Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday is Caption Day!


A photo of three photos from my youth, but what caption should they have? You decide!

For more #satcap opportunities, check out el linky by clicking the badge below:



photo-za

Friday, June 29, 2012

Men and Babies

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a question for you: how do you feel and react when a man looks at your child/ren and smiles?

You can leave me your answer, along with any related musings, in the comment box at the bottom of this here page.

Here is why I ask:

Every weekday at lunch time I leave my office and I walk to ASDA to buy a banana. I have to go every day to buy my banana, because I’m extremely picky about the ripeness of the bananas I eat. Unless they’re just past the point of being green they make me feel physically sick.

But this is not a post about my banana based foibles.

This is a post about me being made to feel awkward on a regular basis.

Recently, on my trip to ASDA, I smiled at a baby in a trolley. I did this because I like babies. You may have noticed this. I am the son of a broody mother and a broody father. Broody is bred into me like respiratory problems are bred into English Bulldogs.

Inhalers are just out of shot.
When I see a baby (unless it’s an ugly one) I go all mushy like an over-ripe banana. I want to say hello. I want to hold it and cuddle it and look after it. I want to tell its parents how beautiful it is and how lucky they are.

I don’t actually DO any of that. I smile as I walk past and that’s it. I have a concept of personal space and parental fears over child safety and I respect that.

Apparently, for some people, that’s not good enough. Judging by the frequency with which I have glances directed at me which could pierce the armour plating of a tank it is definitely NOT OKAY for a man to smile at a baby or young child.

Whenever it happens I feel immediately like I need to run away and hide. Needless to say, I don’t much want accusations of paedophilia being thrown my way while I’m out shopping. Nor do I want anyone thinking I’m a potential kidnapper.

The glances don’t just make me feel awkward. They make me feel sad. Sad that the first thought in a lot of people’s heads is not “oh, he thinks my baby is cute”, it is “oh, that man means some harm to my baby”.

I’m not a woman, so I don’t know whether this happens to women. Maybe it does. But I wonder whether this is actually one of the few occasions where men are on the receiving end of gender discrimination.

So what’s the deal? Do I need to stop smiling at babies, reign in my natural gooey tendencies? I certainly don’t want everybody to stop smiling at Cam. He seems to like it, and it makes me feel proud of having a lovely little boy.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ill

Hold your breath while you read this, I don’t want to pass anything on.

Heed the red cross painted on our door.

Yep. We’re ill.

I thought it was my usual, hayfever, but it’s not. It’s a cold. In the middle of summer. The weather is hot, but I have a cold. I should call Alanis Morrissette and let her know.

I’ve been trying not to moan about it, but, y’know, I’m a man, and we have to keep up that dubiously acquired reputation for making a massively big deal out of every little cough and sniffle.

Just don’t call it man-flu please, rare are the phrases I find more irritating than that one.

I feel like I’m gargling an assortment of rusty cutlery, my nostrils have decided they don’t like working at the same time and have started a shift pattern where they switch over every two hours.

Then there’s the snot. Oh my, the snot. There’s so much of it! WHERE DOES IT COME FROM? Runny like water snot. Stubborn snot with the consistency of glue. Dried up snot that lives in the nasal cavity, making you want to pick your nose.

Yuk.

Mrs L got the cold first, and still has it. I got the cold next, and still have it. I suppose it was inevitable that The Creature would eventually succumb to the germs which are obviously floating around our house.

He has.

Eleven and a half weeks in the world before he first experienced the dreaded common cold.

He’s doing alright so far, the ill is only really being given away by his sudden development of hilariously loud and raspy breathing. It’s like sharing the bedroom with a whole farm’s worth of pigs.

It must be so confusing for the tiny people, and what can they do about it? Nothing. I’ve been dosed up on paracetamol, decongestant, nasal spray, antihistamine (because the pollen’s still there, behind the cold) and ibuprofen and I still feel like complete arse. We haven’t even given him any Calpol yet, though it’s on standby.

Weapons

I get a lot of colds. I occasionally joke that I have hayfever from April to September, and a cold from October to March. Except I’m not joking.

The terrible thing is that my dad is exactly the same, which makes me think Cam probably has a lifetime of this to look forward to as well.

Sorry son.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Interview

I found out today that I've been shortlisted for a job.

It's a job I really want. A job doing something which I thought I would do when I left university. It's taken me very nearly eight years to actually get here. 

That's largely my own fault. I'm not the most driven of people, I tend to wait and let things come to me, rather than seek them out.

I sometimes think that makes me really stupid. Really, really stupid. Because that's not how the world works is it? People don't just come and drop opportunities in your lap, you have to go and take them. Fight people off and prove you're the one with the hunger.

When people start saying things like that, I don't really understand. That's not how my brain's wired. I'm more of a "work to live" sort than "live to work".

