Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Baptism, balloons and musical bumps

At 1.15 of the 21st April we all gathered in St. Leonard's church for Sophie's baptism. Sophie was kitted out in her finest whites, but only after a rather chaotic, unsettled, morning in the house. We took our place in the front pew of the church alongside Angela and Kenneth, Sophie’s new Godparents and along with the gathered family and friends behind us, eagerly awaited the beginning of the service.
The tall, smiling, Deacon Michael welcomed us all into the church before retreating back into his sacristy to dress in his official ceremonial, baptismal robes, or, as some of the gathered thought, their granny's net curtains.
Deacon Michael, a Canadian who first appeared in Saint Leonards church a few months ago, took us through Sophie's christening service in his stirring, impassioned style, reminding us all why we were baptised and asking us to denounce the temptations of evil and the devil in his loud, clear voice. The Deacon, with his line delivery, and minimal hairstyle, reminded some of John Malkovich, although thankfully never got quite as sinister (and Malkovich isn’t Canadian).
Through baptism Sophie would be cleansed of original sin and in doing so this act would make her a saint. A rather ironic term of phrase as Sophie had not exactly been easy going that morning and if sainthood involves continuing to waken your parents up at twenty past six every morning on the dot, without fail, I'm not sure I'm keen on it.
We don't need an alarm clock anymore. Saint Sophie starts babbling away to herself at the exact same time every morning, gurgling and chattering away to herself, or her wee bunny blanket, her small voice echoing around the room in the still, silence of the early mornings. If Ka and myself try to ignore her, the babbling soon turns into shouting and whimpering until she gets one of us up out of bed. A habit I see getting worse as the years go on.
Anyway, apparently Sophie is now a Saint in the churches eyes, in fact, according to Deacon Michael she is cosmic, but she is only saintly until she reaches such an age as to when she can make her own moral decisions, an age, I suspect, she's already reached.
Sophie is now starting to develop a little character. She’s now started playing with toys, talking to her dollies and, rather oddly, purring like a particularly happy cat, or Gizmo from the Gremlin movies. For one thing she steadfastly refuses to take her feet down off the small table before her on her feeding chair. No matter how many times you ask her to lower her feet down off the chair's small table, she simply smiles or frowns at you bringing the feet immediately back up if moved.
Okay, it's hardly enough to banish her from the church and accuse her of devil worship but it could only be the start of a rocky road to ruin.
Sophie did behave herself all the way through the baptismal ceremony though with the only hint of upset being when I tipped her backwards towards the baptismal font at the specified time.
Sophie sat quite happily in both Ka, and then my arms, for the first half of the service, spending most of the time chewing away at her right hand, before I took her baptismal candle from Deacon Michael and lit it from the Easter candle burning behind us. Ka and myself then exchanged, Ka taking the smoky candle and me taking Sophie to lower into the baptismal font, backwards. As she was lowered head first Sophie started to look a little worried. Her eyes darting about for support or reassurance, her mouth wobbled and began to twist into a wince and then a definite frown descended as the Deacon poured the three, rather heavy, pourings of water over her head. After the quick prayers and blessings I brought Sophie back up to her normal horizontal position and she quickly got back to nonchalantly chewing her hand.
Ka took Sophie back shortly after and I was put in charge of the baptismal candle which continued to smoke as we came back down off the altar. As we stood and listened to Deacon Michael the candle, unknown to me, continued to smoke, sending a long, black, wispy cloud up into Ka and Sophie’s faces before Angela swiped the offending waxwork out of my hands.
Following the short service Ka, Sophie and myself stood and posed for some photos before we headed on up to the local dive of a pub, the Salmon Leap.
Fortunately for us the Salmon Leap has a rather nice function hall upstairs and with a bit of decor, involving the purchase of some helium balloons, confetti and ribbon, the place looked half decent for the hundred or so guests we had piling in. Ka, Sophie, Morven, and myself were among the last to arrive, me wobbling into the hall with Sophie looking up from her car seat, probably wandering what was going on. Before long Sophie was out and being passed from pillar to ballooned post, visiting the arms of as many of the guests as possible, mostly of the female variety. Aunties, uncles, cousins, grannies, grandads, family friends and work colleagues (who will basically be adopted aunties) had all gathered for the occasion and took the opportunity to chat and catch up with one another. More photos were taken whilst everyone queued for a drink, some disappearing briefly to the downstairs bar to catch the football scores.
The fantastic cake, gifted by Great Auntie Tricia and Great Uncle Tommy, was cut, after a short speech of thanks and the buffet was opened and quickly demolished. Mum, Grace, Jillian, Lynsey Ann, Jean, Steven, Pauline and a lady from Lynsey Ann's work, Gale, (a nice lady who'd unfortunately spotted me at a previous John Barrowman concert), all contributed to the fantastic buffet before it was eradicated by the hall full of hungry guests. Plates were piled high upon leaving the table but unfortunately neither Ka nor myself got any of it. Sophie probably had more to eat than us as she half sucked on a 150ml bottle, now exhausted, without her afternoon nap and half asleep after being passed around the room approximately twenty five times.
I did manage to get my hands on half an egg roll and gave the plate to Uncle Colin to keep an eye on for me whilst I briefly disappeared off to chat to someone else. Unfortunately I shouldn't have.
I did manage to get half a sandwich from somebody's leftovers, a couple of bits of Gale's fruit loaf and a piece of the afore mentioned christening cake which was now being expertly cut up and dished out by Mum and Auntie Tricia.
