Friday, December 31, 2010

All clear, time to kill and going up.

1. The paediatrician finally makes it round to my bed for Alexander's pre-discharge examination. "I'm very pleased to see you", is the first thing I say, so relieved am I at the thought of going home.

2. I lie in the dim blue light of my cubicle enjoy Alexander's company while I wait.

2b. The father from the next bed who showed us how to correct the straps on our mystifying carseat.

3. I bring my son to the very top of the house as soon as we come in. This is important to ensure he goes up in the world. I am crying by the time I get to the attic, and he looks at me with wide, curious eyes.

4. Katie has left a parcel of tiny treats for a tearful new mother.

A first, eye contact and advisor.

Thank you so much for all the messages -- we really appreciate your good wishes. I wonder what Alexander will think in years to come when he realises just how many people were looking forward to his birth.

We've got some pictures, and will be putting them up very soon.

1. The midwife is so busy showing me how to change a nappy that she ends up dealing with Alexander's first poo instead of me. I do learn a lot, though. "Keep hold of his ankles -- it's like holding two wine glasses. Otherwise he'll get his feet in it. And before you fasten the tabs, make sure his winkle is pointing down."

2. I'm struggling to master breastfeeding, but watching my son watching me as he suckles is very pleasing.

3. "Talk to Jill," says the midwife when I tell him about my breastfeeding woes. "She's very good." Jill  comes to my cubicle later. It feels as if she has with one hand corrected our feeding techniques, and with the other hand neatened my bed, organised my possessions, refilled my water jug and cleared away an empty plate missed by the supper crew.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

For valour, perfection and nearly there

Today a special guest post by Nick...

1. My wife's courage and stamina as she painfully brings our baby into this world. I'm so proud of her.

2. Our new little boy, Alexander, perfect in every detail, with ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes. Like his dad, the young chap soon shows a talent for eating and sleeping.

3. Just before going to bed, I see England need only three wickets to retain the Ashes -- could this day have been any better?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Still they come, leftovers and professional

1. Parents arrive with still more presents to open for Christmas.

2. The Christmas pudding tastes even better the second time through the cooking process.

3. The midwife takes time to explain everything clearly and precisely.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Signs of Christmas, flaming brandy and here's looking at you kid.

1. Chocolate coins in the fruit bowl.

2. Warming brandy in a ladle. White vapour pops into blue flames, which I pour over the Christmas pudding.

3. "Of all the gin joints, in all the world..." We snuggle up on the sofa to watch Casablanca.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Small gifts, joint effort and ghost story.

1. The Mother left us a mysterious bag, which we open before we get up. She has packed it with small presents for both of us, and we take it in turns to pull something out -- bright wooden Christmas decorations from Russia and a large box of truffles; particularly for Nick, a train magazine and a small dustpan and brush for sweeping crumbs off the table; a soft and pretty pair of socks for me, and even some posh changing bits for Baby Badger.

1a. For breakfast, we eat soft panettone studded with raisins and the tenderest citrus peel.

1b. As we leave for our walk, I notice that the bulbs I planted back in November have reached up, questing through the cold soil.

2. Sitting with Nick and working out the timings for our Christmas dinner. Nick stuffed the chicken, and made pigs in blankets. I looked after the roasties, parsnips and carrots and brussels sprouts.

3. My cousins sent me Susan Hill's The Small Hand -- a ghost story in a luxurious little book. The pages and the cover are thick and textured, and the prose is creamy and satisfying. I think she's being very canny to remind people of why they might want to continue buying paper books, rather than using an e-reader.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Clear the way, on the move and room at the inn.

Love this story from the BBC about a train conductor who was both compassionate and not a jobsworth.

1. The park keepers have cleared the ice from almost all the paths in The Grove and in Calverley Rec.

2. I am lying in the bath. Nick brings me a single chocolate on one of the best plates. He stays to watch Baby Badger moving my bump around.

