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When you are: 2008

25 December 2008

Merry third Christmas

It's our third family Christmas! So we should be old hat at this by now, right?


It hasn't been a disaster on the Eastender's Queen Vic scale, but a mini-disaster nonetheless.

The little lad has had a great day so far. He's currently asleep after a hard morning of present opening. He needed absolutely no encouragement this morning when he saw the huge pile Santa left last night. He even helped pass presents over to his Mummy, Granny and Grandpa too. Although "passing" became a bit too much of a chore and quickly turned into "throwing". Not good for the Ming Vase that Granny got.

We have gone a little on the conservative side for food this year. We always get our meat from M&S, after gradually reducing it from a wholesale shop to meat only over the years. Only this year that's gone too. The near £50 bird was on in Aldi for £13 - same prep and stuffing, just frozen. As it turns out that's the best decision we've made.

Why? Because on Monday night our fridge freezer packed in. Fridge was warm, freezer was defrosting quite nicely by the time we spotted it on Tuesday night. EVERYTHING out. Except the food in the freezer in the garage, which included the Aldi bird. Had we got the meat from M&S that would have been out too. So no only did we save £37, we saved buying another bird too! OK, there have been some hairy scary moments not finding sausagemeat until the last minute, but then a disaster on this scale wouldn't be without its problems.

With plenty of cool bags, ice blocks, the very kind use of our neighbour's garage fridge, and our beer fridge, we've managed quite well. And with the economy going the way it is, we may going into Comet and offer them half the asking price of a new American style fridge freezer. If ours is going to cost too much to repair, then we may as well!

Our frozen bird left the freezer last night at teatime, overnight in a cool room - sorted. Only it was too icy for lunch, so we've moved lunch to dinner. No disaster, but MOTS did point out the irony of it:

Our freezer broke down and our turkey is still frozen

Merry Christmas!

19 December 2008

Terror Monday

There's something fundamentally wrong starting a post off entitled "Terror Monday" when it's Friday.

So what is it?


Ahh! The spelling. Terramundi!

So at this point in time there should be one person who is now cringing. We'll start off with a true story about a chap who we'll call "Gonzo" ('cos he's a muppet too) and his experience of a terramundi. Then we'll go onto ours. I only want to make Gonzo's wife (who we'll call, errm "Mother Theresa" - 'cos she has to care for the sick and lame to be married to Gonzo) chuckle at the memory. Unless it's still too painful, in which case I'll get a good kicking for this one.

Many, many moons ago, Gonzo had gone out on the beer. As usual, there was some home-time drama. Had he forgotten his keys? Had he forgotten to keep enough cash to pay the taxi? Had he forgotten where he lived? Had he forgotten he was meant to stay at his folks rather than go home? Had he forgotten his wife, leaving her in the pub? I swear, ALL real events, that last one was an absolute beauty.

Whichever it was, our intrepid reveller didn't have cash to pay the taxi driver. So after he got into the house, the only source of cash he could find was Mother Theresa's terramundi. Now these are not your average money box, they need to be broken to get the cash out. Taxi driver, Mother Theresa - who will give me most grief? Correct, ---SMASH--- goes the fired clay all over the lounge floor. Scramble goes Gonzo to rumage in the dust for enough to pay the taxi.

Not only did he smash it to bits but Gonzo also left the mess of her terramundi for Mother Theresa to clean up. Now that's just not cricket, is it? Ungentlemanly conduct, umpire.

So when Gonzo and Mother Theresa bought us a terramundi for Christmas the same year I had bought MOTS one, we decided to use them as a sort of race. I remember her wish, she remembers mine, and we set about saving. Nothing regular, just when we had coins, as we passed them, drop "chink", another £1 coin in mine, another £2 coin in MOTS'.

I need to start saving £50 notes, dear.
And so for almost 3 years the race has been on. And now, the end is near, and as I raise, the flattened hammer. That must have been something going through Mother Theresa's mind when she found hers smashed - raising a flattened hammer to Gonzo's head. Mind you, he would never have felt it!

And so the counting began.

Initial estimates before smashing:
OK for £500, delighted with £600, over the moon with £700. Same applied for each vessel, so we were hoping between us to have in the region of a grand upwards.

From the off it was clear the £2 coin was the champion. With less wasted space between coins it was obvious, really. But just how much had MOTS whooped my ass by?

It took longer for me to count because:

  1. I had twice as many coins to get the same value

  2. My coins are smaller but my hands are bigger

  3. I'm just plain slow

Don't insert your pound coins now, they may not count but may still be charged.

And with that the results are in.

£1 coins: 603 - I'm delighted.
£2 coins: 442 - in your face, MOTS!

Eh? What's that?

442 coins? That's - yes, 884 of our Great British pounds. OK, my ass is whooped.

And until the bank opens in the morning the coins are stashed in the rottweiller's bed!

Looking back, they were started just as I'd knocked MOTS up, so we were never going to get the wishes we'd made for the cash. No currency can buy what we had tonight with the boy though (hiding under the duvet - who are you hiding from, son? "Santa, ssshhhhhh!". During pregnancy they became Ripley's jars, but I'm sure the whole family will get something nice. We'll get our multi-room audio, he'll get a nice cabin bed, and if there's anything left we'll see about going out one night. And that's the biggest treat of all!!

14 December 2008

Doped up on smack

That's it, I'll get the whack around the ear from MOTS right now, get it over and done with.

There, that's better. Now a full explanation over who, what and why a class A drug comes into things. And why this class A drug brought about a great day out yesterday.

The Scottish Railway Preservation Society - MOTS and I went on a tour with them a few years ago up to Mallaig way up the West Highland Line. And since having one that is almost on obsession with a certain little blue tank engine we have made use of their services again.

Now let it be said I've always had a thing for old trains. MOTS will testify that at the NRM in York I can get lost in the warehouse for hours on ends - so I suppose it's not just the engines, the lines, but the whole shooting match.

I digress. Back to the smack. No tenuous link, no Radio 1 20 thousand steps to get from A to B. Nice and simple:
Cocaine, product of the coca plant
Coca-Cola, originally a product of cocaine origin
Santa, product of the Coca-Cola company (well, the red suit is, the guy himself is real enough)

And there we have it. Yesterday we met the jolly one on a special steam train service from Bo'Ness to the North Pole.

It's either a right of passage or it's taught at nursery. Either way we haven't given him much introduction the to busiest guy in December, so to see that he knows who Santa is, if not quite understands what he is or does, is something I'm amazed at.

Yelling down the platform our little guy was, at the big guy in the red suit. Yelling down the carriage our little guy was, at the big guy in the red suit carrying teh sack of presents. But when Santa sat next to him he went all shy. SHY?? Until he got his present, then after a very quick and quiet "thank you" he knew what do to - get that paper off in as short a time as possible. There's no chance of going eco-friendly at Christmas in this house, no chance of not using miles of paper - oh no, that seems to be the fun part.

Our second trip to the North Pole was a success (even the fall off the train onto the platform - that's a story only for social services in my defence). It's always a thrill to see Santa himself, and we're thankful he can come to visit us when he's so busy.

Although I don't mid helping him out - if he doesn't eat the goodies we'll leave for him on Christmas Eve I'll make sure they find a good home!

Oh, SRPS - one final note. They are spot on with their presents. No cheap rubbish, and wholly appropriate for the age. Worth every penny, and knowing they are making some money to keep a piece of our industrail* heritage alive is amazing.

* I made a typo here, the spell checker picked it up. Having seen the typo I have decided not to correct it!

He's once, twice, three times Houdini

It has begun. Houdini is in the house, ladies and gentlemen!

This afternoon's nap was a mini adventure. In the cot, out of the cot, in the cot, out of the cot, in the cot, out of the cot, in the cot, out of the cot. All "ins" aided, all "outs" unaided.

Yes, that's it, he's not only discovered he can climb out of his cot, he does it four times to prove he's an expert at it. FOUR times he was out this afternoon. FOUR TIMES.

After getting back from our Sunday swim he was asleep in the car, so straight to bed rather than have lunch and then go. So while MOTS and I sat having ours, with boy wonder fast asleep (sic) we heard his bedroom door handle. "Is he in his cot, or in the bed" I enquired. The bed being the inflatable mattress that's been up for a while for "sick" sleeps. "Cot" replied MOTS. Oh dear then, he's climbed out. But there was no thud. So I went to investigate. And there, at the top of the stairs, still in his grobag, looking very proud of himself, was the Houdini Jr.

So why no thud? No crash, No scream?

And this is where Tumbletots comes in. He's been taught how to climb down as well as up. So when we saw how he was climbing it was no surprise that he was doing it safely. Standing in the corner gives two side to hold onto. Knee over the corner, foot over, bodyweight shifted and trailing leg over, lowered down with arms hanging on to the top. Escape complete.

And every time he climbs out he looks so proud.

One conversion to a bed coming up... it's been a long time coming but it's finally here.

11 December 2008

Baby's first...proper conversation

This morning I had what I consider to be the first proper conversation with my son. Sure we have questions and answers, and up to three word sentences. While this wasn't a conversation about the state of the global economy, nor was it totally interactive, bi-directional, a true dialogue.

I normally phone home on a Thursday and Friday morning to see how he is, what time he got up, if he's in good spirits. This morning I hadn't even seen MOTS as she had gone through to him at 4 this morning on a mission reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan - the puppy hunt. She stayed there, so I left without saying goodbye to anyone. I rang a little earlier than normal, firstly interrupting a nappy change, so rang back in the middle of breakfast.

MOTS put the boy on. The first voice on the phone was his:

BOY: "Hiya." DADDY: "Hello, son. What are you doing?" BOY: "Breakfast. Milk." Daddy was about to ask "And what else?" but got headed off: BOY: "Water." DADDY: "And your water, too?" "What's the story in..." BOY: "It's a bus." DADDY: "Is there a bus in Ballamory?" BOY: "Bus, bus!" DADDY: Something mushy... BOY: "Bye bye Daddy." Two noises down the phone as he kisses it.

A fully structured conversation, I'm well chuffed this morning.

08 December 2008

I wanna walk like you, talk like you, too

We had a family trip to the zoo last weekend, the second time MOTS and I have been, and the first we've been since we became three.

I'm no fan of the zoo - any zoo. The last time there the big cats were pacing, the chimps were bored, and it was a shame to see them like that. The penguins seemed happy as Larry though. Anyway, this time was much better.

It was so cold last Saturday. And because it was St Andrew's day on Sunday their entrance fee was waived - hence we paid to go on Saturday because it would be less busy.

And so it was. There was hardly a crowd anywhere.

What hit the spot with the little guy then? Well, first up were the penguins. He's well into mimicking animals (and yes that includes Daddy), so walks like a penguin when we ask what they do. He was amazed watching them dive and swim, as was I - I'd forgotten just how fast they can swim.

We worked our way up the hill, the big cats have more room now, so much so that we only saw one Jaguar (we were assured by the information boards that this was indeed the John Prescott enclosure). A spot of lunch and he saw the soft play area just before we left. Shoes off, and heading over, Daddy caught sight of the "pay at the till" sign. Hmm, too long a queue for food, we're leaving anyway - let's put up with the screaming. And Junior wasn't too bad either.

Two notable visits after lunch, in no particular order. The penguin parade went rather well. With just enough people to justify a long parade - we were lucky enough to be at the start so had to move over to the end to block them in - they opened the gates. The penguins that come out do so purely on a voluntary basis, and they need at least two. About half a dozen came out, led by a rockhopper. They went down rather well, with an enthusiasm bettered only by the visit to the chimps.

Our family portrait...
They have built a new chimp enclosure, opening in Spring this year. There's a large informational exhibition area, a first floor viewing platform overlooking three interconnecting rooms each with different light levels and equipment for them, and a large outdoor area with lots to climb on. A second exhibition area looking over one room that converts into a cinema is a really good space for visitors. None of the residents looked as unhappy as our last visit years ago, that's for sure. Anyway, Junior's new obsession became the "monkey". Armed with a £1.50 gift voucher MOTS got a small monkey from the shop on the way out, which is now part of "the family". Bed partners now have to include Puppy, Bear and now also Monkey.

Oh, and it's chapter 11 & 12 on The Jungle Book for the scene where Mowgli gets kidnapped and taken to King Louie's lair where the big beast demands the secret of man's red fire. Not that we've worn out that section of DVD yet, but it's coming!

