Thursday, March 31, 2011

I want to sleep, tact and waiting my turn.

1. Alec starts to feel overwhelmed by the company of mothers and babies. He squirms, thrashes his arms and spits out my finger, struggling, struggling to tune out and go to sleep. I start to sing one of our lullabies -- Dirty Old Town -- and he catches my eye, sucks on my finger and relaxes. I feel as if I have lit a lantern to lead him out of a dark place.

2. A schoolgirl walking down the train is covered in embarrassment at seeing one of her parents' friends. She half-smiles and then doesn't know what to say or do. The lady mouths a kind 'hallo' and then goes back to her magazine.

3. I'm not going to bolt my supper while Alec fusses 'a-heh, a-heh, a-heh'. I'm going to feed him first, and then I'm going to scramble my eggs.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

On the move, co-incidence and not really concentrating.

1. It takes ages to leave the house when you have a baby. You think you're good to go (even if you do  have a string of sick down your back and a muslin hanging out of your pocket) but then there's a nappy disaster; followed by a "FEED ME NOW" meltdown, and suddenly you should have been there half an hour ago. So being able to walk quickly again is much appreciated.

2. The supermarket driver says: "I've got a long way to go with this next delivery." I ask him where he's heading. "Next door!" It's rather pleasing to think that they booked the exact same slot as me.

3. Alec makes chatty noises while I feed him. I get the impression that he's not really concentrating on the job in hand.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cotton wool puff, it's normal and uncle.

1. "I love that sound," says the baby life saving trainer. He's talking about the whisper of air filling the resus dummy.

2. An anxious classmate passes round her latest dirty nappy. "It's normal," we tell her. "I had one the colour of broccoli," says Charlie -- she almost sounds bored. "The GP said it's because she's fighting off a virus."

3. "I'm not taking him, he might explode," says Uncle Robert. But I put Alec on his knee anyway, and they seem quite happy when I get back.

4. I can hear in the kitchen: "Wow! Just wow." Nick has found the fruit cake my mother brought over.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring clean, bulbs and play time.

1. The spring sun has been making pointed remarks about dust in our bedroom. I repatriate the clutter, and shake a yellow duster round the room. Nick follows with the sweeper. The room seems bigger, and the surfaces gleam.

2. Our walk has a purpose today (beyond fresh air and exercise, I mean) because Katie wants us to see the bulbs we planted in her garden. My grape hyacinths are standing in soldier-straight rows where I planted them along the edge of the raised bed (they'll look less mannered in years to come). And tulips in pots reach up with green praying hands.

3. It's certainly true that the bed needs making, but Alec is feeling sociable, so we stop and play with him on the new sheet's wide, clean surface.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ticket to read, baklava and fed up.

1. Tucking a marker in a new book. I save all my old train tickets for this purpose. If you find yourself reading a secondhand book, and a ticket to or from Tunbridge Wells falls out, think of me.

2. A mouthful of baklava -- the pastry is fine and crisp under the syrup.

3. I leave the room, partly because I've heard babies will take a bottle more easily if mum isn't around; and partly because I can't bear to watch Alec being fed by someone else, even if it is my own milk, and even if it's Nick doing the feeding.. At first there is roaring, and then suddenly quiet, and "Well done, lad."

On another note, I've just read Neil Gaiman's blog post about Diana Wynne Jones who is one of my favourite authors. I'm very sad to think there will be no more of her books to look forward to. I wrote to her once to say how much I liked her work and to say that she was partly responsible for me wanting to be a writer, and she send me the loveliest, kindest letter.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Crossing off, hyacinths and how was your day.

1. To tuck a list and a pen into the pocket of my knitted coat, and to cross off items as we go around town.

2. I make a detour to pass the garden with planters full of blue and white hyacinths, because they smell so good in the still air.

3. "Today," I tell Nick, "Alec grabbed the lion on his baby gym and pulled it off." It's the first time he's held a toy, rather than just batting at it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Having a laugh, emergency and Firefly.

1. 4am and all is quiet. A milk-limp Alec is asleep on my knee. I wipe his chin, and I suppose it tickles him, because he smiles and then chuckles. His first definite laugh.

2. "Here, take one of mine," says one of the other yoga mums, handing me a nappy. I'm glad for her kindness, and I appreciate it even more later when Alec has another explosion which takes out his spare baby grow. As I am leaving the surgery, my GP holds the door open. "Hallo," she says, "And how's the boy?" I ruefully show her that Alec is dressed in a muslin. "Oh," she says, "Well it's a lovely day to be naked." And I suppose it is.