3. Nick rings the birthing centre to check they will take me if it all kicks off on Christmas Day. The midwife tells him that she likes a Christmas Day baby: "It means more publicity for us." We can but hope.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Remedy, treecreeper and wrapping up.

Just wanted to wish everyone a bright midwinter -- things always seem better once the days start getting longer. I've really appreciated the kind messages about Baby Badger and the birth. You'll hear all about it as soon as possible after it happens: I have briefed Nick to within an inch of his life about posting the news.

1. "Are you feeling tearful?" she asks. She fills the dropper with Rescue Remedy and I obediently open my mouth.

2. A mouse-like scuttle catches my eye at the base of the turkey oak. It's a treecreeper, running over and over the bark hunting for insects. It's very well camouflaged, but it's clockwork motion and white belly give it away.

3. While Nick wraps his Christmas presents, I cut up last year's cards for gift tags.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Good neighbour, melting and mince pies.

1. An early-morning scraping noise turns out to be a man with a barrow shovelling grit on our road.

2. Nick goes to the front gate. "I can hear the thaw." He says it's a tick-ticking sound.

3. A dozen mince pies (made by a husband) cooling on the side.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Untangled, advice and delivery.

1. Nick has got the tape tangled up while wrapping presents. I take it from him and make it straight again.

2. "...And a good walk home might get things moving," says the midwife. The roads are black again, and we're both wearing boots, so we take her advice.

3. At midnight, our gate clangs. "There you are," I tell Nick. "Revellers are using our recycling boxes as toboggans." He goes to look. It's Paul V dropping off a Christmas card.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Daffs, secrets and basket.

1. The Mother says that when her bunch of daffodils have opened, Baby Badger will come.

2. Nick comes back from town with bags that I'm not allowed to look at.

3. My father brings a mysterious rustling basket with a gold and spotty ribbon wrapped around the handle -- a Christmas present from my aunt.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Blackbird, snow day and clearing the ice.

Sarah Salway reveals that she would like to be called Syd in an interview on Norm Blog, and she also demonstrates that she has excellent taste in blogs :-)

1. Nick peers through the curtains and says: "There's an enormous black bird sitting on our tree."
I am feeling oversensitive and superstitious. "Crow or a raven or what?"
"No, a blackbird."
Which is somehow all right -- because no-one ever used a blackbird to create an ominous atmosphere.

2. The park is full of children in sledges and extraordinary hats (the pointed turquoise felt pixie affair is my favourite, followed closely by the Spiderman mask). Their shrieks of laughter are dulled by the snow.

3. The mother says there were men clearing the ice off the pavements outside the station... "So I thanked them as I went by."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

From the sky, coming up the hill and tidings.

1. My brother's recent text message describes the scene best: "It's snowing the biggest flakes I've ever seen. It's like a billion down sleeping bags have exploded."

2. Louise calls to say she's in the area. I open the front door on to the clear cold air. She is walking up our hill in her pink anorak.

3. To hear that one of our Christmas cards has arrived.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sliding, first to see and dumplings.

1. Boys in the uniform of Nick's old school slide cockily down the snow on the High Street. Everyone else steps like wading birds from bare patch to bare patch. If you weren't so worried yourself about the ice, you might think that they are walking slowly because they want to look (really look) at the snowy world.

2. Cutting open a pumpkin and being the first person to see the seeds.

3. "Will you make some dumplings?" I ask the mother, and she does.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Try this, a good time of year to be born and tidying.

The ever inspiring Fiona Robyn has a plan for January. She keeps a blog called A Small Stone -- it's a daily piece of observational writing, very short, very much in the spirit of Three Beautiful Things. She also runs a zine called A Handful of Stones, which accepts other people's submitted stones. But she's taking things a step further for 2011, when she hopes people will join her in producing a whole River of Stones. If you've been reading 3BT and thinking 'I should do something like this too', but have found it a struggle to get going, or if you're a lapsed 3BTer, perhaps Fiona's river will work for you.

