not uncommon for a woman to have an increased sex drive whilst pregnant, the hormones play havoc. Plus a pregnant woman can look extremely sexy, not to mention the lack of risk factor - the deed's already done, this is for pure fun.

Some women, that is. Some can go the other way. Let's just say I got plenty of rest, right from conception all the way through to after the birth. MOTS took some stick for this, mainly along the lines of "I'm still waiting for my Christmas luckies", given Junior was conceived early December.

At about 6 weeks (since birth) I was thrown a paper bag with a "present" in it. One box of 5 Durex Avanti condoms. I'm sure she was taking the piss. A couple of weeks later the time came to be gentle, to make sure the scar was OK to take something a bit more physical than lifting a kettle. So after a little struggle to open the security plastic wrapping from the outside of the box (it has been a while) I broke into the pack. As I pulled the strip of 5 condoms out, the anticipation was building, the first appeared, a diagonal label on it - "Christmas". Eh, what's going on, some promotional pack? The second also had one on, "New Year", followed by "Birthday", "Anniversary" and one blank one. What, how, eh?

Joker's droop!
MOTS was taking the piss. She had carefully cut the outer plastic wrapper around the bottom of the box, opened it up, labelled the condoms, closed the box up, and carefully sellotaped the wrapper back to the box. Very neatly done, and in a spot where the plastic was already overlapped so as not to attract attention.

I almost laughed myself limp!

19 October 2006

Baby's first...Jabs

So that's the first eight weeks of Junior's life come to a close, and with it opens up a whole new chapter. And that chapter is sharp, comes with potential side effects, but is life saving.

What we're talking about is the infant immunisation programme.

We got the leaflet with details of the programme, the timetable it covers, what nasty diseases the immunisation programme fights etc. It reads like a Stephen King novel - shaking under the covers at night, unable to sleep, fear of all things corn.

Ebola virus...nasty

MMR. Causes autism. Apparently. Not having MMR causes a lack of defence against measles, mumps and rubella. No apparently about that. On the one hand we have an unproven link between MMR and autism, and a proven record on the diseases against which it protects. I'm no real gambling man, but I have to weigh up the unproven low risks of autism against the damaging and high risks of the three diseases. Sure, I'd like to see a choice whereby you can take the three without the combination, but that's not going to happen. So the stark choice is take it or don't take it. Simple as that.

Oh, and they aren't jabs here, but "jags". Where I grew up a Jag was a posh car not part of a disease prevention system!

For the record I'll post the current list of routine jabs in another post. In the meantime here's how the first one went:

Junior's crying time: < 5 minutes
Mum's crying time: < 1 minute
Junior consoled with: Waking around the doctors surgery with Daddy
Mum consoled with: Being told not to lose it as I was posting the time she cried
Bottles of beer daddy drank to drown out crying noises: Nil. Most dischuffed.

That went MUCH better than expected, I envisaged Junior howling the place down, MOTS in tears at how we'd taken him to be hurt. And this morning when I got the big smiles I did have the feeling that he wasn't going to be smiling at me if he knew what was coming. Which brought on BIG guilt trips. He's not 100%, a little more grouchy this afternoon than normal, but a few doses of Calpol might help there.

Just found out someone who MOTS knows has a little boy of 6 months. As the parents "don't believe in vaccines" the little 'un will not be having ANY of the routine vaccines at all, instead relying on the fact that he doesn't need them as he won't be going to daycare. WHAT? What about school, what about shopping, what about Alton Towers, what about breathing in the air that's shared with the rest of the world? I wouldn't be playing Russian Roulette like this, no way no how.

18 October 2006

Lets get a travel buggy car seat

No doubt about it, it has got to be the most confusing purchase you will make as you prepare for your kids birth. What will it travel in, be it pram, buggy or car seat. Do you go for seperates and have a pram, then move onto a buggy, have car seat and then another in 9 months for when it outgrows its first...or do you go for a "Travel System". Like Transfomers these are in disguise! It's a pram, it's a buggy AND a car head hurts, lets go home...

We had our first trip looking at these wonders last weekend and by the end of it I was in a spinny place. Having cunningly asked the youngest looking girl to show me JUST how easy it was to use the Graco Turbo In Your Face I do Everything travel system she did just that. You unlock this, push here, press this button and fold. Then to change it into a pram untie this, move this over there, turn around 3 times and there you have it, a pram....oh aye, err thanks. That was in Toys 'R' Us, or Babys 'R' Us to be exact. It is the 1st time I have been in that shop in 25 years or so, it took Sarah 2 hours to drag me out. £$£$£$£$£$ is all I am saying. As she looked at travel systems I checked out the Pirates of the Caribean range, as she looked at cots I checked out train sets. Cool...if its a boy that is!

Anyway, we checked everything they had in the store out and came to a few decisions. We quite like the idea of an all in one travel system - a buggy/pram that trebles as a car seat. Just need to find one. We quite liked a Graco one but its early days and we decided we have months to decide. Besides, it may be worth waiting for the January sales. 2 seconds later we are in Mothercare looking at Quinnys! We eventually got home but a nagging worry was that the Graco travel system seemed quite bulky, would it fit in our Nissan Micra boot. 9am the next morning (Sunday, day of rest...yeah right) we are back at Toys R US and are wheeling the system out to see if it fits in the boot. Not a chance...not even close...

So that ruled out that travel system....nope....that ruled out the Micra. Within 4 hours we had been to Arnold Clark and ordered an Almera. Its got plenty of boot space and although we may not get the travel system we were looking at earlier it does increase our possibilities ten fold. We got a good deal too and spent less than I had thought which was ideal. Not that the money will be around long. Whilst in Toys R Us we picked a range of items we liked, have seen cots, cribs etc and to be honest I now have an A4 list of things we need. First I need to gut my computer room....sigh.

Two more Lamb Bhunas over here...

Seeing was believing at week 14 when I had the high of watching my child to be moving around in the womb. As it moonwalked up the womb and danced around the umbilical cord it hit home, I'm having a kid. This is real. Since then as Sarah has not really started to show properly (we are now around 18 weeks into the pregnancy) it really has been the calm after the storm. It sounds silly but you begin to think, was it real, was that really in there? Well hearing is believing in the 2nd trimester.

Sarah had a sonogram last Friday, I wish I had been able to be there. Unfortunately like Lee and also working in the same place work was chaotic. I received a call though last Friday to say that Sarah had heard the babys heart beating. Apparently it was an amazing experience and she was on a high. It was pumping normally i.e. FAST. She also had some blood samples taken in order to test for a number of possible conditions. Strangely we will not hear at all if nothing is wrong, only if they need us to come in to consider our options with regards to further tests should these ones show up anything. I would have thought a quick phone call on the answering machine letting us know alls ok would have been a nice touch. To be honest though I am not losing any sleep over the results. Why worry about something unless it happens.

Anyway, I was not to be outdone and decided I too would like to hear the baby. Ok, so I may not hear its heart beating, but surely by this stage I would be able to hear something inside the womb if I pressed my ear against it and listened carefully. One night last week as we lay in bed I turned the TV down (not off, it was a crucial moment in an ice hockey game I was watching) and had a listen. What a racket! There were rumbles, swishing sounds, plops..."Wow, I can hear so much movement!" I said to Sarah. She peered down at me..."You know we had a couple of currys tonight yeah??". "Oh...."

I quickly and silently brushed away the emotional embarrasment of having welled up at the sound of a Chicken Dopiaza digesting and decided to try the next evening. There was no mistaking this time (it was pasta this night), I heard my child moving about. Its actually quite easy to describe, go to your local pool and duck your head under water, then move around. Thats it. It was not simply the stomach digesting food, this was one hundred percent something alive moving in a confined space. As I pressed against different parts of the womb at times it felt like it was a millimetre away from me on the other side. I had visions of it pressing the womb back and shaking its wee fist as I was causing havoc in its living room.

And so I've found another way of being involved. Every night just before Sarah is about to sleep I nudge her and ask for a listen. Sometimes it's moving about furiously, other times just little movements as if its sleeping. What I am looking forward to next is Sarah feeling movement. It should be at some point over the next 4-5 weeks at most. Cant wait!

Full list of jabs

Small scratch. Small?
We have the latest immunisation leaflet available, and had to wait for this as the health trust were in the process of changing it. This was due to a new introduction, which Junior will get but there is a catch-up for the under-2s who didn't get it. Thus proving the programme is dynamic. Even the tuberculosis jab is NOT standard any more. No more six pricks on the wrist followed by the big scar on the left arm. No siree, that's only for the "vulnerable" groups now. So what do we get and what don't we get? Full and current routine list below:

2 monthsDiptheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib), Pneumococcal infectionDTaP/Hib and Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)
3 monthsDiphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) meningococcal C (MenC)DTaP/IPV/Hib and MenC
4 monthsDiphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) meningococcal C (MenC), Pneumococcal infectionDTaP/IPV/Hib,MenC and PCV
~ 12 monthsHaemophilus influenza type b (Hib) and meningococcal C (MenC)Hib/MenC
~ 13 monthsMeasles, mumps and rubella (German Measles), Pneumococcal infectionMMR and PCV
3 yrs 4 m - 5 yrsDiphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio. Measles, mumps and rubella.DTaP/IPV or dTaP/IPV and MMR
13 yrs - 18 yrsTetanus, diphtheria and polioTd/IPV

According to the World Health Organization:

The two public health interventions that have had the greatest impact on the world's health are clean water and vaccines.

13 October 2006

Smiles more to say

I've just had a couple of very precious days off work, with everything going Pete Tong at work days off are very difficult to get. But, two scheduled days off this week brought about mixed feelings.

With the hours that have been put in of late I have lost sight of the fact I actually have a family at home. Or indeed any sort of life outside the office. So you'd think that a couple of days off in the middle of the week would be very welcome.

Work is erratic, with rotas constantly changing, so planning anything is a big no-no as it's liable to go horribly wrong. Which did mean that the two days I had off in the middle of the week, which were "open to dicsussion", had nothing planned for them. So the two days were a bit ad-hoc, with no firm agenda for either day we made last minute arrangements to head off towards the big city.

Wednesday saw MOTS take Junior into her work for the first time, allowing Daddy to wander off and get some manly things (big heavy duty Rawlplugs for putting up the new Ikea lockable medicine cabinet in the bathroom). We've also got our Christmas presents sorted out for the grandmothers (I know, I know, don't go on about the previous post, please), and a spot of lunch in Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut, plenty of kids in & out, a lot of the nappy wearing age, and NO changing facilities. MOTS changed Junior at the top of the stairs on the floor outside the toilet area as there was more room. Poor effort. Junior was so well behaved, during his feed in the middle of Pizza Hut, the subsequent burping, and all the smiling that was going on. Some of that smiling was from the lady sat behind us, most of it was from the boy himself.

I can't believe just how much he's been smiling at the pair of us over the last couple of days. He's getting more and more generous with them, smiling for the sake of it now (even in his sleep), so what was an early but slow start is now picking up a little pace, which is fantastic.

There are sleep developments, too. It's a delicate situation at the moment but a good feed at bedtime is leading nicely to 7 or 8 hours before the next one. That's nearly a week of it now, only interrupted last night by a wet nappy that needed changing. Inevitably Junior realised, once awake, that a feed was needed, thus breaking the emerging pattern.

It's the smiles that have done it for me this week, especially as it is starting to bring out a little competitiveness in MOTS. Needless to say this is because I'm getting more smiles than she is! But, as I head back to work for my long weekends of 12 hour shifts I guess the balance will be restored shortly.

09 October 2006

Christmas is coming

So the inevitable is happening, Christmas is coming around (AGAIN). And here's what I think to it all - FOR CHRIST'S SAKE GET IT OVER WITH.

As the years go by I get more and more of a Humbug, and with good reason. Christmas is sod all to do with the religious festival of the birth of Christ but a huge and extending period of time when it's OK to pay through the nose for everything "because it's Christmas".

My points being:

2005, September 24th. The Dome in Edinburgh started to erect their Christmas decorations at the front entrance. SEPTEMBER for crying out loud. I haven't looked yet this year, I have this built-in defence mechanism that stops me looking in that direction when I walk past.

Retailers - Gone are the days when Christmas stuff appeared after Hallowe'en, Displays now appear in September too. In the local supermarket is a big display of selection packs, many cases showing they are actually selling them. Only the other Saturday in Morrisons MOTS picked up some advent calendars, to me yelling at her "PUT THEM BAAAAAAAAAACK". But why? Because, if people buy them in September the shops will start putting them out in August.

On the intranet at work there's looming deadlines for ordering corporate Greetings cards.

Hotels, restaurants, bars, all charging inflated prices for food, with "non-refundable deposits", cramming you in, lowering the food standards, asking 15% extra for "service". Yeah, right... I know what "deposits" I'd be leaving.

I hate Christmas the festive period.

Leave a Coke out
for Santa, kids!!
But will all that change now there's a reason to start enjoying the festive period Christmas again? I hope so, over the next few years Santa will be a major player (hmm, why does he wear red again, is that the marketing machine that is a global corporation by the name of Coca-Cola?). See, you can't get away from it, every turn, squeeze the cash, squeeze the cash, even when I try to look at it as a new dad, there's the corporate money machine squeezing every penny.

I can safely say I'm looking forward to this year with a fear like no other. With it being Junior's first the house will be full, with a revolving door. Food planning is starting just now, will it be M&S (not bloody likely after the poor quality of the last couple of years), the full monty (not bloody likely with a house full), going out (not bloody likely with the cost of it) or fish fingers and chips (not bloody likely unless it's haddock).

Stress like no other! So I am looking forward to Junior's first Christmas? Not bloody likely.

Anyway, my wish-list will appear here:

  • Hibernation between October 30th & January 15th

06 October 2006

MT upgrade coming up

Essential works
I'm upgrading Moveable Type from 3.2 to 3.3 shortly, as recommended by SixApart.

As a result I expect some downtime on Wednesday 11th October while I do this, so will have a temporary page up while the site is unavailable and updates will be kept on there. During this time any directly linked pages will either have comments turned off or will be removed. I haven't looked at the upgrade too closely, but it doesn't look a complex one at all, so only a small outage expected.

Upgrade aborted at the weekend due to errors, will hold off trying again until sufficient time is available.

[20061010] Upgrade complete. Helps to have the right file permissions set, eh?

Baby's first...6 week review

The first six week review? That implies there will be more, as in "the second six week review". But how can we have a second six week review when he'll never see six weeks again? It's just like trying to explain to a 31 year old that they are closer to forty than thirty. They'll see forty, but will never see thirty again, QED they are closer to forty.

So now we've done with the mathematical semantics, how's he done?

First off, Daddy: He's more than a little bit tired, going back to work straight after Junior arrived home, and then being on-call constantly, on site 6 or 7 days a week, up to 13 hours at a time. But, woe is me, I'll have a fantastic amount of time off shortly to make up for it.

Mummy: Brave face on everything, particularly when it comes to Daddy's time at work. Saying to the outside world that everything is fine when it's not, my time away is having a significant impact that is being hidden. She's getting used to me not being around as much as I should, but with the contract ending at the end of this month then I'll have all the time in the world to make amends.

Time flies...
And finally, Baby: Ups and downs, particularly when it comes to sleep patterns. Those first couple of days in hospital were hard for him, having a distraught mother trying so hard not to wake the others up. Being home made an immediate difference, but then Daddy was on hand too, so he made the most of it. Four weeks in and the awake:asleep ratio starts to tip quite heavily. That old wives tale about "growing while they are asleep" is a load of old tosh. He's awake more at 4 weeks than at 3 weeks, but put on more weight than in week 4 than in week 3. Less sleep, more weight gain. How does that hold up to the theory?

So while we're on weight and growth, he's doing quite well on that front. He's got clothes that have been worn the once, not at all and is heading for staying that way unless we change him twice a day, and even a suit he had no chance of ever getting into because it was 3cm too small when he was born. Or he was 3cm too big, depending on how you look at the glass. As the weeks progress we've come to the conclusion that clothes sizes are utter mince. "0-3 months / up to 12lb". He's at 10lb at 5 weeks old, and increasing at a good few ounces a week, so this means by 8 weeks or so he'll be too big for those 03- months clothes, yet at the 50th percentile for weight (ie bang in the middle) does this mean he's too big or the clothes are too small? Safest way is to just not look at the labels at all, just wear stuff until he's too big for them. So I'm going in with a pair of scissors tonight to remove said labels.

First visit to see the doctor yesterday: All well. First jabs (jags in Scotland) in 2 weeks time. Hmm, that'll be an experience.

Mummy and Daddy have come to understand each other's tolerances a little better as time has marched on. And we seem to compliment each other quite well (your hair looks nice today dear). While I'm more inclined to let Junior be when he's clearly not unhappy but screaming, MOTS is more likely to give in and pick him up. That's the daytime, and it's quite the opposite at night, with me having little patience and MOTS being perfect with him. It's handy, because it means that when I get home I can take over until bedtime, but I still feel guilty about not being around for most of the "night shift". Which I'm poor at anyway.

Sleep - our first overnight 8 hour stretch between feeds at exactly 6 weeks old - WHOO-HOO, bring out the bunting, get dolled up, it's party time!

And finally.... father and son were having a bonding moment this week, and the boy was quite happy and content just looking up at me. MOTS made a comment about the look of "complete adoration and absolute trust on his face". And that was almost a "moment" of liquid spilling.

Health, wealth and happiness. Two out of three aint bad. Which reminds me, I need to check the lottery ticket, we could have all three!

03 October 2006

The 2nd trimester so far...

Having summarised the 1st trimester I'll now try to touch on the main things that have happened in the past 4 or so weeks since we began the 2nd trimester. That will bring me bang up to date. So what's happened since the 2nd trimester arrived with its promise of new found energy for Sarah....

