Thursday 2 February 2006
Sunday 5 February 2006
Al Lewis, RIP.
On being a new father
Being a parent is an utterly exhausting experience. Long nights of fitful sleep with an ear cocked for gurgles, snuffles, whimpers and the occasional outright cry. Disgusting nappies and fountains of pee add to the experience. But the rewards are fantastic. Tom is already fixing his gaze on our faces when we hold him and displaying a definite sparkle in his eyes. Starting as we mean to go on, and following a tip from our midwife, we’ve succeeded in teaching young Tom to stick his tongue out at people. Next is the challenge of teaching him to blow raspberries. From there, it’ll be a short step to having him swear like a trooper.
I know that one or two regular readers are either expecting a child or considering parenthood, so here are a few handy tips from our experience:
- You will get more advice than you can handle. It will come from family and friends; from books and health professionals; even from total strangers. Most of it will be contradictory. Much of it will be totally useless. Nearly all of it should be ignored. Everyone is being genuinely caring and trying to be helpful – I do appreciate those sentiments. But after a while, you will be totally overwhelmed and wish that it would stop. With this in mind, I’ll try to keep the rest of this post concise and truly useful.
- Don’t waste too much time and money on books. We had a good pile of books about pregnancy which were obtained at not inconsiderable expense. Most are still unread, even though the pregnancy is now complete. The most useful book that we had is the free one given out by the NHS – it has got all the essential information presented in an unvarnished style. It answered most of the questions that we had.
- Ante-natal classes are well worth attending. We tried to get on to the NCT classes, but these do involve a not insubstantial fee – as it was, they could only fit us on a course that started 14 days before the due date. If Tom had come early, they would have been useless. They also tend to have components related to breathing (I practice every day, so I’m quite proficient) and vocalizing your pain (a.k.a.: screaming). Instead, we went to the classes held by the NHS at the hospital where Tom was born. These were run by the midwife team there, were informal (and irreverent), free and, like the NHS book, told us what we needed to know in a concise and unvarnished manner, including a tour of the facilities (knowing your way around is vital). The NCT classes are reputed to have a social element which we found was also present in the NHS classes – we’ve made friends with a couple who had a son two weeks before Tom, with whom we can now share experiences and, more usefully, a pint.
- Birth plans are useless. Mostly. Most books will advise you to make a birth plan. We had a plan that extended to a whole sheet of A4. When it came to the crunch, everything on the plan went out the window – the only thing that actually came to pass was that I was present at the birth. However, making a birth plan does serve the purpose of forcing you to research all the things that might happen and understand what the choices are and what they might mean. That knowledge was very useful on the day, at least for me, as I was able to guide Hels through the process and choices as we went (she was a little distracted to be able to think consecutively – I can’t imagine why).
- Mothers – do not expect to have a shred of dignity remaining after more than 5 minutes in hospital. Any air of mystery that you have tried to maintain around your partner will also disappear. Let’s face it, you’re going to be in agony, shouting and screaming, with all your bits on display. Get used to the idea – once you do, you’ll relax a bit more. And you’ll need your sense of humour.
- Fathers – be warned that midwives will size you up in seconds. I had what can only be described as a very hands-on role in the delivery of my son, acting as the midwife’s assistant throughout the entire process. This did mean rolling my sleeves up and getting my hands dirty. It was only afterwards that we learned that, when you arrive in the delivery suite with your partner, the midwife will use her experience to quickly get a measure of you. If she thinks that you are the type who is going to sit in the corner and pass out at the sight of blood, then you will be given a seat and a corner and left to it. If, on the other hand, you come across as being made of stronger stuff, then you’d better be ready for some hard work. If you can, try to get the latter result (if you think you have the stomach for it) – helping our midwife deliver Tom is going to be an experience that will be with me for the rest of my days. It also means that you are too busy to pass out!
