Sunday, November 19, 2006

You're wearing what???

Last night I went to see the new Bond film, Casino Royale, with my chums Alex, Kenny and Gerry. Marvellous stuff and Daniel Craig may well unseat Piers as my second-favourite Bond (could he one day challenge the ├╝ber-bond and former milkman Connery? I'm on the edge of my seat with anticipation.). I digress. Well the AMC cinema, which had never seen such queues, by the way, disgorged us into the late evening streets of city centre Manchester.

This was Saturday night and it's been a while since I ventured forth from the People's Republic of Chorlton on a Saturday. There were pissed up boys dressed like Pete Docherty swaying over girls in doorways, there was complete meltdown at most of the taxi ranks, but the sight that requires some musing over, was the state of undress of a host of barely-legal young girls.

Now I'll come clean here. I've been to raves, got bladdered on everything from Crucial Brew to the year's new Beaujolais, I've read William Burroughs, watched Tarrentino, joined the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign and flirted with communism: I am NOT you're average Daily Mail reader; but here's the thing, parenthood has changed me at a very, very fundamental level.

Faced with a lengthy row of girls in see-through frocks, thongs, and bits of masking tape queueing in the freezing cold to get into 'Mutz Nutz', my first thought was a long, long away from a lascivious leer and some impure urge; I didn't even think "Poor love, where's her coat?"; actually, me first thought started with the words: "If that were Maddie..."

It's a sobering moment. You're in town on Saturday at 11.10. You're looking for a cab and you're feeling like a Dad. Like I said, something's changed... for the better, methinks.

Giant steps for babykind

Forgive me Blogfather, for I have sinned: it's been almost a month since my last blog entry. I can faithfully put the silence down to crazy work, the return of DIY (and B&Q) to the Limley Grove HQ and to the fact that sleep is in short supply in our house.

On that last point I'm pleased to report that even when tired beyond belief Anne and I are doing some sterling negotiations about who gets up when, and why. Even though the clock is saying 5:09 and we can only manage sentences that would make a Tellytubby feel ashamed, we can still gurgle 'My Turn' and at some deep, half-slumbering level rationalise that early morning's require a strategy. Maybe I'm off to London, maybe Anne's teaching, perhaps one of us is having a great dream about lying in until 11.00... who knows?

Anyway, back to the Madster. Great news from baby central, we're doing some bloody marvellous wobbly stands with the help of stable ledges and rails (which sounds like the nights out I remember through the fog of my early 30s...). There's also some interesting finger-pointing going on and we also think that their may be a wave developing... eat your heart out Lord Winston, this is people-watching as it ought to be.

It's tricky even for a wordy bugger like me to try and explain how it feels to watch Maddie developing. Take the mirror for example. It used to reveal a cute wee baby just like her that could be chuckled and gurgled at in equal measure. Then one day Maddie held up her hand and twirled it before the onlooking baby. She looked at the hand. Looked at the baby. Looked at me.

Pennies dropping. Amazing.

Pagan Rituals

My question is a simple one: is it acceptable to dress your child as a large vegetable (or gourd) in the name of Halloween? I'll be honest, I'm pretty torn over this one, but the Maddie Madster did indeed step forth done out like a giant pumpkin to celebrate All Hallow Even; Maddie, when you're older, we'll probably relish revealing this shot and I hope you forgive us.

On that note though, at least we didn't call you Arsenal, as 36 sets of parents in the UK have, apparently, or Gandalf, Britney or Dido (shudder...).

It could be far, far worse. Which gets me thinking to next year's Hallowe'en. Crikey, the mind boggles.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Absentee Blogger

Okay, okay. Just one glance at the date of this blog and that of the last can tell you that I've been an errant knave and have failed to keep the New Dad Blog up to date. Apologies. Apologies.

So what have you missed? Well - Maddie's been on her first trip to the States. This was August and at the time anyone with more than a day's worth of stubble was setting off major security alerts at all UK airports so we were prepared for a bit of a hellish journey. It started bad. Big queues, the tasting of all baby food... but in the end Maddie took to flying like a natural. She giggled and charmed the cabin staff and fellow flyers. She fell asleep on an empty chair. Even on the way back, an overnight flight, she slept most of the way (even if we didn't); what a star.