Still, here it is, I've managed to be in the right place at the right time. It even looks like the fact I've started a blog and spent ages on Twitter might help me out, rather than condemning me as a monumental waster of time.

I'm worried. Obviously. Does anyone ever look forward to a job interview? Maybe. One of my ex-girlfriends. On the run up to exams she used to get excited. Animated. 

"I don't understand why anyone wouldn't like exams! They're like a really fun competition! I don't know why anyone doesn't like them!"

It probably helped that she was consistently excellent in those exams. Not something I can claim. Obviously, she's pretty successful now. 

If that's the answer: find exams fun, then I'm fucked.

Exams are not fun. 

Interviews are not fun.

But I'm unusually determined this time. I am going into that interview to put myself forward in the best possible way. I will be me, but I will be the best possible version of me. I will not just sound like I know what I'm talking about, I actually WILL know what I'm talking about. I will prove that if they don't take me on they are making a mistake.

Hopefully, once it's over, I won't feel the need to unleash 140 characters of unbridled regret and fury on Twitter.

Tomorrow on the blog: baby stuff.

Smile

A smile is a wonderful thing. A smile from the right person can put you in a good mood for a big chunk of a day. Back in the mists of time, when I was single, a smile from a girl could last a whole day.

But smiles are tricksy. Like hairy toed hobbits hiding magical rings. A smile can be so many things, mean so many things. A smile from an adult is a complicated thing. It may be happy, of course, but it could contain regret, it could be rueful, it could be patronising, pitying or prying.

My own smile is stereotypical British, all overbite and crossover. I hate it. I had orthodontic work when I was younger, fixed braces and then a retainer. The retainer gave me a quite spectacular lisp. I decided that I valued my diction above aesthetics and wore the retainer sparingly. One of my life’s regrets.

If anyone’s got a spare £6,000 kicking around and fancies letting me use it to get braces again, drop me a line. I promise I’ll wear the retainer this time.

Luckily for me, Cam doesn’t seem to hate my smile. Most mornings, before I head to work, I smile at The Creature and The Creature smiles back. A big, beaming, gum-filled grin. Like I said, a smile from the right person can put you in a good mood.

Baby smiles are like the pure, uncut, 100% Colombian version of the smile. They are pure joy and innocence. They spread across their tiny faces, starting at the mouth, spreading into the wrinkled nose before finishing their journey at the eyes. They are reciprocal and self perpetuating.

The first time I saw Cam smile I was almost overcome with excitement, it was beautiful, and so markedly different to the trapped wind induced grimaces which had come before it (the difference was the eyes) that I found myself welling up. Thankfully, on that occasion, he didn’t decide to copy what I was doing.

What’s been making you smile today? Share your thoughts in my comment receptacle and spread a little joy.

By the way, consider yourself lucky I haven’t included a link to that awful song “Smile” by the Supernaturals here. I’ve gone for a picture of a smiley baby instead.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Career

When I was little, I wanted to be a Dalek. No joke.

Dream Job

I used to wander around the playground at my infant school during lunch times, my cagoule’s hood pulled tight around my face, exterminating fellow pupils.

Surprisingly, I was mostly alone in this pursuit.

If I wasn’t being Doctor Who’s most awesome enemy I would be pretending to be a plane. Arms out for wings, air forced through pursed lips for convincing facsimile of a Spitfire’s Merlin engine, interspersed with the staccato “ack ack ack ack” of my machine guns.

Needless to say, twenty-five years on, I am neither a Dalek or a plane. If I was the former you’d be dead by now, and if I was the latter I wouldn’t be able to talk. Or type.

All of which means, I suppose, that I am not one of the 15% of children who (according to BBC Breakfast) manage to end up being what they wanted to be when they were young.

Not exactly a surprising figure though, is it? They were asking eight year old kids. Even the most forward thinking eight year old isn’t likely to say “well, I’ve considered my options carefully. Given my relative academic strengths, and with due consideration to work life balance, plus of course the need for financial security, that ideally I’d like to become an actuary”.

Predictably, there were a few who wanted to be professional footballers (actually, they didn’t specify professional, that’s me putting words in their mouths) and some more who wanted to be singers (well done Simon Cowell, the youth are yours now). There were a fair number of proto-police officers (who, I bet, actually want to be Daleks, but think the dome shaped helmet of the police is the closest they can get).

No-one wanted to be a lawyer. Or a banker. Or a salesperson. Or work in a shop.

Back in the studio, the presenters wondered, were we perhaps allowing our children to be too optimistic in their goals? Should we be stopping their wild flights of fancy (No, junior, don’t be ridiculous, you’ll never be a police officer, now go to your room and reconsider your aspirations) and promoting a more realistic aim?

Not in my opinion.