- Be prepared to be very, very scared. When we got to the end of labour, one or two things started to go a little awry. Tom was born at 5.18pm, with the midwife cutting the cord and then turning to her assistant (the official one, that is, who was present only for the final few minutes) and saying “Theatre! Now!”. Tom disappeared through the doors and was gone and we were left wondering what the hell was going on and if our child was alive or what. As it turned out, Tom was not breathing and needed to go to theatre (the next room) to be given a bit of a kick start in that department. A minute later, the nurse came back and held the door of the delivery room open so that we could hear him crying. I don’t think I’ve ever be so relieved in all my life.
- Post-natal wards are the noisiest places on Earth. You think your local bypass is noisy? Or that nearby building site? That’s got nothing on the post-natal ward. Twenty mums, twenty newborns, twenty partners, perhaps twelve staff. You will not find a quiet corner. Mums should not expect to get much sleep.
- Keep the number of visitors to an absolute minimum. Everyone will want to see you and your baby. Both parents will be utterly exhausted and will want the baby to sleep whenever he/she can as it gives them a chance for a little shut-eye. Even your parents can be told to hold-off visiting for a while. The only person you will welcome into your home will be the community midwife.
- You will end up with three pushchairs. Fact. Get used to it.
- You will go around grinning like a loon. Assuming you’re not fast asleep at the time. And your child will be the most beautiful baby in the world. You will turn into a baby bore. It’s fantastic, though you may seriously consider whether you would ever wish to put yourselves through it for a second time.
Tuesday 7 February 2006
Blogging up the works
Thursday 9 February 2006
Wednesday 15 February 2006
Griddled scallops and king prawns with tomatoes, followed by grilled duck breast with marmalade glaze, topped off by chocolate soufflé. We’re stuffed and the Valentine’s Day foodfest has passed for another year.
My cat’s got knees. Musical madness from Joel Veitch.
Saturday 18 February 2006
A cheese store in Padua. A purchase was made.
You’ve read articles about Italian olive farmers claiming EU subsidies for groves that have already been grubbed up. What you may not know is that there is a whole industry dedicated to putting these ancient trees into very small pots and then selling them at hugely inflated prices to idiotic northern Europeans like you and me. So it’s a win-win for the olive farmer.
I’ve just been to an exhibition in Padua. Here, a company selling plastic garden pools had a stand consisting of one representative, a desk, a sample plastic pool and, bizarrely, a mannequin dressed as a hula girl. No, I don’t know why either.
Monday 27 February 2006
Travel blogging – written over a period of 8 days and completed on Friday using Cal’s marvellous Noted application – so much more refined than your crappy old Notepad.
Airport ranting! Why do I always ended up seated in departures next to someone who has clearly never caught a plane before?
Him: Oooo, look – they still haven’t put a departure gate up.
Her: No, not yet.
Him: It’s only three days until boarding time. You’d think that they would have it up by now.
Her: Mmmm, yes. There are still a whole bunch of flights above ours on the screen that don’t have gates yet.
Him: Maybe they’re still cleaning the loos.
Him: Or the plane hasn’t arrived. I bet that’s it. The plane hasn’t arrived.
Me: SHUT UP!
Reasons why I prefer flying BA from Gatwick:
- they fly from the North Terminal, which is vastly superior and not filled with plebs.
- they give you a better quality seat on the plane.
- you can check in electronically without the need to queue.
- you can choose your own seat without a rugby scrum.
- they give you tea and a sandwich.
So why am I flying EasyJet from South Terminal today, complete with rugby scrum, plebs, crap seats, check-in queue and surcharged tea and sandwiches? Because they’re a darned sight less expensive on this route.
Oh for the love of all that is good in the world, they’re playing Mull of Kintyre of the chuffing PA system and the bloke next to me is singing along. And, no, I don’t care if he looks over my shoulder.
Anyway, I’m off to Venice. Sounds romantic? Not a bit of it. I’m flying slum class into Marco Polo before getting a taxi to Padua, arriving late at night, sleeping over in the hotel and then spending all of tomorrow at a trade show in a less-than-glamorous conference centre, before getting another taxi back in the darkness to Venice and the late slum-class flight to Gatwick, arriving just in time to do the midnight nappy.