In the States we caught the tail end of Tropical Storm Ernesto so we were under rain-enforced house arrest for most of the time (and I was finishing off a diverting rural policy document I hadn't finished... wake up at the back there!!!). We did get out and have a few forest park moments AND a day out at MoMA - I'm pleased to report that Maddie likes Duchamp and the Bauhaus as much as she likes mushed-up butternut squash and the chance to suck on a TV remote. That's my girl.

Quality time was spent with the grandparents and with Uncle Peter, who could just about carry Maddie around in the palm of one hand. As you might expect, one or two new baby outfits were bought...

Better go - back in a moment with an update on Maddie standing up!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Raspberry Central


As a hestitant dawn breaks through our curtains, the sound of large, soggy raspberries echoes down across the landing from Maddie's room. She's awake, she's bored and she's blowing raspberries like there's no tomorrow. Bloody hilarious.

I promise, promise, promise I did not teach her how to do this, leading me to the only possible conclusion - we are genetically hard-wired to perform slapstick comedy. It's in our DNA. It's inherited intelligence. It's nature, and nurture can shove off.

Oops. Another raspberry is getting blown to my right so I'd better get back to making stuffed animals squeek.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Slurp. Bibble. Burp.

YES! We have eaten baby rice. We have rolled over. We have been sleeping!

I feel like we've vaulted up seven steps of the evolutionary ladder and landed on some blissed out promontary. The spectacle of a well-fed and snoozing baby is almost elysian . Ahhhhhh... Would write more but there's burping and slurping to be done!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Miss Maddie in London

(from Friday 14 July)

Deeply exciting. Although it’s been a surreal week (back from Cornwall, hundreds of emails missed, funeral of a friend of my parents, too much work, arrival of Anne’s Mum, Ellen, day-long team-builder on the Manchester Ship Canal) it’s ended with our little bundle of raspberry-blowing loveliness marking a high point - she had her birth registered at the US Embassy and got to visit No. 10 Downing St where a very, very lovely friend of ours works. As a result our surreal end to a surreal week featured two lots of metal detectors, scanners and security teams, not to mention a lot of queueing at the US Embassy (where I had to do a mini-oath at one point - no mention of Bush though so that’s okay). So now Maddie is officially a trans-atlantic sophisticate of the first order. What a beauty.

Jack Bauer meets Gina Ford

(From Thursday 6 July)

The first series of terrorism nail-biter 24 starts with Jack Bauer (Keifer ‘growling’ Sutherland) gravelling to the audience: “My name’s Jack Bauer, and this is the longest day of my life.”

Melodramatic nancy! He clearly didn’t have MY Thursday in Cornwall!
Dirty bombs? Hah! Electrodes bringing you back to life after torture? Puhhh! Middle eastern terror cell kills your granny and forces you to walk down Hollywood Boulevard in a rubber dress with feather boa? Nothing. Nothing at all.

Try a baby, a hangover, a wasp sting, a litigative farmer and exploding white goods.
My Thursday started with the fugged head that only a crazed combo of Stella Artois, a bottle of pinot grigio and a good few shots of Amaretto can bring to pass. Coming too in the moorland cottage that had us living in a cloud for a week, I know I’d had one too many. I took my hangover and with Anne, Maddie and our friends Melie and Jackie we headed out to St Michael’s Mount.

My first trial came in a tiny village with ‘roads’ so small they seemed to close in on you like the rubbish compacter in Star Wars. Imagine my joy when a fire engine rounded the corner. I pulled the car up onto the pavement. The appliance squeezed by with the width of a cigarette paper to spare. Nice. We parked up, relatively unscathed and then we strapped Maddie into a harness and attempted the ascent of the mount. In essence, she wasn’t happy. She screamed. She squirmed. We go to the top and Anne and Jackie did a quick scoot around the monastery while Melia and I tried - and failed - to calm the little one down. In my panic I put my hand onto a live wasp. Add a sting to the hangover, the headache and the panic attack from playing twister with an emergency vehicle.

Then I phoned the farmer who had left a note on my car that morning, to my joy the crad stalwart of the community accused us of trespassing because we didn’t go through a field marked ‘Beware of the Bull’ (his bull) and instead parked up and walked down to the cottage we were staying at. It was all too much. I needed a cuppa and a piece of toast.

Back in the sanctuary of the cottage I switched on the cooker and waited for heat. Instead, in a half-calm, half-panicked monotone, Anne proclaimed ‘It’s on fire’ as the cooker gave up any pretense of utility and promptly exploded. Great. Just great.