3. I've been watching Joss Weedon's Firefly during feeds -- it's a western in space, pretty much, with gritty, messy 1970s ships; and a mixture of high and low tech that reminds me of Star Wars. I'm enjoying the character-driven stories, too.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Available, no coat and magnolia.

1. Nick is working from home today. The door to his fortress of solitude is closed tight all morning. At noon, when Alec is lingering over his feed and I'm thinking I'll have to go without my lunch in the interests of getting out of the house on time, I hear Nick's feet on the stairs, and he asks if I would like him to make me a sandwich.

2. I set off into the sunlight without a coat.

3. We walk round the corner and I exclaim "Oh, the magnolia is out!" It's a particularly good one, with dainty, spindly flowers. I've been enjoying its fuzzy buds all winter, but didn't expect them to burst this early.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bright eyes, sling papa and rosemary.

1. "You can tell by their eyes," says the health visitor. "Look how bright and shiny they are. Look how nosey he is." Then to Alec: "Are you flirting with me?" To me again: "These graphs are based on bottle-fed babies, you know." Which I didn't, and I was glad to be told this. I'd been slightly worried that Alec's line was so far down.

2. I'm not sure about the new sling -- but Nick tries it and declares himself pleased because he can sit down while wearing it, which he couldn't with the Baby Bjorn.

3. Chopping homegrown fresh rosemary -- the nettle-sharp scent settles on the board.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dawn noises, a warm day and chiffon.

1. During the 4am feed I listen to birdsong; and for the milkman's sounds -- a soft clang as he opens our gate; the chiming clunk of the bottles on our step, the gate again, and the whirr of his float going back up the street.

2. She warns: "You'll be too hot in that fleece." After half an hour of walking on the common, I have to concede that she's right.

3. Jo and I take our babies to a class on child development and play. Among the toys to try is a set of chiffon scarves in pure rainbow colours and we discover that the little lads love having their faces stroked with the floaty fabric. Alec lies back with his eyes closed and his mouth open in what might be bliss (but who knows with babies).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Soon blue, lingering and this evening's chef.

1. As we leave the house I spot a grape hyacinth (still green) in the front garden.

2. It's a the first warm day of the year and people (still wearing winter coats) are lingering outside, slowly examining shop windows and sitting around the outdoor tables in cafes and pubs.

3. The caramelised onions give a deep sweetness to Nick's sausage casserole. He is more patient than I when frying them.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Not forgotten, cargoes and a catch-up.

1. The postman rings the doorbell.

2. Nick takes Alec off up town in the sling. They come back with a loaf of bread, some Belgian chocolates (in a black coffee brown box with a lime green ribbon) and a story about a little girl who opened the till and nearly got into the chocolate display..

3. We run into an old commuting acquaintance of Nick's. I like chance meetings like this because people are always so surprised -- and pleased -- at the change from a confirmed bachelor to a proud father.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bubbles, giving in and Friday.

1.  A glass of squash made up with soda water.

2. Every time I think about leaving the house for some wholesome fresh air and vigorous exercise, it's raining. Alec and I take to bed after lunch for an extended nap.

3. Nick comes home early. He takes the baby from me and goes upstairs to put on his weekend glasses.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Rasp, a special treat and seed bread.

1. Alec gets bored halfway through yoga. I blow a raspberry at him. He looks shocked, and then does a proper wide-mouthed grin and makes a sound that might be a laugh.

2. Alec gets his jollies in some very strange and incomprehensible ways (see above), hence: "He was so good while I was changing his nappy that I flushed the toilet for him as a special treat," says Nick.

3. Toasted seeds from the loaf of apricot and walnut bread rattle in the paper bag.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

With the baby, boys together and daddy's boy.

1. She says to me: "His crying bothers you more than it bothers me. Don't worry about it." To Alec she says: "Let's put you on mummy's chest while I adjust her legs." I love my chiropractor.

2. When I come back from moving the pram out of the way, Jo has put Alec next to her little boy under a cloudy white blanket in the baby gym.

3. As the Hawaii-50 theme ends, Alec's nappy rumbles ominously. "Change him, Daddo," I say to Nick, and he laughs.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lunch outside, colours and birthday chocolates.

1. It is warm enough that we are happy to eat our sandwiches outside.

2. There is a Sienna on one side of us, and a Scarlett on the other. It's like being in a paintbox. I think Umber would be a good name for a ponderous boy -- I can see him as a large and clumsy toddler. Cadmium suits an older lad, probably a rugby player. I'm rather charmed by the thought of a little girl called Opera Rose -- you'd dress her in reds and opulent pinks. If I were feeling mischievous, I'd try Phthalo as a middle name, or perhaps Aureolin.