Ka and myself had previously had the idea of entertaining the gathered kids with a couple of games and had brought along a few prizes. The easiest games to organise on the dancefloor, without any chairs or implements, we reckoned, would be musical statues or musical bumps. Both required very little effort on our part and no tools, only music. Unfortunately the musical statues turned out to be a little harder to run that predicted. Upon pressing play on the ipod for Olly Murs to begin his 'Troublemaker' the gathered kids started moving. Unfortunately the kids were either moving very little, in order to freeze easily when the music was halted, or were seasoned musical statue players, jumping about crazy and then expertly freezing in position, baring blinking an eyelid. Since I was in charge of pressing the ipod buttons, Ka was put in place as the judge and she was rubbish. She refused to put any of the kids out. Some of them were quite obviously moving but Ka would shake her head and her hands and shout “keep going, play the music!”
When we eventually whittled the dancers down to two kids we just flung prizes at them both and announced 2 winners. We then got all the kids back up on to the dancefloor for the musical bumps and that proved even more impossible as all the kids collapsed down on to the wooden floor at the exact same time, making it near impossible to pick any losers out. Well, all except Joshua, who kept pushing his luck. After another whole constantly interrupted four minutes of Olly Murs we eventually got two winners and called it a day with the games. The kids were happy enough diving about the dancefloor without our help anyway, and had been beforehand, so we just left them to it and spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with the grown ups.
After more hellos and thanks for coming, people began heading off home from around half past four. Morgan started panicking about the leftover empty pasta bowls and the identity of their owner, Grace insisted on circling the hall with binbags and Dougie done his bit for the bar, collecting the empty glasses up.
In the end only Sophie, Ka, Mum, Dad, Kenny and Lynsey Ann were left. We packed up Pauline’s pasta bowls, (I reported back to Morgan that we’d found their owner), the remainder of Gale’s fruit loaf, the helium balloons and the enormous pile of presents and jumped in the car for home, Sophie looking out from the innards of her car seat, having fully awoken once more and probably wondering where she was off to now. Ka and myself were not looking forward to getting the little lady home as she had not had the chance to eat properly during the party making it more likely that she’d have a little tantrum come dinner time due to the hunger and tiredness.
As it turned out we were pleasantly surprised. Sophie sat in her feeding chair, with her feet up, giggling and laughing, greeting Mum, Dad and Lynsey with lifted arms, who popped round afterwards with the rest of the balloons and for a quick cuppa. This is another new thing for Sophie. The lifting of the arms. Sitting in her chair she was raising them up and down intermittently, making noises, purring and yapping, eyes whizzing about like that wee crazy Gremlin from The New Batch. This crazy good mood continued throughout bathtime and dinner until I lay her down for bed in her moses basket. It was only at that moment that she let out a whimper of protest.
A minute or so later, she was asleep. We weren’t far behind her.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Baking bad

It was the second week of April and it was party time!
People were cheering all over Scotland, there were parties in George Square and jubilant headlines adorned the newspapers. Surprisingly enough it was nothing to do with Ka and my own birthdays coming around again. Seemingly it was all to do with some old bint that used to be Prime Minister kicking the bucket.
On Monday morning Graeme strode into the studio room with a humpf, mumbling about having to put another twelve pages on to tomorrow’s Record. A supplement had to be added at the last minute. Margaret Thatcher had died, but this was nothing to do with the reason I was in a happier mood than usual on a Monday morning.
The next day was Ka’s birthday and I had taken the day off, and Friday was my own and I had been able to get that day off too, giving me a long weekend to look forward to, so it was going to be a short week for me.
The second week of April is always birthday week in the Reid household as Ka celebrates her birth date on the 9th and I usually follow on the 12th, although when you get to this kind of age you really should make less of a big deal about it, and maybe even attempt to forget about it. After the headache I had all the weekend following the red wine consumed on the Friday night I sort of wish I had.
Mum, Dad and Lynsey Ann came round to join us for dinner on my birthday during which we enjoyed Ka’s famous spaghetti and meatballs with more than a few glasses of red wine. Well, Mum and I did. Dad watched patiently, being the driver for the night, whilst Lynsey Ann joined Ka in drinking the bubbly rose wine she had found somewhere in the back of the drink’s cupboard.
Not that we have a drinks cupboard. We have one of those annoying gaps between kitchen units in which nothing will fit with the exception of perhaps either oven trays, bread boards or bottles. It’s only recently that we’ve registered the existence of it again, hidden away in the dark recesses of one corner of the kitchen. Sophie has kept us more than occupied for the past five and a half months to even consider any form of glass bottle beverage and even before she did, I rarely partook in the alcoholic beverages whilst Ka remained sober. At the moment I think there is a bottle of vodka, probably bought around 2011, with approximately four measures left in it, a bottle of Morgan’s Spiced Rum, possibly bought around the beginning of 2012, with around three measures left, half a bottle of Midori, bought through Kenny’s place of work over two years ago, a bottle of champagne, a gift upon the birth of Sophie, and three quarters of a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream Port, bought well over three years ago as an ingredient to a tart. Altogether not your most opulent of alcoholic stock.
So as we drank the red wine bought that afternoon, Ka worked hard in the kitchen keeping us Reids well fed, finishing the meal with the Sainsbury’s Chocolate caterpillar Cake complete with candles and the usual chorus of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song.
Yes, I am 35 now, but no matter how old you are it apparently still gets sung. Not sure why but tradition demands it.
35. Officially in the mid thirties now. Well, now in my thirty sixth year. Creeping closer and closer to the 40 mark. Very scary stuff. But not scary enough. By 35 you should know what’s coming shouldn’t you. You should be prepared. You should have accepted your fate. The twenties are long gone. Youth is now a quickly diminishing memory. Pains will now last longer. Bellies will now properly begin to form. Hair will fall.
Well, in my case, even more hair.
Middle age is here, whether you like it or not. But still the song persists and cake must be eaten, even if you are developing a belly.
If I succeed in one thing as I get older it is to maintain a sensible waist line… although after birthday week I’m going to have to work slightly harder.
That morning Ka had held the candlelit caterpillar up in her right hand and held a rather startled, wide eyed Sophie in her left arm, our daughter looking around wild eyed as if the whole room was alight.
