The (true) Story of Millie Harriet Carter
Part 5, summer in the city

Read Part 1 - in hospital

Read Part 2 - at home

Read Part 3 - things get back to "normal"

Read Part 4 - a year in the life

Read Part 6 - a second Christmas

Read Part 7 - a third year

Read Part 8 - Baby Amber cometh...

Read Part 9 - everything changes

Monday 7th August 2006
Another top tip, to go with the sandwich filler one: don't go to Kill All Hippies at 333. It's not very good.
In fact, maybe I'm just getting old, or have spent too much time going out in places like Brixton, but I'd recommend staying away from the Old Street area in general at the weekend - it reminded me far too much of a Friday/Saturday night out in just about any small town (and I grew up in Swindon so I know what I'm talking about!)
Just...not a terribly nice atmosphere: a bit overly charged with young testosterone and brightly coloured alcohol.
And Kill All Hippies, well... They gave me a huge amount of hassle getting in because I had a bottle of Lucozade in my bag (being a diabetic I always carry some Lucozade, I case I have a rare, unexpected attack of hypoglycaemia), then it was almost 15 for four drinks (three lagers and a cider). Now, this may be London, and we may have invented the three-pound-pint, but even so...
And then the club started filling up with mad people and folks who looked like they watched Big Brother for fun...
And so we decided to leave and go to a friend's house (seeing as it was already too late to go to How Does It Feel To Be Loved down in good-old, friendly, non-Big Brother-watching, two-pound-fifty-a-pint Brixton).

God, I'm turning into such an old git.

Sunday, the Lovely Melanie and I took Millie to Fruitstock in Regent's Park. A little corporate free festival. That was a very pleasant afternoon, although it was rather truncated by the two and a half hour journey to get there.
And that was via the tube, not, as you may have imagined, on foot dragging a felled oak tree behind us all the way.

I'd be less annoyed about the whole experience if London Transport had, at various stages of our lengthy journey, deigned to inform us that the entire network was in the process of going completely tits-up. But no, they left us to deduce this state of affairs for ourselves from the lack of trains turning up. So we ended up waiting on a variety of platforms at a number of different stations for various amounts of time as we struggled to amend our route to take into account the ongoing verticalisation of breasts on the network.
The Lovely Melanie, as she sometimes does, became extremely demoralised by the whole affair, and apologised continually to Millie - who was sat in her pushchair having a whale of a time: seeing all these new and exciting places, being carried up and down stairs (and then back up and back down...), jumping on and off trains, etc.

The only real problem for Millie was that by the time we got to Fruitstock the poor girl was knackered. She struggled bravely to stay awake, and was agog at her surroundings and at The Mighty Zulu Nation Theatre Company, but eventually she fell asleep on my shoulder right in the middle of being agog, and so suddenly that her head banged my shoulder, waking her up for another five seconds, before she fell back to sleep - properly, this time.
We got to Fruitstock relatively early (about 1.45pm), and it wasn't too busy then. When we left around 4.30 though, it was really crowded - and people were still streaming in from outside - so I'm glad we left when we did, even though it meant we only got to see our friends there for an hour or two.

This week Millie's having her MMR vaccine: you know, the one the Daily bloody Mail whipped up a non-existent scare story about, so that now thousands of kids are at risk from a resurgence of measles because one doctor theorised, in a now discredited article, that the MMR vaccine might, in a tiny minority of cases, trigger autism in children.
The Lovely Melanie and I never had a single doubt that Millie was having the MMR - not only because of my long-held maxim that if the Daily Mail doesn't like something then it's almost certainly a good idea, but also because the Lovely Melanie and I have worked in medical research before (we met and fell in love at King's College Hospital), we read New Scientist and lots of "Popular Science" books and websites, and so we knew that the MMR scare was rubbish, almost from the start of it.
We also know that measles is actually quite a nasty disease: we may joke about it nowadays as just another outbreak of childhood spots, but that's because we have vaccines against it!
Except, of course, that thanks to the Medieval attitudes of the Daily Mail and their ilk, the protection we had from near universal vaccination has now been dangerously eroded.

So, er, yes. MMR for Millie. On Thursday, I believe it is.

