Month of Mondays

I read a tweet today that started with the phrase ‘January is the Monday of months’. It’s a sentiment I can wholeheartedly agree with, not least because I spent most of last month wandering around in a grumpy daze, being generally hap-hazard and wishing that it would be over. Here’s a small selection of reasons why:

I made another child cry at a birthday party: Honestly, I’m terrified at the thought of children’s parties taking over our lives at the weekends in the years to come. This is partly because I know the chances of me doing something stupid and/or awkward are enhanced in such situations. This particular example was (I think) only my third experience of being a parent at another child’s birthday party and on the previous two occasions, I’d managed to hide in the corner by the crisps and dip, so well out of harm’s way. 

 

On this occasion, I tried to be helpful. Big mistake. 

 

When the children sat down for food, I noticed that the little girl sitting next to M was having trouble with her party hat. I went to help and apparently managed to put the hat on her with no problem. Or so I thought as, five seconds later, the girl started to cry. As her mum came over, it became apparent that the girl’s bigger sister was sitting next to her and, if you’ll excuse me for being childish, was a massive tell-tale. “THAT MAN made her cry” said the older girl, pointing to me in the style of a witness in an over-dramatic television courtroom scene. “I’m really sorry” I said to the mum. “I was only trying to help with her hat”. The mum seemed ok about it, but any parenting confidence I had tried to build up disappeared quicker than the cocktail sausages on M’s plate. This was even before I inadvertently parked a sleeping H’s buggy right next to the music speaker…

The hopes of two nights’ uninterrupted sleep were cruelly dashed: I have a confession to make. Last week, I was away Istanbul for two nights on a business trip and a little part of me was looking forward to it. Obviously, I would miss my little family a lot but I couldn’t help but think about two uninterrupted nights of sleep sound-tracked only by the comforting whirr of the air-conditioning unit in my hotel room. Needless to say, it didn’t quite work out like I hoped. The first night was spent trying to work out why the air-con wasn’t working, trying to adjust to the two-hour time difference, trying to log on to the hotel WIFI so that I could ‘face-time’ with my family and, above all, trying and failing to sleep. The second night was spent feeling progressively poorly, panicking that the planned all-seafood menu in the restaurant that my colleagues and I were eating in was going to make me feel even worse, eventually feeling even worse, wondering if I was going to be sick in the taxi and then being VERY sick when I got back to my room. The next morning was spent trying to sleep it off but being continually disturbed by knocks on my room door accompanied by a shout of “HOUSEKEEPING!”

 

Apparently, a scribbled note outside the door saying ‘Please do not disturb’ is not always effective. On a positive note – back in the UK, my wife and children apparently slept soundly on both of those nights.

Potty training: To be fair, this could have been far worse as we started in the week between Christmas and new year. M has picked it up generally quickly, although the process has not been without accidents or desperate purchases of more Dettol wipes than usual (our poor sofa cushions). Going into February, M now seems to be able to sit herself on the toilet/potty without clinging onto our shoulders for the whole time, so I’m hoping that this means I’m spared hearing every detailed squeeze, splat and splash of her bodily functions at close quarters.

Tantrums: I’m really hoping that the current strops that M seems to be throwing with alarming regularity are as a result of her own January slump. She seems to be arguing and cross about everything at the moment, especially when my wife has the nerve to start feeding H approximately five seconds before M demands her attention (funny, that). We’ve had an apocalyptic screaming fit about being denied a packet of Mini Cheddars whilst in the car(“MUMMY, WHY WON’T YOU LOOK AT ME?!) We’ve had a thrashing, yelling tantrum about the fact she wanted her miniature princess toys in bed with her and we’ve had all manner of kicking, drink-throwing and stamping hissy-fits about…well…I don’t really know. Also, when you don’t do EXACTLY what she wants during a game or activity, she tells you in no uncertain terms that it’s wrong (“No, no, no, no, NO!”)

 

Coughs and colds: Maybe part of the reason we’ve had the tantrums is because M is coming down with something. We’ve found that, at this time of year, she tends to have a cough equivalent to a 40-a-day smoker. H has been congested for what seems like weeks as well. All the vapour plugs and tummy rubs don’t seem to do anything about the fact that his blocked sinuses make him sound like a pig trying to play the trombone.

