About Me

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By trade I am a journalist with a background in current affairs, culture, health and fitness, travel and high profile interviews. I also own and run an outdoor fitness business aimed at people that hate gyms and bootcamps (www.spartanfitnesslondon.co.uk). Most importantly though, I am on Shared Parental Leave from May 31 to October 3. Everyday from 0730 to 1800 I will be in sole charge of a real and completely awesome baby girl.

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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Day 29 - SING ME A SONG YOU'RE THE BUGGY MAN

"MONSTER. STOMPER... WHERE'D YOU GET YOUR ROMPER?!"...

That was just the first line of a song I was singing to M'Lady as I wheeled the lazy so and so home from the gym (she'd been in the creche not on the weights... again, lazy). I thought I'd been singing the catchy little ditty to myself in whispered tones but it became apparent that my in ability to do things quietly had struck again when a "trendy" person strutted past with a nervous look on his face which plainly said "I don't understand your kind, you are singing strange things, I'm scared, don't steal me in the wheeled vessel".

An episode of being caught singing to yourself or chanting at a baby in a buggy might be embarrassing for some, although not me because that is very much the least of my worries given the nonsense situations I find myself in (e.g practising Michael Jackson's dance moves from Smooth Criminal at a urinal, then realising there was a gentleman shuffling awkwardly behind me). However, I would suggest that once it's happened once, probably on the first day any new parent ventures out alone with a buggy, that's it, done. Songs, dances and full-blown musical performances are going to happen and the rest of the street population need to embrace all offerings. Sing loud, sing proud. My motto on this is: "If the baby likes your song, then sing it, regardless of any snotty-nosed chump that finds it weird, offensive, or not in keeping with their daily vibe, in fact sing it louder if someone stares". Yes, it's a long motto but it hits all of the points I need covered.

Going back to that first line of my unfinished masterpiece, the words to the lyric don't seem to mean anything, and in fact they don't mean anything. Nevertheless as becomes clearer everyday looking after this munchbunch nincompoop, words and thoughts might get forgotten, missed out and thrown into different sentences but they will re-emerge somewhere, either when I talk in my sleep ("yes, well done for your nearly crawling. Wow. Ice-cream." was one the other day) or possibly in song. Deconstructing the line and for the benefit of the skinny-jeaned, top-button-done-up, greased-hair-in-side-parting shell-shocked chap, I would suggest that I was telling my darling that she is a lovely baby (monster) wearing a beautiful romper (romper) suit while smashing her heels down on the pram (stomper).

Days are merging into one at the moment, what with all the singing... this happened on Tuesday, June 28.


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

DAY 28 - TIRED!

HERE we are, the inevitable day/night where time worked against me and the hours in the day simply ran out.

Of course, these words are words but that's about it. No real post because instead of putting down some thoughts on M'lady's behaviour at a friend's house (excellent) or giving my opinion on England's performance against Iceland in the Euros (dismal), I made the decision to go to sleep, in  a bid to start tomorrow fresh.

Eyes. Are. Closing.

I will save my musings on baby bath bubbles and the space undernath a pram for another time.

After a long day out and about, on the road, eating and drinking, it's time for a good sleep.

Back in action tomorrow.

Thanks.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

DAY 27 – ICE-CREAM IDIOTS?!

THE HOUSE went to bed with both parents crossing their fingers very tightly. Both hoping that the ultimate error in baby-led weaning had not be committed.

Ever since the little munchbunch was first given real food she has grabbed everything with both hands and shoved it deep into her mouth, often without realising that too much was being loaded in. Sometimes it looked like carrots, mushrooms and steamed apple was erupting out of her eyes and ears but I think that was an optical illusion. Today was the same, with a plate loaded with chicken breast (she requested thighs but the the Milk Lady was somewhat lazy*), green beans and carrots, she methodically picked her favourite bits up, swung them into her mouth with some flair and gulped them down without any fuss.

The Mama and I were eating the same meal and very nice it was. Once we had finished our meals we decided that as it was the weekend and we like to live life in the fast lane we should have an ice-cream from the freezer. Strawberry, in a cone. Delicious.

Pleased with the progress of our little one it we decided to try something that we may come to regret. With the benefit of hindsight it looks like showboating... but we thought it would nice for A-bomb to try the sweet taste of soft strawberry ice-cream. We touched the dessert on the lips of our darling and immediately she was fixed. Eye-lids peeled open, eyeballs bulging. She leaned forward with her mouth wide open... yes, she liked the stuff. On her next foray M'lady chomped right into the ball of ice, unperturbed but its frozen nature. We gave her four attempts in total before deciding that her weekly allowance of sugar had probably been reached on suck number one.

However, the lovely girl did not take kindly to having this magical nectar taken from her, so soon  after being introduced to it. An upside-down smile was quickly enacted and the beginnings of a first food tantrum looked look it was in the offing. Luckily I was quick off the mark and simply unbuckled her and lifted her out of the feeding zone and all was forgotten.

Nevertheless, we now don't know for sure if that was the Last Supper for food without tantrums, unless all meals are made of ice-cream. In our smugness we may have introduced our girl to something she will insist upon at every eating session, afterall it is rather tasty.

It might be a tough addiction to get over, but we will help her. 

When you know about strawberry cornets, why would anyone eat chicken and cabbage?

We will soon find out how this plays out...

DAY 26 - CLIFFHANGER

IN keeping with my edgy rock star lifestyle I had fetched the clothes drying rail from the garden at about 2330 on Friday night. I thought it might rain, so the clothes were now indoors. That is the exciting context for this high-octane tale.

It was 0800 - breakfast time. We had the last of the "delicious" blueberry muffins (sans any sugar) to get through and a buttered crumpet was also on the menu. So, there M'lady was chowing down on her food, carefully arranged by herself on her highchair tray, while I was in vision making a cup of tea not 8 yards away. In order to get to the kettle I probably made two paces forward before turning to check A-bomb hadn't sprung herself onto the floor or inadvertently eaten her own hand. I boiled the kettle, made my tea and returned to the table to join the fun. I then realised that I had forgotten to bring my own peanut butter crumpets with me, so I re-did the five-second trip to the kitchen to retrieve them.

