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!