If someone had told the five year old me that I couldn’t be a Dalek, once I’d finished trying REALLY HARD to exterminate them, I’d have probably been rendered unspeakably melancholy by suggestions of sensible roles. In reality, even now, I look at most job descriptions and pine for those days of care free ignorance about the need to make money.

Job hunting is a long way off for Cam, thankfully. I already know that I want him to be clever. I hope he is. The genetic building blocks ought to be there. I did okay at school, and probably could have done better if I’d been a bit more motivated. Mrs L excelled at school and university.

Ideally, he’ll have inherited the best attributes from each of us. That would probably put him in a pretty good starting position.

I don’t want him to grow up thinking in wholly realistic terms. I want him to aim high, to be something fantastic, something enjoyable which also brings in enough cash. I want him to do better than I have (I’ve helped him out here by not being terribly successful). I want him to be awesome, and I want to do everything I can to help him. I want him to be the best he can be.

More than anything, I want him to be happy.

If he could work out how to turn a human into a Dalek along the way, that would be great.

*does Dalek voice* EXTERMINATE!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tax

So, readers, are we all a bit stroppy with Jimmy Carr?

I don’t think I am, but let’s see where this ends up.

Funny thing, isn’t it, tax? Does a pretty fantastic job of dividing opinion. For a long time I’ve held a pretty simplistic view of taxation. Actually, that’s a lie. It was a na├»ve view.

I thought that people worked, they paid tax at the appropriate level and there was nothing they could do to influence that payment one way or the other (discussions with HMRC excepted, as seen in this post by @glosswitch). That’s how taxation worked for me, surely it was how it worked for everyone else?

No.

My current understanding is that taxation is only that simple if you are an employee of a company, and your tax is taken directly from your pay packet via the PAYE system.

The moment you step out of that system, the chances are you’re not going to pay tax in the same way as the majority of people. PAYE no longer applies to you.

Once PAYE no longer applies to you, you may have options. Many, many options. How you organise your taxation is filled with choice. The fiscal equivalent of a visit to a Subway sandwich shop.

(A brief aside to illustrate the above, in case anyone hasn’t been to Subway. The first time I went to a Subway I was a student. I was a bit hungover. I was used to sandwich shops having a list of six sandwiches which you chose from. I walked in and looked up at the bewildering array of options on display. SIX types of bread! Roughly one MILLION filling combinations! TWELVE distinct sauces! My brain surveyed all of this and shut down. I turned around and left.)

Among those options are things called loopholes. A loophole is where the people who make up the rules aren’t sufficiently careful or clever and leave an ambiguity. This ambiguity is tracked down by clever accountant types who can then advise their clients of ways to reduce the amount of tax they’re paying.

This is legal.

This is what Jimmy Carr did.

Legally reduced the amount of tax he was paying.

The conversation (as described on Twitter by Jimmy) with his accountant went like this:

Accountant: “Would you like to pay less tax? It’s legal.”

Jimmy Carr: “Yes.”

Be honest. If someone put that question to you, you’d say yes too, right? I didn’t notice too many people falling over themselves to continue paying 22% income tax when the level was reduced to 20%. But maybe that’s different.

Maybe, because us PAYEers just do as we’re told and have no choice we are spared the task of having to make a moral judgement when it comes to our tax affairs.

The people who are angry about what Jimmy Carr has done (and, let’s be super clear here, I’m only using his name because it’s out there. I’m sure lots of other people are up to similar tax trickery) are, I think, angry that he’s not contributing to society in the same way as they are.

Which sort of brings me back to how I feel about taxation now, which is this: I pay tax because I have to. But also because I believe in it as a mechanism to provide support to people who might otherwise end up in really unpleasant circumstances. People who need help in any number of ways. People who are worse off than I am. I pay tax because one day I may need that support myself, and I’d like to know that it will still be there for me, or for Cam or for any number of other people who I care about.

So I'm not stroppy with Jimmy Carr and countless others for looking after themselves and taking legal steps to reduce their tax.

I am stroppy that we're all part of a system which holds personal wealth as the principal indicator of worth, which in turn encourages us all to think that the best thing to do is pay as little tax as possible. In a world where cash is king, how can we expect people to be selfless and voluntarily give it away?


I don't have any answers, but I do know that I'm not convinced that the scapegoating of one particular person is a good thing. Maybe if it leads to a more open discussion about tax avoidance in general. But it won't.


What say you? Are you squirrelling away untold fortunes in Cayman Islands based accounts? Do you not have two pennies to rub together because you gave your last ones to charity? Will our Conservative overlords be made to divulge details of their own tax affairs?

Sorry, that’s a bit long and not that interesting, isn’t it? Still, you’re all at Britmums Live anyway, not reading this :-)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shy

Today I had to do a thing.

I had to put on a suit (extremely rare), go to a big, nice office building (even rarer), and talk to a load of people about the charity I work for (thankfully just as rare as the others).