On returning to the food area I found A-boss elevated out of her high chair, straining like a fighting dog on the harness that keeps her legs in, and hanging on to the clothes drying rail with her right hand. In her left hand she was holding a clean vest, which she was eating. The lady was in no distress but her face suggested that she believed that to let go would see her falling into an abyss. I pulled on the rail and her grip tightened. I tried to prise her little fingers off the thin white bars but that only had the effect of M'lady smashing her other fist on her plastic table like a crazy person. By this stage A-bomb's body was at a full arch between high chair and rail, still while strapped in. Her face was a mix of bewilderment and determination. Impressive stuff. I eventually managed to get a handle on the situation and no harm was done: the high chair was in good order, my washing was dry; and A-bomb was unperturbed. However it was another rapid less in what a baby can achieve in three seconds, while tied down. Note: eyes must remain fixed on baby at all times otherwise baby will attempt rail/cliffhanging or other dangerous pursuits.

After all of the extreme hanging I accidentally started work on a new West End musical called "The Muffin Man". Eating had slowed down and I was hoping to reignite munching by singing the well-known "Muffin Man...Drury Lane" song to my customer. My version was a slower version, more melancholy and suggested The Muffin of Drury Lane was sad and had been forgotten... he longed for people to love his ware, but the likes of cheese and bean slices and croissants had taken over. I also gave a quick rendition of "hail for the bus driver, bus driver, bus driver... hail for the bus driver, bus driver man", replacing bus with "muff" (muffin) and driver with "diver". That was deemed inappropriate so I stopped.

That was a lot of excitement for one meal time so we both went for a nap.




Saturday, 25 June 2016

DAY 25 – PINCER GRIP

THE SMOKER'S cough was still around but it looked like it was clearing up. Maybe M'lady took the hint and kicked the roll-up habit. The main thing though was that she didn't wake up during the night and at 0700 on the dot she was full of smiles and ready to be fed.

A-bomb was back in the game, which was great news. It also meant I didn't have to cancel Baby Yoga, which if I'm honest is one of the highlights of my week, never mind hers. Missed it last week due to knife-throwing on the Stag-do, so I would've been more than miffed if I'd had to skip it again because of a cough-cough Tell-Tiny-Tim-I-Won't-Coming-Home-For-Christmas plonker.

I could tell my girl was back on form because she stuffed a muffin in her face, guzzled her milk and slept for nearly an hour in the pram while walking to the pre-yoga breakfast (for adults) location. Happy days.

Yoga was excellent – we did the usual "You Are My Sunshine" routine with legs and arms moving and little kisses to wake the tiny turds up and we practised various poses, which certainly got a few clicks out of my spine, ever-compressed from carrying around The Lump. We also did "The Grand Old Duke of York" routine, which involves holding your baby at down, half-way and top with straight arms as is appropriate with the lyrics... Now I may have mentioned this before, but the fact that A-bomb expects me to lift her, in rhythm, to the Top, Half-way Up and Down, is frankly out of order. I looked around the room and saw some seriously long and lean kids. In comparison I was dealing with a baby cannon ball. I've had a word with A-bomb and she's going on a strict diet of exclusively fat-loss pills*

*CHILL OUT. This little piggy will be eating as much roast beef as she wants. She just won't be getting hoisted up to the top of the hill unless Daddy gets some serious gym work done*

*I jest, I've got it covered. Sure.

It was like having a different baby given the switch from sad-face Thursday to smiley Friday!

Back at the ranch we spent the afternoon in the garden in the play pen (it is our travel cot, which serves EXACTLY the same purpose as a stupidly expensive "play pen" from Amazon) and I was over the moon that my jokes and little skits were once again receiving the laughs they deserved. My revamped "aaaand boo" sketch went down particularly well, with lots of giggles and out-of-control foot stamps. Then, my new bouncy-bouncy questions act also went down well – bounce on knee while shouting aggressively "WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE EU" – although she had zero answers for me, just breathless pants while poking her tongue out. Not too different to when I played with some UKIP voters.

Food time was a real treat for M'Lady because she had the fritters that she didn't eat yesterday as well as Tarragon Chicken, mushroom and green beans. She had her gobbling face on so I was looking forward to a big eating session.

Fritters were a great success as a starter.

I tend to take the approach of not staring at A-bomb while she eats because I don't like it when people do that to me. It happens when you're last to finish and others are waiting for you. "Get out of my grill mofos" is what I might say to that. However, after a good minute of no chicken or mushroom being eaten I took a look and saw a frustrated face. She couldn't pick the slippery stuff up.

"Poor little lovely," I thought.
"She can't manage it"
"Oh look she's picked up the mushroom up by pincering it with her fingers!"

On closer inspection it emerged that on putting on her splash-proof cover-all outift I hadn't pulled her thumbs through, so she was operating with just four fingers. Pretty poor from me and impressive from the youngster to battle her frustration and succeed. Who needs thumbs?

A quick sleep sprint to finish off before a Milk Lady bath time and that rounded off a great day*

M'lday also excelled herself by doing a sneaky slash on her Mum just before the bath. High five to her. 

*aside from the fact that we were mourning the loss of the EU and facing up to a dystopia where the UK has opted to be cut-off from it's old allies and our seven-month-old faces a lifetime of austerity.

 






Friday, 24 June 2016

DAY 24 – The Crying Game

Well, today was more disaster than success.

So far my time as the daytime parent-in-charge has been marvellous, wonderful, amazing. Not today.