Logistics: There’s a great Michael McIntyre sketch about him trying to leave the house with his two sons. Now, with two young children, my wife and I can totally relate to how you have to start planning to leave the house an hour before you were scheduled to. This gets even worse in January with the extra coats, jumper, wellies, gloves, packets of Mini Cheddars  (we’ve learnt our lesson now) on top of the usual drinks, bags, baby wraps, spare pants, portable potties…this is even before we get to the protracted negotiations with M about what toys are being taken along with us, why it’s not really necessary to set the iPad up for ‘Topsy and Tim’ episodes when we’ve only got a 15-minute journey, why we are even going out in the first place and exhausted parental cries of “can you PLEASE put your socks back on!”

 

So, January, I’m not sorry to see you go. I know you’ve tried to win me over by bringing Crème Eggs back to the shops early (a crafty move), but I won’t miss you for these next 11 months. See you again in 2017…

Oh come, all ye fretful

  


It was Sunday evening. We’d decided to go to a Christmas carol service at the local church. I’m a little apprehensive about taking both the children with us for fear that the birth of the baby Jesus is going to be sound-tracked by H’s baby bowel movements and M’s random stories about dinosaurs, all enhanced by the church acoustics. The promise of a mince pie and sloe gin afterwards keeps me focused though and we are also due to meet some friends and their two young children there as well. So, if M kicks off – I thought – we have safety in numbers.

 

We arrive early to a packed church with hardly any seats left. After a lot of festive faffing, we find ourselves pressed into a pew near the middle (not conducive if we need to make a swift exit). Our friends manage to squeeze themselves into a corner at the back. I think that it’s actually really quite nice that so many people still flock to Christmas Carol services. Most of whom, I imagine, would not have expected a two-and-a-half year old to act as if she were drunk…

 

Here’s how the evening panned out:

 

Greeting/First Carol: M is wedged in between her mum and I, whilst my wife has H strapped to her using the baby wrap. M’s quiet at this point because she’s still weighing up the situation. Meanwhile, I’m absolutely sweltering in my fleece and unable to take it off because doing so would also lift up my t-shirt to reveal a shameful ‘Dad podge’ – a legacy of the fact that I’ve barely exercised in the last month. I also really need a wee.

 

First Reading: It goes quiet as the first reader takes their place at the lectern. They’ve probably practiced endlessly and have waited weeks for this moment. They are maybe rather nervous, but proud. They open their mouth to speak but their words are almost immediately punctuated by the sound of a toddler loudly asking “WHERE’S MY FRIEND?” Her Mum and I explain that her friend is at the back of the church with her Mummy and Daddy and that it would be really nice if M spoke in a whispering voice. The exact type of voice that both Mummy and Daddy are using now, but without the air of embarrassment and desperation.

 

Second Carol: M has got the idea that she can stand on the pew when we all stand up to sing. She does so, but also marches on a spot a bit as well, lending a more out-of-tune, percussive feel to ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ than is really necessary. Suddenly, those Zara boots we bought for her don’t seem like such a good idea. 

 

Second Reading: “WHERE’S THE LADY?” With no thought for my own bladder, I sit M on my lap so she can see the lady reading the second lesson.

 

Third Carol: (for which the choir sing the first verse and the congregation remain seating): M struggles to grasp with the concept that the congregation don’t join in with the first verse, so she turns around and loudly implores everyone to “STAND UP!!” I sit her down and my wife frantically explains the situation to M, before she can accuse anyone of spilling her pint.

 

Third Reading: “WHAT’S THE LADY SAYING??”

 

Fourth Carol: Calm is resumed. I breathe. It’s still really warm though, so I’m desperately hoping for a draft or a small gust of air from somewhere, anywhere. There are people in the church with thick winter coats on – how are they not just sweat puddles by now? “DADDY, WHY AREN’T YOU SINGING?” asks my inquisitive daughter during one of the quieter bits. “Because Daddy has a singing voice like a strangled cockerel”, I don’t reply. Instead I mime exuberantly, as if Christmas itself depends on it.

 

Fourth Reading:  M is studying the order of service and then drops it. I pick it up, she drops it again. All this leaning forward is not helping.

 

Fifth Carol: Choir only, this time. My wife and I realise the next two hymns are also choir only. We exchange a worried look and start to wonder how many people would notice if we snuck out mid-carol.

 

Fifth Reading: M is still sitting on my lap. She starts bouncing up and down. My bladder is NOT IMPRESSED. Meanwhile, H has woken up and immediately demands to be fed. My wife springs into action like a breast-feeding ninja and H is sucking away quite happily within 20 seconds. 