The office I had to go to was that of a big law firm. Me and representatives from eight other charities stood in front of our carefully prepared stands twiddling our thumbs until one of them decided to grace us with their presence for a brief chat.

You know some people really look like they know what they're doing? Really confident in themselves, comfortable, at ease, ready for any question which may be thrown their way? EVERYONE who worked for this firm looked like that.

I do not look like that. I look awkward. I look like I'd rather people didn't talk to me. Partly that is because I would rather people didn't talk to me. Because then I wouldn't have to talk back.

All this is because I'm shy.

Around new people, in situations unfamiliar to me, I am properly, debilitatingly shy.

The thought of having to talk to all these people made my insides go a bit funny and squirmy. Made me sweat from pores I didn't know I had. When one person was talking to me I could feel a bead of sweat running down my cheek. I don't think he noticed, but I expect he did notice how moist my hand was when he shook it. He would have been entirely justified in thinking I had cunningly switched my hand for a freshly caught haddock when he wasn't looking.

I also trip over my words. When I can remember them at all.

Hyper confident solicitor type with perfect hair and immaculate clothing: "Tell me a bit about [charity I work for]"


Me: "Well, erm, yes, we do lots of, erm, stuff. Really good stuff. And then there's some things we do too. Yeeeeeaaaaaah. Would you like a leaflet?"

*hands solicitor leaflet soggy with perspiration*

Oh yes. Love talking to new people. That's me.

So, if I could name one characteristic of my personality which I really, truly hope The Creature doesn't inherit it would be shyness. Yes. There are other traits I'd prefer him not to get, but that's the real deal breaker.

I want my son to be sufficiently confident and outgoing that attending networking events feels like a nice way to spend a couple of hours, rather than a form of torture. To be able to approach a girl he likes and let them know that he does. To not have to spend ages formulating the words he intends to say to new people, only to fluff them up on delivery or be shot down with a quick witted come back.

For anyone who has met me and is thinking "he didn't seem shy", try to recall the first time we met. Was I quiet until I'd had a few drinks? Or did I look like I was choosing my words extremely carefully? Because I assure you, on the inside, I was nervous.

What are the foibles and character traits you don't want to have passed onto your offspring? Or would you be happy if they turned out just like you? How do I stop Cam from inheriting the curse of shy?

Fill my box with comments and I'll get back to you once I've had a drink ;-)

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Normal

Our little boy is just over ten weeks old now, so we thought it was about time we started trying to do some normal things again.

Things you do before having a baby (no, not that thing). Things like going to the pub, or playing a bit of sport. Or eating a meal at the same time as your wife. Or sleeping.

Last night, we did the first of those things. We left The Creature with one set of grandparents and we went to the pub.

Because all our friends have forgotten we exist/what we look like we started organising the trip to the pub forty-eight hours in advance. I sent everyone a picture message of mine and Mrs L's faces, so they'd know who they were meeting, I specified the time and the place and made it abundantly clear that there was every possibility we wouldn't be going at all actually, if The Creature decided to play up.

Still they agreed to come. We're like celebrities, or a passing comet, people can't resist the opportunity to catch a glimpse. That or they just fancied going to the pub and we were giving them a convenient excuse.

Cam was playing the "of course I'm not going to sleep. I know I usually am at this time but I can sense something's different. There's a disturbance in the force and I'm suddenly alert, like Yoda with a whiff of Sith in his nostrils" game. When his handlers for the evening arrived he was in his Moses basket, but far from sleeping.

Well, you know what, we went anyway. I practically had to physically remove Mrs L from the house, but with a little (lot) of helpful reassurance that Cam would, in fact, survive a few hours without us, we left.

We did a quiz. We came second. But that wasn't really the point. It was an evening where we could feel a little bit of what used to be normal to us. Adult company. Stupid jokes and sharing anecdotes. No fear that a tiny person may soon be yelling at us or needing food or a new nappy. Mrs L got a bit drunk on one glass of wine (this is not new, she's a proper lightweight) and I had a few bottles of cider. We both had a nice time. A really nice time.

Wobbly legs juice. Hic.

It hasn't been the easiest of transitions for us. Neither of us had truly realised how much we valued our independence and freedom until Cam came along and essentially robbed us of it. For Mrs L especially, there's been a feeling of captivity, of losing who she is and only being recognisable as a mum. Yesterday, for a few hours, we both managed to shift our focus from Cam and back on to ourselves.

I didn't even feel my usual, trademark, guilt. I knew he'd be fine and he was. In fact, he had a better night than he has in a while and for the majority of today he's been cheerful and smiley.

Perhaps we should go to the pub more often.

The Creature is our "normal" now, but it was amazing to take a trip to a pre-child world, even if it was only for a while, and a complete optical illusion.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fathers' Day

I was going to post about Fathers’ Day yesterday, but I was far too busy having Fathers’ Day.

