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Friday, October 31, 2008

It's Mark King of Level 42!

King of the hill or over the hill? You decide.
He's a lot fatter in the face than he used to be. Frankly the man looks about twenty years older than he did in 1986. I couldn't believe it.

Mike stand.Anyhoo, as luck would have it, the babysitters did arrive on time last night. I can't reveal who they were, but suffice it to say they'd driven here via St Leonards and had paint on their hands. So having sung Amelie to sleep with a chorus of 'Leaving Me Now', Lisa and I made a quick getaway to the Brighton Dome. We arrived just in time to see everyone filing out of the auditorium at the end of a performance by The Mercurymen. So that's another support band we've managed to miss. I expect they'll be huge in 2009.

As for Level 42, they're already huge, albeit more in a middle-aged-spread kind of a way. But the good thing about getting old is that you have access to a lot of personal aids to make your life easier. As the first photo above demonstrates, Mark King had a water bottle attached to a cymbal stand, complete with bendy straw, so that he could have a drink whilst playing the bass. I could do with one of those for when I'm holding Amelie.

Big Brother's Little BrotherNot all of them are about to hit the half century though. Pictured right is the band's new guitarist, Nathan King - Mr Bass Man's little brother. He's thirteen years younger than Mark (the word 'accident' springs to mind), so he couldn't join Level 42 for their first album on the grounds that he was ten at the time. It was worth the wait for him though, because he was actually very good. I wish I had a brother like that.

Mind you, I might not need one. My Mum can play the oboe, and that's virtually a rock 'n' roll instrument these days. No, seriously. Here's Level 42's saxophonist Sean Freeman playing the electric clarinet...

Personally I wouldn't plug something into the mains and then put it in my mouth, but each to their own.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's interesting the things you learn while you're having your teeth polished. I was in the chair this morning for a check-up, when my dentist informed me that the government had been in touch to ask him what provisions he's made for atomic war. Apparently he has to 'buddy-up' (his words, not mine) with another local dentist to ensure that between them they'll be able to provide advice on flossing in the event of a nuclear winter.

My dentist was of the opinion that there might be better things for the NHS to spend their money on, but personally I find it reassuring to know that in the aftermath of World War Three, someone out there will be thinking about my teeth. After all, it's not called fallout for nothing. I might need advice on dentures.

But that aside, Lisa and I are going out tonight. Back in January I booked tickets for Level 42 at the Brighton Dome. Three days later we found out that Lisa was pregnant, and we'd have a four-week-old baby on the night of the concert. How we laughed.

But the babysitters are booked (though they haven't turned up yet), and having ordered it at the beginning of the week, we're now in possession of an electric breast pump, so that Amelie won't starve while we're singing along to 'Lessons in Love'.

The pump arrived yesterday, and included in the parcel was an advert for this...

Milk Maid
It's like something you'd see in a copy of Mad Magazine. Still, it's reassuring to know that just because you're on the phone, hammering out a few dates for your social diary, doesn't mean you can't connect yourself up to a milking machine.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Amelie was still asleep when I went to work this morning...

Wake me up before you go-go.
I'm not sure what time she got up, but I think it was about half nine.

As for me, I received the news today that I have to undergo a 'Performance and Development Review' with my line manager sometime in November. It might be the fifth, but I can't remember. I've been given a form to fill in before the big day, which features probing questions like this one:

"Considering my own levels of motivation and ambition, how do I see my development in the longer term?"

To be honest I can't be bothered to write much about motivation, but I'll probably put something about moving on from flapjacks to pastries. That's if I get that far. The very first question is:

"What have I done particularly well in the appraisal period, which I would like to see reflected in my review?"

So I might just write "Everything" and hand it back in.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yes, I do know my comments aren't working, but no, I don't know why. And if the lack of a response from the Haloscan Support Team is anything to go by, neither do they. But anyhoo...

As part of my ongoing (and largely unsuccessful) efforts to lose weight, I've started trying to reduce portion sizes at mealtimes. And I have to say, today was my most successful day yet. All I had for lunch was one fat-free yoghurt and a cup of tea. I barely hit a hundred calories for the whole meal.

On the downside, I did stop work at 11am to eat a cheese & bacon pastry and half a Belgian bun the size of a dinner plate. Which possibly explains why I didn't want my lunch. It wasn't my fault though. I was forced to attend a fire safety seminar this morning, and my supervisor insisted on taking me to the local bakery afterwards to boost my blood sugar levels and help my brain recover from the mind-numbing tedium.

I actually had a flame-retardant lecture back in March, and this one turned out to be identical, right down to the goatee-bearded man delivering it, but apparently the NHS insist we all sit through the talk on a yearly basis, in the hope that it might eventually sink in. To be honest, I only agreed to go because it was described as a 'Refresher Course' and I thought we might get sweets.

Anyway, as surprising as it may sound, it wasn't all pointless and boring. I did learn the fascinating fact that half of all the smoke detectors in Brighton are located at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. It's no wonder they've had to ban smoking. I also enjoyed the question and answer session about evacuating the hospital in an emergency. We were told that in the event of a fire in the main tower block, we mustn't use the lifts, but should escape to safety via the stairs. Which prompted a nurse to raise her hand and ask what we do if the fire is in the stairwell.