By the way, here's another top tip from me - a computer-related one this time (I could be making a fortune from magazines like Chat and, er, Chit - they give you 25 for every tip printed - and most of them aren't exactly rocket-science, "When getting up in the morning, remember to open your eyes to save bumping into things!" "Washing will dry quicker if you put it outside when the sun is shining!")
Anyway - there's a great, FREE little program called iColorFolder for Windows XP (but it works on Windos 2000, too) that enables you to change the colours of folder icons in Windows Explorer.
For example, if, like me, your My Music or My Pictures folders have a lot of folders in them then you can change the colours of frequently used folders to make them more eye-catching just by right-clicking on that folder.
In My Pictures we use the "Millie" folder a lot, and I've turned that one pink so it stands out against the standard yellow ones; and in My Music I've made the "Singles" folder blue, and all folders with recent additions grey.

This sounds so obvious you might think it's barely worth doing, but it's more helpful than you'd imagine, and takes just seconds to do.

***

Wednesday 9th August 2006
It was Superdad to the rescue on Monday. Or rather, I had to go and collect Millie from nursery.
No, she hasn't been expelled for excessive cuteness, rather, she has A DISEASE! And not just any disease either - she has the dreaded hand, foot and mouth disease! It's like bird flu crossed with plague crossed with ebola crossed with...

Actually, no, it isn't. And it isn't even anything to do with the proper "foot and mouth", which saw sheep and cattle burnt by the truckload back in 2001.
Still, there has been an outbreak of it at Millie's nursery, and she did have to be sent home on Monday, and isn't allowed back for five days (so, er, that'll be Saturday, then, helpfully!)

No, in fact, hand, foot and mouth was one of the seven plagues visited by a vengeful Old Testament God (and nagging - good grief, did He ever nag) upon the Egyptians after they were a bit rude about Moses' mum. Or something.
Actually, that might not be true...

Let's start again. Hand, foot and mouth is a mild viral infection that gives the sufferer spots on the hands and feet, and around the mouth. These spots can be quite tender, and there can also be a mild fever.
That's the official line. In Millie's case she has a spot on her right little-toe, one on the unnamed finger of her left hand, and one in her mouth (according to the nursery: we haven't seen it - have you ever tried to look in a baby's mouth? It should have been a challenge on The Krypton Factor or The Crystal Maze or something).

And that's it. Otherwise she's absolutely fine.
I got called out of work to go and collect her at Monday lunchtime, as did four other parents at her nursery, by all accounts. It made me feel like a right proper dad. I was all ready to show my boss the hand and pronounce, Charlton Heston-like, "My daughter is sick. I must go to her." But they were very good about it. They were also very good about me having to have Tuesday off, as well, to take care of her.
Of course, I say "take care of her," in reality there was nothing physically wrong wih her, so the 'Lays and I went to the National Maritime Museum to see an exhibition by Dan Holdsworth called At the Edge of Space, Parts 1–3, which is a small but entirely excellent exhibition.

I think, to my shame, this is the first proper full day of lone parenting I've done with Millie, and it was hard work.
I need to apologise to the Lovely Melanie for the couple of times she was at home with Millie when I asked her to, say, pop to the post office for me or get some bread, or something similar, and she said, "I may not get the chance to..."
At the time, I may have been a little ungenerous in my response.

Actually, I was completely and utterly wrong! Parenting on your own is incredibly hard and unending work!
OK, it is enjoyable and rewarding, for the most part, but it's just unending. There was more than one point during the day when I wanted to put Millie in a box so that I could go and have a quick nap. Or read a book. Or eat. Or even just go and sit on the loo and read the paper.
And you can forget about updating websites!

So, a big - nay, a massive - kudos bonus to the Lovely Melanie for the past year spent at home with Millie. :-)

Ahh, from Superdad to humble dad in just 300 words...

***

Thursday 10th August 2006
"Even with the September 11 attacks included in the count, the number of Americans killed by international terrorism since the late 1960s (which is when the State Department began counting) is about the same as the number of Americans killed over the same period by lightning, accident-causing deer, or severe allergic reaction to peanuts."
From here, via Charles Stross here.

He also notes that "It used to be said that patriotism was the first resort of the scoundrel. Now terror-mongering is giving it a close run for its money. When someone tries to scare you, the first question you should ask is "who benefits?" Al Qaida and their friends carry out terrorist actsin order to terrorise you, with a specific political agenda in mind. Why are the US and UK governments trying to do the terrorists jobs for them? And what is their fear-facilitated agenda?"

Any suggestions?

Also, The Register has a mercilessly cynical piece about this kind of thing.

And as if to back up what Stross says, John Reid, our brutish Home Secretary, notes that anyone who disagrees with him is simply wrong, and is helping terrorists (and he'll be doing something about that kind of thing quite soon...)