......I've ironed, cleaned, washed dishes, made beds, walked over to where she lay to change the TV channel for her and masaged her when ever the need arises. To quote Jim from the Royle family, "New Energy my arse"! She's still knackered and the beginnings of a sore back is not helping matters - 4am awakenings are not good. For me they are not great either as it normally means an "Are you awake?"......"ARE YOU AWAKE!!".... "What, am I late for School, whats going on.....Sarrrrrah!".

Perhaps its the bodies way of adapting to next year. Sarah was reading scary stats on the amount of crying a baby does in its 1st year, I dont even want to quote it. I replied "Yeah, but you have to remember that its the babies way of speaking to you pal, it cant talk". Sarah laughed, "I'll remind you of that when its 'talking' to you at 3am next April then shall I..." Point taken.

Anyway the main things that have happened in the past 4 weeks is that Sarahs trousers have begun to not fit. She realised this as whilst taking a seat at work there was the very distinguishable sound of a zip, well, unzipping. Having givne up on the top button at around wk 12, the zip then gave up the ghost around wk 13. And so we had our first trip to the shops for new clothes for Sarah. She needed trousers and decided on maternity ones, simple black ones with an expandable waist. The next day we walked to get the train only to find that she was perhaps a little hasty in going for the maternity range. With the crotch of the trousers sitting around about her knees it became obvious it was too soon for maternity wear! Back to the shops we went for normal trousers, just a size up. Even if it is for a matter of weeks it meant the kids on the train would stop with their "You cant touch this, it's Hammer time" chants.

Last word on clothing - M&S....why??? I take Sarah to the maternity section to look at the stylish clothing she will wear later in the pregnancy to cheer her up and right next to it, not 10 metres away is the "petite" section. Wonderful. May as well just set up a ring and bell and count down the 3 minute rounds each weekend.

The big difference between the 1st trimester and the pace. This past few weeks seem to have been slower than the same period in the 1st. Saying that I cant believe its now 16-17weeks, but its slowed down just a little. Between work, weddings and holiday bookings I've actually been frustrated at not being able to give 100% of my time to thinking about junior, but I know that that quite simply cannot and should not be the case for 9 months.

Finally, up until now the difference in the way Sarah and I are coping with impending parenthood is something I am only now noticing. Sarah is looking up web sites to see what is happening with baby this week, I am not searching for the best book to tell me how to potty train our child. I have gone off like a hare to Sarahs tortoise. I have read countless books, read magazines, in fact I have studied every bid of literature I can find. Sarah seems more calm just wanting to take it one stage at a time. I like the fact we differ, it seems to be working. Perhaps the scariest thing about reading books was not reading about labour, what to do when its first born, or in fact anything to do with the while....whispering this...responsibility side of things...but rather the excercises Sarah is advised to do to help with the labour when the time comes. As I read Miriam Stoppards guide to pregnancy she advised the women (children look away now) to flex...well parts of the body that I did not even know existed. Thank god they are all Latin names as quite frankly I want to forget all about it.

So thats where I am at the moment, 16-17 weeks. The scan looks like a boy, Sarahs body is apparently shaping up as if its a girl and I couldn't care less either way as long as it comes out healthy.......more to come.

The rest of the 1st trimester

I'll try to summarise the rest of the 1st trimester as briefly as I can, it should not be too hard as it literally flew by. In fact it felt more like a fortnight rather than 12 weeks, but it did have one of those experiences I would bet any mother and father to be would say is a memory they'll treasure for good, the scan...

What an experience, it will stick with me forever. We have chosen to have our kid at St Johns in Livingston. We did not really have to think too long about it, its quite simply a case of logistics. Living in South Queensferry the thought of travelling for instance out of my work at rush hour, home, picking Sarah up then negotiating the bypass to get to the Royal, well it's just not going to happen.

So having finally got to the magical 14 week mark and hitting our scan date off we set. I picked Sarah up from her work and off we went safe in the knowledge that TOM TOM would get us there no problem. With its "turn lefts at the next exit" how could we go wrong. Yeah right. Our first time at the hospital, Livingston and its round abouts and me at the wheel, thats how. Anyone that has one of these navigation systems would you agree the tone changes slightly as Tim tells you off for missing that last turn off. "Turn around at the next opportunity....sigh". It's there man, listen carefully and you'll hear that subtle change.

Anyway, having finally got to the Hospital and been warned that that was once, twice and its a taxi being ordered on the big day and we found the x-ray dept. They say you pee more during pregnancy, Sarah was none too pleased that I was therefore not around when the nurse came to collect us having been caught short!

We went into this room and Sarah lay on the bed, the nurse then put the gel on her stomach and pressed down. Now Sarah was facing me with the screen alongside her. As the nurse found the spot she was watching my face rather than the screen itself. She said my eyes simply expanded and jaw dropped, then I started to grin like a cheshire cat. I could not take my eyes off of the screen. There was this little baby, not something indiscernable, this was a baby. It was moving about, pressing its head against the back of the womb, crawling with its legs up the front of the womb (my favourite move) and I watched as it pressed its fingers to its mouth. It's so hard to describe the feeling, its simply too much to take in at once. Sarahs reaction was similar, she looked like a spectator at Wimbledon though. Look at the screen, look at me, look at the screen etc.

Everything was normal with the baby, it was about 13 and half to 14 weeks old, once she finally managed to measure its head it was normal, the placenta was in the right place etc. Great news as alongside the happiness there was also relief that all was well. We were given three photos, one of which was clear as day. I think I must have spent around £25 texting the photo to everyone I could think of as we sat in the car outside the hospital, Sarah did likewise. Then it was off to both parents houses (soon to be Grandparents) to show the wee blighter off.

Without doubt the scan is a fantastic experience if everything is deemed ok. It will live with me for ever more and was without doubt what the 1st trimester had been all about getting to for us.

To summarise the 1st trimester I would say it was shock, excitement, nervousness, overawed, impatient and wonderment. That's a lot of emotions to work through. For Sarah she had all of this AND the physical changes to take on board. I would say the most used words in her vocabulary were "I'm tired" throughout that time. Although not physically sick she was nauseous a lot of the time - the tell tale sign being the Alpen Bar sitting at the side of her bed each night. If she felt ok over night I tended to scoff it for breakfast! But we got there in the end and then it was onwards to the 2nd trimester..

01 October 2006

Baby's first...Weekend of firsts

This weekend has been a weekend crammed full of "Baby's firsts", so here's a summary of what's gone on.

First wedding missed. Not strictly speaking a first, as it was the second, but it was the first we had contemplated going to that we actually missed.

First garden party. With missing Allan & Lynn's wedding the previous day we were round for afternoon nibbles and fizzy. Which was the first time some neighbours had actually seen him, and his first time in his sun tent.

Nothing but first!

First trip to Englandshire. We headed south to see his Great Great Auntie Liz (who lives in Scotland) but swung via Berwick upon Tweed, firmly in England! We have photographic evidence of the fact he was at the border in his album, for those with access. Alas there is no evidence he was ever in England, but we know he was, so that's all that matters.

First trip to the seaside. This lends itself quite nicely to images of piers, donkey rides, fat blokes with white hankies on their heads whilst basking in the sun on stripey deckchairs. Alas, this was not the case. We were in a very secluded, idyllic area where farmland meets woodland meets big tidal bay. And this was the first time he's seen sand and a distant glimpse of the sea (as the tide was out). The donkey will have to wait until he goes to Blackpool.

First time Daddy's taken him out in his BabyBjorn sling. Which is only on loan from Sandra, so doesn't count as being his. But it was Daddy's first shot, and I have to say it is really comfortable for us both. One of us fell asleep, the other, well, didn't.

First sale opportunity taken up. I'm not adversed to buying stuff ahead of being required and having items in storage for a while. Previously unreported, baby's first...train set was bought last week, a wooden Brio 42-piece "Flying Scotsman" set for ages 3+, complete with Flying Scotsman loco, coal wagon, 2 LNER carriages, track, up & over bridge, people, scenery, garage, level crossing and a couple of cars. And yes it's been out and tested. That was last weekend, however.

First sale opportunity missed. I'm not adversed to buying stuff ahead of being required and having items in storage for a while. So when it was in the paper that Vogue had a sale on in Edinburgh due to a store re-location the ears pricked up. They stock Stompa children's furniture, so I went along on opening day to grab a bargain on his first real bed, hopefully to get it "practically given away" and to shove it in the garage for a few years. So when I got there and saw the £1177 price tag had been dropped to £869 (or was it £829) it wasn't enough to tempt me. MOTS found it on the web at - RRP £799, their price £540.55. Some difference - cheaper and no need to find space in the garage. I'd like to know where Vogue get off charging WAY above RRP even with price reductions.

Even coming up for 6 weeks old he's got so many first time events this weekend. Time will come, and all too soon, when all this is just run of the mill stuff. But for now it's all new and exciting, and I'm loving every minute of it while I can.

23 September 2006

Baby's first...Starbucks

Whether or not you like the virus like spread of the Starbucks coffee shops, they have become a focal point within towns and cities here as much as the other side of the pond.

So is it a good thing or a bad thing? Well, Junior had his first Starbucks (experience) this morning, and I'm pleased to say it went very well.

As a large corporate body they are clearly a target for the anti-capitalists, but they do have clearly defined social responsibilities. So I stress here for those with gripes against them that I don't. It's my opinion and I'm entitled to it. Just as those who have gripes against them are entitled to theirs, which I respect.

So now I've done my peace-making bit, how did it go? Well, Starbucks have a concession within Borders bookstore in Edinburgh, and it is really family friendly. I've been in there a few times on weekday mornings and it's crammed with mums and babies or toddlers. And it's not until you have your own, or have one on the way, that you start to look at why.

SMA in your coffee?
First off, the staff. Their reputation is really good, apparently they won't ask if you need help if you are trying to carry a bag and a child, they will just help. I had to ask for some hot water this morning, "Is it for a baby's bottle?", the result was an appropriate amount of hot water in their largest cup which, incidentally, could have been custom made for wide-neck bottles.

Secondly, the furniture. They have a large number of booster chairs which sit neatly over the backs of the normal chairs for babies and toddlers (obviously those who can sit up on their own). And the number of booster seats they have is quite large for the number of normal seats they have, they are geared up for large numbers of kids in at once.

Thirdly, the facilities. Changing facilties ahoy. Right next to the lift to take you between the mezanine level and the ground floor.


When to tell people?!!

So you've found out your are going to have a child, its exciting and you are bursting to tell the world. Your parents are going to become Grandparents, and my one remaining Grandparent is going to become a Great-grandparent! You want to tell your siblings, I want to see my sisters face when she finds out she's to become an Aunt. And our friends will be over the moon!! Choosing not to tell people is extremely difficult, but there are good reasons. We compromised.

On the night we found out, after I had had a secret drink in the garage whilst Sarah watched Emmerdale or something we discussed the "Should we tell people" subject. Some people choose to tell their close family straight away, others will wait until well into the pregnancy. Everyone is different but for me it was important to get the scan first and then show the pictures to the world. I had thought a full page in the Metro should do it.

Anyway, the first few weeks were absolute hell. When with friends and family one line you are not likely to hear from Sarah and I too often is "Oh actually, I'll just have some pomegranate juice rather than that fine Chardonnay, thanks though"....FHM WARNING!! We'd be as well taking out that Metro advert early. "Oh so your preganant" would be the response!

So various schemes were devised. Gin bottles which actually contained more tonic. Elderberry non alcholic wine bottles stashed in various locations so we could pour the good wine out and this stuff in when people turned their backs, and my personal favourite "Here drink this quickly before they come back into the room"... It was hard work. Ask Sarah what the hardest night for her was and I would place the mortgage on it it would be my sisters Hen night. Picture the scene, a hen night in Glasgow...ok so far, a Curry Karaoke restaurant - I'm thinking 5 or 6 tequila slammers to cope with that one! But to her credit Sarah managed to get through the night without anyone guessing!

And so we made it to the booking appointment - it was week 10 by this point. We had found out on July 21st, this was now August 11th and we had a fortnight off in two weeks time - Sarahs Brother was even up from Brighton. All was going to work out well. Only 2 weeks until the scan! Life is never that straight forward though.

Despite our hints and I dont mind saying begging (I drew the line at kissing a mid wifes little toe) we were told September 15th would be the date of the scan. Around about 13 and a half weeks to 14 weeks! The bad news was this meant another month of keeping quiet, scams, her Brother being told by phone etc. The good news was we would get a great scan as the baby, fingers crossed would be developing well.

We made a decision over the next few days to tell a select bunch of people pre-scan. I am a big believer in everyone doing things their own way in life, here was our logic. If anything were to happen to junior between that moment and the scan then I would want the support of those I had told. We felt that by telling them now that would be there without haivng to take in the shock of the fact we had been having a baby in the first place. The other deciding factor was that far from reducing stress with regards to Sarah, it was actually causing her more. She would stress about every night we had in company and I was not happy watching her get wound up. Decision made. As I said, I think everyone has to deal with these things in their own way, its whats best for you that counts.

So we told our parents and siblings and the look on their faces was fantastic. The mothers did not get it when I pointed to Sarahs stomach and waved a wee baby hat in the air, the dads got it straight away. My sister thought it was a hat for when she went snow boarding before realising wee teddys are not hip on the slopes at the moment. (They will come in eventually!). We partied, good times! Well we partied until I got the nod that Sarah had had her fill of tonic! Only a small number of people knew pre-scan but for us it worked well.

Having told people the pregnancy became a little more real for me, but to be honest I know its becoming a cliche of sorts but it was only when we had the scan and saw "Raspy" for the first time that it really hit me.

*Raspy - whilst reading a book at week 7 or 8 it mentioned junior would be the size of a raspberry at this point. The name stuck. It could have been plum or eggy as time went on but its Raspy, who am I to argue. You go girl.

The 1st trimester - Thats err, definitely a line!

As I mentioned I'll break down the 1st trimester into sections and then try to get up to present day so I can start giving you a blow by blow account of the 2nd trimester as it happens (already a couple of weeks into it so need to get cracking!). I'll begin by reliving the moment we found out we were going to have a young whipper snapper.

It was a sunny night, I remember not because we stared into the sunset holding our little pregnancy test kit having just been delievered the good news, no I remember because I had sweat streaming down me like rain down a window having just played 5 a side at Portobello for an hour!

Anyway, Sarah brought up a small cup in which to place her sample and I waited in the bedroom, heart thumping. She came back into the bedroom with the sloshing contents and I thanked the lord I could not smell. No such luck for her, urine and sweat - nice. We placed the test kit in the sample and 5 seconds later its confirmed. There you go, you're having a kid! We sat for about 15 minutes just staring at each other. We laughed, she cried, I laughed, we floated down stairs and then just sat in a trance like state.

My first words at this magical time were "I need a drink, do you....DOH!"....

I dont think I will ever match the experience of seeing that line appear, well perhaps the birth etc will beat it, but as experiences go it will be in my top 10 when I look back on life.

We did decide to try and work out when the child was concieved, dont worry, no details will be shared - we're friends but this aint that type of site! If we were inclined to name the baby after where it was concieved in a Beckham-esque manner this was quickly ruled out. "Half time during the highlights of Brazil vs Ghana in the World Cup whilst staying at your parents house in Musselburgh whilst they were sunning themselves in the Dominican Republic" does not roll off the tongue! Apparently other suggestions I made such as "Alan Hansen Gent" or "Gary Lineker Gent" after the witnesses to the act were not going to be candidates either. Given Brazil were on I had thought "Pele" might be suitable, but given the adverts he is famous for doing I thought perhaps it would be too ironic.

There is no doubt looking down and seeing a line appear, realising you are about to enter the 2nd half of your life (its the way I think of it) and contemplating the coming years is overwhelming. For me it was a million thoughts and feelings rolled into one. Excitement, nerves, elation, contemplation - you just cant describe it. Its the excitement about bringing up a child, starting your own family mixed with "Oh my god, I struggle to tie my own shoe for long division, how am I meant to help with that!!".

At least thats how it was for me........

22 September 2006

Royal Mail's Online Postage

We have literally dozens of thankyou cards to send out for all the things that have been bought for Junior. So the launch of Royal Mail's online postage seemed to be a blessing, to save that walk to the Post Office, have the curlish "Andrea"* behind the counter give her usual scowl, and avoid doing battle with the people who insist on paying their £50 phone bill in bags of 2 pence pieces.

How wrong I could be.

It all looks glossy on the website (which is clunky, poorly put together and a nightmare to navigate bewteen related items - try going from your profile where you "top up" your online account to where you buy your postage in less than 3 clicks - go on, I challenge you), then when you try and actually use it, it's a different story.

So, the reality:
No stamp of approval for online postage
You have to enter the address for where the item is going. That's right, item. Singular. Not plural. So basically what I have to do is go through the whole process for each and every single "stamp" I want. That's enter the recipient name and address (mandatory), enter a return address (optional), select what format to print from a very small selection, pay then print. Then start again for stamp number 2.

But we've got envelopes that have already got addresses handwritten on. All I want is the stamp, not the address too. Sorry, no can do. "What's that, a place near Katmandu?" Each label is printed fully, you must enter the recipient name and address and you must print it onto your envelope, label or paper. Your label options are limited, basically the smallest that it can do is 4 to a sheet of A4 (that's A6). So of no use to me for my current requirement whatsoever.

If this is suitable for you, you only have until the next working day to send your item, after that your barcode expires and your postage is invalid.

All in all, not very convenient, not very handy for bulk purchases, and not very intuitive. Will I recommend it? Not in the current state, no. If you could, say, specify I want 24 first class stamps and be able to print them off on standard Avery address labels at 24 per page, then just whack them randomly on your items, then yes I possibly would. They already have a product, "Smart Stamp", which fills this need, but at £5/month aimed at business customers.

* Andrea. Not her real name.