The lecturer looked thoughtful, considered the question for a moment, and then said "I don't know". Apparently burning to death is preferable to breaking NHS rules and going down in the lift.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lisa says Amelie's been staring at her all day in open-mouthed wonder...

And you are..?
She thinks our daughter's finally worked out who Mum is. Personally I think she's just spotted the crisp crumbs in her hair.

Actually it's been a tough couple of days for Amelie. When we got home on Saturday night, Lisa fed her whilst eating a croissant. I'm not saying it went badly, but by the time she'd finished, Amelie looked like she'd spent the day at a sawmill. I got her out of bed on Sunday morning, and frankly it wasn't so much a Moses basket as a bread basket. I'm still hoovering up the crumbs now.

It didn't get any better on Sunday night, when Lisa made the mistake of pulling me in for a kiss, just after I'd finished cutting my hair. Amelie got caught in the crossfire, and ended up with more stubble on her face than I had.

But the good news is she had a thorough wash in between. I walked her to the shops yesterday afternoon in the baby carrier, through the biggest downpour of the season. Frankly she's been drier in the baby bath. But the good thing about trudging around Superdrug with a half drowned baby in a sling, is that you get a lot of admiring glances from people who seem endlessly impressed by the sight of a father spending more than thirty seconds with his child. I only went in for some Bisodol tablets, but by the time I came out, I felt like Ian Botham on a charity walk.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's me upstairs in my parents' bungalow!

Lagging behind.
When they said they had lofty ambitions, I didn't know they meant it literally. You could house twenty asylum seekers in that attic. Frankly it's bigger than my flat. Oh, and if I look a bit blurry, it's because I was swaying with vertigo. That's why my hand looks fat and I've got a double chin. No, really. When I'm standing still, I look like this. It's reassuring to know that I've been wearing the same shirt for the past three years. It means I still haven't lost any weight.

But anyhoo. Lisa and I made it along the south coast yesterday afternoon, via a traffic jam in Bexhill (why anyone would want to live there, I have no idea), to St Leonards-on-Sea. We passed a sign on the way which said 'Welcome to 1066 Country'. I read it out to Lisa, and she responded with "What does that mean?". I think she thought it was an advert for a radio station.

We successfully arrived at my parents' retirement pad shortly before it got too dark to see, and I have to say it's very nice. These are the steps down which they'll be falling when they're old and infirm...

Ten steps to a happy retirement.
Lisa very nearly took a tumble, but let's face it, she's always been a bit unsteady on her pins.

The bungalow's got three doorbells, two of which don't work, so you have a one in three chance of being let in (less if you're a Jehovah's Witness). Naturally we chose the wrong one. In fact we couldn't even find the front door, so if they're hoping to get any post at this place, they could be disappointed.

Someone's got to prune that lot.But through a mixture of persistance and brute force, we eventually gained entry, and were given the guided tour. It was very impressive. My Dad's bought himself a Dulux PaintPod, which is apparently "so quick and easy to use, you can now give a room a fresh new look in just a few hours", although we were there for six and nothing changed very much. He probably had it on the wrong setting. We could have offered to help, but Lisa was busy breastfeeding, and I was searching the loft for antiques. I don't know how old the place is, but the drawers are lined with a copy of the Radio Times from 1963, so I don't think it's new-build. I didn't unearth anything valuable, but I did find a polystyrene surfboard circa 1990. I'm not sure how much use my parents will get out of that, but it's there if they need it.

Anyhoo, Lisa and I may not have made it into central Hastings to revisit the land of my birth, but we did persuade my Mum to have Amelie while we popped to Tescos. We were loading up our trolley in the freshly baked cookies aisle when we received the message "I'm not very happy! Love, Amelie. xxxx". It's scary how young they start texting these days. Naturally we rushed straight back (via the cake section), and ran through the door of the bungalow five minutes later to find Amelie fast asleep. You can't believe a word that girl says. But it was a good learning experience. Next time we abandon our daughter, I'm turning my phone off.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's Amelie doing her starfish impression!

She looks like a crane fly splatted on a windscreen.If you're wondering why Lisa looks so happy, it's because one of my work colleagues said on Thursday that he thinks she looks younger than me. She hasn't stopped smiling since.

Anyhoo, this photo was taken yesterday evening when we decided to embark on a family outing to the Co-op for some milk. We were out for about ten minutes, which would be fine if it hadn't taken us twenty minutes to get ready. I hope we never have to evacuate the flat in an emergency - they'd find us amongst the charred remains, still trying to put on Amelie's coat.

Today, however, we have far more ambitious travel plans on the agenda. My Mum spent the day in hospital on Thursday, having the insides of one leg pulled out and hacked to pieces with a stanley knife, all in the name of medical science. She had the other leg done last year, so the surgeon was continuing in the same vein.

Amelie sent her flowers yesterday, but Lisa and I want to do more. So in a last-minute decision of the madcap variety, we've opted to drive along the coast to St Leonards this afternoon, where my parents have just taken possession of a retirement bungalow. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Lisa's a dab-hand with a roller, so we've offered to go over and do some painting. In reality, we'll be dropping off Amelie and heading into town, but they don't have internet access at the new house, so my parents will never know.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I found this in the living room when I went to bed last night...