The caterpillar was only a small part of the dietary wrong doings of birthday week.
I had performed a similar ceremony on the Tuesday morning for Ka although, I have to point out, her cake was a little more original.
A handmade chocolate sponge covered in chocolate cream sauce, a recipe hastily downloaded on the Monday night at work, just before I rushed from the office leaving Graeme and the rest of the back shift to the joys of Margaret Thatcher’s 12 page supplement.
Ka’s birthday cake was a task I had took upon myself to try and gift my wife with something extra special. When considering birthday cakes Ka always reminds me that she’s not a ‘big sponge person’. No matter how many times she reminds me of this fact the idea of a big sponge Ka seems to pop into my head rather easily whenever she does say it.
Anyway, determined to make a sponge that Ka would appreciate, a proper big chocolate cake, I set to work in the kitchen, armed with what seemed like an army of ingredients picked up in Sainsbury’s on the way home.
In fact, it wasn’t the only thing I was accused of picking up.
Whilst in the bakery aisle in the local mega store, (which has grown a couple of miles and aisles wider in recent months), my Dad accused me of chatting up fellow bakery shoppers on two separate occasions. He had been getting a lift home, as he had been working in a solicitors’ office in Glasgow that week, and came back from a wander to find me talking to a blonde women, asking her what baking powder was. He then left to make a phonecall to Lynsey Ann and came back to find me chatting away to another blonde female baker who was kindly helping me find bicarbonate of soda. Of course, as soon as Dad accused me of not making a cake at all and just using the excuse to chat up women, this second girl suddenly looked very uncomfortable and quickly finished talking to me, pushing her trolley deliberately away, further up the aisle.
“Thanks very much Dad, I was just getting somewhere there!” I thought, impatiently. “I was just about to find out where the bicarbonate of soda was!”
After around an hour and a half in the kitchen following dinner, just before Broadchurch’s repeat at 10, the cake was in the oven.
That’s another worrying sign of middle age. Some movements and activities now circle around television times.
It’s easy to see why so many people turn into couch potatoes as soon as they have kids. After a day of either work, or chasing around after children, or both, all you tend to do is collapse somewhere, and that somewhere tends to be in front of the telly. Something else I’m going to have to keep an eye on… although I did get season 4 of Breaking Bad for my birthday so that kind of scuppers that idea already.
Surprisingly enough the cake came out the oven looking rather solid and at approximately eleven o’clock I iced it all up with 500g of melted chocolate and 250g of Double Cream (it’s okay though, I made sure the Double cream was of the ‘Light’ variety, so we’ve probably saved a few pounds there).
On Tuesday morning I greeted Ka and Sophie as they entered the living room with the fully formed chocolate cake, adorned with a 36 made up of Fruit Pastilles, a favourite chew of Ka’s, a large bouquet of flowers and a couple of pressies and punctual cards. After opening her cards, the wife was then treated to a plateful of scrambled eggs and toast and a mug of coffee before we headed over to Uddingston to see Dougie, Grace, Morgan and Joshua who were busy preparing a large birthday lunch. The chocolate cake was a hit with everyone and I bet even Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood themselves wouldn’t have had much bad to say about it.
Upon coming home Mum, Dad and Lynsey Ann popped round and more cake was served up to which Lynsey and Mum gave quiet approval… a little too quiet. I suspect they may feel threatened by my baking abilities (as long as they don’t get the Mexicans involved I reckon I’ll be okay). They need not worry anyway, I won’t be baking another chocolate cake for a while. Cakes have a tendency to develop bellies especially with the amount of sugar and butter that goes into one (I couldn’t believe the amount of sugar I piled into that mixute?).
Saying that, I do have an abundance of flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in the cupboard now. One thing’s for sure and that is I won’t be making any visits to the Sainsbury’s baking aisle for a long time yet.
I would recommend it to all single guys though… it’s got to be cheaper than match.com anyway.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Good old Bill

"It's pink enough!" Dad commented, as he walked into Sophie's new look room early on Saturday afternoon.
The second bedroom is currently being decorated and made fit for baby Sophie’s move from the moses basket in our bedroom in approximately a month’s time so last Thursday the carpet fitters were in. Arriving half an hour early, the carpet fitter, a friendly, bearded chap by the name of Caffrey, and his rather more impatient workmate, arrived in their beat up estate, nodding their greetings and obviously eager to get on.
The carpet men followed me up the stairs, climbing the steps behind me with their toolboxes, bags and the large folded carpet we'd picked for Sophie's room the week before in the local carpet store where we had chosen possibly the brightest, most vibrant, dark pink we could find. The kind of pink that makes you blink to adjust your vision. A pink that slaps you across the face upon first glance.
Just as I neared the top of the stairs I remembered Ka was currently lounging in the bath but with the bathroom door lying wide open for all the hallway to see. Rushing the last few steps I leaped, ignoring Ka's questioning frown in the mirror on the opposite wall, and swung the door closed just as the first carpet fitter turned the corner from the stairs on to the landing. The guys got straight to work, unfortunately leaving the bedroom door wide open, confining Ka to the bathroom, unless she fancied making a run for it across the hall in her towel, through the temporarily gathered nursery furniture, avoiding the piles of jagged carpet tack strips.
After some initial hammering and cutting the carpet fitters informed me they'd have to remove the doors from the room's in built wardrobe as they were too close to the floor and would require planing as they would not easily open over the room's new carpet and underlay.
Underlay. Something sorely lacking in the Reid household. Since purchasing we have sussed that there is no underlay whatsoever throughout the entire house. Before selling the owners kitted the whole abode out but only with a thin, cheap, pale brown carpet through which your feet can feel every floorboard. There's not a room in the house that doesn't have at least one creak, crack or complaint from the boards underneath as you walk over it.
