Yesterday evening's wine tastes all the sweeter for being in the middle of dry lent.
I'd been good before then, sticking to the Nanny State. It's odd to think it's a beer I could drink with breakfast without breaking any social mores.
As noted by everyone everywhere, spring has sprung. Two weekends worth of gardening and bike rides have me feeling positively frisky. Which is handy as, after re-reading yearnotes, I realise how close I got to burnout last year. The Christmas holiday couldn't have been better timed.
Counter-intuitively, I've staved off the return of burnout by increasing work. Now that I've 2 months of stable productivity, it's time to reintroduce more life into the work-life balance. I'm aiming to couple the nice weather with some bike rides to different cafes.
One of the better books was a gift from the work lunch table. An A-Z of maths. Because we're all dweebs. We repaid them for the gift by sending a video of Piglet reading aloud the Matrix and Null Set pages. Her "welcome to dweeb club" badge is on order.
Courtesy of that book, she's a decent grasp of numbers and we're moving on to the alphabet. Starting with English. Once she's masters the 26, we'll move on to the few thousand characters needed to read a Chinese newspaper.
She's started investigating lying too. If she wants to be picked out of the cot after bedtime she'll claim she's filled her nappy. And when she's bored of food, she'll fake yawn and say, "tired." I've been waiting for this development stage and glad she's artlessly demonstrating her grey matter.
This video essay is on needle-drops in films is one hour long. And I watched the whole thing. Both the content of the argument and the constant snippets of great movies kept me hooked.
I joined an Oh God What Now zoom and it was abundantly clear that no-one's heart was in it. We're all ready for lockdown and zooms to be over.
Like every other dad in the UK, I enjoyed listening to the new Mogwai album. While I'm happy that they've got their first number one album, I can't help but feel a competition which is won with other people's cash is biased towards the middle-aged. Pop and football used to be for the young.
A roofer visited and, for a very reasonable amount of cash in hand, left us with hope the next storm stays outside the house.
It took me just 3 days to break the sledge going down a hill. I need to cut back on the Covid snacking.
Having broken the sledge I took my first bath in 7 months. Does this mean I've repaired it? No. The bath was awesome though.
I forgot to mention Piglet's first haircut last week! She'd been taking style tips from the guinea pig, with a fringe so long as to obscure all sight. Lǎoyé was called upon and she's now pixie cutted.
It's not the only thing he's been called upon to do. The Chef showed him a picture from Etsy and after a studious appraisal he set off to the shed. Piglet owns a convertible table/stand to reach the sink to wash her hands after using it for colouring in.
He and Lǎolao celebrated by getting vaccinated. That's half the family done. Once my parents are jabbed, we'll feel much more comfortable sending Piglet to nursery.
She'll definitely have at least one buddy when she returns. The Chef met up with a friend and Piglet spent a disgustingly cute afternoon in the park holding her tiny buddy's hand.
On vaccines, The Chef was offered another one because she's "high-risk". Turns out the GP hadn't updated the gestational part of her gestational diabetes. From Alice Bartlett's weeknotes, she wasn't the only one.
Piglet's spent the last week-and-a-bit giving The Chef an easy time—sleeping through, settling easily—and refusing to sleep for me. Had she not fixed it I was preparing to go on strike. But she's been good this weekend.
Because time is fictional in a lockdown, Pancake day snuck up on us. Fortunately we had the stuff in to bodge through¹. The Chef explained to me afterwards that we've given up alcohol for lent, which was a shock.
Google reminded me that today is our one year anniversary of the last time we went to a nice restaurant. I'm looking forward to going back when being indoors with strangers isn't akin to lying in a plague pit.
I've changed the coffee delivery day to Thursday. We no longer run out at the weekend. This is a good life change.
1: A fun word to watch French people attempt
This week was Lunar New Year with proper snow and I had a 4 day week to enjoy it all. Magic.
Lǎolao went to town making dumplings for Piglet.