My son has a sense of occasion already. My wake up call was my wife shouting for help with a truly apoocalyptic nappy. The classic “up the back and all over the arms” variety.

Happy Fathers’ Day dad, here’s your present, a baby, babygro and vest covered in runny shit. Nice.

Following the clean up operation I was given my card, a copy of Teething Pains and a lovely canvas with tiny, painty footprints on it. Definitely preferable to The Creature’s original offering.



A bottle of milk later and The Creature fell asleep. Seizing the moment, so did me and Mrs L.

Naptime over, playtime began, followed by more milk. Then, somewhat unusually, another poo. Clearly I hadn’t looked like I enjoyed the first one enough. The Creature mixed it up a little; this poo went down the left leg, out the bottom of the babygro and onto my jeans.

Variety is the spice of life, I’m glad Cam has learnt this lesson early.

The rest of the day was spent soothing, playing, napping, chatting, watching some TV, drinking cups of tea and eating cake. It was a day with a baby. A day with friends. A day as a dad.

I’ve never been too keen on days like Fathers’ Day. I’m fairly sure it’s just one of those “Hallmark Holidays”, fabricated by businesses to sell more cards and make more money out of people who just can’t say no.

But I think we did it quite well. No excessive spending, no over the top celebration, pretty much a day like any other since becoming a dad ten weeks ago.

I don’t need a day designated to celebrate being a Father. I celebrate it every day. I feel elated every time I pick up that dinky person I helped create, I feel loved every time he fixes me with his eyes or rests his head into my chest for a cuddle. I hope that we will raise Cam to have the same quiet but obvious appreciation for his parents as I have for mine.

Parenting is hard work. Far too hard to give each parent just one day each year to think about it.

My first Fathers’ Day was great, and I hope all of you had an ace day too. But that’s my hope for every day, not just the ones we mark with cards and presents.

*instigates group hug*

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Reader Appreciation Award



Boom! I've been awarded this lovely flowery award by the talented Spencer over yonder at SAHDandproud V2.0. If you've not already popped over there and checked out his blog, you ought to. Because it's brilliant. Like jam. Less sticky though.

As with any award there are rules (if you win an Oscar you are contractually obliged to have a go at Scientology. True fact.) and these are they:

1. Include the award logo somewhere in your blog.
2. Answer these 10 questions below
3. Nominate 10 to 12 blogs you enjoy. Or you pick the number.
4. Pay the love forward: Provide your nominee’s link in your post and comment on their blog to let them know they’ve been included and invited to participate.
5. Pay the love back with gratitude and a link to the blogger(s) who nominated you.

So then. Questions for me to answer. Prepare to learn just how exciting I am...

What is your favourite colour?

I'm going to make myself sound super awesome here, straight away. Brown. I wouldn't paint my house brown, but I like brown t-shirts and stuff. Also it's the colour of mud, a substance I'm very keen on.

What's your favourite animal?

I'm not really an animal person. I thought about this for quite a long time, but I can't name a favourite, they're all rubbish.

What's your favourite non-alcoholic drink?

During the summer I develop a mild addiction to Dr Pepper. In the winter I don't drink it at all. But I drink LOADS of tea. Which I don't drink during the summer. The current unseasonal weather is fucking with me somewhat.

Facebook or Twitter?

For years, Facebook.

I had a go at Twitter, spoke into the ether for a year, got followed by thirty-five people, several of whom were pornbots, never had any decent chat and gave up. Fail.

Then, I started a blog and decided to give it a Twitter account of its very own. Now I love it. It's the biggest time sink in my life and has gained me lots of advice, support and fledgling friendships. Woo Twitter.

I barely use Facebook any more.

So, somewhat long windedly, I guess that means my answer is Twitter.

What is your favourite pattern?

I'm not sure I have one. Man I'm dull. I do rather like flannel shirts, and the patterns on those. Do most people have a favourite pattern? 

Favourite number?

I don't have a specific one, but I do have a weird attraction to all sorts of numbers which hold some significance to me. Also palendromic numbers. I get a little bit excited when my car's mileage is one of those. 

Favourite day of the week?

Wednesday. It's the start of the downslope to the weekend, it used to be the day I played basketball. There's usually some good feeling in me on a Wednesday.

Favourite flower?

No. No flowers. I HATE flowers. They make my eyes stream and my nose itch and my life miserable. I love looking at them, but I'd happily never see another one if it meant I didn't get hayfever ever again.

What is your passion?

My wife and baby boy, of course. I loves 'em.

And now, a bit of tagging for some awesome blogs that I read:


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I Spy - I (and K)

Last week I didn't post an iSpy, so today it's a bumper double edition, with both K and I for people to guess.

So here's the first one, which should have been last week's: What K do you see here?