After a mere forty minutes or so, during which Ka did manage to escape the bathroom at some point, the carpet fitters took their money packed up their tools and strips of pointed tacks and were off to their next stop somewhere in the Clyde tower, one of EK’s lovely tower blocks, leaving Ka and myself to admire their workmanship.
A floor or pure, luxurious dark pink met our feet as we stepped into Sophie's room. In fact, along with the underlay, walking on Sophie's new deep pink carpet was a veritable bouncy castle compared to the flooring anywhere else in the house. We spent more than five minutes simply walking around Sophie's room, just for the novelty of walking over such a soft, comfortable floor. No boards creaked, none dipped underfoot, none sprung up at the other end of the room when you stepped on it's opposite end.
It was great.
But Ka, being Ka, wanted the furniture back in Sophie's room immediately, so my ongoing, aimless, carpet wandering had to be cut short as there was work to be done. The furniture that my Dad and I had easily lifted out from the room the previous evening and shifted into the study and hallway had to be moved back in, but only with my own strength and Ka's help.
Mamas and Papas furniture may look small and cute for a nursery but it ain't light. It's chunky stuff, made from solid pine and not easy to lift on your own, especially when it's still full of vests, outfits, jackets, snow suits, bibs, my mum's knitted cardigans, tiny shoes and elmo slippers. Ka and myself ended up on our knees, maneuvering it back into the room slowly, lifting each end off the floor by only a couple of inches, to get it through the door, before stepping it into position once inside the large square room.
After some grunting and a bit of shunting all the white furniture was back in it's rightful place with the exception of one thing. Or rather two things. The old wardrobe doors lay against the wall, looking, decidedly sorry for themselves. One of them was looking especially dodgy after being taken down from the wardrobe frame, it's back panel shaking at one end, paint cracking and peeling from it's joints. These doors needed more than a plane, I thought, they needed a skip.
So when Saturday came around my Dad and I took a trip to Cornes, the local DIY shop whilst Ka and Sophie took a trip to the shops. At Cornes Dad and I enquired about the best ways to get some new wardrobe doors. We spoke to Bill, obviously one of the shop’s elder statesmen, but who turned out to be a great help. As I told him about my wardrobe he stood and listened, scratching his bearded chin thoughtfully, sometimes hinting for me to repeat myself for the hearing aid perched behind his right ear, and suggested we get back up the road and measure the wardrobe frame properly. At first I nodded and thought I’d get on with my day, confident I’d get round to it at some point only to find Dad driving us back home to get the correct measurements. After another drive back down to the DIY store we approached old Bill again who looked over my hastily written measurements through his thick lenses. Bill nodded, humming a little and made a few suggestions, we decided it was probably better all round to buy a normal six panel interior door and cut it up the middle. The idea sounded a bit dodgy to me but before I knew it Dad had nodded and told me to get on with it.
Bill disappeared out into the store’s back shop and sauntered back within 5 minutes with a successfully halved door. He had already slotted a block of wood into fill each of the now open wounds on both halves of the door and together with nails, hinges and glue my Dad and I left Cornes with a new job to do as Bill told his boss, Mr Cornes, he was heading out for lunch, perhaps believing that would be the last he'd see of us.
Once home we set up a temporary workshop in the kitchen, using the old foldaway dining table covered with my painting sheet as a work bench. We glued each of the wooden blocks into each of the door’s sides, reinforcing them with a small tack, headed up the stairs with each and found that neither would fit the height of the wardrobe frame and even if they had there was to be approximately an inch of space between the doors. So off we went back to Cornes, and approached old Bill again, now back from his lunch, but a little uncertain looking, as if he couldn't quite remember us. He took the two doors back off us and disappeared into the back shop again to lose an inch off their height. Within moments he was back out again with the newly shortened doors and helped pick out some strips of wood for us to run up the inside of the wardrobe frame in order to reduce it's width. Before too long we were on our way back home again.
On getting home, for the third time, we fastened the wood to the frame and sized the doors up within. We then fitted the hinges on to the doors, after a quick telephone call of help to the Cornes store again in which we spoke to the shop owner, presumably Mr Cornes, after finding ourselves uncertain as to how to fit the hinges. We then carried them upstairs and screwed the first, left door, into the slightly modified wardrobe frame only to find it would not open smoothly. We’d put the hinges on the wrong way around. Mr Cornes was wrong with his advice. We’d have been better talking to old Bill. So we took all the hinges off the doors and refastened them the other way around. Fortunately this seemed to work. Just.
After screwing the doors into place we found that the doors would not shut, unless opened and closed together, so one of them, or maybe both, still needs a little planning in order to close one after the other but it’s only a minor fault. Dad and myself finished up at around quarter past five, just in time for me to head down to the town centre and retrieve the wife and daughter from the shops.
Dad visited with Mum and Lynsey Ann for lunch on Easter Sunday, bringing his drill with him to enable us to provide the doors with their finishing touch. Their knobs.
So after a couple of wraps, a few cups of tea and a few light choice hot cross buns we drilled two holes on each door and fitted the two silver doorknobs before closing each door over with a smug satisfaction. A satisfaction that was slightly marred by the fact that each of the two silver door knobs were different sizes. According to the back of their packets there was a half inch difference, apparently. Again, another minor quibble and one that can be easily rectified...eventually. The wardrobe now looks far better than it had done before. The pessimist in me would have never thought the job could have looked so good in the end, though I doubt me or Dad will be changing our professions any time soon.
So thanks to the carpet fitters, old Bill in Cornes, and Dad, Sophie now has the best looking room in the house, and the most silent. All it needs now is for me to get to work with the gloss paint on the wardrobe and a new, correctly sized, silver doorknob.
That’ll mean another trip to Cornes. Hopefully I’ll manage without old Bill for that visit!

Friday, 29 March 2013


I’m introducing Sophie to the Daleks earlier than predicted.