The Devil’s Agency

(From Saturday 1 July)
Work for any length of time with government agencies, regeneration groups or developers dangling at the end of a planner’s string and you’ll soon discover that one government agency above all others instills a strange and fascinating mix of fear, bemusement and derision. If you want to make eyes roll; if you want to hear a sharp exhalation; let those three words trip out: The Highways Agency.

Now I have my own reason to hate this shadowy group of tarmac-loving cone-deployers.
We’ve just returned from a week in Cornwall. Our moorland hideaway boasted scenic views, not to mention a crazy bull; but it also had no internet access, hence the extended silence on this blog. We struggled out of bed on Saturday and made an Herculean effort to get on the road by seven: Manchester to Cornwall is no mean feat.

We sailed past the RAC control helmet in Birmingham and within a couple of ours hit the crane-spattered estuary that is Bristol. We felt like Thelma, Louise and Louise Junior. We had the air beneath our wings. We were making fantastic time.
Then we hit the A30. I’ll make this short. No warning and we hit two sets of major road works. Three or four hour queues. Engines overheating. Babies screaming. In our car, no air conditioning and a very, very sweaty baby. Up front, Mum and Dad could do nothing but watch the bumpers in front and discuss the relative merits of pulling onto the hard shoulder and giving up. Like refugees fleeing a disaster zone, we crawled past other parents changing nappies on the verge, or calming down distressed toddlers.

Have a baby and all of a sudden a traffic jam like this is more than just an annoyance that may cause you to miss the first round at a local hostelry or have to wake up a landlady to reclaim a key; have a baby and a three or four hour tailback is frankly nothing less than an attempt on your child’s life.

The car is hot, she is hot, you are angry - with the Highways Agency.
As your baby grizzles in the baking heat, every traffic cone is mocking you; every yellow sign promising delays ‘until Autumn 3047’ is a two-fingered salute; every lane closure is a proximity fart to send you postal. Wrong wrong wrong.

The Highways Agency routinely puts children at risk. It also has no sense of irony or self awareness in its signing policy. It has a bad logo. Going a little further, I also suspect that it may have been taken over at some point by the disciples of Satan. Other Agencies get a rocket; others come under scrutiny; others get roasted by select committees - why not this one? It’s time for justice, that’s all I can say.

And don’t even start me on the caravan owners.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Blokes with Babies




We're all very, very big softies when it comes to Miss Maddie... here's my Dad, Uncle Doug and me cuddling the little 'un.

Number One Fathers Day



Without getting all Iron John over here*, the phrase 'rights of passage' springs to mind. It's my first fathers day. It's a big thing.

For coming up on four months Maddie did well with the wrapping, and painting the footprint mug must have been really tough as the brushes are so big and Maddie's lttle fingers are engorged, chubby and cute from VAST quantities of milk. Also got a Che Guevara notebook and a gorgeous shirt. She knows me so well, to paraphrase Tim Rice's 'Chess'. I'm very proud.



One person who wouldn't be proud would be head of the baby-stasi Gina Ford; we've just been on radically routine-busting jaunt to Cumbria that featured late nights, feeding on demand and a complete jettisoning of the cot. Very bad. Must get back on track.

Cumbria was a giggle. I had two days with some marvellous forestry folk but got to spend all day yesterday with Miss Maddie and her beautiful mum. Given that sleep is a stranger, we were able to pack, eat and get out of the B&B by nine. We shot on up to the Solway Firth, and then it all went a bit David Lynch on us. There were pomeranians on shopmobility trolleys, a youth having a row with himself, and a woman wearing an empty salad bag on her head.

Other than witnessing the effects of housing two-thirds of the world's civil plutonium on the West Cumbrian coast, caught the Roman museum in Maryport, the annual Carnival in Cockermouth AND the gorgeousness that is Lambrigg Wind Farm. Yum.



*Iron John? A now chronically-unfashionable 'Men's Movement' tract from way back written by poet and real man Robert Bly who would, by the way, totally kick Alain de Botton's arse.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Eating Machine



I suck, therefore I am.

That's the Maddie Mantra. The 'rooting' reflex that indicates a desire to feed has morphed into what can only be desribed as a 'Lactate Lunge'. This child LOVES to feed.

Facepainting: A Necessary Evil?