Bag of crisps.
It's a nappy sack containing one soiled nappy and an empty packet of Frazzles.

She might as well have left a note saying 'Lisa was here'.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Health Visitor came around yesterday afternoon while I was at work and gave Lisa a leaflet on domestic violence. She said she always waits until the partners are gone before handing it over. Presumably in case they turn nasty and start giving her paper cuts. I wouldn't mind, but she spent a good half hour in my company last week, chatted to me at length, and still thinks I could be punching Lisa in the face when no one's looking.

Lisa tried to reassure me by saying that she has to give the leaflet to everyone, but let's face it, the woman's based on the Whitehawk estate, so most of her clients don't have partners. Lisa's probably the first person to get a copy.

Anyway, I wasn't happy. It was all I could do not to roll it into a dart and stab Lisa in the eye to make me feel better. But on the plus side, the leaflet is packed full of useful information. For a start it says this:

Domestic violence occurs in heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships, regardless of a person's gender identity, sexual orientation, race, class, age, ability or social status. No, really.
So even posh black transsexual pensioners with learning difficulties aren't immune. There's a lot of people suffering out there. And fortunately the leaflet makes them easy to spot, because it features a helpful list of signs which might indicate that you've been subjected to domestic violence. They include 'punching', 'burning' and 'strangling', so if you find yourself bruised and on fire with your partner's hands around your neck, you could be a victim. Stay vigilant.

Anyhoo, happy-slapping aside, the good news is that Amelie's piling on the pounds like it's going out of fashion, and is now fatter than she was three weeks ago. Much like her father. She's currently 8lb 14oz, which is roughly what I've put on since she was born.

The gifts keep rolling in too. Today's offering comes courtesy of the ex-wife of a cousin of Lisa's that I've never even heard of. It's like someone's tracing our family tree, just so they can send us presents. Anyway, bearing in mind that Amelie's a bigger-than-average baby, this is what Marks & Spencer consider suitable for 0-3 months...

Coat of not many colours.
I think we're looking at winter 2009.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Daddy's too tired to write anything.

What big eyes you have. All the better for seeing you in the middle of the night.
As for me, I'm looking forward to 2am on Sunday and the end of British Summer Time. It'll give me a whole extra hour in which to be awake.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Supermodels may not get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day, but personally I refuse to go to work unless someone gives me a pair of leopardskin booties...

Goody Two Shoes
The label says they're leather, but I know genuine cat hide when I see it. If she wasn't asleep, I'd be singing 'Tiger Feet' to her.

Anyhoo, it was worth returning to work today. I noticed a number of changes, most notably the fact that the computers now feature a lovely NHS screensaver telling us to wash our hands to avoid the spread of infection. To be honest, the only infection I'm likely to spread is food poisoning from a dodgy flapjack, but I appreciate the advice.

The highlight of my day, however, was undoubtedly the moment when people started giving me stuff. I knew those twelve hours of labour would pay off in the end. We've never been so rich. The leather shoes were an obvious high point, especially as they've been designed with Amelie in mind. The front of the pack says '0-6 months', while the back says "safe skid-resistant soles", so they're obviously aimed at child prodigies who can walk before they start teething. We'll have her running down the shops by Christmas.

As it happens though, the booties didn't come directly from the people I work with. They came from a colleague's partner. Amelie's ability to extract gifts from people knows no bounds. As for my workmates, they clubbed together and presented me with a £40 Mothercare voucher. They're obviously a lot more savvy than Lisa's colleagues, who made the mistake of giving her vouchers for Baby Gap. Vouchers which are also valid on Gap clothes for adults. While I'm forced to stock up on baby products, Lisa's got her eye on a new outfit.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

This sign was on display outside Lidl this morning...

Not just in the car park, surely..?

Anyhoo, it's been stimulating, but sadly my unofficial paternity leave comes to an end today. Assuming I can get get out of bed in the morning, I return to work tomorrow. I've already been gone longer than intended - my two weeks were up on Wednesday, but I asked for more time on the grounds that Amelie's too cute to leave, and I was busy taking photos. I also promised to restock the pharmacy cake table if I could stay off until Monday. Naturally they agreed.

Becoming a father has already changed my working life in ways I could never have foreseen. For a start I've become so sleep-deprived that I accidentally put my NHS ID card through the washer-dryer. It'll probably no longer work in the security swipecard machine, but on the plus side it's never been so shiny. It's just a shame no one will see it because I won't be able to get in.

As for Amelie, she was out most of yesterday. Frankly she treats this place like a hotel. In the morning I walked her across town in the baby carrier to get her used to charity shops at an early age. She slept through most of it, but she did decide to cry in the PDSA shop, so I don't think she likes animals. We also received some compliments from a stranger in the pound shop, who congratulated me on a job well done, and said we looked good together. You only ever get single mothers in the pound shop, so we obviously stood out from the crowd.

Having stayed out long enough to allow Lisa to get some sleep, Grandma Gardner then arrived to give us both a rest. Apparently they spent the afternoon at the Brighton Breeze, which is handy because if Amelie keeps refusing to stay in the Moses basket, I'll be making her sleep outside in a camper van.