1. The midwife suggests a treatment that might help get labour going. "Do you want to give it a go?" I feel as if we are a pair of naughty school girls.

2. "It's a good time of year to be born, and I should know" says the pharmacist. "My birthday is Christmas Eve. My brother is Boxing Day and so's my granddaughter."

3. I come home to find the mother has swept up the leaves in the back yard.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Resting, cake and the blender.

1. To lie on the sofa and watch recorded episodes of The Simpsons until I fall asleep.

2. The mother has brought us a particularly moist and sticky piece of chocolate cake from one of the Italian delis in town.

3. We try the new blender for the first time -- I am so grateful to have a jug large enough to do the whole lot in one go, and the soup comes out smooth as cream. The other thing I really like about it is that it has an iridescent panel on the front that makes CD-style rainbows.

4. She says that her daughter claims she remembers sitting in her tummy eating bones and scraps of food!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Polishing, stamp and done for me.

1. Putting a shine on the taps in the bathroom.

2. I've been using rubber stamps to make wrapping paper. It's a bit rough and ready but very satisfying when the image is perfect.

3.  My mother cooks supper for us.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Posting, hey bring that back and one over.

1. To cram Christmas cards into a nearly full post box.

2. He makes off -- rather unsteadily (Fenella says he's had a growth spurt) -- first with my bag, and then with our marriage certificate in its plastic pocket. I retrieve the certificate: he just likes waving the scrunchy plastic.

3. How strange -- I thought I'd ordered exactly the right number of Christmas presents from Lush, but I find there's a bubble bar called Christmas Eve left over. It turns my bath water midnight blue and makes the bathroom and the landing smell of jasmine and gardenia.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sleep, running dog and lamb chop.

1. I'm sleeping a lot at the moment. I know this, because Nick brings breakfast up on a tray, saying things like "We'll try to get up a bit earlier tomorrow".

2. A white german shepard is running from corner to corner of the basketball court in the park.

3. Nick presents me with a perfectly grilled lamb chop.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Get back, chocolates and muffins.

1. Writing Return to sender across an envelope window using a fine permanent marker.

2. Walnut and coffee crunch from Hotel Chocolat -- what a divine combination.

3. Taking a tray of muffins out of the oven.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pick a panettone, pedicures and toes.

1. There are so many panettones to choose from that we stand for a moment with our mouths open. "Chocolate and orange; crunchy almonds on top; wine soaked raisins with citrus peel; wine soaked raisins without citrus peel; chocolate and fig..."

2. Four NCT mums-to-be sit placid and patient while their pedicures dry. When we leave, everyone wishes us good luck.

3. Pulling back the end of the duvet to admire my raspberry pink toes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Up next, not bored and afternoon nap.

1. At the end of the class, the yoga teacher dedicates today's work to whoever is due next. This week, it's me and Baby Badger. "But you're very welcome to come back next week if you haven't got anything better to do," she says.

2. "Are you bored yet?" asks the midwife. I have to say that I'm not -- there are always so many lovely ways to fill the time.

3. I don't wake up until Nick comes home.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What we miss, Christmas shopping and tea talk.

1. "Cheese. Runny cheese." "Stilton." The NCT mums are anticipating the births of their babies.

2. A large parcel has arrived for Nick. He says it's a present from Baby Badger to its dad. I put it away until Christmas.

3. A mug of cranberry and sanguinello tea and a quick catch-up with Katie.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Keep in touch, captured and in the window.

Wow, it's photographarama today. First, two beautiful things from my mother.


a. Today a white van came rattling down the track and a small movement in the far top corner of the field turned into an avalanche of sheep pouring towards us bleating anxiously. 'I hope you've brought something for them too' I said to the delivery man. 'How odd' he replied and climbed back into the van... after handing  me the parcel from John Lewis. A natural lambskin for carseats and strollers!

b. Every where has been covered in frost all day and this morning a pure white pheasant appeared on the garden steps, but not for long.