18 September 2006

Category Changes

I've added a new category, as a result a couple of previous posts have moved from the generic "Dads" to the new "Baby's first". There will be a lot of "baby's first" type posts, so I thought it best to have a new category for all of these.

A couple of posts have also changed title and URL just to keep up with the category changes, all there in the "Baby's first" category now.

17 September 2006

Baby's match

Saturday saw a huge milestone, baby's first football match. I was gutted at not taking him two weeks ago, but the rain was just too heavy. We'd arrange for Chris & Sarah to come down and share the experience (to be honest I think Chris just has a thing for the pies), but it was a washout.

As it was, the local team won that game. Which comes as a rare surprise, we never saw them win all last season, the last win we actually saw was the demolition of a borders team in a pre-season friendly.

Needless to say, normal form was restored yesterday and we took a 0-2 beating on the chin. Unlike the local egg-chasers who are actually quite good and won at home yesterday.

Did Jubior come away with anythng? His very own season ticket, a couple of laps around the ground (Grannie and Mummy, not Daddy who was rooted to his spot just to the right of the North goalmouth where, incidentally, there was only action for half the game).

I was worried that his first phrase might be "who's the w@nker in the black" but the ref was in blue yesterday, so we're going to be safe on that front.

BTW Chris, there's a new pie supplier, they only had 4 yesterday, needless to say I got one of them, and hmm hmmmmmmmmmmm deeeeelishuss.

16 September 2006

1st Trimester - who's the daddy?

I never thought it would happen, I thought I would put it off until well after it was humanly possible to concieve, I've always thought its for people for a few more years of experience in life. Well a few months back I decided enough was enough, these were merely excuses....

And so Sarah and I threw away the rubber contraption that was never designed for ease of use anyhow and went for it. 4 months later we were sitting on our bed staring at a line appearing. Or rather 2 pink lines. Sarah was a week or two late but I had asked her to wait a little longer whenever she broached the subject in the days leading up to that moment. I knew, she knew, I needed to take a breath! And so, with the packet stating clearly it may take up to two minutes for lines to appear I began to prepare myself. 5 seconds later it was confirmed! No time for me to breathe in for 7 and out for 10, get myself into some sort of meditative in keeping with conception the line appeared within seconds.

And so it was that I began my journey with Sarah - with a helpful hints and tip site ready made!! Nice one Lee! I've no doubt that we will differ in some of the ways we go through the pregnancy from Lee and Debs, and indeed in the way we bring up the child. Lee buys dry food for his cats, ours have kitekat (dont my beddings know it). But having a mate who is 1 step ahead of you is something I'm going to value.

Anyway, being a keen writer (with a small vocabulary, expect a lot of three letter words and repi...repita..rep
!) I've been keeping a diary of sorts as Sarah and I go through the various experiences that come with the territory. Consequently having literally entered the 2nd trimester Lee has been kind enough to let me share the 1st/2nd trimester experiences on this blog. Given he started his blog at the beginning of the 3rd trimester he's agreed I can write about the 1st two. Thanks Lee.

Unfortunately between work, writing for an ice hockey programme and various other commitments I think it will more than likely be a weekly summary. Will summarise the 1st trimester in my next post.

For the record as I write I have just entered the 2nd trimester - we had our scan yesterday and mother to be and child are both healthy and doing well! The kid was jumping about, crawling up the side of the womb with its feet, it put its hand to its mouth and pushed its head back against the other side of the womb. I gawped...forgot to breathe and tried manfully to not shed a tear... I have barely put the photo down since yesterday. Anyway, one thing at a time.

15 September 2006

Reader becoming a dad!

In true radio phone-in style I have a "long time listener, first time caller" on the line. One of my foreign readers has been in touch to say he's recently found out he's going to be a dad (many congratulations). Hopefully, if we can get through the language barrier, and if he's willing and able, I'll be asking him to post up the entries I never had chance to given I never got the blog going until MOTS was in the third trimester. If it all works out we may have some dual posting going on - sets for earlier pregnancy and sets for my little 'uns progress.

14 September 2006

Baby's first...Smile

During the pregnancy The Fat Lady was unsure about foetal movement in the early stages of the weeks that are normal to start feeling it, but I was sure I had felt the baby before she was as sure. How? I used to pin my ears to the bump (though at that stage there was no bump to speak of) and could hear fluid gurgling. I got a definite movement in the ear one night that The Fat Lady hadn’t felt. Will the development continue in this way in “the outside world”?

How long until…?
Sure it will. For the first 3 weeks I’ve missed a hell of a lot, being in work for long hours and weekends too. What I didn’t miss last night was MOTS shouting through thinking she’d got the first smile. At 22 days? Well, the health visitor did say to look out for it in the next week or so, and the “norm” is 4-6 weeks. I’m convinced I got one shortly after too, no hunger, clean nappy, winded, comfortable, being rocked in Daddy’s arms, eyes open wide looking up at me looking down at him, and while I chatted away I’m sure I got a real smile.

So how, exactly, do I think it was a real smile rather than a grimace? There was nothing to grimace about, no wriggling, no discomfort at all, no demands, just gazing and listening going on. And it’s supposed to be a reaction to voice and face, which this was. So I’m happy with it, MOTS is happy with it, and with the way he smiled I’m sure baby was too.

We could be wrong, but that’s our first five nines (99.999%). Any doubts? Of course, otherwise there'd be a one and two zeros in there. Why the doubt? All the way through pregnancy The Fat Lady never strayed from the path of normal bump size at all. So for all those who commented on her being big, small, neat, number 37 bus, all wrong I'm afraid, she was bang on normal all the way. But then the doubt is only 0.001%, so in the grand scheme of things I'm more likely to win the lottery tonight. And as it's Thursday and there isn't a draw...

This got me looking for development milestones on the tinternet. And the usual sites came back, so I'm happy enough with the returns. Once I've got a better feel for the websites I'll start posting links in the links section and in each post when appropriate - yes, I know I haven't for a while, but the ones there just now were relevant to particular posts, so I'll continue in that manner.

08 September 2006

Kids grow up so fast

A couple of weeks in, and a couple of signs already that kids grow so quickly. One is actually quite frightening, the other is at the moment kinda cute, but will soon wear thin.

First off is the clothing. Mummy and daddy have bought nothing, absolutely diddly squat. This was never meant to be the case, we were going to buy something nice to come home in, as it was the whole experience was shattered so the fact we never actually bought anything special was, in hindsight, a good move.

So if we've bought nothing, then is he running around starkers? No, that'd be silly, he's not old enough to run yet. Come one, think I'm that daft?

Everything he has in his wardrobe has been given by Susan (a huge box of Ben's old stuff) and bought by friends and relatives. Mummy and daddy will no doubt have plenty of spend further down the line, but for now we're happy to keep opening the daily arrival of parcels to find something new. He's got a fantastic spread of stuff from now through to 12 months, some size ranges more than others, but gaps can easily be plugged.

Gucci, Gucci shoes
So here's the deal. Some of that newborn stuff he's had from Susan he's grown out of already. There's one sleepsuit that's a certainty, another looking very doubtful (may try it tomorrow). But having seen some of the others he's looking at being out of plenty more pretty soon too. This is scary, seeing him grow so much in just over two weeks. He’s going to get one pair of designer shoes, MOTS has already said as soon as he’s walking he’s having some Timberlands, I guess they will be kept and not passed on.

And then there’s his spacial awareness. He his becoming very aware of what’s going on around him. And there’s the cute part – for the last two nights he’s hit his cot mobile and started the music off on his own. Now then, last night this was just after it had stopped, with the quiet he started moving around, hit the button, and settled again when the music started back up. While this was clearly an involuntary action at this stage, he is looking at where the noise comes from, so it won’t be too long before he’s got 4 from putting 2 and 2 together. And that’s when that cute moment will wear thin, when it’s a conscious decision to put it on, at 3 in the morning when mummy and daddy are asleep. So for now I’m happy to think I have a genius who is putting his own music on, ignoring the fact it is a random act of flailing arms.

06 September 2006

Modern birth certificates, what a let-down

Last week I got junior registered, so he now officially exists, has a number and all that. Only thing is, the modern birth certificates are a major let-down. Progress, particularly of the computerised kind, is not always a good thing.

I had to make an appointment with the registrar as they don't staff the site permanently, so fair enough. A very nice lady from Middlesbrough was the "asst." registrar for the appointment, and away we went giving all the details etc.

I knew up front what I needed, which was the card from the hospital giving date and time, sex and very little else, and as both parents were married (to each other) the marriage certificate. The marriage certificate was of the "proper" kind, hand written in ever-lasting ink, just like our birth certificates.

So imagine my disappointment when the printer churned out a sheet of A4 with the details on. "This is the abridged version which you get free". OK, knew that one, also know the "big" version is £8.50. As the passport office require the fully entry we pretty much have to pay the £8.50, or never leave the country again. So what does that £8.50 pay for? The same print routine, but a tick placed in one extra box to print out more details on an identical sheet of A4. The only sign of any ink was for the registrar's signature and aline to cross through the boxes that were not used. Though how we had unused boxes I don't know.

I felt like Joe Pesci as Leo Getz in Lethal Weapon. Richard, help me out here, it's the drive-thru scene.

Violated for £8.50 I was.

Why the crying?

I'm a logical sort of person, for all actions a person takes there must be a reason for doing so, otherwise there is no point in doing it. Even if the action is inaction. So when junior starts to scream the place down for no apparent reason I'm a little bit out of my depth.

There are an obvious set of rules to follow:


And mostly those cover it.

Then there's the other options:

Some of the latter don't apply to us yet (at 2 weeks he's a little early to start worrying about teeth). So what was it last night? I have absolutely no idea, but we never got him settled after his bath. The routine that starts at 9pm of bath, feed, wind, cuddle, dressed and bed seemed to be working well until last night, and for some still unknown reason it all went Pete Tong. Even the usual 4 minute rule (where junior is left to scream for four minutes because that's all he can handle before falling asleep) didn't work. So a trip out in the car at turned midnight worked a treat, after 5 miles he was sound asleep. Ahh, motion...

Then came the inevitable - transfer from car seat to crib. Which set the whole thing off again. NNNNOOOOOoooo.....

MOTS ended up going downstairs to sleep on the sofa with junior in his bouncer chair. I'm starting to think he likes to be slightly bent rather than flat out. That's the only difference I can think of.

Rhyme or reason, there's just none of it at present.

04 September 2006

Virgin Timewarp

I said in a previous post somewhere along the lines I would explain the Virgin Timewarp. First off I'll state that Virgin Trains are under pressure to deliver x million passenger miles for travel to its customers each year with the minimum of funding from HM Government and do a brilliant job with it. And now I can remove my tongue from my cheek I can get on with the puzzle that is known as "The Virgin Timewarp".

Sing along now, to the tune of the original "Timewarp" from the "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

"It's just a train that's on time
With a 20 minute wa-a-a-a-a-ait"
And that's it. A train that's on time, but isn't. That's nothing new, so this is how the Virgin Timewarp differs.

From Edinburgh Waverley on a weekday evening there are two trains leaving close together both heading for Birmingham New Street. One at 16:52 and the other at 17:05. The first heading down the West Coast Mainline, the other taking the Cross Country route (heading down the East Coast Mainline to York, then heading inland). Recently the XC service was changed to go to Bristol Temple Meads, the rumour being too many people were getting the wrong train, and instead of going to Carlisle they found themselves in Newcastle. Muppets.

If for any reason the set that forms the 16:52 service is unavailable, Virgin reallocate the set to be used for the 17:05. Sometimes we never know this has happened. Sometimes I think they just don't have a set at all and the "Timewarp" comes into effect.

Carlisle's station clock:
A different timezone
Our intrepid train traveller arrives in plenty of time for the 17:05 XC departure only to find the train is not there. It usually is, as Edinburgh is the starting point. Alarm bells ring. Which train are we waiting for? And there it is, on the departures board, "17:05 Bristol TM - On Time, platform 7". On arrivals, the 17:13 arrival from Southampton due in on time is the next train at platofrm 7. Hmm, train timetabled to arrive at 13 minutes past, on time, due to turn round and form a 5 minutes past service, on time? Where have those 8 minutes gone? Not to mention the time it takes to empty the train completely and refill it, adding valuable minutes.

Those 8 minutes form the "Virgin Timewarp".

Back to work...

I never felt like I had a proper stretch of time off work with Junior's arrival. Work is hectic at the moment, there's a series of major projects on the go with a common, and very visible, deadline. And time will not slip just for the birth of one child, so I've been dialling in to work from home. The first day after the family came home I was in the office, with the rest of the week spent dialled-in part time. Needless to say the strains have been quite intense.

We've had an extraordinary amount from help from my mum in the first week that Junior was at home, which has given me the time to split myself between looking after the family and keeping a hand in at the office.

MOTS is getting more mobile after the section, but still needs help, and more to the point restraint. So her mum's coming up this week to keep her from lifting the things she shouldn't (anything heavier than Junior is off limits) while I'm at work. She's taken on so much more after the first couple of days home when junior was almost my exclusive domain, bar feeding. It does seem almost the opposite way around now, but with her trying to get back on her feet after major abdominal surgery I should be at home looking after the family rather than at work.

To be straight back at work after the arrival home was tough, eased slightly by getting remote access for the rest of the week. But going back full time after what's effectively been only a week off after the complications we had is hard - both physically and emotionally. Under normal circumstances I would have had 2 weeks paternity and taken 2 weeks holiday, but given my work situation that was never going to be possible.

I'll be glad when these projects are finished so I can get back to being an "in-between contracts" guy again.

03 September 2006

Rant: Ingnorance, pure ignorance

We've had our first shopping trip out today with Junior, and it's amazing to see from the other side how ignorant some people really are.

I've always considered myself to at least try and be considerate towards others, and feel bad when I've made a bit of a faux par. But some others just seem to relish in their own indulgent egotistical sense of self importance.

Ikea, Costco and Sainsbury's. In all three we've had similar experiences. And those are:

  • People trying to cut in fornt of you as if the pram doesn't exist
  • People expecting you to move around them when they step in front of you, like the pram is so agile it can flex around human obstacles
  • The old bloke parked in the parent and baby space, who laughed at me when I looked quizzically at his 60-odd year old passengers (three of them, no baby in sight)
  • The bitch in a tank who pulled in the space the old bloke vacated, with nobody else in the 4x4
  • The woman with two 8 / 9 year olds in the parent and baby spaces (like 8 & 9 year olds need a pushchair up the side of the car???)

Once upon a time I would have got annoyed, but I didn't. I suppose I have become accepting that in society now it's dog eat dog, and bugger anyone else. Disbaled spaces, parent and child spaces, they are there for a reason. Please respect them and don't abuse them. Learn to live together and play nice, eh?

02 September 2006

Baby's first...proper outing

At 11 days old, Junior had his first planned outing. Two of them to be precise.

The first was to watch the local football team get hammered by the visiting opponents, as is the norm for our side. However, the rain was just too much, and we never made it. We don't know if the game was even played, it really was wet.

I am really gutted about not being able to take my son to his first game of football, but common sense had to prevail and call it off due to the weather. Instead we stuck it out in the house, putting the central heating on for the first time this summer. I was really looking forward to teaching my son certain swear words while he's too young to repeat them (all in reference to the solo sexual antics of the referee), but it would seem the Scottish summer has delayed that for a short while.

Second on the social calendar, and I'm writing between engagements here, is a dinner party at Auntie Nic & Uncle Gav's place. This was a long standing arrangement based on MOTS being a couple of weeks late and going stir crazy, to get her out of the house. As it is Junior is here so will be attending his first function. This will, as always, be a roaring success, and thanks to NIc & Gav for their continuing help.

01 September 2006

The first week @ home

The first week at home has been completed, but was it "successfully" completed? It depends on your exit criteria whether or not the week was a "success" or not. As we went into the week with no measure of success, then I suppose it has been by default.

He's Australian, I swear he is. Sleeping all day, crying all night. That was the procedure for the last couple of nights in hospital and the first couple at home. It’s trial and error in these early days, we have no idea what each of the cry types are, but are quickly learning them. The last couple of nights have been good, with sleeps between feeds going very well. The difference was in the bedding, slightly more than previously due to the temperature dropping quite a bit overnight. We tried a grobag but he didn’t take too kindly to the amount of space. Swaddling blanket with restrictions? Too little space. We can’t win.

We’re learning to live with each other, it’s as big a shock for junior as it is for us, having moved from a warm, cosy space with nutrition on a constant supply to this wide open space with room to move about, with food having to be demanded at regular intervals. There’s a whole new experience out here with hunger, daylight, people, being picked up, nipples, teats, clothes, nappies, breathing, wind, hiccups (actually the hiccups are nothing new, they were present on the inside too).

As they say, whoever they are, every day’s a school-day, and we’re learning as we go.

The only measure of success we had before we started was bathing. The golden advice was “as long as you don’t drown the baby, a clean baby is then a bonus”. In this respect we must be reasonable parents, we have one un-drowned baby, and a clean one at that. Unless you count the time he shat in his towel after his bath (twice, once with Grannie and once with daddy), pissed over his dad (once), pissed over his mum (twice) and just to show off pissed and puked over his dad (twice) at the same time. Yeah, rip-roaring success!

The homecoming

Now that my family have been home for a week I thought it was about time to get the homecoming written up. It was meant to be a joyous occasion, but as implied by the phrase "meant to be" I'm sure the seeds of doubt are there already - "errm wasn't it joyous then?"

No, it wasn't. It was about as joyous an occasion as a trip to the dentist for a root canal. So what went wrong?

Well, here I go, I dare to speak out and criticise the NHS not just as a body but also, despite the taboo, at individuals too. The midwifery care we got in the labour suite was faultless, the two midwives and student midwife we had for the 28 hours we had under the LDPR care worked so hard and were there constantly for us.

