Weeknotes 008: Latenotes

Sometimes a Sunday is less than stellar for reasons. And weeknotes appear late.

We didn't get a call from Public Health England. Just a regular toddler bug.

In non-intestinal Piglet news, she's graduating from Daisy to Buttercup room at nursery. It means she's leaving the weak of neck and leg behind, in favour of other loud walkers.

For us, we had the fun of filling out the "Why is your daughter amazing?¹" paperwork and reflecting on who she is.

A few that didnt make the list,but that we're proud of nevertheless:

  • Saying "gentle" has come to mean "pat carefully". If she's being too forward with someone's face and we call out, they end up getting a nice cheek stroke.
  • We taught her to smell flowers. But she's triggered by the word flower. So she'll stop and smell Lego, books, and cauliflowers. Complete with satisfied ah noise when she's done.
  • To encourage her drinking water, we taught her how to do "Cheers".

The clock change knocked our schedule and we've not responded well as a family. We went to see Grandma on Sunday for her birthday. Everyone was groggy. Grandma got nestled into with some Hey Duggee. Which might be the best present I've ever brought her.

Work wise, things have felt more in control of late. Nothing revolutionary, just a few sensible, boring changes. I haven't gone full bullet journal, but I'm at least writing a daily to do list at the end of the day. And I'm doing 5 minute Sworkit sessions. Not enough to shift any fat, but enough to keep my mood up.

It's still fragile and subject to setback—we're still recovering from September—but it could be sustainable.

I've filled the working day with the music of Karine Polwart and even managed a film on one evening. Safe to say I'll watch any and all films of Barry Jenkins when they're released. He can capture all of life in an expression held in frame.


1: A real question from the form.

Weeknotes 007: Is she breathing?

Piglet got an early start on Hallowe'en by shitting blood. Which was certainly something. It meant I got to spend the majority of Daddy-Daughter Saturday in junior A&E. She's apparently fine, but there's a chance we're going to get a call from Public Health England in a couple of days to quarantine the neighbourhood.

More than we're already quarantined.

Well, if we're quarantined. Maybe gyms are open. Unless it's car boot sales. At least our MP, Chi Onwurah is posting sense and we can check that grandparents are allowed, even in tier 3. As for the other lot...

Back to Piglet, she'd not cleared last week's illness. Grandparents had been willing to risk their floors and let her play nappy-less, much to her delight. The GP suggested it might be transient lactose intolerance and she went dairy free for the week. Including an involuntary wean, which wasn't a popular decision.

The upset stomach has meant that the wash loads are split into lights , darks, nappies and things-that-aren't-nappies-but-are-still-covered-in-shit.

With the blood waiting till Saturday to show up, I got to ring 111 instead of the GP. The script they're given isn't the operators fault. But the first question after being on hold for over half an hour; "Is she still breathing?"

I thought,

"No, she's not. That's why I skipped first aid or calling 999 in favour of listening to your hold messages for the afternoon"

But I said,

"Yes"

For all my grousing, she looks to be fine. And her buddy from nursery has Covid. So a few weeks of loose stools is far from the worst thing. And The Chef and I have a library of poo pictures to remember this week by.

We're finishing the week off with another of Anna Del Conte's tasty meals, some questionable North Macedonian wine and an attempt to tally Piglet's vocabulary.

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Weeknotes 006: Secondhand mooncups

This week, I've been aiming to live as joyfully as a toddler with the plastic frame from a broken cafetiere and some balls in a box.

Her joy has been even more admirable as she's ill again. She's been going to nursery since August and only completed both days once. This time the call was for diarrhea and temperature. It's still rumbling on four days later. We've had the heating on full blast and she's been playing pantless on some puppy training matts. It's meant a lot of disinfecting the floor, but she needed time out of a nappy.

Prior to having the heating on full blast, we've felt the chill this week. We've not got round to switching from summer to winter duvet, so we stole the bedding from the spare room and had two blankets instead. It's like having one of those expensive anxiety blankets, but for the cost of not having guests around. Which we can't do anyway.

The personal positive of Piglet's illness, is that she's softened her stance on the point of Dad. Earlier in the week she'd taken against me and there were tantrums if I picked her up or asked for a cuddle. I'm not going to pretend that didn't smart.

Whilst it's mostly been Hey Duggee on during the convalescence, national treasure Michael Rosen is getting daily outings. The Chef has a theory that, because the mam isn't illustrated in We're Going on a Bear Hunt, it's all allegorical and the bear is the mam, woken too early on a Sunday.

Michael Rosen beat Piglet to our house. He was first invited through his Sad Book. As the title suggests, it's one of the most heartbreaking books I've ever read. Quentin Blake is on hand to do justice to the words. I need to buy a new copy having sent it out on forever loan to a friend.

The other national treasure in our house is Margaret. Better than any instruction manual, she's responsible for our car seat being fitted safely. We love a sensible lady around here. She instigated another round of introspective awe that our parents managed to raise us without any internet.

Speaking of the internet, this Tom Waits thread is lovely. Full of charm, insight and humour. I'd already commented and it felt indulgent to add a story from a dream, but these are weeknotes and are all about self-indulgence. It was in the before times of 2019. I dreamt that Tom Waits and Bon Jovi did an arena tour together, but they would only sing each other's songs. It was terrible, even in a dream. But it's the reason my Tom Waits covers playlist is called Bon Waits & Tom Jovi.

The other pleasant modern living thing—now that piglet is 15 month old—is the constant delight from the "1 year ago today" notifications on our phones.

Crossed wires meant The Chef had the car on the day I was to pick up a balance bike christmas present. Cycling with a bike strapped to your back is not recommended in Newcastle. A faded painted line was all that was between me and cars doing fifty. It led to me filling out half a dozen feedback forms on cycling improvement schemes.

In Facebook marketplace news, the secondhand mooncup has some interest. Pregnancy tests are on there too. I'm assuming unused.

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Weeknotes 005: Gravity is a habit that is hard to shake off

You know that gif from Avengers where Bruce Banner explains his secret is that he's always angry? That. But for our dishwasher needing to go on.

* * *

We've been co-sleeping over the last fortnight while teeth break. But, after two solid weeks of pain and effort, Piglet is now the proud owner of a full, extra half of a tooth.

Just 17.5 more teeth.

At this pace, that's 8 months' worth of calpol.

* * *

Months ago we bought a secondhand high chair and gave it a paint. Unfortunately, being hipsters we chose a chalk finish that Piglet could peel off and eat. On Sunday I eventually got round to stripping it so we can use it again.

Feeling pumped from all the grass I'd killed with white spirits, I went to collect and fit a bike seat for her. We took a pedal across the moor and ended in an unplanned beer garden visit. First time in a pub since February.

* * *

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Living with a toddler means living with misadventure. I've started a mental clock for when I'm going to step on deadly Duplo and plunge back down the stairs.

Barely had I started the clock when I was beaten to it by Piglet. She wanted to play on the stairs unsupervised and reaching out to restrain her led to her pulling away and missing a step. The second from top step.

Two things will stay with me. Her pleading expression of confused terror as she fell, thudding to the floor. And the break in my own mythology that I can save her from these things.

I'm a disgustingly self-confident optimist. Even nightmares can normally be turned around with a bit of impudent cheek. In the dream where Piglet is falling, I always catch her. But real life punctured that with pinwheeling gravity.

Being small and mostly made of fat, the extent of the damage was a barely perceptible egg on her head from the stone floor. Which didn't lessen the panic while trying to discover broken bones in an inconsolable toddler.

The next day was spent at Lǎolao and Lǎoyé's. The stream of photos of her enjoyment calmed my fretting. I can't save her from life, but we can surround her with love and kindness. Which is about the best we can hope for.

* * *

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We feasted through mid-autumn festival and marked the passing of time by packing away Piglet's baby toys. No more rattles or Fisher Price Circle of Neglect®. Replaced with puddle-jumping wellies and a rocking chair. Our living room—for one night only—is free of her stuff.

* * *

I sneezed while wearing a facemask. It was deeply unpleasant.

Weeknotes 004: Too nice a notebook to sully

On a crisp afternoon walk, The Chef was eulogising her love of autumn. "It's that the sky feels further away." Which makes no sense. Except that it kind of does. It's the quality of the blue.

Back in the summer I got a notebook for my birthday that I've still not written in. It's just too nice. I even searched Bullet Journals to see if I was worthy enough to keep one. I'm not. The search for a use continues.