Proceedings started on the wrong foot due to a lack of sleep for all of us because THE COUGH kept her awake while the Milk Lady and I were running around trying to find new remedies. Vapour rub on chest, vapour rub on feet (that's a new one for me), Olbas oil in water, and nasal spray. The patients was greased to the max while her room smelt like a cross between a sexy spa steam room and a rugby changing room. Didn't seem to work though.

A breakfast of blueberry muffin was given a bit of attention with some going down but the effort was lacklustre. The bottle of breast milk was guzzled but not at the usual rapid speed.

Then for nap one at the new, pushed back time of 0930. "Not a chance" was the vibe I was given via body language and eyes popping out of The Lady's head. After 50 minutes of songs, squats, reading and lunges, I gave up. There were no tears but she did not want a sleep.

During this farcical attempt to put her to bed I had received a message to say Baby Sensory was cancelled. Something about The Leader being stuck in traffic (or being drafted in to lead a brainwashing seminar elsewhere).

From 1100 onwards M'Lady made the decision to spend the day mostly crying or at least whinging. Fun times. I even took her into the loft room with all the window open to chill her out a bit.

After failing to get her to take a bottle I decided a walk was in order so we donned our voting attire and plodded off to mark an X on the EU Referendum ballot paper. I followed the advice of the creatures from Day 23.

The walk was punctuated by the sounds of half-arsed crying and a cough that was more smoking veteran than seven-month-old baby. Inside the polling station, aside from casting my vote, I was quizzed by a pregnant electoral officer on the effectiveness of Sophie the Giraffe, which was being chewed on by my partner in voting.

"It's a mandatory purchase," I explained. 
"Some things are negotiable but for whatever reason ALL babies must have Sophie. 
"Buy it. Soon". 

After voting it was onward to a cafe to buy caffeine and a sandwich. The motion sent M'Lady off to deep sleep, which was ideal – except the fact that she was snoring and sounded like a pickled tramp.

Woke up an hour later, crying. Crying didn't stop until 1500 at which point it was feeding time. Again, she didn't want any so I brought the 1600 solid food session forward to try to get some sustenance in her. Delicious selection on the menu too: Steamed Apple, Rice Cakes, and Tarragon Chicken. The miserable so and so had a suck on the rice cake and turned her nose up at the rest of it, while crying and making an annoying shrieking noise.

Sprints were then undertaken to try to stem the sadness and that was a winner, so much so that she fell asleep. We went to Deen City Farm to meet friends Rosie and her own A-baby, which was lovely if a bit rainy.

Back home, crying commenced and attempts at feeding were batted away by a little (fat) hand with  aggressive disdain.

So, very little food taken on and very few smiles dished out to me. Added to that was the general feeling that people might vote to leave the most successful union for peace in history.

Then while I was bouncing the little munchbunch on my lap she fell asleep mid-bounce, which was a tell-tale sign that she was not herself.

Thankfully Mama arrived at 1800, which brought some inescapable smiles from our girl ahead of bath and bedtime, which all went like clockwork.

Not long after, Wifey ventured into the loft for a shower. She returned quickly. That was Ominous.

"Did you open the windows?" 

Yes I did. 

"Yes, there's been torrential rain today hasn't there?" 

Yes, there has. Oh.

Oh dear. No excuses. I had left the windows wide open to allow cool air in for my daughter, allowing the monsoon to water the bedroom contents like prize plants at the Chelsea Flower Show. Not even my sleep-deprived state could be blamed for the oversight, which meant we had to sleep on a different mattress, which was about as comfortable as a concrete floor.

It was one of those days and goes down as the new LOW-POINT BENCHMARK.





Thursday, 23 June 2016

DAY 23 - THOUGHTS ON EU REFERENDUM


SOMETIMES I can go hours or even days without speaking to another adult.

Of course I say bye and hi to my beloved wife at the bookends of the working day but if I'm talking about seeing and conversing with other real human adults, days can pass without any grown-up interaction.

If as a stay-at-home-look-after-the-baby parent you find and take one second to think about who you have spoken to on a regular day you will often find your chats have been with your baby as well as his or her toys.

I also find that I these days I tend not to speak my usual language, it's more of a gobbledegook noise that is the universal tongue that us adults think a baby understands better than English, or whatever the parents' tongue is.

So, with the EU Referendum looming over the UK, I have found that my discussions and debates on the merits of REMAIN and LEAVE have been held largely in my own head, with the people on television and radio, with my seven-month-old and her friends.  Her friends are, on the whole, cuddly and plastic toy animals.

Now, without becoming too political on what is a blog about being on Shared Parental Leave to look after my baby, I thought it was only right to at least mention a vote that will undoubtedly have a huge impact on my family. For the first time I have had to (well I didn’t have to but I have) think about how the result will affect my daughter, who has no say on things.

It is right that A-bomb doesn’t have a vote, because what she says is largely drivel and in fact, dribble. Nevertheless, if talking unintelligible garbage was a reason to withhold voting rights a fairly large chunk of the population, including members of both the LEAVE and REMAIN campaigns would be denied their ballot papers. The fact is that you only need to be of the correct age to be given permission to put an X in a box and decide a nation's future. 

So after having the various arguments with myself and attempting to work out what truths were hidden in the carpet bombs of lies, damned lies and statistics dropped by politicians via the media, I decided to conduct my own interviews with a cross-section of society that I associate with most at the moment.

Before I set out the thoughts of my interviewees I should give a few opinions on the prominent figures in the so-called BREXIT/BREMAIN campaign:

 - Boris Johnson, a hugely intelligent man, has let himself down for feeling the need to peddle lies on stats rather than give intelligent reasoning

- David Cameron has inspired nobody

- Jeremy Corbyn has shown himself as a weak leader by not speaking up strongly enough for either camp. 

- Michael Gove has excelled himself in making himself even more hated than when he attempted to destroy the education system

- Nigel Farage has done himself justice by sticking to his principles and living up to expectations. He has remained utterly xenophobic/racist, myopic, ill-informed and utterly useless.