And as I've touched upon it briefly here there's no pint in another post to say the same thing. I have my own little limpet at the moment. Everything Daddy does, so the boy wants to watch an then do himself. Which will come in really handy for toilet training, and I'm yet to worry about anything he's copying. I seem to have developed a heavier leg, having an extra 2 stone on one a lot of the time. MOTS is definitely taking a bit of demotion at the moment, the frequency of crying out "Mummy, Daddy" is on the slide in direct proportion to the increase in "Daddy, Mummy" or just "My Daddy". And when he's not settling down at bedtime and crying out like that it's really easy for me to ignore "Mummy, Daddy" and leave him, but it pulls away inside when it's one of the other two. I can still leave him, but it isn't as easy.

Our last visit to the big soft play place we go to said it all though. While he's becoming Daddy's little shadow he can drop me in an instant too. We were the only people there for a while, so he wanted me in the equipment with him. Fair enough, I love it in there (but won't do the top level, there's got to be sanctuary somewhere - that and I'm terrified by the prospect of the cargo net up to it). As soon as another two kids came in he left me stuck between two big cylinders and headed off after them. He is so into watching what anybody is doing, even if I get dropped now and again. But if I do I can always watch one of my DVDs. Oh hello son, you want what? "Monkey". Here we go, chapter 11...

07 December 2008

2 days...2 hospital visits

Thankfully not both for the boy, but both unexpected and neither particularly pleasant (when is hospital?).

As the title suggests there have been two hospital visits made this weekend, one for Daddy, and one for the son.

First up, Daddy's. After a nasty throat infection last week Daddy was put on penicillin for a week. That cleared it up nicely, until the day after the course finished. Then it flared back up, back to being very painful to swallow, and knowing I could not wait from Saturday morning until Monday (IF IF IF I could get an appointment) I rang NHS24. For all the reasons I hate the fact NHS24 exists, and weekend GPs don't, I actually don't mind the service - mainly because we don't have to deal with the Gestapo at our own practice and the service is actually better out of hours than it is normally. OK, so we have to drive a few miles to a local hospital, but that's a small price to pay.

Sure enough it was back. The doctor put the fear of the make believe person upstairs into me, suggesting I may have EPV (what, is that like the big gun on level 5 in Doom?) or may even need the tonsils out at some point. But he was happy leaving me with double dose penicillin for another week and we'll see if it comes back after that.

I got home to the boy complaining about his foot. This is the first time he's ever complained about something hurting so we weren't sure exactly what it was. Apart from his foot, that was clear. Anyway, it became clear it was the nail on his big toe. It had clearly been bent right back, form about half way down. Now that looked much more sore than the complaint of pain. Not wanting to touch it, MOTS decided a quick trim on Sunday would do.

And there ends Saturday.

After another rough night (the cold he's had and REALLY snotty nose has been giving him grief) we got up this morning around 08:30. He wasn't wanting his Daddy, very unusual, but instead wanted to curl up on the floor in a corner. He eventually calmed down, but it was when the grobag was undone that we saw the problem. His big toe was swollen, very red, and just at the end of his nail it was very white under the skin.

MOTS: "Sick kids?"
Me: "". I just nodded.

Hardly an emergency, so we took our time - breakfast for the little guy, dressed, out, pottered down the road. Are we over-reacting (2nd visit in 28 months) or not? Then we joined the queue:

Immediately in front of us: A family not of Scottish origin in wanting milk for their little one. MILK? Try Tesco you fucking half-wit. What do they think A&E is? A corner shop? Morons. And then behind us, Hector's mum wasn't pleased at being there. And I quote...

Mummy is not very happy with you, Hector. Because you won't take your medicine Mummy will miss her plane, lose her job and it will all be your fault.

Whooaaa there, pull back the emotional tidal wave, hen. Anyway, "Hector" wasn't very old but old enough to know better - I'd say at the quick glimpse I got maybe around 5. So he didn't want to take his medicine, eh? So what does Mummsie (of very well to do Scottish origin) do - A&E. One nurse, one syringe, and job done. Eh? Liquid medicine? Come on, just force the issue, it's hardly an A&E job is it?

So there we were feeling less like frauds.

A medical student had a look and referred to the registrar. Who had a look and said it would have to be drained. OK, no issues so far. "Now,", she said, "it depends on how pragmatic you are as parents". Uh-oh, don't like the sound of this. We think we are always quite pragmatic (almost to the point of being laid back) about most things, but this was obviously going to be a test. "This is going to hurt a lot, so we can either go for holding him down", with a room full of staff as well as us it was pointed out, "or general anaesthetic".

35 nano seconds it took to decide, 30 of those were working out if she did actually suggest a general. And another 3 torn between relief of not being a time waster and the horror of the prospect of putting him under. He's got a high pain threshold, let's have a game of all-pile-on and just do it.

Oh the screaming. He really was not happy. He could be heard in Inverness. He really loves his Crocs and pirate socks and was not in the mood for them being off. "Don't look up, Mum", having already warned MOTS she was going to cry too, the registrar was going in. Wipes, sterile liquids, knife... and... nothing. Toe opened up, drained out quite nicely, and the boy was still only winging about his Crocs. Not even a flicker of acknowledgement that there was anything going on down there. Now THAT is a high pain threshold.

And when we were waiting for his penicillin we got "all better now" from him. So proud. So very proud of our brave little soldier.

Just not looking forward to the fall-out when his Crocs don't fit any more.

02 December 2008

Planting for the future

MOTS had this wonderful idea of having a tree in the back garden for the wee fella, especially as we had a "weed" that had been growing courtesy of next door's Rowan tree [see this post]. Eventually, after some soul-searching, we thought there was no way we'd look after the sapling properly, not even after re-potting and watching it grow at a fantastic rate of knots. So it headed south, to a place where it would be looked after by a couple with a lot of time on their hands. Yes, Grandma and Grandad have the tree.

I knew it was in a better place, but I still craved to have something for him.

When it comes to the garden I'm more of a digger than a dibber, more hammer than honeysuckle. I'd had a project in mind for a while, to build a raised bed where once stood three phygelia that had to go once infested by some nasty bug. The spot had to be filled, it blocked the view down the path from a corner seat in the bottom of the garden.

I can't recall now when that part of the project was completed. It was too late for any summer planting, especially as the voluminous space contained within it was not going to be filled with a couple of 99p grow bags from Klondyke*. * Other garden centres may be available. Oh my, that is going to take some serious amount of compost. The structure is some nicely faced tongue & groove slotted together, fixed at the corners, and stood on a gravel trench. And currently empty of compost.

The general idea with this is that we get the wee fell doing a spot of gardening in the spring time. Being 500mm off the ground it's a perfect height for him to work in, and a perfect height to block the unwanted view. Job well done, even if I do say so myself. Apart from it being empty, but we'll gloss over that minor issue until March. Then panic because I haven't filled it over winter.

We also had a couple of spaces in front of the climbing roses that only ever grow weeds, there's nothing that can go in there really, and with a need for some extra spring bulbs we decided on some tulips. A pack of 30 bulbs would fill the gap quite nicely.

Our garden? Nahh...
So there on a crisp autumn afternoon (November 15th) I removed some plugs, MOTS added some compost to the bottom and the wee fella dropped a bulb in each hole which I raked over to refill. When they start popping up next spring it will be a truly family effort that brought those tulips to be. Either that or it'll not be 100% my fault if they don't come up at all. For once!

01 December 2008

Teeth - Appropriate use & inappropriate use

To end the drought of posts recently we have a double whammy on the tooth front. One thing that's not been so good, and the other quite good. Both involve teeth, the wee fella's ownership and use of them.

Anyway, before I really forget how to use Movable Type, here I go...

How long is it since the first tooth arrived? According to Alder that momentous occasion was 3rd May 2007. And since the last tooth appeared? According to my dentist, sometime early October 2008.

We had a dental appointment on the 9th of October. Usual routine, I got my check-up and scale and polish while MOTS kept the wee fella happy on the sofa, all the time watching what was going on. Then a check of the little teeth while sat on Daddy's knee. "D to D" on first glance, "top and bottom". "Oh, left E as well" closely followed by "oh, the whole lot". Just one last one through, but not fully as there was still some gum there, but all through. Our dentist was saying that was nice and early, and may mean he'll start to get his adult teeth in sooner rather than later. Only a may, he also may not.

So there we were in early October feeling quite proud, and thankful that the pain and suffering [come on, we had it so bloody easy it was unreal] was at an end.

Then the trouble started.

We had a bad report from nursery. That full set of teeth was being used, and not in a good way. We were having a bit of a biting issue.

Monday: One
Tuesday: Three
Wednesday: Two

Monday: One - and MOTS went in for a long chat about what we could do to work together. Meeting initiated by us, and it seems like we have been looked on quite favourably for initiating it, especially as we weren't seeing anything at home until this same night - and it backed up what was being said - frustration. As he's struggling at times to communicate he gets frustrated and starts to bite his arm. But, and this is going off at a very big tangent, his manners have come along in an instant - please & thank you for just about everything, so what I found was that we knew he wanted something, couldn't quite explain what it was he was after, but we could snap him out of his impending meltdown by asking his to say please, which he did quite happily. In fact more than happily. So we avoided many a bite at home with that.

Tuesday: None. Stars all round
Wednesday: None. And stars all round

Daddy did get told off one evening for asking if he'd been a good boy or a bad boy. I shall not be using negative words like that again. And there we have it, nothing since. Fantastic!

One line I did read somewhere, and as I have forgotten where I can't give the credit that is really due to the truly rational person who originally penned the phrase,

Anyone with small children knows that biting is more contagious than the common cold.

Berkmann? Ahh, I can't remember. All I know is that working with nursery on a plan (use of stickers for rewarding good behaviour served his appetite for stickers) helped a lot, for which think everyone involved is grateful.

I can't understand how it suddenly kicked off though, he was getting bitten in the younger room, but never bit back. Then months later he's the biter. I just hope I'm satisfied with the frustration aspect and we're closing that particular chapter.

29 November 2008

Where have we been?

So it's a month since my last post? Where on earth did November go??

I have a list of things to get posted, so I'll make sure I get round to doing them sooner rather than later. Before I forget what those titles were all about!

For now though, the album is getting updated as I haven't put anything new up (apart from holiday photos) since, errm, before his birthday. [GULP]

Album being updated as I type (JAlbum keeps crashing on me though) and posts to follow this week. Don't hold me to the timescales though.

27 October 2008

An unfamiliar feeling returns

I've had a funny day, having been called out by work just after midnight last night and still being on the call at 6 o'clock this morning, the day's been turned on its head. But i's not work itself that this is about, oh no. It's what feelings having been up all night brought about, and how it matched a very unique situation.

Let's start off with this morning. Having been on the call until 6 o'clock this morning meant I got no sleep last night, so was on the back foot already this morning. I had to take the car in for its service today, so I drove it through and arranged to leave it there until tomorrow - there was no way I was driving that distance again today. Due to roadworks I missed the courtesy bus into town so had to get a service bus, which in turn meant I missed my train home, having to resort to the bus.

But while I was on the bus on the way into town I was watching everyone getting on and going to work. Those with regular days, having just got up, dressed, coffee. And I started feeling a little isolated, that this wasn't my day any more, that I didn't fit the normal demographic for that bus.

And while I waited for the next one again I watched everyone passing by, with the same isolation.

I've been out of synch before, lots of times, but never to the extent of feeling a little isolated. On holiday, jet-lagged, working shifts, sure it happens frequently. I guess today it came from an unplanned event that just came out of the blue, although not to be totally unexpected.

This feeling of isolation in a "normal" world has hit me only once before. Then I felt I had no control over what was happening, that the world had somehow carried on while locally it had paused. I remember watching people going about their normal business and not being part of it; Being in a situation that wasn't wholly unexpected apart from the timing. The recollection of then, unlike now, was not knowing what was on the other side, not knowing when normality (if there ever would be such a thing) would return. At least today I know I'll go to bed about the same time and get up and go to work tomorrow as normal. But then I didn't.

So when was that?

The night before my son was born.

So thanks to being called out last night I have had the chance to experience a similar wave of feeling I had that was present at the birth of my boy. And while the two situations are wholly incomparable it did take me back, back to a place where the expectation of what was coming was an unknown, that something was about to happen that was absolutely unique to us, when I was walking the corridors with those passing by not knowing that it wasn't a normal walk.