We weren't treated to anything as aesthetically fancy, but by God, did we eat well. I only realised as we were tucking into diǎnxīn, that we'd not eaten any since before lockdown 1. I've missed it.
As well as the food, the other advantage of Lǎolao and Lǎoyé's is that their garden has a decent slope. We picked up a sledge on Amazon and had our own private slope. Piglet enjoyed it almost as much as the adults.
We took turns building snowmen in each garden. The culprit for the wildly variable quality was the type of snow. Honest.
With the sledding, snowmen and frequent flurries, Piglet has been filled with wonder of snow. She's been circling the snowmen and singing "round and round" to herself as she does it.
Heading round the supermarket with The Chef she alternated shouting out the contents of the shelves and demanding to know "What's this?" Were it not for Covid, there'd have been an army of pensioners crowding her.
Back at home she's been picking up the bluetooth speaker and asking, "Dance?" And in the more avant garde end of her vocabulary, not only do goats say, "WoOoOo" but plants say, "slurp" and lights say "bing."
Fortunately she was out of the room while I watched the rugby, so she's not added that section of the dictionary to her vocabulary.
I'm writing these after another double nana nap weekend. Not gonna lie, feeling pretty chill right now. The closest we've gotten to doing stuff was playing some Ticket to Ride on Saturday evening. Living the lockdown high-life.
That said, we are shovelling prosecco and cheesecake into our face after The Chef cooked up an awesome Kitchen God Festival feast. Definitely helping with the chill.
Despite Grandad's sterling efforts, the roof is still leaking. We've reached the stage where we've needed to get a man in. He was due this weekend, but something about gale force winds and horizontal snow meant he took a pass.
Just one of the adult jobs this week. Our car has a safety recall on it and is off to the mechanics on Tuesday. And we cancelled our heat pump installation. That was bittersweet. I lost my smugness for getting to the front of the queue by following the council RSS, but they would only install the pump in the garden and not over the garage. And we weren't to be misled by free.
Clarting on with three bits of admin in the same week, would normally be a chew. But I think spending at least 5 hours a day on video-calls has inured me to admin.
Getting to cuddle a rainbow in a den helps. It was everything I'd hoped parenting would be. Piglet must have enjoyed it too. because she's relented from her recent poor form and slept through in 3 of the last 4 nights.
She's spent the week doing a corking Don Logan impression and added some colourful mispronunciations to layer on the effect. "Want climb", "one car" and "blue frog" do not sound nice. She's also taken to expressing displeasure by asking why and then declaring, "naughty Daddy." All in all, she's an extremely cute tiny tyrant.
On the topic despots, it's only been 2 weeks since the tangerine gibbon was evicted. It's felt refreshingly longer. That Amanda Gorman speech is still, just.
Secret Santa gifted The Chef some Irish coffee and it's been hanging around the kitchen since. Generally it's too early for alcohol before midday. And afterwards, too late for caffeine. I guess what I'm trying to say is, 9 am Baileys for the win.
The warming jacket of booze is sufficient that I'm writing these in the garden on a cold, but sunny, January day while everyone else naps.
(Yes that is a dusting of snow on the ground)
Yesterday, Grandad came round to fix the roof. Having cut through the floorboards, found the source and put everything back by 11 am, he popped home to get extra stuff. Shortly after lunch he nipped out of the velux, lashed a tow rope over the chimney and started amiably sliding down the roof with flashing tape and tar. He at least consented to using my climbing harness, rather than tying the rope around his foot. We've to wait to for the next downpour to see if he was successful, but it was impressive either way.
The Chef was rereading 100 words and had to laugh at our hope that lockdown would all be done before Piglet's first birthday. Ha!
She's had this week off. Excuse enough for Monday night takeaway. Piglet watched us shovel fried cheese balls into our face with disgust. She carried that feeling into the bath. When her face turned purple—a sure sign of impending mess—we whisked her out and plopped her on her potty. She had no choice but to use it as intended. She was not happy about the experience. Still counts though.