Then, on arrival at the ward, there was a marked difference. Granted, most of this was down to need, MOTS didn't need the constant care so it wasn't there. But what was there in its place was a "team" of midwives looking after a large number of mums, with no dedicated relationship management. Downstairs we knew WHO our midwife was, and she was responsible for us. Upstairs, any midwife could come along. And that caused problems.

Throughout the stay MOTS got conflicting advice on how the baby should be fed, techniques, increasing milk supply etc etc, even from midwives on the same shift. There was little accounting for being a week early and it was taking time for the milk supply to come along, that much was consistent. A lack of information resulted from the absence of a hierarchical care structure, the blue folder at the bottom of the bed, usually reserved for medics to add notes, contained forms that MOTS should have been filling in, but was never told.

Sara, our downstairs dayshift midwife popped in to see us. The star she is, she stomped off and got MOTS's notes and for the first time we found out what Iain's blood group was, and that MOTS had been medically discharged. Again, none of the ward staff had told her.

So Friday morning comes along, and I walk in proud as punch with the car seat and a couple of new purchases. MOTS was distraught rather than overjoyed. It all came down to a midwife who had not been on shift earlier in the week who wanted to keep them in until Saturday at the earliest to keep an eye on feeding. After a heated discussion MOTS made her position clear - if it was feeding alone that was keeping them in she was, from that moment on, going 100% formula and going home.

The midwife backed down and started the discharge papers, but wanted to see us feeding still. During a feed I went in search of her to be told she'd gone home to do a nightshift. She hadn't popped in to say she was going, nor had told anyone else we were expecting to see her. NOT impressed at all.

By 5pm the discharge papers had been completed, the checks were down, leaflets handed over, birth card completed, and name bands checked by two midwives in two directions (baby then mother, mother then baby). So with one tearful wife and one sleeping child, we left like it was a convict getting parole rather than a family starting out of life's big journey.

One person ruined the experience. Nothing to do with the NHS as a body, under resourced, staff excellent and whatever other politically correct clichés you fancy. One person ruined the experience.

MOTS had to do what was best for her baby, and getting him out of that ward with the constant pressure to keep him quiet and to keep on the breast was the best thing.

What the ward needs is a named midwife who has primary care for the mums and babies, so if a mum needs a midwife then she gets the same one throughout a shift where possible. That alone would reduce the conflicting advice that was so much of a problem for MOTS, and make it more like downstairs in the LDPR.

30 August 2006

The birth - it's a marathon not a sprint

Here we go with starting to try and catch up on the happenings last weekend. Although Ripley is no more, it's a good thing, and Iain now has his own very distinct identity. With reference to the bump it shall be Ripley, to the baby it shall be Iain. And that's rule number one, broken already by slip(s) of the tongue, but a rule nonetheless.

So what happened with Ripley on Friday then?

The week 39 post has a brief report on how things started so we'll begin where that left off.

9pm on Saturday night. In to Simpson’s for a second observation, we didn't ring ahead as we were asked to come in at that time. At 22:35 we were seen, and told off for coming in around 8 when shifts change. An hour an forty-five minutes the Fat Lady was on the monitor, the midwife was only in for seconds at a time. Needless to say some discomfort kicked in, I asked to get her off it, she sent another midwife in who said "10 more minutes" which lasted half an hour before the original came back. Needless to say if we'd had the same midwife that saw us in triage on Saturday for the delivery she would have instantly been deselected.

No contractions starting, back same time on Sunday, please.

Sunday went swimmingly well by comparison. After a wait of only a couple of minutes, then a short time on the monitor, we only got stung for 1 hour of parking as we were in and out in under 40 minutes. Chalk and cheese sprang to mind. Needless to say, with being out again, nothing was happening, so we were told to come back at 08:30 on Monday to be induced.

And at 08:30 the next morning is when the fun began!

The Fat Lady was hooked up to the drip to start the contractions off and on the monitor for baby's heartbeat and contractions. She was mobile for the first few hours, with no pain relief other than the TENS machine. As the contractions were artificial they didn't have the gentle increase in strength a "normal" labour would, they ramp up very quickly (something they don't tell you up front), so the pain came in quite quickly once it started. So, the birth plan is thrown out of the window. No gas & air, no morphine, straight to the option she didn't want to take - the epidural.

There are some things a husband should never see his wife go through, and the epidural is one of them. Sure, he should be there to support her, but his head should never venture round the back to see the needle. I thought the aneathetist was knitting a jumper for junior.

Exams every few hours followed, the baby wasn't too happy at the drip being too high, anything over 8 mls/hour and he was getting grumpy. The doctor was not happy with this, and at midnight the first mention of the "C" word came out. Dilation wasn't progressing enough, baby was getting upset with the drip, so he gave us two ultimatums. Increase the drip and if the baby continues to be grumpy stop and go to theatre. If he's OK go until 02:00 and check dilation progress - no progress and we go to theatre. Either way it’s looking like theatre.

The Fat Lady and junior both did remarkably well. We got to 02:00 with progress, so you can stick your cut and shut up your backside, doc! Claire, the nightshift midwife, did an outstanding job at trying to get the cervix opened up, and made it to 9.9cm by 07:30, just a tiny rim left. The Fat Lady was pushing and he was crowning slightly too, but sat slightly the wrong way, needing a small turn which he wasn't doing. That cut & shut was but a distant memory, now looking to go au natrale at any moment!

08:30 - nothing in the last hour. That rim is still there, and baby's head still turned. The doctor discussed "options", I distinctly remember him say the word in the plural rather than singular context, but the option (singular) was back to the section. Needless to say our worlds fell apart.

A cast of thousands started coming in and out, asking the same questions. The anaesthetist, Claire, turned out to be from God's Own County and was fantastic, both in pre-op and in theatre.

The wait from 08:30 to 10:15 was a long one, we couldn't go straight in as both theatres had emergency sections in, with babies who were in trouble. Ours was happy as Larry and showing no signs of wanting to come out, so we were pushed back. No problem there. The drip was stopped, and the contractions flat-lined instantly, showing us the drugs were doing the work and the Fat Lady wasn't doing any of it on her own.

When the time did come, the walk down the ward was the longest walk I've ever done. Especially when Sara, the dayshift midwife, let go of the bed, stopped, turned to me blocking my path, and ushered me into a side room where the surgeon was waiting for me to show me what to wear. I couldn't get changed quick enough, yet when I got inside the theatre door I was hesitant, frozen to the wall, clutching The Fat Lady's handbag not wanting to go any further. Sara got me over, Claire sat me down, gave me a shot of the cold spray as she explained what she needed to do, and of all the people in there it was Claire who was the primary carer given her location right behind The Fat Lady's head.

The consent form, signed earlier, did have "trial by forceps" as the first option, just in case any progress was made whilst waiting. And straight away the surgeon said it was a no-go, it was a section. So, with The Proclaimers in the background (David, theatre nurse's choice, much to the dismay of Claire), the scaffolding for the screen was erected and away they went. A constant flow of people ensued for the next 20 minutes, during which time Claire, with a perfect view over the screen, asked if we wanted to know what we had. Not until it's out. Then cam the only words I picked up on from the surgeon - "ten fifty-two", then the emotions came flooding in. Sara's "congratulations, you have a...." was exactly that, I missed it completely. She presented "it" to us all wrapped up ready to go to be checked. The Fat Lady was spaced out on drugs,I didn't know where I was, I just wanted to see. It was seconds we got, no contact at all, he was taken away for the checks. Before he was I said I needed to see, Sara opened up the blanket and there it was, the meat and two veg. We have a son!

It took me a total of 5 seconds looking at his face to get to the name, which was on the shortlist anyway. The boy was away for a few minutes getting checked out, and Sara looked positively delighted when she brought him back. With all the tubes and wires the Fat Lady couldn't reach to touch him, so I got the first hold. That was so precious, walking round theatre with my son while my wife was being stitched up. All the fears we both had were banished for me in that moment when Sara gave him to me. He'd come back OK, with his APGAR scores of 8 and 9. Child genius from the first few minutes!

The Fat Lady, hereinafter known as the Mother Of The Son, or MOTS for short, agreed through the haze at Iain, while en-route to recovery. Surely there were no more surprises ahead? WRONG. We had agreed two things - 1) no middle name, it was difficult enough picking one, 2) no plant life (ie Ivy, Rosie, Daisy, all non-starters. So imagine my surprise when MOTS said Iain was OK, as long as he got a middle name of Rowan (as in tree, meaning "little red one" after the berries on the aforementioned tree when in flower). Given he's guaranteed to be ginger it seemed appropriate, and I would have agree to any request she made in there given what she went through, so this seemed like very little.

What a marathon...

At some stage in all that we were told that Ripley was wedged into the Fat Lady’s pelvis, which is why he wasn’t turning. And had that last cervical rim gone he still would not have come out any other way than he had. 24 hours of labour, 2 hours to wait, an hour in surgery when he was only ever going to come out one way, and that could have been 26 hours earlier than he had. I’m gutted for MOTS having gone through all that in vain. But I’m so proud of her for trying so hard, for never giving up, for giving me a fantastic son and heir and for holding it together from beginning to end.

24 August 2006

Week 40: Skipping School

Just to make complete the series of four ante-natal classes, here's post number 4 of 4.

I need a note from my mummy as I missed school. Probably one of the most useful of the four classes and we couldn't make it. For those who have no idea why not, WHY NOT? Read the week 39 summary!

I did leave a message with a "schoolmate" to tell teacher we wouldn't be there though, so I guess we won't get called by the headmistress for a caning.

I will get round to the updates at some point, though not any time soon.

22 August 2006

The wait is over

Just a mega quick post with the abridged version of events this weekend. If we can remember the full-blown version then I'll post it up, there are some horror stories in there and some nice moments too. But it is true, I've forgotten the horror moments as I type with a son of 6 hours old.

Yes, we have a little boy. For the standard statistics it went like this:

Duration - 30 hours, induced as waters broke with no contractions
Method: Section, after giving up on a natural birth after 24 hours of labour. Short wait for theatre, hour in, hour recovery, all over just after noon.
Weight: 7lb 7 oz in old money.
Name: Iain Rowan, named after nobody, anything or anywhere, so don't ask
Length: 53 cms
Scores: 8 then a 9. Child genius

Mother and baby doing well, though mother is very tired.

The Fat Lady is no longer. Long live MOTS (Mother of the son)!

20 August 2006

Week 39: Almost there

Another week done with, the end is in sight, or is it? It's not like a bus where you know it's going to be late, unless it's the last one then it'll be early. Not even the Virgin Trains Timewarp (ask me to explain that one at some stage) is of any relevance now we are just sitting back waiting.

So what has really happened this week?

Sod all in the early part.

The Fat Lady has finally slowed down, now lounging in bed until lunchtime like some chavtastic dole dossing swampy. Or is that politically incorrect? Sorry, I mean my darling wife has been lounging in bed until lunchtime like some chavtastic dole dossing swampy.

We thought the only delivery this week would be the pram. Whoo-hoo, that's us just about there. One more thing needed, but can't figure out what it is. Hmm, baby? YES - THE BABY! And that should be here next week, subject to x,y and z. Only nobody knows what x, y and z are.

The Fat Lady's maternity leave started this week, after last week's little panic over whether she was on holiday or not. The new car's been signed off financially, and there's more plans to make around that than the other new arrival. Do we get the new car at midnight on the 12th of August? Whoops, wrong date, but the implied association with The War of the Worlds is quite apt. Or do we wait until an opportune moment? Will Ripley be early, on time, late, how will we get to the dealer to pick up, when do we get the insurance swapped? AAARGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!

We're not alone in this, one other new mum at the same ante-natal class gets a new car on 1st September, and she's due on 1st September. Great timing. Thankfully Ford give us 7 days drive-away insurance so we can convert at leisure. One less thing to worry about, on to the number of nappies in the hospital bag.

A boring week waiting? Not on your life. Until Saturday it was, then it was like that famous line from Gladiator - "On my command, unleash hell".

In the very early hours of Saturday morning the Fat Lady decided to wake me up. First thought through a haze, "was I snoring?", but then soon realise she's out of bed. "Do me a favour" she started, "is this it?" I replied. "Yes". She never thought to tell me earlier in the night she'd had a show at 7pm, no no, wait until I'm fast asleep then hit me with it. To be fair the show wasn't anything special, but the 01:10 business was - waters gone. So as the bedroom light went on one bulb blew. It was this brilliant white light that turned everything in the room like a freshly painted ceiling, working out from the middle to the outsides. And it seemed to take forever, it got me thinking "is this heaven?", only to come crashing back to earth when the filament went pop and the darkness returned. It tripped the upstairs lights with comedy timing.

All systems go
Right, what's the drill, where are the notes? There's nothing worse than the Fat Lady telling me to calm down when I already am and just want a straight answer to a straight question - "Where are your fucking notes?". "Don't know" doesn't help at this point. I only needed the hospital number from them, I remembered the drill from the first ante-natal class - waters gone and clear with no contractions = phone for advice, may be called in for a monitor and sent back home. And after we got to hospital around an hour after kick-off that's what happened. The Fat Lady's blood pressure and the baby's heartbeat were monitored, all well. So now we face regular checks until something happens, and if it doesn't within a couple of days then things will be helped along. One of the healthiest foxes I've ever seen cut across in front of us as we left the hospital car park at 03:30. He was clearly lost, you can't look that healthy on hospital food!

Three hours after being woken up we were tucked up in bed again. We are expected back in for 9pm Saturday for the next one, unless things start to happen sooner. The only certainty now is that we're not going to make the fourth ante-natal class on Wednesday. So no week 40 round-up will be required, and the week 39 round-up has been well and truly hijacked! So far nothing's happening, so it's odds-on favourite for the Fat Lady to be induced on Monday.

17 August 2006

All paperwork and no play

Even since before we started trying for Ripley it's been paperwork all the way. From the word go there was a doctor's appointment just to say we're going for it, that resulted in the first lot. Blood tests, associated consent forms and results pages, which eventually ended up in the notes. Nothing much else until the blue line appeared, and then the deluge started.

Piles of paperwork
There wasn't much at all in the first trimester, mainly information leaflets and books, some provided by the NHS, some bought, some recommended, some not.

Then the second trimester came in, and the Fat Lady got her notes. At the booking appointment there was what seemed like a truckload of leaflets to take home and read. Topics ranging from blood tests, Downs & Edwards, breastfeeding through to car parking charges at the hospital, family tax credits and the child trust fund. Still no manual, though.

And there it didn't stop. Blood test results to file in the notes, second and third trimesters producing another set of A4 sheets, midwife reports, etc etc. There will be onsent forms to sign once we get the the hospital, I'm guessing there'll be a separate consent form for each procedure, but we'll have to wait and see.

Catalogues galore, product leaflets, forms for shopping "clubs", the list is endless.

This afternoon the Fat Lady has to sign her rights away under the FSA rules governing car sales. Not strictly related, but as we only bought a new car as Ripley was coming then it's directly his fault (or hers)

Then it will be midwives, health visitors, thankfully the GP is all electronic now so that's a blessing. Not forgetting the registration and the resulting birth certificate!

So, exactly how much paper has the average baby generated by the time it is born? The mind boggles.

16 August 2006

Week 39: Ante-natal continues

Week 3 of 4 on the ante-natal classes and what’s been in store this week?

The first two weeks covered the delicate subject of labour, this week is the World Health Organisation endorsed lecture on breastfeeding.

What did we expect?

  • A Nazi style directive of you will breastfeed otherwise you will be damned.
  • It’s natures way…….

What did we learn?

  • That breastfeeding is literally that. The baby takes a huge mouthful of breast, between 3-4 cms. If the nipple doesn’t touch the soft palette then that’s where the problems start!
  • A newborn’s stomach is only the size of a walnut. Which is why the little blighters need to feed every 3-4 hours. Basically, if the mother manages to get dressed or showered in the first few days they’re bloody lucky. Oh yes, and it the baby goes beyond six hours without a feed it is important to wake them (yes, you read correctly) up!!
  • Breastfeeding is a learned rather that natural activity for Mum’s today. It will take at least two weeks for the process to become automatic and easy. Oh yes, it can bloody hurt! The hormones that are released during breastfeeding can also induce uterine contractions which for some Mums can be more painful that labour itself. Remind me to stock up on paracetamol and ibruprofen.

What was informative?

  • Learning how to hold a baby, okay a doll, in the rugby ball position i.e. tucked under one arm? This was easier than I expected but somehow I think it will be more tricky with a real baby rather than an inanimate object.
  • Hearing the 2nd and 3rd time mum’s talking about their experiences. Most useful advice – to stock up on savoy cabbage to soothe engorged breasts, always have a drink to hand, and to wake your partner to bring the baby to you so they know how is feels to be sleep deprived!

What was a waste of time?

  • The two videos. The first with a patronising American narrator showing that a baby will automatically seek out the breast around an hour after being born if there is no interference. The second, this time with a droning Aussie narrator, telling everyone that breastfeeding should ‘feel 100% pleasant and comfortable’ otherwise you’re doing it wrong.

What was missing?

  • The fathers-to-be. The couple of fathers have turned up in the previous weeks were noticeably absent. At least Lee had a good excuse of work commitments, the other father just wasn’t interested!!

14 August 2006

Map reading

Route-planning. Not a favourite subject of the Fat Lady, so when it comes to getting from A to B it's pretty much left up to me. I have a TomTom satellite navigation system, with maps a little out of date. I have an up to date hardback AA atlas, conveniently located on the breakfast bar in the kitchen. But I know my way from home to the hospital, or so I thought.

Remember roads change. Frequently. It's all a con devised by the AA to make sure you buy a new road atlas every year. It is, it's true. £6 of your £6.99 goes towards paying the local councils to dig roads up and lay new ones. The other 99p is the AA's profit margin.