Ka was out on the town last night with some friends from work, who were celebrating the beginning of their easter weekend, so I was left holding the baby once more.
Sophie is now 14lb 10 and growing well and not always easy to hold. One of the health visitors upset Ka the other week by stating that Sophie would soon have to start attending Weight Watchers classes. I didn’t help the situation over the phone afterwards as I misheard Ka’s retelling and thought the health visitor had said Sophie would be going with Mum to Weight Watchers.
In fact, in under two weeks we will be beginning the weaning process. In other words baby will soon be eating something other than milk. At first it’ll be milky porridge which, I’m led to believe, then progresses into milky rice, which will then eventually, hopefully, moves into the blended foods stage and a whole manner of different coloured sludgy stuff. I suspect the blended food stage should be fun as I’m pretty sure that involves basically bunging everything into a blender and flicking the on switch. Bananas, apples, potatoes, steak and chips. Brilliant. I’ll just have to make sure there’s no bone on that steak before I put it in the blender. You then put all the sludgy results into small plastic boxes and throw them all in the fridge or freezer for later use.
We’ve got books to help us out anyway by an Annabel Karmel, a lady who, whilst presumably bigging up healthy foods and meals for your baby to grow up on, providing he or she with all the proteins and vitamins they need, has a name that reminds you of cadbury’s chocolate or the caramac bar (Remember the caramac bar? Can you still get the caramac bar? I don’t think I’ve seen one in years? I’ll need to check that out…)
Anyway, Annabel Caramel tells you what to make and how, with the help of colourful pages of detailed tables, patronising advice about what spoons to buy and lots of photos of ecstatic mums and dads feeding their supposedly ‘cute’ kids, who smile happily from their feeding chairs, enjoying the slops dribbling from their gobs.
Another challenge will be the cup. We’ve been trying to introduce Sophie to using her baby cup recently. She now has a nozzled, plastic, double handled pink cup. The two handles protrude from and run up either side of the garish plastic making the cup look something like the head of a gay cyberman. The cup holds small amounts of boiled, and cooled, water for Sophie to drink, the feeding parent holding one handle whilst desperately trying to get Sophie to hold the other with her forever moving, searching, fidgeting hands. Unfortunately Sophie has not really been managing to grasp the idea of the cup, nevermind the cup itself, until last night, as the Daleks squawked at Peter Davison on the television before us, she took a hold of one of the cups handles, me holding the other, and successfully took a few gulps of the water down, only minutes after polishing off her dinnertime milk. It may seem minor to you, but this was a success story for my Thursday evening (though I doubt Michael J. Fox would be interested in the script).
It was only a week or so ago that I seen Sophie visibly make a mental link as I winded her on my knee.
Whilst I sat patting her back, waiting on a belch, I watched with interest as Sophie’s big eyes locked on her now empty milk bottle, now standing finished on the coffee table before her. As I gently thumped her back in search of some wind I watched Sophie frown slightly as she turned to watch Ka pick up her own half empty bottle of Strathmore water sitting on the side table. Ka put the bottle of water up to her lips and as she did so Sophie’s eyes followed her with interest. As Ka gulped loudly, Sophie’s eyes then swivelled back to her own empty milk bottle. With a frown, baby then looked back at the water bottle in Ka’s hands. Sophie then turned again to look at her milk bottle with those big, inquisitive blue eyes. Again she turned and watched as Ka replaced the water bottle on the mat on the side table. Sophie’s eyebrows lifted as she turned back to her milk bottle. I imagined her piecing the puzzles together in her head, linking to two containers and understanding their similarities.
In fact I’m sure I wasn’t imagining things. I’m sure she was making the link in her own wee head just as she’s beginning to understand how she can see herself in the reflective screens on the walls of the living room and her own room, that you can lift your arms as a signal to be picked up, that you can indeed talk to your dolls wait for a good while before before getting any kind of reply and that when mummy or daddy take their glasses off it does not make them a different person.
That’s been one thing that’s been confusing her, but something which she’s slowly, but surely, getting used to. One minute she’d be all smiles and wonder, you turn, take your glasses off for whatever reason, come back to her and she’d sit and stare at you with a furrowed brow as if to say “who the hell are you and what are you doing in my house?”
Following her last, evening bottle of milk last night, she sat on my knee as usual, breathing tiredly, slightly weary from her feed and eyes wide, staring at the television as I patted her back for more wind.
A challenge which must surely tire a lot of parents out. The eternal quest for wind. A quest which must be completed, for if not, will result in hours of audible discomfort.
I’d found the old Doctor Who on Virgin On Demand and had switched it on to watch whilst I fed baby. Sophie sat staring, her big blue eyes taking in the Daleks and their troops as they woke Davros up from a 90 year cryogenic sleep. Even at four weeks my baby showed far less fear than I did when I first seen the same episode back in 1984. Sophie especially liked the moving and spinning stars in the eighties end credits sequence, letting her last belch erupt just as the last big white star zoomed up and hit the screen.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Little talk of monsters

At ten past nine on Friday night Of Monsters and Men took to the stage, emerging from the dark shadows behind the instruments like creeping, dark woodland creatures from one of their own songs. After some uncertainty about what to expect on the night, our first night out childless after the birth of Sophie, we stood transfixed in the packed O2 Academy for the duration of the following hour and a half, bewitched by the Icelandic act’s music. The bands two lead singers Ragnar Pórhallsson and Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir held us and the rest of the crowd’s attention easily with their beautiful, soulful voices which accompanied the other five musicians on stage before the packed old cinema house. Of Monsters and Men are probably classed as something along the lines of indie folk rock but have a very distinctive sound. An earthy, melodic, exciting noise that rears from quiet ballad to epic drums, Of Monsters and Men's music is a mix of Arcade Fire, Mumford and Sons and, fellow Icelandic band, Sigur Ros. Merely comparing them to other bands however probably doesn’t do them justice and could possibly act as a distraction to anyone considering listening to them.