Now to the interviews, with the most sensible bunch I could find at short notice:



SOPHIE THE GIRAFFE

I can see what all of the OUT lot are saying about immigration. I agree, there are loads of 'em coming here. But getting out of the EU isn't going to stop 'em coming in. We will have even less power to stop the flow of immigrants if we are acting alone. Also, I don't have a problem with Johnny Foreigner coming in to work... it seems that they're doing a bloody good job at fair prices. There are plenty of BRITISH freeloaders milking the system... can we have a referendum on getting rid of them? Don't get my blue tongue started on the Jeremy Kyle brigade.


WEIRD CRINKLY DOLL FACE

I've listened to all the debates and it seems like a lot of lies have been told, especially about us paying this £350 million a week to the EU. It's simply not true. I'm sure there are other stats that would support an OUT vote but the Out campaign chose to use an untruth. Weird.
Also people are banging on about us losing our sovereignty. I disagree. We have been blocked by the EU so few times in comparison with when our wishes have sailed through.


TWO COWS AND PIGGY

As a collective we find it ironic that a lot of nationalistic, chest-puffed-out Brits want OUT. These are the same people that are proud and humbled by our Armed Forces. Do they not realise one of the key reasons why the EU was formed? It was borne out of the Second World War, when the smart European nations decided to club together to make sure that never again would they fight each other. Its seems to have worked. We are so proud of our current boys and girls in the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force and we are in awe of what their predecessors did in the World Wars... it seems remarkable that we want to opt out of a system that these men and women fought for,  and that has served us well in terms of bringing relative peace.


LITTLE BEAR

Get me out! Bunch of refugees coming in here nicking my porridge. Let's close the borders, get Boris in charge and get rid of anyone without a British passport. Does anyone know if I'll still be able to get into Europe with my current passport? Will it still be easy to fly to Spain?
Actually I've got mates and grandparents that have retired in Europe, will they have to come back the UK?! Can we close the borders if we are just the UK? Will I still be able to get my loft converted by foreign workers?... it's just that they are the best value and get the job done at rapid speed...? I don't mind the Eastern European lot if they're doing the manual jobs because they're top notch and don't charge silly money. And they're on time. The rest can get out though. Except the doctors. And nurses. They're good too. But the others! Bloody immigrants.


SMUG SHEEP

If people are voting OUT just to get David Cameron OUT then they are maniacs. We chose Cameron at the General Election and if we want rid of him now we will have to wait until the next General Election. Yes he is weasel of the highest order but I am pretty certain that Boris is even more of a right-wing nutjob and will systematically destroy the NHS, tighten the purse strings on the poor and will look after his own people. He is a dangerous man.


BLUE WHALE

Farage makes out that he is the champion of fishing while stating that fishermen are better of OUT of the EU. If he's such a hero of the fisherman why did he only attend ONE EU meeting on the matter when he had access to loads? To be honest, I don't think I would be welcome in Farage's country if we're not in the EU - I'm not white and my parents were not born here. Oh dear, all of my lot will be frogmarched out if we don't vote IN.


Good to get a few views from my new mates.

Now to vote to protect ourselves and the future of the next generation.








Wednesday, 22 June 2016

DAY 22 - RHYME TO BUY TIME

Thoughts on breakfast?
Houmous? Cous cous?
Banana and a spinach bake.
Went down okay but more effort I feel I should make.

Pack her up, need to get moving. Drop off then to a work meeting.
Granddad initiates smiles
Feeds, plays, walks miles
While my office foray is fleeting, some people need a good beating.

"Important views"
But new real news
..."We promise its not about dole queues"
Just a few boo hoos. For those that get the chop. 
"It's for the best"
"Yes!"
"Exciting for all!"
Except for "those"
More efficient. 
Proficient.

Race back to original HQ.
Phew. 
M'Lady's been lovely – all fed, changed, happy 
But we are late
Bath time delayed
And fear grows about the nappy.
Traffic
Manic
Panic
Bath
Mum feed. Pure greed
Smiling face, beaming.
Final change. STEAMING 
WOW 
HOW?

Day done. Not the best
Need a rest.  Tomorrow, swimming
Back to winning.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

DAY 21 - NAP-TIME NINJA



TO COINCIDE with me being desperate to catch up on some Zs the poor lady hardly slept which meant both of us parents were in action most of the night. The savage cough had returned. The Milk Lady insists that A-bomb hasn't been smoking but I'm going to start checking her pockets.

Not much shut-eye was had between 0500 and 0700 so my goal was to get a decent sleep shift in the bag at 0900. MLady did not want to cooperate though. She was pretty much asleep on my shoulder but each time I put her down in the cot she jumped out of her skin and began to cry. This was not the norm and my diagnosis was that lying flat as causing her discomfort. Half an hour went by, twinkle twinke had been exhausted in all of its forms, the little girl at the end of the lane had been given too many bags of wool, and nobody believed "life was but a dream" after the amount of boat rowing they had done.

Eventually, after another 15 minutes of speed squats laden with A-bizzle, she was in a deep sleep and I had successfully pulled my trembling arms from under her. That was the first part of Mission Nap done. Now I needed to conquer the next almost impossible task... the exit.

There were traps everywhere, from crinkly play-mats and perilous plastic ball trip-hazards to recently-filled nappies and musical instruments. A toenail brushing against any of those items would have seen my cover blown and the wannabe-sleeper's eyes pinging open.

A woken baby was not an option so I prepared myself mentally for the covert job. After uttering my final rendition of Amazing Grace I stooped down below the top rail. I was out of sight, even for the laser-eye lady. Next I was into a commando crawl, moving over the narrow carpeted thoroughfare being sure to dodge the Cow in case it wanted to "do you ABC". I had reached the end of the cot, located next to the final hurdle – the door. 

I was hunched down with one hand softly holding the silver door handle and the other stabilising my body. So far so good, no murmurings. As with most gauntlet challenges the last part was the most difficult...getting out of the room without being seen or heard, then re-shutting the door.