Which way now?
To the hospital, d'uh

It's been a while since we lived in Edinburgh, and when we did we knew, well when I say "we" I mean "I", a good route out of town without using the major roads. Some will call this the "rat run". Appropriate, as one of these may be used to get the "rug rat" to the hospital. We hadn't used this particular road for a number of years as it no longer was between A and B for us. But it was a possible alternative for the hospital dash, so we checked it out.

The last time I tried using the road it was closed off, that was some years ago. Well, good news, it's re-opened. Although no it's somewhat different, all the scabby old tenements are gone and new low-rise housing built in their place, along with some lovely speed tables. But at least it's checked out and OK. Even if it is route number 3 on the list.

Even if you know the route in, have your alternatives planned and checked out. The sat nav won't be much use if you have to re-program it, the atlas is in the kitchen but doesn't have small local roads anyway, and the Fat Lady won't be much use.

Trial run? I hope not...

Week 38: Round-up (a day early, practice?)

In the week 37 round-up I pointed out that we had no more "creative accounting" to do.

I apologise, I had missed one. I hang my head in shame for it.

The Fat Lady had her last day in the office on Friday, which makes Monday of the 38th week her first day of maternity leave. WRONG. This is officially a week's holiday, her last official day at work is Friday 18th August. Which means we're a week ahead, maternity doesn't start for another week, thus delaying that milestone. So, on to the usual points now we have an extra week before the inevitable...

Another week?
So now I've got over the panic that I'd missed a trick that even the financiers at Enron would have been proud, I look back at the last week. It doesn't seem, looking back, that it's been a week. Although going through it at the time it seemed liked an eternity. And as far as advice given to us goes, that's been pretty accurate.

The big high:
Stresses and strains over picking a suitable new car have been put to rest.

The big low:
Realising my after-work sherberts on Friday are the last I'll ever have.

One line from one song sums up this week, clearly during the week rather than in retrospect, because that would indicate a contradiction on my part given the statements above about the dual speed that time seems to be travelling at. Assuming, of course, that time does have speed, which implies (according to the formula speed=distance/time) that the speed of time relates directly to distance, so if we don't move around for a week or two we can delay things a bit???? Look, more creative accounting! Another Enron trick missed! And after that rambling, Madonna's "Hung Up" with the line "Time goes by, so slowly" just doesn't seem as big a deal any more.

However many tricks I find I've missed, I'm resigned to the fact that Friday was my last chance of a beer or few. The Fat Lady isn't quite at the "most babies are born 2 weeks either side" danger zone just yet, but given she's offically "full term" I'm starting to realise I should be on-call.

I don't want to start a panic whenever the Fat Lady calls my mobile, as poor Ed did, so we have devised a system which will be implemented shortly. I thought of using a "code-word" system whereby the Fat Lady says a code-word as soon as I answer the phone to stop the panic. I thought of using a code-word when I should panic but in the heat of the moment it may get forgotten, and besides I should be able to tell anyway. So for now there's a code-word in place to stop the panic, a word that won't come up in normal conversation. Piece of cake.

13 August 2006

Focus on the Future

My beloved Bug is no more. It’s going, after almost 5 years it’s time to say goodbye. We have a total of 17 days left to say our fond farewells before we get our new Focus Sport.

So, Focus on the Future. Pathetic pun, given we have two new arrivals due just days apart. Scary stuff! The pun, not the impending arrival, that’s petrifying.

Sorry Rich, there's
So as we lurch from one “main worry” to the next we realise that a midnight collection on the 1st of September will rely wholly on the Fat Lady either crossing her legs, pushing Ripley out a bit early, or giving me an hour to nip along and get it. Thankfully the salesman is dead against the Fat Lady dropping in the showroom, so we might have to wangle a plan to get it delivered a couple of days before (hmm, that’s due day) or do some dodgy lay-by swap-over.

It’ll work out OK, all I’m bothered about is it’s a car with ISOFIX that’s 100% compatible with the seat we have.

I must apologise to Richard for the blatant theft of the image of his beloved baby, couldn't resist it. It's almost the colour of the new Spanish built American motor soon to be known as "Mum's taxi" - NO, we will NOT have one of those type of signs in the back, understood????

10 August 2006

New HCC record!

Orange Wednesdays? Pah, we have Hormonal Wednesdays now. Last night saw a new HCC record of 4 (four) in one night!

So what brought on the tears? A mixture of dead animals and birth - talk about opposite ends of the spectrum of life!

Two things really. Remember from the HCC post that the Fat Lady cries when I'm nice, when I'm trying to get a chalk-up, when I'm not trying to get a chalk-up, at anything really.

Last week saw a predicted chalk-up, the reference to her having done something amazing in the week 37 round-up brought about a small flow. This week's chalk-ups weren't predicted at all.

Gordon Ramsay. Fucker. For anyone not watching "The F Word" on Channel 4 recently, Gordon has had two pigs in his back garden for a while now, with the intention of rearing them, then cooking them. Last night saw their slaughter. As a meat eater I'm going to go into detail on this one, as it was more than a bit harrowing to watch it.

Presenters of "What Not to Wear"
He called them "Trinny and Susannah" after the presenters of "What Not to Wear". Over the course of the series Trinny and Susannah have featured on an almost weekly basis to show their progress.

So, last night the kids said their goodbyes. Gordon was there at the slaughter, and was clearly upset by it - whether this was seeing how it happens, or just that it was Trinny and Susannah I don't know.

A pair of tongs are held across the head of the pig and an electric current passed through the brain until the animal is dead, then it is hoisted by its back legs and throat slit open. As the blood drains it sounds like it is grunting, which is air bubbles passing back through the draining blood. All the while the pig is twitching, as if struggling, and this was a concern to Gordon. These are involuntary actions, the pig was already dead.

On to the bath, scalding hot water removes the hair and a few layers of skin, then the plug is removed (guts, bowels, the full digestive route from tongue down), only then does it resemble a carcass of meat rather than a dying animal.

Needless to say, the Fat Lady was blubbing behind a cushion while this was on the go. My reaction at seeing that healthy pig's life end was echoed by Gordon's just a few seconds later - "fucking hell". There's no way as a meat-eater I can think about that being the way it happens, just the end product. In all fairness the mass-produced meat will be a far worse process than this, Trinny and Sussannah were slaughtered at a small specialist abattoir.

So that was chalk-up number 1. But then we started talking about it later, and that resulted in number 2. And the rest of the night is so clouded it may have been number 3 or 4 as well. The other one is pregnancy related...

During delivery the chances are a first time mum will tear. That's what we got from Liz, the midwife, from yesterday's ante-natal class. To ease this, make is less likely, or a smaller tear, the perineum should be massaged and stretched in the last few weeks. This, in theory, makes it more elastic and easier to stretch for the baby's head to pass down the birth canal. Last night the Fat Lady is doing her 2 minutes of constant pressure followed by 3-4 minutes of massaged stretching. And as she took a short break of no more than a couple of seconds, I hinted at a "30 second penalty". Only breathing exercises brought the sobbing and hyperventilating to a close.

09 August 2006

Week 38: Ante-natal continues

Week 2 of 4 on the ante-natal classes, and what's been in store this week?

Last week we had early labour, so this week we're prepared for the second and third stages. I'm getting visions of one of Dave's gory horror flicks, so how did it compare? Well, I'll start off with the same questions as last time.

What did we expect?

  • The gentle break-in of last week to take a nasty turn

  • The video to have an 18 BBFC certificate

What did we learn?

  • Diginity is left at the front door of the hospital, and not necessarily collected on the way back out. To be fair this was known already, just confirmed today.

  • Try as I might last week to bring humour to the approach, it's not delaying the inevitable

  • Drugs are not objects of humour. Oh how I laughed writing that.

  • The Edinburgh (that's the capital city of Scotland Royal Infirmary's pay stations for TV, internet & phone access takes coins and English notes only. No credit cards, no Scottish notes.

  • Every baby is born with a hole in the heart. I never knew this, but the cord goes directly into the heart, and it takes a couple of days for that to close up, hence poor circulation and blue hands & feet.

What was informative?

  • Moving on from stage 1 to stages 2 and 3

  • Learning about the 4 different types of stage 3 - 2 drugs, physiological or manual delivery

  • Seeing how some mums-to-be think "meconium" is associated with stage 1 of labour. And not first-timers either. Meconium being baby's first bowel movement - the composition of which isn't for this post

  • Seeing new words - having certain terms pocketed into the three stages, having some new ones in there for new discussion as well as familiar ones for re-cap

What was a waste of time?

  • Not so much a waste of time, but something in need of re-working. The video produced by the NHS trust doesn't tie in with the classes. If the classes follow the same format week by week across the trust's area the video should match it in terms of topic flow.

What was missing?

  • The promise of a hospital tour. Still as unsure as I was last week about the "tour" being a video. I have apprehensions about a few things, and not knowing the inside of the hospital is one of them. I just hope the staff are OK with dads who
    • have no idea what they are doing
    • have no idea where they are going
    • are stressed to the max and, more importantly, showing it

I'll be missing next week's so I hope the Fat Lady keeps us up to speed on what's happened. Saying that, the challenge is to attend the next two ante-natal classes now she's offically "full term"!

Search engine hits

Just looking at my stats from my host and see the following hits against search phrases. Two stand out:

dixons stock_query
Errm, how?
kids having sex
I know how this has come up, from the posts Having kids, got cats and What's the sex. Sorry, not that kinda site...

07 August 2006

Week 37: Round-up

I've started week 37's post with a gestation of 35+6. Always like to be a little early, catching the worm and all that. Week 36 wasn't anything spectacular but generated a big post. So it'll be interesting to see how this post pans out before I publish it. Sitting here writing it a week before publish date hoping I don't balls up my past & future tense is the least of my worries.

Relentless countdown
Four weeks to go. That's less than a month. And now we don't even have a new calendar month to get into unless we go into overdraft territory, but I'm not sure what the penalty charges are for that. All those little figures we've played around with to get extra time - months, weeks, "ah but we have part of July and part of August so it's really two months" - have all gone. No more rules, no more creative accounting, no more working on lunar months, we lost the lot as we started this week.

At the end of this week the Fat Lady is officially full-term, I didn't realise 37 weeks was classified as full term until the ante-natal class, then I start seeing it everywhere. Information can be like buses, you wait for ages and, well, you know the rest.

The big high:
Ante-natal classes start this week.

The big low:
Ante-natal classes started this week.

The Fat Lady started getting the Braxton Hicks at the end of the 36th / start of the 37th week. Just like the first movements way back when, the Fat Lady wasn't too sure about them at first but soon realised what was what. And there's another crash warning, "brace brace brace". And I've slowly realised that I won't be able to call the Fat Lady the "Fat Lady" for much longer. How many more warnings can I take?

And the midwife check-up: No crash warning with this one, told straight that there is a major problem. Well, it wasn't exactly put like that, but there's a problem. Any denial we had is now completely gone, and that's the problem. This is now a one-way ticket, no refund, no return. Baby? Oh, baby's fine, it's us that are me that is at odds with it all.

So what caused the "issue"? The baby's head is engaging. Sounds like something from Star Trek, but what it means is the baby's head is pointing down the way, past the brim of the pelvis and he's looking for an exit. The mark of 4/5ths means it's four fifths of the way there. First-timers are usually between week 36 & 38, so again the Fat Lady is spot on. The baby will not turn round now, it's in the right position and will happily wait there until the big day, but it doesn't mean it's going to be tomorrow or any time soon. The Fat Lady looked proud at this, as if she'd done something totally amazing. Which she has. What a perfect start to week 37!

Three social engagements over the weekend took its toll on both of us. Hardly a minute to ourselves over a long weekend, better get used to this.

03 August 2006

Having kids, got cats

Conflicting views are out there on having kids and cats in the same house at the same time. I'd sell my first born child* before getting rid of my cats, so we have to make some adjustments.

* Open to offers, currently sorting out some legal nonesense with eBay about the listing.

Our vet had a leaflet on the subject, and to be honest the advice was pretty common sense. If you are emmeowing on this route (embarking is for dogs, no?) then I suggest you get the leaflet. And as if by magic, here's a link to it!

Our cats are little shits at times, but they have certain rules, they know them and abide by them. Rules like they are not allowed on the worktops in the kitchen, they have to get "dressed" before going out (collars on), and they aren't allowed in the nursery.

It's all about the training. I've got the Fat Lady trained pretty well, but it's not her I'm talking about. A water pistol from being kittens was very useful, and when used with that certain tone of voice they quickly learned when to stop without the use of the water pistol.

As luck would have it they've never really spent much time in the nursery apart from when it was a "displacement room" for all the junk dumped in there as rooms got decorated. So to keep them out is an easy task, just a short sharp "no" will do.

Still, when we're asleep I trust them to behave as much as I trust the Fat Lady won't bury her nails into me during labour. So what we've tried is:

  1. A gate across the nursery door

  2. A cat net over the cot

So far differing degrees of success. The net acts as a hammock. And when in place it means the cot is out of bounds for us and the baby, so it's not a day-to-day tool but a training tool. Chocolate fireguard going on the shopping list then. The gate, however, has worked a treat. We have no evidence of the cats having jumped it. We got a travel gate, so it's fabric mesh rather than the traditional poles, so not even the skinny one can get through. The net, well it hasn't actually been used as a hammock as they haven't jumped the gate. So the gate has proved successful, and the net remains untested.

We do have a net for the pram, which will be used. During the late summer the Fat Lady will be leaving pram outside with baby getting some fresh air and sleep, so even if ours are in the house there's no guarantee from the other local cats. No chances will be taken, but it's all common sense.

Should I stay or should I
go now?

The one thing we haven't done is keep them out of our bedroom. Since we first got them as kittens we've left our door open and they have free and easy access. And we haven't restricted that so far, so that could be a problem if we have a crib in our room for a while. That's clearly one mistake, of many more to come I imagine, that we've made.

We are intending on going back to a water pistol if needs be, but after 4 years of the harsh "no" working I don't see a need just now.

That's it for now, no major change. We'll have to make sure food is out of reach once crawling starts, and I'm not talking about me getting home after wetting the baby's head. But that's some time off yet, so bridges and crossing thereof.

02 August 2006

What's the sex?

We haven't been asked this for a while now, thankfully, but it was clearly one of those life events that everyone needs to know.

Now that Richard and Zoe are getting hitched, they'll be getting those questions. Well, not that particular question, as it's not a shotgun job. Theirs will be "when, where, can Auntie Mable's pet dog's breeder sit with her at the reception". They have my sympathy.

I thought I'd covered this topic in the 20 week scan post, but hadn't.

So, to recap:
NHS Lothian don't provide a 20 week scan to check on well-being.
We had a private scan done at 23 weeks in place of the NHS one.

When we arrived we were a little early, so waited with a cup of coffee. The appointment ahead of us came in after us, and with a cast of thousands went in for their scan. From what I could work out it was mum-to-be, granny-to-be, dad-to-be and unknown random bloke. Current boyfriend? Brother? Both? Hey, I don't judge...

The difference was they were paying for a couple of minutes of time just to find out what the sex of the baby was. We, on the other hand, were paying considerably more just for a much longer viewing time. No sexing for us.

Sexing was an option with our "package", only we chose not to find out. We had discussed this at short length, and it was one of those moments we realised we were both on the same page. Our decision was based solely on the fact there are few surprises in life, and in the heat of the moment for someone to say "congratulations, it's a ...." is one of the happy ones left. So, selfishly, that's what we went for. We wanted that moment, rather than some machine-assisted situation - "well, it's, ermm I can't quite see, oh there's something, yes it's a...". Nope, immediate certainty, please.

So, back in the scan, the sonographer asked if we wanted to know, and as a result of the negative reply kept away from "the business end". She did need to go down there, so got us to close our eyes and stopped the recording until she was away again. It was kind of strange knowing, and it still is, that there is one person out there who we don't know, but who can tell us what we're having. It doesn't bother me at all, I'm just looking forward 4 weeks from now to that "congratulations, it's a...." moment.

Family may want to know "to buy the right colours". Thankfully, ours were right behind us. And if they hadn't been, then tough. It's not about the right colours, or letting great Auntie Mable's pet dog's breeder knowing, it's about the parents and the baby, nobody else. So that question that everyone asks, "do you know what you're having?" - yes, I do, it's a baby. Now piss off and don't ask stupid questions again.

It's not all nicey-nicey though, and our decision may not be right for everyone. That girl who was in before us, for all we know, might not be checking for what colours to buy. There may be conditions that run in the family and you need to know, to prepare yourselves for the possibility. Or maybe you just can't wait and need to fill your boots. In that case do what's right, right for the parents and the baby - everyone else can wait.

It seems so long ago, almost 3 months now. Yet it is as right now as it was then, and that anticipation is building as we struggle all the more with [2 sets of] names.

Week 37: Ante-natal starts

Today's the day the ante-natal classes started. We already knew in advance what the topics would be - weeks 1 & 2 for labour, week 3 for feeding and week 4 for bringing baby home. So this was part 1 of 2 on labour. And our survey said...

What did we expect?
We expected the class to be dumbed-down to the lowest common denominator of chav. With a mixed class I was expecting exactly what was forewarned in Fatherhood: The Truth. More questions than expectations, really, like "who will be the rampant dad not getting any", and "who will be the E-class", and "who will be the petrified teenager"? I fit all three, apart from my teenage years were long since resigned to last century. Breathing exercises, bring them on. Drugs? I'll have half a kee of smack, please.

I don't expect many answers from the individual classes, but I do expect that they will generate more questions than we currently have, some of which will be answered over the next few weeks as we go, some of which won't. For those that aren't we can follow up during the classes and later once we forgotten.

What did we learn?

  • Smack is not provided for pain relief, not even for the dads. Bastards.

  • This isn't a dream, it's for real. Shit.

  • The TV dramas go from waters breaking to being in hospital on the bed pushing. They miss out the 19+ hours of early stage labour in the middle.