To be honest, we've had a few difficult nights in the past week, which is a worry when I'm due to return to work. I might not have the energy to eat flapjacks. A lot of Health Visitors now recommend three-in-a-bed romps, but having tried it on Friday, I'm not sure I'm cut out for threesomes. It's not easy to sleep with a wriggling piglet lying next to you. And Amelie doesn't help either. So I've commandeered an emergency mattress for the living room. She's not even three weeks old, and I'm walking out on my daughter.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's never too early to start your career as a writer...

The pen is mightier than the sword.
There's a flipchart just out of shot, on which she's written her plans for world domination. Unfortunately she fell asleep before she could put them into practice.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The good thing about having man-boobs is that I can comfort a breastfed baby...

Left holding the baby.
I'm the low-calorie version of Lisa. Though I think my pyjamas could do with a wash.

Anyhoo, we had two appointments today. The first was an early morning visit from a breastfeeding counsellor. To be honest I slept through that one. But let's face it, I know everything there is to know about eating, so I doubt I'd have learnt anything new. The counsellor did pass on a few babycare tips though. Apparently when Amelie goes to bed, it's a good idea to leave her with something which reminds her of Mum. So I'm going to put a packet of crisps in her cot.

As for this afternoon, we left Amelie in the capable hands of her Grandma, and headed off to the town hall to register the birth. It didn't go quite according to plan when Amelie decided she needed a feed five minutes before we were due to leave, but with a bus stop conveniently situated outside my flat, and a bus which arrived within two minutes of us getting there, we were still in with a fighting chance of arriving on time. Or we would have been, had the bus driver not inexplicably gone sailing past the main stop in the centre of town, and refused to let us off until we were halfway to Hove.

But still, nothing shifts those post-baby pounds like a frantic five minute run through the centre of Brighton. And despite being late, they still agreed to give us a birth certificate. So as of three-thirty this afternoon, Amelie Gardner officially exists. There's no changing our minds now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I had an e-mail from Sky TV this morning. It read:

"Dear Phil,

I'm writing a story for Sky News Online about a new reality TV show. Half the contestants are gorillas. Sound awful? I need a critic who dislikes reality tv to give me their thoughts - asap!

Please email if you can help..."

Personally I think they're just trying to flog me a satellite dish. You've got to be subtle if you want to get around the anti-spam laws. And let's face it, a reality show where half the contestants are gorillas? Frankly I'm more inclined to believe that I've won the Spanish lottery, and the Crown Prince of Nigeria wants to give me fifty million quid.

Admittedly I wouldn't mind seeing most Big Brother contestants beaten to death by a silverback, but I'm more inclined to believe it's a spelling mistake, and she means guerillas. You could vote for who you want shot.

But when Channel 4 announce their new flagship show 'Gorillas in the Midst' ("Who goes ape, you decide"), remember you heard it here first.

Unfortunately for Sky News, Amelie had a bad night last night, so frankly I'm in no fit state to do their journalists' work for them. And besides, since when have I disliked reality TV? No one gets my Telly Critic site at all. I actually love reality TV. I just like making fun of it. I'm the same with Lisa.

Anyhoo, I have far more pressing things to do this afternoon. We took Amelie to the Tarner Children's Centre this morning to be officially discharged from the care of the local midwives, and it turned out to be an enlightening trip. The main thing we learnt is that if your aunt gives you a bottle of milk on a Friday evening, and you leave it on the back seat of your car until Wednesday, it's likely to have gone off, leaked everywhere and stunk the place out.

I'm off to remove a cheese factory from my upholstery...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Daddy CoolIt's me and Amelie out on the town! One of us looks like death warmed up, and the other one's asleep. Try to guess which is which.

Anyhoo, with our daughter's vocal talents ringing throughout the flat, Lisa was finding it hard to sleep yesterday afternoon, so she suggested (ie. insisted) I take Amelie out for a while. We ended up down at the seafront, although frankly Amelie wouldn't know it. She nodded off thirty seconds after leaving home, and didn't wake up until we walked back through the front door. She obviously likes being outside, which will be handy if we decide to leave her on somebody's doorstep.

As for today, we've been assessed by a health visitor who dropped by this afternoon to ask us lots of important questions like "Are you white British?" and "Is English your first language?". To be fair though, Lisa's so pale she's more like a black albino, and after twelve days without sleep, her speech is barely coherent, so I can understand the confusion.

Having established that we're not from an ethnic minority, the health visitor then set about subjecting Amelie to a battery of tests. Most of them seemed designed to make her cry (and she passed those with flying colours), but having received the results, I can now exclusively reveal that she has two perfectly functioning cochleas. So she can hear us when we tell her to be quiet, it's just that she chooses to ignore us.

Anyhoo, the good news is that Amelie has been putting on an ounce a day for the past week, and is now 8lb 8oz. She's also 52cm long at twelve days old. So if she continues growing like that, she'll be a quarter of a mile high when she turns twenty-one. Apparently all her measurements are about average, with the slight exception of her head, which is marginally bigger than normal to accommodate her massive brain.