Whilst running on the treadmill one day last year I happened to notice the fantastic video for their first single “Little talks” on the gym’s tv screens and I’ve been enjoying the band’s music since. The animated music video tells the story of five sky sailors (the five blokes in the band) discovering a meteor and a mythical female creature, played by female lead singer, Nanna. The rest of the video follows the sailors as they decide to try and help the female creature get home and back to her people depicting the story of them on their dangerous, treacherous journey.
The animated video itself reminded me of the kind of artwork created by the likes of Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman, the basic, child like depictions of the moving figures reminded me of J.R.R. Tolkien’s own illustrations for his Middle Earth books.
The video was actually created and produced by design team We Were Monkeys, Mihai Wilson and Marcella Moser, and since the single “Little Talks” the same team have went on to create another video for the band's next single, “King and Lionheart”.
After downloading their first album “My Head is an Animal” last November, Ka bought us tickets after hearing of their live tour hitting Glasgow in February not quite comprehending the feelings of uncertainty and guilt we’d be feeling at having to leave a 13 week old baby behind when the night of the gig actually came around.
so we travelled into Glasgow on Friday night leaving the sleeping Sophie in the care of my Mum and Dad. Lynsey Ann had also invited herself round and was going to join Mum and Dad for dinner, a large fish supper bought from Emanuels around the corner, whilst Sophie's mild snoring buzzed out from the small baby monitor at the end of the couch. So, after giving Sophie one final check, as she lay sound asleep in the moses basket, we bid Mum and Dad farewell and jumped in the car to head for Gardenhall.
Ka and myself were not the only ones going to the gig. Pauline and her mate from work, Dawn, had also purchased tickets for the same concert at some point at the end of last year and I offered my services as taxi driver. Ka and myself left the house on time, and drove round to Pauline's house to pick the two work colleagues up only to find the two of them supping beers and just beginning the process of putting their dinner out. Sitting patiently with our jackets on Ka and myself watched the two of them eat, not making them feel rushed at all, whilst Pauline repeatedly told us how she loved us, before the four of us finally headed into town. Unfortunately we missed the support act and when we left the square bar nearest the large hall’s entrance after purchasing our first drink we only then realised how busy the place was.
It wasn’t just busy, it was mobbed busy. I hadn’t expected such a strong crowd for the folkie band from Iceland and had obviously completely underestimated their popularity. It didn’t stop us fighting our way down through the hall to the front of the main standing area within only a few metres from the front of the stage. It was a great gig with the band’s two singers, Pórhallsson and Hilmarsdóttir, on top form with their acoustic guitars and their vocals, working perfectly together, bouncing off one another just as they mirrored one another, standing at the front of the stage, under the lights and in the dry ice, left and right, male and female, left handed and right handed whilst the other guitarists worked around them, the trumpets and pianos played to their right and the tall, bearded drummer with the big, whacky hair yelled at the crowd from behind his kit on their left.
After giving Dawn a quick lift to the bus station to await her journey home, and getting Pauline back to Gardenhall, Ka and myself rushed home around half past eleven to find Mum, Dad and Lynsey Ann chilling out before our television. They’d spent the evening watching the Coen Brothers’ patter filled classic The Big Labowski for the first time. After taking off our jackets Ka and myself individually checked Sophie who I don’t think had moved since we’d left four hours earlier. Our wee baby girl remained sound asleep in the moses basket, proving that we could in fact, contrary to paranoid feelings of guilt, leave our sleeping baby safely in someone else’s care for an evening. This proven fact will hopefully come in handy in the years to come, though we probably will need a little more practice at it.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

A chance of showers

We have shower power!
Yes, we finally have a shower in our new home.
Since moving in towards the end of August Ka and myself have been cleansing ourselves in the bathtub. Bathing in the tub every morning or night was a novelty at first but soon became a pain, especially when you had to stand around for five minutes at seven o'clock in the morning whilst the rest of the house slept, blurry eyed and shivering, whilst the bath slowly filled up with water. I'd end up kneeling in the tub, facing the taps, ducking my face forward under the water, bowing repeatedly in an effort to waken myself up, probably looking like a watery Damian Lewis.
We purchased the shower back in September on one of our very short visits to B&Q. The visits are short because the wife can't stay in a B&Q, or any kind of home improvement or DIY store, for longer than five minutes, itching to leave as soon as she can.
Whether you’re in for something essential or just a wander, Ka will get impatient within minutes.
I've been pondering on buying a drill for the past few years and always end up borrowing Dad's when there's been need of holes in my walls because of these all too short visits. If I ever get the chance to wander I'll look over the bathroom suites, the doors, the shelving and perhaps pop out to the garden department, dreaming of building a better home, all the while Ka will be huffing and puffing all the way behind me.
It's ridiculous really, considering the amount of clothes shops she drags me round when she's in need of a new outfit, and I don't even get anything out of that. At least being dragged around B&Q could lead to some stylish home improvements or new decor for our home. What do I get out of being dragged round Debenhams, Zara and River Island apart from yet another mind-numbing shopping experience. Ka’s idea of shopping usually involves finding something relevant in the first shop, spending four more hours going around other shops, and then ending up back in the first shop you started in and carrying out the purchase of the item found on the first visit, a purchase that, if made first time around, could have saved you four hours of your life.
You can get a lot done in four hours. Paint many a wall, put up a few shelves or maybe just settle back and get a good chunk of your book read.
Perhaps not fit an electric shower though.
We were told fitting a shower was going to be a costly exercise as the large electrical cable would have to be fitted into the house travelling up from the downstairs fuse box into the loft and then down the bathroom wall into the newly acquired shower which would require around £70 worth of expensive thick electrical cable. By the time January came round I was more than willing to spend the money. We needed a shower and I'd had enough of worshipping in the bathtub every morning.