  • What our midwife's opinions on the various pain relief options are

  • That the tour of the hospital consists of watching a video on a 14" portable from 20 feet away.

  • That the car parking charges are an incentive for you to not go in too early

  • 37 weeks is considered full term. That's 7 days away {gulp}

What was informative?

  • The procedure for ejecting me from hospital if I bring in my own smack.

  • Knowing when to go in, when to cross over into the "panic zone"

  • How to breath. Still sounds strange, but that's all we MUST come away with.

What was a waste of time?

  • Trying to second-guess what the class was going to be like.

  • Nothing else really, all was pretty useful.

What was missing?

  • A chauffeur driven limo from the class to the office.

  • Other dads. I was the only one there until 5 minutes in.

I have no idea why I put this last question in now, I won't know what's missing until after the main event, only then will we know what we wanted to know now but didn't know we wanted to know it because we hadn't been through it, and by that time we'll know what we didn't know we wanted to know in the first place.

30 July 2006

Week 36: Sitting, waiting

Another week, another set of kicking sessions. And for what? Well, I’m another 7 days closer to becoming that E-Class (no reminder this time). Beyond that it’s just as the title suggests.

So what about the highs & lows?

The lows of the last week have to be the weather. Being rather warm has its draw-backs for the Fat Lady – restlessness, uncomfortable, irritable. Though how this last one differs from normal is anyone’s guess. In Scotland we’re not used to temperatures into double figures, never mind leading 2s. And hitting a leading 3 in the nursery has caused some worried looks.

Pirates of the Carribean - Dead Man's Chest will probably be the last film we'll see at the cinema before the big arrival. It was nothing like seeing Ice Age 2 with our Godson and his parents a few months ago - now that was a great and monumentous occasion, being his first cinema trip.

The highs. The Fat Lady got confirmation of maternity pay from work this week. It’s like approaching a roundabout – “Roundabout ahead, reduce speed now”, only in our world it's “4 weeks left”, “panic NOW”, “Sorry, mis-judged, it’s here, apologies if you crashed”. All the way there are milestones, all of which warn you of the impending, none of which you can do anything about. The next crash warning is the first ante-natal class, but that is strictly speaking taking place at the start of week 37, so will be covered later.

Another high is "Ripley" responding to music. We have a DVD recording of the private scan done at 23 weeks, and I set this to two pieces of music. The first part is Gustav Holst's Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity from The Planets. I wanted Mars, the Bringer of War but was over-ruled, even Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age was frowned upon. The second is Shapeshifter's Lola's Theme. The reason for this wasn't the lyrics but because we had come out of two scans, the early scan and the private scan, to hear this on the radio. The lyrics are just a bonus. I haven't played the video for a while and was sat the other night with the Fat Lady in the room. ""Ripley"'s kicking". So a couple of nights later I tried again. And sure enough, "Ripley" starts up again. Holst - nyada. Shapeshifters - bring it on.

The change in social calendar has started to take effect. Sure, the Fat Lady has been off the booze for some time, but that hasn’t really been a showstopper. A wedding this weekend won’t be a problem either, apart from neither of us will be drinking. But we’re encountering our first social cancellations already.

We have taken stock of the situation regarding the heat and the Fat Lady’s tiredness and missed the local airshow. With the G8 conference intruding on it last year (the American Secret Service “requested” it was cancelled in the interests of security) we were looking forward to this year's show.

The second social cancellation in the same day was a 30th birthday party. More gutted about missing the latter (obviously), not least as there was an extra special celebration. Congratulations to Richard & Zoe on their happy news. No, it's not baby related, more "rock" related.

They are the first things to fall by the wayside, but not the only. And the list will go Ariston. For those who can’t remember the 1990’s advert, the Ariston goes on, and on, and on, and on, and on.

Post-birth cancellations already made include one wedding that will be missed, another looking dodgy. And then all bets are off for, what, 21 years?

And then there's one we don't quite know where it fits, because it's just before due day. The annual Leatham August BBQ is out for us, so that's our regular-as-clockwork August Bank Holiday out of the window. I must apologise to Matt as he's going to have to find a new chef! I hope the temporary replacement doesn't strike a better deal than I get! Was the word temporary emphasised enough there?

Considering nearly nothing has happened this week, this is a big read.

New car - ongoing search

It’s no secret we’re looking for a more practical car. I still love my Bug, but it’s just giving too many doubts with the shape of the boot over whether or not the pram will go in it. So far the thought scores are:

Will it? 0
Won’t it? 10,657,342

So what have we ruled out so far?

Nissan Note so far “on hold” due to the lack of testing on the car seat.

Honda Jazz due to the complete red cross against the car seat.

So what’s next? Ford Fiesta. The rock solid small car that’s been around the block a few times, yet is always there. It was my mum’s second car, our first, and the Fat Lady’s first “second” car. So we went to have a look on Friday.

No ISOFIX in my
No ISOFIX. What? In a market where the Fiesta is likely to be a firm choice for a second car (at this point we rapidly realised that we are become Mr & Mrs average Middle-England, and it scares me), when the child seat legislation changes in September, Ford are missing a trick. On further inspection across the range only the Focus II is compatible with the Maxi-Cosi Easyfix ISOFIX base without the need for seatbelts.

Ford need to get this fixed. The new Bug has had ISOFIX as standard since start of production, and this isn’t a first choice for growing families (well, not ours anyway).

As Henry would say, “any seat fixing as long as it’s a belt

The dealer was pretty good and made us feel warm and fuzzy inside over Ford. Fiesta? Specced up we might as well spend a few hundred quid more (hundred, not thousand) and get a Focus.

More thought needed.

26 July 2006

Clean Hospital?

The Edinburgh Royal Infirmary's maternity provision seems to be a target for the Edinburgh Evening News this week. In Week 35: Getting more real I posted a comment about the story they published regarding transfers. Today's topic is MRSA and the neo-natal unit's record for last year.

So what is their angle?

First off they say there have been three outbreaks. But they don't say over what time period. Is that in 2005, or since the place opened?

It came to light after four cases emerged at the end of last year. So was that four cases happened late last year, or the four cases were only passed on to the powers that be at the end of last year (ie covered up in the interim)?

A further two outbreaks in April & May where five babies were found with MRSA. Is that five across the two months, or five each month?

So there's an action plan to clean up. Fantastic, then.

It's only a small story today, so it's been edited down to leave more questions than the given facts. Am I worried about MRSA? Of course I am, but no more and no less than I was twenty minutes ago before I read this.

You can read and worry about far too much in life.

RANT: VW Western

I apologise in advance, this is becoming a major rant of mine. So why I am posting on the blog? Well, two reasons. Firstly so I have a record of events, and secondly so I have a record of events. I need the backup.

It all started in January 2001. Western VW, Edinburgh, me and The Fat Lady bought a New Beetle. And we had problems from day one. And that is NOT used as a turn of phrase, it was literally from day one.

I picked up the car after work. It was a late January day, and the weather was typically wet. On the way home I’d managed to rack up a whole 19 miles on the clock, 9 of which were on the car when I picked it up, when I needed the wipers. Shortly after they were switched on there was some thudding noise coming from them. I couldn’t stop as I was on a trunk road, dual carriageway. To cut a long story short, the grease monkey who checked the car hadn’t fitted the wipers correctly, so the rubber slid out from its housing, the thudding noise was the loose rubber hitting the side of the car. New windscreen was needed as it was scratched as a result.

Then it all started:

New windscreen in, car went in, couldn’t fit it as it had been damaged.
New windscreen in. No contact. When I went in I was told they had sent me a postcard and left a message on my answering machine. No postcard arrived, no message on the answering machine.

Car now at six months old:
Rear brakes squeaking. Car in for a looksee, no fault found. Squeaking getting rapidly worse, every time the car went in I asked for a look, “NFF”.

First service. Spare tyre never checked. Couldn’t prove it, but the stuff in the boot had never moved so it was never looked at. Service regime changed from a 12,000/annual to a 24,000/bi-annual with longlife oil due to expected increase in mileage. Asked for a litre of oil to throw in the boot, was sold oil for a diesel engine. “NFF” on squeaking brakes.

10,000 miles since first service, circa 6 months. Service warning came on, but still some way before due. In to get regime change checked, was told they carried out a 10,000 mile service and that’ll be £184, please. Errm, no chance. Oh we haven’t done the service, just changed the regime, that’ll be free. “NFF” on squeaking brakes.

Second service – car at 30,000 miles and 2 years old. “NFF” on squeaking brakes. Asked them to check service regime, all OK. Mileage covered now back down to normal. Tyres checked as part of service, recorded at 4mm tread depth both front tyres. I had a tyre changed at 17,000 miles, so one had done 30K, one 13K. I had checked them in the morning before the service, 4mm and 2mm respectively. “Oh, just a mis-type”. Aye, right. My guess is one tyre was checked and the other assumed. The trap I left for the spare tyre proved they checked it this time.
Dealer is not
measuring up
to the logo's

12 months later, service warning light after half the time and half the distance it should be set for. Complained, was told it was my “driving style”. So how come my BMW has actually increased my mileage when I drive that in a similar fashion? And it is EXACTLY half way through? ECU checked, fault in the service regime not being stored, forced and OK. “NFF” on squeaking brakes.

Car just under 3 years old, in for MoT. Squeaking brakes now doing my nut. Guess what – MoT failed on rear brakes. They were locking on. Cleaned for £65+VAT, not under warranty. 2.5 years I’d been driving a car with “NFF” yet would fail an MoT. But the fault was found in the MoT. Funny, eh?

Just before age 4 years, warning lights come on for brakes – ABS and ESP switched off. Only now and again so not too concerned, especially as only happens when wet and been sat idle for a while, and will clear will a stop/start of the engine.

Second MoT. Fail on front brakes, imbalance above legal tolerance. Second MoT failure on brakes.

July 2006 – car in for check on brakes system as warning lights coming on more often. £141 for guided diagnostics, cleaned earth connections, basically “NFF”. 3 hours later, lights back on.

Now, a detailed list of faults is being collated. There have been faults with the brakes far more than not during the ownership of this car, which was from new. I do not feel safe with The Fat Lady driving it, and Western are as much help as an unhelpful person from Unhelpfulville.

So this morning I gave the detailed list of fault warnings over the last 2 weeks and said this would be in the formal complaint I would be making regarding this car. I didn’t say it was going to VOSA, VW/Audi UK and Western’s head office, and completely bypassing the local manager. I’m expecting a call (because I was advised I would get one) from the customer service manager at Western. I wouldn’t like to be him when I offer him the opportunity to drive around in the Bug for a few days.

25 July 2006

Week 35: Getting more real

Today is 34+6, which makes tomorrow 35+0. So as the 35th week comes to a close, what's in store for the immediate future? And the next 5 weeks?

Mainly three things: Panic, panic, and panic. Sounds like Tony Blair's 1997 election priorities of "education, education and education". Turns out that was "spin, spin, and John Prescott's spin". But this panic isn't likely to do a governmental U-turn.

Ante-natal classes start up next week, not looking forward to that. With large groups I'm half expecting it to be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. I hope I'm wrong.

It's all getting a little real now, the bags are starting to get packed, the baby's room has been cleared, decorated, filled with rubbish, cleared again. This last week's highlights have been:

1) Buying the car seat
2) Fitting the car seat
3) Panic setting in over not being able to remove the base for the car seat from the ISOFIX mounts as the manual was in its own little pocket between the base and the back of the main seat, unnaccessible
4) Falling heart-rate when I got the base off without the manual
5) Washing the first clothes, knowing that the "I want to hang them on the line" cutey-cute moment will soon turn to "you hang out the f*cking washing, I've changed 7 nappies today"

Oh, joy...

And on a serious note, Edinburgh Evening News ran a story yesterday about the number of hospital transfers in and out of Simpson's (the Royal Infirmary's maternity unit) and it's quite alarming. As Simpson's is one of four Scottish super sized units with all the trimmings they take high risk and premature births from around the country. Which mean local uncomplicated births get farmed out elsewhere.

So what's the problem? Well, two things for me.
1) The possibility of getting there, parking the car, then getting whisked off to the other end of the British Isles in an ambulance. And all the while the car parking charges are racking up. No doubt I'd have to follow in the car anyway, and miss the main event.
2) One of the Evening News story's subjects was a mum who was airlifted to Manchester from Edinburgh. MANCHESTER???? As a devout Yorkshireman no child of mine will be born that side of the Pennines. Now this has scarred me.

** I actually meant to type scared me, not scarred me, on that last line. But I'll leave it as is. **

24 July 2006

Baby suppliers - moans & praise (Part 2)

Part 2 of the moans and praise "franchise". I must ask Richard what constitutes a "franchise" in the movie world (eg Pirates of the Carribean) when a "franchise" may have the same production team....

I digress. As seen in M&P Part 1 (NOT to be confused with M&P of the Mamas & Papas trademark variety) I had the bar raised on customer service by Glasgow Pram Centre. Well, this weekend it was held up there, possibly creeping higher. Hence their very own entry!

In Part 1 I said how easy it was to get the order in over the phone after the stock query, i.e. same person all the way through. The in-store operation is quite slick too, even though there is some walking about (where's the electric wheelchair when you need one, I'm a fat lazy bloater and can't be bothered walking, ya ken?)

The staff are just so helpful in there. If you need a seat fitting they'll try it out for you. The first time we went through someone was trying a Maxi-Cosi Priorifix in an Audi TT. So at least they are up for a challenge! It did remind me of one of the Yellow Pages adverts with James Nesbitt asking for a quote for his Tequila Sunrise coloured Chevrolet with seats totalling "two ;-) ".

When the order confirmation arrived in the post there was a request to phone the day before collection so they could get the warehouse prepared. The Fat Lady duly did, and on Saturday we went to collect. There are plenty of staff floating around on the shop floor for helping customers. I mean, in Dixons they are just there to pounce on you and screw you for extended warranties, but in a baby shop the chances are a lot of customers are going to be like the E-Class Jeremy Clarkson talked about (and if you don't know by now that the E-Class looks more startled than the rabbit it's about to hit then you've missed reading an important post!), so a little help and advice isn't just nice to have, it's essential.

Even the lads in the warehouse were helpful - both boxes carried out to the car for us, and put in the car for us. I felt useless, which was not the first time during The Fat Lady's pregnancy, certainly won't be the last.

The only downside is parking, there's not a lot of it at all, and it's just opposite the "Barras" to make it really tricky.

I just wish we could have got the pram there, too. Just had "special reasons" not to (thanks, Nick!)

Is it just me or is everything...


The Encyclopedia of Modern Life, by Steve Lowe & Alan McArthur, bought by Richard for my birthday earlier this year.

I would argue against the title straight away on the following grounds. Now I am travelling cattle class on the train I have no conversation in a morning or on the way home, so I get two lots of twenty-five minutes to sit and read, so in that respect life's good.

This is sometimes funny as, sometimes dull, sometimes a "whoo-there, big fella, calm yersel", sometimes "oh shit, that's ME!".

Thanks, Rich, I'm sure that was the intention! No review, just thanks!

23 July 2006

Blog "offline" for a few days

The blog will be "offline" for a few days. It'll still be there, but I'm turning comments off, not adding any new entries etc. This is to get a static point as I move to a proper host, then it'll be up 24x7.

I have no idea when it'll be back - this will be once I've transferred the templates, rebuilt it, added the customised stylesheet entries, and removed the full paths to images in favour of relative paths (don't ask me why I did this in the first place...)

Click "Continue reading..." for latest updates

[20060723 19:01]
All files moved across, site rebuilt. Leaving offline until checked out

[20060723 19:20]
Few issues with copying date archive template the wrong way (ie default over existing tailored version rather than other way around). Category & sub-category hierarchy sorted. Think I'm there, almost! TypeKey authentication token added for temporary URL and domain URL for when trasnferred.

[20060723 20:30]
Only sendmail doesn't seem to be working, apart from that all moved over. Well, that was less hassle than I thought it would be.

[20060724 13:14]
Sendmail not playing ball. May need to call in some help (nnnnnooooooooooooooooo............). Oh, and relative image paths didn't work, will try once I have a proper URL once I change nameservers.

[20060724 20:43]
Sendmail sorted, is dropping the emails into my unconfigured mailbox on the localhost when sent to my domain (as yet not transferred), so temporarily routing to a gmail address. No help needed (pheww....)

19 July 2006

Smoking ban OK to flout in stations?

I’ve had two run-ins with people over the smoking ban in Scotland this afternoon, at exactly the same place.

I have yet to see anyone break the law in a pub, but Edinburgh’s Waverley station is frequently the scene of smokers lighting up in a prohibited area.

So, this afternoon. I’m waiting by the taxi drop-off point, about 10 feet from one of the many A-frame advertising boards with the prohibition notice. An old boy (72 years old he was) had lit up at the side of me. So I pointed out he was in a no-smoking area. “But I thought it was up there”. I pointed out it was the whole station, as on that sign. Then he launched, in front of his grand-daughter, into a tirade. “72 years old I am, always smoked, never been to the doctor, and it’s do-gooders like you…” Well, that lit the blue touch-paper. He did not appreciate I was pointing this out so a member of station staff didn’t have to, and thus potentially avoiding a fine. He wouldn’t have been fined anyway, there’s a softly-softly approach in place, but that’s not really why I felt the need.

He did put it out after I walked away from his ranting, but was still muttering away under his breath.

Not two minutes later, a young chap (of an age I never established) lit up as he walked past the sign. Now this sign is around 3 feet tall, so there’s no way he missed it. I did point at it, got shrugged shoulders in response. As he turned the corner of the building two police officers also turned the same corner in the opposite direction. At which point our intrepid smoker tried to conceal his fag in his hand.
Nae smokin'...