Robert Heaton's I got married and had kids so you don't have to was a swirling, circling, rambling essay on being a new-ish Dad (specifically a Dad and not just parenting) in Covid times.

[He's] started to become more fun since I last wrote about him. He’s always been fun of sorts, but it was usually fun like cooking, not actual fun like playing PlayStation.

...

My hot take on baby science is that humanity knows an enormous amount about what is good for children, but this knowledge is so baked in to our lives that we don’t notice it.

It's a good read. It reminded me of Paul Mucur's weeknotes. Both invited parenting on themselves a month or two after me, but are going through the same experiences. It's reassuring, while the world is busy being everything, to hear secondhand accounts which rhyme with my own. And I get to laugh at things like protest bananas.

At 15 months, Piglet has already broken my Spotify recommendations. After a concerted effort, I've wrestled about a third of the weekly recommendations back to twee indie, with the rest being made of relaxing nursery piano music and ambient noises. I think this might be my high-water mark for non-kid recommendations until 2040. I did get round to collating a Piglet bedtime playlist with this lot on there.

Rather than starting with the planned crumble, we followed Jane Pikett's Lemon and blackberry clafoutis recipe for our first forage. Delicious and disgustingly simple to make. It'll definitely get a replay this autumn.

While I write these, The Chef has just found someone selling a secondhand mooncup on Facebook. So that's a thing. No takers yet.

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Weeknotes 003: That does not smell nice

This week has been a restorative tonic for the soul. The prosaic hiccoughs of a regular week interspersed throughout fun adventures.

It started at 5 am on Sunday. You know that gif from Avengers where Bruce Banner explains his secret is that he's always angry? That. But for Piglet being awake.

Once downstairs she flipped herself headfirst off the couch onto the wooden floor. While calming her, I heard a bang from the utility room.

I can't stress this enough. Always vent your worm tea. Especially if there's a couple of dead ones in there. They ferment. Unless you want your child to be raised by The Clangers while you wipe stinky dead worm compost off the walls.

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We had holiday booked and paying £1000 to stay in a cottage less than an hour from home was off the cards, so we filled the week with day trips.

We started in Bamburgh on Monday. Fitting the new car seat took longer than expected and we were late setting off. When we got there, it was cold. No one was happy. Piglet stopped speaking Clanger long enough to crap on her clothes (which we thought at the time was bad, but oh ho ho). All in all, a far from auspicious start.

Tuesday's trip to Vindolanda went better. I realised I've radicalised The Chef when she asked the really rather sweet archaeologist if "Anyone else had taken the finds from the site?" I've long had a bee in my bonnet that London gets to have anything of note from up North. We got the reply that "They'd sold the original tablets to the British Museum because they didn't have the capability to store and present them safely. But that they're up to scratch now and we can go read some of them in the museum."

That's right: read Roman tablets. They're on wood and ended up in an anaerobic bog and are preserved well enough to read today.

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We had to be quiet talking to the archaeologist because Hugh Dennis was on site filming. (New series of Great British Countryside?) Once we find out what the programme is, we'll have to watch find out if we can hear Piglet mooing in the background.

Heading home showed us how wrong we were about Monday's poo. We thought it was the smell from nearby sheep. But it didn't dissipate. If anything it was getting worse. We pulled in to a lay-by to find that she'd enjoyed lunch so much that she was eating it a second time, post processing. Panicked we stripped her on the verge, damped her dress and wiped her off as trucks rolled past. Unphased, Piglet was asleep 5 minutes after setting off. The brand new carseat is already stripped and in the washing machine.

We went to visit friends near Durham on Wednesday. Inside their house. Which I hope is legal. If it's not, rather than incriminate myself, let's say this bit is fictional. Piglet had her usual panic on entering a strange building, but by the end was leaping out of our arms for cuddles with her new besties. Seeing friends is always lovely, but in the 'rona times, there's a keener edge on the joy.

Thursday was The Chef's birthday. We ditched Piglet at nursery and headed out for some delicious food at Rileys.

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It's a 4G blackspot, so we were almost back at the car before we found out about the local lockdown kicking in at midnight. A few calls to the grandparents and everyone was round for another bout of farewells.

The local council had included an exception for informal family care, which has been refused by the clowns. Our house "doesn't have track and trace like a pub." Despite me knowing the addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth and favourite foods of the four people. If it doesn't have a till, it's not important.

Northumberland Country Zoo does have a till, so we went there on Friday. If we're honest, it's just a big farm. But they've got Lemurs, so they get to call themselves a zoo.

Piglet was nonplussed by the more exotic animals, favouring a stand off with a duck and trying to feed her fingers to a goat.

So excited was she by the duck, that we took a trip out the Havannah Park on Saturday. It's another wildlife reserve within 10 minutes of the house that we didn't know about. We filled our first bag of blackberries, ready for a crumble. Ah, autumn.

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Weeknotes 002: Loss

This week we suffered a miscarriage.

The early pregnancy signs were similar to the last time we miscarried. We were anxious and refused to allow ourselves to expect too much. To calm our minds, I cooked up a theory of dates that would mean there's no reason to worry. It was all explainable and sensible.

I was downstairs with Piglet when H called down, "I'm bleeding."

She rested the rest of the day in the hope that it was just a scare. But it got heavier.

We hadn't yet spoken to the GP or midwife. The first call was to book a scan to confirm everything had gone wrong.

The first time we miscarried—Blueberry—we were distraught in the hospital, trying to find somewhere private enough to hug in tears. After I called my Mam to tell her, I lay on the kitchen floor and bawled. When I rang work I could only manage to choke out that I couldn't come in. But this time, because we hadn't let ourselves open up fully to hope, it hasn't been possible to open up fully to grief.

I stilled cried when I had to tell Mam. And that's the only time I've cried. It feels easier and harder at the same time. Some of it must be because we already have Piglet. Sadness, but without the sharp edge of fear of, "What if we can't ever?" And some must be from the hard shell of fear that encased our hope. Our future child.

After the scan, H and I walked through a park, talking through the numbness we were feeling, trying to articulate and describe it so we could release it.

I'd thought that I'll end up with the same amount of sadness, spread out for longer without the release of the peak. But I can't avoid the callous belief that that's not true. I haven't wanted to admit it to myself and face my own judgment, but maybe this time I won't feel as much loss.

Importantly, H is OK and the scan has shown no lasting effects. Piglet will just have to wait a little longer for a sibling.

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Weeknotes 001: What the blimp?

The 100 words, 100 days challenge is over. I don't think I achieved my set out aim of improving my writing, but it's been a nice way to capture life in what otherwise would have been the loop and repeat of lockdown.

Now that it's done, I've decided to keep up with some form of blogging. I've made mention of weeknotes a couple of times and I'm giving them a shot.

So, without further ado, weeknote one.


I bought some pen plotter art from Rev Dan Catt's season of the ghost. I only bought a single silver on black postcard and look what he generously bundled in! A full haunted envelope. It's made my frame purchase more involved.

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Jeremy Keith—the inspiration for the 100 words, 100 days—was kind enough to link to my efforts on his blog, Adactio. It's been a staple of my RSS feed for years for a constant stream of interesting thought (the link to here excepted). He has an excellent collection of design principles. And it was pleasant to bookmark something written by a stranger linking to something I wrote.

In Piglet news, she got a handy-down Duplo train set. Which is to say, me and The Chef got a handy-down Duplo train set and we let her play with it too. Lǎolao and Lǎoyé visited and, while we prepped Piglets lunch, they argued over the right way to build an over-track arch.

One night we even got her to sleep early enough to watch a movie. We plumped for The Farewell having missed it in cinemas, courtesy of having a baby. It was both enjoyable in its own right and in being worryingly close to being a biopic for The Chef.

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Buying frames is hard. In the meantime I've posted the ghosts on the door of the home office. It'll make for a talking piece in one of the hundred video calls in the next week.

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100 words 100

That's it. From not knowing what this is to having a baby blog littered with sleep updates.

Stuff I didn't get to:

  • A riff on the phrase, "as useless as a chocolate fireguard" and how much Piglet would love one.
  • Two flavours of leaving Piglet's room: Creeping and praying the floorboard doesn't squeak versus hiring a brass band to play you out successfully.
  • A smattering of home lingo e.g. Question marked to mean asleep.
  • Black Lives Matter. And how I (middle-aged, middle-class, white man) hope to show up meaningfully kind.
  • Part 4 of things Piglet loves.

