Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kisses, a few minutes and walking home.

1. The Mother is coming later, so there's no need to try to do any work until she arrives. Alec and I go upstairs and lie in bed. I blow in his face to make him giggle, and he gives me some sloppy, toothy, open-mouth kisses on the nose.

2. While they are out, I lie on the bed and shut my eyes for a few minutes.

3. Alec's walking is really coming on: "He walked all the way home from the swings pushing the pushchair," says my mother. "A man told me to hop in and enjoy the ride!"

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Get out, runaway and bread.

1. Lunch has fallen apart. It's five to twelve and all I have is a pan of raw vegetables and lumps of frozen stock. Thank heavens there's a branch of Wagamama just up the hill.

2. Alec is fretting at the pushchair straps and I want to check out the cheese book that the shop assistant has just handed me. I let Alec loose, thinking that he'll sit on the floor and play with baby. Wrong. He sets off almost at a run. For a heart stopping moment, he disappears from view. I go after him and bring him back. "Stay where I can see you." He's off again, baby under one arm. He is giggling as if this is the funniest thing that has ever happened to him, and if he could talk, he'd be saying: "Chase me, chase me!"

3. Sourdough bread.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Red and grey, embellished and cheese board.

1. I'm very proud of the wrapping on Nick's presents from me. I used a piece of the storm cloud grey tissue paper with which they wrap your purchases from Le Petit Jardin, and some bright red ribbons.

2.  While the boys are out and the house is still, I sit and embellish the second of the budget cakes, a chocolate swiss roll, with writing icing. I haven't been well enough to bake a cake for Nick's birthday, but I feel much happier armed with this token effort. 

3. I do like a cheese board, and the chance to enjoy the different textures and (not so much at the moment because I'm still so bunged up) tastes.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rest, balanced and fruit salad.

1. All I have to do today is rest and get well.

2.  I put my head round the bathroom door and find Nick has balanced the radio on the sink because Alec has asked, as he often does, to listen. It's Live From the Met with Verdi's Ernani. Alec is standing in the bath bobbing his head and crooning. "He's singing along," says Nick.

3. The colours in a salad of kiwi fruit and blood oranges.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Explorer, womenfolk and out to lunch.

1. To see my father-in-law coming and going as Alec explores the hall and the living room.

2. To sit with my mother-in-law and talk potty training while the menfolk follow the baby round the house.

3. We find ourselves telling everyone: "It's our first time out to lunch just us together since our son was born."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Word, mild and miniature daffs.

1. Alec spits out his last meatball to show he has finished his first course and when I offer him some banana he stands up in his highchair. I tell him: "You're standing up, so I think you've finished and want to get down," and lift him out. He trundles off to put sticky finger prints on the washing. A few moments later I feel a tugging at my dress and hear a shy little voice: "Narna, narna."

2. There is definitely something springlike about the air. It's... warm and mild and kind.

3. I love those miniature daffodils, particularly planted around the roots of trees in the street.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Two sleeps, home early and enhanced.

1. Alec takes an afternoon nap as well as his morning nap, and I feel very blessed.

2. Nick apologises for the budget cake. "There wasn't time to go to the usual..." I tell him that it's OK, the important bit was him coming home early.

3. I'm putting together my column for next week. As I explore the subject matter, I relive two happy moments. The links between them enhance the original experience, and the memories seem fresher and brighter for the work.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Early, handprints and identification.

1. "I'll come home early tonight," says Nick. "Be brave, and be cheerful." This cold is not as bad as the last one, which was accompanied by a cloud of gloom and despondency. I feel awful, but I don't feel un-cheerful.

2. There are small sooty handprints on the lid of the loo from when the mother took care of the clean-up after Alec got into the fireplace.

3. Alec has taken a liking to Nick's model train magazines, and they flick through Continental Modeller at bedtime. Alec points to pictures of steam engines and says 'Toot'. I'm lying there dozing and waiting to do the go-to-bed feed when Alec remarks "Dad" in a conversational sort of way. I glance up. Nick is looking a bit embarrassed, and Alec is jabbing his finger at a picture of a grandfatherly man with glasses, a bald head and distinguished silver hair. "Dad-dad!" he says again.*

* This afternoon, he identified as 'Dad-dad' a picture of the smooth-headed, bespectacled chef Heston Blumenthal in the FT pages we put down under the high chair.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Teenagers, relief and father-son moment.