I have witnessed a spectacle that would have caused Dante to lay his quill aside. Facepainting, at a local park's festival: ugly; very, very ugly.

If like us you're just a few months into the baby game then you're probably just cottoning on to the fact that one of the crucial drives in every progressive, liberal parent's day is 'where to take the baby'. Never mind that the operation involves an entire cavalcade of nappy supplies, burp cloths, extra clothing in case of self-soiling (and that's just for daddy...); then there's forward planning discreet feeding locations, keeping a constant eye on menacing dark clouds, negotiating overly enthusiastic kerbs. It's a minefield, pure and simple.

But she's worth it. First of all there's the mental stimulation thing; human interaction, other kids, growling dogs. Then you figure it might exhaust the wee mite and the fresh air may give you a 50/50 chance of a decent night's sleep. Finally there's the important factor of not going stir crazy yourself and kicking off a nappy-whirling dirty protest in the spare room as cabin-fever really starts to grip.

You've gotta get out with the baby. Pure and simple.

And so yesterday's festival at Longford Park was a symphony of buggies, prams, papooses and toddlers in wellies. We even saw our midwife, Hayley. Along with the doughnut stalls, Friends of the Earth, tarot card readings and a fire engine there stood, aside from the throng, the facepainting stall.

We were with our friends Alex and Pam and their little ones, Cosmo and Charlie. Both are perambulating now (the kids, not our friends) and beelined in a blur for the daubing tent queue. Anne and I wandered off with Maddie, met friends, bought snacks, giggled, took photos, read War and Peace, and came back only to find that they were still there in the queue, grim-faced and grisly. A line of bored, tearful and disillusioned little people was moving as slowly as tectonic plates.

Disbelieving, we asked our friends and their friends what on Earth was going on, only to be met with a roll of the eyes and a world-weary look: "Facepainting. It's hell." They said, veterans of many such festivals.

So new top tip for new dads, courtesy of Anne. Paint their faces before you leave the house. Steal your partner's Bobby Brown if you have to, but get that visog painted. Safety first.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Weigh-In

Anyone who has been to this blog more than once will have noticed a general 'slowing down' in the frequency of posts. This is because the 'Baby Time Vortex'(see blog entry from Tuesday, March 07, 2006) has kicked in with more ferocity than a wounded tiger looking for someone to blame... Apologies if you've returned to the blog and found a stale old entry at the top - will try to do better.Whole weeks go by and just blur out into a wall of temporal fuzz. The milestones are the giggles and the gurgles of a certain Duchess of the Diaper that you'll all have come to know well.

And speaking of Milky Chops, I'm pleased to report that the almost incessant feeding (fellas, we would NEVER be able to breast feed, it is a commitment of Herculean proportions) has resulted in Maddie weighing in yesterday at a handsome 12lbs 14oz. Half of all that weight is actually her cheeks, which redefine 'chubby'; another quarter is in her legs, near where her knees used to be.Beyond gorgeous and out the other side again.



In fact, the last few days have been something of a revelation. After some torturous nights of utter sleeplessness we've managed to stabilise the situation a little with regular bathtimes and bedtimes and what might in GinaFordist circles be termed 'a regime'. Last night for example - she slept through with just a couple of feeding stops and Anne and I got to do a 'knackered couple on the sofa' live art installation that would have made Gilbert and George proud.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

"MacMaddie Hath Murdered Sleep"*

This week we've been as helpless as the stuffed giraffes and donkeys that dangle by their velcro threads above Maddie's car seat.

The week started with some impressive feats of endurance sleeping by Maddie. David Blaine would have been proud. Four hours here. Five hours there. We sat down for dinner. One night watched a movie uninterrupted. Mused about getting a babysitter and venturing out.

KABLAMM!

Rule No. 47869: In the books they have little charts showing what happens week-by-week, month-by-month. Month one, lots of crossed eyes. Month two, poo changes colour. Month three, settles into regular sleep patterns.

Ha. What do they know? Maddie's 'phases' run, to my estimation, on an eight or nine hour cycle. This week we've had great sleeping and then great torture as the poor wee button grizzles and grumbles through the night until deciding that 3.00 a.m. is wake-up time and enough of this family's valuable time has been wasted on slumber.