And more. Stay safe.

100 words 099

100 words is drawing to a close just as lockdown has run my life and brain into the imaginative ground. A selection of dreams from the last week include:

  • Lying in bed reading my phone. (That was only a doze. I got to wake up feeling unrefreshed and distressed)
  • Talking to our greengrocer about his holiday in Beadnell
  • Playing the next level of a mobile game
  • Fancy dress drinking with the Bay folx. I was dressed as a vampire and trying to sort parking. Was told to pay on departure. "Keep your stake in your pocket."

My brain done broke.

100 words 098

Another Friday self-isolating. This time nursery called to say Piglet had a temperature.

Too late to get a referral through occ health, we trundled across the A1 to a drive-through testing centre at the edge of nowhere.

The centre, set up for high traffic, was quiet on a Saturday morning, which made it confusingly convoluted. The staff looked to be lads who would've worked hospitality security if it wasn't all closed. Our man who gave us the kit spent most of the time imploring us not to go so hard as to hospitalise Piglet.

She wasn't impressed with the experience.

100 words 097

I needn't have worried about a Thursday finish. Work and baby interfered too much for that.

Piglet has slept through for the last few nights, but hasn't yet figured out how to couple it with an early bedtime. She pulled off her first full day at Lǎolao and Lǎoyé's yesterday, while I hid in the spare room working.

In terms of a review, they get points for on demand table service throughout the day, but lose marks for lunch being a cheese sandwich, rather than rib soup.

"The rib soup is for Piglet"

Chastised, I slunk back to my cubicle.

100 words 096

A second night-shift to let The Chef recuperate and Piglet wasn't keen. We trialled looking at every change in the clock's big hand.

At 5.30am we got up for the day, before a happy Chef relieved me to go for a long nap. Up at 11 to cook hash browns. Third time for this recipe too, so they were edible this time. We used our spice kit on some takeaway quality curry.

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I've just realised that, barring missed days, these will end on Thursday. A nothingburger of a day to finish on. I'll have to plan something for the weekend.

100 words 095

The Chef kept coughing yesterday and was sent home—via occupational health—for a Covid test. Fortunately we'd already booked takeout pizza to eat at home with sufficient beer and wine to see us through.

We got the confirmation this morning that she's just got a traditional coronavirus, rather than the 2019 fun and games. It meant I could do a run around the shops before joining the girls in the park for sunshine and ice cream. We should really take it as a warning to make sure we've got a couple of weeks self-isolation supply, but, well, we haven't.

100 words 094

Throughout lockdown I've been sporadically maintaining my zombie base by running to and from outdoor chores. Yesterday, I came across GoodGym in an Ouseburn Valley update.

Their premise is meet up with folx, run somewhere while doing something for the community, then run home. It's on the verge of too wholesome, but intriguing nevertheless. I could even have a supply run open in the background to tart my base up. It'd be a treble endorphin hit.

...

This might be one of those times when blogging about something is useful. I've signed up for an account and there's even upcoming events.

100 words 093

The Chef is sharing Piglet's cold. With them both sniffly I attempted more of the night-shift, only to be thwarted by my inability to get back to sleep.

Which is the excuse I'm using for today's work failures. A day where all I ended up doing was finding out a hundred ways to not fix my problem. Not in that platitudinous business writing way, where you get the right answer and a story. Just a hundred failed attempts.

I'm hopeful of a night's sleep and it being trivial to fix tomorrow.

On a brighter note, the Infamous Machine is fun.

100 words 092

We can tell our lockdown is ending because Piglet—who went 3 months without so much as a sneeze—is onto her third nursery-induced cold.

It started on Friday. We thought it was simple misunderstanding at nursery. She hasn't heard of Yelp, so couldn't leave a one-star review of the food. Instead she decorated a nurse with lunch. And breakfast. And snacks.

Like I say, one star.

But then she pulled out a repeat for The Chef last night after her favourite cheesy pie meal.

Combine with the incipient molars and we've not slept a great deal for the last few days.

100 words 091

I've lost my hairy corona crown. Well, not lost. Parted with. Barbered. Six inch mop down to the regular 1.5 inches of a short back and sides. Sadly, not enough to move the bathroom scales. I can no longer pretend I've not gained any lockdown weight and it was all the barnet.

Trimming the beard led to the frightening discovery of more chins than when I started growing it.

Piglet took the loss well. A few dubious seconds, a raised eyebrow, holding The Chef tight. Then all was forgiven and forgotten and we went for a walk along the street.

100 words 090

Things that entertain Piglet, part three:

  • Bread. In fact, all carbs
  • Getting her feet eaten
  • Spinning around. Bonus points for raises and dips in there too
  • That godforsaken out of tune bus with the dying batteries
  • Boop on the nose
  • The sea. So much love for the sea
  • Noodles and other noodle-shaped food
  • Other people's business. Seriously, she's the nosiest person I know
  • The baby sign for giraffe
  • "Wow!" said the owl
  • Banging her drum while in the backseat of the car
  • Boobs, hehe
  • The Hey Dugge theme song
  • Her interpretation of croquet with a tiny hammer and balls set

100 words 089

Just killed the first bedroom mosquito of the summer. On a night where it's too hot to shut the windows. And having spent the preceding days confined to the attic office during babysitting.

While the grandads want help with the pram and wait for Piglet to relax, both grandmas have let it be known that I'm to remain out of sight, lest she become clingy and prefer me. I text before lunch and snacks so they can go play in the garden.

And it's working. Piglet is over her initial shock and plays happily all day. Hoping for nursery next.

100 words 088

I'm sat in just a pair of shorts at 9pm, waiting for the promised thunderstorms.

The Chef is putting some entries in Piglet's memories book and has come across her baby hand and feet prints. She cracked with poignant sadness for the person her child no longer is. Cheered up when she remembered the first nappy change.

We've a week off in September for The Chef's birthday and we're spending the evening trying to find accommodation. We mistakingly thought that once the schools were back, it'd quiet down. We've already lost a few places we'd bookmarked. Pray for our holiday.

100 words 087

Dan Catt is a few years ahead of the Silicon Valley engineers who are adding new features as they age into them. He got family sharing on Spotify too late and is hoping for a "flying the nest" feature to transfer all his daughter's YA novels to her kindle and off his.

The upshot for us is that Piglet is 10 years behind those self-same engineers, so we're going to have all the features we need to manage her digital life.

Now, we just need them to remember that they've got parents and I can get the grandparents sorted too.

100 words 086

We woke feeling lethargic. We'd already organised a coastal trip with grandparents, but the weather Britished us; having a beach plan created clouds.

We set off, reluctantly, to their garden instead. The sun arrived, but by then we were committed to lazily watching everyone play and I dozed off amongst the toys.

Refreshed, we decided to make it a grandparent doubler and headed up to see Lǎolao and Lǎoyé. They got so excited that they cooked Piglet tea and took her to play while we lounged on the couch.

A lazier day than we'd manage at home. Thanks for grandparents.

100 words 085

It was on this day 5 years ago when I was lucky enough to marry the person who has become known on here as The Chef.

We celebrated today on Bamburgh beach with a Running Fox afternoon tea, champagne and a Piglet eating sand.


It was on this day 10 years ago when, wandering round the flamingo enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo for some foresaken work team building reason that I can't remember, I overheard the immortal exchange,

"What's that Daddy?" "Well, it's just a big pink chicken"

You need to say it in proper Scottish to get the full effect.

100 words 084

The weather is warm and the sky clear. Piglet is sleeping. Me and The Chef ate outside with a bottle of red. There was a stillness to everything and we stayed in the garden to finish the wine. And the stars started to come out.

We got to see NEOWISE before it got too dim. Saturn and Jupiter, together in the south, close enough and bright enough to photograph with mobiles. The Chef caught a shooting star from the Perseids.

It took me back 5 years to Bamburgh cricket pitch watching the same shower on the night before our wedding.

100 words 083

Back to back days with grandparents looking after Piglet have gone well. She's still a whingy, whingy fusspot when I'm in the room, but I'm able to leave her with them and she looks to be having fun. Eskimo kisses for everyone at the end of the day. Here's hoping it rubs off on nursery tomorrow.

The upshot of the disruption is that she's taking hours to put down in the evening. And refuses to be put down overnight. There's a high chance that, without improvement, only two from me, Piglet and The Chef will be alive in a fortnight.