1. One of the other things I like about swimming -- apart from the pleasure it gives Alec -- is the lunch out afterwards. Instead of rushing to put a meal in front of an impatient and often unappreciative toddler, I get to sit and chat with Alec (and Godfather Timothy if he can make it) while someone else makes lunch for us. Today we were in the pool cafe, which I like because 'all human life is there'. Today there were three enormous teenage boys sitting round the table next to us. Alec stared and stared -- he knows some girls, but not boys, and these gangly, noisy diffident creatures who filled the table and shied away from eye contact fascinated him. I tried not to stare (they were playing a finger hitting game that I'd never seen before, and I do love watching other people watching my baby) but I listened. "He's waving at us. Look, he's waving at us!"

2. Nick comes home and tells me not to do any more housework. "You're not well." It's such a relief.

3. When I get out of my bath and go into the darkened bedroom, I stumble on Nick's slippers. "Shhh!" he is lying in bed with Alec sprawled across him. "We're have a father-son moment."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Round-about, beans and surrender.

1. A family is playing on the round-about. They children shriek with laughter as the dad pushes them faster and faster. A pink streak whizzes past in my peripheral vision. One of the little girls has come off, landing about five feet away laughing and surprised. "You really went flying," says her dad amazed and amused. They both get a telling off from the mother.

2. Alec's rejected beans go very well in my ham and pea soup with some pink fragments of meat.

3. To surrender. We are not going to get to watch TV tonight, and it's a relief to admit it.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Vacuum cleaner, ham and night duty.

1. We look at the Miele vacuum cleaner he recommended first. And we look at the Dyson, which is £30 more expensive. "I loved our old Dyson," I say. (Our needs had changed and it no longer did what was required, so it had to go). We look at the Miele again. "It's German. We like German," says Nick. I remind him: "Dyson is British." We look back at the Dyson. With its clear tank and its swooping lines it's a lot more... exciting looking than the Miele, which is somewhat boxy and conservative. "They're both good," says the man reassuringly. "Both got five-year warrenty." In the end we take the Dyson. Form (and familiarity) won out, I guess.

2. There is something rather satisfying about a large ham soaking in a pan.

3. "Come on Alec, norgle in," I lift my crumpled and cross manlet out of his cot and bring him into bed for some milk and a cuddle.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Backpack, massage and sleep at last.

1. Alec does his usual bucking and back arching when I try to put him in the pushchair. I hate forcing him in -- it just seems impolite, and a mean way to make him co-operate, and I don't like the way it says 'might is right'. I pick him up and start to tell him all the nice things about going in the pushchair, when he points to the backpack. "Do you want to go in the backpack?" I ask him. He hasn't got the hang of yes and no yet, so I try dropping him in, just to see what he does. He slips in beautifully, all smiles now. I get my head patted all the way to nursery. When we get there, Nicky comes to take him through to the baby room and he goes off in her arms without any complaint -- that's never happened before.

2. I use the time to have an aromatherapy massage. My beauty therapist has set the room up with soft pink lights, and it looks very warm and inviting. Her work leaves me feeling incredibly vulnerable. "But you're safe here," she says. "You're safe." And I am. She works on a spiritual level, I think, as well as the physical. It did me a lot of good. On the way home, people keep bumping into me -- all the shieldy, get away from me baggage that I normally carry has fallen away.

3. ...and there's another cough and a little cry from my poor snuffly baby the bedroom. "I give up," I tell Nick. "I'll bake this cake tomorrow." As I put my foot on the bottom stair, the crying stops.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tea, first things first and chipping.

1. The production editor says: "Tea, lass?"

2. Instead of rushing out to collect Alec, I go home first to tidy up the lunch things, which I left scattered around the kitchen in my hurry to get out of the house and off to work, and to draw the curtains and put his night things on the towel warmer. When we come home, the house feels warm and ready.

3. We chip away some more at our backlog of Downton Abbey.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Signed, request and soothing.

1. To mark my initials on a page proof.

2. Alec climbs on to my lap with an insistent bu-ba, bu-ba.

3. To rub Alec's back through his clean sleep suit as I feed him off to sleep.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Welcome, at the end of the day and Valentine.