I carefully pulled down the exit handle. It creaked but I got away with it. At the precise moment of the pull-down, I rose to my feet and nonchalently removed my body using the means of a silent twirl. Once out I just had to lower the handle and wait for the little click. Click. I could breathe again.

Given the importance of a baby's sleep and overall routine to its well-being it baffles me that during NCT classes no time is devoted to operating like a ninja.

If it means your baby will stay alseep you must be prepared to throw yourself to the deck on the slightest flinch of your nemesis. You  must be ready to hurl yourself out of the room as soon as the gap becomes big enough.

If you are a heavy breather, you must hold your breath. A sleeping baby takes precedence.










                             

Monday, 20 June 2016

DAY 20 – FATHER'S DAY - DARTS AND SAUSAGES

 
Daddyshortlegs stag breakfast
Bowl of Sausages

IT was 0830 and I was on the end of a 90-minute lie-in thinking about how, for one more day, I didn't need to worry about preparing porridge fingers or steamed apple for my baby girl's breakfast. I really missed the little munchbunch but for a few more hours I still only had myself to look after.

Wrong. I was still on a Stag-Do and I the bunch of ne'er-do-wells remained on my booking – which apparently meant I was chief hand-holder, feeder and bottom-wiper.

I meandered downstairs to the gourmet spread laid on by the Holiday Inn Express and fixed myself some apple juice (note: too sweet; clearly has sugar added) and some muesli, ahead of beans on toast. I then looked across the table to see that one of the esteemed stag-party members was tucking into a bowl of sausages, or at least excuses for sausages. 

"First time eating breakfast, mate"? 

"Oh I wasn't thinking, I just got a bowl, not a plate. I forgot". 

"Ok, well remember not to pour milk and cereals on to a plate".  

High calibre stuff. 

Being thrust into the world of child rearing makes you more organised, better able to act quickly and 500 per cent more capable to think on your feet, in situations like projectile liquid missiles being fired from down below. However, one skill I didn't expect to gain from the being a new Dad, was the capacity to deal with 25-30-year-old neanderthals on a "lads" weekend. It does though, for if it wasn't for my time spent with the A-bomb I wouldn't have been as well prepared for these chaps. Sorting their meals; making sure their rooms weren't too cold or indeed, too warm; ensuring their nap times were on schedule and that they achieved enough sleep; and giving everyone the right amount of play time to suit their needs, were all essential. Thankfully almost everyone managed to change their own nappies. 


Breakfast was gobbled and we hit the road. A thoroughly enjoyable time was had but I needed to get back to my baby. It was Father's Day after all and no doubt she was waiting for me with a handwritten card and her latest piano composition.

Out of the car, into the house, up the stairs. A crying A-Bizzle was handed straight to me... "she won't sleep, please assist". Hi darling.

Sure... no problemo. Trainers on...  and into a 200-metre buggy sprint. Aaaaannd she was asleep. "Won't sleep? You mean won't sleep for you," I said in my head and after checking the Milk Lady was out of sight. 

It was understandable though, the Lady had been waiting for Daddy before catching some Zs. Too many amateurs around, not knowing the right sleep-inducing techniques*. 

*I have hidden all sharp objects and other potential weapons

On waking I mentioned that in the 2.5 days that I'd been away The Stinkbomb had grown to resemble a professional darts player... her mullet haircut was in good shape, the pot-belly was in peak condition and her arms were particularly Popeye-esque. 

"Dya wannabe a dart's player?" I shouted in her face.
"Go one ma darlin', be a darts player!
"Darts! Darts! Darts!" 

She loved the proposition and signed a contract with her gumdrop smile. I will admit that for the next couple of minutes I lost my mind but it was worth it. 

"One HUNDRED AAAAAAAND EIIIIGHTY! (180)," I bellowed into the air, while A-bomb sat on her Mum's lap. Both looked at me bemused. 

I repeated it... "180!" 

The baby laughed. I continued, with each rendition getting louder, more aggressive and involving more jumping and twirling. 

After round ten my little lady was laughing so much that she nearly burst. For the grand finale I ran to the front of the house (10 feet away - It's no mansion), hit the floor and crawled along so that I was out of my audience's eye-line. I moved into position right under A-bomb's nose then sprung up with a shout of "ONE HUNDRED AND EEEEEEEIIIIIIIGGGGGHHHHTYYYYY (180)". 


She jumped out of her skin and laughed for about a minute while struggling to breathe. And, for me THAT is what Father's Day is all about. It was my first as a Father and if I can get that reaction to my fairly simple, oft misunderstood, yet genius comedy, a few more times on this day, I will be a very happy man. 




Sunday, 19 June 2016

DAY 19 - Absent With Leave

DAY 2 of games with the stag
We'd collected a fair bit of swag
From truncheons at luncheon
To bells in hell
But the banter was beginning to sag

Now it's home to my Lady
Not chips and gravy
And no longer living from a bag.


...Knowing M'lady's smiles await is keeping me going!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

DAY 18 - Different Ages, different expectations

"You can do it!" I encouraged.
"Well done! Go on... very goood.
"Yum yum yum, chew chew chew, now gulp!
"You are so clever. Yes you are!"

I was so proud to see a member of the Stag-do finish his curry. It took a while but he did it all by himself. What a good boy.

Meanwhile at A-bomb HQ the Milk Lady was back in charge and had managed to feed the Lady chilli with no problems.

Seven-months-old today!

Friday, 17 June 2016

DAY 17 – ENGLAND FOOTBALL... or GYMBOREE!



2pm, June 16. England versus Wales in the Euros; a rare meeting of two rival countries with valuable points and the giant matter of pride at stake.

Or… Gymboree – discovering music, beat and rhythm for six-16-month-olds.

Option two please!