100 words 082

Having mini-dutchies for breakfast, The Chef asked, "What's the difference between jam and conserve?" I snarkily offered price as the answer. It turns out it's whether you cut the fruit.

Piglet has started using her walker. She's no directional control but yells enthusiastically on the straight, until the crash. Where she yells enthusiastically at what she's crashed into.

Her enthusiasm is infectious. I needed to get new car tires and the garage is 3 miles away. I dropped it off before work and ran home. Yelling. This, surprisingly, didn't break me, so I ran back after lunch to collect it.

100 words 081

I don't know that I love anything as much as Piglet loves the beach. We took her again this morning and she was straining against the sling as soon as the sea was in sight. She's shown no more signs of walking, beyond those few steps last week, but once she was in her swimming costume and released she set off crawling and roaring towards the sea. Could have overtaken a greyhound on the way.

She sat in the surf screaming with delight, crawling backwards and eating sand between waves until her lips turned blue and we turned for home.

100 words 080

The Chef's first Friday in 13 months meant takeaway for tea, washed down with rosé in the sunshine.

I went full Dad Mode for my last day of mini-Paternity. Cut both lawns, hung out laundry and remembered owning a guineas pig, so gave her a trim and clean too.

The Chef was buddy-less for lunch and Piglet's nursery is in the building next door to her. I collected them for a picnic lunch in the park opposite. Piglet smashed her first Greggs pasty.

Short nap and Piglet was thrown in the paddling pool to keep my feet company.

100 words 079

This week, weeknotes would be a better format for saying "Piglet's improving at nursery." Daily repetition is draining my well of synonyms and interest.

She's up to a half day though, so I'm able to start on DIY. First up, we've mushrooms growing from the kitchen ceiling. Taking the bath panel off left me looking at a pipe connected to the plughole at one end and then nothing?!?

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Something must have come loose in the last month or we'd surely have a downstairs bath by now.

Fix it tomorrow and I'll be able to have a bath at the weekend.

100 words 078

Piglet made it through nursery today without vomiting on herself in distress! Which is progress of sorts.

Her key worker said she'd sat in a buggy, in between bouts of tears, quietly watching the other kids play. Which is bona fide progress. Who knows? In a few weeks she might enjoy herself.

But the reason you're reading this is for updates on my sleep. Piglet had me 10 minutes on, 60 minutes off all of last night. Lǎolao and Lǎoyé were babysitting this afternoon and I got to have a nice hour-an-a-bit nap while everyone ate well and played happily.

100 words 077

Everyone was close to tears this morning when we waved goodbye¹ to The Chef as she left for work.

Only for her to return 10 minutes later. Forgotten her mask. Not part of the regular pat down yet.

This led to a drive in to work, with Piglet proclaiming "Wow" nonstop for 20 minutes.

Nursery were subjected to the I'm-so-upset-I'll-vomit-on-you level of tears. So another trial session is planned for tomorrow.

She's happily playing with grandma while I write this up though.


1: Piglet waited until The Chef was gone before waving. True to form.

100 words 076

It's here. The Chef's last day. Piglet hasn't taken it well.

She missed her additional introductory session at nursery because she's too snotty to share a room with other babies.

We had steak, chocolate and malbec queued for the evening, to finish with some panache. We'd even planned to have teary cuddles with full bellies and talk through the coming year.

Instead Piglet woke halfway through the meal and refused to sleep for the next three hours. There was a threat of not finishing the wine and each parent had to be relieved before throwing her out of the window.

100 words 075

Piglet has picked up a cold—at least that what we hope—from nursery. Were it still the 90s, we could use her as an alternative gunge tank for Live & Kicking.

After a retro split-shift night, where I took till 4am before The Chef took over, I was allowed an 11am lie in. The Chef showed me pictures of a depressed Piglet watching Ceebies when I came down.

If she gets a fever, we'll be in self-isolation while we wait for a test. And I don't want to try and stick a swab up her tiny nostril.

100 words 074

We were over to the coast for a BBQ for my sister's birthday. Piglet was clearly still a bit shaken and clingy following nursery yesterday. She improved over the course of the afternoon and volunteered herself for some Lăolao cuddles.

She outdid herself by cracking out her first steps! A tentative two or three at a time when walking between me and The Chef.

Within a week she's done first word, nursery and first steps. As Lenin put it:

There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.

Now if we can get her to sleep...

100 words 073

We did not get fewer fireworks. As we drove away from nursery we could hear Piglet crying. Rather than stew at home, we tried to get on with groceries. Turning up at the off-license before it opened left us feeling alcoholic. We called from the car park to hear Piglet crying in the background while a harried nurse suggested we come get her.

They've booked us in for more taster sessions next week. It prompted a debate about whether we should be using nursery at all.

Parenting looks to be a long line of feeling like you've irreparably screwed up.

100 words 072

Today was Piglet's introduction to nursery. Having screamed her lungs out at Lăoyé yesterday, she took the chance to practice on the nursery staff today.

In her defence, it was bang in the middle of when she'd usually be napping. We're hoping for fewer fireworks tomorrow.

It's only one adult at a time during The Situation, so I whizzed round the shops and fetched takeout from a restaurant we've not been to since pre-maternity leave.

It's all getting very real. We've only a few days left till The Chef is back and we're on to the newest stage with Piglet.

100 words 071

Lăoyé's trial babysitting session could depressingly accurately described as troubled.

He joined The Chef in waking Piglet and she reacted to the imposition by emptying her lungs at full volume. She remained skittish and highly-strung throughout lunch.

Checking on them post-lunch, Piglet was under the couch retrieving a ball while Lăoyé raised a massive grin and two thumbs up. I left them to it.

In settling her for her nap, she reacted to hearing bye-bye by waving and saying "buh-bye". The Chef confirmed she did it yesterday. We're calling it. Piglet's first word was neither mama or dada, but bye-bye.

100 words 070

Having resisted the urge to let Piglet cry without consolation to get revenge on our noisy neighbours, we packed up over the course of a leisurely morning, while boerwors sizzled in the pan, temporally flanked by cups of tea.

We headed back up to the reservoir for a last walk before heading home. And started it off with our first family car park picnic.

The walk was a bit more forested than yesterday's and we spotted a couple of roe deer feeding in a field on our way to the Wave Chamber

Celebrated in the evening with a long shower.

100 words 069 (nice)

Mosquito is Spanish for pest: flies and humans. The campsite filled with people who'd never seen tents, but had definitely packed booze. The lads that looked bothersome were actually sweet and turned their music down. Our 4am neighbours however...

Don't camp until flights to Spain are back.

Cafes weren't open, so we stopped for pie and mash at the campsite. Piglet melted an old, tanned biker's heart. He stalled and sat waving to her, childlike.

Our short walk turned into a six mile jaunt along the north shore. Wild cherries either side of the half-way mark perked us up.

100 words 068

We'd finished our BBQ at the "wild and rustic" roadside field and were settling for the night, when the family a few pitches over returned to start theirs. As one of the kids congratulated Dad on the BBQ quality we were treated to:

Don't congratulate me. There's only one man worth admiration.

Jesus? Shearer? Boris?

Steve. Steve's the man.

Who's Steve?

He's got one of those kebab things. We had shaved meat and shaved rotational chicken in minus two degrees. Steve's the man.

All that was left was for his family—and me—to agree, Steve's the man.

Interregnum

As previously mentioned, the Northumberland countryside doesn't have great connectivity. Back in civilisation, here come several days' worth of updates...

100 words 067

In fantasy house development, I want to replace one of our bedroom windows with French doors and a balcony. For nine months of the year, it'd be too cold to use and would probably collect some kind of leaf litter that needed cleaning and let in too much of a draft.

But on nights like this, with the sun playing off the few clouds, a gentle breeze and the swifts coursing it'd be worth any hassle.

Luckily we've an attic bedroom with big velux windows. And I've brought our gin, tonic and beer to bed, so we're almost there.

Almost.

100 words 066

No update yesterday; Northumberland has many merits, but WiFi isn't amongst them.

Piglet's first camping trip was a qualified success.

We spent more time packing and travelling than we did camping. The car was fuller than our two week France trips. Life with a baby.

We've lost our camping stove, so we loaned one, which I couldn't get to work.