Yes. It's been a bleary eyed-end to the week, culminating in a trip to the hair salon for Anne that left me with the bundle of preciousness. Managed a shop or two. Drove around for a bit. Then little Maddie started to really get upset. I parked up near as I could to Anne's salon, strapped on the baby carrier, improvised a hat from a random top of Maddie's that was in the change bag and did a 'PANICKED DAD' hop across the front of the town hall to end up loitering suspiciously outside Andrew Collinge Hair Salon. Anne's hair looked fabulous; I looked like I'd spent a month being subjected to white noise torture.

Other than the ups and downs of sleep time, Maddie's doing fabulously. Plump cheeks signify the chubby 12 pounds that she's got up to. Smiling, chatting in what sounds like Esperanto, and dealing a left hook to those dangling giraffes (see above) have all come on in leaps and bounds in the last few days. What a treasure.

*Not that any aspect of The Maddie Experience (TM) has been in any way like a Shakespearean tragedy thusfar... more a comedy... in fact after a 3.00 am session with the Madster I can do a fine impression of Bottom...

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Where Did That Week Go?

With no shortage of regret, we saw Ellen off this morning back to the US. The upside is that it's only a couple of months until she returns but the two downsides are that we (and Maddie) will miss her loads and WE'VE LOST A PAIR OF HANDS!!!! No. Seriously. We're not panicking. Honest. Truly. AAARRGGGGHHHHH...

The New Dad Manifesto

There's a new lefty tract doing the rounds that some may have come across - the Euston Manifesto - which has lots of well-to-do intellectuals and writers getting themselves in quite a pickle over who is the hardest, least reactionary and most ready to go to war...

Give it a read if you can as I think that apart from the obvious omission of environmental issues and the war stuff, it's not a bad read. But in response, I'm going to be attempting a 'New Dad Manifesto' here on the Dad Blog. Deep breath. Revolutionary fervour. Don the beret and here we go... First draft.

New Dads will:

1) Recognise that their world has changed
2) Believe that now, the rest of world has to change too
3) Earnestly plead that vomit CAN make an expensive jumper look bohemian
4) Love re-usable nappies with evangelical zeal
5) Try to affect a futile balance between sentimentality and rationalism
6) Make up baby songs that go well but then fall apart with the last stanza
7) Realise that their partner looks more beautiful than ever, especially at 3 a.m.
8) Be struck that hunger has a whole new meaning when it wears a babygrow
9) Look with incomprehension at a breast pump and wonder why they've never seen one before
10) Suddenly wake up to the fact that a pension IS a good idea after all
11) Hanker after more comfortable clothes with built-in baby holders AND a sealable pocket for babywipes
12) Breathe more softly
13) Drink water after getting home from the pub rather than raiding the liqueur cabinet
14) Wear more pink to 'go with the flow'
15) Wonder why they can't get through a film, novel or conversation anymore without their attention wandering irretrievably off to thoughts of the little 'un

Like I said. Draft one. Contributions welcome. In the meantime, here's a smasher of a graphic I saw on the MetroDad blog...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Accessories for the Modern Gentleman

As any new dad will tell you, it's more than difficult to leave the small, sleep-suited one at home and shuffle off to work each day. Might you miss that all important giggle, fart or furtive look? Will she make her first grab for a furry monkey, wiggly worm or crab-shaped rattle? Will there be silence? Will there be crying?

Which is why it's important to take a little piece of your baby with you to work. For some this might be commemorative cuff links or a photo in the wallet; for the pagans of course, there's a high probability than anything that could be salvaged from the delivery room floor might be varnished and worn around the neck as a talisman; and for those of us with real panache, the accessory of choice is a small bit of poo.

Yes. I guess it's the new dad's equivalent of earning your stripes. I turned up at the office this week with small poo-coloured dots over my lovely pink Alexander shirt. There was one by the cuff, one on the sleeve and one that I missed until much later in the day, just above the waistline.

Just before leaving the house I'd done one last change and Maddie chose her moments of nappy freedom on the changing table to do one of her 'napalm death' aerial poos; I thought I'd caught most of the splatter and collateral damage, but clearly not. The new motto for new dads is this: don't change after you've changed.