Rather than turn myself into half-man-half-sofa and settle in for all the pre-match build up, the match itself and then the post-match post mortem, with delicious food and drink ready to consume at all times, I opted to attend a class that was akin to being in a stage musical in real life.

Instead of hearing Gooooaaaaaal when Jamie Vardy equalised on 56 minutes I was on a soft mat hearing a teacher’s dulcet tones warbling “I’M GETTING A BALL, A BALL, A BAAAAALL”; “SAY HE-LL-OOO TO JIIIIIIM, SAY HELLO TO JIM”.

Jim was the class clown. Literally. A clown doll, called Jim. The babies absolutely loved Jim, but to be honest he/it sent a shiver down my spine. I did not trust Jim, or what the painted smile freak stood for.

Ninety per cent of all words uttered by the Gymboree teacher were sung to/at us, which in itself made me laugh because that is not a normal way to carry on. But what really kept the childish smirk on my face was the fact that the songstress had a great voice, she wasn’t one of those tries-hard-but-is-garbage singers. However I did get the impression that our leader lives her life believing that one day a parent will be a record producer and will offer to “take her to the top, kiddo”. I suppose it’s always good to believe, even if it’s a bit niche.

The unavoidable truth was that although she was kitted out in a fetching England vest, the A-bomb was not interested in a football match on television, whereas she loved hearing jingle bells, playing with beach balls and crawling (nearly crawling) up wooden planks. And that’s how decisions are made.

We didn’t watch ANY of the football but we had a great time.

The rest of the day was spent feeding tuna, natural yoghurt and avocado to M’lady, and walking home while attempting to finalise the admin of a Stag-do that I have organised for this weekend.

On that note, from Friday-Sunday I will be at a yet-to-be-publicly-revealed location for a Stag. I aim to update with further news of my daughter but it would be wrong of me to promise anything.








Thursday, 16 June 2016

DAY 16 - SOCKS APPEAL




VEST on, dress/romper/T-shirt and trousers on, neckerchief on and socks on. There doesn't tend to be too much fuss about this getting dressed scenario, other than possibly a few squirms when arms are required to go in  arm holes. However, three seconds after it's all done, I'll look back and without fail at least one of the socks will be missing.

In the early days when the pretty socks kept coming off I blamed the foot accessories for being too big. They weren't but I was a wet-behind-the-ears naive new parent. Then as the weeks past I thought that the fact that socks never stayed on A-bomb's feet must be to do with her having slippery skin. Nonsense I know, but as a brand new Dad you struggle to blame your baby for anything, even offensive nappy bombs and urinating over your new carpet

Now though, I know that the little deviant yanks the socks off as part of her plan to chip away at my mental wellness. Today was swimming day, which involves quick changes so that nobody (me or A-bizzle) gets cold post-pool. That all went well and I was feeling pretty smug, then I looked down at her feet. Nowhere to be seen. Another pair of socks lost into the ether.

"So what?" Might say anyone who is not a parent. 
"You lost some socks, big deal."

But there are a few things in play here:
1) If I've put socks on it's because it is cold, so the baby needs them.
2) Socks aren't free, so it's annoying to lose them.
3) The kicking and pulling off of socks is a blatant two fingers up to me, the parent. If this sort of insolence isn't crushed with an iron fist who knows where it will lead. Probably with me on the streets and her in prison.

If I'd have walked out off the swimming changing rooms with no socks on The Lady, I might've been labelled "the dad who wants his daughter's feet to freeze off" or worse, "the dad who forgot his daughter's socks", so I saved face by putting a spare pair on. I always carry a spare pair in the event that the minx tries to show me up.

With the new socks on I fed the girl, put her in the car-seat and went home. The whole way back I could hear A-bomb's mind plotting her next sock move. Needless to say when I unclipped her, one sock was missing. I found it, in the gutter of the car-seat. Kids these days have no respect.

I'm off to buy some elastic bands and super-glue. It's a slippery slope.

If A-bomb doesn't literally and metaphorically pull her socks up I'll have to consider electric shock  therapy, for both of us.




Wednesday, 15 June 2016

DAY 15 – Step In Time!


VERY quick one, much like what I am about to talk about. One thing, among a million, that NCT classes, midwives and baby books don’t give you much of a steer on is how to get things done when a baby is capable of movement. In the beginning it was kind of okay to leave the chubster alone in a room for a 30 seconds (or more) because she was essentially beached. It was ideal, she was happy to lie there and was physically incapable of shifting her considerable body mass.  Times have changed. In the time it takes for me to fill a kettle for a much-needed cup of coffee the nincompoop will have carried out numerous commando rolls and ended up wedged under the sofa. Not that that has ever happened. Definitely not.

Back in the olden days when M’lady was a baby, not nearly SEVEN-months-old we could strap her into the bouncer if we wanted to get something done, like tidy up or even make some breakfast. Now though, she has piled on so much weight that the bouncer would buckle under the strain and has been consigned to history. Until I purchase a holding pen to kettle the hooligan I have to remain on guard at all times, or carry her, which is fine until my arm withers.

Picture the scene: The Milk Lady had gone to work, solids session was successful, clean-up was done. It was 0845 and we were on track for a textbook 0900 nap-time. By 0850 mid-sleep-sssshhhes I was practically salivating at the prospect of having a shower and attending the lavatory. Our cleaner (yes I draft someone in to assist with the carnage) was due at 1000 and didn’t have a key. Plenty of time.

Nah. The A-bomb was too full of beans to have a nap, until 0950. Knock Knock went the door. It was the cleaner. I was still itching with uncleanliness and busting for the basin, to put it mildly. Without having time to say much more than hello, the scrubbing operative had steamed into the bathroom and I was left knocking my knees, doing a dance like Bert on the rooftops in Mary Poppins.

Eventually the cleaner emerged and I explained that I would be in the shower. If she needed to clean the toilet or shower in the next ten minutes, she was welcome to wash around me. Thankfully it didn’t come to that.