Our airbed has a slow puncture and by 2am we were on the ground. At 4am Piglet had a 10 minute wail. We ended up cosleeping, but I didn't get kicked out of bed.

We're booked in again on Sunday!

100 words 065

To mark the end of maternity leave, we're introducing Piglet to camping.

We're being sensible/cowardly and camping for one night only, 30 minutes drive from home. It's got the twin benefits of being a beautiful part of the country and it's a short panic drive for bailing on disaster.

The campsite has a no noise after 10.30pm policy. She's slept well for the last few nights, so fingers crossed for the same in a tent. For everyone's sake.

I'll pack an extra sleeping bag in case I get kicked off the airbed for the girls to co-sleep though.

100 words 064

I've spent the day doing something akin to continuous professional development.¹

I'm making an internal website to put strings into a database and get them out again. The only requirements are that putting in has to look pretty and getting out has to use specific permissions.

Originally, I'd intended to learn PowerApps, but SQL connections are a premium feature – I know, right? – and we don't pay for them. I'm trying Django instead. Overkill for this project, but it looks useful elsewhere and it's worth learning on an easy project.


1: Insert your job's terrible name for this here.

100 words 063

Missed a couple of days through illness. Piglet took to inconsolable evening crying till midnight. She refused to be picked up or put down, which was a conundrum.

By the time we escaped the nursery we were a combination of frazzled and knackered (knazzled? frackered?). Any updates would have been 100 words of "Why won't she sleep?"

Much improved last night. She let us eat pork, drink wine and chat like adults. She even slept till 8.30am. Fish and chips on the beach was her reward. A one year old isn't supposed to eat that, but what you gonna do?

100 words 062

Simon Collision linked to Simon Armitage's new LYR album. I was in a spoken-word-set-to music mood this morning and was held up while listening by him reciting sing a rainbow — a song that's been on background loop with Piglet. We're partial to the Peggy Lee version.

I first came across Armitage back in 2008, when I read The Green Knight in a single sitting with a sick Chef napping on me. Our early days, cross-country commuting, where a grey and ill Manchester day still had to be spent together.

I enjoyed the album. And the date.

100 words 061

Doing 100 words each day with a boddler confined to the house is not always easy.

Yesterday marked a week since her vaccinations and the pseudo-measles kicked in. She got to try out a proper sick day. Favourite TV on the couch while cuddling her toys; napping in the sling while The Chef puttered; 4 hour nap instead of 2. She cried all through my evening Mandarin class, so once done I tagged in for my stint.

We reversed roles today and I'm writing this while Piglet does her best pneumatic piston impression, extracting her soothing milk before sleep.

100 words 060

Tonight Piglet got the story of Rebekah, her Filipino Scuba diving bath mirror.

rebekah.jpg

She left the Philippines in '83 because she didn't fit with the Marcos regime and chose the UK for our female Prime Minister and cold seas.

Found Thatcher cold too. But stayed for Leah. They joked about being patriarchs' wives and Rebekah would tease Leah for being a nurse "married" to a Filipino.

They were among the first to have a Civil Service in 2004. When the law changed to allow marriage they had no ceremony because, in their eyes, they'd already been married for a decade.

100 words 059

Piglet's Grandad gets to stop shift work at a sprightly 60.

He's been after quitting the shop floor for years. He even attempted to join QA and use their computers. I'm not saying he and computers don't get on, but, well, I am.

He tried for a forklift job when the existing driver was fired for throwing a chair at someone, but he sued for unfair dismissal, which takes some chutzpah.

When it looked like it fell through he applied for redundancy, shocking the bosses into acceptance.

4.5 day weeks on a forklift with sensible Piglet time. A happy Grandad!

100 words 058

As lockdown powers through its fifteenth week, the pubs and restaurants have been thrown to the wolves and told to open their doors rather than furlough. I've been thinking about how much you'd have to pay me to go to a pub on "Super Saturday". Free beer plus a wodge of cash to take home.

I'd used a Covid dataset for my training session and it highlighted just how badly the UK have handled this:

sombrero.jpg New Statesman

Much more pleasant is sitting on the couch with a Scream for Pizza, a nice Albariño and The Chef torturing the neck massager.

100 words 057

The Chef Spoonered her idioms today. Which meant I learned two new phrases.

开门七件事 (kāimén qī jiàn shì) which transliterates into English as the seven necessities. Namely:

  1. 柴 (chái): Firewood
  2. 米 (mĭ): Rice
  3. 油 (yóu): Oil
  4. 盐 (yán): Salt
  5. 醬 (jiàng): Sauce
  6. 醋 (cù): Vinegar
  7. 茶 (chá): Tea

Swap the vinegar for coffee and I'm ready to start any day, Covid or no.

鱼米之乡 (yúmǐ zhī xiāng) which transliterates as the land of milk and honey. A reference to the fish and rice in the richer South.

I'm adding my own idiom: 北方更好 (běifāng gèng hǎo).

It's better up North.

100 words 056

Forgot that I'm giving a site training tomorrow. Spent the evening writing a lesson plan and creating datasets. This must be how teachers feel all the time.

I've just enough time in the morning to rehearse it once and pray there's no overlooked fatal flaws.

Grandparents visited a slightly whingey Piglet this morning. She had her vaccinations yesterday and she's inherited the family cowardice, which has led to some impressive welts from her struggles to escape the nurse. Grandad is still waiting to hear if he's got his new night-shift-less job.

I've not gotten out of pyjamas today.

100 words 055

The neighbours out back stand and call their cat in every night by shouting "Molly!" repeatedly. Don't they know they should just stand there stage whispering "pspspspsps"?

Our noisy neighbour — the one who thinks 9 pm is reasonable for using power tools and has confined his kids to the house for the full lockdown — has taken to going round between 9 and 10 pm and slamming all his doors for some unknown reason.

Two doors up have a toddler and a baby. The toddler excitedly keeps the baby awake. The baby does not enjoy this.

It's a wonder Piglet sleeps.

100 words 054

For forgotten reasons, Piglet's teeth brushing song is America from West Side Story. The upbeat rhythym leads to cleaner gums. Probably. I keep getting the lyrics wrong though, which frustrates The Chef immensely. PTSD from an unretentive singer in her musical theatre youth.

The new procedure is that she sings the line "For a small fee in America!" If she's not there, me and Piglet just leave a pause.

To cheer things up at bedtime, we've added Love Letter by Nick Cave to the roster.

100 words 053

Watched my first Hey Dugge today. Thoroughly excellent kids TV. With this, The Baby Club and The Clangers, Piglet has started grunting in audible delight at the iPlayer logo.

This week, she's been delightedly grunting a lot. Dogs are her favourite.

Hey Dugge was clearly written by parents who've watched too much kids TV. They've dropped in knowing winks throughout for our entertainment. After an episode, I like the fact that Happy the crocodile has a clearly adoptive parent and I can't decide if it's more BBC to make an episode referencing this or to let it run unsaid forever.

100 words 052

Clouds race by, there's a rainbow growing out of the church and I've been sat thinking about my pre-100 words writing.

Church_Rainbow.jpg

In September 2018, I started a New Year's Resolution¹ to read a book a week. Because "pics or it didn't happen", I made a 52 in 52 folder with reviews for each book.

I'd intended them only for myself, so I needn't worry about spoilers or quality. But... I had a LibraryThing account that I wanted to use, so I did a cut-and-paste job. I went past 100 reviews today.


1: Never resolve in January; it's cold and you're skint.

100 words 051

Having been woken up for the whateverth time at small number o'clock, I lowered the monitor volume to avoid waking The Chef. I dozed off watching Piglet rattling the bars and when I woke, she'd fallen asleep. I remember thinking, "I hope she hasn't hit her head and died," before rolling over with the thought, "If she has, nothing I can do about it now."

Dad of the Year!

She served revenge at 5 am saying "Dada!" and getting my hopes up that I might get first word. Then she turned, looked me dead in the eyes and said, "bababababababa"

100 words 050

Today's update finds us in better spirits. But we've had wine, fish and chips, and two beach trips; how could it not?

Me and The Chef had a few chats about the malaise that's permeated our lives. We've not cleared it, but it's relegated to a background linger rather than a full on fug.

Our first beach trip confirmed lockdown is over. Packed with drunk students and intermingling family groups. Pavement distancing was uncomfortably optional.

Today we went to a less popular beach. It was significantly more pleasant. Room to breathe. And for Piglet to attack the sea with gusto.