After contacting various plumbers, I found that many of them showed little interest, having to rely on electricians to help them out on the wiring side thus making their part in the operation rather profitless (in so far as a plumber is concerned anyway). The last plumber we got in charged us £25 for a washer for our downstairs toilet so we wanted to make sure we got the right guy in for the job. Eventually one of the many plumbers contacted me via text and popped round to the house last week to size up the operation. It just so happened this guy took care of the electrical side as well as the plumbing so he was more than willing to help us out.
David the plumber arrived early morning yesterday to measure up, asked for £120 and then disappeared again to get materials. Before leaving the house in the morning, I’d somehow got it into Ka’s head that there was the feint possibility he was a conman as he’d asked for more than half the money upfront. Keeping this in mind Ka ended up getting a little jittery when the ‘getting materials’ absence stretched to an hour long and took it upon herself to check the toolbox he’d left behind, just to make sure there were actually tools inside and not a small note saying something along the lines of “thanks for the £120”.
Thankfully, our suspicious minds proved to be just that and David strolled up the front path at around half past eleven and got straight to work. Unfortunately he didn’t finish until half past seven, disturbing not only little Sophie’s routine but, more importantly, Ka’s with it.
David the plumber was a laid back, easy going kind of guy who managed to drive Ka a little bit nuts with his favourite phase, “slowly but surely”.
Every time I asked David the plumber how he was getting on he’d hum these three words in reply which soon had Ka growling with impatience.
By the time the shower was out it’s box and up on the tiled wall of our bathroom where it belonged the bathtub was full of dust and cement, the walls and ceilings covered in holes and cracks, some of the house’s carpets had been lifted disturbing floorboards and skirting boards and the two bigger kitchen cupboards had been emptied in order to gain access to the stopcock, so the kitchen was covered in pots, pans, Tupperware and oven dishes, not to mention the entirety of Ka’s cleaning equipment, a vast artillery of cleaning products. You’ve never seen so many Mr Muscles. As a result Ka was on the edge of her seat the whole day, fidgeting, moving around nervously and talking through gritted teeth as the dust swirled around us.
Sophie, on the other hand, was quite happy. She lay back in her deck chair, laughing and giggling at the disturbance, smiling and intermittently laughing whilst I gave my calming talks to Ka.
David the plumber smiled at Sophie and reckoned she was a cracker, revealing that he himself had four kids.
Four kids? Four?
Good gawd, no wonder plumbers charge so much for their services if they all have the same family planning issues.
Whilst David had been out getting his materials that morning I had been driving around Glasgow. The car had to get serviced and I had a sleep monitor to pick up from Yorkhill Childrens’ Hospital which Sophie had to get plugged into overnight.
The service cost me £112 at Chaz’s favourite servicing garage in Hillington Industrial estate. Whilst the car had been in, I went a wander with my latest tome, ‘Cloud Atlas’ by David Mitchell, the author, not the googly eyed bloke from ‘Peep Show’. After almost buying a new bathroom in Bathroom Continental and successfully leaving with only a business card and some growls from a grumpy looking saleslady I strolled down to the Burger King and bought a hot chocolate and read my book.
‘Cloud Atlas’ is being released as a big, impressive looking movie next week, directed by German filmmaker, Tom Tykwer, who directed the fantastic ‘Run Lola Run’ back in 1998, and the Wachowski brothers, one of which is now female, and presumably a sister, since the two of them were made famous for creating the Matrix Trilogy. Starring Tom Hanks, Jim Broadbent and Halle Berry, among others, the movie looks like a bit of a ‘must see’ but unfortunately I must read the book first. I have a week. A near impossible feat which I’m sure I’ll fail in achieving but I’ll give it a shot.
After walking back up and settling down in the garage’s waiting room to continue reading, next to another car owner gent, the mechanic informed me I had a dodgy handbrake which needed attention, immediately putting my service charge up. Settling down to get on with the story of musician, Robert Frobisher, three loud women sat down in the chairs opposite. The two sisters and their mother spent the next 45 minutes chatting up the mechanic behind the reception, loudly, talking about their planned dinners for that night, noisily and shrilly berating the younger sister of the two for not knowing how to cook sausages (she had been planning on deep frying them). Once the car was ready and the handbrake in full working order, I politely refused an invitation to dinner and headed to Yorkhill.
As Sophie has been born with a cleft in the roof of her mouth she has to go into hospital for an operation at some point this year to close up the gap in her soft palate. Before this takes place Yorkhill requested that we plug Sophie into a sleep monitor for the night in order to record her breathing, her heart rate and her oxygen levels throughout a normal night’s sleep. So Sophie was wired up before bedtime, the wire sensor wrapped around her foot as it refused to stay on her big toe, which is where the doctor had advised it to be positioned. With Sophie being only three months old her big toe is not exactly big anyway so wrapping any form of taped sensor around the digit was going to be a challenge to begin with and that was before she started wiggling it from side to side in an effort to escape my fiddling hands whilst looking up at me with her big, innocent blue eyes, the hint of a smile over her lips. The wee tyke managed to get the sensor off twice during the night, making the machine’s alarm go off. The shrill, short, bleeping made both Ka and myself spring awake from our beds in shock and look around the darkened room in confusion before we realised what was going on. Sophie remained sound asleep, only flinching a little when I rummaged through her blankets and wrestled to pull her foot from within in order to get the sensor attached once more. We should find out in the next few weeks when Sophie’s operation will be. Whenever that’ll be, I’m sure I’ll still be attempting to read ‘Cloud Atlas’.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Pointless lovers

Being full time parents is bad for one thing.
Sitting on the couch.
Obviously the sitting on the couch phase will pass once baby starts crawling, walking, running, jumping and climbing but at the moment parenting involves a lot of sitting around, bouncing things on knees and watching tv.