All of this was because the A-bizzle was now too mobile to be left alone and also too obstinate to go to sleep when asked.

She is grounded.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

DAY 14 - COFFEE SHOP CONNOISSEURS

BEFORE being a stay-at-home-look-after-the-baby Dad I saw coffee as a means to an end. I liked the stuff and I could tell the difference between a flat white and a cup of instant from the supermarket saver range but its main job was to wake me up and keep me from falling asleep while driving. Most coffee was bought at Service stations on the way to work and I had no real need to frequent a bespoke coffee boutique.

Things have changed somewhat. I've always wondered where the people with fixed impenetrable stares pushing prams were marching to and now I know. This army of mainly women are pounding the streets in search of a coffee shop. Not because they need a caffeine fix, although they probably do if their offspring is an early riser, but because they crave a different setting. Parents who are at home to care for and protect their babies can spend a mentally debilitating amount of time in their own home, possibly even in one room, filled with chattering toys – "The BABY LIKES MILK... DO YOU KNOW YOUR ABCs? I'M A SOFT, AND FLUFFY COW.." – so they bust out of their front doors and search out an establishment to sit it for a drink. It is frowned upon to hit the pubs and bars to neck beers while in charge of a small child.

I am far from bored at home, in fact I'd go as far as to say that I am as excited each day looking after A-bomb as I ever have been at work, however the hunt for coffee (sometimes iced) in surroundings that are not my house is one that I relish on an almost daily basis. I view my fellow pram-pushers not so much as parenting colleagues as co-members of a mass reviewing body ready to cast their quizzical eyes over cafes, coffee shops and eateries any time, any place.

With lots of time on my hands and a wish to stay out of my house for a good few hours, my requirements have gone far beyond the A-road caffeine stop-off. Now, armed with a baby, I demand coffee that is so delicious that I will sip and savour, rather than bolt. I would like a comfortable chair please, not too firm and certainly nothing plastic. It's a given that I need good space for a buggy to fit through – I once had my fingers burnt when a small gap between chairs led to my smashing the front wheel into a table and jolting M'Lady into awake mode. So, excellent coffee, comfy chairs, wide spaces. I'll also be looking for a relaxing ambience, access to reading material and the option of food. If the barista station is close to or part of a place that sells convenient goods such as face wipes, bin liners and surface cleanser then all the better.

Yes Starbucks, Nero and Costa, you may tick a lot of the boxes (possibly with a rating of 6-7 out of 10) but what clientele are you attracting? Does that affect my vibe? Probably. So far I have found that the non-chain and in-house coffee providers at garden centres and small department stores are winning. Of surprise today was the atmosphere and treats offered up at Dunelm – quite the sneaky treasure trove.

Goodness what have I become.
 

Monday, 13 June 2016

DAY 13 - SING WHEN YOU'RE WINNING...

WITH football's European Championships having just kicked off I thought it would be an apt moment to discuss the importance of songs and chants in the lives of parents and babies. It may be just me, but I think many parents are in the same boat in that EVERYTHING you say eventually becomes a song. No baby book tells you to bring a tune to your words, but that's what happens. Your kitchen floor suddenly becomes the boards of Broadway as you warble about making breakfast.
Much like the football stadiums and streets in France, my house is very much a song-centric zone. I hasten to add that similarities between football fans and anything else that happens Chez A-Bomb end with songs/chants. The Fans aren't really setting a great example to anyone are they? Well done mate, you've spent 20 years growing your belly, you've taken your shirt off and you're hurling racial abuse at a people you've never met... all in the name of 'the beautiful game'. Congratulations on representing your country abroad. Anyway that's the end of that tangent. Back to songs.
Conversations with, and statements to the baby end up in some form of song, either a freshly penned tune or a re-hash of old work. From simply singing (to the tune of Oh My Darling Clementine) "Oh ma goodness oh ma goodness, she's a lovely little poo, doing plopsies on the mopsie, oh ma darlin' little girl" when she's woken up with a filled nappy to "One WEE! She's only done one wee / she's only done one wee" in they style of football's "one nil/ we beat the scum one nil".
Given that everything ends up in tuneful verse I find lyrics from yesteryear popping up at the forefront of my mind and getting an airing in the shape of baby songs. Not that they make sense or resemble anywhere near a good tune, but they're there.
One of the recent favourites, when needing a muslin cloth is "Mus-lin Mus-lin Mus-lin, we're Mus-lin like that... " to the tune of DJ Pied Piper and The Masters Of Ceremonies' "We're lovin' it like that".
Others in the repertoire are, following a bath and a need to rid The Lady of excess bubbles, "Shake, Shake, Shake, shake that booty"(courtesy of KC and the Sunshine Band; "Hey Dir-ty, buddy you've done a plopsie in your nappy, I said hey" (with thanks to Ol' Dirty Bastard); and, if we're practising sitting up without slumping forward like a drunk, I'll sing "Oh sit down, oh sit down, sit down next to me...". Hours of fun.
The fact is the munchbunch (plonker, you're just a munchbunch plonker) really responds to some animated singing, especially if I throw in a little jig for good measure. These little ditties are often the difference between a smiling lady and a whingy one.
If she starts to whine, with a faux cry, I'll belt out "Hey, what's that sound?, everybody look, what's going down" (courtesy of Stephen Stills/Buffalo Springfield). That usually puts an end to the whinge.
Then there are the songs that keep their words but have their style mixed up a bit.
For the all important sleep-inducing sessions singing plays a huge part in the proceedings. As you no doubt know, Twinkle Twinkle is the bedrock of my successful sleeping system, however I do tinker with the style... because I can.
This week I've been busting out Jazz Style.. Twi-nkle Twi-nkle littlestar... howa/ wonda... whachoo are/ Zibbidee pap pap zibbidee staaar. There is also the Ba Ba Black sheep rap and Amazing Grace sung in the style of Elvis, of which A-bomb is a big fan.
The crux of my point is that since having a baby my life has become a genuine musical and with the Euros on everywhere in the background, the football chants will permeate my song choices.
I'll steer clear of a few muggy terrace favourites but all others are in the mix. No talk of managers being paedos or sha*!in' wives with carvin' knives here, thanks. Nice lads, the football people.
In other news, today I turned out for the famous nomadic Squirrels Cricket Club (@SquirrelsCC),  very much a beloved part of my extended family. The A-bomb didn't make the trip due to the forecast of wet weather and likelihood of a cancellation. Needless to say the weatherman was 100 per cent wrong and the sun shone down gloriously on our damp squib of a draw.
M'Lady was asleep when I returned home but I whispered "you could wait for a lifetime, to spend some time in the sun-sheeeeine" through the bars of her cot. Next time she will attend the Squirrels match, rain or shine.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