Isolation. It can be a funny place.

16 October 2008

Merry Christmas!!!

Is it Christmas already??

Oh, no, my mistake! On Monday of this week (13th October) The Dome on George Street in Edinburgh had its first batch of Christmas decorations up. And by Wednesday all the outside pillars were wrapped. So is it really too early? Well, a couple of years ago they had them up over the last weekend in September! Still, BBC Newsround viewers think it's too early - and they are the kids!

Give it a couple of months and I'll think about revisiting the topic.

13 October 2008

No more excuses!

We have reached a point where we are about to run out o excuses. Or rather MOTS is about to run out of excuses. Whenever the wee fella is grumpy, or flushed, or gumming down, “it’s his teeth”. Well, not for much longer.

I’ve used the same dentist for almost 12 years now, and when he went private I stayed with him, even though my clean and polish went from under £20 every six months to £17 every month. But I trust him, more so than any other dentist I’ve had. Including the one I had when I was a student – I needed 2 fillings the last time I saw him, but I missed an appointment so never went back knowing I’d get stung. Anyway, that was in 1994, and to this day I have not had those fillings done. Since my current dentist took me on in January 1997 I have had 3 fillings done – all of which were replacements of old, crumbling ones.

And he’s really handy for me, just two doors away from work. Even when I worked across town I stayed put, the inconvenience was far outweighed by the dentist himself. Location is really handy for our new routine, which we have pretty much got sewn up. As MOTS is off work on a Thursday she comes through with the little fella, parks up in my work’s car park, we head round and have a double appointment. I go first, check, scale, polish, all the while with a very interested audience. Then comes appointment number 2. Thursday saw the third time we’d gone through this, and the third time that all went well. Only this time was a bit more notable.

In went the little fingers to have a feel and a count. Slightly ajar went the mouth. “D to D – all there”. “Can we have a better look?”. And the mouth opens a bit more. “E to E – all there”. Out came the mirror, in went the mirror. And after a really good look at all four corners came the praise. The dentist was very pleased with just how much he’d seen, or rather been allowed to see. Including all the molars, nothing else to come through! With the molars coming through at an average of 2.5 to 3 years he’s a little early. That’s why it’s an average, not a rule. So we did get the advice that his adult teeth might come through earlier too – might, not will.

The fact that his teeth are all through was overshadowed by his superb behaviour. I am so proud that he was well behaved that I haven’t really noticed that there was some news in there too. And he was proud at getting a sticker, too!

Just one advisory, the last molar still has gum over it, so almost there. Which explains the recent gumming, rosy cheek etc. Which all leads to the excuses that MOTS uses drying up shortly.

03 October 2008

Supermarket Sweep

"Next time you're at the checkout and you hear the beep - think of the fun you could be having on Supermarket Sweep!"

There's no apology here to Dale Winton (or ITV) for the blatant theft of the tagline from the cheesy daytime TV show, because let's face it - when was the last time you bought a giant inflatable banana?

Just how many taglines can I squeeze into this post?

There's more reasons why I sit here writing this post other than poking fun at daytime telly. And one of those is the trip on Tuesday night to our "corner shop" - which just so happens to be one of the big supermarkets.

After a stormy shop - we had no idea what we wanted for tea, only I wanted to try something new today - we headed to the checkout. We use the self-scan checkouts to get through quicker, so when the boy started passing up items from the trolley for MOTS to scan it was helping speed things up further. Further speed was gained when the boy started wafting items over the scanner himself, successfully getting them recognised. Every little helps when you're trying to make up time, and he certainly did help!

With escalating food prices we are taking advantage of a number of food offers, so we spend a little.

Live a lot in the supermarket? You bet we do, given the boy was well versed with the operating procedures of the checkout!

Right, how many supermarket taglines did we get in there? Answers in the comments, please!

18 September 2008

HMBARNS revisited: Day 7: Time for a bath

The high: People looking on smiling, proud parenting

The low: Lack of sleep

Today's recommendation: Use Sainsbury's car park rather than the pay and display next door - it's free, and legit!

Read on for the details....

We're into day 7 of our second visit to Holestone Moor Barns. The details of today's events are ...

The last full day, it's been a funny one, having come around so quickly. It hardly seems two minutes since we landed and we're packing up ready for home. The car is partially packed, we're having a few minutes before loading up as much as we can before the morning.

On our last day we stayed local(ish) and went to Matlock & Matlock Bath. Matlock Bath was a revisit, one that was on the cards due to the liking for fish. The Aquarium was a big hit, not so much was the hologram exhibition in there though. It was for us, but unfortunately we didn't get the full enjoyment out of it as boy wonder was bored in there. That boredom lead to a full on grump over lunch, so we headed back to Matlock (and more importantly the park) for a little while.

MOTS headed to the butcher to get some stuff for dinner, the boys went to the play area at the far end of the park. There's a paddling pool there, with water jets. It was only a few minutes before it was spotted. He was happy at first with the dancing jets, then he had to run on in. He was the only kid in there, in the paddling pool that was just the soft porous tarmac that just gradually dropped away from the main area. It was not warm by any means, he'd already taken off his shirt (his choice) so was just left with nappy, shorts and Crocs. And did he have a great time running through the water, falling over, splashing. Other people sat nearby looked on with a certain smile on their faces, one that said a certain something to me.

When MOTS caught up with us she had a look of pride on her face when she saw where he was. And she had noticed the looks we were getting and commented. It was exactly the same as I had thought - the looks we were getting were very much "it's nice to see that, there's not many would let their kids just get on with it these days". I'm just really thankful I didn't have to go in, I wouldn't had looked great walking back with no trousers, whereas he was fine in just a nappy, shirt and wrapped in a huge towel.

Looking forward to: April 2009 - the next visit!

17 September 2008

HMBARNS revisited: Day 6: Easy, Tiger

The high: Accepting that over which you have no control

The low: 'elf and safety

Today's recommendation: Crocs

Read on for the details....

We're into day 6 of our second visit to Holestone Moor Barns. The details of today's events are ...

One of our wet weather alternatives came into play today. Not because it was raining, but because we've done some non-family stuff this week so need to catch up on some kiddie time. There's a soft play place in Chesterfield, Easy Tigers, that MOTS had found on the tinternet so we headed along this morning. It was an under-5s only morning, so was quite an even base of ages. The facility itself was superb, the price was really excellent value, the coffees were spot on, in fact an all round hit. Apart from the way in. It's like the bowling alley, you have to hand shoes in at the front desk. So we sat him down to take them off on the nearest flat surface, which just so happened to be right in front of us - the very sturdy counter.

OK, I can see the point, but to be chastised for using this above, well the floor, "for 'elf and safety reasons" - come on, I'm at greater risk of putting my back out bending down than he is catching some nasty disease - the 'elf part - or falling off - we're right in front of him. The very procedural "welcome" didn't match what went on inside, for that we are truly thankful.

We have been thinking about some snappy feet for a while, and with Vicki having some for the chucks and swearing by them we decided enough was enough, no more procrastination let's go and get some. Three pairs of Crocs later and they haven't been off the boy's feet. We've all got the ones with lots of holes, which were really handy at letting in the muddy water from the meadow, but equally as good at letting it back out again. So we finally accepted that we can't keep him out of the mud. Instead we have damage limitation and preparation for the inevitable. Crocs so that we have no shoes to ruin, a washing machine on standby for the clothes, and finally a happy set of parents seeing their son enjoying himself when he sits down in it. Hot water in the bath helps too!

Probably the slowest day of the week so far, and one where we realised we haven't even been to Matlock or Matlock Bath yet, but that's tomorrow. And here I am realising that my second Bakewell lunch is looking far from promising.

Looking forward to: The ice cream from the farm after dinner.

16 September 2008

HMBARNS revisited: Day 5: Different class, darling

The high: "Morning..."

The low: "Morning..." - NOT

Today's recommendation: Shalimar, Darley Dale

Read on for the details....

We're into day 5 of our second visit to Holestone Moor Barns. The details of today's events are ...

Yesterday morning I took the little guy out to the recycling point to drop his nappy sack in the "dregs" bin. Vicki was in the office, so shouted out a "good morning". This morning's trip was a lonely one, there was nobody in the office. But, from on my shoulders, came a finger pointing to the corner of the courtyard and the office door. "Morning" was the cry from above. This is a new word, and one especially for our hosts. Unfortunately missing just how special a moment this was. Back in the cottage it was a delight showing MOTS what a superb new word he had. Even after a couple of dozen times the novelty wasn't wearing off.

Later on this morning we had a nother trip out, and this time Vicki was in the office. Would he say "morning" to her? Would he chuff. He'd picked up a new word [all by himself] especially for Vicki and here he was with the ideal opportunity to show it off, and nothing. Not even for Steve. Not even "what do we say to noisy dogs".

With this level of disappointment we had to have some retail therapy, so booked up for next year. The countdown starts now!

Denby & Chatsworth today. Denby a quick pit-stop, Chatsworth don't let sproggies in so we were limited to the farmyard and adventure playground. There was obviously the "yummy mummies" congragating, with one I tried to engage in conversation with not only blanking us, but telling her little darling [about ours] that "he'd be gone soon and you can have this to yourself again". Stuck up mare.... I hadn't heard it, MOTS had and knew full well I'd go ape if I had. There's no need for that, I don't care how much cash you've got, who the Earl of Shagathon is married to, you can shove "class" up your hoity-toity arse. Give me Chesterfield over Chatsworth any day.

Looking forward to: Rain tomorrow, so we can go to Easy Tigers!

15 September 2008

HMBARNS revisited: Day 4: You can't get slower than a slow-fit fitter

The high: The little guy finally discovering that he can go head first down slides

The low: Forking out £580 for new brakes and a new tyre, and for the 2-21/2 hour job being completed 2 hours late.

Today's recommendation: aquarterof.com

Read on for the details....

We're into day 4 of our second visit to Holestone Moor Barns. The details of today's events are ...

We needed new brakes. Not a surprise, I was told at my last service. I'd forgotten and thought the kick-back was just the usual corrosion on the discs after the car had been sat on the drive, as it's normally sat unused for at least 4 days a week there's alwasy some rust on the discs. Anyway, it wasn't, the pads had worn and the discs had more grooves than the average 7" single.

A visit to Kwik-Fit on Saturday left me happy enough, they can get parts within the hour. So, at 09:30 this morning, I dropped it off and we had a wander around Chesterfield.

I was more than happily surprised with Chesterfield. I didn't really know what to expect - probably a "clone" town full of the usual chain stores - but it wasn't. There was everything* in such a small place - indoor fruit & veg market, meat, clothes, outdoor market, yes the chains were accommodated, friendly people. FRIENDLY PEOPLE. I can count on one hand how many people in Edinburgh have held doors open for us this year, but we can count on the hands of an Arabic thief how many didn't in Chesterfield. It's the sort of place you can get a hold of just about everything, with a smile, and that goes a long way in my book these days.

Half past 10 - the call came. The damage is £x, and it'll be 2 to 2.5 hours. No problem.

13:30 - walked past, car in the air.

14:15 - walked past, car in exactly same position. So in we went - 5 to 10 minutes. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later we were off. 5 minutes later we were back, the handbrake was almost vertical and not catching. Advised it was self-adjusting, give it about a week. Off again, and back again after a few miles - there was something catching at the rear end. After an adjustment to the heat shield we finally left just after 16:00. Not bad, 6.5 hours..... Quite.

We stocked up on some provisions and headed home. The wee fella had an explore around the grounds, into the games room, down to the chucks, back into the games room - he knows exactly where he's going to get there, and from the cottage too. If we ever rent out the Barn I think he'll be stuffed on which way to turn once he enters the courtyard! After tea he headed back to the games room and outside to the slide, where we had a first - his first head-first-on-belly slide! And second. And third. And..........fiftyseventh. There is now a nice rut formed in the grass from the bottom of the slide to the bottom of the steps in a nice arch - not the shortest route, but certainly the quickest!

A boring day for the little guy, but a great end for him. He was so well behaved apart from the last stint in Kwik-Fit waiting for the dodgy fix to be looked at, but was to be expected. His cuddles for Daddy at supper time were very welcome after the stresses of the day.

Looking forward to: Chatsworth tomorrow. Much more for the "family" than today.

* A stall in the indoor market selling sweets (old & new) by the 100g, from aquarterof.com - Yogurt coated raisins for him, honey roasted cashew nuts for us. Yum yum!