***

Monday 14th August 2006
As a now fully-fledged member of the bourgeois suburban gardeners club, I've never been so glad to see it belt down almost all weekend. Our lawn is showing a teeny-tiny bit of emerald colour around the edges once more...

In other news (by which, naturally, I mean Millie news) we took the girl swimming on Saturday morning, since she's completely cured of the old hand, foot and mouth, and is back at nursery today. She "enjoyed" it more than the time we went in Weymouth back in the Spring; she didn't start crying at all until she'd been in the pool a good five minutes or so, and that crying didn't then become uncontrollable for another 10 minutes - quite an improvement, really. She'll be scuba diving by the end of the year, you mark my words.

Of course, the scuba diving will depend on whether she's still alive, being such a mischievous character, and quite unwilling to listen to her stuffy old parents telling her, "No, don't grab the TV. No, don't pull that wire, it's the plug for the fan. No, don't dribble on the computer. No, don't try to eat the phone. No, don't press the buttons on the freeview box. No, don't pull that large encyclopedia down on top of you. No, don't keep trying to slam that door while your head's in the way. No, don't try and follow that toy that just fell off the bed. No, don't pull all the CDs off the shelf. No, don't grab Daddy's mug of hot tea. No, don't eat Mummy's old flip-flops..."
And the old favourite, "No, don't eat that dirt..."

Millie will not sit still for more than five seconds unless she's being swung upside-down by her feet (but the Lovely Melanie can't sit still while Millie's being swung upside-down by her feet - it makes her too nervous). When she's awake she's indefatigable, always - always - trying to climb Mount Beanbag to reach the lights on the TV, only to be plucked inevitably from the summit by a pair of parental hands and returned to base camp. Either that or she'll be out the door towards the kitchen (never the bathroom, for some reason...) or into the office. The only thing that shouting, "Millie, no!" will get you is a cheeky smile and a flash of her pink heels...

I'm not moaning about this though: she's usually huge fun to be around now, so that being at home with these days is less of a chore - no shaking of toys in front of her for the brazillionth time saying, "Ooh, look, Millie, look; look at this!" These days she can play happily on her own for quite a while while Mummy and Daddy catch that rare repeat of Churchill's Bodyguard on UK TV History.
The standing joke in our house at the moment comes from Millie getting hold of the freeview remote last Thursday and accidentally recording something called His Majesty O'Keefe three times in a row. The "joke" is that Millie loves this programme, and regularly tells us so in a slightly silly posh voice.
ME: "Oh, Mummy, is His Majesty O'Keefe on today? I loves that programme, Daddy. I loves it."
LOVELY MELANIE: No, it isn't.
ME: "Oh, can we watch it on the video, then? I loves that programme. God, it's so brilliant, I loves it. My favourite bit is when..."
LOVELY MELANIE: Shut up, Millie.
ME: "Can we get the platinum edition box-set when it comes out, Mummy? It must be coming out soon, Mummy, because it's such a brilliant programme. Put the video on, Mummy..."

That's our house, these days.

Although, I did get to see Kung Fu Hustle on DVD Saturday night, and that went straight into my top five films of all time without passing Go or collecting 200. Forget His Majesty O'Keefe, Kung Fu Hustle had me laughing, gasping and cheering all the way through it.

Still no new photos on this page, you may have noticed. That's not because we don't have any - far from it, there are some brand new ones up on my Flickr page.
Should I put some on actually this page, do you think? Or is the link to Flickr enough?

Let's have a vote on it, shall we? Click on the links below to send me an email with your opinion (the judge's - that's me - decision is final, no purchase necessary, no correspondence can be entered into unless money is offered).

I want pictures on this page, please.

I prefer seeing the pictures on Flickr.

I like cake.

***

Tuesday 15th August 2006
OK, exit polls are predicting a fairly convincing victory for the "Put more Millie pics on the site, damn it!" party (although the "I like cake" party has made a surprisingly convincing showing, too...) so here are a couple of previously unreleased pictures of Millie doing Millie stuff.

***

Thursday 17th August 2006
"John Prescott faced further embarrassment last night after it was claimed that he had described George Bush as "crap" in a private meeting with Labour MPs."

Hurrah! Go Prezza!

The row is further damage to Mr Prescott..."

What?! "Damage"? You're kidding, right? Gordon Brown's probably crying into his briefcase as we speak, knowing that he's lost his chance to be prime minister!

***

Wednesday 23rd August 2006
Aye caramba. I'm now more of an expert in ventricular tachycardia than I ever thought I would be - I didn't even know what it was before yesterday (although, the tachycardia part was a clue - something to do with fast or irregular heartbeat).