100 words 049

Father's Day was treat after treat. The Chef took Piglet while I had my lie in; card and coffee waiting for when I surfaced. And football is back — still mad that it beat the schools opening in this joke of a country — and I was allowed uninterrupted beers on the couch while watching it. Comforting salted pork meals bookended the day like a happy, unhealthy cuddle.

The Monday that followed was less fun. The house pervaded with frustration from work and each other. Lockdown fatigue had seeped in overnight.

Had a bit of a corona-cry this morning, which helped.

100 words 048

We're looking forward to when parties aren't socially distanced. Until then, we had a corker of a first birthday.

The weather held. Garden set like Besźel and Ul Qoma, the food table as customs checkpoint and lots of retrieving Piglet from her border crossings.

We thought we'd knacked her mood by mistiming the morning nap, but the look of wonder when she came downstairs to see balloons.

World-weary at one, she paused, confused, when everyone sang happy birthday at the end. She worked out she was special at that point. And she is.

100 words 047

By now The Chef had had prostaglandin and we were told to not leave the grounds, safe in the knowledge that — as delicately phrased by the consultant — we wouldn't see another sunrise.

I went for takeaway because The Chef wasn't eating hospital food. Birth would be ordeal enough. We ate with disposable chopsticks in the hospital canteen.

Back at our bay The Chef explained to the nurse that she's feeling discomfort, but probably not contractions.

Buzz bounced to the bed to explain that they were contractions and he'd be happy to break her water.

And the longest night got going.

100 words 046

A year ago we got the call telling us the induction was booked for the next day and we headed out to say goodbye to restaurants. As befits someone who wasn't all of the pregnant, I had wine and venison, while The Chef lusted after our neighbour's chips.

Over the years, I've never understood why I say no to the question, "Should we get chips?" Audible regret ever follows.

Our in meal distraction was the middle-aged consultant The Chef recognised taking a young doctor out on what was clearly a date. Or, as was explained to me, another young doctor.

100 words 045

A couple of evenings where work over-spilled put a dampener on 100 word updates. I've been cashing in on a bout of sustained motivation to catch up missed hours and get ahead before our long weekend.

I'm taking Friday and Monday off to celebrate Piglet's first turn around!

The weather is still looking dry enough to host the grandparents for socially distant barbecuing too. If it does rain, we might plead the Cummings excuse that it's essential for them to visit. The three houses are pretty effectively bubbled and the risk is low versus the heartbreak of banning them.

100 words 044

It's fair, albeit weird, to say that I love RSS.

I pay for Feedly and have 420 feeds. I spent possibly too long renaming them to use author's names rather than site brands. Because the web is made by people.

Last year Giles Turnbull ran an RSS-only B&W photo experiment. That was lovely, if a little Canute versus the waves.

So it's the teensiest-tiniest bit upsetting that Typehut doesn't have RSS. It's on their backlog.

Searching for home-brewed options turned up the excellent Five Filters, who have a few web accessibility tools worth investigating.

Anyway, here's the Woohooctopus feed

100 words 043

Until lockdown relaxes more, I think I'm established for a Saturday run to the shops. The route from home to the supermarket is a big fishhook and lends itself to micro-extensions. Today I stuck in extra deviations around the moor, allotments and estate by the church to add half a kilometre to the circuit. Further extensions are obvious, up to about a 15 km total. I live in a lovely area for jogging.

And I know, as soon as lockdown ends, the jogging ends. I don't enjoy it. At least football will be back. And my base should look alright.

100 words 042

Persistent rain has broken The Chef. She hit full mope yesterday. At one point she lost her phone behind a cushion and fell off the couch in sadness. Upon finding it she declared, "I thought I'd eaten it." Further explanation provided no clarity.

She's officially back to work at end of July too. It's real. We're hopeful the nursery can take Piglet on. And The Chef has a day, which leaves two to cover. Grandparents are available, but we're unsure about putting them at risk. It's looking like daddy daycare with evenings and weekends to catch up on missed hours.

100 words 041

I went to work for the first time in 12 weeks yesterday. The experience was familiar, yet different enough to be disquieting. Empty commute. Temperature scan on entry. Mask at all times. First day with the new guy while 2 metres apart. Disinfecting every surface. Hand wash every 20 minutes.

Back home, Piglet needs distracting these days to dress her, else she's off exploring. Tonight was a blanket over the head while racing to do her buttons. That turned into peekaboo. She peeped through the blanket to see me searching for her, which was the funniest thing that's ever happened.

100 words 040

Corona madness is setting in for The Chef. After staying up too late with an unreliable sleeper in the house — after 11 pm on a school night! That was late even before Piglet — I dinged my bedside light off to go to sleep. The Chef's light was still on. Rather than turn it off, she shouted, "WHY IS IT STILL LIGHT?" before realising and embarrassedly dinging hers off too.

Around 30 minutes later Piglet reacted to our descent by starting another tooth. I'm considering becoming an polar explorer.

We really need to get out and interact with other humans soon.

100 words 039

It's been two days since my second jog and I'm not moving like a newborn foal. I'm tentatively going to say that I've improved from my first outing. If I could only do it multiple times a week, I might even get fit.

I miss sport. All the fitness benefits of running, without the crushing tedium. I'm not one for a meditative run. I prefer loud music with hyperactive drummers, interspersed with zombie chases. It's one of the few endeavours where I'll consent to pop punk.

For contemplation, I find walks, baths or impending deadlines much more pleasant and conducive.

100 words 038

After last weekend's full day adventures, the rain made this one more sedate. A restorative lie-in and bath a piece, whilst the other solo parented.

We bought finger paint and Piglet had her first messy play at home. She ate more than she daubed.

I've five regular lullabies:

I should add some cheerier ones to the rotation.

100 words 037

Things that don't entertain Piglet:

  • Going into the high chair
  • Post-meal hands and face wipe (without the right accompanying song)
  • Toys that possess agency
  • 7 to 10 pm
  • Parental mobile phone usage
  • Spinach
  • Things out of reach
  • That night when we hung the cloud on the nursery wall
  • Too much food in her mouth at one time
  • The creak of the nursery door
  • Grandad. And it breaks his heart
  • Eating Treacle's sawdust
  • Any time it's over 21 °C
  • Being forbidden from drinking coffee
  • Loud appliances. Drill and hoover so far. Happily, we're lazy
  • The sound of a turning page

100 words 036

Appraising the Situation after 11 weeks, there's a few surprising things:

  • I got het up about nice things existing and now I have subscriptions.
  • The Applause didn't feel fascist. And I'm someone that thinks Last Night of the Proms looks like 1930s Germany. The first was special.
  • Sanding my feet.
  • Expected to enjoy walking the neighbourhood, but not for it to feel so curative. It's all clean air, quiet roads, birdsong and community.
  • Less work stress. Go introversion!
  • Our 1950s gender roles.
  • Lack of free time. I thought I'd be 40 books in, instead I've managed 3.
  • I'm still blogging.

100 words 035

We seem to have more garden birds this year. A blue tit family is nesting in one of our boxes and we hear the chicks every few minutes as an exhausted parents returns with food. Goldfinch and coal tits are visiting the ivy. Magpies and pigeons roost on neighbours' roofs.

Our garden creche had three baby blackbirds down from the cherry laurel today, tended by their parents. Mama taught foraging while Pops fed his chick quietly. Now there's a barefaced stereotype.

The activity is interfering with Piglet's bedtime. Flybys elicit an excited grunt and sleepiness is lost to concentrated focus.

100 words 034

Piglet's Tiny Tyrant nickname never feels more apt than when I'm peeling and quartering grapes before feeding them directly into her mouth, because she's gotten too bored and lazy to feed herself. It's cemented by her haughty expression of knowing smugness at the situation.

Unless it's more apt when she demands to sleep only while being held in a cuddle, refusing to lie in her cot. Cast as a palanquin, my pot-belly serving as a pillow — her breathing, a babbling brook — teaches me my place in the pecking order.

And you know what, I wouldn't change a single thing.

100 words 033

It would be remiss of me, having done a Saturday round-up, to miss out on our excellent Sunday.

We headed to Druridge Bay with the other grandparents and they got to witness Piglet being fed lunch in her sling. The Northumberland coast is beautiful in the sunshine.

Then back for another BBQ. This time with The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show, a T-bone and Piglet paddling in her pool — an early birthday present from her auntie.