14 September 2008

HMBARNS revisited: Day 3: Ding-ding!

The high: For MOTS, feeding Domino by hand tonight, some 2 days after I did!

The low: The second load of washing in two days due to Junior splashing in the mud [again]. Not really a low point, because dirt is good! We love it really!

Today's recommendation: Crich Tramway Museum. Keep right on the way up if there's a special event on.

Read on for the details....

We're into day 3 of our second visit to Holestone Moor Barns. The details of today's events are ...

Just about the best scrambled egg I've ever had. And I'm not saying that because I cooked them, I'm saying that because of the tatse. We had a double-yolked egg which is not something you see every day with your battery farmed nonesense. These were about the lowest food-miles free-range eggs you can get. All of about 70 feet as the crow flies!

Boy wonder was a little confused at Crich, the National Tramway Museum. He has a fixation for buses at the moment, so everything was a bus. Or they were until the tracks left normal "road" surfaces and looked like regular rail tracks with sleepers and ballast. Then the trams became "toot-toot", or trains. We'll have that confusion sorted out by the next visit.

And then the invitation from Steve & Vicki to feed "the boys", an opportunity MOTS had been gasping for since learning they were here. And she wasn't disappointed. Only Domino came and fed from us, but boy was he "enthusiastic"! Considering the news about their arrival was that he tentatively fed from the hand, he has really come on between reading that and what we witnessed tonight. He's more like a dog than an alpaca.

Looking forward to: Finishing this post so I can get my pork & tomato sausage roll out of the fridge!

13 September 2008

HMBARNS revisited: Day 2: Well Baked

The high: Polishing off the pork & apple sausage roll
The low:
Not polishing off the pork and tomato sausage roll
Today's recommendation: Don't expect too much from a tired boy!

Read on for the details....

We're into day 2 of our second visit to Holestone Moor Barns. The details of today's events are ...

A slow day, with a visit to Bakewell for lunch and a browse, with the afternoon spent at HMBARNS. Last night was a tough ride, the wee fella was too tired and took a long time to settle. Up as usual this morning meant he was still tired, and wasn't happy until after his snooze. We paid for yesterday's smooth trip with a grump this morning, but back to normal this afternoon. Not a bad price to pay I suppose.

The facilities on site have changed a little since our last visit. The climbing frame has gone down well, equally between Junior and MOTS. The slide is not "wide" enough for MOTS, so he's got that to himself.

The biggest worry we have is looking at the availability for next year, when do we fit it in?

Looking forward to: Crich tomorrow. And that pork & tomato sausage roll!

12 September 2008

HMBARNS revisited: Day 1: Getting there

The high: Meeting up with some faces we haven't seen for a while and meeting some new faces for the first time - Adam, "the boys" (Barnaby, Domino, Cappucino, "Prince" Rupert).

The low: The British weather. It was mostly dry until we hit 900 feet above sea level, then it went all cloudy. And wet.

Today's recommendation: In-car DVD player. Boredom saver!

Read on for the details....

We're into day 1 of our second visit to Holestone Moor Barns. The details of today's events are ...

We've had a superb journey down this year, in contract to last year's. Last year we must have got stuck behind every tractor that John Deere have ever built and every articulated wagon a certain Mr E Stobbart esq. has on the roads. This year we made good time, even when traffic was heavy it was still moving.

Last year we had a screaming baby in the back seat. This year a very content young boy, watching his DVDs and being generally chatty. We encountered no problems on the last stretch, so Vicki was met with a wave rather than me banging my head off the steering wheel like in 2007. In return we were met by Vicki who made us feel right at home again. I was pleased to see Steve, and the work he's put into making a new home for the boys. He's clearly been working like a Trojan this last year.

We only had a week here last year, but it's been like slipping into a comfy old pair of slippers - the sort you just get attached to and can't get rid of, that become part of you. And that's just after landing!

I managed to get to feed Domino by hand. If the wee fella is lucky Vicki has said he can try too. She obviously doesn't know him!

Looking forward to: Bakwell for lunch tomorrow. Pork & Apple sausage rolls, yum-yum!!

11 September 2008

HMBARNS revisited: Day 0: Afore Ye Go

Soon we're going to Derbyshire again, for our first "boomerang" holiday. If you don't know why it's a "boomerang" you haven't been paying attention, so get on that search function!.

We're in preparation mode, and have been since we got home last time. Every email [almost] to Steve & Vicki has had the number of days to go in it, I've spoken to Vicki fairly recently and had the number of days at the ready because I just knew she was going to ask, and I wasn't disappointed.

We are looking forward to the journey down, thanks to the boy's early birthday present from his Mum & Dad. Well, not so much looking forward to it but not dreading it! But it's the destination that we're looking forward to the most, as we sit here trying to plan the week out as best we can, revisiting some places and adding new ones. It is strange, however, as we look back to the canal over 2 years ago when the whole holiday was about the journey and not the destination. So where will we finish up? Crich is a must as there's a Classic Ford day while we're in town, Bakewell will be on the list for lunch, the Denby factory because we just have to check the shop out for any new or special Regency Green (we also have our cat sitters to think about, who share our taste in crockery). The new things? To be agreed upon, but we have a wet weather ace up the sleeve! Did I mention Bakewell? Twice? Oh go on then, if you insist!

Anyhow, here we go, the car's full and we're all packed and ready to go. All pigs are fed and ready for take-off too.

10 September 2008

Congratulations to the Clarks

Congratulations to the Clarks on the birth of their second son on Monday!

We can't even begin to comprehend how difficult the last few weeks have been, but hope you're all well and that you get him home soon. We're really pleased for you all to hear he's doing so well.

03 September 2008

Blog: Chrome trim

I'll be downloading Chrome tonight for a play around with, there may be some changes to the blog layout coming up over the next few weeks / months to suit it if necessary. And it's about time I changed the banner, Crich has featured there for almost a year now, so time to look at something else I think. Watch this space.

01 September 2008

Coining it in

Starbucks. I've covered that particular topic some time ago, but during an age when little minds weren't so decisive themselves. An age when portability meant pram, when you could have a happy baby all day long as long as the pram was moving.

That age is gone.

The time is nigh when the monster in our midst wants to have hands on everything, won't sit still in a pushchair, and as we saw yesterday knows when it's time for a coffee.

It was a light and warm drizzle that was falling yesterday afternoon when we went for a late shopping trip. The wee fella had shorts on, no socks no shoes, and no cover on his pushchair.

This rain was slowly dampening his feet, much to his delight. Not as much as the delight expressed from over the canopy of the chair when we passed by Starbucks. This is a fairly new shop, and saying that he's only been in times numbering, well, not enough to fill a hand. But the excitement when we walked passed was unreal. Just turned two years old and well into the coffee culture already. He'll be the ruin of us financially if he carries on like that.

It was snack time for the family so we did go in. He was happy bouncing on the comfies near the door while MOTS got ours in (OK, rant time - I normally hate people who bag a seat while waiting for someone else in the queue, occupying space while those with coffee hunt for a seat, but it was quiet and there were other comfies available. So no double-standards creeping in, well not too much anyway). The coffee was up to usual standard, and as the gentleman on the table by our left finished and left with his daughter, the wee fella saw it as extra space to run about in. It went quiet for a few seconds. Then he appeared from behind his bag and held out both hands, a small reminder ran through my mind of the infamous scene in Dickens' "Oliver".

There, in one hand was a small coin. A small silver coin, the smallest of them all. And there, in the other, was another silver coin, the biggest of them all. Yes, he'd found 55p on the seat just vacated by that gentlemen on our left. Now I know why he plays with the coin return flap in the vending machines at the swimming pool, it's got nothing to do with the swing of the flap and the crashing noise it makes when it hits the front of the recess - he's looking for cold hard cash. And yesterday he hit the jackpot!

That's my boy!

Thanks to his Grandpa for getting him the new design coins from the Royal Mint for his birthday, it was obviously the incentive he needed to go out and make his own!

Wake up, time for school

I know the age old saying about kids growing up so fast these days, and I've used it myself. But imaging my horror when I got home from work last Thursday to the following greeting:

Me: "Hi, honey, I'm home"
The wee fella: "Daddeeeeeeeeee"
MOTS: "Did you have a good day? He's enrolled for school"

School's out
SCHOOL? Eh? What?

What on earth happened there? It was only 2 seconds ago I changed his nappy (literally) and he's enrolled in school? I'll ask again, what on earth happened there?

So it wasn't that much of a shock, we already knew he had to enrol just after his second birthday and had picked the forms up ready. It was just another milestone that he's getting to that marks another step towards old age for me. So exactly what is it that I'm not looking forward to? Old age? The grave? Or far worse than that, parent's race at the sports day.


23 August 2008

What a Day to loss.....

Sorry, I mean data loss. So there's another high profile news item about data loss. We've had Nationwide losing a laptop containing details of their mortagees, child benefit claimants data going missing, and now details of convicted crimnials have gone over the wall.

All I can say is, finally - one we're not worried about!

22 August 2008

Happy birthday, son! Again...

More cake, anyone?
Two years old!

It hardly seems like two minutes, never mind two years. But when we look at how much he's come along in this last year - walking, just starting to string sentences together, size 6-and-a-half shoes, two room changes in nursery, chickenpox, train obsession, Nemo obsession, fully acquainted with luxurious hotels, the list starts to look more like "how did he fit that into just a year?".

However we look at it, and I think I speak for both of us when I say that it's been a great year, one to make us very proud as parents of such a wonderful kid.

Happy birthday, son!

All our love, Mummy & Daddy.



21 August 2008

Ready for bed?

On the eve of his second birthday, the boy's shown us that he's well and truly ready to move out of his cot and into a bed.

He's been showing us all week to be fair, but tonight was a clear line drawn in the sand.

He's got an inflatable "ReadyBed", just under £30 in Argos or £17 in Costco. Hmm, the Yorkshireman came out in me when we bought one for young James and picked one up for our bundle of joy at the same time.

It's been sat waiting for its first use, which it will get in anger at Holestone Moor in a few weeks time. He's been pulling the bag off the shelf of late, and we had the idea of a trial run this weekend just to see if he was ready.

And that's not quite where the fun started, the was a prelude to all this.

His favourite game at the moment is hide and seek. Under-quilty hide and seek. We used to play under-quilty with the cats, having them chase our hands and feet, but under-quilty with the wee fella is much more entertaining. It's a joy when we come home from work, he runs upstairs ahead of us, grabs "the twins" (Puppy and Bear), runs to our room and climbs into our bed, hiding under the quilt whispering "ssshhhhhh" to himself. Even more so when I "find" him, get under the quilt too, and await MOTS - I get told to "sssshhhhhh" too.

So when we inflated his ReadyBed earlier this week just so it was out for familiarisation, he took to it like the preverbial duck to hoi sin sauce. True boy, head-dived over the headboard straight onto the main bed, under the built-in quilt, "ssshhhhhhh". Oh well, that's a hit then. At every opportunity he's diving in, lying down and pulling the quilt up.

Tonight, after a long day of activities with his Mum, and a visit from Grandma & Granda[d], he was absolutey shattered. So after his supper when he climbed into his ReadyBed rather than asking for his cot, it was clear this was going to be a winner.

Trial run? Nah, no need. He's spoken to us tonight, we get the message. Bed? Ready[Bed].

Oh, and did I mention he can climb out of the cot? He would have been out by now had it not been for us using Grobags - he has started to sling his foot over the side while holding on to the bottom, with high levels of success. So much for me teaching him to climb into the bath on his own, he's using those skills elsewhere! Too clever for his Dad's sanity, that boy!

15 August 2008

Thunderbird replies & forwarding

For ages I've grappled with the fact that when replying to emails using Thunderbird you don't get the original email's details regarding sent timestamp. In Thunderbird there seems to be a "Outlook does it so we won't" attitude, but this is one that is really useful for auditing, to track threads of emails (especially when about to submit formal complaints to governing bodies).

And then, with a quick look on the old tinternet, I came across the answer.