Coupled with her big girl bed at Lǎolao and Lǎoyé's, and her correct use of the progressive verb tense, she's really got a grip on the whole "they grow up fast" thing. The Chef even got to have a smug moment in the park as the other parents cooed over her precocious vocabulary. Right before she made a little boy cry in a reverse Georgie Porgie situation.
(That was probably insufferably proud parenting, but I want to celebrate her sometimes.)
Less insufferable but more worrisome is her continued over-enjoyment her squirty bath toys.
The distraction of Piglet and the Chef being around on Monday meant I had a definite dip in productivity at work. Pleasingly, the whole to-do list thing I'm sticking with restricted it to one day. It can't last.
I've been sneaking Turing Tumble into the evenings. The promo video has lots of children playing with it and one massive nerd. And I'm no longer a child. When the cascade works though, it's viscerally satisfying.
Eventually listened to the case of the missing hit. It's good, whilst being a textbook example of well-produced "podcast voice". This "investigation" in to the great bucatini shortage is the analogue in print. Fun, but/and McSweeney's escaped to the wild.
The last bit of tape from the Christmas decorations was peeled off the wall today. It's officially over.
"There she is!"
We started last week with a takeaway so monstrous that we managed 5 meals from it.
When she's not pooh-poohing holiday ideas, The Chef treats me as a live in dictionary. She's looked up from her book this week to ask me, "What's rectitude?", "What's effluvia?", "What's catechism?", "What's crepuscular?" and "What age was I when I was 1 m tall?" One of those was tougher than the rest¹.
Suddenly, we realised that we'd inherited a lot of sub-par kids books and suddenly noticed that each time a book uses suddenly, it loses a star from its rating. We've a book about a polar bear with a negative rating. And a book about a hat with an infinitely positive rating. Now don't ask me any more questions about it.
Not that Piglet minds as long as we're reading with her. There's an unidentified overnight issue that's causing her to eschew sleep. (God I miss sleep). But during the day she's relentlessly sunny. Even more so than usual. She's introduced herself to her potty. Not using it yet, but she's content to sit on it and sing. She can almost do Old MacDonald unaided. Sadly, no sea shanties yet.
When not on her potty, she's been picking things up and demanding to know "What's this?" (Remind you of anyone?) It led to a bathetic moment, when I had the dad-crushing-abyss-of-realisation; that's a human there. And she's already living an internal life, which I can only share part. An an external life which I can only share part.
With lingering sentimentality in my system, I wasn't ready for the pause at 33 seconds in Kae Tempest's People's Faces.
Give me your beautiful, crumbling ... heart
In more prosaic media, this video of 90 year old RTE commentator Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh making his perfect ham sandwich is 3 and a bit minutes of pure wholesome delight.
And in humdrum life, Grandad has taken over my various half-bodge DIY. He's fixed my toilet failure and ruled out all my guesses at where the leak in the roof is coming from. He'll be back next weekend to cut through our bedroom floor and look for the actual source. Because he's my dad, he still won't take payment so I'm foisting beer on him instead. I've moved on to the much easier saga of the missing garage slat.
He has managed to impart enough knowledge that, when a friend rang to say his flat had flooded, I could set off with a bag of tools and some confidence that I could be useful. Very much the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. Caught up on some good gossip while I was there as an essential handy-man too.
1: Who knew crepuscular meant active in the twilight? Aside from Pullman, that is.
When Piglet doesn't want something she'll say "No" or "不要" (búyào) and we'll typically ask "Why not?" in return. She's interpreted "Why not?" to mean "No means no!" and it's used in times of extreme displeasure.
She's also taken to saying "Mama pump" whenever she farts, which upsets The Chef no end. Toddlers are a lot of fun when they let you sleep.
At work, I'm managing to stick with my analogue to-do lists and weirdly enjoying it. It's led to a productive week. There's even been completed... admin. It won't last.