We were also told how to calculate her expected adult height (apparently my quarter of a mile estimate isn't realistic), so having spent ten minutes with six pages of graphs and a calculator, we now know that by 2026 Amelie should be 5ft 3in. So the tennis career's looking doubtful, but she could still get work as a jockey.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I've typed most of this post one-handed with a crying baby in my arms. Just be grateful this isn't an audioblog. But anyhoo...

It's The Deal Was For The Diamond!

The Deal Was For The Diamond
Or possibly thedealwasforthediamond. I've been following them for a year and I still don't know how to write their name. I do know where it comes from though. 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' was on TV the other week, and Indy says it in the opening scene. You might think that's an odd place to look for musical inspiration, but I have it on good authority that The Rolling Stones were named after the opening scene of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'.

Anyhoo, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Phil, your devotion to the Brighton music scene is commendable, but please tell me you haven't just used your paternity leave to go to your second gig in a week". Well it's ok, I haven't. I've used my annual leave. I'm not yet entitled to paternity leave because I impregnated Lisa before I started dealing drugs. I'll have to wait for our second child before I can attend concerts at the taxpayer's expense.

Yesterday, however, saw the arrival of Brightona 2008, a massive motorcycle rally down at Madeira Drive. Obviously I'm not the biggest bike fan in the world, but I do own a Yamaha guitar, so I felt that entitled me to attend. And I happened to know that the free entertainment included a performance by everyone's favourite guitar-based instrumental rock quartet, TDWFTD.

Which is where the power of the internet came into play. Officially the live music was taking place all day, but the band's MySpace page told me they were on stage at 4pm, so rather than spend the whole afternoon away from my daughter, I put Amelie in her dog Moses basket at three-fifty, headed straight down to Concorde 2 (which is the only one still in service), watched the real Deal until 4:25, and was back home ten minutes later. Amelie barely had time to stop crying.

TDWFTD have undergone a few changes since I saw them in February. They've got a new drummer for a start (the old one's busy touring America with The Crave) but the biggest difference is that Adam Cawdery's cut off all his hair. Apparently we've seen the last of the Mohicans.

Anyway, they might have been on stage for less than half an hour, but I still think they're phenomenally good, and one of the finest bands in Brighton. I just regret missing this advert in August. Never mind sneaking off to see them, I could be leaving my daughter to go on tour.

Mind you, it's hard to leave something this cute...

Little White Riding Hood
I think she's wondering where her hand's gone.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ok, I admit it, we've bribed her to stop crying...

Lucky Gym
There's so much to look at, she's gone cross-eyed. But frankly we can cope with a bit of permanent ocular deformity as long as she's quiet.

We took Amelie across town yesterday evening to see her Great Aunt & Uncle. They seemed to appreciate the visit, mainly because they needed some coaching on how to spell her name. They'd plumped for 'Aemilie' on the card they gave us, which personally I think is quite inventive. And with five days to go before we register the birth, we could still go for that. In the end Lisa spelt it out to them three times, they wrote it down, repeated it back to us, and finally got it right. At which point Lisa's Aunt said "So how do you pronounce it?". Sometimes I just wish we'd called her Susan.

But having established the name of our baby, Lisa's Aunt began reminiscing about the good old days when Lisa was small. She told me with great fondness of the time she'd bent down to pick up her little niece, only for Lisa to poke her in the eye, scratch the lens, and land her in hospital. She said she'd never forgotten it. I said I'm not surprised.

We left there after an hour with a generous gift of cash for Amelie, so with the sound of crying still ringing in our ears, we decided to head straight to Toys R Us for a bit of retail therapy. Amelie already has more stuff than I do, but if there's one thing she was lacking, it's a home gym shaped like a squashed snail. At least that's what I thought when we bought it. I've since discovered it's an adorable soft dragonfly plush mat with satin wings. It includes "crinkle, rattle, jingle and music features to assist baby's sensory development", which is obviously marvellous, but mainly we just want to distract the girl long enough for her to forget what she's crying about.

Friday, October 10, 2008

We've seen a lot of this today...

Admittedly we've only had about three hours sleep between us, but on the plus side, I think she looks a lot more like her Dad when she's whining.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

In the pink.Well it's taken a week, but we've finally started dressing her in pink. It's all very well to pretend you're not offended by the four different people who saw her in black & white on the maternity ward and immediately assumed she was a boy, but there comes a point when you have to give in to a bit of gender stereotyping. We don't want her growing up with a complex.

Personally though, I'm more worried about the fact that at seven days old, she's already as wide as the Moses basket. I think she's got the fat gene like her Dad.

Anyhoo, we're taking Amelie out this afternoon to meet her three little boy cousins. We need to get them bonding early because I'm relying on them to beat up any man who wrongs her in the future. The youngest is already a bit of a bruiser, and he hasn't even turned three yet. There does seem to be a bit of confusion about precisely what happened in that hospital last Thursday morning though. He apparently told his mother yesterday that "there's now two Lisas". It's a thin line between reproduction and cloning.

But in other family news, Big Sis had her final flying exam in Perth this morning, and what's more, she passed it. Well, most of it. So congratulations to her. To be honest, it's a miracle she was even there, because as everybody knows, Big Sis lives her life in the wacky world of sit-com. So rather than just studying hard and taking her test like any normal person, she chose to prepare for the big day by eating an avocado she'd found in the boot of her car, giving herself food poisoning, and throwing up for forty-eight hours. It's like she's living the plot of Airplane!.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Six days on, and we're all still smiling...