The standard reply header in Thunderbird is

Sender wote:

This is of no use to beast nor man. So, in a file that doesn't exist by default, buried in your profile, you can add:

// Help found at http://www.mozilla.org/support/thunderbird/edit#user // Change the reply header // 0 - No Reply-Text // 1 - "[Author] wrote:" // 2 - "On [date] [author] wrote:" // 3 - User-defined reply header. Use the prefs below in conjunction with this: user_pref("mailnews.reply_header_type", 3);

// If you set 3 for the pref above then you may set the following prefs.
user_pref("mailnews.reply_header_authorwrote", "%s said the following");
user_pref("mailnews.reply_header_ondate", "on %s");
user_pref("mailnews.reply_header_separator", " ");
user_pref("mailnews.reply_header_colon", ":");
// The end result will be [authorwrote][separator][ondate][colon]

This will give you a header in your reply such as:

Sender said the following on 12/08/2008 21:33:

Now, isn't that more helpful? Apart from you need to know where user.js lives, even though it doesn't exist by default so you can't just search for it. Want the full picture? Look here.

11 August 2008

Another bovine outbreak?

We've had a major outbreak in recent history of foot & mouth disease, almost crippling the UK's livestock farming industry, affecting rural areas in terms of tourism and general movements of goods and people. Then, with the worst behind us, we have another handful of smaller outbreaks.

And has this affected us directly as a family in any way?

In a way, yes. Food prices and availability were obviously affected, but it's not that I'm talking about. It's our very own version of it, Hand, Foot and Mouth disease.

Which has absolutely nothing to do with the bovine [et al] variety. In fact, it's not even a bovine variety of the same disease, the only common elements are three words of the name. Nothing, it's not similar, it's not a human form, it's got jack all in common (apart from the aforementioned three words).

So which form of the disease has our wee fella got? Have you been listening, there is no "form" of "the" disease, they are totally different.

Right, clarity point over with, he's got Hand, Foot and Mouth disease at the moment. Symptoms started last Tuesday night really, a general feeling of being unwell, although we weren't aware of it. More symptoms on Wednesday with a sore mouth that we put down to back teeth (lumpy). Outwardly visible symptoms started on Friday afternoon, with chicken-pox like spots appearing. OK, it's got nothing to do with chicken-pox either, thanks for pointing that out. One quick visit to the doctor confirms it.

So we can't do anything other than let it run its course. He has some relief from the mouth sores by way of a generic spray (made by 3M, makers of the famous "re-record not fade away" Scotch video tapes - now that shows my age). Apart from that it's time he needs to get past it.

With an incubation period of 3-6 days we were doing the sums and it looks like he'll have picked it up at a local soft play area rather than nursery, but given he's been in nursery with early symptoms he may well have introduced it to nursery - possibly the third run of it there this year (at very least second).

I've added a link to the NHS's guide to the disease, along with the sheet the doctor printed out for us from www.patient.co.uk

And just for pure nostalgia, I've hunted down the 3M advert for Scotch's lifetime guarantee. I love the plant growing in the background...

HM Barns - how long now?

It's been a running saga between me & Vicki over the countdown to when we revisit Holestone Moor Barns, so when we were arranging payment and she asked "how many days now" she got the following reply...

"Well, it's 14 days until the boy's 2, and then...."

And then, and then I realised. TWO YEARS OLD SOON.

Where on earth did that year go? We've only just cleaned the carpet from his FIRST birthday wet BBQ.

Have travel system, will... travel?

The second most important purchase you're ever likely to make is your car.

Unless you buy a 57' narrowboat like I have my eye on - unfortunately that's all that's on one, my wallet is a little light in that respect.

So is the travel system the second most important purchase you'll make for the little one? Or the single most important thing?

From the "must-be-seen-to-be-splashing-cash" brigade, forking out a King's ransom on a pram or buggy, through the "last-year's-colours-so-what" type and on to the re-use and second hand markets, one thing is for sure. Your choice directly impacts on the environment.


Lothian Buses, the Council owned service in Edinburgh has come under fire recently for "banning" prams on board under the Disability Discrimination Act. They have clarified their policy on this, a copy of which is listed below. They have also issued their drivers with a pictorial guide to the various offerings of prams and buggies in order to help them comply with the company's policy.

And this is where it starts getting a little grey.

Lothian operate an old fleet, and an increasingly new fleet. There's not much middle ground, buses are either relatively old or fairly new. The older buses don't have the capability to comply with current legislation, but thankfully this is covered by "buses manufactured since 1999" clause so they can still operate them.

The newer buses have space for a wheelchair, with seats that fold down so able bodied passengers can use them when there is no chair in situ. This space is a requirement under the DDA. Lothian's policy is for this space to be used by whoever wants to use it for whatever purpose (passengers or luggage) on the proviso that this space is a priority for wheelchair users and must be given up should one require it.

Fair enough.

This differs from Virgin Trains, who categorically state on each journey that this space must not be occupied at all during the journey.

So why are we being eco-unfriendly by using the bus? Because they have banned the use of certain type of pram or buggy. Even if you are the only passenger, they will refuse to carry certain types of baby transport. Some will always be accepted, and the grey area is at driver's discretion. So what if you need to get around town? The Council got no support for congestion charging, so need to encourage the use of the bus rather than the car, right? Wrong. If you are a parent there is confusion over whether you can actually use a bus, especially if you're in that "grey area". What are you expected to do? Let the first bus go because the driver said no, wait in the hope the next driver says yes? Or just use the car and be done with it?

That's right, jump in your Land Cruiser and screw the environment. And Edinburgh Council wonders why their citizens use the car. Because their bus service is mince, that's why. HM Government are trying to get us to decide on what car to buy based on their interpretation of the impact to the environment, I never thought we'd be told the same about prams and buggies too!

Here's Lothian's policy, lifted from their website today, along with a link to the graphic issued to drivers.

There are specific legal requirements placed on bus operators regarding the carriage of wheelchairs. The law requires all new buses (since 1999) to be wheelchair accessible, and lays down precise details of the dimensions and features of bus construction to allow wheelchairs, up to a certain size to be carried on buses.

There is no legal requirement regarding buses providing for the carriage of prams, buggies, or any "baby or toddler transport device". The primary reason for there being a wheelchair space on buses is to allow wheelchair users to travel on the bus.

Our policy can be summarised as -

  • wheelchairs have priority;
  • if the wheelchair space is not required for a wheelchair, anything/one else can occupy the space;
  • but only on the understanding that they vacate the space if it is subsequently required for a wheelchair.

This means that whatever is occupying the wheelchair space, be it standing passengers, passengers sitting on the "tip-up" seats located in the wheelchair space, suitcases, bulky luggage or any baby or toddler transport device (buggy/pushchair) etc, has to be moved out of the wheelchair space to make way for a wheelchair if a wheelchair user subsequently wishes to board. Thus whatever is in the wheelchair space has to be capable of being moved (and safely stored in the luggage rack or elsewhere) when required.

This policy has been in place unchanged since the advent of wheelchair accessible buses some 9 years ago and all wheelchair accessible buses display 3 signs shown below which clearly state the requirements.

Also shown below is a copy of the illustrated guidance given to our drivers to assist them in applying the policy. This differentiates between different
types of buggy/pushchair/pram etc to show what is welcome, what is prohibited, and what falls into the sphere of "driver's discretion". In addition to the examples shown, there are a multitude of different variants of buggy/pushchair etc and, whilst both extremities of the spectrum are clear, there is inevitably a grey area in the middle, therefore a driver may well have to ask a potential passenger whether the "device" is collapsible/foldable.

The law requires Lothian Buses to have on our buses a space for the carriage of a wheelchair, and requires our staff to request non-wheelchair occupants in that space to vacate the space in the event of a wheelchair wishing to use the space.

Click here for drivers
guide to buggies
So there we have it, Lothian's response to the back-lash that has been public concern over their policy on carrying, as they put it, "baby or toddler transport devices".

I can see a fair point on both sides, but I can also see this will just play into the hands of the yummy mummy who won't want to stand at a bus stop and watch her Bugaboo get drenched while dripping onto her Ugg boots, wondering if the next bus has room. And why should she when the X5 is on the drive? Yes, that's the sort of person that needs to encouraged to use public transport, not effectively told to buggy off. But when there's a legal requirement in place for that space to have priority (not exclusivity, priority) it should be made clear, which is what Lothian has done.

Hmm, rock, hard place.

29 July 2008

Anyway the wind blows...

And the next milestone along the journey of all things vocabulary passes us by this week. Yesterday it started, and it wasn't the usual case of try it once, leave it a while, then come back to it. It was mastered instantly, in context, repeatable, you name it.

So, in the immortal words of one Mr Freddie Mercury, we'll let you in on the secret of the last word.

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide No escape from reality Open your eyes Look up to the skies and see I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy Because I'm easy come, easy go A little high, little low Anyway the wind blows, doesn't really matter to me, to me

Mama, just killed a man
Put a gun against his head
Pulled my trigger, now he's dead
Mama, life had just begun
But now I've gone and thrown it all away
Mama, ooo
Didn't mean to make you cry
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow
Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters

Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine
Body's aching all the time
Goodbye everybody - I've got to go
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
Mama, ooo - (anyway the wind blows)
I don't want to die
I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all

I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning - very very frightening me
Gallileo, Gallileo,
Gallileo, Gallileo,
Gallileo Figaro - magnifico

But I'm just a poor boy and nobody loves me
He's just a poor boy from a poor family
Spare him his life from this monstrosity
Easy come easy go - will you let me go
Bismillah! No - we will not let you go - let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go - let him go
Bismillah! We will not let you go - let me go
Will not let you go - let me go (never)
Never let you go - let me go
Never let me go - ooo

The next line just sums it up. If you don't know your Queen, then shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!. And if you don't know how that relates to Al Murray either, Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!

14 July 2008

Logo Recognition

He's not even 2 years old, but he's been sucked in by commercialism already! Am I talking about Thomas the f***ing Tank Engine? No!! Well, I suppose I could be...

In a local hotel yesterday after next door's little girl's christening, and the boy makes a bolt for the door. At reception he finds, at a height, the tourist information leaflets.

And this is where he does show he has somehting of his mother in him - his desire to lift every leaflet.

Anyway, from ground level he points up and shouts "Toot-toot!". Now that's his name for Thomas, and anything trains really. I had a look, I found no train.

"Toot-toot!" again. And again.

But I can't find a train, son.

So I lifted him up and asked him to show Daddy where Toot-toot is. And he pulled out a leaflet. That leaflet was a local park which happens to have a narrow guage railway. All he could see of the leaflet was the park's logo.

"Toot-toot!", he shouted as he pulled the leaflet out. Sure enough, there was a picture of the train just under the logo. He couldn't see the train as it was obscured by the leaflets in the rown in fornt, so he must have recognised the park's logo.

Today the local park, tomorrow Ralph Lauren?

Baby's first...Christening

It had to happen, I don't recall having discussed religion before but here we have it. It had to happen some time, the boy has been to a Christening. In a church, no less.

But, not his own. Why? Well, we're about as religious as Richard Dawkins, though slightly less infuriated by those who do believe in something theologically beyond our own world.

So we see no point in the hypocrisy in having the wee guy christened. If he finds religion later on, then it'll be of his own mind, not that of ours. I hate to see media reports including lines like "muslim children were hurt" - why are they muslim? Because their parents are? Exactly, before they can speak children are given such tags because of their parents. Let them make their own mind up. Ours will.

What the day did bring was a sense of mortality and sadness to me. The wee guy was due his nap, and got really tired, so I nipped out mid-service and grabbed his puschair. We had a walk around the graveyard for the remainder of the service, reading a few of the gravestones. There were so many stories in there. One man was buried with both his wives, a quantity of people there buried their children first, with themselves following sometimes very close behind. Wives departing shortly after husbands, clearly unable to live without them - nobody left to nag, perhaps? There was money too, the big family plots in prominent spaces, edged with carved stones, huge marble stones, occupying multple adjacent plots. The private area walled off at one side, now overgrown as there is nobody left to tend to it.

It becomes very evident reading the memorials that there is no such thing as a "standard life", the only standard life there is in existence is the big financial company based in Edinburgh.

Wonder what will be on their epitaph?

26 June 2008

Chuffing nora....

Not a line from The Full Monty, but a hint at both the event and the reaction last night. Far too cryptic to solve, so what happened?

I've already posted that the wee fella had his first train set bought by his Daddy when he was about 5 weeks old. As he has a major obsession with all things "toot-toot" I thought it was perhaps time to introduce him properly to his Brio set. So out it came.