My dad was rushed into hospital on Tuesday morning, not very well at all.
He's had heart problems for a few years now: doctors keep promising him that this surgery or that drug or this new pacemaker will sort him out, but somehow they never quite seem to live up expectations.
My dad was in hospital most of last week; not for anything serious but beccause they were trying out a new drug and wanted to keep him under observation, in case there were any side-effects. However, he came out on Saturday - the drug had had no effect on his heart, and he was still very easily tired and prone to some bouts of unpredictable heart rhythm - so they'd sent him home.

Not, however, before doubling the dose of the drug he was being given. The same drug they'd had to keep him in hospital for previously; on a heart monitor; with expert supervision available at all times in case there were any side-effects.
They doubled the dose and sent him home. Does that make any sense to you?

Well, anyway, I got a call on my mobile at five past seven on Tuesday morning; I hoped it was the Lovely Melanie, ringing to remind me that Millie's name is Millie, or that she needs to wear clothes, or not to give her vodka - something like that.
Because everyone knows that telephone calls after midnight and before roughly 8am are just bad news for everyone concerned: no one ever rang between midnight and 8am to offer me a place on the next space shuttle flight, that's for sure!

And sure enough, it was my brother saying that my dad had gone into hospital with heart problems and wasn't very well. Something to do with ventricular tachycardia. My brother's a paramedic and told me that dad was lucky to be alive now, as sudden ventricular tachycardia is often rapidly fatal. Given that my parents hadn't wanted to make a fuss, and that my mum had driven my dad down to A&E in the car (my dad originally wanted to phone them for advice!!) he was luckier still to be alive!
But alive he was, so having checked there was nothing I could do, I finished feeding Millie (not with vodka), dropped her off at nursery and went into work. I spoke to my other brother (I have two, both younger than me) who lives in Bristol, and he was on his way to Swindon to visit my dad.

When I got into work I looked up ventricular tachycardia on the Net. Given that my youngest brother, the paramedic one, had already said it was pretty serious, this wasn't very reassuring at all: the prognosis for people like my dad, with pre-existing heart problems, who then have an attack of ventricular tachycardia was...patchy.

I told my boss what had happened and then caught a train to Swindon.

Coincidentally, it was the fastest trip to Swindon I've ever made, but that's another story.
I met my mum outside Swindon station and we went to the hospital...only to find the cardiac unit was closed to visitors for a couple of hours so that its patients could get some rest. Fortunately, we found a sympathetic nurse there who recommended we give him a little longer to rest and come back in half an hour or so.

Half an hour later we were ushered into a twilight zone of beds and bleeps; kind of like a normal hospital ward, but with more room and more equipment and more nurses. My dad, as far as we could see in the darkness, was fast asleep, covered in monitors and wires (I mean, really covered in monitors and wires - his chest had almost no hair left on it afterwards!), plus a particularly big monitor right over his heart, which my brother later told me wasn't a monitor at all, it was pad for delivering those electrical shocks that restart the heart if it stops beating. Apparently, if they you expect you to "arrest" (as it's called) then they put the pads on beforehand, to save time. It's not something they do willy-nilly, and was just another measure of how serious my dad's condition was.

As we went in he woke up...and, basically, over the next couple of hours, he got better; to the point where my mum was apologising and saying that he really had looked quite desperately ill that morning.
By the time my youngest brother arrived at about 3pm, my dad was sat up in bed, drinking some tea, reading the paper and joking about making it out to watch The Town (Swindon Town FC, that is) play that evening.
My brother looked at his ECG readings (his heartbeat, essentially) and pronounced him fit and well. And that, really, was that. I caught a train back home an hour or so later.
My dad's still in hospital, still being closely monitored, but fairly decisively recovered. He'll stay in hospital for another couple of days, they think, but then he'll be back home.

And I got back to London in time to see a very very tired Millie just before she went to bed. So everything worked out OK in the end.

Except, perhaps, for the cause of the ventricular tachycardia; but if that wasn't caused by the incredibly poor management of my dad's experimental new drug, then I'm not a world-renowned heart specialist!
And, lest you think I'm blaming our brilliant and noble National Health Service (which, for all its faults, is an institution that makes me incredibly proud to be British), my dad has private health care. The NHS only came into the picture when things went badly wrong, and it had to clean up the mess left behind by private healthcare....