Speaking of stylish accessories, I urge anyone with a little person to check out a fine purveyor of sleepsuits for parents who grew up in the 70s or 80s: Nippaz With Attitude (NWA). Sleep suits and T-Shirts can be bought for newborns up to four year olds, brandished with slogans that include 'Mama Ain't Raisin' No Fool' or the one we bought 'It'll all end in tears'. Another small epiphany was the discovery of an online home for Dad Bloggers like me - Daddy Types. Hugely entertaining although I don't think Anne will let me join in the competition to see how many hilarious shapes you can shave into your kid's hair. Hmmm. Maybe while she's asleep.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Funky Chicken

As anyone will tell you, it's not safe to fly anymore. With George Bush's finger poised over the nuclear button, itching knuckle-to-nail to send some thermo-nukes in Iran's direction, international tensions are at an all time high. Security is a distant stranger. We're on edge. Jittery.

But of course that's not what makes air travel dangerous. It's actually the grandmothers. With over-stuffed cases that cause ground-staff hernias on sight alone, it's astounding those big metal tubes can even make it off the ground. From Newark to Manchester. Three tonnes of elasticated pink fabric, books featuring caterpillars with eating disorders, memorabilia, cute notes, marshmallow peeps, more clothes, socks, hats, toys and knitted quilt from Great Aunt Albertine.



So the good news today is that Ellen arrived for a week with us and at long, long last got to hold Maddie. Grandmother and Grand Daughter are getting on famously and but for the interruption of a nap and a mammoth two hour unpacking session (we need how much new hanging space honey?) they've been hanging out together on a sunny, smiley afternoon in Manchester.

The only other highlight of the day was my first formal bit of physio for the shoulder. Now, Jenny is a trained physio but also our masseuse at work. I should have been very, very concerned when she turned up in a 'Sports Rehabilitation' outfit (all black, severe) rather than her usual massage gear. There were release papers to sign too. Ouch. Anyway - she's already working miracles and I can now dream once again of doing the Funky Chicken at bad discos and being able to describe flying with aid of arm movements should I happen to be trying to communicate with Martians.




Thursday, April 06, 2006

Five Weeks and Almost Sleeping

We're into Maddie's sixth week and it looks like the nights might be getting a little calmer, either that or being in half-sleeping/half-waking is becoming our modus operandi.

Given that I was, by all accounts, a little hard to handle as a newborn non-sleeper, I think Mum and Dad have been hugely understanding, leaving gloating to an almost imperceptable minimum. Speaking of grandparents, we're counting the days until Anne's mum Ellen is with us. I may take Maddie for the first day so that she and Anne can have a sleep-off: jetlag versus nursing. There's a tricky one.

Anyway. Try hard enough and you can learn to love being up at three a.m. without it being the end of a big night out or the half-way point of a long haul flight.

Two Wheels Good

Another non Maddie moment! I thought I'd share the ad campaign we just launched. It's called Love Your Bike, which given my recent topple and subsequent surgery is more than a little ironic! If you want to see the whole campaign, it's at www.loveyourbike.org.


Underpass, Fairfield St


Don't fall over - it's not a picture of the lovely Miss Maddie - this is the underside of the trainlines running out of Manchester Piccadilly. Liked the shot.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

All Hail, Maddie

After a night that could be best described as fitful, but would be better termed as Dante-esque, I rashly decided to take beautiful Miss Maddie for a stroll in the park in our swanky new, Baby Bjorn, 'mini-me' carrier. The sun was shining. The birds were heralding the spring. We needed to stop crying. Off we went.

Other parents nodded approvingly. A jogger stopped to guess Maddie's age. The Saturday morning footballers and chronically bored youth didn't pay much attention. On we trotted... Until a VAST black cloud loaded with the hardest, toughest hailstones the Manchester sky could muster sprinted over the horizon. There was a clap of thunder and there I was, in a downpour, with Maddie in the carrier in her little cotton hat.

Not good. Trainee parent in hailstorm. Baby in carrier, exposed to elements. Panic.

The rest of the journey was made up of a Quasimodo jog that only a man with 8lbs of baby strapped to his chest and a recently broken shoulder could pull off. It was frenzied, and it wasn't pretty.

Of course Maddie was fine as I soggily turned up back at PooNappy HQ.

My penance for the above was a four-nappy changing session. Nappy one was changed without mishap. Nappy two bought it as the press-studs clicked back into place. Nappy three was taken out of play by a 10-inch jet of projectile baby sludge that also hit the dresser, daddy and a small pile of cotton balls. After a major clean-up operation, Nappy four was on safely. Serves me right for the walk in the hail.