Being organised has stretched into home life too and I've had food in for lunch most of the week. Instead of heading to the shops, I'm settling in with a double-speed YouTube. The advantage of being a Geordie is that it still sounds a bit slow. (The disadvantage being that everyone else assumes you're slow.) As a sucker for both urban nerdery and seeing a game played to a higher standard than I can manage, watching a City planner plays city builders is catnip.
This week sees the return of a friend from maternity leave. We've a virtual lunch planned for the regular pre-pandemic lunch table. Which is probably healthier adult behaviour.
Had a fun career chat with the boss. After waffling for 30 minutes all about meeeee he gave me a choice: "Switch to a job you don't want to do, but with a reasonable chance of promotion or stay with me and do fun stuff without one." We're OK financially and I spend too many hours at work, so I've agreed with The Chef that I'll go for the second one.
As for weeknotes, Ethan Marcotte has a post about how he's let his website be his worry stone during the pandemic. It made me consider leaving Typehut to set up a personal website. I was pricing domain names when I realised that I like the restrictions. With my own site I'm apt to make the same mistakes as at work and plunge hours into the styling, rather than the content.
Discussing feelings in part one (not a thing easily done by a middle-aged, centrist dad), it felt trite to finish with a big ole list of the year's media. I've hived it off into a second post instead.
- Get back into the wholesome reading. Which means 35+ books and less Twitter.
- Better note taking. They're good to capture my thoughts as they are, rather than as I choose to remember them. So no more than 6 missed weeknotes and toning down the false positivity. If I'm sad, I'm writing that I'm sad.
- Nothing bigger than a B-Cup. This probably means correcting my levels of exercise, water and alcohol. This is the resolution I'm going to be least strict with.
- Keep up with the analogue to-do lists. My work contributions are better. My work-life balance is better. My sleep is better without the hamster wheel of unfinished tasks.
- I considered adding meditation. But get enough in the nursery while settling and while watching In the Night Garden. And I want to get angry enough this year.
- Give Piglet the vocabulary to understand her feelings. Be honest with her when I'm annoyed. No-one wins with unexplained stoicism. And we'll sprinkle it with kindness.
- A stitch in time saves nine. And I tend toward ignoring needing nine and throwing the garment out. So single stitches done promptly this year.
- The absence of holiday—or even planning for one—hurt last year. Travel is still going to be difficult, so maybe something like the North Coast 500?
In September 2017 I resolved to read 52 books a year. I managed 71 books in 2018. Piglet interfered with that pace, but I still managed 42 in 2019. This year a measly 25.
I managed to choose a lot of books that weren't for me. Coupled with the pandemic I abandoned more books than normal. Unable to focus on long-reads, as per Tom Stuart, I'm also comfortable doing nothing.
My top books for the year were:
- Fiction: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
- Non-fiction: Wilding by Isabella Tree
- Short story: Bloodchild by Octavia Butler
- Comic: Paper Girls by Bryan Vaughn and Cliff Chiang
- Poetry: Brand New Ancients by Kae Tempest
And I write my review up here.
Films and TV were close to non-existent. I watched half my year's allocation of movies on a single transatlantic flight a week before lockdown. My top 3 (from 14) were:
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
- If Beale Street Could Talk
I was luckier with the films than the books though, and I gave nothing less than a 3/5 star rating.
Lockdown meant I went to zero gigs this year. And I don't have a great list of my year in music. Spotify's wrap up has been Piglet-ified and tells me I've listened to Baby Sleep Shh over 22,000 times. At least I'm inculcating her with poor taste from the off.
Lockdown also eliminated my commute so I've had to trim the fat from my podcast subscriptions. Mostly sport and politics. And what's left is mostly sport and politics. My top-of-the-queue series are:
- New Statesman. Mainly for Stephen Bush, who has a critical and elucidatory way of thinking and talking about politics. But also to listen to nice people talk about politics, rather than a collection of pricks.