There, that's easy. How about this one, which is this week's letter: I


Fill my box with your juicy guesses, then scoot off to visit Mum of One via the magic badge thingy below


Mum of One


Flirt

Shit.

Oh shitting shit.

I really thought I'd have a bit longer than nine weeks before I'd have to start worrying about this.

Mrs L took The Creature to a postnatal group today. When I got home from work today I was told "Cam was flirting with Tilly today".

The Cad.

As the story was retold to me, my boy, who clearly hasn't inherited his dad's paralysing shyness with the opposite sex, was sat on Mrs L's lap, facing the room. Tilly, AN OLDER WOMAN, sits a few feet away, all mystical allure and big eyes. Tempting him. Like some tiny minx. I bet she was showing off loads of flesh.

Anyway. Mrs L notices that Flirty McFlirt (Tilly) is making eyes at The Creature. Rather than give him a quick sex education lesson, she leans round to discover that Cam is breaking out the grinniest grin his gummy little mouth has yet produced.

Form an orderly queue ladies...
Worse still, they are exhibitionists. The whole postnatal group is watching. Cheering them on, as if baby flirting is something which should be encouraged. Shocking. I expect this is the kind of behaviour that comes from too much Fifty Shades of Grey.

Thankfully, a complete lack of motive abilities on either child's part meant that a meeting of eyes and exchange of smiles was as far as it went. Realising the limitations of his amorous endeavour, The Creature promptly fell asleep. This is probably a scenario which will come to be familiar to him in later life, so it's good he's getting some practise.

I'm really quite proud of the little guy. Not because I really think he was flirting. That would be extremely silly. But that smile was real interaction without ridiculous provocation. Usually it's me getting up close and pulling faces at him that elicits such things. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that a pretty girl has done a better job.

This is just the start of course. Before I know it I'll be hearing tales of kiss chase in the school playground. Then, after that, I'll be NOT hearing about first kisses and first, erm, other things. Eep.

Now, how young is too young for the chat about the birds and bees (whatever that means)?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

House

I’m thirty years old this year (14 th of July, I like real ale, #justsaying). I still live in the town I grew up in. The town where it is easy to trace one side of my family’s roots back over two hundred years. I don’t feel a huge amount of attachment to the town itself, but there are things in it which I can remember from when I was little.

A couple of months ago, one of those things, probably the most important one, disappeared.

The house I grew up in was built from scratch by one of my ancestors. It was an old house by the time I was born, handed down through a couple of generations and a little worse for wear. On winter mornings there was ice on the inside of the windows. The dark shadow of damp crept across the ceilings of the bedrooms. There was no bathroom, and the only toilet was outside. Downstairs the wiring was only up to running a mini-oven, upstairs the wiring only went into my parents’ bedroom. There was no central heating.

I was occasionally embarrassed by some of the above, mostly the lack of a bathroom, which seemed weird to the children of the management types in modern houses who made up the bulk of my friends.

But despite its shortcomings, our house could not have felt more like a home. The accumulated belongings of my mum and dad, me, my sister and my brother were on display throughout, the trappings of a twentieth century life far greater than the storage capacity of a nineteenth century house. The kitchen table bore the marks of being eaten at by me and my siblings, as well as the other family members who had gone before us. The open fireplace in the lounge was as much the focal point of the room as a flat screen TV is to many today.

We grew up in that house, our parents looked after us in that house, we fought, played, behaved and misbehaved in that house.

Now that house is gone.

It’s been a long time coming. My parents moved away five years ago, selling the house (and, more importantly, the large patch of land it stood in) to a developer. The house remained there while planning permission for new buildings was wrangled over, growing more dilapidated with every passing day, but still standing.

Then, just before Cam entered our lives, we walked past the house. Except there was only half a house to walk past. I looked into my childhood bedroom without having to use a window, because the exterior walls no longer existed. I remembered some of the things that had happened in that room, happy things mostly, and it made me sad.

The following day the rest of the house was demolished. Reduced back to the individual bricks it had been well over a hundred years ago.

When you see property programmes and the people are looking for a house “with character” they are talking about a house like the one I grew up in. They probably want it to have a toilet though.

The house we live in today isn’t like that. It’s a reasonably modern, reasonably standard house. Even so, I hope that by filling it with fun and happiness and life it will come to mean to Cam what my old house meant to me.

Is the house you grew up in still intact? Do you ever get to see it? Do you ever think back to the time you were there and smile, or cry?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wedding

Weddings. They're nice aren't they?

All pretty and full of lovely foods and brimming with people you like. There's always plenty of booze, and plenty of dancing. The people getting married are having the best day of their lives, and they usually let everyone else ride on their coat tails for the day.

I've got a lot of love for weddings.

But weddings are different now.