DAY 12 - TOTALLY RELAXED, BUT FOLLOW THESE EXACT RULES

TODAY the Milk Lady and I attended the wedding of two of our good friends, which meant leaving the A-bomb in the capable hands of my brother-in-law, K, and his wife, R.  It wasn't the first time we've handed over control to others, as both sets of our parents have had a stint in the hot seat, but that didn't mean there wasn't a lot of preparation involved.

I would say that we're pretty chilled out as far as being in charge of a human baby goes. I mean we don't panic every five seconds that she's not developing in line with guidelines for elite specimens or burst into tears if she hasn't mastered a Mozart piece by her second attempt. When it comes to eating solids and getting messy, I would suggest that we are relaxed.

However, when the carers arrived at the prescribed time of 0930 – one hour and fifteen minutes before our listed departure – and we talked them through a dossier of how to look after our kid, it became quite apparent that we run a pretty tight (oppressive?) ship.

"Yeh, the thing is guys, she's a good baby and won't cause you any bother. Just have a fun day – feed when she seems hungry and put her to sleep when she seems tired," we said, with an air of nonchalance.

"And by that, I mean feed her at 1100, 1500 and after bath time which is at around 1815 (exactly 1815). Her next solids session is at 1600."

There were questions from the kind couple on things like when to change nappies and what to do if A-bomb doesn't sleep. Again our "relaxed" response didn't really paint us out as laid back parents...

"Just change her when she seems irritable or if she smells," we said.

"But if you refer to the specific page in the document it says to change nappies before and after each nap as well as if there is sign of turd, this will give you a minimum of of five changes.

"At sleep time sing some some songs, read a book and do whatever you want to send her off."

R interjected: "So we just sing any songs and calm her down?"

"You must sing Twinkle Twinkle three times in a row then put her down. If she cries, do a couple more Twinkle Twinkles. If you are still struggling, which would be rare, go into the 'Ssssshhh' techniques coupled with deep squats."

It clearly was not the chilled out liberal approach to parenting that we had fooled ourselves into thinking we were offering.

The thing is though, purely from the perspective of two parents of a baby girl that sleeps very well, eats like a champion and is healthy, our (apparently strict) regime works, for us.

On arrival back home from the wedding with a few sherberts under our belts we were told that the lovely munchbunch had behaved herself and had slept pretty well... because they had followed our guidelines.

It's not rocket science people... get a schedule in place and stick to it, within the realms of possibility. It is certainly not an exact science and watches should not be synchronised.

With a solid plan in place (yes, maybe like a regimented briefing system), we can hand the baby to a family or friends and it should be happy days.

Lovely stuff.


Saturday, 11 June 2016

DAY 11 – Bright Baby Smiles Always Help

WE returned to Baby Yoga today and were given plenty of poses to wake up the muscles. You certainly know when you've been in a class... "warrior" pose while holding onto a baby, especially a monster baby, is no easy task. Try throwing doing a sun salutation with 10kg kettle bell wriggling in your arms. Go on! Straight after the class I gave the A-bomb the rest of her milk then headed for my hometown to see my parents and family.

Unfortunately our visit was borne out of bad news. It was my uncle's funeral. I had thought about taking M'Lady to the service but decided that it was unfair on her to request silence and no moving for an hour. I'm not sure she would've obeyed those polite commands. I also felt that the funeral service was a time to focus purely on my uncle, to celebrate his life and reflect on his legacy – not to listen to the excited garglings of a baby too young to understand what was happening. I was fortunate to be able to leave the munchbunch with my brother's fiance for the duration of the ceremony. As usual she behaved herself. Good girl, she earned her dinner. 

No funeral is a happy affair. However some do mark the end of a long life with members of the congregation leaving the ceremony with a sense of "he/she had a good innings". I must say that this was not one of those events. My uncle had lived a great life, made lots of people happy, enjoyed himself and now leaves behind a loving family, but he wasn't finished. He had more things to do. He had many more goals to achieve. This was was one of the unfair ones.

I had planned to collect my baby immediately after the service and shoot straight back down the motorway to beat the Friday traffic and have her home in time for bath time and bed. I changed my mind though. On seeing the rosy-cheeked ball of smiles, so oblivious to the harsh, sometimes awful nature of the real world I decided that I needed to take her for a quick trip to the pub, to see the family. If there is one thing a baby can do it's brighten up a room (or beer garden).

Of course, every day is filled with proud moments for parents of babies. Wow, they blew a bubble; OMG they did another mustard poo; quick look, they splashed me in the bath. All genuinely incredible, memorable things. But today, taking The Lady to The Admiral Cunningham pub to see my family members in their moment of real grief was a true proud event. For a couple of minutes, as she bounced around on my arm, my smiley girl beamed some sunshine into what was a grim day for the relatives and close friends of my uncle. I told the girl that she did a good job but she just laughed and motioned that it was time for sleep and time to return to the Milk Lady.

It was a grey day and one that highlighted the fragility of life. Thankfully, A-bomb, starting out on her own journey was there to provide some gummy smiles.