Weeknotes 011: Decaffeinated

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

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Weeknotes 010: Month Notes

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.

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Weeknotes 009: It's quiet. Too quiet?

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.

Quiet.

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Weeknotes 008: Latenotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


1: A real question from the form.

Weeknotes 007: Is she breathing?

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

More than we're already quarantined.

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

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

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

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

I thought,

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

But I said,

"Yes"

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

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

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Weeknotes 006: Secondhand mooncups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

Just 17.5 more teeth.

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

* * *

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Midautumn.jpg

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

* * *

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

Weeknotes 004: Too nice a notebook to sully

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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Weeknotes 003: That does not smell nice

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

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

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

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

worm_tea.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Weeknotes 002: Loss

This week we suffered a miscarriage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Weeknotes 001: What the blimp?

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

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

So, without further ado, weeknote one.


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

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

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

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

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

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