Still, it’s the first time I’ve done this event, part of my effort to make up for missing Europe’s biggest show which was straight after the arrival of Tom. So, hopefully, I’ll do some useful business.
Time to board.
EIGHT DAYS LATER:
Well, Padua certainly was worthwhile, if only to get up to speed with the politics of my industry. One of the problems with working in such a small industry (there are no more than twenty businesses doing what I do in the world, half of which are one-man/woman businesses [actually, they're almost all men], and seven or eight of whom are in alliance with each other, including some of the companies that I work with) is that there are almost alwys some political issues to be dealt with. In Padua, I discovered that one of my competitors has been rather over-stepping the mark with regard to one of the products that I manage and then sought to get my permission to do what he was already doing. As I’m generally inclined to work directly rather than through local sub-agents whenever I can, the answer was pretty much always going to be “no” anyway, as one of my other competitors who happened to be there at the same time already knew. But the fact that this guy had already gone where he knew he shouldn’t have already made me less inclined to hear him out. He got a firm “no, no, no” from me. There isn’t anything that he is doing that I can’t do myself, making more money for me and for my breeder clients, but it leaves a messy issue to resolve and a bunch of confused grower clients. (This probably means nothing to most people, but there you go).
As you’ve already seen, I managed to get a brief hour (or just an hour, as hours are neither brief nor long – they’re just hours, sixty minutes) to wander from the convention centre into the city centre in Padua. The outskirts of the city are downright ugly and belie the beauty of the city centre. Certainly, when approached from Venice, all you see are industrial units and smokestacks. Mind you, as you fly into Venice, all you see from the plane is an oil depot – you’d think that someone would think about these things.
The flight home was marked by one of the longest queues for security that I’ve ever endured at an airport; the realisation that whilst Venice airport is a gorgeous building, the catering facilities on offer after security are crap; and a full plane (cramped – another reason not to fly EasyJet) with a groin-scratching smelly Italian as a neighbour. (Let me add that I have nothing against Italians – most of them are very nice – but I don’t like smelly groin-scratchers of any nationality).
After a few days of rest and catch-up back home, on Wednesday of this week in bombed down to Portsmouth to get the late late sailing to Caen for a trip on to Angers for another show. Yes, more lovely surroundings in the Loire valley, viewed from the inside of a conference centre. Meh. At least this time, thanks to my late booking leaving me with only a hotel in Saumur, 30-odd miles away, I had a chance to take the back road alongside the river from the conference centre to my bed, and enjoyed the views. The exhibition itself was useful with almost nothing but good news and positive vibes, including some very flattering comments from one of the largest companies in my industry in Europe. On the downside, I have spent the show wandering around in a zombie-like state, thanks to Tom having a restless night before my departure and then a generous swell at sea on the crossing leaving me pretty much unable to sleep. Once I hit the hay last night after a pretty good meal in a Saumur brasserie, I slept solidly for some time thorugh a phone call and alarm, leaving me rushing around like mad this morning and dashing back to Caen to get the ferry with only minutes to spare. Thank goodness that Hels called me when she did this morning.
The ferry back is only a little less rough, but I’ve managed to locate a power socket so that I can listen to some music and complete this long boring rambling post for you. I only do it because I love you, dear readers! Count yourselves, um, lucky.
The Loire between Saumur and Angers, somewhere around Saint Mathurin sur Loire, looking upriver.
Although the river here is several hundred metres across, it is remarkably fast-flowing. That blob on the right was a lump of detritus of some sort, one of many flowing downstream. They often accumulate at bridges and around the islands.
Tuesday 28 February 2006
By Jove, he’s done it!
Look! Look! Working archives! Yay!
Very large amounts of gratitude should be directed towards Mr Pete Dot Nu. He’s a lovely young man.
Time wasting no more
Linda Smith, RIP. Terribly sad – my favourite female comedian.