1. I come home at lunchtime and when my mother answers the door to let me in, Alec comes round the corner of the sofa with a huge smile for me.

2. At the end of the day I come home from work and settle on the sofa. Alec crawls across me, asking for "bu-ba" and my mother puts a cup of tea on the windowsill. She says that he has been very tinksy today. While she was telling him not to pour any more water on to the floor, he posted one of his milk bottle lids into her mouth.

3. The moment Alec goes back to sleep, Nick and I bundle him back into the cot and jump into our bed for a Valentine's Day snuggle.

Sense of humour, walker and forest.

1. Alec farts, giggles and then blows a raspberry to keep the fun going.

2. Instead of loading him into the backpack for the short stroll to the cafe, I offer Alec my finger and we walk along the corridor, one rolling step at a time. Just as we pass through into reception, Godfather Timothy walks through the doors. He stops short, amazed at his walking godson.

3. I love the pages in Where the Wild Things Are where the forest grows in Max's bedroom.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lull, not the winners and party bag.

1. There is a lull in the middle of the morning. Without hesitation, I run myself a bath and add a whole vial of posh bath oil which will, it says, help me breathe. The box was a gift -- "A whole box of baths," said the giver.

2a. The children who don't win sweets in pass-the-parcel scrabble for the packet and vie to be the one who hands it over.

2.  As we are leaving the party and strapping a struggling Alec into his pushchair, Susan presses a party bag into our hands.

3. The cakes I made on Friday are even better on the third day after baking.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Malt loaf, fish pie and surrender.

1. A slice of home-made malt loaf dotted with tender raisins.

2. To take a mouthful of your own fish pie and feel that the compliments you are receiving are not just polite dinner table talk.

3. Alec is not himself at all and we're not sure what to do. Hold him this way, hold him that way, give him this, give him that. He is all round red mouth and noise, back arched and arms waving. At last I surrender and stay at home with him for the afternoon. We sit on the sofa, playing and cuddling and feeding, and it seems to be all that is needed. Perhaps I'd been thinking too much about my fish pie and not enough about him.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Order, baby and white sauce.

1. Extra milk on the doorstep: we're expecting guests.

2. Baby Chloe watches and watches us. "Her eyes have changed colour again," says Katie. She says that everyone has commented on how Chloe seems to be scrutinising everything. I remember Katie once told me (we were sitting in a pen of yipping, nipping, roiling, tumbling puppies) that when you choose a puppy, you shouldn't fall for the one that bounds forward, or the one that hangs back, but the one that waits and watches before coming politely up to greet you.

3. To stir a buttery yellow roux into glossy white sauce.

Friday, February 10, 2012

That hungry, exhibition and no snow.

1. Alec and I are that hungry -- and in that much of a hurry to get to nursery -- that we don't even bother with plates. I eat my fish and chips off the paper, and he has his off the highchair tray.

2. How much do I appreciate being able to stroll round an art exhibition without worrying about how a small person is feeling and wanting? I recommend the Snowdon exhibit at Tunbridge Wells Art Gallery, by the way -- timeless portraits from the London art world. His shot of the curator Anthony Blunt is strangely prescient. It was taken in the early 60s, well before he was disgraced for spying, and shows him holding a transparency up to the light so that the image is projected back on to his eye. Of course this particular picture could have been selected in retrospect -- but it's still a stiking image.

3. "It's going to snow tonight at 8pm, all night, all tomorrow and all weekend," say the girls at nursery with unholy glee. They are wrong -- which is a pity because on snow days Nick works from home. On balance, though I feel that the snow we had the other day was picturesque, short-lived and quite sufficient, thank you.

PS: Spotted this from Jennifer on Facebook: "How nice to share fish and chips and a nap with the cat on a Friday afternoon..."

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Un-alone, riding and finished.

1. At 8.30 the doorbell rings. It's my mother. She's come very early because of the bad weather to spend the day with Alec. Nick is working from home, too. I feel very un-alone today.

2. Alec trundling round with his walker, which is full of soft toys (my mother says they are his babies, but perhaps he thinks they are passengers). He pushes it straight across the kitchen into the corner, and then, with a few brmm-brmm noises, reverses out and turns it round to come back again.

3. To finish editing my Courier column down to 300 words, to read it aloud, tweak it again and to send it off.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Cold, hiding and what are you doing.

