The (true) Story of Millie Harriet Carter
Part 6, a second Christmas

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 5 - summer in the city

Read Part 7 - a third year

Read Part 8 - Baby Amber cometh...

Read Part 9 - everything changes


Tuesday 15th May 2007

Pretty pictures, as promised, of the most excellent and totally non-heinous wedding of my brother, Rich, and his lovely wife, Carla.
Millie did us proud with her part - managing to walk up the aisle on her own without too much coaxing, and to stay quiet throughout the entire ceremony.  Afterwards, despite it being a very long day for her, she was brilliant: wandering about the venue quite happily on her own, fascinated by everything that was happening, saying 'Hiya!' to strangers, eating loads of poppadums (throwing even more on the floor!) and chocolate pudding.  She was a bit frightened by the sudden arrival of the bhangra drummers (yes, that's right, bhangra drummers), but they were very loud so it's hardly surprising.

More surprising was how much she loved being on the dance floor.  
The Lovely Melanie first discovered this  - dancing along by herself to some tune or other with Millie in her arms; then I had a try...and, by golly, I've seldom seen such a small girl so excited!  Whether it was the disco lights, the music, me spinning her round and round, or a combination of all three, she was absolutely ecstatic, and spent a couple of hours being passed around the dance floor, until being suddenly ambushed by Mr Sandman at about 10.30 - very very late indeed for a little Millie.
She stayed on the dancefloor for a bit even after falling asleep, since every time my auntie tried to sneak away to put her to sleep in her buggy, she'd wake up and howl until they took her back there!

Millie, the Lovely Melanie and I had a hell of a day yesterday, too.  We caught the train back from Swindon at midday, dropped our bags off at home and shot back out the door to look at some houses in Sidcup and Bexley, two places not exactly located at the end of our street...
By the time we got back home just before 6pm, we were all of us shattered, and just about done with trains.
On the plus side, we did rather like the look and feel of Bexley, even if we didn't actually find a house there.

As soon as we stepped out of Bexley station I knew that the Lovely Melanie was going to love it.  Bexley looks and feels a lot like a village, despite being in London (just about); it's very green, has lots and lots of small independent shops, and no obvious dual carriageways running through it.
For my part, I thought the transport links into the centre were acceptable,  the houses we saw were pleasant, and the M25 is only a couple of miles away so that visitors from the West Country can probably get there quicker than they can to Forest Hill (because you can skip almost all of that  'driving through London' nonsense).
So we might be moving to Bexley at some point in the near future, although we've still yet to check two more areas - Lee and Mottingham.  And who knows, something nice may yet turn up in SE23...

Finally, what's the best thing on the internet at the moment? (apart from this site, of course)
It's this essay by Charles Stross, who I've linked to before, about some things we can expect in the future.
It's not about spaceships and rocket packs and aliens, but it is quite long, contains some big numbers, and talks about computers a lot.
I highly recommend it.

***

Thursday 10th May 2007
As mentioned below, I'm now officially a "vocal talent", having spent this morning in a recording studio in Soho laying down some tracks recording the audio description track for two DVDs.
In actual fact it was 'only' the audio description for the bonus features on the DVDs, but it all went remarkably well (as far as I could tell) and was surprisingly fun to do.  You need a clear speaking voice, and the ability to read a script and watch a screen at the same time, but once that's mastered then it's all gravy, really!

So if anyone out there requires a male vocal talent then do get in touch with me.

Meanwhile, in the real world, we're off to Swindon this weekend for my brother's wedding:  I'm an usher (I expect they'll ask me to make a speech, given my now-famous speaking voice) and Millie's a bridesmaid - so expect some pictures of Chernobyl-level cuteness when we get back.
It should be a brilliant weekend, and I'm sure you'll all join me in hoping everything is most excellent and totally non-heinous for Carla and Richard, the bride and groom to be... :-)

***

Tuesday 8th May 2007
A busy but largely unproductive weekend, I'm afraid - except for Skiffy* London
Friday evening and Sunday afternoon I volunteered at Sci-Fi London for the first time, which was fun.  What was especially nice is that I didn't expect it to be.  This is largely due to me being crap at meeting new people, especially when I'm on my own and the people I'm meeting are a well-established group (which is usually the main reason, if I'm honest, why I don't go to science fiction events - the science fiction fan universe is quite a small place, and I know very few people in it well enough to go up and start a conversation with them; whereas everyone else in it seems to know everyone else).