- Talking Politics. David Runciman's honeyed tones. Helen Thompson's insight. Regular cast of compelling guests and interviewees.
- The Poet Laureate has gone to his Shed. I love Simon Armitage. I love this.
- Bookshambles. I've decorated two houses to the sound of Robin Ince and Josie Long talking to people about books they love (plus whatever else is on Robin's mind that day). I see no reason to stop now
- Desert Island Discworld. Neither Robin or Josie like the Discworld books, so this a lovely addition to the roster to fill that gap.
Sharing the couch with The Chef as I started these, she looked across to tell me the twelve positive things she's done in 2020. It's an excellent list. Then she asked for mine and I froze. I couldn't come up with twelve for the year. I was stuck, not with a long dark night of the soul, but certainly a tepid evening of the couch. Subtly and incrementally, lockdown had bound me to stasis.
The year started—as year's tend to do—in January. I was settling in with new boss and getting ready for a switch-up of projects. Covid put the brakes on that.
Instead it was months of remote visits. Made easier by the ridiculous spring weather. The restrictions on the shops forced us into behaving like adults and planning our meals. I upped my cooking contributions, but The Chef—by name and nature—still did most of the cooking. Her food is just nicer than mine.
And despite everything we were mostly lucky. Our close family and friends have all stayed healthy and safe. I got to have so much more time with Piglet that I wouldn't normally get. We could bubble with the grandparents and we were never lonely.
But we miscarried.
And throughout the year there was a lingering malaise.
I spent too much time roaming the house by myself singing songs about poor mental health to a jaunty tune. The joke wasn't funny anymore. If it ever was funny. I wasn't depressed, but I'd lost resilience over the course of the year year. A bad mood was only a small shove away. It was too easy to feel attacked by innocuous comments and to look for fault where there was none.
Where I started the year imaginatively playing with Piglet, as time wore on, I found myself following the same tropes.
At work, being permanently in the house meant I was missing out the hard half-hours. They little gaps which get filled in an office. And they add up. I started to believe my own hype that I could do work without, you know, actually doing work. I'd lost my diligence, which is probably my primary saving trait.
By the autumn I needed self-intervention. Cutting back on caffeine helped my anxiety. As did regular paper to-do lists. And Piglet's sleep, thankfully, took a turn for the better. But the vulnerability of my mood made the changes too fragile.
The upshot of all of this was that, by Christmas, I was left with a lacuna; I was beginning to feel too ashamed to be a proud dad. That couldn't go on.
To fix it with a grand gesture would be a mistake. I'm better with small effort, done often. I sweep the hallway more when I let myself do it half-arsed. But half-arsed every day is cleaner than perfect once a week. (Sweeping the hallway? Covid has made my metaphors so small).
Piglet is too tiny to notice the homogeneity of her play and my boss is still happy, so I've time to fix things. I'm taking a leaf from Instagram motivational posters. 1% better each day is
1.01^365=37% better over a year. Baby steps are the way out. I'm breaking the habit of a lifetime and making some January resolutions.
Here's to a proud 2021.
We started the week with a misunderstanding. Long story short, The Chef evacuated tea out of her nose and goats say, "WoOoOoOoOoo" in our house.
Our understanding of Piglet might improve over the next few weeks. We're keeping her out of nursery while the pandemic rages. They had a positive case on Christmas Eve and anyone that had been in that week got an abrupt heartbreaking change to their festive plans.
I'm holding hypocritical views of Christmas unlockdown. It was delightful to have the family all together to eat and fuss over Piglet. But I still think from a societal level it was the wrong thing to do. To reuse a metaphor from the clowns that run the country, I want to eat my cake and have it.
Not that I'm supposed to eat cake in January. Resolutions to be healthy and all that. I've belatedly realised I can cast my phone to the TV, which means I can Sworkit without having to faff positioning my phone just right. I can even use Piglet's foam squares as a gym mat.