All dressed up with somewhere to go.
Obviously you can't see if Amelie's smiling past her woolly sheep outfit, but trust me, she is. In fact I can prove it...

Sheep or Chef?The three of us had our first trip out as a family yesterday. Amelie had received a home visit from a maternity support worker in the morning and been subjected to the Heel Prick Test for phenylketonuria and congenital hypothyroidism. We're hoping the results are negative just so that we don't have to learn to pronounce them. As a consequence, she had a plaster on her heel and a slightly sore foot, so we ruled out walking and decided to take her out in the car.

Obviously there are a number of possible destinations for your baby's first outing - the beach, the park, Disneyworld - but in the end we plumped for somewhere far more interesting: the pharmacy stores at Brighton General. I thought we'd be more likely to get cake.

Needless to say, my work colleagues were completely enamoured with her (unless they were just being polite), in fact we were lucky to get her back. On the downside, work ground to a complete halt for half an hour, so if you're going into hospital today and you don't get your drugs, it's all Amelie's fault.

In other news, both mother and baby have now been weighed, and both are shedding the pounds like it's going out of fashion. Amelie's now 8lb 1oz, while Lisa's lost half a stone in six days. Which just goes to show the benefit of hospital food. If you're wondering where those pounds have gone, then look no further than my waist. I've been living on gifts of chocolate for the last five days, and the results are starting to show.

But I managed to find the energy to lift the phone this morning and make an appointment to register the birth at Brighton town hall. We're not going until Thursday the 16th, so we've got another week to get bored with Amelie and decide to call her Jordan.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

John MitchellIt's It Bites!

Well, it's one member of It Bites. That's the trouble with being right at the front - you can't get them all in.

Anyhoo, anyone who thinks I wouldn't dare go out to a rock concert four days after the birth of my first child, needs to understand one thing: it's IT BITES! I think that's all the explanation I need to give.

Who would have thought that a mere twenty years after playing along to their songs on a drum kit in my bedroom, and deciding to take up the guitar just so that I could play their music, I'd actually get the chance to perform with the band live in my hometown. Them on stage, me in the front row, singing badly. It's a dream come true. Obviously having a baby is pretty special too, but let's face it, you can have too much of a good thing, and everyone needs outside interests. Something I'm sure Lisa's Mum understood perfectly when I asked her to come round and look after her daughter and grandchild so that I could go out for the evening. I think she's still talking to me.

John BeckAnyhoo, It Bites were performing at the Brighton Komedia which, as mentioned here before, is home to the hardest seats in Europe. I spent a good half hour yesterday afternoon trying to decide whether I had the nerve to turn up to a rock concert with a cushion, before deciding that comfort comes before coolness, and stuffing one into a bag. So imagine my delight when I arrived at 8:30pm to find that it was a standing-only gig. You haven't lived until you've stood in a mosh pit for two hours with a scatter cushion at your feet.

But despite that, the evening was excellent. Even the support act, Touchstone, were good. So good, in fact, that I bought their CD. The woman on the merchandise stall tried to persuade me to buy a t-shirt too (I think she saw my cushion and realised I could do with some style advice), but I told her I only buy clothes if it's for charity, and walked off.

Anyhoo, the result of all this is that for the first time in my life I've become a bootlegger...

Just listen to that hi-fidelity digital surround-sound. It's like you're actually there.

I also filmed Screaming on the Beaches, which is about treading on jellyfish (probably), so if you can't get enough of music which sounds like it's being played on an old 78 with a dodgy needle, you can watch that too.

But before I go, here's the obligatory daily shot of Amelie...

Some bunny loves you.
She sleeps with her mouth open like her mother. Today's bedfellow comes courtesy of young Melee, who sent us an aid package consisting of toys and clothes for baby, earplugs for me, and Frazzles and Curly-Wurlies for Lisa. She knows us too well. The postman arrived with the parcel at 8:30am. Lisa was asleep, but fortunately I was already up, changing Amelie's nappy. I have to do something to make up for last night.

Monday, October 06, 2008

She's four days old and getting happier by the minute...

You can't see the jaundice in black & white.
Anyone who says that babies can't smile in the first month is talking rubbish. She's more cheerful than I am.

Anyhoo, the good news is that Lisa's now producing more milk than Dairy Crest, and as of this morning she can sit down without two paracetamol and a flood of tears. Since Saturday we've had visits from a midwife, a student midwife, a maternity support worker, a grandma, a cousin, one uncle and an aunt. After seven visitors I feel we should have a lot more presents, but I don't like to complain. The maternity support worker did provide a cure for Lisa's constipation, which as a gift was worth its weight in gold.

As for Amelie, she continues to be perfect in every way. Even her nappies are a pleasure to change. There's a Chinese proverb which goes "There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it", but the funny thing is, we really do! No, seriously. I've done an independent survey of at least a dozen relatives, and they all think Amelie's the cutest baby they've seen. They can't all be wrong.

So everything's peachy in the Gardner family. Which gives me a chance to complain about something else. Namely the state of hospital food in Brown's Britain.