Sci-Fi London, however, seemed to be full of first-time volunteers just like me, so most people were eager to talk to someone; plus, the work wasn't hard work at all, and seemed to consist of simply being nice to and helping out a slightly baffled general public.  Well, I can do that, no problem - my shyness with complete strangers is curiously negated if I have an official reason to speak to people, and so Friday evening found me on Regent Street and around Piccadilly Circus enthusiastically handing out programmes and loudly extolling the virtues of the festival to anyone and everyone!

The other nice thing about Sci-Fi London is that it's not a geek festival.  There's no Star Trek or Star Wars or Buffy or any of that TV sci-fi that seems to attract the socially challenged like moths to a candle.  Sci-Fi London was populated almost exclusively by reasonable, intelligent, attractive human beings with no desire whatsoever to dress as a Klingon.
And it shows some great films: ranging from the intelligent, thought-provoking and moving, to mindlessly and hilariously brilliant no-budget schlock.

We do not have a new house yet, despite some mighty efforts (mostly on the part of the Lovely Melanie).  We haven't even agreed where we should be focussing our efforts to look for a new house yet.
Although, we have agreed to stop looking in Upminster and Bexleyheath.

On the Millie front: she's discovered that she can skip the main course of her dinner and cut straight to the delicious pudding by the simple expedient of refusing to eat  the main course.  We're now in the process of teaching her that, actually, this is most certainly not the case; that she is going to eat her main course otherwise there will be no delicious pudding to follow.
Millie is finding this a hard lesson to absorb.  Our carpets, on the other hand, are absorbing Millie's main courses surprisingly well.
But bless her, she's been so good about being carted around the suburbs of London to look at houses.  I wonder what she thinks we're doing, going to all these strange places for just 5-10 minutes at a time.  She seems to enjoy it though - wandering about strangers' homes, poking into cupboards and corners...


* 'Skiffy' - a deliberate mispronunciation of 'Sci-Fi' meant to differentiate- ahem - proper 'science fiction' from its bastard TV cousin 'sci-fi'; it's a slightly insulting term.  Even geeks have their hierarchies, you know.

***

Friday 4th May 2007
Nope, we're not buying that house. Nice size, nice spot, a not unreasonable price (for London), but it'd need fahsands of pahnds of work doing to it.

Millie seemed to like it - she pushed her toy buggy up the hill from our house to this one; no mean feat for someone so small, but she's a demon with that buggy grippped in her tiny fingers - there's no stopping her.
Fortunately, she's stopped trying to push it into the road, and seems to have the idea of 'path=good, road=death' firmly in her tousled little head.  She loves going to look at houses, too: charging into them, running up the stairs, clomping about like an elephant on the bare wooden floors - and last night mysteriously standing with her back to the wall of one of the bedrooms and smiling, over and over again.
I had to check her nappy to see if she'd done 'a stinkie' (she hadn't).

Life is so much easier now she's got a bit of language inside her, not to mention funnier, with the way she says things or puts words together.  For some reason she tells us she's unhappy by saying 'Daddy/Mummy, baby,' but in a very drawn out style.  I think the 'Daddy' or 'Mummy' bit is her catching your attention, and the 'baby' means that she - that is to say, the Millays - needs some form of attention.  But my favourite thing is when she drops something and says 'Uh-oh!'

'Uh-oh!'

And here's an exciting piece of news, red-hot off the presses: next week at work I'm scheduled to try some audio description work, which is kind of like subtitling for blind people.  It means recording a verbal description of what's happening onscreen in a film; this description is then added as an extra audio soundtrack so that blind or partially-sighted people can have a reasonable idea what's happening onscreen.

If all goes well then it'll be my actual voice on DVDs, not just my subtitles!
See, mama, I told you I was going to be a star!

***

Thursday 3rd May 2007
Doo-do-do boo-boobedy boo boo bah da da de-doo-dah...mm hmmm...

Oh, er, is this thing on?  Whoops!
Slow day at work today so I may as well write something.  Just been proofing the subtitles for Shrek 3 and writing the subtitles for some '70s programme about Henrik Ibsen.  The Lovely Melanie and I are house hunting tonight, around Forest Hill - we still don't know where we're going to be living yet; however, I discovered yesterday that moving out to somewhere in Hertfordshire (which is where the Lovely Melanie inexplicably wants to live) will cost me almost 3,000 a year just to get to work and back.
By comparison, my current bus pass costs less than 600 and can take me anywhere inside the M25.