1. Bloody nora, it's cold out. We celebrate getting home with an afternoon nap in bed under the covers.

2. "...Can you see all the people hiding in this picture?" And to my amazement, Alec covers his eyes. I try again: "There's the Wicked Witch HIDING, and there's Tom Thumb HIDING behind the custard." Again the little fists go up.

3. Alec stumbling around the kitchen because he has his hands over his eyes.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Sleeper, the walk and back under.

1. Alec is still asleep at lunch time. We decide not to wake him so we can have a romantic lunch together.

2. Alec sets off out of the cafe and into the shop beyond rolling one leg round and then the other. "Come back," I call to him. "You come back." He looks over his shoulder, waves, smiles and keeps walking.

3. Just as I sit down to watch TV, there's a lonely noise from the bedroom. I stuff a chocolate into my mouth and go upstairs to help him back to sleep. It doesn't take long, and after that he sleeps until the small hours.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The reaction, excellent women and the meaning of bayleaves.

1. Even Nick gets out of bed to see Alec's reaction as we draw back the curtain on a snowy world. He stares and stares and then points.

1b. Our snowy park walk was just magical (teenage girls were shrieking 'I'm for Aslan' at each other) but now we are so cold. I sit on the sofa and feed Alec. I can feel the warmth coming back into his hands and feet as he takes long sucks.

2. I did another session at the night shelter this weekend. I was on cooking duty. I appreciated more than ever all those capable women who know the church hall kitchen and its quirks.

3. "All the things on your plate, they mean something," he says. "I found a bayleaf -- my girlfriend never put bayleaves in the bolognaise, and you don't find them in Weatherspoons either. A bayleaf means... it means 'welcome'."

4. The visiting GP looks as fragile as the snow on the cherry trees outside. But she listens for an hour to a man in crisis.

Someone else's task, orange zest and snow is coming.

1. To half hear, while going back to sleep in the morning, Nick changing Alec's nappy in the bathroom.

2. I can't smell much with this cold, but I can smell the orange zest as I grate it for my cake.

3. Watching the snow reports on Twitter move across a map.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sit up, the bins and twins.

1. Alec wakes me in the small hours, has a quick drink and then goes back to sleep. But I don't. I lie awake. And lie awake. And lie awake. Finally, I sit up, put the light on and read more soothing Sei Shonagon until my eyes grow heavy. It's good to have the time.

2. I loathe doing the bins -- they are all the way down at the end of the terrace, and it's cold out. But I dislike even more putting rubbish into an overflowing container. So I empty them all and take the bags down when I'm going out anyway.

3. A mother herds twin boys down the stairs in front of us. One of them wants to take his gloves off. Alec smiles fatly at me -- he knows that I know that he's going to take his own gloves off the minute I put them on him.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Hot chocolate, evidence and come down.

1. Once Alec has gone to nursery, I make myself a hot chocolate -- with more spoonfuls of powder than the tin suggests.

2. Alec's key worker has printed out some photos of him that I admired during parents' afternoon. It means a lot to have images of the times when we are not with him.

3. When I come out of the bathroom, all is _still_ quiet. I retrieve Nick from the attic where he is sleeping tonight and we cuddle and doze until Alec wakes up.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

At home, for Alec and two kindnesses.

1. Nick is ill now. He works from home, which means he's around to support me when one pair of hands just isn't enough, and when I get demoralised.

2. "What have I got in my bag for you?" She digs in her seagreen bag and pulls out a sparkly pen, which Alec likes holding very much. Next she lets him to examine her purse. He pulls out her cards and offers them to the people at the next table.

3. The dentist has very kindly agreed to look at my sore mouth at short notice. There are five large steps up to his surgery. As I'm about to start bumping the pushchair up them, a lady with torn trousers asks if I want a hand, and helps me out. The dentist examines me and my ulcers and says there's nothing to worry about, and to try salt water. The nurse says: "There's nothing to do at the desk" -- for a moment I'm lost, and then I realise she means the examination was free.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Analgesic, zapper and cake box.

1. God bless whoever invented paracetamol.

2. Alec asks for the remote control, which I've put out of reach on the window sill. I point at his red toy remote. "It's much better -- it makes noises," I tell him. He wriggles over to it and picks it up. He seems convinced ... for now.

3. Nick has left two boxes of cake on the table.