 

Sixth Carol: M is looking at the leaflet again and decides to enter into a Q&A with her mum as to where the three wise men in the picture are going: 

–          M: “ARE THEY GOING TO SCHOOL?”

–          My wife (quietly): “No, they’re off to see the baby Jesus…can you speak in a quiet little voice, please?”

–          M: “NO, THEY ARE GOING TO SCHOOL!” *waves leaflet frantically, hitting a feeding H on the head with it*

–          My wife: “Shhhhhhhh!!”

 

Sixth Reading:  M has discovered the little yellow envelopes that are at the end of the pew for the church donations. A lot of them end up on the floor. There are also a couple of pens there so , thankfully, this keeps her amused during the reading. 

 

Seventh Carol: As well as holding M as we resume the standing (and stamping) for ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’, I fill in my address details on one of the few envelopes that hasn’t now been defaced and place some coins inside. Who says men can’t multi-task?

 

Seventh Reading:  “I WANT COINS IN HERE”- M thrusts an empty envelope in our faces. To distract her, I frantically find an envelope that she hasn’t yet scribbled on. She duly obliges.

 

Eighth Carol: The collection occurs during this one. The man collecting the envelopes picks up the discarded, scribbled-on ones from the floor (as well as the laminated description as to why the yellow envelopes are there in the first place) and places them back on the pew. I mouth “thank you” and smile apologetically. He ignores me.

 

Eighth Reading: Is this one of the longer ones? It feels like one of the longer ones. M’s getting really restless now. It won’t be long before the birth of baby Jesus is being proclaimed alongside a loud verbal request to watch ‘The Snowman’ for the umpteenth time this weekend.

 

Ninth Carol: I need to wee. I need to wee. I need to w…OH COME LET US ADOOOORE HIM!

 

Ninth Reading/Blessing: For her swansong, M decides to try and go for a walk around. She makes it to the end of the pew before tripping over her own fleece which was by my feet, staggers backwards and lands loudly in a heap of hymn books, coats and order of service leaflets, ending up at the feet of the man sitting next to my wife. In her own ‘mic drop’ moment, she picks herself up and immediately struts towards our friends at the back of the church, oblivious to the fact she nearly trips up an elderly lady with a walking stick.

 

Merry Christmas, everyone 😀

All because I love Milk Tray

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There’s a commonly-held belief that, once you become a parent, you have to make certain sacrifices and that time spent on your hobbies and chasing your goals tends to get scaled back somewhat – the sad sight of my golf clubs gathering dust and spider-webs in my garage is testament to this.  Yet, although I’m a father of two, my dreams were – if anything –reignited recently with the news that Cadburys are searching for a new ‘Milk Tray’ Man.

That’s right – like many forgotten heroes, our favourite black-clad purple box-wielding delivery boy is getting a reboot – andI’ve applied for the role.

Yes, I’m only 5 foot 7 (5 foot 8 if I don’t slouch), look permanently exhausted and am getting increasingly squidgy round the edges.  But, if you look closely, aren’t many screen heroes really just flawed human beings rather than perfect specimens?  After all, take off the mask and Spider-man is really a gawky teenager, Batman is a recluse in desperate need of a Strepsil and don’t get me started on how many hours of therapy James Bond clearly needs.

So, with that in mind, here are some reasons why I believe that I should get the part:

  • I’m adventurous and daring. For instance, I once used a fake name in Starbucks and I sometimes stay in a supermarket car-park for longer than my allocated time.
  • As long as it’s not 100% acrylic, I’m almost certain that the black polo neck jumper won’t make me itch.
  • I can almost guarantee that the box of Milk Tray would be delivered to the lady in question with at least half of the chocolates still present and correct.
  • Ok, so I’ve never dodged sharks, jumped bridges or flown a helicopter (the latter two because I’m scared of heights, the former because I’d prefer not be torn limb from limb). However, I have safely carried a bunch of flowers for my wife from central London to Surrey via two tube lines and the 17:54 from Waterloo to Dorking – which is pretty much the same when you think about it.
  • Rather than terrify the lady who loves Milk Tray by abseiling into her bedroom window (and running the risk of a restraining order and pepper spray ruining the chocolates), I would be very British and knock politely yet apologetically.
  • I’m REAL (didn’t that whole ‘real’ schtick work for Zoella and her YouTube channel..?
  • I’m mature and yet still down with the kids (see above point).
  • Just like ridiculously skinny female models, I don’t think we should be giving young men an impossible vision of masculinity to live up to. Be more like me, an alternative and easily obtainable style of man without too much effort.
  • I believe in the product (especially the caramel fudge ones).
  • Modern cameras and lighting can hide your blocked pores these days.
  • My dodgy knee doesn’t give me grief ALL the time.
  • I’m happy to be paid in Milk Tray.