17:54 Bed Central
He's got the Brio Flying Scotsman* set plus a few extras - extra track, a Mallard, a diesel freight engine with two flatbed trucks. The small parts were left in the box (mainly scenery) but the track, engines, coaches and trucks came out. As he sat on our bed playing happily with Nemo I managed to set the track up in a figure of 8 with siding without him actually seeing what was going on as he was at the wrong angle on the bed to notice. Not unlike when I was in the room and missed his first three proper steps!

But when he did notice - chuffing nora! What a reaction! And what surprised me was the ability he had to play with it. It must be instinct that all boys want to be train drivers! Pushing the trains on the track,
actually managing o fix the track when it came apart, all without being shown. They have nothing like this at nursery, so it's pure instinct. So while he's given us clues in the past regarding his future career path, this one is a clear winner - train driver. I used to scoff at my schoolmate Ian when he maintained his stance at wanting to drive trains, but with the salaries on offer (and pay rises, it's not long since Scotrail drivers got a 67% rise, sixty-seven, no typo) then it's not a bad choice. Hey, I'll support him, even if he changes his mind and want so be a gigolo!

Bust my buffers! Oh dear, there's a spillage. One dirty nappy right in the middle of the 17:54 Flying Scotsman express service from Bed Central to Rug Town. Anyone would have thought I was trying to murder the child, as I took him for a nappy change he screamed at the highest volume he ever has, real tears too, right until the moment the change was complete and he was on his own two feet on his bedroom floor again.

It's every boys dream to drive a train. It's every father's dream to play with his son's train. It's hereditary law.

* The Flying Scotsman is also available from:
National Railway Museum

16 June 2008

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

Over 20 years since I was last in Blackpool, I'd tried to get MOTS and the boy to go last year but didn't manage it with other things on around the time of the illuminations. We're just back from a couple of days there, after finding a cracking hotel.

We'd been looking at hotels, and MOTS' only stipulation was out of pure snobbery - if we're doing Blackpool she wants a decent hotel. Not a small hotel on the prom full of stag and hen parties, but a more upmarket and hopefully quieter affair. Fair enough request, given the family status and not wanting the little guy woken up by hoards of drunks.

De Vere Heron's Reach
There's a family oriented hotel right next to the Pleasure Beach, looks superb. But at £170/night it was way over budget. Are we staying in a Premier Inn at £65 by the time we've added Breakfast? So I set off in search and found most hoteals at £100+ a night. Until I checked the hotel booking service offered by my packaged bank account, finding the De Vere Heron's Reach at £66.50. Hang on, £1.50 a night more than the budget Premier Inn for a 4* De Vere? OK, let's get the bags packed and don't forget the swimming gear!

The hotel was superb, after an initial panic over whether we'd get a cot or not (no guarantee, allocated at check-in) - sorted out by asking the travel agent to release the booking details to the hotel before their normal 72 hour approach. The rooms were a little dated in terms of furniture, and a modern hotel should really have in-room safes, but the investment in the public areas was second to none. So we made full use of the health suite, over the two night stay we had 3 swims, the boy's introduction to the bubbles (jacuzzi set in one side of the pool), and Daddy managing to squeeze in a couple of saunas. Not bad for an extra £3. Not to mention the walk around the golf course perimeter, the full-on breakfast with every possible combination (except champagne, that's been limited to the Pheonecian in Valetta). My eyes have been opened to private health facilities, it's just not going to be the same going back to our council pool and having the lad looking in vain for his bubbles.

Outside the hotel was slightly different. Blackpool is a sad old girl, there's investment in the promenade with new sea defences going up and new public areas being built into them making the whole front a building site, but the investment seems to be stopping there. A walk along the prom and it was clear that anything not in direct sight of the sea wasn't really attractive. There's a clear lack of love for what was once a premier resort, and the stag & hen destination it's become doesn't help.

But, with plenty to do in close vicintiy, she could be great again, as long as the council invest in attracting more than weekend binge drinkers.

We'd go back just for the hotel. And a tram ride. And the Pleasure Beach. And fish & chips (as we didn't have any this time).

Congratulations to the Bowes!

Congratulations to the Bowes on the birth of their second son last Sunday! Had Mr B sent the text to my personal phone rather than my work phone which has been switched off while I've been on holiday.... That has to be a record though, texts out within 25 minutes!

Hope to see the four of you soon.

09 June 2008

Vocabulary on the up!

At long last, the boy's vocabulary is starting to expand! There's nothing wrong with understanding (mental note of where the "off button" is - the bottom button on the TV), taking words in is fine, it's getting them back out again. We have now mastered the outward "ta", so not only is there a new word it's with manners too.

Although speech has been a recent worry, and he's well behind his peers, the Baby Whisperer suggests around a 10 word vocabulary at 18-24 months. He's comfotably in that, just need to read more to get those words up.

And hopefully something different to "toot-toot", AKA Thomas the Tank Engine!

06 June 2008

Blog: Spam comments on the up

I've recently seen the number of spam comments on the increase, and worryingly a high number getting through the MT plugins. So, as a temporary measure until I look at why the MT plugins are no longer as good at filtering this crap and fix it, I have made the settings a little tighter on what is automatically published. Which means even comments from trusted commenters may be delayed.

31 May 2008

The family is extending!

Our family is in the process of becoming larger! I'm so chuffed!

Ahh, probably got some people there, it's not an extension to the human
element of the family, but the housemartins. We've had a nest for a few
years now in the top of one gable end of the house, and last year it was
extended by way of a perch (we'd call it a porch) being built alongside.
Now, there's a whole load of activity going on:

- The perch is being extended, possibly into a second nest
- A new nest is being built on the gable end at the opposite side of the
house (facing West) above the kitchen window
- A new nest looks to be started on next door's East gable end facing our
new nest above the kitchen

There are a lot of birds around at the moment, mostly the housemartins. But
we're getting others, a wood pigeon is a frequent visitor picking up nuts
that the bluetits drop (there's one young bluetit with a punk style
haircut), a blackbird that has laid eggs a second year running in a nest in
a laurel - and two years running she's been scared off by our cats, maybe
next year she'll learn it's a blackbird ghetto and look for somewhere safer. 8 eggs
in two years she's lost in that nest.

We're low on finches (green, gold, chavs with Burberry wings) but make up
for it with the odd great tit.

And despite an promising start, the bird box we put up a few years ago has
only been occupied once, and that was by a family of bluetits, within days
of it going up. Shame it hasn't been touched since.

All this flying about keeps our own little guy happy, he's happiest stood on
his bedroom windowsill looking out towards the woods shouting "bird" at
everything that flies past. So long may our family keep growing.

22 May 2008

Baby's first...Home Alone

It's almost 3 weeks now since we left our boy home alone for the first time.

And before social services kick up a fuss, we had legitimate reason - we were out getting drunk.

Not quite...
Congratulations to Richard & Zoë on their wedding, as you'll gather by now that's where we were. And this was the first time both of us have had a night away from the boy together, a whole night where neither of us was on duty. A whole night of peace and quiet - well, scrub that last bit.

Grandma and Grandad did a cracking job of looking after him for well over 24 hours, by the time MOTS was getting ready, heading through on her own (I had the groom to transport in capacity [or should that be incapacity?] as best man). I was also away the night before so got to see Grandma putting the lad to bed.

Well, bedtime on the Friday was funnier than the best man's speech. Let's just say Grandma isn't exactly Naomi Campbell in the legs department. So with fixed cot sides it's not so easy for her to reach down into the bottom level of the cot. It was easier when it was on the top level when he was a baby, but now it's been dropped two levels things aren't as easy as they once were. Teetering over the edge is s ight to behold, but when she's gone out and bought a Blu-Step from JML (available at Woolworths and all good retailers) to stand on so she can reach in.....

Cot - £200
Mattress - £100
Sleeping bag - £23
Blu-Step - £10
Seeing Grandma using a stepladder to reach her Grandson - priceless!

There are some things Grandma can reach. For everything else there's Blu-Step.

The night away was just a total non-event after that, we never bothered, Grandma and Grandad never called for help, the wee guy was all smiles when we got home. Yes, a non-event.

Baby's first...Nursery report

It was parents night recently and we got the boy's first real report. MOTS when down to get the news, I feared it would be a "please see the head" type moment, but what she came back with was more than pleasing.

The Scottish Executive Government have a birth to three plan whereby any childcare should (it may be must, I'm not sure if it's mandatory of "guidelines") stick to a set of development plans, designed to develop social, cognitive and physical strengths.

One criticism we have of the nursery is that we don't see enough of what goes on, what came out of parents night is that they do far more than can be conveyed at pick-up time, and that is meant in a good way. This week I feel far better about him being there, I've never worried about him (too much) as he's always really keen on a morning and never so desperate to see us in the evening that we wonder why he's eager to leave.

I was also really pleased to learn that he behaves pretty much the same whether at home or in nursery, so he's not playing up to us, and he's not whining at nursery. It was also really comforting to see that our thoughts are echoed almost in perfect symmetry at nursery too, both the positive aspects of the boy and the negative. We thought we knew what he seemed to be advanced in, and what he was behind in, and to see those thoughts written down from someone else's perspective was nothing short of affirmation.

It's taken me almost two weeks from writing the above to getting round to digging the report out to comment on the various sections, so here goes at last!

A Strong Child
Here he's marked down as a very confident child who gets on well with all the other children, brings smiles to the staff, strong personality.

A Skilful Communicator
Comments about his speech having come on recently, being able to communicate his needs and wants to staff and other children alike, and understands what others are asking of him.

A Competent Learner
He enjoys recreating scenes (he's really big on hoovering and sweeping up (down to big brush first, pan and brush next). He's a dancer, gets stuck into all the messy activities and comes off worse than the paper (we got his first big batch of artwork home this week, just how much is there....?)

A Healthy Child
He likes his physical activities, indoor and outdoor, he'd be outdoor all the time if he could be. Not afraid to take risks, as we know by the number of accident reports we have to sign. We almost had a clean sweep last week, one each night, but we didn't get one on Wednesday.

Aim for future
Very happy, very developed for his age, encourage more speech and an understanding of patience and sharing.

No surprises. Thankfully!

08 May 2008

A Boy for the Tree

Sorry, I mean a tree for the boy.

Our neighbours have a Rowan tree (native Scottish) at the foot of their drive, which is over the wall from our back garden. It has produced offspring, which has been growing as a weed (a weed is merely a plant growing in an unwanted place) next to our deck. The Rowan sapling as it is now is going to die where it is, it simply can't stay there.

I'd actually forgotten about it until Monday night when MOTS pointed it out to me. So I thought I'd better remove it before it started lifting my deck, or getting too well-rooted. It's now in a pot big enough for it to grow, and the intention is once it has grown on a bit, assuming there wasn't too much root damage or I don't starve it to death, that it will be replanted in the back garden.

The significance of trying to save it rather than dispose of it is less to do with the fact it's a healthy specimen just now and I can't just ditch a healthy tree, but more that fact it sprouted the same year the boy was born.

And we have found another two, sprouting this year so obviously a lot smaller. One has been recovered from the gravel by the love seat, on is still in the gravel under the kitchen window. But it's the one that was next to the deck that's the important one!

23 April 2008

Three's a crowd & empathy

I had a sly chuckle to myself this weekend, a routine stop-off during a long drive turned into a gauntlet run and a major empathy session.

We had a "long" drive south at the weekend. It's amazing how distances become so much longer once kids arrive. So far we're at the having to stop for food stage, at some point in the not too distant future it will be stopping with a moment's notice to use a grate, then we'll get the "are we nearly there yet" routine. Travelling by car has its major drawbacks in this respect.

Financially it costs, too. Because when we stop to feed Junior, we spend a King's ransom in Starbucks on coffee and a cake to pass our time. Inevitably the Starbucks is above a Borders, so it's magazines on the way out too, and this slap bang in the middle of what used to be a 3 and a half hour journey. Make that closer to 5 now!

So on the return journey we called in Mothercare World, a bigger one than we have at home, and had a scoot around. There, on the top of a rack of clothes we were looking at, was a box of In The Night Garden toys. He already has his two favourites, Iggle Piggle and his best friend Ms. Daisy. He saw, he wanted. So, we caved, and grabbed Makka Pakka. With a spot of luck we'll get it off him at some stage and not have to buy it. Hmm. Maybe.

Moments later we were on the other side of the same rack. By which time there was another Dad, playing the same Russian Roulette with his son with the same box of Class A drugs. Oh, how I empathised, having had exactly the same experience not a heartbeat earlier.