An eventful couple of days, this weekend. A block in one of Anne's Nutrition Dispensing Units has been really painful for her, and Maddie has definitely lost the trail of crumbs that usually leads her back to the Land of Nod. Apparently at six weeks it all gets a bit better. We can only wait.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Many Faces of Madeleine


Morning all... It's 7.25 in the morning and I managed to sneak Maddie downstairs a couple of hours ago so I'm hoping that Anne will get a decent bit of sleep.

Now. About the gurning. I have never seen so expansive a range of expressions as the one that plays across Maddie's face as she squirms, squints and squiggles her way through the day. Our personal favourites include the quizzical "what ya lookin at big face?" and the half-pained, half-satisfied "fill da nappy" scrunch. She has a penchant for holding one cheek and pensively staring into space, no doubt cogitating over Jung's symbolic language of psychology, or perhaps deciding which boob she likes best. It's a tough life.

As ever, we went through a welter of nappies overnight - we like to think that it's a sign of an extraordinarily healthy constitution. Yesterday saw a huge success in the form of a spin around the park in Maddie's sparkly Pliko P3 Pramette... things getting a bit smoother, I think, although one website says that the crying doesn't really kick in until she's 6 weeks old. Great.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Two Arms for Maddie

Well, the fabulous news is that I'm out of the sling and into physiotherapy! As the adjoining photo shows, my titanium pins are holding and I have ditched the velcro and foam contraption that's kept me strapped up for the last 2 months. Not only is this great news for my mobility, but as Maddie's nappies have large amounts of velcro on them too, it's a health and safety issue as well. A couple of nappy changing sessions did get slightly out of control when the velcro around the rubber pants got entangled with my sling and I started to take the whole festival of poo with me across the bedroom. Not good.

As for the women in my life - Maddie's doing really well and is still getting more beautiful by the day. Today we're attempting a walk around the park, which was planned for around midday but which we hope will occur before nightfall. That baby vortex has us in its grip, once more.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Dangerous World of Adult Babywear

I'm now a two week veteran of babygrows, little person vests and small hats in the shape of strawberries. I have also, in the past, been guilty of laughing at the wacky world - mainly male - of middle aged sad sacks who like sitting around in oversize nappies and onesies in order to gain a frissant of pleasure (sorry Mum, if you're readiing this, but yes, they do). Having handled most of the clothing items in question and shifted a mountain of dirty diapers over the last 18 days, I am happy to report that they're even more bonkers than I thought they were. It's not right that. Not right at all.

Maddie Update for Nearest and Dearest

Just realised that the last few blog entries were starting to resemble a new dad's attempt to 'do a Bridget Jones', forgetting essential role of this blog in bridging oceanic divides. So for Ellen, Joe and everyone else, here's the big news from Madeleine HQ - she giggled this afternoon! It was bloody great! She did her smile thing, and then it curled up into a proper grin, and then she giggled! Wow! She's feeding great, sleeping in her own enigmatic fashion, and gets prettier every morning. We're smitten.

Out Where?

I just told Anne that the weather was really nice 'out there'. She just laughed and referred to being a two hour food machine stuck to the sofa. New 'to do' for list: must gather together all necessary logistical aids - and the energy - for family walk in park or risk partner going postal.

Other Dads

Some names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Aside from wondering why ear protectors weren't in the 'Bounty Bags' of sponsored free stuff* they hurl at you before you're allowed to take Bundle of Loveliness home with you, there's a lot to ponder on when you've been a dad for all of two weeks.
Take the other dads for example. Formerly a group of older gentleman who for some reason miraculously disappear when a weekday evening drinking session is just getting interesting, they are now my peer group and I have reason to assess them anew.


They all respond slightly differently to the news that your big Amazon order has finally arrived. Comfortingly, very few cackle with the maniacal grate of a damned soul that has tempted another to sin; in fact, they're all clearly as blissed out as you are: "great isn't it?", or, "I know, amazing eh?".

Some will talk of the permanent end to any sense of tasteful, modernist minimalism you were trying to bring to your domestic arrangements: in fact my friend Walter recommends securing an area of the house little used by other tribe members. Next you ensure that there will be minimum penetration of extruded plastic toys, books with picture panels you can rub, smell or squeeze, ointments for very small bottoms or impossibly small scratch mittens; you do this by naming the space 'study', 'den', or 'shed'. Then finally you get to work stripping it down into a minature Bauhaus that would have made Mr Gropius proud.