So, I want to do this. I want to strike a blow for short, mousey and tired over tall, dark and handsome. I want to show the world that modern heroes need not be hopeless visions of enhanced masculinity. I want to claim a victory for the simple man . Because, dear readers of this blog, I am a simple man. A simple man who just wants the chance to hold a box of chocolates whilst being filmed doing so.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to visit asos.com for some black trousers with that stretchy material…

Things not to say to your wife when she’s in labour

Picture the scene: It’s 6am on a cool autumnal morning one month ago. My wife and I are at the hospital, having received notice a few hours earlier that our son was beginning his journey into the world. After previously indicating that she would prefer a water birth, my wife is now duly sitting in a large bathtub in one the rooms inside the hospital’s birthing unit. The lights are dim, it’s a calming atmosphere and there is a large mural painted on the main wall depicting a wood adorned with bluebells.  The contractions have begun. Those of us not immersed in water (myself, my mother in law and two midwives), wait by the side of the tub. A high-pitched wail comes from an adjoining room. We all pretend not to hear it.

For my part, I am poised. Kneeling beside the tub/pool/massive container of water that also holds my wife, I am gripping the ‘gas n air’ contraption in one hand, whilst my other hand rests on a 2-litre bottle of Evian water. I have been administering both at fairly frequent intervals, along with a pack of Bassett’s Jelly Babies that are within arm’s reach. There hasn’t been a contraction for a couple of minutes so I briefly allow my mind to wander. There is a song playing on Heart radio in the background that I quite like, so I momentarily tune in. I’m more of a rock fan but this song has a pleasant pop vibe that seems to fit well with the current atmosphere. I think to myself that it sounds a bit like Taylor Swift and that I’d ‘Shazam’ it if it weren’t for the fact that both my hands were otherwise engaged and, frankly, using a music app on my phone at this moment in time would probably be frowned upon anyway…

“OOOOOH!” comes the cry from the bathtub.

“Are you ok?” I turn to my wife and ask – a split-second reaction with nothing but concern and helpful intentions in mind.

Snatching the ‘gas n air’ from my grasp, my wife inhales deeply before responding to my innocent question in much more detail than I was anticipating, peppering her answer with more industrial language than I should probably type here and leaving me in no doubt that no, she was not ok, that I should simply be saying more encouraging phrases instead and that the baby really needs to get a jolly old move on.

I mutter that it was just a momentary reaction but, in hindsight, I don’t think I had been told off like that since I shattered one of my parents’ light fittings having decided – at age 14 or thereabouts – to practice my golf swing indoors.

Fortunately, for me at least, more inappropriate ramblings from the aforementioned Heart radio would soon eclipse my innocent question. My wife’s contractions were getting more frequent and it was fair to say that she wasn’t really in the mood for light-hearted radio ‘banter’, especially when said banter consisted of one of the presenters repeatedly saying how much she was struggling with a cold and eliciting as much sympathy from her co-workers as she could. Under normal circumstances, this would probably be unfortunate timing and nothing more, but to my wife – rather competitive at the best of times – this was like prodding a (heavily pregnant) bear with a stick. Needless to say, I doubt there has ever been a more impassioned request to change stations in the entire history of radio broadcasting.

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Within two hours, our son had been born. I will spare you all the details but it all got a bit dramatic towards the end. In a nutshell: a shoulder got stuck, an emergency cord got pulled and around a dozen people rushed into the room to assist with the final seconds of delivery, most of whom weren’t dressed in medical clothing and appeared to be a conference delegation who had taken a wrong turn. It all happened in a flash. The hospital staff were amazing, my wife was amazing, brave, brilliant and so many other glowing adjectives.

Meanwhile, I was still holding the ‘gas n air’.

In the end, H (an abbreviation, we honestly didn’t choose to name him after a favourite member of Steps) weighed 9lb 8oz and, at the time of typing, seems generally happy and healthy, aside from a couple of niggling issues which should hopefully sort themselves out over time.