Three's not a crowd for them...
In The Night Garden has a specific set of three characters, the Tombliboos. Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy are very individual but there's a clear bond there (not least as Iggle Piggle is obsessed with sleeping in Upsy Daisy's bed, usually without her knowledge and it being a surprise when she climbs in.

So Makka Pakka certainly makes a crowd in this particular threesome. Ahh, the till beckons. And in front of it there is evidence. Evidence of past attempts by kids to get the next in the series. Evidence of parents allowing the toy to be carried round as a pacifier to avert a strop but with no intention to allow it to lighten the wallet. These are the dumped toys.

No such luck for us. Any attempt to remove Makka Pakka from the firm grip he was in was met with the strongest of protestations. OK, we cave, we'll buy it. Any attempt to temporarily remove Makka Pakka from the iron grip to simply scan it at the till were met with the same protestations.

In the end we empathised with the parents who had gone through exactly the same gauntlet, some obviously losing the battle but winning the war. Unfortunately we lost both. But we do now have a crowd at home, and that's not really a bad thing.

10 April 2008

Baby's first...Gold Star

The little fella got his first Gold Star yesterday at nursery. I have no idea, nor do I care, how this rates with when others get their first Gold Star. All I care about is he got his, and that makes me proud.

We have noticed a little obsessive compulsive disorder about him, particularly when it comes to brushes. If our brush is out he's at the kitchen floor (shame his mother isn't the same), usually trying to sweep his dad out of the room (shame his mother is the same). And it was an incident with a couple of brushes that earned him his Gold Star. Staff at nursery had the brushes out, a couple were left lying somehere. Someone found them, picked them up, and put them away. No prompting, not part of the current activities. Someone got a Gold Star for it.

The other Gold in his life is also verging on becoming an obsession - Gold Fish. Every morning he's looking at the window to one of the older kids rooms to see the "fssshhh" in the fake fish tank. He likes this equally as the real fish tank, which they had in toddlers on Tuesday night & Wednesday morning. We have been looking at small fish tanks to satisfy his obsession, and one of the staff said they were thinking about asking us if we wanted the fish given his fascination, but the baby room were going to take them. Oh well, at least we're not the only ones picking up on his obsessions!

I think it's time to go back to Deep Sea World. What are we doing this weekend????

06 April 2008

Congratulations to the Stevensons!

Congratulations to Jared & Joe on the birth of their son Mackenzie this morning. See the three of you soon, hopefully before he's grown out of his newborn clothes. Oops, too late....

29 March 2008

T5: Return of the flights

As the chaos at Heathrow hits day 3 this morning, I can say I was one of those caught up in it all yesterday on the way home. The longest I'd been away from my boy since he arrived, and I was desperate to get home. So how did T5 and BA do?

I'm no real fan of BA, they are pretty hostile towards the customer as an organisation (though the front line staff are much better than the company projects itself), and we've seen that here. And it was one, well two really, of their staff that helped me out yesterday.

I'd been darrn sarrf on a training course for 4 days with my gaffer and two colleauges from the London office, in a small place not far from Windsor. Yes, we saw the flags flying for Queeny and some French geezer being in town, but didn't see them. The course finished early on Friday because we were so much faster at the labs than the muppets there a fortnight previous (the instructors words, not mine (honest [sic]). And so to T5, a little [lot] early.

We both pretty much ballsed up on the tickets, having got inflexible tickets - no changes permitted. We already knew our flight (1825) was going, but the flight to EDI in front (1715) had been cancelled first thing in the morning, The 1605 was still going, and we had a good couple of hours to get there for it.

On arrival we found (after asking) for the customer service desk. Not too long a queue, it was fairly quiet at this time. Almost at the front and we got one of the "queue-walkers". We explained our flight wasn't cancelled, we were early, could we change, yes we know the ticket doesn't allow it.

And then the ace came out from the sleeve.

But... we know the 1715 is cancelled, so you'll be desperate for seats on the 1825 to reschedule passengers from the 1715, we can offer two seats if you move us onto the 1605.

For some, but not for us today
She rang through to try. Without actually playing the ace, the person at the other end must have spotted the ace anyway, and the feedback we got was "Flight BA1452, leave it 20 minutes for the system to update before checking-in". Job done.

After that it was a fairly normal Heathrow experience. The humourless security guy who didn't even crack when he asked me to take a cardigan off to go through the scanner as I responded "shirt as well?". The retail therapy airside, the delay to boarding, the wait for stragglers (OK, some got caught in gate security), the full lap of the airfield to get the the runway, the Heathrow tea-time queues for the runway...

I see it like this: BA were in a desperate situation, some of their passengers were in desperate situations, we knew and they knew we could take advantage which would be to their advantage also. I felt like we'd sort of done a sneaky, especially as we had a snowball's chance in hell of that working normally, but it was a win-win-win situation (we got home earlier, BA got two extra seats, two passengers for the 1715 got our seats rather than face a cancelled flight).

Take-off time noted by either BA or BAA (MOTS told me which, can't remember): 1652
Time revving the nuts out of the engine on the runway: 1732

And my lift from the train station is a whole new alloy story...

11 March 2008

A new neighbour!

Many congratulations to Allan & Lynn on the birth of our latest neighbour, Jessica, on Friday!

A long slog, puts MOTS' 27 hour session to shame - and there let the trumps begin!

05 March 2008

Party tricks

The performing seal is doing us proud, he's got a number of tricks that he performs on demand (most of the time). Some of which I've already covered as routine stuff, but here's the current run-down on the tricks.

"Where's Iain?"
/ Hides behind hands. Not a new one, but a really old favourite now performed on demand. A winner in the "bored in the car" category

"Where's your tummy"
/ Points to tummy. If in a joyful mood hears "Where's..." and pre-empts the hiding behind hands.

"What do we do with this"
/ Multiple reactions. Depends what "this" is. If it's a toilet handle, he flushes. If we're post-toilet and washing hands, up come his hands for a wash, followed by the towel. "This" is anything we give him, point to, or has in his hands. It does not get it's real noun, eg it really is "what do we do with this" and not "what do we do with the brush"

"Where does it go"
/ Again, "it" is the real word we use, not the noun for "it". He knows what component toys go with what, ie all his animls and Old Macdonald go with his tractor, the small balls go with the Pooh tree, his four little wooden cars are for his wooden track, caps go on bottles etc.

"Do we get a kiss"
/ Depends on mood. Could be a smacker or blowing a kiss with or without the hand motion.

And these are all demonstrable for a small fee. Kisses cost slightly more.

26 February 2008

Spot count

It's 24 hours since we last did a spot check. If there was the slightest of doubt last night, there can be no doubt whatsoever now. He's got the pox!

They're increasing rapidly in numbers!

Counting suspended, there are more spots than unspoiled ballot papers in a Scottish election.

Rant: Budget hotels (well, their guests anyway)

Here I go, about to go off on one. For those who know my volatile temper this won't come as a big shock, but for those who don't - be warned. This post contains strong language and right-wing political views on law and order.

Although I started the post immediately after the event I have waited to post it over 3 weeks to see what the outcome was.

We headed South at the start of the month for a flying visit around some friends and family. A second run in that direction will be needed as it was not intended to catch everyone, those we missed this time we'll get next time.

We stayed in two budget hotels, one on Friday night and a different one Saturday night. Both chains we've used before, only Friday night's actual location we've used before.

We had no problems on Friday night, apart from being a little cold (hey, it was snowing heavily outside after all). Other than that, a stay on par with previous visits (plural) to that hotel.

Saturday night, and a move slightly North. This is where we have used the chain before (as lately as November) but not this particular location. Interesting night to say the least. I have to point out that neither the chain or the particular location had any any responsibility for the events that unfolded.

We'd had a disturbed night on Friday, we thought it was the cold keeping the wee fella awake, when in fact it was a canine tooth popping through (first tooth since October). Not too bad, considering. So we were rather tired on the Saturday night, and got all three heads down quite early.

01:30 What the...? Light on, the little guy's pushing himself into a sitting position, MOTS is wondering what's going on. That'll be the fire alarm then. In the coma from which I was awakening I tried to put on MOTS's jeans instead of my own. Pretty poor attempt given I stalled at the knee because (a) my thigh is considerably larger in girth and (b)

In the hurry to get dressed, Junior was aware of the hurry we were in, but not knowing what was going on. By the time I'd got my own jeans on (I didn't try Junior's) and a jacket, it was over to getting his coat on over his grobag. Time to leave...

What the hotel did well was to open up the pub next door (same owners) and get us in there out of the cold. What was even better was a member of staff who just happened to be passing seeing the fire brigade there and stopping to offer help - some guests getting drinks (including coffee requests at 01:30 - bing wide awake no thank you - what were they thinking?).

From being lifted out of the cot Junior got very anxious very quickly. I have never seen him so frightened, and despite being as calm as possibly his anxiety didn't lift for quite a while after we'd got into the pub. But, making us as proud as ever, he never cried. Not until he wanted to be down and running around with the mop in his hand, but that was a while later.

And here's my rant. Final warning, bad language about to start.

After about 40 minutes we were told that two break glass points had been smashed (later turned out to be upstairs). Nobody had passed through reception, the fire exits were closed, so it was a guest. Possibly someone in the pub with us right now. At check-out this morning I asked if they had any idea who'd done it, as I wanted to string the bastard up for it. On telling Snoopy this this afternoon, I got

If oor wee lad was scared, stringing up is too good for the sick ********!!!!
. By the bollocks is was I'd omitted to mention to Snoopy.

If I catch the bastard who deliberately set off the fire alarm last night there are two things for certain - he'll never father another child (after being strung up by his bollocks) and if he survives that he'll spend the rest of his days knowing exactly what fire does to human flesh.

I followed this up at check-out (no offer of a refund under the Good Night Guarantee) and later with customer services. Even after a couple of weeks they had to let it go, as they could not figure out who had done it. What they did do, as there are no terms and conditions for the Good Night Guarantee in the glossy brochure or on their website, was give a full refund, including breakfasts.

Will I be using Premier Inn again? Yes, certainly. Even though we'd said we were bringing our own cot there was one made up, which saved lugging ours in and setting it up. When I say "ours" it's Nic's that we borrow frequently.

Shit happens - it's how you handle the situation that counts. I maintain that whenever anything goes wrong, and in this case they did everything they could to keep their guests warm and comfortable by opening that pub for us. The free night was just a Brucey Bonus.

Poxy development

Developing fast is today's main topic. It started out as simple check to look for the tell-tale signs for when to move from cot to bed, but ended up something entirely different. And all because of a virus!

We have started to wonder what the tell-tale signs are that show when Junior is ready to move from a cot to a bed, but a quick search on the old tinternet didn't thrown back any meaningful results. When I say a quick search, I mean I never get beyond the first page of results, and then only look at the small extracts and judge on them. I'm probably in the vast majority in that regard.

What I did find, however, was a development milestone chart at babycentre.co.uk for toddlers aged 13-18 months.

Before I start I have to say it was late in the evening when I found this, I was tired, so the first look wasn't through what I'd call a pair of normal eyes. So when I saw it again and felt the same confusion, then I had to admit I thought the milestones were a load of old tosh.

The chart there is obviously geared up so kids will move from left to right, ie easy on the left, difficult on the right. Either we have a freak of nature living with us, or this chart is way out west. Yes, it's only a "guide", but, and here it is, anyone who is taking it as gospel would be instantly worried. So what are we way behind on? Some of the "easy" stuff - 2 words at 13 months we didn't meet. Brushes teeth with help at 18months - sorry, he was doing it on his own from around 14 months, so way ahead there. 17 months a handful of words regularly (easy), again we're way behind, but out in front when it comes to the difficult ball throwing & taking things apart and putting back together.

So, confining this to the "take no notice" pile, the attention was distracted when he burst out with chickenpox on Monday. I had to pick him up from nursery, he'll be off until his "unclean" status passes. MOTS was out last night, hearing that he's a celebrity among nursery mums who all now know he has the pox. I'll make it clear he IS available for chickenpox parties, we have been asked and the rates are very reasonable!

At nursery I had it confirmed that lunch is sat at a table (the one he was at when I picked him up). Which given the short time he's been in there it's been great to see a change, even if it does mean retiring expensive products early. That being the high-chair. He will not entertain it now, he has to be a big boy and sit at the breakfast bar with us or on his own table (with us).