Lay in bed with a drink at weekend's close, happy and serenely knackered.

100 words 032

The Chef is solar-powered. Nothing darkens her mood more than the absence of promised sun¹. A common British trait: it's why the BBC report rain on only a 35% chance. 'Most everyone is happy with the asymmetric prediction error.

I pretend to myself that I'm not the same, but would this lockdown have been so personally pleasant without the sunniest May on record?

The feeling is multiplied by the category difference between having access to the family and garden on sunny weekdays and an ice cream at work.


1: Maybe believing the forecast and not sticking laundry out comes close.

100 words 031

We had a front garden grandparent visit yesterday morning. A picnic blanket each and a two metre patchy grass DMZ.

Charity afternoon tea was later delivered and demolished out back while Piglet actually slept. Just regular portions of clotted cream, rather than our usual 100g tub each. All accompanied by a bashful baby blackbird.

IMG_5635_edited(1).jpg

A late afternoon beach trip to Whitley Bay included Piglet's first dip in the sea.

Once home and settled, we tucked into fresh tuna and cava.

My hair is now long enough to comb back over into a style I've always thought of as The Wanker.

100 words 030

The second in the series, things that entertain Piglet:

  • Eating the foam floor tiles
  • Bouncing
  • Donald Duck voice
  • Wobbly faces and eyebrow waggles
  • Mary Antoinette the Marionette
  • Climbing. The. Stairs
  • Bellowing at dogs and passers by
  • Slippers
  • Apron tassles. Dressing gown tassles. Any tassles really
  • Banging on windows. Bonus points if naked
  • Refusing to perform on request
  • Clapping
  • That's not my... books
  • Trying to catch and tame reflected light
  • Blowing on her face
  • The snot sucker
  • Sitting in the sink
  • Beards
  • Socks off if you love the Toon
  • Switches that look like they have a face
  • Our Welsh love spoon

100 words 028 & 029

(Double update to catch up on missed days. 200 words if you will.)

While the weather is gloriously Mediterranean, Treacle is living in the garden. Every time she hears the brash blackbirds she shows the courage shared by guinea pigs and Prime Ministers and flees into her hutch. I don't blame her. I'm not confident I could fight them either.

In an unintentional eavesdrop, we discovered the neighbour-over-the-back-fence's daughter's name. I thought he was having a Covid related breakdown shouting, "Alexa, stop it. Alexa! This is your final warning!" before The Chef pointed out it was likely his daughter. School must be a laugh a minute for her.

In explaining my confusion over the non-voice-assistant family member, I futzed my words and declared that, "My drain has been brinking." I do love beer in the Friday sunshine. When are beer gardens safe to drink in again? I want to sit in the Free Trade and stare along the Tyne.

Our nursery is south facing. Piglet got so hot in her sleeping bag that, on resettling, it felt like cuddling a microwaved potato. Two hours later and still no sign of sleep...

100 words 027

A neighbour's takeaway arrived during the Applause. The delivery driver took the chance to slow-wheel down the street, waving like the Queen, drinking in the praise. Fair play.

I took the Applause solo, as The Chef was settling Piglet. We're unsure, but tooth #9 might be on the way. Piglet was unsettled all day and left most of her food. Instead of going to the worms, it was scattered for the birds and two of the bolshiest blackbirds I've seen took up the offer. They came within inches of me to get some half-eaten vegetables. Fair play to them too.

100 words 026

15 minutes is all these notes need. Yet I keep failing.

But 15 minutes is also all it takes to do a bit of Mandarin each day. I fail at that too.

And 15 minutes is sufficient to read a few pages. With ten pages to a chapter, I finished The Discomfort of Evening in that schedule. It's quieter for doing between 2—4am with a disgruntled Piglet too. Dune should only take a few years.

I can also spend it hate refreshing the latest abuses by that lot. That's 7.5 times what Orwell thought we'd need.

The sun still shines.

100 words 025

I had a pre-queued 100 words for yesterday, reflecting on 10 weeks of de facto lockdown (site closed before the country and we started ours then). But the long weekend was so sunny and lovely I wanted to write about that instead.

Then we had a bottle of wine and a few beers in the sunshine with another BBQ and posting anything went to the wind. I chose happy exhaustion instead.

It was almost the same today — we've just finished planting 300 bulbs — but the purpose of this is to build writing muscles. So a phone update from bed.

100 words 024

40mph winds have the birch sashaying like a raucous auntie after the second bottle. With double-lockdown, what better way to fritter today than admin? Well, loads obviously. But, here we are.

Annual insurance shuffle: compare; ring to cancel; counter-offer ~£25 more than comparison (algorithm's correct guess at my faff sensitivity); accept; agree to call next year.

Switching from one green energy company to another, because I don't like the amount of venture capital at Octopus and Nat writes great weeknotes.

Mobile supplier is making me call to renogogiate and... Piglet's bitten me in boredom.

See you next year!

100 words 023

I've a long-standing inability to estimate a sensible quantity of meat for two people. Yesterday's shop resulted in two 800g T-bone steaks. On getting home, every recipe I checked recommended one between two.

Did we share one and fridge one? Ha! We chose meat coma.

It also meant that when I asked our butcher for a little bit of bavette for a BBQ, she replied with,

"You're going to have to help me with what a little bit means. I don't understand your portion sizes any more."

Next week I'll ask her to police my quantities.

100 words 022

The book I haven't read was playing as I lay on the floor, a baby's climbing frame, trying to remember an untranslatable word¹.

forgotten untranslatable: the poignant sadness you feel for the people your children no longer are.

Once down for her nap, I spent 15 fruitless minutes trying to find it.

Instead I found out that, in other languages, these lists usually include the English word stuff. Which is an excellent word. One that I've noticed non-native speakers often pluralise to stuffs, which is even better.


1: There's probably a word for this.

100 words 021

Second missed update yesterday. I don't remember why. Presume a combination of busy work, busy-work, weather and a good book (page 300 btw).

Work was a slog yesterday. Frustration at what I expected to be trivial. An early start today with fresh eyes to persist with it, meant that by midday I'd done more than most regular days. And the trivial problem?Addressed to a higher standard than needed. A keep and reuse in future level of well.

Holiday in for Friday means I've a 4-day weekend to look forward to too.

100 words 020

I'm still stuttering down stairs like a puppet with a broken string. Collapsing into chairs rather than sitting down too. Hoping my leg muscles relax by day three, cueing another round. Maybe on the bike this time.

5K didn't used to knock me like this, even without regular exercise. But I've realised I'm thinking of when I was half my age.

Touring the garden flowers with Piglet yesterday evening, something caught her attention in the distance. As she stared away wistfully, the breeze picked up and she looked so regal. At least for a few seconds before starting to drool.

100 words 019

Predictably, my quads reacted to yesterday's jog by tightening overnight to the same length as a toddler's. I groaned downstairs this morning with Piglet, my core taking over the job of operating my legs.

Still, they were allowed to tighten by a baby that slept through the night. The whole night!

In celebration, we got a socially distant driveway visit from lǎoyé and the cast iron skillet. Piglet was on tremendous form and they left happy when the rain got too heavy.

Now to lie in a hot, salty bath to convince my legs take it upon themselves to relax.

100 words 018

I cracked and joined the lockdown bandwagon. Not by cultivating and naming a sourdough starter. I went for a run.

I'm not usually a jogger, but with the suspension of 5-a-side and cricket, and the sedentary nature of working from home, I needed to do something. Anything. One Sworkit session a month ago isn't cutting it any more.

Techincally, it was a couch to 5K, in the sense that yesterday I was on the couch and today was an incredibly slow 5K. I even wore high-vis. I'll admit to some shame and self-loathing.

My Zombies, Run base still exists though.

100 words 017

After ten years (!) of studying, I'm still atrocious at Chinese. I was taking advantage of Piglet's new found mimicry to teach her lǎolao (maternal Grandmother) and spent 5 happy minutes teaching her làolao (to brand or sear with a skillet).

The same day I managed to spend too long over-thinking the phrase "Do we have class tonight?" and, by the time I got round to sending it over WeChat, I included three question words. This is not recognised as good grammar.

Still, with the chippy closed, I can ignore my monolinguality and rustle up fish and chips at least.

fish_and_chips.jpg

100 words 016

Some more about our lockdown eating experience.

Our principles have come in handy for staving off The Chef's boredom when making most of our meals. Riverford's recipe boxes have been flawlessly charming; hitting the keep it veggie and try something new points.