For instance, we’ve had to consult a cranial osteopath due to an arching back of his neck that makes him look like he’s being overly dramatic and his leg is also bent in a little which, to be honest I hadn’t actually noticed despite the vast array of nappies that we’ve had to change in the last four weeks or so (quite how much babies poo is one of those things that is now vividly coming back to me). He also grunts A LOT. I realise most babies do this but between the hours of 2am-5am most days, it sounds like we have a constipated herd of buffalo in the room with us.

But, he’s finally here and he makes our little family seem complete.

So, it was with a great deal of excitement (or as excited as I could be with only two hours sleep) that I prepared to introduce H to his big sister the following morning. We had been allowed home from the hospital the previous evening and had taken shifts in sitting up with H in our living room. I had the early morning shift and, when M came downstairs around 6am (again), I prepared myself for this wonderful ‘Kodak moment’.

“This is your brother”, I proudly proclaimed, presenting him like some sort of biblical offering.

M paused for a second, gave him a quick cursory glance, then turned back to me and said, “I want to watch Topsy and Tim”.

It was the second time in 24 hours that I’d apparently said the wrong thing.

Other notes:

–          A few weeks on, M has now really warmed up to the idea of a little brother. “He’s lovely” and “I love him,” she proudly states when giving him kisses and cuddles, of which there are plenty. It’s really adorable, except when her cuddles become a little over-zealous and start to resemble chokeholds.

–          I called my mother to ask if she could come over and baby-sit M at 1am on the morning we went to the hospital. I have a feeling that phone call may well hold the record for the largest number of apologies ever recorded within a 60-second conversation.

–          The song that I liked on the radio was indeed by Taylor Swift (‘Wildest Dreams’) so I at least got something right in that moment.

–          The new neighbours were still renovating their kitchen in the days immediately after H’s birth, which was not exactly ideal for catching up on sleep in the day. Both my wife and I very nicely asked them again how much longer it would take following the realisation that ‘2 days’ in their timeline actually means ‘2 weeks’. It’s almost over now (we hope) and they have since brought over a box of Guylian chocolates and a card by way of apology. So, there has fortunately been no need for a dirty nappy through their letterbox…

Frequently asked questions

I realise that I am letting the cat out of the bag a bit early but, at the time of writing, my wife and I have just one week until our second child is due.

As we’ve gradually told people over the last few months, the reaction has been lovely, supportive and sometimes rather amusing in its own way. So, I’ve compiled all the reaction in the form of some FAQs, plus the answers I have given – or would love to give…

“Was it planned?”

Well…as much as you can plan these things. There was no spreadsheet or PRINCE2 project flow chart because the laptop would have just got in the way.

“How has M reacted to the fact that she’ll be a big sister?”

I don’t think she’s quite clocked on to the full reality of the situation yet. Then again, she’s two and a half, so I’m not expecting her to help out her mum with breathing exercises or to know the symptoms of a Braxton Hicks contraction. She does know (and likes repeating) the fact that “Mummy has a baby in her tummy” but also asks if she and I also have babies in our tummies. I’ve explained to her that I don’t want to have this discussion with her for at least another 25 years and that any ‘baby’ I have is largely made up of Oreo cookies.

“How are you going to manage with a lack of sleep?”

I guess we’ll just have to sleep when we can and manage as we go along. The situation is going to be more complicated by the fact that our new neighbours have decided to fit a new kitchen the week after the baby is due. I’m hoping it doesn’t get to the stage where, in a sleep-deprived state of delirium, I believe that a dirty nappy through their letterbox is a perfectly sane and rational response to the noise.

“Are you having a home birth?”

No. In all seriousness, we weren’t without worry when M was born, so we are definitely sticking with the local hospital this time as well. The staff in the maternity ward were absolutely fantastic and made us feel incredibly grateful for the NHS. In less seriousness, I never managed to get to the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream vending machine on the adjacent wing last time around, so that remains a goal.

“It’ll be a breeze. After all, you know what you’re doing now, right?”

*nervous laughter*  I actually feel as though I have forgotten a lot more than I learned first time round and I’m now needing to frantically remember how to put up a crib, swaddle a small baby effectively and know what a TENS machine is (disappointingly, it is not a form of hospital-based bingo). The flipside is that there is almost a level of complacency that comes with a second child. Hence this attempt at writing a birth plan for my wife…

A plan...

“Can you afford a second child?”

It will be fine once we start sending M out for coal.