3. Nick pauses the game and comes upstairs, where I am lying in a deep, hot bath, bringing his birthday box of Malteasers.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Better than rubies, bakewell and out on the Common.

1. I'm about to put the bed linen out on the line for the first time this year when I remember a piece of advice given to me by Anna, one of my university housemates (she got it from her mother): "Wipe the washing line with a damp cloth." Looking at the cloth afterwards, I'm awfully glad I called the incident to mind.

2. This bakewell tart is still warm from the oven.

3. Alec and I take a walk across the Common. I show him the walled up gentleman's conveniences where the bats live; and the pond where the frogs are spawning. This is an aspect of parenthood I really like -- walking around showing someone all the cool and interesting stuff you know.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Batter up, fruitcake and grooming.

1. Pouring an entire pint of milk into the pancake batter.

2. My father puts a cake tin on the table. "The Mother says I'm to take half back in the tin. She says you've got enough of her tins already."

3. When Alec, Grandpa and I get back from the park, Nick's rough weekend jaw is smooth and the house smells of bubblebath.
1. Pancakes for breakfast.

2. My father puts a cake tin on the table. "The

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Salad, wardrobe and showing off.

1. To chop up tomatoes for a salad and scatter the dish with parsley and chives from the garden.

2. A dinosaur t-shirt and a preppy tobacco-coloured tank top and marine blue polo shirt -- a few sizes too big and perfect for summer -- brought as a gift for Alec.

3. To show a visitor the best parts of your home town.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Our day, timeslot and dried cherries.

1. Alec and I  have today to ourselves. We have no plans beyond the two-hourly feed-change cycle, a walk round the park and a supermarket delivery.

2. When the supermarket delivers at the start of the two-hour timeslot because it means I can get on with my nap.

3. To finally find the dried cherries I've been looking out for. Sour cherries have recently been in the news for their newly-discovered have anti-gout properties, so they seem to sell out quickly. I just wanted them for a batch of brownies.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Altered state, for both of us and keeping warm.

1. Alec lies in his pram sucking on one fist while staring at the other. His surprised and wondering expression takes me back to an instructive afternoon in 1997 spent baking hash scones with a few of my university housemates. "Dude, look at my hand! It's... it's... so beautiful."

2. "And as you go down give the babies a tickle," says the yoga teacher. Alec seems to enjoy the kisses, and the stroking and the chance to grab my hair, and I enjoy doing something for me that includes him. As a new mother, I am told about four times a day (it seems, anyway) to make time for myself. I really do try, but I can't be away too long because of feeding; and I miss the little chap to the point where I count the minutes until I can go back to him. This yoga class is something for me that accepts Alec's presence, and welcomes him. I hope I can find more activities like this.

3. I settle back down under the covers and Nick wakes up long enough to tell me to warm myself against him.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Jam, shower in peace and cloves.

1. In the early morning, piling red jam on a piece of toast made with heavy bread.

2. My mother and Nick take Alec out for a walk. I have a shower -- without needing to sing Incy Wincy Spider to a certain small someone who has grown tired of batting the creatures dangling from his baby gym.

3. In a documentary about spices, Indonesian women in a clove cigarette factory work so quickly it looks as if the film is being played at high speed. Also, Nick learnt that mace is part of nutmeg (which I already knew).

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Switch, toast and this is what we do.

1. Nick and I are down with food poisoning. I look after Alec until I'm too tired to go on, and hand him over to Nick. I'm very glad he's here.

2. At tea time, I make Nick some toast and Marmite. "That tastes so good," he says.

3. "Watching cartoons is what we do when we are sick," I tell Alec.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Stripes, my baby and grandparents.

1. Light and shade fall through the blinds and make stripes across our food.

2. Alec looking up at me from his blanket is much more interesting than anything the parentcraft course has to offer.

3. Alec watches solemnly as Grandad wriggles his fingers overhead. "I used to do this for Nicholas."

4. "You dress him how you think best," says Nana.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Hungry, flights of fancy and sausages.

1. I am so glad -- after months of having my stomach squashed up under my ribs during pregnancy -- to have my appetite back again. Breast feeding is making me ravenously hungry, so I have been indulging just about every whim and craving.

2. From the kitchen where I am cooking dinner, I can hear Nick telling Alec that his bouncy chair is a spaceship, that Snorgle Mouse is his Wookie co-pilot and that the dangling teddies are space invaders who need to be blasted (that is, kicked) out of the sky.