***

Monday 28th August 2006
Don't go to Leigh-on-Sea if you can help it; it's rubbish. We went there with a group of friends on Saturday.
I nearly wrote "gang" instead of "group" there, but at 34, with a wife, child and mortgage, "gang" sounds a bit disingenuous. We haven't been a gang for a while now. Can you actually be in a gang if you have a mortgage?? 34-year-olds insisting they're in a gang makes me think of people who insist they're "crazy". If you have to tell people you're crazy then you're obviously not being crazy enough. If you're actually "a bit crazy" then people will notice (trust me, I know some crazy people, and it's fairly self-evident).

The Lovely Melanie met some self-proclaimed crazy people during her four-hour return journey from Hatfield last night. It would be fair to say that by about the two-hour mark she wasn't in the mood for "craziness" - let alone "wackiness" or - the absolute lowest form of wit - "zany-ness", but that's exactly what she got. "Zany-squared."
The way she tells it, waiting at King's Cross for a train whose arrival time was being used as a random number generator by all the fruit machines in Las Vegas, she was joined by some people coming home from the Notting Hill Carnival.
I've been to "Carnival" twice in the 12 years I've lived in London, and I'm glad I have. But note the past tense, "have".
I've been, it was OK, and I don't want to go again. Once you've seen one person dressed as an enormous butterfly dancing to a very loud sound system, you've pretty much seen them all. And once you've seen one lot of blokes having a smoke on a very slow-moving lorry with a sound system so loud that its mere existence makes your can of warm Foster's (that you paid 4 for) go flat, then you've definitely seen them all...

But we were sat with the Lovely Melanie at King's Cross...
She's joined by a small group of revellers on their way home from the Carnival.
They are "crazy", they tell her.
The Lovely Melanie wearily agrees that they probably are.
No, they insist, they definitely are. Absolutely A1 "bonkers". Why, they've just come from Carnival, therefore practically by definition they are crazy.
Some of them apologise (unnecessarily) to the Lovely Melanie for the impossible levels of sheer craziness currently being experienced on the platform.
The Lovely Melanie's Ker-Razy-ometer stubbornly refuses to register their inherent lunacy.
Hasn't the Lovely Melanie ever been to Carnival, they enquire? Probably not, they murmur sadly - she lacks the necessary "zany quotient".
More unnecessary apologies are proffered for the abnormally bananas nature of these Carnival returnees. The Lovely Melanie finally cracks and says that, yes, she has been to Carnival. And it was a bit rubbish.
The crazy people, stunned into sobriety, leave.

Fortunately, we didn't see any of this kind of thing in Leigh-on-Sea. When we walked the couple of miles to Southend we saw a little bit more of it, but it was true craziness - the kind of pissed-up English seaside resort craziness that you really really don't want to be encountering after dark. And, after the mud flats, fish smell and desolation of Leigh-on-Sea, it was almost a relief to see (did you know they've tarmacced the "beach" of Leigh-on-Sea? I kid you damn well not: instead of building a seawall or something sensible like that they've poured tarmac along a mile-long stretch of the coast. It's quite a remarkable sight in a sort of beating-Mother-Nature-to-death-with-a big-stick-with-a-nail-in-the-end sort of way).

So everyone made a fuss of Millie, we had a great big lunch, bought some rock (the sugary mint variety) and played a game of "Adventure Golf" at the Southend Pleasure Beach. I highly recommend the Adventure Golf. It isn't eh most imaginative in terms of the course obstacles, but they've really gone to town with the surrounding scenery, and I was jolly pleased with my score of 26 over 9 holes.

After a pint in a local Wetherspoon's pub that welcomed Millie (Millie thinks all pubs are like Wetherspoons) we jumped on the train home, and were back in sunny Forest Hill just 90 minutes later. Since we were all absolutely exhausted it was just as well. A four-hour journey with added wackiness wasn't something we could have dealt with without resorting to some particularly zany violence.

Here's the Lovely Melanie and Millie on the mud flats at Leigh, and Millie and "Uncle" Mike reading the papers in the pub in Southend.

Millie's getting more and more mobile, which is half blessing, half problem. It's a blessing because, as I think I mentioned, she can amuse herself to a certain extent now: crawling around the house, eating dust and dead flies, using any vaguely supportive object to hold onto while she stands up (it's the getting back down again that's currently a bit of a problem for her). The problem is that she never wants to stay where it would be convenient for us for her to stay, and consequently our house continually echoes with the tolerant refrain, "Millie, where are you, poppet? What are you doing, eh?"