In fact tv, as is probably often the case for many parents all over the world, is a saviour. Whilst it is more than wonderful to look down into the big blue eyes of your grateful baby as it sucks on it’s fifth bottle of milk of the day it sometimes, just sometimes, gets a little tiring and you need something else to look at through the sleep deprived blurred vision.
As discussed in a previous blog, my current watch is Vince Gilligan’s excellent ‘Breaking Bad’ which, strictly speaking, I shouldn’t watch with baby Sophie in the same room as it is an 18 certificate. Even though Sophie is not yet aware of the British Board of Film Classification’s rules and regulations, and hopefully the BBFC is not aware of her sitting watching, I’m still a little hesitant to have it on in the same room, even with her disapproving mother out the house.
Hoping that she won’t pay much attention though I still sneak the occasional episode whilst feeding Sophie, (I’m now on season 3!) and then deliberately turn her deckchair so that it faces away from the television in the time following her feed during which she smiles, giggles and wriggles. Usually Sophie goes for a few naps following a good feed, between wriggles, and during the covertly viewed episodes and as long as her first words aren’t methamphetamine or crystal I think we’ll be alright.
In my defence Ka watches her own fair share of inappropriate material whilst I’m out at work. This Morning and Loose Women is just the start. I had last Thursday off and had just poured myself a nice morning cup of tea in the kitchen. Ambling into the living room to see Sophie in her deck chair I immediately stopped in my tracks only to find a bespectacled man on the large television in the corner going over, in great detail, a man’s naked groin area. The man pawed and groped the dangling areas as he spoke to the camera to which I immediately spun Sophie’s deckchair around, away from the tv, before wiping up the coffee table from where I’d spat out a mouthful of tea. As it turned out the bespectacled man was This Morning’s Doctor Chris Steele going over the dangers and warning signs of testicular cancer, and while this is, of course, a very good and just cause to have a bollock naked man on morning television they perhaps should give you a bit of warning if there’s a baby about, not to mention a perfectly good cup of tea.
You wouldn’t get any of that on Breaking Bad, I told a confused looking Sophie, who was blinking, her wee mittened hands wiping at the few spots of tea that had reached her chubby cheeks from across the other end of the room.
After This Morning, Loose Women then comes on. A programme steeped in inappropriate behaviour, full of sexist, lecherous, gaggling women before an audience of easily entertained minions who laugh at the slightest inkling of a funny comment.
Other daytime highlights include the afternoon Channel 5 movie, an American budget television film usually based around some glamorous female experiencing some dreadful accident and having to live with the consequences or some attractive female being framed for a crime she didn’t commit, perhaps murdering her latest lover, and then staying out of jail just long enough to enable her to investigate and seek out the real culprit. Angela Lansbury would have had it solved in 40 minutes, not the hour and a half it takes these glamour pussies on Channel 5.
Ka's also got herself half addicted to another show called Tipping Point. This is a game show, of sorts, presented by every housewives favourite smiling lamppost, Ben Shepard, in which contestants compete to win as many discs as possible on a giant 2p machine. Ka assured me it was good, at the beginning of the first episode I seen. Within five minutes I’d turned the channel to see if Pointless had started yet.
Yes, Pointless!
Is anyone else out there addicted to Pointless? It’s not quite daytime television as such, it’s on before the news, at around five in the evening, but I see it as a great excuse to keep Ka away from the aussie soaps on Channel 5 (yes, those dire afternoon movies do in fact end, at some point) and the other awful itv quiz, The Chase, hosted by the bloke that used to be in Coronation Street. There’s even Pointless Celebrity specials on Saturday evenings now. The popularity of the quiz show has become sky high in the past few years. Both sets of Mum and Dads used to rave about it whenever Ka and myself popped round to visit and we wouldn’t have the faintest idea what they were going on about. Grace would mistakenly text Ka from work, a message meant for Dougie asking how he got on with the latest Pointless question.
Betty and Lindsay watch it on the iPlayer every night making sure it’s recorded everyday. Unbelievably it’s been on since late 2009 and episodes are now being repeated on the Challenge tv channel, unfortunately replacing The Crystal Maze and Blockbuster reruns.
It would seem that the nation have become Pointless lovers.
The two hosts even presented a Bafta the other night?! Judi Dench and George Clooney clapped when they walked on stage?! George Clooney watches Pointless?! Amazing.
Alexander Armstrong and the other big Frankenstein dude must be in that studio for months at a time, standing, or in the Frankenstein man's case, sitting, there listening to all those people struggling to come up with the most obscure, correct, answers possible. The enormously tall Richard Osman (the Frankenstein man), sits at his desk, pen in hand, behind his computer, and rhymes off exactly how pointless all the contestants’ answers are. He’s either amazingly intelligent or just a very fast googler.
Disappointingly, like ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’, which I haven’t watched in years, I’ve never seen a Pointless winner. Well, with the exception of last Saturday’s Celebrity edition when that annoying cricketer with the constantly screwed up eyes and big chin hit the jackpot with his teammate after having to come up with ‘International’ Brit award winners.
Not exactly a hard question. I could have won £2,500 for that. You don’t wouldn’t need to be an egghead to get a few decent pointless answers there.
Eggheads now there’s another one. Boring as hell but strangely compelling. A bunch of regular boring folk, facing off against a bunch of ,apparently, celebrity clever folk. In fact that smug woman who won ‘Who Want to be a Millionaire’ is on that show. Yes, in that case, I did see someone win ‘Millionaire’. Then there was that Army major who cheated. His wife was coughing in the audience or something wasn’t she?
I’d had enough. I need to get out more.
Either that or just get Breaking Bad back on. Or American Horror Story… or Person of Interest… or Ripper Street. Unfortunately I'm not allowed to watch any of them when Sophie is about either.