The exercise has been a good start to sleepy days. Piglet has coupled separation anxiety with teething, so I'm in the nursery most nights. I caught myself staring, fascinated, at her hands. They're still small enough to fit in my palm. One day they won't. For now, they hold nothing bigger or smaller than potential. A tonic for the broken sleep and snoring from my armpit area.
This week In the Night Garden, the Pontipines slept in Upsy Daisy's bed. This wasn't a bad thing because Piglet finds the Pontipines hilarious and someone sleeping in the wrong bed is about the limit of enjoyable peril for a toddler. Think Midsommar or Get Out but for developing brains. Igglepiggle losing his blanket was too much though. We needed to cuddle to get through that episode.
We also needed to cuddle after a second-face plant. Still saved the bike.
And after going from chair to floor, via a plant stand. That one hurt enough that she lost a couple of meals.
The toilet saga is over (I hope). We can once again flush without needing to fill a bucket in the shower first. I made sure to tackle it when no-one was home to hear the swearing and tantruming of tools. The roof has had its first of three provisional fixes. Let's see if I guessed right and repaired it. Let the roof saga begin. The suspense.
Work crawled to a finish with three things left to do. Of which I almost completed one. At least it's January now, so I can get them sorted and start the year with some easy motivation (more on this in yearnotes).
One late addition to the home office was a needlessly over-designed to-do pad. It's shininess, coupled with a nice pen, means I managed my day-to-day life better over the last few weeks. I watched more bullet journal videos. Still haven't cracked.
After work, we've had a marvelously lazy merrineum. We're bubbled with the grandparents for childcare, so it didn't feel like we're risking killing them by spending Christmas Day together. And it meant they got to see Piglet unwrap Too. Many. Toys.
I'm inordinately pleased that one of them looks like Sean Dyche attending a Best Sausage Award ceremony in his formal High-Viz gear though.
Dinner went hitchless and Scrawl was good tipsy fun till Piglet announced that she was tired and overwhelmed and that everyone should go home now. To be fair, she'd let her auntie know that from arrival.
She's a full blown toddler now and spent Christmas with a corker of a bruise on her chin from trying to pick a book off the floor while on her bike. She saved the bike from harm.
Thankfully, she stayed bruise free when she fell out of the cot. And she can still speak in 2-3 word sentences, so her head can't have been banged too hard. Being able to communicate is making our life easier. She cried in the bath after a cold day out and could shout "Toes. Ow." rather than leaving us confused and helplessly flapping.
I think we've managed to wean her out of a creeping bad habit of co-sleeping for the second half of the night in the day bed. I spent one 2 am being told that each of the In the night garden characters had gone. Then exclaiming "Santa's been, yay!" before switching back to all of the family who've gone and passing out in a puddle of drool.
We've ventured out of the house long enough to walk on South Shield beach with friends, potter around Ignite (fun, but short and at National Trust prices) and guide Piglet away from parked cars on her trike.
On the couch we finished off His Dark Material. Albeit we had to go back to watch the post-credits scene once we found out about it. Four seconds of Roger saying "Lyra, where am I?" Not quite Marvel. Coco made us both rheumy-eyed. And Townscaper is Colouring Book: The Game.
Not being fans of New Year's Eve at the best of times, plague year was a welcome relief. Covid was good for something. Spending it at home boozing sensibly with a stupendous steak was just perfect. Lǎolao turned 60 on New Year's Day, so we spent the majority of the night prepping her a 6 course meal. All she wanted was a Michelin Star dinner. But with the restaurants closed, The Chef had to earn her mantle.
She earned it.
After too long and too much time lying on a cold bathroom floor, the toilet still isn't fixed. I've sanded off all off the plumbers' mait and I'm now trying to wrap sealant tape around a pipe with 3 mm clearance. The tape sticks to itself. While fixing it, the roof started to leak. I might actually cry.
