As the ambient mists of infancy slowly fade and the red mire of the terrible twos descends upon us, I felt it might assist nobody in particular if I provided the following guide to an infant’s first precious words. Enjoy.
|Baa baa||An ovine mammal or rendering thereof is within my line of sight.|
|Chan Choo||See Peas.|
|Chichi||I am unable to recall or pronounce your name, but you amuse me.|
|Daddee||Finally, someone sensible has come home.|
|Henwee||You bore me. I’d rather speak to the labrador.|
|Lok||I thirst. Please pass the milk.|
|Mama||Woman, hear me.|
|Mermer||Woman, you do not appear to be attending to my needs with sufficient urgency. Hear me.|
|More||Please increase my nutritional input.|
|MORE||I really must insist that you increase my nutritional input.|
|MORE!||Ideally with some of that Green & Blacks chocolate which you appear to eating in lieu of this processed rubbish.|
|Nerner||You appear to be doing something interesting and/or important. Please allow me to interrupt.|
|NOOOO||I decline your kind invitation to change my nappy.|
|Oh!||Please be silent. In the Night Garden is on.|
|One, two, nine||I am putting these squirty bath toys in their correct place. Please observe the proper protocol next time.|
|Peas||I am feeling amiable and am therefore prepared to succumb to your bourgeois insistence on manners on this particular occasion, purely in order to have my needs met.|
|Raaa||I am communing with the animal part of my nature and/or I have placed a basket on my head.|
|Three, two, three, go||I am putting this toy car in its proper place. Please observe the proper protocol next time.|
|Twee||I am communing with nature and/or I wish to change the subject.|
|Yah||Affirmative. I am a clever boy.|
It is very irritating the way that work insists on getting in the way of doing the things that I like to do, such as, in no particular order, building things with my son’s lego, rambling incoherently on this blog, and drinking red wine whilst playing the piano very badly. However, this year, to make up for last year’s holiday blip (week at parents – what was I thinking? More to the point, what were they thinking?), we have managed not one, not two, but three trips to Scotland, my favourite country in the world, owing to it being indisputably northern, and beautiful, and quite chilly, with a generally very poor blackberry signal.
Here are some highlights for your delectation. Clink on the first pic to view the slideshow and my scintillating commentary.
One of my favourite sayings: As long as my neck’s in the noose, I may as well hang myself. I feel this distills so much British pluck and northern charm into so few words.
Finding myself as I do totally out of control in all aspects of my life, I feel that this is an excellent time to embark upon the next round of our assisted conception saga and accordingly H and I will be commencing a FET cycle (that’s a frozen embryo transfer, fact fans) over the next few months in the hope of generating a second and possibly, who knows, a third ninky-nonk to join the very ninkynonky Nipper.
Accordingly, I have handed over many of our hard-earned pounds sterling to the local fertility clinic in exchange for a box of hormones and syringes, enjoying the look of naked fear on H’s face when they arrived as he no doubt experienced flashbacks to two years ago and me breaking an ironing board with the superhuman strength known only to those on three weeks of buserelin injections.
Since I don’t want this blog to be an IVF blog, not that it’s much of a blog at all at the moment, I have sent up a separate blog here for anyone who is remotely interested (i.e. H) (possibly).
I would however like to publicly express my extreme disappointment that the domain name “iceicebaby” was not available.
On each occasion – and there have been many – in recent months when I have privately bemoaned my manifest failure to maintain this blog at the heady levels achieved during maternity leave, and considered the manner in which I might open the post that resumes service, the same image comes to mind of Bernard Hill in the second Lord of the Rings film when, after being exorcised by Gandalf, he gradually unfurls and de-shrivels and, in some bewilderment, says: “Dark have been my days of late…”. I’m not entirely sure why this should be, save that a) I feel a little like the possessed Theoden at present and b) the recent months have been somewhat dark, not just in a daylight saving kind of sense, but in the sense that trying to distill a full time professional career into part time working hours whilst simultaneously look after an infant who persists in enhancing his experience of nursery by taking on every virus and cold available, is, on balance, difficult difficult lemon difficult.
Be that as it may, it’s all going to get better now as a) I feel certain that tonight we will make a sizeable win on the lottery, hopefully larger than the £3 return I made on a disproportionately large investment in Euromillions last night (financial planning, folks) and b) more realistically, H and I have decided to resume our pre-parenthood preferred pastime of ambling about aimlessly in the local countryside and calling it hiking. And so we have resumed our campaign to conquer the hills and dales of the north of England, accompanied by the Nipper (thanks to this little beauty) and the Dog, and have ourselves begun to unfurl and de-shrivel and generally feel altogether Much Better.