The concealment did not have the desired effect. One of the police officers sniffed the air, looking quizzical. Once I gestured to them as if I was smoking, then pointed in the guy’s direction, one turned-about and had a quiet word. He acknowledged and said thank you.

Do I feel bad about “grassing” him up? In a way yes, I was brought up never to grass. But the indignant look he gave me when he blatantly ignored the sign made it a deserving case. I firmly believe it is a smoker’s right to smoke, but where and when legal to do so. And rightly or wrongly it is currently illegal to smoke in Edinburgh’s main station. Until such time the law is repealed it must be enforced.

And the old boy? He may well never need a doctor, but does need an anger management therapist, clearly. I hope he had a good rant when he met his daughter and got it off his chest.

All enclosed public spaces are smoke-free in Scotland. And that includes the train station at Edinburgh, which is totally covered. The only place within the station boundary where smoking is permitted is from a point circa half way up each vehicular access ramp, where the roof stops and is thus classed as open space.

18 July 2006

An old complaint resurrected

This story starts a while ago when I bought a product from a company who we’ll call “Cloud”. I had a service package from Cloud and wanted to upgrade to what we’ll call “Cloud-“. So I placed an order for Cloud- on Cloud’s website and, with a couple of minor hiccups, all was well.

Then 12 months later the fun started.

I got a phone call from Cloud saying the warranty on my Cloud- equipment was coming to an end. Did I want to buy an extended warranty? No thanks.

So then a letter arrived from a third party, who we’ll call DishyWarranties. Duly ignored, then a second arrived.

Well, this second one sparked some correspondence with Cloud as I have a policy of making sure any company I do business with do not pass on my details to anyone unless it is essential to do so in providing the service (eg Cloud had to pass on my address to the installer who turned up at my house to install the Cloud- equipment).

So DishyWarranties were not part of that circle of companies, so it got queried. Cloud denied any passing on of details, denied any possibility of a rogue employee selling data on, denied hacking as their systems were so secure and themselves suggested I contact the ICO, a threat I had already made to Cloud. Well, I was left with no option but to carry out my threat of a complaint to the ICO. My complaint was based on the fact the address label that DishyWarranties printed on the envelope they sent me had clearly showed the date I bought my equipment from Cloud. And ONLY Cloud and their authorised representatives would know that.

I made the complaint some time ago, getting a rather poor response. I never followed it up. But, today, the ICO rang me to ask if I’d make a statement against DishyWarranties as they were applying for a search warrant to raid their premises.

Too bloody right I will.

So I’m being sent a statement to return along with an evidence bag to send in the envelope for presentation to a judge.

17 July 2006

Layout changes afoot

I'm in the process of laying out individual archive indexes and pages ready for other content, so some pages may still be two column, some three, so there will be some inconsistency for a while between pages. At least I've now widened them all without trashing the individual pages!

Things still to do:
Colours - this blue looks like a cross between Windows 3.1 and an ice-pop.
Content - Content for the side bars to think about.
Banner - On the lookout for a half-decent banner.

There's no bigger adventure (Part 2)

As far as a potential new car goes I've already said the jury is out on the Nissan Note due to a lack of testing on the car seat we've bought. It's a good job we don't live in Wakefield, because there's one salesman at Harrat's who talks out of his arse.

So do most salesmen, but this one took the biscuit.

The Fat Lady hasn't seen the Note in the flesh yet, so while in Yorkshire this weekend we popped a few yards along from the hotel we stayed in to the Nissan dealer for a looksee. Inevitably we were collared by a salesman, who was obviously old-school type. Every sentence had to be finished off with "you know what I mean", which became rather irritating, if you know what I mean.

Then he went on to try the "ours is best / all others are crap" routine:
Apparently, we should have seen the 3 Micras in the other day that were all written off, even the disabled lady in one of them got out with only cuts, and all three came in to buy new Micras. Says a lot, know what I mean?

And he's had other cars that have all broken down, but his Nissans never have, know what I mean? Japanese cars are far superior, know what I mean?

So, let's try the product knowledge:
It seems so much bigger than the Beetle - "It's actually smaller chassis but bigger inside".

"So what else beyond the chassis does the Note share with the Modus?" "Nothing". "Just the chassis then?". "Not even the chassis, it's got nothing to do with the Modus, truth be known it has a Golf chassis".

Hang on - That'll be the far superior Japanese car that's built in Sunderland, on a competitor's chassis? IF it WAS a Golf chassis how could the Beetle be smaller when the Beetle was based on the then current Golf chassis? The Note and the Modus actually share chassis and engines, in part due to Renault's controlling share ownership of Nissan.

Oh, and NCAP ratings. Apparently, ALL Nissans have 4 or 5 star ratings across the board. I'll have a look at the Pathfinder with it's high bonnet and bull-bars, shall I? I seriously doubt pedestrian safety is even considered with that beast...

So that's Harrat's, Denby Dale Road, Wakefield. Know what I mean?

Pathfinder NCAP rating: Adult occupant 4*, pedestrian 2*, so fair play on that one for occupancy

14 July 2006

Baby suppliers - moans & praise (Part 1)

Baby products are big business, so shouldn’t companies who sell baby products be geared up for excellent customer service in order to win repeat business? So far we can’t fault a number of stores, but then there’s others, large and small, that need to learn a thing or two about customer service.

So who are the winners and losers in our world?

As one of the winners is on the back of a loser, I’ll go for the losers first. No doubt there will be many more along the way, hence this is “Part 1”.

That monolithic chain came in pretty badly recently. As one of the UK’s leading retailers specialising in all things human you’d expect good service here, right?

They are a leading baby product manufacturer and retailer. They have pharmacists in most stores. They have advice desks in most stores. So The Fat Lady needed some insect repellent for a recent holiday, obviously needing a pregnancy-friendly product. So Boots had a product, differently packaged but essentially the same. One not to be used, the other not stating. So off we go to the advice counter. Now to be fair, the girl we spoke to didn’t know, so went to speak to the pharmacist who was dealing with another customer but was specifically asked to see us. Now, she passed us twice to go onto the shop floor, then stared serving customers who joined the queue well after us. So we walked, and got superb advice from the pharmacist in Sainsbury’s.

All the clues were there: Pregnant lady needs help. Right, so that should send out a message - bend over backwards for her, and we’ve got all her product sales for life. Well, their loss as it transpires. And the comments from Head Office were pretty poor – it’s not procedure that needs checking it’s the individual pharmacist that needs a flea in her ear.

Baby Days Direct
After some research we decided on a particular car seat for Ripley, compatible with the cars we have, nice and safe, utilising the ISOFIX fixings. Query made by phone, I asked if I could place an order, asked firmly to do it via the website. This was mid June, with one item showing as available mid-late June. Heard nothing, chased by email, ignored, fobbed off on the phone this morning with “will pass this to the office to update you”. Similar to Boots, they have a good range of baby products available. So far no feedback a month after the order was placed, so the order has been cancelled – IF they respond to the cancellation notice (credit card company contacted to stop the charge too, just in case). Again, won’t bother with them in future.

UPDATE: As I write this post I got a phone call, despatch will be today. Oh no it won’t….

And now, the winners…
Glasgow Pram Centre
Rang to check availability of the car seat, given it is a new product I do realise supplies can be restricted. Sure, in stock. Can I order? Their first question – have you tried it in your car? Well, no I haven’t, but the Maxi-Cosi website gives it the green tick for both cars. So there’s a 20% deposit, free delivery but they are holding it in store for us as we want to go and have another scout around the place. And the girl I spoke to first dealt with the whole transaction, none of that “I’ll ask the office” malarkey. Business gained on the back of Baby Days failing miserably.

Early Learning Centre
This place is just heaven. If was religious I’d be thanking God for its very existence. I haven’t found a product in there I would not buy. So we’ve bought a paddling pool for a friend’s little ‘un (we’re going to get killed for it, it’s huge…) and even though it was 10 minutes before closing on a Sunday evening the girl behind the till was as lively and friendly as someone who’s just started a shift. I’m so going to face bankruptcy because of the ELC.

Hear Say (not just a bad 'pop' group)

How many of the horror stories relating to childbirth are actually true? Everyone knows someone who knows someone who.... well, you know the drill.

The Fat Lady got the dates for the NHS ante-natal classes the other day, and we're [a little] worried by the anecdotal tales of early births when we look at the class dates.

The main, and repeated, story we’re worried about is the “so-and-so gave up work on Friday and gave birth on Monday”. The Fat Lady is giving up work quite late to have more time with Ripley at the other side, not that there’s any firm decision on when to go back. And it’s these that seem to be higher in numbers, ie late finishers giving birth early.

So what’s the concern? With the due date on the 30th, the class dates are the four Wednesdays before. So if Ripley’s as little as a week early a class will be missed.

The solution? As with everything consult the midwife. Liz has offered to split The Fat Lady across July’s latter half and August’s first half. So we get to be daunted with two groups rather than one, and get the classes arse about face.

The final decision rests with The Fat Lady, who will be discussing the anecdotes with the midwife. After all, Liz makes a living out of this and has been there for hundreds of births, so I’d rather listen to her and her experiences rather than the second-hand anecdotes of those who’ve had one or two.

13 July 2006

Seat Rage

I’m sure 100% of regular train travellers have witnessed seat rage at some point, whether in cattle class or in First Class, but tonight’s episode just made me chuckle. Not least as the rage was over where I was sitting but I had absolutely no involvement in it at all. So how did I just sit there with an argument over the seat I was in without being involved?

The argument was between a young woman who I had sat next to and an elderly man (I refrain from using the word gentleman) sat opposite, who shall hereonin be known as “Mr Grumpy”

Before I sat I asked if anyone was sat there, she said no, moved her bags, and that’s when Mr Grumpy kicked off. Thankfully as I sat down my phone rang so I just caught the main bullet points.

Apparently, when this young woman got on there were two people sat next to each other in those two seats already, but she had one of them booked, against the window. So she had said “I have a seat booked here”, and promptly both passengers moved elsewhere. Now if this were me I’d assume they were together and both moved to be next to each other. So did she, and thought nothing of it until I sat down.

Mr Grumpy started a tirade against her, saying she had said that both seats were booked and asked why she moved his friend when she was sat in the aisle seat. At this point the miscommunication became clear, and she wasn’t taking it, so tried to convey her assumption based on the fact they both moved.

Eventually it calmed down. Later, she spoke across to apologise for shouting at Mr Grumpy, who launched into round two. Seconds away…

Anyway, she took a turn, launching back at him in a firm, un-emotive, yet factual manner. Mr Grumpy said he assumed (wrongly) that one of the passengers that moved was with her, ie the one who wasn’t his pal. So she asked: If he was with me why did he move? If he was with me why was he already on-board ahead of me? If he was with me why did I say I had a seat booked rather than we have seats booked? Did you hear me say we? I said I had a seat booked, not we had seats booked.

At that point Mr Grumpy shut up, having lost completely. Both her and I found it hard to contain the laughter, but we managed.

Morales of the story: If you want to sit down on a busy train book a seat. If you want to sit with a pal book two seats. If you get asked to move out of someone’s booked seat, do so with grace. “We” does not equal “I”. And if a matter does not concern you, shut the f^ck up.

11 July 2006

NCT Classes

For a first-time set of parents the ante-natal classes should be the lifeline that answers the “what are we doing” questions. Or so I think they should, sitting here not having been through them yet. What I expect and what will happen may be two different things entirely, and at least if prepared with this in mind then I guess it can’t be so bad, for either of us.

We were advised to go to the NCT classes as these were really good. So we looked them up and tried to book a place.

Now it has to be remembered here that the NCT classes differ greatly from the NHS ones. And they cost a little. But as we had been strongly advised we tried to book.

Our local branch had a series of classes starting in May and finishing mid-June. These were on a weekend, and of the four weekends we were on holiday for two and had family up for another, so not really an option. Plus it's almost 3 months until the due date. The next set – mid September. September? What? Apparently people don’t want to have classes over the summer as they’d rather be on holiday.

That’s some holiday period. So no women give birth for a whole three months? I can’t see that being the only reason. I’d be more inclined to think it’s a case of shortage of trainers during the summer as they are on holiday, rather than a lack of pregnant women.

Either way, we’ve missed the boat. September’s too late for classes as the real thing will be here. NHS only it is…

What's in a name?

Name choices will stick with Junior for quite some time, hopefully beyond the 3 score year and ten marker. So I can see why there can be some degree of agony to get through when it comes to picking a name for a newborn child.

I’m going through this for the first time with The Fat Lady and would hate to think anyone with 2,3 or more have this much grief with subsequent children.

We’ve done everything to try and get inspiration. Even watching the World Cup we’ve gone through players names. Even Zinedine wasn’t 100% ruled out, well not until “that” head-butt.

We bought a name book from Borders. Biggest waste of money ever. We thought it was just that book, so we’ve been sneaking looks at others, and to be honest they’re all, well, shite. Totally cool if you are looking for some ancient Hebrew name that hasn’t been used for half a millennia, otherwise they are just going to become recycled paper.

The subject has been visited three times now, if memory serves me right. Although two of them are so close I may call it one elongated discussion.

The first was the whole “do we need to do this” denial thing. So we drew up separate shortlists and compared them. Not a massive disaster, there was some overlap, but for names we had low on our lists. So the denial returned and it was put on the back-burner.

There’s really one thing that any name has to stand up to and that’s the playground test. Thankfully I have a very good friend who still mentally live in a playground, so there’s a good tester there. One we hadn’t thought of was the accent test. We had a girl’s name just about sorted, but we were advised against due to the local accent dropping a crucial “t”. I would consider moving…

So now I’m wondering what other tests there are. Sure, there’s the surname test – will a first name flow with a surname? But that’s a given, isn’t it? All we seem to do is eliminate names, often for odd reasons – “I didn’t like a xxx at school”. AAARRRGGGHHHHHHH!

I don’t know why we’re agonising so much over this. When Junior is born s/he may not look like an x but more of a y. And then they’ll grow out of it anyway, and I’ll remember the wrong decision when I go and register (on my head be it…)

For now Ripley will have to do.

09 July 2006

Week 20: Ultrasound Scans

The NHS recommend that mums get ultrasound scans twice during pregnancy, around the 13 and 20 week markers. The exact dates can vary from trust to trust. The NHS like to stress these are optional and are only offered. However, I’d like to have been “offered” a 20 week scan. But our NHS trust is run by penny-pinching busybodies.

Now I always thought the problem was a Scottish one, but this was my ignorance due to only having had experience of one NHS trust north of the border. It turns out it’s a Lothian problem.

The QIS arm of the NHS recommended that the second scan be given as standard, as a vehicle to check for growth and for any abnormalities forming. That report was submitted in February 2004.

23wk PRIVATE scan
The Fat Lady was 20 weeks gestation in April 2006, some 26 months after the recommendation. But there was no 20 week scan offered. Apparently the Lothian NHS trust is “awaiting guidance from the Scottish Executive on how to proceed”. I’m no medical expert but I do know a thing or two about processes. My view may be a little simplistic, but the process exists already to book a new mum in for the booking appointment, so it should be easy enough to tag on a second appointment for 6 weeks later at the same time, or even to make another appointment at the booking appointment when that shows a more accurate set of dates. I reckon I could, without any medical knowledge whatsoever, come up with the paperwork changes in a matter of hours.

The only reason I can comprehend for the refusal to comply is hard cash. And with the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary having been built under the Private Finance Initiative I can’t see any easy solution while they have a massive “mortgage” over their heads. Even the car park is a bone of contention…

The scan here is at 23 weeks, done privately

Week 15: Blood Tests

One major decision we had to make was the blood tests offered around the 15 week marker. These are to determine the risk of Downs and Edwards syndromes.

The NHS is very keen on saying these blood tests are not conclusive but only give an indication. Most literature will say that around 1 in 20 tests will come back high risk, and further tests are required. If this happens, don’t panic, it may need a scan or at worst an amniocentesis. The chances are these will come back OK, the odds are certainly in your favour. Put it this way, if it was a horse you’d be stupid not to back it.

There’s plenty of information on both conditions, what the NHS gave us was pretty good, and there’s always extra help on the web. With that, I’m not going to rewrite anything else.

What this post is for is to give one bit of advice. And that is to ask yourselves “why are we having the test?”. There is absolutely no point in having the test unless you have discussed in advance what your actions will be if the results come back with either risks or certainties.

We had the test, and the discussion before the test. We had put our theoretical Downs baby years into the future once we’d died. And that’s what helped made our decision. We couldn’t have our child institutionalised because they had nobody to reciprocate the unconditional love they had to give. You may just want to know in advance to prepare your lives for the arrival of a Downs or Edwards baby. You may just think it unfair to have a Downs or Edwards baby in today’s world, never mind 40 or 50 years from now. For me personally it was hard because it conflicts with my view on abortion. For me terminations shouldn’t be taken lightly, it shouldn’t ever be for cosmetic or contraceptive reasons, but I do recognise a place for terminations in rape cases, serious abnormalities, significant health risks to the mother or baby etc.

Discuss what you’ll do before you take the test. It was the most difficult discussion we’ve ever had, but we had the luxury of that discussion being in a time that was not emotional, it was not clouded by a devastating result. That way we knew that if we stuck to that decision our conscience would be clear in the knowledge we had made it without being under that emotional strain.

Anyway, the test result came back as a low risk, and that discussion was rendered purely academic. But I’m glad we had it before the test, I would not relish the thought of having it after getting a high risk result. And it reassured the pair of us that we were like minded, so it was a bonding moment too.

Remember, it’s not a horse, but if it was the sensible money is on "All-Clear" at 1000/1 odds-on favourite.

07 July 2006

Rising energy prices

Well we're all fed up with rising energy costs, but have we actually looked at how much the rises cost when they are compounded?

It's like the good old compound interest rates, paying interest on interest. So how does a rising cost equate, exactly? What on earth am I talking about?