As I picked up him from nursery he was met with "show Daddy your tummy" to show me the spots. He pointed straight at it. He knows his tummy! Body part number 1! Our "bye byes" are starting, and we have a very definite "baw" for ball. And balloon, they are pretty much the same thing anyway.

The comprehension is so far ahead of the communication though. He's got some nice routines on the go, which really help in a morning. I have dressing duties, which have gradually got easier and easier - as a limp baby it was a doddle, then movement started and it was a struggle, now understanding is there it's easy peasy lemon squeezy again. Trousers were first some time ago, feet being lifted to step in. Arms followed for t-shirts and the like, now it's head down too. And when the socks don't go on after the trousers we know about it. And after socks it's shoes. This morning we were running slower because we didn't have to go out, so as I got his bottle ready he brought in his shoes for me - but my socks are on.... After shoes he points to his jacket (helps with arms too) and once on he's jangling the keys in the door to get out. Nice routine after this - "where do we go?" results in pointing to his car seat from the drive, once strapped in he'll give me a kiss. MOTS has seen very little of this, I now take it for granted. But then there's stuff I don't see which she sees regularly - the waiting at the chair for the morning bottle is one.

Our firm favourite at the moment is "where's xxxxx" and "where does it go". xxxxx being "puppy" or "ball", ball will get a "baw" in response along with a point and fetch, puppy, being his bed partner, is always locatable, no matter where he was left. "Where does it go" is for anything he has a hold of, and that's his cue to put it back. And it's almost always spot on, even if once it's back in its home it gets lifted again! Can't win them all I suppose.

Yeah, so, chickenpox. Not that he's noticed. Hasn't been troubled by the spots at all so far, but then they haven't scabbed over yet.

We never did find the tell-tale signs for bed readiness. I guess things developed so quickly this last week or so it got left behind.

06 February 2008

Baby's last...day in babies

I had an interesting day at work today, feeling rather sarcastic in a reply over what a particular error message meant. Then, as with the title of this post, the clue is in the message / title.

So we're talking about baby's first bath, right?


We've been wondering when he's going to be moved up a room at nursery. They have staged rooms with activities, play, learning etc all appropriate for the age group in that room. So far we've been in babies, next is toddlers and finally on to beenies & tweenies before going to school.

He's been held back a little bit from moving on up as toddlers have had a big influx of late and the progression has been staggered, with junior being one of the later ones to go. He's been up for visits, and from the look of him when he's in the big big room he's wanting to skip toddlers and head straight for beenies & tweenies. So we did casually ask a couple of weeks ago and it looked like the later part of this month.

On Monday he came home with a note. I hope this isn't a trend, I don't want notes from the head when he's 13 or anything. Anyway, the note said that he was moving up as of Monday 11th.

That makes his last day in babies today.

Baby's last...day in babies.

See, the clue was in the title after all - no tricks, no Derren Brown moments, just straight forward honesty.

Kisses all round this morning, bye-bye to Mummy & Daddy, one for Angela too. And again tonight, a big sloppy thank-you kiss to say goodbye to Anna.

It's a shame in a way because the only morning in living memory he's actually turned left to head down the corridor to babies was this morning - he usually carries straight on towards toddlers. Monday will be the test - who'll screw it up - him or us?

Oh, and if the HCC was still on the go, there would have been a chalk-up this morning! Predictable!

04 February 2008

Grab your ankles, the gas bills up again

Just a quick moan... for once.

My energy supplier was the first to put their prices up this year (or month, week, today, whatever time frame suits best, it was almost every other month in 2006). My monthly payments are based on what I use, so why when my usage stays the same, the price per kWh goes up, but my monthly payments stay the same thus creating a debt until the next review? Anyway, I rang them to increase my monthly payments to keep up with their inflated prices. "We'll confirm that in writing" they said.

Yesterday: Letter arrives. Thank you for choosing to pay by direct debit. Yes, I do anyway, it's a condition of the tariff I'm on. No mention of the new payments, only the bank details they've been using for 2 years.
Today: TWO letters arrive. One confirming my new gas payment, the other my new electricity payment.

THREE SEPARATE LETTERS. Three envelopes, three sheets of A4, three trips through the postal system, triple the carbon footprint....

And that, dear energy user, is why they fleece you when you flick the switch - the hypocrites go on about US reducing waste, what about THEM?

31 January 2008

Routine, routine, routine?

In the previous post I covered being told what to do by the little fella when it comes to bedtime. This has now extended to bottle times, both his mid-morning and and his supper.

So what do we now have to do?

MOTS had told Weekend Dad last week that there was a new routine developing with the mid-morning bottle, and suggested I observe this last weekend. It was pure genius! There's a detraction from the usual change in attitude when he sees the bottle being made, and a definite understanding of what happens next.

Until recently he has rarely told us he's hungry until he catches sight of his food, beit solids or bottle, and then all hell breaks loose. Which is why on an evening when he's getting ready for bed his supper time bottle gets put behind the curtain out of sight. Unfortunately, when he is ready he goes straight for the curtain, so he knows full well that his bottle is behind the curtain. That was only the start of it...

He takes his bottle sat on either my lap or MOTS' while we're sat on the Poang in his bedroom. I tend to start him off sat on my lap facing me, so his legs are splayed either side of my burgening gut. So when he's ready to be lifted up, the arms are raised, he gets lifted, and his legs part ready to be lowered straight into position.

But the real winner is the mid-morning bottle.

45 seconds in the ding-ding and we're ready to go. And what happens next is absolute routine now. If he's in the kitchen when the bottle goes in the microwave, he'll take a very quick look inside, see his bottle, then charge out of the kitchen. Hang on, that isn't the boy we know, he used to see his food and go wild, right? Sowhere on earth has he gone? From the kitchen, thud thud thud through the hall as he runs off, bang goes the lounge door as it bounces off my plasterboard. And there he is, stood at the chair in the lounge waiting for one of us to sit down so he can climb up, sit, and have his bottle.

Of course the routine is all well and good, but the one-offs are really nice too. Last weekend we were getting ready to go out, myself and MOTS sat together on the foot of the stairs to put our shoes on. The little fella came over, forcing a gap between our legs, and ending up sitting on the step below us. And again the next day, the difference being that MOTS didn't well up as much the second time around.

So easy...

14 January 2008

Being told what to do .... by a 17 month old

The opening of the seven seals.

The apocalypse.


Probably in the order that most parents want to face these three events with their toddler. And before MOTS starts bleating on, yes I know he's still in the baby room at nursery. Why do I know this? MOTS hasn't been in floods of tears that her baby is all grown up.

So, bedtime. Hell in all it's fury. Right?

We have never made a real effort to restrict his TV time, but it sort of panned out like this: While MOTS was on maternity leave he got no telly time as they were always doing something. It was very rare he saw the box until she went back to work, and then it was mainly Hollyoaks over dinner.

Then I discovered miniminiminiminimoremilkshake on Channel 5 on a morning. 06:25, Thomas & Friends. Fantastic. At first it was more for me than the little fella, but starting 5 minutes before getting up posed a problem. That's why I start recording it, get the lad up, then get back in bed to start watching it just a few minutes later. He'll go between watching the full thing and not really entertaining it. Either way, he'll stop what he's doing and start dancing to "They're two, they're four, they're six, they're eight, Shunting trucks and hauling freight...".

At the other end of the day is Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Put another way, you have to have taken a serious quantity of hallucinogenic drugs to understand "In the Night Garden...", apparently by the same folk who did Teletubbies.

I had lunch with Mr Gent on Friday, and over a pie and pint we discussed the general merits of the show, and how he'd noticed that when Igglepiggle's blanket was missing "yeah, Makka Pakka's got it..." (well, proven last night, the Pontipines had it). Sad, two grown men discussing Ninky Nonks and it not being some sort of euphemism, nudge nudge, snigger snigger.

Bedtime, tombliboos
Where was this going...? Oh, yes, In The Night Garden... is part of cbeebies' Bedtime Hour, to get them to slow down and relax ready for bed. And it seems to work. Don't ask me how, it just does. And I must admit I'm liking the structure of the show, if not the changing sizes of characters, and I have no idea how the Pinky Ponk gets off the ground. So what happens after it's finished? We go to bed. And he's been quite OK about going upstairs, even heading in that general direction himself.

Tonight took it a bit further. We had a visitor so bedtime was slightly delayed. Only very slightly, but at the end of In the Night Garden... he wandered over to the lounge door, reaching up to the handle and shouting for it to be opened. Then went straight for the stairs, up two, looked round, nobody following, came back to ask to be followed. Why? Because it's bedtime and we weren't taking him.

So not only does he know when bedtime is, he reminds us when we're not ready.

Some conversations you just don't want to have

MOTS has already told me in no uncertain terms that it's my job when it comes to explaining the birds and the bees. And as he's taken an interest in watching me go to the loo (a possibly early indicator for potty training?) then there's clearly more to be had.

What else could there be? I had one with Snoopy this evening...

Snoopy (AKA Grandad) Skyped me tonight to say thanks for the Christmas photo I sent down that I'd used on the front of his thank-you notes. And we got to talking about the longer days, and how it wouldn't be long before Spring etc.

There was another conversation around his current bedtime routine, of which tonight was a superb example, and how old he was and doing that, the shorter nights and longer days coming, how he's almost 17 moths old, rapidly heading for his 2nd birthday, and how we'd only just thrown out a balloon last week from hist first birthday, whooooooaaaaaaaa, who mentioned his SECOND birthday?

WTF? SECOND birthday? We're only just past his first, aren't we? Well, we're not far off the half way mark between 1 & 2.

I'm going to sue Madonna. The opening line to "Hung Up" is "Time goes by so slowly". This is in clear breach of some misrepresentation act or other, I'll get the lawyers to find out which.

Of all the conversations to have, that was one I didn't want to have. The first mention of his second birthday.

10 January 2008

Swimming in circles

It's just over two years now since the little fella first arrived on the scene. MOTS was knocked up just before Christmas 2005, and with a possibility of impending arrival becoming more of a question mark while we had visitors, the test was delayed until after the New Year of 2006 once we were alone again. In that two years there has been a remarkable development, which takes him full circle to exactly where he was then. But now, not then. Oh read on and see what I'm babbling on about.

From this little swimmer...
...to this little swimmer!
What has gone full circle I hear you ask? The ability to swim. Way back in December 2005, well I am not explaining the birds and the bees, suffice to say that neither swim particularly very well. Unless the former are ducks, especially when you've got a good loaf en-route to the duck pond. Or swans, they can really steam behind you when you're chugging along the canal at 3 knots on a narrowboat, wondering if it really will get JJ's left ankle (it did).

Ah, the point. Well, he's been going to the swimming pool most Sundays for a while now, and just before Christmas I let him loose with his armbands. MOTS didn't join us, staying in the cafe nursing a poorly head (not alcohol induced, genuinely ill). So with her out of the way we pushed some boundaries. We had a learning experience, let's call it. With armbands on, I let him go off on his own. And he floated. Until he brought his arms together then he sank. Arms out to the side - float. Together - sink. See, it's easy.

Nirvana's album cover doesn't really do him justice, he's been doing the underwater thing for months. But this Sunday just gone (epiphany, if that's of any relevance) we had a major breakthrough. Those boundaries were being tested again, to the same extent. No sinking. Progress. OK, now what? Well, it had to involve an older girl, didn't it? Either that or her ball. With arms straight out to the side for buoyancy, the legs started kicking. Nothing new there, the floating, the kicking. But put a sequence of events together and what do we get? No, not "Final Destination", we get the little guy managing to swim almost the full width of the pool.

In relative terms it's a lot less of a journey than he made a little over two years ago, but I'm ever more proud that he took this lesser journey just recently. Especially as I could do the proud dad bit, watching others watching him go.

Eat your heart out, Duncan Goodwho?.

01 January 2008

2008! Happy New Year!

I'm ahead of myself this year, typing this on Boxing Day. Yes, scheduled post again, I won't be awake at midnight...

I am looking back at what life was like a year ago so find it appropriate to schedule this post now for then. Or then for now, whichever way you like to handle post/future tense ramblings.

What a difference we can see when looking back 12 months, something not fully appreciated on a day by day basis. The only constant is change, so long may change stay at a constantly high rate. It's been a brilliant year for watching the wee fella growing up, so I look forward to welcoming the changes that 2008 has to offer. I hope your changes are as adventerous, as enjoyable.

Happy New Year for 2008!

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