Weddings used to go: dress up smart, enjoy ceremony, eat nice food, laugh at speeches, get drunk, have great chat with other guests, get a bit more drunk, do some dancing, have plentiful hugs, maybe fall over a bit, go home, wake up with hangover but feeling like you've had an awesome time getting it.

We took Cam to a wedding reception on Saturday. We'd have been going to the ceremony before we had him, but we didn't want a grumpy baby (or grumpy parents).

Saturday's wedding went like this: dress up less scruffy than usual, but not smart because it'll only get puked on, miss ceremony, soothe baby while wife eats nice food, eat food while wife soothes baby, position self near exit of marquee during speeches, in case of tantrum, stare at wine on table longingly, chat about babies with other guests, stare at pints in people's hands longingly, dance with the baby in a quiet corner away from the dancefloor, have far less hugs than usual, go home, wake up feeling like you have a hangover you don't deserve.

Don't mistake the above for not having a good time. A wedding with a baby is still lovely. I am incredibly pleased that I was able to be there to share such a special occasion with two of my favourite people. They had the happiest day of their lives and that's the most important thing.

We enjoyed the day, but it's a world away from how we'd have enjoyed it a year ago.

We have five more weddings to go to this year. What are your top tips?

Thanks for reading :-)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lifts and Toilets

Earlier this week I went out for a bit, on my own, with The Creature.

We went to meet @Motherventing for some tea and cake, then to do a bit of shopping.

I learnt a lesson on that trip: shopping centres are crap for a lone parent with a big pram/buggy thing.

As an able bodied, reasonably fit, reasonably young person, I do not use lifts. I use stairs. There are many reasons for this: lifts contain lift music. Lift music is not actual music, and should be banned. Lifts also contain other people, squished together into a small space. On occasion, one of those other people will fart. Unpleasant.

My final reason for not using lifts is that I don’t know where they are. Lifts (with their terrible music and farting) are like the dirty secret which shops don’t want you to know about, so they’re hidden away. The signs that say “lifts this way” are actually a cunning ruse, and take you further from the lift.

But as a parent with a child in a pram I need to use the lift.

I lost fifteen minutes of my life looking for the lift in Marks & Spencer. I will never get that back, and I could have been using it to do something important, like eating a nice piece of cake. Or anything that wasn’t looking for a lift.

Worse still was House of Fraser. Their lifts weren’t signposted at all. I still don’t know whether there is a lift there or not, I gave up after I’d done a few laps of the floor I came in on. Well played House of Fraser, quite a subtle way of making me feel unwelcome.

Now I think of it, I don’t remember seeing any other people pushing a buggy in there. Perhaps I missed the sign saying I should shop elsewhere.

Once I’d finished the exciting business of looking for lifts the tea I had consumed earlier had made its way through the system and wanted out. The Creature was also in need of a change.

I made a discovery: changing facilities are quite often in the ladies toilets. When they are not in the ladies toilets, they are often a standalone room, without a toilet. Ha fucking ha. At least the baby got a change.

I will share something with you here. My bladder is RUBBISH. It is made more rubbish when my brain gets the opportunity to tell it that there are no toilet facilities available to it.

Question for my male readers: it’s okay to take your baby into the men’s toilets, yes? Have him next to you at the urinal? It didn’t feel like it ought to be okay, I don’t recall EVER seeing another man doing it (although my toiletiquette is perfect, so I don’t look around more than is absolutely necessary). So I thought dry thoughts and made my way back to the car.

What I wonder is how dads on their own are supposed to cope with situations where there is no baby change option outside of the women’s toilet. I suppose you can change a baby anywhere really.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Protection, Part 1

When I was little, about seven years old, my dad bought a similarly little motorbike for me to play on. It was red and noisy and exciting. Truth be told, I was a little scared of it. It felt pretty fast to me, and I wasn’t confident enough to get the most out of it.

We went on a family camp with the cubs one year and took the bike with us. My dad looking after maybe twenty excitable boys and their desire to ride the dinky machine. I went first, and out came the show off in me. I went far beyond the area my dad had marked out for riding, and onto the slicked down grass of the route that cars had taken into the campsite.

My fledgling ego dictated that the throttle remained pinned open, despite the increasingly bumpy terrain and my distinct lack of ability.

Moments later I was bucked from the bike, cartwheeling over the bars and onto the ground in a tangled heap. I had run out of talent in dramatic fashion, and had no chance of holding back the tears. My dad (and the other boys) ran over to me and assessed the damage: a bleeding lip where my tooth had pierced it, and a bruise on my ego, but nothing more. I still have the scar on the outside of my lip. I’m not sure whether my ego recovered.

Like this, only more crashy.

At the time, once the tears stopped, I didn’t think anything more of it. I didn’t ride the bike again for quite a while.

I’m grateful for the masses of fun stuff I used to get to do as a boy. Our back garden was a small, disused quarry which me, my sister and brother treated as our own personal adventure playground. Climbing trees, skidding down muddy slopes, running through the masses of nettles and brambles. Fantastic stuff.