And here are my beautiful things:


1. Two of my friends post on Facebook pictures of their babies. Oli is doing a tarot card series of his son (I particularly like the Tower built from Duplo, and the guest appearance by a big sister as the Priestess); while Paul has posed his little boy in tableaux from famous films. The Good, The Bad and Ugly -- baby in poncho and hat with bread stick hanging off his lip -- leaves me crying with laughter.


2. PaulV comes round and takes the last batch of bump photos -- "The light is lovely," he says, pushing me out of the back door.


2a. Anna sends me home from tea in her office with a plate of scones and gooey chocolate cake.


3. Across the car park, in a top window there is a lit-up Christmas tree. Better than an advent calendar. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Waiting, technology works and no more hot water.

1. My mother comes to keep me company while I wait. We go up to town for a few bits of Christmas shopping, and then have lunch in Hoopers restaurant. "Your father and I did most of our courting here," she says.

2. I plug the new laptop into the printer for the first time and it prints a page off for me.

3. To get out of a bath that is becoming uncomfortably cool.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Baby tip, historic homes and what I liked.

1. A lovely comment from Julia on this post about my beautician's take on night feeding. I can't wait to tell her that her thought has touched someone else as well as me!

2. We watch a historical documentary, At Home With The Georgians, in which Professor Amanda Vickery describes the origins of good taste and home-making using diaries and letters. One of the voices was particularly touching: a gauche bachelor of 24, writing in code, who was worried that his nerves would make him unable to get his future wife (he didn't marry until he was 43) pregnant.

3. Last thing at night, as we are falling asleep, we talk about our day: "I liked helping you with the dusting." "I liked the mashed swede." "I liked your sausage casserole." "I liked..."

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Thaw, cloud and frying pan.

1. Over night, warm rain comes and makes dark holes in the snow.

2. We make up the bed with white linen, shaking air into the pillows and duvet. I take my afternoon nap in a cloud.

3. Eggs and bacon for supper with sauté potatoes and savoy cabbage cook Jamie Oliver-style in Worcester sauce.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

He got through, card and redwing.

This post at The Refrigerator Oracle -- Open Your Eyes! -- is a good one for all 3BTers.

1. Frost ferns covered the empty milk bottles huddled on our doorstep -- the snow has defeated our milkman since Monday. Today I wake to the dull clunk of Nick bringing two full bottles into the house.

2. The first Christmas card, hand delivered.

3. Over the wall in the neighbour's bird feeding tree, I spot what looks like a thrush -- but there's something slightly off about it. It lifts a wing and displays a russet patch -- oh, a redwing, of course. I hope it has spotted the pyracanthus berries over the road.                                    

Friday, December 03, 2010

Footprints, through the snow and feeding on fruit.

1. Lines of paddy paw prints over the snowy carpark clue me in on the night life.

2. The doorbell rings. The triumphant Abel and Cole man hands over our veggie box.

3. Each cluster of pale orange rowan berries is weighed down by snow. The high branches are weighed down by feasting wood pigeons.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Service, blackbird and ginger biscuits.

1. The sound of the man from the end house sweeping snow off our road.

2. Blackbird at the pyracanthus berries disturbs a spray of snow. Later, its chook-chook-chook alarm call disturbs the evening's dead silence.

3. A batch of ginger biscuits cooling in the kitchen. I love the way they come out of the oven soft and puffy, and then harden into crunchy, hard biscuits.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Snow day, feed the birds and first winter.

1. Waking up to a snow day. It's lovely to have Nick home, but I'm very jealous that he gets to work in the attic with its view right out of town.

2. I throw down some bird food and top up the pan of water. Before long, I count 13 sparrows picking up seed.

3. I like seeing my friends' Facebook updates about their babies seeing snow for the first time.