Anyway, to ease ourselves back into it, we had a very pleasant walk last weekend at Tittesworth Water by following the five mile loop round the reservoir, starting from the Visitor Centre at the head of the reservoir at Meerbrook, just north of Leek on the A53 Buxton/Leek road. I’m not going to pretend this was the most taxing walk I have ever done, but it was an extremely enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon, following forest paths around the reservoir, with some great views of Hen Cloud and the Roaches to which the crap photos I took below do no justice whatsoever:
Friday took us up the Pennine Way from Crowden, heading in the direction of Black Hill, but getting nowhere near because we only walked for an hour, as it was 6pm and veering dangerously into
wine bathtime, also we had for some insane reason gone out without coats, but there were cracking views of Bleaklow and the Torside reservoir, and we therefore formulated grandiose plans of returning in early course to tackle the complete circuit, until I went over on my ankle and terminated the conversation.
Today was supposed to involve a good low level walk up near my parents in the Lakes, but my father made me a gin & mix before lunch and it all went downhill from there. (Not literally). (If you haven’t had a gin & mix, it’s gin and vermouth (extra dry and rosso), mixed in equal parts with ice and lemon, and please don’t blame me for the consequences).
Six months is a long time in blogging, as nobody to my knowledge has ever said. What is new?
So anyway, now that I’m in Manchester at least less occasionally then I was during those carefree days of maternity leave (see already how I yearn for that time nostalgically, having already forgotten how I spent it almost exclusively wondering around the house in stained pyjamas shouting at things like a lunatic and eating toast) I obviously have grand plans for spending my lunch hours etc. rediscovering the delights of my favourite city and thus resuming this blog and exploiting its full potential. Unless it’s raining. Which, let’s face it, it probably will be.
Caitlin Moran has blogged today about the Twitter walk-out she has proposed in response to the threats received by Criado-Perez and others is also on this Sunday. It’s a great article – I encourage you to read it.
In her article, Moran makes some persuasive comments about change, and resistance to it. I am now going to make an extremely tenuous literary leap that has nothing to do with the context in which Moran addressed this, and start talking about Doctor Who.
Change is a crucial aspect of Doctor Who (viz. the whole regeneration thing). Fans will know that the current incumbent of the role, Matt Smith, is due to leave at the end of the year. His replacement will be announced on Sunday at 7pm. I’d like to be cool, and pretend that this news doesn’t have me wild with excitement, but the reality is I’m an incorrigible geek, and therefore it does. In fact I have never experienced such frustration as when trying to breastfeed the Nipper whilst simultaneously surf the internet for snippets of potential leaks as to who the new Doctor might be.
I am actually sorry to see Matt Smith go. I liked him as the Doctor. I liked the sexual tension with Amy and Rory before they became his in-laws (weird); I enjoy his affectionate obsession with Clara Oswald; I like the occasional Tom Baker-esque moments he delivers; I loved the fish custard scene from his debut episode. However, I am nothing if not fickle, and I’m ready to get proper excited about his replacement.
Apparently the favourites for the role are: Peter Capaldi, Ben Daniels, Rory Kinnear, Daniel Rigby and Ben Wishaw. Capaldi is the favourite of favourites, which suits me fine, as I don’t really know who the others are (this is what comes of a TV diet solely consisting of Game of Thrones, Made in Chelsea and Masterchef). However, whilst I like Capaldi a lot, I can’t quite see him as the Doctor. I fear I will forever be waiting for him to slam a door and call someone a see you next tuesday in Malcolm Tucker-esque rage.
Amidst the placing of odds and speculation, there’s a lot of whinging about whether the next Doctor should be female, or black, and equally a lot of whinging about how if we had a female and/or black Doctor that would just be capitulating to the politically correct brigade (heaven forbid of course that a female and/or black actor might actually be good in the role). Matt Smith was asked here if there could be a female Doctor. In his response, he said:
“Why not, if she’s the right actress for the part, if she’s the most inventive, if she can do courage and madness and all the things that you need to be a Doctor?”
Let’s skip the right actress part for the moment; yes, yes, I know Olivia Colman is the bookies’ favourite for a female Doctor, and brilliant she would no doubt be, as would Dame Helen Mirren, or Miranda Hart, or any of the other half-arsed suggestions of excellent female actresses. The fact is, for many people, myself included, the concept of a female Doctor feels uncomfortable, at least at first blush – but why? We expect the Doctor to be inventive, courageous and mad – why can’t a woman be all of those things, and more? Is it because there is an unspoken expectation that, because the Doctor adopts and is often accorded a position of authority and respect, we also expect him to be white, and male, and middle-class, just as he has been for the past five decades?