Scary stuff.

When I look at my little two month old son, I can’t imagine ever thinking: “I know, I’ll sit him on top of an engine with two wheels attached and let him loose on a field”. What if he too displays more ambition than ability, but instead of an inadvertent lip piercing ends up with broken bones, knackered nerves, or worse?

I imagine an impromptu mini-motocross event is the sort of thing which cub scout organisers will not allow in these days of risk assessments and liability insurance, and our garden will only take thirty seconds for even the least daring of children to explore.

But I don’t want Cam to grow up cocooned in cotton wool. I don’t want him to fear the unknown and to suddenly realise, later in life, that he’s paralysed by fear when faced with anything more exciting than an Xbox game.

The urge to protect is as strong for me now as it must have been when my dad strapped that helmet onto my head, sat me on the motorbike and watched me disappear in a blue tinted cloud of two stroke fumes.

So how do you, as a parent, balance the risk of pain, injury, even death, against the desire for a well rounded, well adjusted child who has experienced a range of the awesome things that the world has on offer? Preferably without having some kind of nervous breakdown.

What activities do your kids do that make your heart stand still? Are there things you just won’t allow them to do, for their safety and your sanity? Let me know in le box du comment.

Thanks for reading :-)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Olympic


London, a hot summer day. Hoards of people, raucous and excited. Shouting, cheering, running. Lots and lots of athletic clothing. A feeling of a community pulling together in a shared experience. Some spectacular prizes for the most successful participants. A televised spectacle watched by millions.
Yes, the riots last summer were pretty awesome. But enough about them.
This year, the world's top athletes will converge on the British capital and do some sport stuff. I'm quite looking forward to it. 
There is, of course, a meme about it, and that well known tagger of people in memes @Motherventing has tagged me to take part. She also called me irresistably manly, which is weird, because we've met so she knows that's not true.
The meme has questions on an Olympic theme, here they are, along with my answers:
If everyday tasks were Olympic events, what would you get gold medal in?
I don't know that it's a task as such, but Mrs L reckons I am very good at making crumbs. So, that. I'm also pretty shit-hot at buggy pushing these days.
As a child (or even now) did you excel at a particular sport and if so, which one? 
I used to be reasonably handy at triple jumping. Until I went and competed at a regional athletics meet and found out that I was actually completely rubbish at it. I pretty much gave up on being good at anything there and then.
Michael Phelps (a swimmer) or Michael Johnson (a runner): which sport appeals to you more? 
I hate swimming. I can't co-ordinate my arms and legs into anything resembling a stroke, and my brain won't let me breathe out while my face is underwater. So I sort of look like I'm drowning most of the time.
I don't like watching people being good at swimming, because it just serves to remind me how bad I am at it.
I don't like running. But I have had to run to catch buses on occasion. So I can identify with it a bit more. 
How fast can you get out of bed and ready to go out of the door if you miss the alarm and sleep in? 
Faster than Usain Bolt. Seriously. But I never need to, thank goodness for flexitime.
What fantasy sport would you like to see made into an Olympic event?
Fantasy sport? Like competitive threesomes or something? Is that what you mean? I'm not sure, I'll have to read 50 Shades of Grey and get back to you. I can see there being issues with televising it.
Claim to fame time: have you ever met an Olympian and who was it? 
Yes. Three actually. Two whose names I can't remember, possibly one of them was Roger Black, and one called Oli Beckingsale who does mountain biking and comes from the same town as me.
What event in past Olympics can you remember most vividly?
During the 1988 Olympics my infant school had us all keeping tabs on the Olympics in Seoul. I drew a picture of Ben Johnson winning the 100m sprint in record breaking fashion. I actually found it really exciting at the time and briefly wanted to be a sprinter. Ben Johnson SMASHED MY DREAMS by using drugs. Prick. Also, it meant my teacher defacing my picture with red pen: "BEN JOHNSON LATER HAD HIS MEDAL TAKEN AWAY FOR USING DRUGS"
Tuning in at home, or tickets clamped ready in sweaty palms?
I'll be at work, so neither. I expect I'll watch the basketball if I can find it on iPlayer.
Who do you think most deserves a gold medal (any walk of life, not just Olympians)? 
Oh I dunno. There's a lot of people out there putting up with a lot of shit all day every day. Would a gold medal make any difference to them? Probably not.
I'm going to be all non-committal and say everyone deserves one. Which is the same as saying no-one does.
There we go then. Sorry if it's horribly evident that I've written this with a bit of a hangover and while my baby is screaming his face off six feet away. By way of an apology (and in tribute to MoVo) I'm not going to tag anyone else to take part.
But, y'know, if you WANT to, just go ahead and do it, I'm sure no-one will be around to tell you off.