Bye reader. See you soon.
- I saw an Australian stand-up warning people away from $6 bread because you can never go back to cheap (I'd link to it, but Twitter's search engine is very much in beta). Anyway, it's happened to us. We complained that Haagen-Dazs tasted sweet and artificial. Hipster ice cream from here on out.
- Piglet has graduated to one story on the lap and one in the cot before putting herself down to sleep. Sometimes. It's a glimmer of toddlerhood.
- She's also started counting to ten (skipping seven), which feels weird this young.
- Christmas has arrived! We were off on Friday and decorated the tree. I managed a couple more little DIY jobs to keep my marriage intact while The Chef made the house green.
- Piglet greeted the tree with awe and wonder. She's spent the last few days demanding to see it every hour and saying hi and bye to it.
- The Chef was working this weekend, so we had our second Daddy-Daughter weekend. The aim was to avoid A&E this time. The closest we got was seeing one of the neighbour's kids getting wiped out by the swinging seesaw in the park. She's fine. But it was a good clonk.
- We swung via Mushroom Works to pick up some art from their open studios event and, because we were out and needed beer for a sticky ribs recipe, we swung via the nearby brewery. They had Christmas tunes on and Piglet charmed the hearts of everyone there by cracking out her moves.
- It turns out there are only 20 milk teeth. And now that number 15 is out, we could have a full set before her second birthday.
- It's the 7th December and we're still not Whamaggedoned
A bullet-pointy update this week. My weekly scribbles are too disjointed to try thread continuously.
- I've noted a few times that this is a sleep tracking blog. Having gone back through and added a sleep tag to the 100 words, I'm happy to confirm that I updated the world on how poorly I slept 15% of the time.
- Piglet's attention span has increased enough to read slightly longer books without demanding a page turn every second. We can follow plots. Me and The Chef now want to know what happened to the 5 currant buns Mrs. Rabbit buys which make no further appearance. We think she troffed them herself between the pages.
- I use Authy for 2-factor authentication. Every couple of months it checks that I can remember my backup password. A useful design prompt that I'm stealing for some work stuff.
- Finished If Beale Street Could Talk this week. It's the second book I've read this year—first being No Country for Old Men—where the directors made my imagination redundant. Barry Jenkins has my heart and eyeballs for everything from here on out.
- Because I'm the type of dweeb to have a RSS-feed for the local council website, we've got an engineer coming round in 2 weeks to see if we're eligible for a free heat pump. Likely we won't get it, but the consultation should be worth it alone.
- Having already had maskne, I've now got athlete's ear. When's that vaccine due?
- This excellent nonsense song has been doing the rounds. I can't decide if it better matches Piglet or Grandad's interpretation of songs on the radio.
- Lockdown II has been more wearying than I'd like. I've been feeling anxious while at work (in the attic), so I tried cutting caffeine out. Day one led to a low-grade headache and concomitant bad mood. Felt better for it a few days down the line and I'll try to keep it to alternate days at most for the foreseeable.
- If I do backslide, I'll be sure to make no note of it on here. In 10 years I'll read of continuous improvement and wonder why it was always the first jog I was embarking on.
- I did manage to get at least one job done
Missed a couple of weeknotes for no more exciting a reason than the new series of His Dark Materials airs in my usual Sunday night write-up slot. We're three episodes in and Piglet hasn't interrupted once.
Having missed a few weeks, there should be plenty to write about. But Lockdown 2: Electric Avenue, innit?
We got out on Sunday for a walk around the Rising Sun. Piglet woke from her nap just in time to perform her full repertoire of animal noises for said animals. The ducks were the most appreciative. In the absence of chickens or elephants, the remaining impressions were shouted at an empty field.
It was our first walk in a couple of weeks. The advent of canines ruined Piglets overnight sleep. She's been fine during the day, so me and The Chef had a 2-hour nana nap on both days of last weekend. Felt pretty damn good on Monday.