Sure enough my energy supplier, whom I've been with all of three weeks and hasn't even started collecting my direct debit, has whacked its prices up again. That is now 3 times in the last 8 months. This rise is 18% for gas and 21% for electricity. If I remember rightly the rise in April was a similar amount, which is why I cancelled a transfer to them back then. Fool I was thinking 2 rises 6 months apart might mean another 6 months before the next one - WRONG!

So, without getting right into the actual prices of my supplier, let's take a hypothetical scenario and price, but base it on npower's rise schedule.

Does a 20% rise followed by a 20% rise followed by a further 20% rise equate to a 60% rise? It does not, no. Remember that "interest on interest" thing when repaying a loan? The same goes here, the rise is based on the current price, not the previous price. So if a price has just gone up 20% twice, then the second rise is 20% of the original price plus 20% of the last rise. With me?

Let's start off in Ocober 2005, when fictitious "npw" energy charge 100p per unit for energy. They whack up the cost by 20%, so you're now paying 120p. That's (120-100=20)p more than you were paying for it in October before the rises. That's 20%, so far so good.

April 1st, and the joke is another 20% rise. But that's 20% of the 120p you're paying now, so the rise is 24p, now you're paying 144p. That's 44p more than in October before the rises, which is 44%. That's a new increase of 20% of the original (20p) plus 20% of the last rise (4p) when you compare to the original cost of 100p rather than the current cost of 120p.

July, and another 20% rise. that's 20% on the current price of 144p, so a 28.8p rise, new cost 172.8p. That's a massive 72.8% more than before the rises in October.

So what am I saying? What I'm saying is this*: To hide bigger rises the energy companies are giving us frequent "smaller" rises. While most people will see three successive 20% rises as 60% the true figure is 72.8%. If they stuck with an annual rise then that 72.8% rise is what they'd have to increase the initial 100p cost by to match three successive 20% rise. And for four 20% rises (which nPower customers are facing within the space of 12 months)? Is that 80%? By now you should be saying "no, it's a whopping 107.36%".

Watch out for companies doing "small" but frequent rises, it may be worse than a single larger rise.

* That so sounds like Tony Blair - apologies!

Hormonal Cry Chart

So what do the dads do to occupy themselves while the mums are pregnant? For me it's the "Hormonal Cry Chart".

The chart is something of an icon in our kitchen, sometimes having frequent "chalk-ups" and other times going without for quite some time.

Before I go any further the advice has to be remember that not every woman or indeed every pregnancy is the same. That will be repeated quite a bit with any entry in the dads category.

So I went and found my boundaries. I have a healthy relationship with the Fat Lady, and what I can get away with is quite comprehensive. Although I guess coming home with Katey Price would be frowned upon, more so because I'd have to be more drunk than a drunk thing from Drunksville to come home with Katey Price. And the two things I can get away with are (a) naming her The Fat Lady and (b) the creation of the "Hormonal Cry Chart".

The Fat Lady can be a bit weepy at times anyway. But certain stages of the pregnancy have brought these out more frequently. The tail end of the first trimester was a rough time, the second trimester was serious work for me (as she wouldn't cry) and now well into the third it's back to being a bit more weepy than normal.

So what counts as a "chalk-up"? All the chart is is is a gate style counter on the blackboard in the kitchen, four vertical bars scored through with a fifth diagonal bar. Any crying session brough about by conversation that sets her off is a "chalk-up", giving one bar on the chart.

And the type of conversation that gets her going?

  • Being nice to her
  • Being really nice to her
  • Not giving her "empathy" when she loses the hamster
  • Talking about Fry's dog*
  • Talking about the dogs an old dear left when she died who were rescued by the RSCPA**

    * Fans of Futurama may recall Fry's dog's DNA turning up and Fry refusing to have him cloned as he lived for longer without him with a new family, when in reality the dog grew old waiting outside the pizza place for Fry to come home, a modern Greyfriar's Bobby story

    ** Or SSPCA, can't remember if it was Scotland or not. But this one created a bar at double width as this wasn't a crying session but a sobbing session.

    We have developed rules on what can count:

  • Tears welling up isn't enough. They have to spill over. A single drop is enough.
  • It has to be because of a conversation I partake in. I have to have said something to help the tears along, either deliberately or otherwise. Usually it's deliberate.

    So there we have it, the "Hormonal Cry Chart". Future options are also to record the volume level of the crying, whether dad got hit, time started, duration etc. The graphing capabilities with this sort of meta-data are endless.

    Disclaimer: If you try a HCC with your partner just heed that warning above. I'll take no responsibility for kitchen knives being used to remove various body parts.

  • MCP Welcome Kit

    I got my MCP certification at the end of March, about time I got some certificates. For the non-technical that's the Microsoft Certified Professional qualification.

    Well, when I say qualification, I'm sceptical about the whole thing.

    I managed a score of 968, whatever that means. A pass is at xxx, from xx questions that may or may not be marked. And that's all Bill's boys say. Questions may be added to the test for the purpose of gathering statistics but may not count towards your final score, which is OK if you got it wrong but a waste if you got it right.

    So there's nothing in the exam which says how the scores are calculated, what the maximum score is, what each question is worth, whether all questions are equal in value. A stark contrast from school & university exam questions.

    So xx questions in, 50 minutes from a maximum of 165 minutes, and I leave the exam. A score of 968 out of some unknown number meant nothing to me. But I'd passed, and that's all that matters.

    So why the scepticism? I swotted up on some elements of Xp that I'd never touched before, namely VPN settings for one. Sure enough I was asked a couple of questions on VPN, which I guess I got right, but I still haven't ever touched a VPN setting in my puff.

    But as long as I can still show an ability to learn I'll be happy to shove it on the CV.

    Even the logo isn't valid - the border's non-existent and you have to set your own to MS specification! (whoops, haven't done that yet)

    Oh, that welcome kit. Apologies for digressing into the exam itself. As a newly qualified MCP I was entitled to get a welcome kit. And the contents were:

  • A Pin badge (actually OK as the pins are replaced by magnets so there are no holes through your shirt, not that there ever were holes in any shirts because I've never seen one worn).
  • A swipe card with name. MCP ID and date certified on it. For what purpose I've yet to see

  • Certificate personally signed by Big Bill himself.

  • Voucher for money off the MCP store, where you can buy goods branded with your relevant qualification at discount price, then pay US-dispatched only shipping costs, VAT and import duties.
  • What a let-down. Now if there was a free MSDN subscription for the first year after qualification that would be worth having...

    [2006-07-11] Editing the scores out so as not to fall foul of the non-disclosure agreement you have to sign in blood before taking the test

    Learning CSS & MT in one go

    Before I started this test blog ( I call it test 'cos I don't know if it will live and breath in the real world just yet) I hadn't even looked at a Cascading Stylesheet before. With Richard giving me some encouragement to get on with it I've looked at how MT hangs together, and with the changes I've made so far it's been a bit of a steep learning curve.

    I don't like text editors, especially when I don't know the lingo. But, with some references back to some entries that are easy to work out, a little trial and error, and some web searches I'm slowly getting there.

    A number of sites have been useful in their own realm, but the one I get most help from, both in terms of (a) how things work and (b) hints and tips is And I've seen a few MT tags that could be used, even if just to play with to see if they'd be useful or not.

    HTML is another one, I like the old-fashioned WYSIWYG methods like Frontpage and HoTMetal. But, I've seen some tools for verification of CSS and HTML, so I'll give some of these a try.

    I'm trying to learn something new to me here. Surely it can't be as bad as being a new parent, can it?

    Right, my problems so far:
    Column widths. I couldn't get any column to change width until I spotted two entries for the column widths in the default MT stylesheet. You guessed it, I was changing the first one I found, not knowing there was a second further down overwriting the first. Once I found the second itwas so frustrating to learn it wasn't anything I was or wasn't doing but purely down to duplicate entries on the provided sheets.

    Column widths (2). Try as I might I can't get that middle column to change width at all. Maybe there's something else I haven't yet spotted, but I will find it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday.

    Column widths (3). Spotted a pattern here yet? With two days of messing about with dynamic and static column widths I'm not exactly sure if this is a non-issue or not. Frankly I've lost the will to live. But I did try and set columns at 180 / 400 / 180 pixels wide, which by my reckoning is 760 pixels. So why my 760px banner went well wide of the main body is beyond me, reducing it to 730 pixels matched perfectly. Even with the 5px border on each side (total 10) 730+10=740, not 760. Better check I'm not using an early Pentium-60.

    For now the standard style stays with a few tweaks being added now and again.

    06 July 2006

    Is the teaching of basic manners dead?

    Yesterday I had my first chest-puffing experience as a protective dad.

    Just to set the background, The Fat Lady is still travelling First Class on the train, whereas I'm not sure of my base yet, so I'm slumming it. Last night on the way home The Fat Lady decided to keep me company in the ghetto, considering Virgin Trains have no real First Class service. So, there we are at the platform 20 minutes before departure, with the train in at the platform and the doors locked awaiting crew.

    Well, we were first to the end door. Then along comes "Mr Wannbe Trendy" with his rolling suitcase shortly after us. And he stands right there in front of us, and proceeds to constantly look up and down the train for any sign of the doors opening. By this time a queue (amazingly it wasn't a scrum) starts to form. So after we'd been there for around 15 minutes the doors unlock, and "Mr Wannabe Trendy" charges for the door.

    I cut around him, blocking his path with my left arm.

    "Excuse me, but the pregnant lady who was here before you will be getting on the train before you."

    "I don't have a problem with that, I've just got a bag to get on."

    And that's where the conversation ended. Not like a bag is a major problem these days so his excuse was pathetic.

    Anyway, what made my day was the lady who sat in front of us turning round and saying "well done" to me as she sat down. The Fat Lady, on the other hand, was mortally embarrased.

    Tough crap - I was brought up with manners. And so will Junior. Shame "Mr Wannabe Trendy" wasn't.

    29 June 2006


    Well, I have a dilemma over Sky. My gripes with them are no secret, having allowed themselves or one of their agents to pass on my details to a third party when it's against their policy to do so. Needless to say I haven't been a Sky customer for some time as a result.

    So now they are trying to entice me back.

    Three offers so far:

    1. 6 months half price for coming back for 6 months

    2. Free refurbished Sky+ box if I need it, for coming back for 6 months

    3. Some other thing I can't remember but it's in the bucket

    My SKy+ box is in need of a new drive as the one it has is fried. But that 6 months half price does look tempting, the whole shooting match for £21.50 a month.

    Right, sensible head on, the offer expires today. So that 6 months runs out on 29th December, right in the middle of the Christmas & New Year film season and additional football fixtures. So you get suckered in to the full price, which may rise on 1st September.

    Have they been punished enough? Well, like they care two hoots, I was told gladlly to report them to the ICO, who, incidentally, have less bite than a newborn baby. It would be nice to have the Sky+ back, and it would be useful for the fat lady before Jr arrives.

    / takes time to weigh up options /

    No thanks, card in the bucket. Going to have our own entertainment from the end of August.

    28 June 2006

    Fatherhood: The Truth

    The only book I’ll ever read on being a father is Marcus Berkmann’s “Fatherhood The Truth”.

    It’s comedy, tragedy, documentary. Yes, it shamefully tries to be everything except a medical manual, and manages quite well.

    The pages are packed with insightful information on what do expect during and after the pregnancy, complications, how to deal with them, urges, feelings, fending off untimely visitors.

    Marcus Berkmann, what a guy

    It has spawned a new phrase in our household. Whenever the marital rights are not forthcoming I am reminded that “my need for a man has lapsed”.

    There is an imbalance in the book that I spotted. The chapter “Piss, Shit and Vomit” amounts to only ten pages or so. I expect in real life this will be a much, much bigger proportion of life ahead.

    I’m no literary type, but this I enjoyed. Maybe it was the comic angle on almost everything, apart from the really worrying stuff (amniocentesis, anyone?).

    It isn’t just his own experiences in there, there are others too, all from his friends and family. If the network of people around us are well matched to his, we’ll do well.

    Life on the ocean(?) wave...

    Recently had a week with a boat from Snaygill and have been more than impressed.

    We managed to get from Skipton up to the summit level into Lanacashire (spit), through the Foulridge tunnel, turned about, into Shipley and back to base within the week. That's 50-odd sets of locks, too many swing bridges, 7 days of glorious sunshine and 4 chilled-out people.

    4mph? Eh? OK...
    Do NOT go on a stag booze cruise with one of their boats, they've just had a bad experience with one on our last night. Boat due back at dusk (no cruising after dark), speed limit 4mph, slow for moored boats, no drink-driving. Every rule broken. And then they thretened to throw the owner of the boatyard in the canal.

    But, for the standard law-abiding intelligent people, their boats are fine. Clean, tidy, one small mechanical problem with the engine got sorted quickly. Makes a big difference dealing with a family run firm. We used almost everything on board and didn't miss anything that wasn't there.

    Wanted to do this sort of holiday since being a kid, but never got round to it. Once we'd found our shipmates (Jared [Admiral of the fleet] & Joe) we, well I, started the worrying. "How do we operate the locks", "how does the boat handle with the steering point in the middle and the tiller going the wrong way?", "reversing - ARRRGGHHHHH"

    Snaygill gave us basic training on the boat, all the gear on-board as well as handling, mooring, swing bridge operation. And they had a chap meet us at the first set of locks to talk us through it (though he was strictly hands-off). And then the fun started...

    Nearly every set of locks was different - only down to the format of the ground paddles though.
    Nearly every swing bridge was different too. And god forbid you take your finger off the button of the automated ones.

    Foulridge tunnel was an experience. 18 minutes through, 23 back. I took it through, Jared brought it back - and he's the faster driver! With only a window of 10 minutes to enter the tunnel every hour we were lucky to make it to the green light on the return leg after turning in the first winding hole.

    What amazed me more than anything was the difference in bank-side scenery. We had the lot - town centre in Shipley and Skipton, mill conversions in Stockbridge, industry on Barnoldswick (pronounced Barlick), open wilderness, leafy corridors, new housing, established housing. And all it took was the turn of a corner for it to change.

    Both Snaygill and British Waterways were fantastic. I can't wait to get back on the Leeds & Liverpool, perhaps next time for 2 weeks to get down the Wigan flight and into Leeds. A big shout-out goes to Barry at the Bingley Five for getting us back up with the over-sized Tiggerish Moments.

    27 June 2006

    There's no bigger adventure than having kids

    So if you've seen any block of adverts on ITV in the last 3 months you'll have seen the Nissan Note is the only car you'll ever need. Unless you're prone to forgetting the baby.

    And so far the jury is out as far as Nissan are concerned.

    The Note is manufactured in Sunderland, so if you fancy helping the local UK economy it's a wise choice. Unlike it's sister, the Renault Modus, whose French factory shuts down in August, just in time for the UK plate change.

    So what's the verdict on the Note? Well, the jury's out. A couple of question marks remain, and I'm going to offer my services to Nissan to give them advice on how to look at customer progression through their website. It started like this:

    I'm looking at Nissan's site at the Note. Under "New Cars" that is. So I click on find my dealer, post code in, whizz-bang-boom and my nearest dealer is displayed. 20 mile round-trip to find out they don't sell cars anymore, just do authorised repairs. WHAT? Back on the site, and sure enough, tiny icons to that effect. So I find my nearest dealer, then look for the tiny icons which state "I sell new cars for customers who look under new cars section for a dealer". The salesman asked how I found him. He was puzzled I found them on Nissan's site, he had a customer that same morning who couldn't. So I'm not the only one with a problem then?

    The car seems to fit the bill. The question marks are:

    The carseat hasn't got the tick yet - awaiting testing - with a brand new car why haven't Nissan pushed to get it signed off?

    To be fair, the salesman did try and find out, but hit a brick wall. All Nissan UK try to do is push the customer down the route of using the "Nissan Approved" seat. Sorry, not an option.

    Jazz it up

    So here starts the new dads guide to buying a new car.

    Stick with the one you've got.

    And here ends the new dads guide to buying a new car.

    So why did we consider the Jazz? Size and flexibility, for a reasonable price, if there is such a thing as a reasonable price for a new car in the UK. I haven't really seen it advertised but the sales staff were keen to push it down the family route, which is ideal for us.

    Now, we are putting the cart before the horse, but the cart will be used in our two current cars and a replacement, so yes it does come first. But the carseat we have chosen for Jr is not compatible with the Jazz.

    I have my opinions on how the S should not be used in ISOFIX if seat manufactures and car manufactures produce incompatible products when working to the same "standard". But, realistically, this covers the fixings only, and excludes other items such as height from footwell of seat, seat angle, under-feet storage, all of which count towards that tick.

    Anyway, the Jazz is out as the seat has got a big fat cross. And I thought this was going to be easy.

    First time Dad

    With the impending arrival of Ripley in what seems like tomorrow, I've been wandering aimlessly through catalogues, brochures and shops with a Jeremy Clarkson Mercedes E-Class look.

    The only car that looks more startled than the rabbit it's about to hit.

    There have been some happy times, some "WTF" times, and some pure frustration at seemingly family-oriented product manufacturers being unable to comprehend that their products are, well, unsuitable for families. I'll use the Dads category to keep a track of anything I found useful, to extol the virtues of the helpful ones, and to offer constructive criticism for those who need it. Oh, and to flame those who well and truly deserve it.

    I suppose I’ll have to start by trawling back over the ramblings I’ve made on the FOB and pull them into some meaningful format. Anyway, that’s a job for another day.

    Nagging over...

    Well, after months of nagging from Richard I've finally got a test Blog up and running.

    So far it's on a server that is up and down like a whore's drawers, but then it's only for me to play around with at the moment. Depending on how things go I might create a whole new blog somewhere else, export this one over, or there again I might just give it up. But I've had plenty of encouragement (aka nagging) from Rich, so I might just have a bash.

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