And we thought, the Lovely Melanie and I, that we were largely immune to smells of pooh, these days; that we could be vomited on, pee'd on, poohed on, burped over, whatever, but when I walked into Millie's room yesterday...her entire bedroom smelt bad. She can fill entire rooms - not just a nappy - with eau de schiesse, these days; give her an hour in a medium-sized room and she can make it pretty much uninhabitable, yet with no outward signs that anything untoward has happened.

Thanks to everyone who sent their good wishes regarding my dad - he's out of hospital and still doing fine. Well, no worse than he was before, at any rate.

If you really wanted to help him then you should bid on some of the comics I'm selling on eBay... Nothing cheers me dad up like his son's comics selling well on eBay. ;-)

And my job search has gotten off to a disappointing start, it must be said.
Come on, folks, I'm writing my heart out here, surely someone in a position of power must be chuckling along and thinking, "Yeah, you know what? We should headhunt this guy - he's a funny guy!"

***

Tuesday 5th September 2006
Rubbish at updating this last week, I know. Parties, new floors and applying for jobs are taking up all my time at the moment. Mostly applying for jobs.

Millie's very well, I'm a bit run down, and there'll be a proper update, erm...very soon.
Quite soon at the latest.

Now, let me just try and remember: why am I a dynamic, go-getting, self-motivating team-player who has always wanted to work in web content management...??

***

Monday 11th September 2006
I've been away so long that I rather imagine everyone's given up reading this site now.
Two weeks - two weeks! - with just one measly "test card" update to say "Nothing has changed here", except for a paradoxical message saying nothing has changed. That's where a polytechnic degree in Philosophy will get you, folks.

I may still not be quite with it after last week's illness.

Anyway, break in service due to being, first of all, busy, and second of all, ill.
I had a nasty cold last week which left me off work and in bed. I should point out that it wasn't "flu". It wasn't nasty enough to be flu, so let's call it a gale-force cold. Fortunately plenty of milky tea and This Morning saw me through it.
We were supposed to be taking Millie to Hatfield to see her grandparents-in-law on Friday, but I wasn't well enough to go, and had to straggle up there rather belatedly on Saturday, spreading snot and tissues everywhere I went, like some kind of sticky benefactor.

But we had a lovely time once we we were all there. Millie, particularly, spent the whole weekend getting desperately overexcited at the merest glimpse of the cat, Fergus. She's crawling very well indeed now, up hill and o'er dale, into bins and ovens, off of tables and across sharp, gravelly patches.
And she covered all these different types of terrain to keep up with Fergus. When she caught up with him though - and whilst in pursuit you may as well have stuck a blue light on her head, as she emitted a police siren-like sound the whole time - no "stealth baby" this.
Anyway, when she caught up with "The Hairy Baby", as we call cats now, despite all the fuss and excitement, trepidation set in and Millie would stop about a foot away from him. You could see the conflict going on in her head: her hand would reach out to touch Fergus...and then snap back. Her eyes would be wide, she'd wail in a mixture of nervousness and wonder, reach out again, nervously pull her hand back, then look at me, look at Fergus and then... GRAB his ear! Or his tail. Or just a handful of fur.
Fortunately, Ferg is a placid old thing, and quite obviously has the patience of a saint, because regardless of the number of decibels Millie emitted and her endless attempts to manhandle him he never showed us his claws, just wandered away to the other side of the garden.
Where he would be followed by a small, screeching child. Poor Ferg.

There are some lovely new pictures on Flickr. If I can find time between revising my CV, filling in some badly-thought out application forms and trying to fit a wireless network at home I'll try and add one or two on this page.
But I warn you now - don't hold your breath. The garden is also competing for my attention (ooh, we've had some delicious tomatoes from there these past couple of weeks!), as are some book reviews, about seven films I've recorded, and five new CDs waiting to be given a listen.
And some DIY, too. I'd rather not talk about that, though. We've got this coming weekend "free", so the Lovely Melanie has pencilled me in for various "jobs" that have been on the "To-Do" list for many months.

So I'd better get on with it, hadn't I, rather than talking to you.

Millie, by the way, still has no teeth. She, is, however, becoming ever more interactive and social. She knows to say "Ma-ma-ma-ma" when she wants something, and "Da-da-da-da" when she wants to play. We can put her down on the floor in the living room and she'll scamper down the hallway to her room (our new laminate flooring in the hallway makes that so much easier now) within about 20-30 seconds, and we'll hear her getting busy in her room, such that, when we slowcoach grown-ups finally get there, you can see the exact route she's taken through her room - lights knocked over, blankets pulled off low shelves, cupboards doors opened, books stripped from bookcases... rather like a little tornado has torn through it; and then you'll come to Millie, probably underneath a table, picking up and eating all the dust balls from underneath a chest of drawers, and humming to herself.
You try and tell people that she was born three months premature - they won't believe you! :-)

And (almost) finally...
What big, important news stories didn't you hear about in the past year?
These news stories, that's which ones..