It looks like a map of Britain and Ireland.This was what the NHS provided for the main evening meal of a nursing mother who'd had nothing more than a slice of toast in twenty-four hours. The lump on the right is supposed to be pizza. When Lisa asked what flavour it was, they said "Cheese".

You're probably assuming that I took this photo after Lisa had eaten all the green vegetables and salad. Needless to say you'd be wrong. That's actually how it arrived. The NHS clearly haven't heard of 'five a day'. Or protein. Or fibre. I did taste it in an attempt to persuade Lisa to try some, but having seen the look on my face after the first mouthful, I think I was fighting a losing battle. Calling that pizza is like calling spam sirloin.

But still, lunch the next day was a lot better. If you like prepacked sandwiches on white bread with cheap processed meat. Lisa wasn't the only one who refused to try that meal. If the maternity ward wasn't situated five minutes walk from my kitchen, Lisa would have wasted away.

But if you think that's shocking, you should have been in the hospital lift with me on Friday afternoon. I was returning to see Lisa after lunch, when who should I bump into but a healthcare assistant who was on my NHS induction course in March. I swear on my life, this is the exact conversation which ensued:

Me: Hello there!

Her: Oh, where do I know you from?

Me: We were on the same induction course in March.

Her: Oh yes. How's it going?

Me: Fine. My fiancee's just had a baby, so I'm here visiting them.

Her: Oh, lovely. Is it yours?

Me: Um... yes.

Her: Even better. Congratulations.

At which point the lift doors opened and she left. I still haven't quite got over it.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Just because you've got a baby, doesn't mean you have to miss Q.I. on a Friday night...

Is it me, or does she look like Elvis..?
Yes indeed, as of 7pm yesterday evening, the girls are home. I made Lisa walk back from the hospital. She didn't have the energy to argue, and besides, she's too sore to sit down, so it was kinder not to give her a lift.

I did, however, let her go to bed for some much needed sleep, while I stayed up with Amelie, watching back-to-back episodes of Q.I. until 3am. All of which made it slightly irksome that the community midwife, who was scheduled to make her first visit at an unspecified time today, turned up bright and early this morning when all three of us were asleep. Still, it's good to know that under the right circumstances I can go from naked and sleeping, to standing at the front door, fully clothed, introducing myself to a woman with the same name as my cat, all in under thirty seconds.

Incidentally, the midwife wasn't the only visitor to wake us up this morning. The postman did too. So I'd just like to say a big thank you to Carol for the lovely gift, and to a mysterious lady I've never met for the penguin card. You're both sweeties. Well, either sweeties or stalkers.

Mouth AlmightyAnyhoo, back to Wednesday night. Having discovered that she'd done 90% of labour on two paracetamol and a packet of Frazzles, Lisa accepted the midwife's invitation to take all her clothes off, and jumped into the birthing pool. They did ask if I'd like to go in too, but I said no, a decision I slightly regretted when I saw how nice it was. It made Big Sis's spa bath look like a paddling pool.

I won't describe the next five hours in intimate detail, but suffice it to say that things didn't quite progress in the lightning fast manner we were expecting. We didn't know it at the time, in fact we didn't know it until 6:54am, but Amelie was attempting to make her way down the birth canal with one hand up to her head. Presumably so she could wave to us as she emerged. Or possibly she was doing her hair. Either way, it was a plan which needed more thought, and as the contractions got stronger and Lisa's pain increased, Amelie remained wedged and was going nowhere.

By 4am things were pretty intense. I was wetter than if I'd been in the pool, and the midwife had left to change her clothes after a particularly strong contraction resulted in a tidal wave which threatened to engulf us all.

Lisa came out of the pool at about four-thirty and began pushing in earnest, while I attempted not to think about the fact that my car had probably been towed away, and I had no food. By five-thirty I was in tears, not just because of the food sitaution, but because Lisa had used up every reserve of strength and effort, had no more to give, yet was still being driven on relentlessly by midwives who were clearly getting more concerned by the minute. It's not easy watching someone you love suffering to such an extent.

On the plus side for Lisa, being consumed by the birthing process meant that she didn't notice the worried looks and brief conversations taking place in hushed tones between three different midwives, all of which I was painfully aware of. Shortly before six, a doctor arrived, and things started happening very quickly. A set of scrubs and plastic shoes were thrust into my arms, and I was despatched to the nearest toilet to change. By the time I emerged one minute later, Lisa was already being wheeled into the operating theatre.

I have to say, it's not easy administering a spinal anaesthetic to someone who's shaking like a level nine earthquake, but somehow the anaesthetist managed it. I've no idea how long we were in theatre, but I do know it was about a hundred times longer than I wanted to be there. And not just because I was forced to wear a ridiculous hair net. But having lived through a lot of blood, sweat and tears, an episiotomy, and the scariest set of forceps I've ever seen (not that I've seen many), Amelie was eventually hauled out of Lisa, waving, and with a massive bump on her head.

One hour old.The labour ward and associated operating theatre are on the 13th floor of the main hospital tower block, and as Amelie was born, the most gorgeous red sunrise was breaking over Roedean School on the horizon. To be honest though, I barely noticed. Amelie was handed straight to me, and I was led out to the recovery room, where I sat for fifteen minutes holding my daughter and wondering what had become of Lisa.