I am ashamed to say that I think the answer is yes. Whether I am right or not, I am guilty of that subconscious assumption. In some ways it’s inevitable. I come from a family where my father – white, middle class (and, for the avoidance of doubt, male) – had absolute authority, and my brothers’ sporting prowess was always to be preferred over any academic or creative success I might achieve. I also work in an industry where the majority of the positions of power and authority are filled by men; where women do occasionally get on, but in spite of themselves and their “encumbrances” (i.e. their gender, their families); where women will often act in a stereotypically male way in order to compete with the boys. And I am guilty of subscribing to these expectations, rather than pushing for change, and I hate it, not least because I don’t want the Nipper to grow up in a world where women are still told to get back in the kitchen (see glosswatch on this subject if you don’t believe that this still happens).
I do know, thank you, that Moran is not an actress and unlikely to be in the running. I am also aware, thank you, that Doctor Who is a fictional character (I say that scathingly – there is of course part of me that hopes he’s not) and therefore not too much weight should be given to his casting; it’s hardly a presidential election. But he is a cultural icon, and a hero, and he too is guilty (or his writers are) of perpetuating the stereotype of the male hero and the weaker female companion, however “kickass” the companions might be portrayed to be. The writers have a golden opportunity to ring the changes here. Why don’t they, and make the next Doctor a woman?
And I think that woman should be Caitlin Moran. Why? Because Moran isn’t afraid to be a woman. Her writing, particularly How to be a Woman, makes me realise that when I think I’m being a feminist, I’m often just trying to be a man. She kicks feminism right into the forefront of popular debate, where it should be; she does so in ways that are inventive, and courageous, and sometimes mad. She can be brutal, but she is also passionate, exuberant and above all funny. The Doctor is all of these things.
So Caitlin Moran for Doctor Who, I say. That would be a regeneration well worth watching.
Having decided that we would definitely Do Something yesterday to mitigate the onset of cabin fever, here is a (non-exclusive) list of some things we didn’t in fact do yesterday:
1. Walk the nature trails at Blaze Farm, aka the Ice Cream Farm. This was our primary objective for the day (the nature trials, not the ice cream – honest, guv). We loaded the Nipper and the Dog in the car and had what I am sure would have been a very scenic drive, but for the torrential rain and heavy mists, along the A54 from Buxton to Wildboarclough. However, despite the lure of the road signs (Ice cream farm! I mean, it’s an ICE CREAM FARM!), we were unmotivated to stop, given the weather, and did not. (This uncharacteristic resistance to ice cream may have been because I had just eaten a cheese sandwich).
2. Camp at the Wild Boar Inn. This was in fairness never part of the plan, notwithstanding that torrential rain and heavy mists constitute the weather in which we most like to camp, if the law of averages is anything to go by. I don’t think H or I are realistically going to be brave enough to attempt camping until the Nipper is at least 2. However, I mention it as somewhere I have often fancied camping, owing to its promises of live music and food. On we drove. (It’s adult only anyway). (And we didn’t have a tent).
3. Visit Congleton. At this stage I fell into a delirious sleep, having been awake with the Nipper since about 2am. I am told we drove through Congleton. We did not stop. More than that I cannot say.
4. Visit Biddulph Grange Country Park. We then found ourselves parking up at Biddulph and preparing, in an ill-advised fashion, for a Country Walk. On with the boots and waterproofs, up with the buggy and its rain cover, and off we all went. After taking ten minutes to get the buggy through three gates, by which time we were all soaked to the skin, except the Nipper, who was empathetically shouting from within the rainproof confines of his travel system, we bailed out and went back to the car. I’m sure it would have been lovely.
At this point marital relations began to deteriorate,whether as a result of my bitter complaints about the weather, or H’s helpful response of “Thatcher”, or the fact we were stuck behind a flatbed trailer for half an hour travelling at 10 mph, and it was clear that the only rational thing to do, it now being some time since that cheese sandwich, was to drive back to Blaze Farm and eat ice cream (it’s an ICE CREAM farm, I tell you).
So we did. They didn’t take cards, so we ransacked the car for small change and had a slice of hot chocolate fudge cake with the ice cream that I think I may have mentioned. It was amazing.
Today is Yorkshire day, so we are going to drive to Sheffield to look at second hand cars and invariably get lost and end up in Rotherham. Hashtag greatbritishsummer, or something.