“What are you going to do with M if the baby comes in the middle of the night”

In all honesty, this is the question that is mainly playing on my mind as well. Being something of a worrier, I have now convinced myself that baby will commence his/her journey in the early hours of the morning. If, in the timeless words of Will Smith, it was ‘just the two of us’, this wouldn’t be so much of an issue but, as that’s not the case, I’m therefore fretting about what we do with M. My wife thinks it would be quite traumatic for her if we were to take her, but with my mother – at a good 30 minutes away – being our closest babysitter and no neighbours that we know well enough to call upon, I’m not sure we have much choice other than to bring her with us. The flipside is that M has a doctor’s coat and toy stethoscope/thermometer in her dressing-up box, so we could just turn the situation into a really realistic role-play scenario…

“I bet you’ll be pleased if it’s a boy?”

No, actually more scared. To be honest, but I’ve found it a bit strange (not in an unkind way) that people would assume I am more excited about the prospect of a boy. I know this is entirely my issue, but I feel as though there would be a certain pressure on me to teach my son the ways of the world etc. Those who know me know that I’m not really the alpha-male type, am terrible at DIY and never really got round to properly learning how to ride a bike. In other words, I don’t think any son of mine would turn out to be the next Chris Hoy or Bear Grylls. Having said that, I did once help to bury a dead sheep. I should probably just stop there…

“So, with two of them,  you understand everything there is to know about Isofix bases by now?

See above – hell, no.

“Where will the baby sleep?”

We have a two-bedroom terraced house so space is already a bit tight (although some space will be freed up once my wife’s planet-sized birthing ball gets deflated). The baby will sleep in our room initially so we’ll probably end up creeping around our own bedroom in scenes reminiscent of Mission: Impossible.

“What names have you decided upon?”

*tongue placed firmly in cheek* If it’s a girl – ‘Aphrodite’, because she was the Greek goddess of love and there is just SO MUCH love. If it’s a boy – ‘Vernon’, because we used to like watching Family Fortunes.

“How are you going to stop next-door’s cat from climbing into the crib/M’s bed etc?”

Well, my approach is quite unique in this respect as, unlike my wife, it involves NOT FULLY OPENING THE BEDROOM WINDOW SO THAT THE CAT GETS IN. Failing that, I have two words for you: Water pistol.

“Will you have any more children after this one?”

No – and just in case you missed that, NO. Regardless of whether we have a boy or a girl, the thought of being outnumbered by children terrifies me. Mind you, so does a potential visit to the vasectomy clinic.

Oh karma, my karma

“Who so diggeth a pit shall fall therein.” – Proverb

“Like gravity, karma is so basic we often don’t even notice it.” – Sakyong Mipham

“Karma, karma, karma, karma, karma, chameleon.” – Boy George

In all honesty, I can’t remember the year or exactly how old I was when this incident took place, but let’s just say that it was one summer in the early 90s whilst I was still in my early teens, was yet to buy my first Pink Floyd album and it was also during a period in which my acne practically had its own postcode.

My parents and I were on holiday in Argyll, western Scotland. We used to spend a number of holidays there as we all loved the area, it was beautiful, peaceful and relaxing – apart from when the wind really picked up from the sea and started removing the tiles from the roof of the cottage we stayed at as if they were confetti.

Unfortunately, this story involves a moment that rather punctured that peaceful, relaxing vibe. It is at this moment that I should warn you not to read any further if you are just about to eat, still eating, slightly squeamish or just getting a bit bored (I promise that I won’t be offended).

Anyhow, to very briefly set the scene, when we stayed there, I used to sleep in one of those bunk beds with a wooden-slatted base at the bottom. Sometimes, I slept on the top bunk, sometimes I slept at the bottom, I was a crazy, unpredictable child you see. Both bunks were very comfortable and it was a shame that, after this one particular occurrence, they were never quite the same again.

Given that this was over 20 years ago, it’s probably not surprising that I can’t remember the cause of what actually happened. Perhaps I had a migraine (I am occasionally still susceptible to them), maybe I had some other virus or maybe it was just because I had eaten way too many fizzy cola bottles. The bottom line is, one night, I was sick. Not just mildly sick, I mean I was SICK. The sort of sick that made you wonder if you hadn’t accidentally regurgitated a vital organ or whether your belly button had been permanently wrenched a few inches higher.