God knows we don't have that 3,000 to spare at the moment - we don't have 300 pence to spare these days.
I can only dream what it's going to be like when we don't have to pay nursery fees any more, and our disposable income quad...er, quin...um...what's the word for increases six times?  Let's just say "increases six-fold", shall we?
Or is it seven?  Anyway, we'll have hundreds of squids a month to fritter away on rubbish like new shoes and clothes, holidays, bedroom wardrobes with doors that will open without a crowbar - hell, we could even afford biscuits with chocolate on!  No more Value Digestives.
Blimey, imagine that...

If anyone's going to the Sci-Fi London Festival this weekend (and I recommend you do - they've got some cracking films lined up) then look out for me, as I'm working as a volunteer there.

***

Wednesday 2nd May 2007
My daughter gave me a kiss this morning, as I was dropping her at nursery.
I said to her, as I so often do, 'Are you going to give Daddy a kiss?' expecting her to ignore me, as usual; but no, she walked over, a big grin on her face, and gave me a big, wet, snotty kiss.
:-D
***

Thursday 26th April 2007

More Millie maladies this week - I was called from work on Tuesday because the girl had the dreaded conjunctivitis.  Never mind that she's had some nasty diarrhoea for a week - that's not a problem at nursery: explosive decompression in the rectal area and subsequent emission of fecal matter is all in a days' work for those brave ladies at Seedlings nursery; show them a gooey eye, however, and they collapse like a Jenga tower at a Parkinson's sufferers social.
Millie's fine in herself though, you wouldn't know she was ill until you opened up a nappy; although, she does have some chronic nappy rash at the moment (from the diarrhoea), which isn't helping her sleep at night.
So we had a lovely day on Tuesday, out in the back garden playing with the tap, a bucket and the gravel.  By dinner time she was absolutely sopping wet and half-naked.  ust as well the Lovely Melanie was at work, really. ;-)

She went to stay with my parents last weekend, while I was at my brother's stag do in Southampton (about which I'm forbidden to talk - what goes on the road, stays on the road - I was made to swear).  
But anyway, my parents couldn't believe the change in her: the fact that you can now ask her to do things - quite a lot of different things - and she'll do them.  If it's what she wants to do.  I thought they might be a bit more blase about Millie's development, having seen something very similar three times before, but, no, they seem as excited by it all as the Lovely Melanie and myself!

 And she's still picking up words at a fantastic rate.  Yesterday morning we learnt 'shoes', for example.  Even better than that, ten minutes later, Millie was watching me put my shoes on to go to work, then she ran off to her bedroom next door and came back with...her shoes!
And last night's word was 'beeping'.  Which reminds me - we're going to have to be exceptionally careful not to swear now, as it only takes a couple of repetitions for Millie to pick something up...

I'm going to Minehead from tomorrow until Monday, for the All Tomorrow's Parties festival at the Butlins camp there.  No babies at all - no one under 18, in fact - and whilst I'm going to miss the family terribly, I'm also going to have one hell of a dangerously stupid time and behave like a crazy fool with no responsibilities whatsoever.  Tee hee.
See you when I get back.

***

Thursday 19th April 2007

THE SCENE: in bed this morning, around 6.45.  The alarm has just gone off.
The Lovely Melanie: Have you touched my alarm clock?
Me: Mm? Oh, yeah, it was an hour and 20 minutes slow so I put it right.
The Lovely Melanie: Doh!  No wonder!  I thought it was eight o'clock.
Me: Why?
The Lovely Melanie: Well, I know it's wrong, so I automatically allow for that.
Me: Why not just put it right so you don't have to add 80 minutes every time you look at it?
The Lovely Melanie: What?

***

Tuesday 17th April 2007

Millie's three favourite things at the moment:
  • The outdoor tap
It's like a tap!  Except that it's, like, outside!  And water comes out of it!  Oh.  My.  God.  
You can wash your hands under it where you are OR you can fill the red watering can and get wet hands somewhere else!  
You can even get Daddy to turn it on fast and get completely soaked! (only before bath time, mind)
  • The drain in our back garden.
Honestly, it's like a dark magnet to her - especially if there's water glugging through.  
Her eye is always initially caught by the outdoor tap, but on her way there she'll gradually bend towards the drain, pause a foot or two away and just lean over a little bit, lifting her chin to get a look into it.  
She'll look a bit worried for a few seconds and then carry on to the tap.  
Drains - can they be trusted?  The jury is still out...
  • Gravel
THINGS YOU CAN DO WITH GRAVEL: Carry it; drop it; eat it (not); walk on it; sit on it; throw it; sort it; give it away as presents; push it through holes in the fence; put it in a little bucket; take it out of a little bucket; put it in a little bucket to be taken indoors and then tipped out.
THINGS YOU CAN'T DO WITH GRAVEL: Push a pushchair on it.
***
Monday 16th April 2007
Finally, I have a bit of time and space to write something...and I don't have anything to say!