Other dads act like you've entered some kind of sect and it's their job to love bomb you. Neil wrapped an arm around my shoulder. The following words are delivered by the voice of an actor to hide Neil's true identity: "Well done Steve. No, well done. It is such a miracle. Miracle. I am sure she is so wonderful. And it is a wonderful thing that you to have done. You must come out to ours at the weekend. Bring little Maddie." Notice the word repetition? The gentle invitation to the initiation ceremony? I'm not fooled.

A couple of dads didn't say a great deal but for the odd tip on how to stay awake and change that nappy even when every sinew of your body feels like its been injected with something they'd tranquilise a rhino with. There was one Dad - 'Marcu' - who decided it was time to play the red flag and bull game. "It changes your politics, seriously it does," he said. "I know after mine was born I woke up and felt like I shifted massively to the right. I wanted tougher laws and summary justice. I even bought a copy of the Daily Mail. You watch, you'll be New Labour before you know where you are."

This gave me a chuckle, not least because I like to think of myself as good 'third way' progressive that (wars, orders from God and nuclear power aside) is not a million miles outside the Blair camp. Then I got thinking and this morning heard 'Heartland' by The The on BBC 6 Music. It was like Thatcher's England all over again! I was all tingly in a suburban kitchen, feeling like I wanted to grow a Guevara, don a beret and get out there and bring the whole capitalist machine crumbling down into a mess of pointless rusty nuts and bolts; or at least I'd paint a placard.

Clearly my political DNA is shifting around a bit: whether it's a lurch to the right on or not is looking decidely uncertain.



* Note to self: new parent earplugs a clear business opportunity, must action when in the office.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sound and fury

The last two weeks have, of course, flown past in a blur of badly popped-together babygrows, panicked thumbing through parenting manuals and hurried nappy changes. Each of the latter seemingly followed by a thundering rumble as Maddie immediately feels the clean nappy against her lily-white skin and decides its toilet time. Bless her.

It has also been a fortnight of tremendous gooiness on our part, perpetually gobsmacked that we brought this wonderful thing into the world. To all and sundry - the dozens and dozens who have called or sent cards - we have regailed with tales of her cuteness and of how well she was sleeping, and how we can't believe how easy the nights have been.

And there you have the very definition of speaking too soon. Three nights ago, Maddie started a pretty constant warble that, in the words of the bard, 'murdered sleep' good and proper. Nappies were filling like the bailing pot of a sinking boat and she just wouldn't settle for more than 20 minutes or so without needing a feed.

Then the night after, were it not for the angel-like appearance of her Aunty Lesley at our door at 3.00 am to whisk her away and calm her, we would have seen an entire night fly by, jigging around in our pyjamas with our beloved clutched to our breasts.

We may well have broken our luck with those over-preening comments about our somnalent little angel. Ah well, she's still gorgeous but with a voice that could clear fog and may well have been used as a torture device by Jack Bauer in an episode of 24. And if we keep changing, and feeding, and hugging, we'll get through.

Night three arrived - last night - and with trepidation we moved upstairs to see what the night would bring. Like a crazy reversal of the horror film logic (don't ever, ever go into the cellar) we new that the ascent to our bedroom could well bring on the chilling nightmare of another six-hour stint of worrying about our poor little button crying away with such distress.

But there was little need to worry. She slept through but for a couple of changes and feeds, then woke with smiles and cute waving of hands at a thoroughly decent 8.00 am and - thankfully - Anne's had a decent bit of rest. Phew. The adventure continues. Today we're off to the registery office to make her legal and to brave putting her in her pram again... and there's another story.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sentimental Madgic

Okay, I'm stood at the very edge here. The precipice of preening parenthood. The overhang of excessive adulation. The sorry online refuge of the vain and the proud. Or in other words, I've uploaded another film of the cutest couple of kilos to ever grace a babygrow. This time featuring full, gummy, smiling action and a Norwegian jazz soundtrack. Lovely. Go to:

http://homepage.mac.com/steveconnor1/iMovieTheater9.html

Or you can click here.

And apologies to anyone who doesn't find this as enthralling as we do... like the blog header says, this is a niche offering!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Lights, Cameras, Maddie

And for those of you able to stream a bit of video, check out Maddie's first film appearance: a Grammy within her grasp? You decide. Oh, and make sure you turn on your computer speakers!

http://homepage.mac.com/steveconnor1/iMovieTheater8.html

Or click here