The Chef has railed against her moniker and had a fortnight largely off cooking. I'd like to say I've stepped up and taken the slack, but instead we've drastically increased out takeaway intake. Our guts have had aromas and running up the stairs slightly too quickly is enough to leave me worryingly short of breath. Intervention time.
Piglet has been far from breathless. She's attempting to run (with little success) and is nearing the hundred words mark. Her second most impressive piece of rote memorisation is when she 'counts' to ten. Only topped by her ability to recognise and recite the numbers. Keep it up and she could be the next Sesame Count.
She's been all that stands between me and full vegetation. Winter lockdown has slaughtered my motivation. We've a hundred odd jobs that need tackling in the house, but between sleep and play, it's felt like there's not been the time. I've not even managed many books. It's week 11 all over again.
At least one or two jobs will have happened before the next weeknote if I'm to remain married.
We've prepped for Lockdown 2: Electric Boogaloo by having an extremely quiet week. Which is OK. Quiet weeks can be fun.
We spent Saturday wandering unpleasantly round town. Too many people. Too few correctly worn masks and misunderstandings of how far 2m is. Piglet had her Hallowe'en costume on though and melted at least 50 hearts.
We spent today chilling around the neighbourhood, which was much more appreciated. Cooked fish and chips again and we're lying under a blanket on the couch listening to 6Music with a drink while Piglet lies in a drug filled sleep.
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.
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?"
"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,
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.
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.
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.
* * *
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.
* * *
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?!?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
Parenting looks to be a long line of feeling like you've irreparably screwed up.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As previously mentioned, the Northumberland countryside doesn't have great connectivity. Back in civilisation, here come several days' worth of updates...
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Tonight Piglet got the story of Rebekah, her Filipino Scuba diving bath mirror.
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.
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!
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:
Much more pleasant is sitting on the couch with a Scream for Pizza, a nice Albariño and The Chef torturing the neck massager.
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:
- 柴 (chái): Firewood
- 米 (mĭ): Rice
- 油 (yóu): Oil
- 盐 (yán): Salt
- 醬 (jiàng): Sauce
- 醋 (cù): Vinegar
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Clouds race by, there's a rainbow growing out of the church and I've been sat thinking about my pre-100 words writing.
In September 2017, 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.
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"
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.
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.
We're looking forward to when parties aren't socially distanced. Until then, we had a corker of a first birthday.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Didn't leave nothing but the baby; child poisoning.
- Crossing the bar; accepting death.
- Kentucky Avenue; escapades of a kid with Polio.
- Picture in a frame; nice love song with a prison reference.
- King of Rome; Derbyshire pigeon fancier that gets me every time.
I should add some cheerier ones to the rotation.
- 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
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The second in the series, things that entertain Piglet:
- Eating the foam floor tiles
- Donald Duck voice
- Wobbly faces and eyebrow waggles
- Mary Antoinette the Marionette
- Climbing. The. Stairs
- Bellowing at dogs and passers by
- Apron tassles. Dressing gown tassles. Any tassles really
- Banging on windows. Bonus points if naked
- Refusing to perform on request
- That's not my... books
- Trying to catch and tame reflected light
- Blowing on her face
- The snot sucker
- Sitting in the sink
- Socks off if you love the Toon
- Switches that look like they have a face
- Our Welsh love spoon
(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...
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.
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.
The sun still shines.
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.
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.
Mobile supplier is making me call to renogogiate and... Piglet's bitten me in boredom.
See you next year!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- Passing things from left to right to left to...
- Beating up plants
- Baby Jake
- Dancing to the preset tunes on the toy piano
- Waving her arms like an inflatable tube man
- The Fisher Price Circle of Neglect®
- Feeling like she's controlling Dad by moving his arm
- Finger up the nose. Hers. Yours. Facetime's.
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.
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.
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.
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.
2: Should footnotes count towards the 100 words? Probably.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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:
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.
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.
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.