Last week there were paragraphs floating around in my head about political correctness, about house buying/selling, about why I want to bring Millie up in London, and, ooh, god, just everything!

But for some reason - coughMilliecough - I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find the time and the inclination to write much at the moment.  I'm still job hunting, which takes up a bit of time, and we're still a very busy family generally, what with the house hunting and all, but just now I'm finding it hard work to sit down at the computer and just write.  Even that reliable old staple, the book review, is currently a bit of an uphill struggle, rather than the process of cropping and managing my unruly verbiage it normally would be.

Well, let's just talk about Millie a bit, shall we?  That usually helps get things rolling.

She had a whale of a time in the Peak District, running about with the other two toddlers there, continually being amazed by Shetland ponies and rabbits, geese and swans, cows and sheep, motorway service stations...Her vocabulary's expanding by about a word a day at the moment.  It's a patchy and uneven development - words come and words go, and then come back again two weeks later - but you can ask her to do things now, and she'll do what you say, so she obviously understands much more than she can say.  'Millie, can you take this to Mummy?'

'Yeah!'
And she'll do it.

'Millie, it's bath-time.'
'Yeah!'
And she'll go to the bathroom.

But then -
'Millie, have you read that French translation of The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, like I asked you to?'
'Yeah!'

Although, that does remind me that Millie's favourite book at the moment is a slim pamphlet entitled Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Anarchism...But Were Afraid To Ask.  She'll disappear off to the living room and unfailingly come back with that, to sit in your lap so you can read it to her.
For about 5 seconds, before wandering out to the office to rearrange her crayons again.

***

Friday 13th April 2007
We're back from the Peak District, and a bit tired, having had a full-on whale of a time.
Still no proper update on our adventures yet, but here's a whole page of excellent Peaks pictures.


***

Saturday 7th April 2007
Loads and loads of great stuff going on that I could be writing about here...if I only I had the time.
You're going to have to continue inventing great imaginary stuff for us all to be doing, too, as we're off to the Peak District for a week from tomorrow; and whilst my new phone is all-singing and all-dancing in so many areas (I managed to write a book review on it a couple of days ago!) I haven't managed to make it update and upload website shenanigans yet.  Sorry.
I am, even as I type, putting some new Flickr pictures up though.  Expect many more once we get back from the Peaks...

***
Wednesday 28th March 2007
Hello.  Long time no see.
Our house flat maisonette is up for sale.  Go to this website and put  250,000 in the maximum price and se23 in the area to see.
We're the Kilmorie Road maisonette on for 249,999.99p.  
Ahh, just a little house-buyers' joke there, ho ho ho.  No, we're on for 249,995 - at 250,000 the tax on selling your house goes up to 3% (below that it's only 1%).  We can talk about houses and stamp duty and mortgages a lot if you let us.  We try not to, but it's an effort.
I guess that means we're properly middle class now.  Which would explain why I've developed a taste for houmus and we get a box of organic veg delivered every month.  In a desperate attempt to stem the tide, I've started swearing unnecessarily and reading the biographies of darts players.

Millie's vocabulary is steadily increasing.  We've now got "Ta" (as in "thank you") sorted; "DVD", "ball", and we seem to have "yes" figured out as well.  I want to check that a bit more, to make sure she's not simply making a yes-like sound when asked any question.
On Monday I asked her to sit down so I could put her shoes on, and she did; and the excitement on her face when you offer to put the favourite Baby Einstein DVD on (the Mozart one) is something to behold - my heart just melts when she then goes and gets her little red chair from across the room, drags it in front of the TV and climbs into it, sitting there literally aquiver with expectation.
Millie's also very affectionate at the moment with the Lovely Melanie and myself, and loves being lifted and carried around the house (sorry, the maisonette).
Of course, she's also learnt how to be a right little madam when she wants to.
Don't go thinking Millie likes being carried everywhere though - she's really getting into her walking now, regularly trekking to the end of our street - a good 5 minute stroll on grown-up legs, for Millie it's more like 15 minutes!