3. I make a perfect, 10 out of 10 toad in the hole. Because I followed Delia's recipe to the letter.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Running water, under orders and hot cross buns.

1. It is 7.30am on a Saturday, and I am sitting on the bed in Nick's study. My small son is bawling, red and rigid and I don't know why. I have fed him (at 2am, 5am and 7am), changed him, winded him and walked about holding him every which way. I remember reading about baths being good for crying babies, so I take him down to the bathroom and turn the taps on. He falls silent and the furious red flush drains from his head. By the time the bath is full, he is smiling at me.

2. Looking at our life now, I remember a quip I heard during my classics degree:
-- Who rules Greece?
-- Athens.
-- Who rules the Athens?
-- Themistocles.
-- Who rules Themistocles?
-- Themistocles' wife.
-- Who rules Themistocles' wife?
-- Themistocles' baby son.

3. The spicy smell of hot cross buns toasting, and thinking about spreading mine with butter.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Green beans, that's not how we do it and peke.

1. Maggie offers her mother second nibble of her green bean. "Num num num. Thank you Maggie."

2. In the baby changing room, a little girl with curly hair asks why Alec wears a nappy and why I don't have a buggy (Alec is in the sling today). I explain that he's too little to tell me he needs a wee on the pot, and that I use the sling so I don't have to wait for the lift. Her mother is changing her little brother, and says: "Lily, can I have that nappy out of your bag?" I hope Alec will be as helpful and engaging.

3. At 3.30pm, a girl in black office clothes hurries impatiently up to the Grove. A black peke undulates on the end of the lead. It wants to sniff at walls and gutters. She wants to get out and back as soon as possible. I think the dog belongs to her boss.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Bottom of the class, it's an ill wind and mist.

Here's another Alec photo. He looks a bit fighty because he was getting a bit annoyed with his mother singing You are My Sunshine and saying "Smile, damn you."

My aunt has been working on a colourful photography project.

1. My yoga teacher laughs to see me trying to do a stretch while Alec sucks my finger. When I was pregnant with him, he used to disrupt my yoga relaxation by having a good old kick. Now he's just as contrary and goes rigid when I try to sit him down and sulks through the songs that are meant to amuse him. The only bit he really likes is when the teacher picked him up and carried him off round the room. He lounged in her arms smirking triumphantly. But I mustn't be unkind -- it's a new experience for him, and I don't think he's been in a room with so many other mothers and babies before. He'll like it more next week.

2. Alec has gone from one (admittedly catastrophic) dirty nappy every three days to SEVEN in a day (that's one after each feed). This sounds dire, but wait -- the basin has never been cleaner because he is being bathed in it at least twice a day. I love washing my face in a gleaming basin.

3. It's a bright day, and the afternoon is wearing on, but the Grove is still softened by mist so you'd almost think it was early in the morning.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Healthcare, send off and helping.

1. I take Alec to get his first set of immunisations. The nurse is kind and quick, and rubs the sore spots briskly to take away the pain. She helps me dress him and then takes him off to look out of the window at the car park. This cheers him up no end and he stops bawling, until I take him back...

2. Putting parcels in the post.

3. Something the breast buddy said a week and a half ago clicks today. When Alec yells furiously before a feed, he's not berating me for being slow with the goods. The sound of his crying stimulates the flow of my milk, so really he's helping me get ready. Instead of apologising for making him wait, I praise him for helping and feel relaxed and content when we sit down to feed.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

My boys, nothing changes and TV.

1. 6am feed. Alec wriggles in close, puts his arms around his favourite right breast and shuts his eyes. Nick turns over, mutters something about wives and snuggles against me.

2. I go back to the office where I used to work with Oli, Ellie, Charlotte and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. "Your bunting is still up," they say. And I spot the whale tucked into a beam: "We don't play the Whale Game any more," says HWSNBN. I am not sure whether to believe him, as one of the lights has been mended with tape.

3. Afternoon feeds merge into each other -- Alec is having a growth spurt. I watch episode after episode of The Simpsons.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Pass it on, lost rabbit and followed.

1. "Look at his eyelashes," says my mother again. "They're like Grandpa Barclay's -- his used to curl over his eyelids like anything."

2. A lost toy rabbit -- loved into greyness -- waits patiently and faithfully on a wall in the street leading up to the park.

3. A man walking round the Grove's perimeter seems to be chased by a few dead leaves. It's the ears and tail of a dachshund -- the rest of her was hidden by a rise in the ground.

Art book, gossip and watermelon.

1. Among my birthday presents is a new book of Tove Jansson's art, featuring lots of bits I've never seen before. 2. Stopping for a ...