To my enormous relief she was fine, and within half an hour I was running down to A&E to retrieve my car. Childbirth might be amazing, but the biggest miracle is that I didn't get a parking ticket.

Friday, October 03, 2008

So anyway. Wednesday night was essentially a game of two halves. In the first half Lisa played a blinder and won the match for the home team, before Amelie came on at half-time with her arm in the air for offside, and turned the game.

But before I go on, here's a photo of the winning team:

Happy Family
You wouldn't think we'd had no sleep for thirty-two hours.

Anyhoo, the whole point of spending two hundred and fifty quid on a HypnoBirthing course was so that Lisa could breathe herself through labour and rely more on relaxation than drugs (ironic as I supply them to the labour ward). As a drawback, we were told that some people are so good at it that they don't realise how far labour has progressed. The course leader repeatedly told us her incredible anecdote about the woman who went into hospital thinking she was in early labour, only to be told she was 7cm dilated. How we laughed.

So we attended Lisa's routine midwife appointment on Wednesday afternoon, where the experts told us that yes, Lisa is showing signs of early labour, but that it could be days yet, and that we should make another appointment for the following week. We did so, and went home.

By late afternoon Lisa seemed to be getting definite, if irregular, contractions, so at 6pm the HypnoBirthing CD went on the stereo, and I started noting the time of each surge, using Big Sis's Nemo pen. I knew it would come in handy for something. Within three hours they were down to every five or six minutes, so at 9pm I phoned the hospital. They said to leave it for a couple of hours. To be honest we were quite happy with that, because Lisa was convinced she was still in the earliest stages of labour, and I was content just to let her breathe to the twinkly music while I worked on Amelie's website (which still isn't finished. If only labour lasted longer).

By 11pm Lisa just wanted to sleep, but the contractions wouldn't let her, so having put it off for an hour, we eventually called the hospital again at midnight and described the situation. They said we could go in, collect some co-dydramol, take it home, and Lisa should be able to sleep for the night.

So we put on our coats and left. I suggested that maybe we should put all our hospital bags in the car, but knowing we'd be back in twenty minutes and going straight to bed, we decided against it. I parked in the dropping-off spot at A&E, told the woman at reception we'd be back in five minutes, and headed up to the delivery suite.

Once there, the midwife said she'd quickly check Lisa before we go back home, so she got her on the bed and had a look. Her next question was "Do you have a very high pain threshold?". She followed that with the news that Lisa was nine centimetres dilated and she could feel the head. Ten centimetres is when you meet your baby. I asked if I had time to rush back home for all our stuff, and she said "Not unless you want to miss the birth of your baby". Apparently if we'd waited any longer, we'd have had a home birth.

So there you go. Weeks of planning and packing, and Lisa was on the verge of delivery without so much as a flannel, never mind the three bags of labour essentials we'd got from the Mothercare catalogue. I didn't even have my sandwiches. Or my camera.

But no matter. After all, if the midwife was to be believed, we'd have a baby within half an hour. The Head Midwife even popped her head around the door to have a look and say "I'm just being nosey. We all want to see the amazing lady who made it to 9cm dilated without realising. No one out there can believe it". It was 12:40am at this point, so if you've read yesterday's post, you're probably wondering what went wrong.

Unfortunately I'm writing this in the only two hours of the day (1-3pm) when partners aren't allowed on the maternity ward, so I've run out of time to tell you. I need to get back and change a few nappies.

I surrender.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Amelie at 3 hours old.
Amelie Charlotte Gardner, born at 6:54am this morning, weighing a whopping 8lb 12½oz.

The go-faster stripe will apparently fade within a day or two. Mother and baby are doing just fine, and both have more hair than I do.

This is her at just under five hours old...

The relaxed demeanour and happy-go-lucky expression belie just what a night we've had...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Labour Isn't Working
Well not so far. But I'm sure it's only a matter of time. To be honest, I can think of better times for Lisa to start labour than 2am this morning when I'm in the middle of a dream about penguins, but them's the breaks.

To be honest though, Lisa's never been one to commit herself fully, so having gone into labour at 2am, she came back out at 4:30, and after drinking liberal amounts of tea, went a little more conservative in her estimates of a mid morning birth, and let me go back to bed before I turned into a monster raving loony.

The extra sleep gave me just enough energy to phone work at 8:30 this morning and tell them I wouldn't be in today. So if we don't get a baby at the end of this, I'm going to look pretty stupid.

As things stand right now, Lisa's padding around the flat, breathing through the irregular surges, and packing enough make-up to make an Avon lady jealous. Judging by the shelf of pregnancy books we've accumulated, I'd say she's in the 'Latent Phase' of labour, which apparently can "sometimes start and stop and then start again over a period of a few days". So patience is a virtue. Personally I'm waiting for the 'Transition Stage', which according to the helpful pamphlet given to us at the ante-natal class two weeks ago, is "known as the time of despair". It's something to look forward to.

Anyway, as luck would have it, Lisa has her last scheduled midwife appointment at 1:40pm today, so assuming she can still walk, we'll be going to that and asking for an expert opinion. Hopefully I'll still have time to come home afterwards and make my sandwiches for the labour ward. I plan to eat through the contractions.