Also on Monday, I went to see 300 at the cinema in Peckham, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  
It's from the comic by Frank Miller, who also wrote Sin City, and was filmed using the same greenscreen process as that film, so you kind of know what to expect.  And whilst I wouldn't like to vouch for its' historical veracity (for starters, I'm pretty certain Spartan children were raised entirely apart from their parents) you do get a real feeling for the thunderous, larger-than-life, legendary nature of the Classical world.

***

Wednesday 21st March 2007
The April edition of Prima Baby and Pregnancy came out today, complete with words and pictures by the Lovely Melanie and Millie.
I haven't seen it yet, but I'm reliably informed that they're part of the first article - something like "Tired of thoughtless comments about your baby's size?" - and the tagline for our their bit is "Millie is not a doll!"

And some rather less pleasant news: my cousin, Holly, who's only 12, has been just been diagnosed with diabetes.  Hope you're out of hospital and feeling better soon, Holly.
But if it makes you feel any better, your cousin Stu has been a diabetic for 22 years, and he's doing perfectly OK for himself... :-)

***
Monday 19th March 2007
We've had a lovely weekend with our friends, Adam and Sadie and their two young lads, Dylan and Fergus, at their home in Lincolnshire - but we look, MIllie and I, more like we spent a week in Iraq!
I've got a nasty gash on my head from not looking where I was going whilst playing Hide And Seek with Dylan, and MIllie...well.

It was pretty damned windy up in Lincolnshire, but we had a lovely country walk on the Sunday morning - seeing a bit of nature, some sheep, some geese, some, er, trains, and whatnot.  I picked a thistle for Millie, which she was fascinated by and didn't even try to eat (fortunately).  But it all went a bit pear-shaped just as we we got back into Adam and Sadie's street and MIllie dropped her thistle.  I was going to let it go at first, but Millie kicked up a bit of a stink, so I nipped into the road to get it back.
Four or five, seconds I took - maybe not even that - and when I looked round it was to see Millie's pushchair being blown upside-goddamn-down by the wind!  Honestly, you wouldn't have believed it.  I almost didn't.
I had it back upright in two seconds flat, and the Lovely Melanie whipped a screaming Millie out of the seat even quicker to check she was OK.  Fortunately she was mostly OK, but she had a bright red graze down one side of her face and was obviously a bit traumatised by the whole business.  As who wouldn't be, eh?

Still, we had a really nice weekend in Lincolnshire (there are some new pictures on Flickr), especially Millie, who couldn't get enough of three-year-old Dylan - she followed him round, laughing and screeching at everything he did, and actually trying to play with him.  As for bathtime...putting three small naked children together was absolute giggling mayhem before they even got into the water!
We're staying at the Peak District with some other friends over Easter, and their children are all slightly older than MIllie, so it'll be interesting to see how she gets on with them, too.

In other big news, we're planning to move again.  Not far from where we live now, but to a bigger place; and not a flat either - this time we're reaching for the skies and aiming for a proper house.
There are various reasons for this: our current flat is OK, but it's a bit small (especially if there were ever to be four of us...), and while our upstairs neighbours are really nice, they can be a bit , ahem, boisterous at times.

The main reason for me though is that the place is just a bit...I was going to say 'shoddy', but that's the wrong word.  It's more that the people who owned it before us were moronic vandals with no DIY-sense whatsoever.
Really - absolutely none.  If anything they were some kind of negative-DIYers, doing the polar opposite of what you should do.  Trained squirrels could have done a better job.  Dead trained squirrels could have done better.

And this is from someone who can barely wire a plug, let alone put up a shelf straight.  However, I know enough not to, say, paint over an entire window frame while the window is shut or over the bolt on the front door.  Fitting doors two inches shorter than the door frame?  My guess would be not to do that.  What about wiring ceiling lights onto a wall so that they stick out an inch?  Again, probably a no-no. 
Then, of course, there's their piece de resistance - trying to cover up a two-foot tall hole in the outside wall with a couple of pieces of MDF.
Yes or no - what do you think?
If you were being generous you'd say that they were just completely and utterly incompetent.
If you'd just found another set of shelves nailed up then you'd be more likely to say they didn't give a toss, and were lazy, incompetent chancers who'll be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

So we're throwing in the towel.  Rather than try to fix a never-ending list of annoying little problems in a flat that we've never really fallen in love with, we're going to move somewhere else.
And this time - you better believe it - we're going to be the nit-picking buyers from hell.  One single creaking floorboard and we're walking away.  A small shelf at the back of a cupboard not level to within five decimal places?  See ya.  Front lawn not well manicured enough to play professional level bowls on?  You should be ashamed...