We've also started reintroducing takeaways. We lie to ourselves and say we're supporting local businesses — and we are — but it's primarily laziness.

It also took me 4 weeks to remember the existence of backpacks. This has made the walk back from the local shops significantly more pleasant.

100 words 015

The first of an occasional series; Things that entertain Piglet:

  • Rapidly blinking my eyes
  • Setting the hanging pans off swinging
  • Being the weight in a triceps dip
  • Playing peekaboo with her bib
  • 3 am
  • Saying "ow" immediately after anyone else does
  • Crushing a strawberry
  • Hair
  • Passing things from left to right to left to...
  • Beating up plants
  • Baby Jake
  • Dancing to the preset tunes on the toy piano
  • "Milk?"
  • Waving her arms like an inflatable tube man
  • The Fisher Price Circle of Neglect®
  • Feeling like she's controlling Dad by moving his arm
  • Cookbooks
  • Finger up the nose. Hers. Yours. Facetime's.

100 words 014

Yesterday was my first missed update.

Piglet's continued teeth plosion (seven as of yesterday) has led to an accretion of tiredness and house admin. Rather than write 100 words, we took the chance to eat, do some much-postponed online shopping, and nap before the nightshift started.

I've started reading Dune. It's taken years to get it back from loaning it to my sister and another 3 days to get to page 36. Not that it's hard going – just that having teeth cut slowly through gums is shockingly painful and I'm needed for overnight administering of drugs and cuddles instead.

100 words 013

Got a Bank Holiday double gift of a lie in and a bath today. Treble if I include the sticky ribs that The Chef rustled up while I bathed. Hashtag blessed.

Which set me thinking on lockdown's dissociative property, whereby thousands are dying in hospitals and homes over the UK, but for us it feels like just a run of quiet weeks. Assuming the family stay healthy throughout, I think we're likely to have positive memories of the experience; extended family time filled with baby giggles.

That doesn't sound right or fair ⁠–⁠ it sounds selfish. But it's true nevertheless.

100 words 012

Is there a better way to spend lockdown with a small baby, than a BBQ in the garden with a makeshift paddling pool?

Restrictions and queues make an impromptu BBQ difficult. And British weather makes it awkward to plan one.

I went to the butchers on Thursday, based on a 50/50 forecast and some tempting Cook House recipes. On the day, the BBC said, "Showery afternoon. Abandon hope." This depressed The Chef. Alternate meal plans were made. Everyone got sadder.

So we chanced it. Prosecco in the sunshine was our reward.

IMG_5014(1).jpg

100 words 011

The swifts¹ returned yesterday. I watched them through the skylight, feeding in the pink May dusk. Half a dozen were swooping around each other, looping Southwards past the house. They carried on diving playfully out of sight and I stayed to enjoy the evening light. A few seconds pass and three daddy longlegs bounce Northwards past the window, muttering panicked expletives to themselves.

The swifts repeated their show Northwards and, again, out of sight, beat, and a single dady longlegs flies back the other way.


1: I'd thought they were swallows until now².

2: Should footnotes count towards the 100 words? Probably.

100 words 010

Working from home is the extreme version of working from work.

A good day is worth a week in the office. Distraction free, productive work. Actually, it would be fairer to say distraction recoverable. I can procrastinate, but without interruptions, it's easier to hurdle my activation barrier. I can find flow.

Whereas a bad day from home is useless. Missing external triggers, it's too easy to fritter time away. Mindless browsing or deciding to refactor my Outlook rules. I'm not saying these mightn't be useful in future but, with impending deadlines, this was probably not the best choice of week.

100 words 009

Mr_Blue_Sky.jpg

Rationally I know that the blue skies we've had for the last month are just weather and nothing to do with reduced traffic. But I can't fight the association. Hearing birdsong instead of rush hour cements the mistake.

We've been taking advantage of the mistakenly nice weather to patrol the neighbourhood for our daily exercise. The Chef was speaking with the neighbours after the Applause and discovered there's a nature reserve just across from the field we've spent the last month lapping! It's got tadpole ponds, a wild meadow and everything.

We'd make terrible explorers if the situation gets worse.

100 words 008

Repeating appointments mark the passing of time during (what we're contractually obliged to call) The Situation.

Getting the work laptop out. Bin Day. Teams coffee chat. Mandarin class. App training sessions. Veg box delivery. Weekly vendor call. The Applause. Meal planning. Butcher and grocer shop. Afternoon beer in the last meeting of the week. Putting the laptop back in its bag. Friday night treat tea. Saturday lie in. Supermarket run. "Is it too early for wine?" Sunday early solo parent. Grandparents videocall. "Are we doing the sleep schedule right?"

Around the markers, life carries on. Piglet keeps growing.

100 words 007

It was 7 weeks ago today, while my parents were visiting us, that they announced the office closure. Our car was still at the garage, so Dad gave me a lift in to fetch my good office chair, monitor and peripherals.

It was 7 weeks ago today that I set the stuff up in the attic office, gave everything a disinfecting wipe and settled in for the rest of that day's work.

It was 7 weeks ago today that my parents last saw Piglet in the flesh. It's been video calls only since then.

It was 7 weeks ago today.

100 words 006

Mark Forsyth is posher than I expected. Should I be surprised? It seems every English creative is posh now. ~~(Deleted rant about state support.) ~~

But, I now know I'm rambling at Piglet in iambic tetrameter:

Looking out your bedroom windows / We say goodnight to all that grows. / To all the birds, and all the bees / To all the bushes and the trees.

Snuggle in, so warm and dozy / In Dad's arms it's nice and cosy. / Please settle down, don't make a peep / Let's head off to the land of sleep.

Wordsworth it ain't, but it's soothing enough for her.

100 words 005

While queueing for the supermarket, I mulled over previous failed attempts at 100 words in 100 days. Namely, lack of accountibility and poor preparation.

I was writing the notes as if I had an audience, but keeping them in a private folder. The incongruity got to me and I lost motivation at the first bad day. Publishing is my accountibility improvement.

As for preparedness, while my enthusiasm is high, I'm sketching out some generic updates. When Buzzfeed listicles appear, you'll know it was a low inspiration day.

(I promise to write more about stuff and less about process in future.)

100 words 004

Eating every meal at home, we've had to adapt our meal planning. In an attack of geekery, I decided we needed principles:

  • One new recipe every week.
  • Minimum one third veggie.
  • Vaguely healthy.
  • Lunches are hard, so have leftovers.
  • Delight. Without this we just cheat on the board.

Shopping once a week, we can't supplement with unplanned ingredients. On a Thursday night, we sit with a drink and sketch meal options and whittle down to the week's menu. To keep flow when outside, the grocery list gets ordered by shop and aisle.

Once we're happy, it goes on the chicken:

chicken_board_web.jpg

100 words 003

Piglet's reaction to lockdown has been to grow all her teeth in a single sitting and, consequently, give up on sleep.

The obvious effect is that me and The Chef have never been more knackered. We're over-communicating everything to avoid pass agg-ing our way to mutual destruction. But...

 

 

Maximum forgiveness for each other is expected and given.

The secondary effect, is jealousy of other's lockdown lives. We'd love a Switch to binge Animal Crossing and Zelda. Instead we're pacing, shushing and attacking an infant with a Calpol syringe.

Then I speak to parents of toddlers and kids and cry vicariously.

100 words 002

It seems everyone in my rss feed is writing weeknotes these days.

So why have I decided against weeknotes and started with 100 words in 100 days? Because I'm bad at writing.

Bad stylistically. Bad at finishing. Bad at starting.

A constrained form that demands daily attention is my attempt to fix that. These notes are a selfish diary to improve my writing discipline and muscles (not the first time I've typed a sentence like that).

To stick with it, I'll need to stumble on a theme to write about. Lockdown doesn't provide enough novel life to write daily updates.

100 words 001

Attempt two to write exactly 100 words, once a day. Inspired by Jeremy Keith:

"When it comes to writing, there are no shortcuts. Either you’re moving your fingers, putting words onto a screen, or you’re not."

Think of it as my version of baking sourdough. My attempts at bread have been universal failures; rising only as far as edible (when they bother to rise at all).

But maybe I'll do better with a blog. I don't know what to write about yet, but we'll see how this evolves over the next 3 months. Hoping lockdown will have ended by then.

Typehut