Whilst the exact details are thankfully sketchy, I definitely know that it was a long time before I was that sick again. In fact, not until an incident involving a bottle of ‘Apple Sourz’ in a unnamed Brighton nightclub many, many years later. But I’m not going to get into that.

So, despite the fact that I felt absolutely rotten, could barely move afterwards and had the sort of complexion normally reserved for one of the Cullen family in the Twilight movies  (I was dragged to see all of them by my wife, ok?) the sympathy in this lovely little story should be completely reserved for my parents who, of course, ended up having to clean the ‘debris’ from the bed, floor and, most trickily of all, from between the corners and joins of a large number of those wooden bed slats. Simply put, it cannot have been pleasant.

Regardless of the horror they experienced and the amount of Dettol they must have used, I simply assumed that, over time, my parents would have largely forgotten about the incident. After all, if my memory is a bit hazy when remembering the details, surely they would have just chalked it up to just another aspect of parenting they had to put up with and moved on, never to mention it again?

"We're going to need a bigger bottle…"

“We’re going to need a bigger bottle…”

Fast-forward at least 20/25 years later to a few weeks ago. M picked up a virus or bug from somewhere and the first thing to mention is that it fortunately went away after a couple of days and was not serious. However, she was really poorly and, one night, woke up around 1am clearly distressed. I got out of bed, went into her room and picked her up, hoping to calm her and soothe her back to sleep. That was when I heard ‘the noise’. You all know it, the noise that is to a bout of vomiting what a flash of lightning is to thunder. Standing there in just my pants (sorry for the visual image), I knew what was coming…and I could do nothing about it. Linda Blair from ‘The Exorcist’ was about to have some serous competition.

I was covered, M was covered and so I bolted to the bathroom to clear her up first and try and calm her down, all the time looking like I’d just been ‘gunged’ on Noel’s House Party. Even with my wife gallantly assisting, the whole operation took a while. Getting past it mentally took even longer.

The next day, I sent my mother a text to update her on M’s condition (she was due to look after her a couple of days later). I’d suddenly been reminded of the bed slat incident so mentioned that this was probably karma catching up with me over two decades later. I just expected her to just shrug it off to be honest, if she even remembered it. This was her reply:

“I have to tell you honestly that crossed my mind!!! Hahaha xx

So there we go. Whilst parenting is a wonderful, fulfilling, amazing experience full of love and joy, it also has a habit of bringing up (pun totally intended) your own childhood incidents and exacting revenge for them. The bed slats may be long gone, but they clearly have not been forgotten.  Bon appetit!

The 2nd Annual Novice Dad’s Diary Awards

It’s been rather quiet at Novice Dad Towers in recent times, but is there a better way to blow off the cobwebs than with the 2nd Annual Novice Dad’s Diary Awards?

Come to think of it, it’s probably best that you don’t answer that. Instead, let’s just gather together to celebrate the winners, debate the hot topics from the world of parenting and all try to avoid John Travolta.

Most Ubiquitous TV Show: Topsy & Tim.

Whilst I am glad that her fascination with ‘In the Night Garden’ appears to have passed, ‘Topsy & Tim’ has since replaced Iggle Piggle & co. in my daughter’s consciousness with not so much of a vengeance, more like a desire to stamp out the very existence of every other TV show ever made. Don’t get me wrong, I have no objection to the show itself, despite the somewhat grating theme tune or the fact that adult actors are a bit too simpering for my liking and seem to deliver their lines with more than a hint of self-loathing. It’s just that the intense requests for its viewing are endless, whether at home or in the car. Incidentally, you’ll be able to catch me at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year, where my one-man show will act out (with full, unerring accuracy) the episode in which Topsy & Tim have nits.

Biggest Display of Masochism: Ted the cat.

Not actually Ted…or my garden.

Not actually Ted…or my garden.

People who have reading this blog since it’s pre-parenthood days (Hi, Mum and Dad) will know that I’m not really a fan of cats. However, I have since developed a sort of grudging admiration for Ted, the cat from two doors down. Ted regularly waits patiently in the garden for someone to return home before jumping onto the fence, then onto the slippery conservatory roof, eventually finding his way up to balance precariously on the top before somehow flinging his body onto the ledge of our daughter’s bedroom window, waiting to be eventually let in (it’s seemingly impossible to get back down from that position). He makes this perilous climb, of course, in the futile hope that he might be offered some food. However, this is not just where my admiration for him comes from. Mainly, it’s because he continually does all of this despite the constant harassment from my daughter when he finally makes it inside. There, he is continually chased, meddled with and subjected to the kind of ‘stroking’ that involves his torso being pushed down as if he were a cafetiere. So, this award goes to him. Respect,Ted.