I don't expect anyone to read all the way through that page (it's a pretty exhaustive list) but you might want to have a quick skim through - some of them sound really rather important.

At least the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown "domestic" isn't on there. But I wouldn't really call that news, personally.

Definitely finally: do you not think there's a great English version of new film Crank waiting to be made? In the UK remake Hugh Grant plays an upper-class English hitman who is injected with a poison that will kill him if he is embarrassed by anything.
It's more of a comedy than a thriller, I suspect.

***

Tuesday 12th September 2006
Just some thoughts about how the internet has changed my world.
14 years ago, back in the very early '90s, when I was at university studying for my degree, no-one had ever heard of the internet. I'd heard of cyberspace, thanks to William Gibson, but I'd never seen its closest living relative, the internet.
This was a time when all of my essays were written out by hand, using a pen, on paper. The only reason the library had computers in it was for us to look up which books were available!

When I was studying for my Masters during 1996-97, I still wrote essays out by hand, but the library at my university did have a few computers to access the web on. Not that anybody really knew what to do with it. I still recall sitting down at one of these, opening Netscape Navigator (I did at least know that NN was the way to access the web back then), typing "Modernism" into the address bar, and being perplexed when an error came up. Eventually I gave up and went to have a look at some proper paper books. The point is: nobody knew how to use a web browser then, and - importantly - this was less than ten years ago!

I'm just writing this because I do a hell of a lot of research at work, and 99.9% of it is now done on the web.
When I started this job, seven years ago, the office had one PC that had a dial-up modem and could be used to access the web to look things up. We didn't use it very often, partly because it took so bloody long to connect, but also because we had quite a reasonable selection of reference books that could be used to check things out.
Trust me, subtitlers have to check some pretty weird things out.

What's my point?
Now we use the internet for almost everything. We all have network access to a super-duper gazillion megabyte broadband connection. If I want to check a spelling, or a fact, or find out what on earth something means, I no longer have to go and look it up in a book; nowadays I can look it up one-handed on the internet in seconds. Copy it from Swift, our special subtitling software, then paste-and-go it into a search window in my browser (Opera - so much better than Internet Explorer).

And that's it. You can look up anything, find out anything, in seconds with just a few finger movements. Come on, that's a genuinely god-like power you've got there. Move a finger, find out anything...

When I was younger (note: not "young", just "younger") if I was reading this article and, say, I didn't know who William Gibson was then I'd have to go to a library or a bookshop and find a book about "William Gibson". I could ask people I knew if they'd heard of him, or I could maybe write a letter to the British Science Fiction Association and hope they would eventually write back with some information.

Now you want to know who William Gibson is? What he's written? What he's writing next? What awards he's won? Where he lives? What he likes for dinner? Who his wife is? If he has a wife?
Click on his name: William Gibson. Click on some of the links around his name above. That's all you have to do.

I count myself as being pretty computer-literate and up-to-speed with current technology, but even so, when I think about how easy, how fast it is now to find out something you don't know, then it's almost frightening.

Going to a friend's house, but don't know the area they live in? Previously, you bought an A To Z and took that with you. Now you look it up on Streetmap.

Want to keep up to date with your favourite band? I've got some old copies of Smash Hits from 1986 at home, and the back pages are full of ads for fan clubs. You'd pay your money (oh, yeah - you had to pay for this privilege) and if you were lucky you'd get a newsletter from them a few times a year. That's right: a few times a year.

Want to buy an old out-of-print book? Go to Amazon, or to Abe Books.
When I was researching my Masters thesis on science fiction I had to find some pretty obscure old books, and I found them all (except two) by scouring second-hand shops. Everywhere the Lovely Melanie and I went we'd dive into any old junk shop we found and I'd flick through all the books. It took a long time.
But then, just as I was coming to the end of writing my thesis, I heard about this "internet book shop" in the US called, weirdly, "Amazon". You typed in what books you were looking for and they could tell you instantly if they had them. It was absolutely incredible - and they were pretty cheap, too - even with postage from the US!
I was pretty nervous about buying something over the internet - who the hell were these people? Were they for real? Could they be trusted? But in the end I sent them my details and, sure enough, a copy of Blood Music and A Canticle For Leibowitz - hitherto unobtainable - arrived at my door within a week!

Nobody thinks twice about it now, but at the time this was just crazy stuff. Again, move a finger, and stuff from the other side of the planet is sent to you.

So my point is, I think, that Millie's going to grow up in a world where this is the norm. She's never going to type "Modernism" into the address bar. Everything she could ever want to learn is going to be available for her within seconds. She's never going to wonder "Who/what/where/why/how is X?" and not be able to find out.
She probably won't use shops ("shops" as in "buildings that contain a limited number of products for sale to physically present customers") much at all, except local ones that sell milk or Mars bars. Hell, I almost never go to shops for anything but food or drink, these days.

No, really. I can't remember the last time I went somewhere to do some "shopping".

And this is what Millie's world will be like: very different from the one I grew up in, in a way that mine wasn't different from my parents. Is it good? Is it bad? I'm inclined to think it's more good than bad; but the one thing I am sure of is that I can't imagine how Millie will shape and use this "god-like" power available to her, never having known anything different.

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Thursday 14th September 2006
Celebrate! I now have 450 eBay feedback ratings! And they're 99.6% positive!
I'm debating whether to put that on my CV or not (you may laugh, but it's taken time, effort and consistent good relations with 450 different people to achieve that rating - surely qualities any employer would appreciate?)

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Monday 18th September 2006
We took Millie swimming again at the weekend.

She didn't like it at all.

And this was despite going in the "baby pool" this time, which is warmer and shallower. If anything she was actually worse than last time. We took her on Sunday morning, about 9.30, and she was in a great mood - babbling and gabbling all the way to the leisure centre - sat bolt upright in her pushchair, watching everything going on around her and telling us all about it, smilling and giggling... until we got to The Bridge in Sydenham, our very nice local swimming pool.

The place was full of other parents with their children (nobody sane or without children gets up before lunchtime on a Sunday to go swimming - if you're not a parent or not sane then there''s a whole ecosystem of people you barely, if ever, interact with!) Millie started looking unsure when we were still in the changing rooms; her bottom lip started wobbling when we were stood beside the pool; she moved up a gear to actual crying when we got into the water, and then moved up another gear to full-on wailing when we tried to convince her that she was perfectly safe in the pool.
She then moved up to another gear we didn't even know she had, after about 10 fruitless minutes in the pool: doing all of the above with an absolutely furious grunting wail.

Every other child in the pool was fine, even some much younger than Millie.
Some other friendly mums and dads took pity on us, coming over to say "hello", and to try to distract Millie from her watery tantrum, but to no avail. I managed to calm her for a minute by hugging her tightly and shushing gently into her ears, but it didn't work for long.

Our thanks to a chap there with his very young daughter, who reassured us that sometimes his daughter she really really didn't like swimming either (this said as she repeatedly dived in off the side...)

Well, regardless, we're going again next weekend. We think - actually, we know - that we don't go swimming often enough for Millie to feel familiar and at ease with the experience. Hopefully if we go a few weeks on the trot Millie will learn not to be so upset and frightened.
Alternatively, maybe she takes after the Lovely Melanie and just doesn't like being in water particularly (unless it has lots of bubbles in it, and at least three rubber ducks).

I was also possessed by the spirit of Handy Andy this weekend - that's the only reason I can think of for the amount of DIY jobs I got done without bodging a single one of them. I cleaned and repaired door locks, replaced door handles, safely removed a door, cleaned out the garden, planted some strawberries, all without a single problem.
That said, I'll probably get home tonight and find the front door hanging off its hinges, lock dangling, garden on fire and strawberries eaten by lions.
Do lions eat strawberries?

Finally, the Lovely Melanie was aghast to see I spent the best part of an hour learning to use Photoshop to make people hairy.
Those "hair-ified" so far include Millie, our friends' little boy Jack, the Lovely Melane's dad, and myself.
I've been forbidden to post any examples here, but if you have Photoshop at home then I highly recommend the tutorial here.

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Tuesday 19th September 2006
(Imagine this entry is whispered...)
You know, there's nothing quite as satisfying as sitting watching the Channel Four News with your daughter asleep on your chest.
There are more exciting things, more productive things, more rock'n'roll things, yes, I grant you that, but nothing as quietly rewarding as simply sitting on the sofa holding your sleeping baby girl, knowing she's warm and safe and happy, and hearing her snuffling contentedly every few minutes.

That's a quiet moment when you think, having kids is great; I may have had my doubts about this occasionally, but a small sleeping child on your chest really sorts out your priorities.

There are some new comedy pictures on Flickr. Now, shhh...

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