Most irritating piece of marketing: ‘Tantrum’ Coconut Conditioner.

Ugh

Ugh

Never have I loathed a bath product more.

Best Horror Movie Re-enactment: The Happyland People.

Less happy, more creepy...

Less happy, more creepy…

The Happyland people are simple, contented folk. But, one evening, I found them placed like this in their little cottage. Why are they all facing out of the window? What are they looking at? What happened to the furniture? Why has it suddenly got colder in here?

The John Lewis Award for Emotionally Manipulative Advertising: Pampers.

Is it wrong to think that if Pampers really do believe in a better night’s sleep, they’d manufacture contraceptives instead?

Worst Bear Mask for a ‘We’re Going on a Bear-Hunt’ Theme Day: Me.

Hello, ladies...

Hello, ladies…

Clearly, Art was never my strongest subject at school and it somehow appears to have given me a double-chin (I swear that was never there before). On the bright side, at least I can also use this when I audition for the part of The Scarecrow in the next Batman movie.

Weirdest Smile: M.

For some reason, she has taken to baring her teeth and sticking out her chin when smiling, so it’s not an exaggeration when I say that recent pictures of our beautiful daughter have come out a little bit like this…

Wallace

Most Awkward Moment at Rhyme Time: Me.

One Saturday morning in May, M and I went to the monthly ‘Dad’s Rhyme Time’ at Dorking library. My previous experience of this was that everyone got involved with the singing and actions. So, you can imagine my embarrassment when I gingerly got up and returned to my seat, to looks of pity, after I found myself to be the only one of 10 dads acting out  ‘Sleeping bunnies’ amongst a group of toddlers.

Most Terrifying Childhood Companion: Rosie.

Don't look directly at her...

Don’t look directly at her…

The prophecy from last year has come true. Rosie, my wife’s bone-chillingly scary doll has become a favourite of our daughter. This is despite the evil flickering eye and air of silent menace. One evening, M pointed out: “Rosie is sleeping”. This, of course, was not true. Rosie doesn’t sleep, she waits.

Biggest Anti-climax: Freddie.

*Excited toddler’s voice from the conservatory*  “Daddy…Daddy…Daddy, come on…come ON. Come and see it, Daddy…COME ON!”

It was a dead fly.

Rest in peace, old friend. rest in peace...

Rest in peace, old friend. rest in peace…

I called him Freddie. It’s what he would have wanted.

Most Unfortunate Book Title:

Such innocent times.

Such innocent times.

I really don’t think I need to elaborate.

Biggest Misuse: This functional blue piece of plastic.

It's also had glitter put in it...

It’s also had glitter put in it…

So far, it has been variously used as a step, a hat or as additional storage space for any number of toys, hair clips or random jigsaw pieces. In case you were wondering, the potty training hasn’t quite gone according to plan so far.

Most Strictly-Enforced House Rule: No mixing…

Other playdoh makes are available.

Other playdoh makes are available.

Always put the recycling in the right bin? No. Don’t eat biscuits on the sofa? No. Don’t let cats in through the bedroom window? Sadly not. Instead, God help you if you ever mix together the different colours of playdoh.

Worst Purchase: The Jumper from Budapest.

It's got a lamb and a rain cloud on the back.

It’s got a lamb and a rain cloud on the back.

I was in Budapest recently and, with encouragement from two of my colleagues, brought this Hungarian-style jumper back for M. The look of “seriously?” on my wife’s face was the most damning assessment of one of my purchases since the whole Tottenham Hotspur Babygro incident. To add further insult, the poor bear has been practically ignored as well.

Saddest Balloons: Istanbul airport.

You’ll have to take my word for this but, just inside the entrance to the terminal at Istanbul Ataturk airport there are approximately a dozen brightly-coloured balloons – all adorned with Mickey Mouse, Minions or the characters from ‘Frozen’, forlornly stuck at the terminal ceiling. As my boss pointed out: “It’s quite upsetting when you think that there was probably a crying child for each one of those”.

Nicest Surprise:

This greeted me when I got back from Turkey. I’m not always cynical, you know🙂

Welcome home

Want more? Really? Take a trip down memory lane by looking back at last year’s awards.