***
Wednesday 14th March 2007
Generally speaking, I like to get Wednesdays over with as quickly as possible.  Not only is it the middle of the tedious working week, but it's the time when I usually haven't seen my daughter for over 24 hours.  I drop her off at nursery on Tuesday morning, but by the time I get home that evening she's already tucked up in bed.  Then, Wednesdays, I pick her up from nursery in the evening, which means I have to leave for work before she gets up - Tuesday morning until Wednesday evening with no Millie.  Bummer, man.

It's one of the reasons I'm not going to Glastonbury this year, despite there not being one last year and missing the year before that because the Lovely Melanie was in hospital.  This year the excuse is that nursery costs mean it would be very difficult to afford, but also the prospect of five whole days away from that little fat baby is, at the moment, just not do-able.
The Lovely Melanie's been crowing about it a bit - 'When we first met you said  you'd rather die than miss Glastonbury,' etc.  
Well, that's still almost true, I am going to be extremely grumpy indeed come the end of June.  
But I'd be a shadow of my former unstoppable hedonistic self at Glastonbury, moping about the campsite, looking at pictures of her on my phone and generally bringing down the whole vibe, man.
Nope, three days at All Tomorrow's Parties at the end of April is about the best I can manage this year.
Hopefully the whole family will be able to go to Glastonbury next year.  I really hope so.  It'll be rather a different Glastonbury to previous years, but it'll still be Glastonbury...

Millie went to her first beer festival on Friday - the Sussex Beer And Cider Festival in the seaside town of Hove. We had a very nice time there with our old friends Martin and Rebecca who are visiting from California, and sampled a variety of bizarre liquids.  Everyone was very nice about Millie wandering about the place (except in the bar area), and, um, yeah.  That stereotype of CAMRA real ale drinkers being mostly older men with beards and large bellies is still shockingly true, though.  We were the youngest there by about 20-30 years - and we're no spring chickens any more!

***
Tuesday 6th March 2007
Millie's figured out that the buttons on the DVD player can make it do things.
She'll wander nonchalantly up to the DVD player, look at the big tempting 'ON' button, look back at you (who is trying to watch, say, The Sky At Night, but failing dismally due to the undeniable presence of a certain little fat baby in the room), carefully press the big, tempting 'ON' button (causing The Sky At Night to be replaced by the DVD player's bright and colourful welcome screen) then turn around with arms raised and palms upwards in an 'I-don't-know' gesture and a huge smile.

Repeat until bedtime.

***
Monday 5th March 2007
Hurrah!  We took MIllie swimming yesterday morning (at that strange Sunday twilight hour when the streets are empty of anyone under 30).
When last we ventured into Sydenham Leisure Centre, or whatever it's called, there were tears and tantrums galore - we stayed only about 10 minutes and then gave up on the whole business.  However, following a new 3-step program we seem to have conquered Millie's fear of swimming pools.

Things started badly - the receptionist at the desk told us that for some reason the water was a bit cooler than usual - and didn't get any better: Millie didn't like the changing rooms, didn't like being undressed and didn't like her new swimming costume.  To be fair, it has buoyancy aids sewn in all the way around it which make her look like a baby suicide bomber.  If she tried to fly to the USA wearing it they'd probably shoot her on the spot.

When we walked into the pool area that bottom lip started to quiver, and by the time we went to sit down on the steps at the pool's edge she was just getting ready for an extended wailing session (which enabled us to spot another tooth coming through on the top - so that's five teeth in total now).
My idea was to let her used to the pool a bit more this time, instead of going, literally, in at the deep end, so I sat down on the steps with her on my lap, toes just dangling in the water, reassuring her and holding on tightly.  And when, after a few minutes of that, she was calm (not happy, just calm), we moved down a step so her feet were in the water.
Again, she wasn't at all happy with this, but we sat there for a few minutes until her attention was caught by all the other children having an absolute whale of a time in the pool, playing with balls and floats and inflatable things.  When she saw what a fine old time they were having then the old gizzit hand went out - 'give us it!' - and she briefly forgot about the deadly threat of the sinister lapping waters...until we moved down another step, that is, and she was properly sat in the water on my lap.
Still, even the panic over that didn't last too long, and a few minutes later we were like any normal family, splashing, and kicking and laughing in the pool.  We stayed there for about half an hour in the end, and if Millie was never entirely at home in the water she was no longer desperate to get out of it.

Good news about those CDs I bought last week, too!  Fuzzy-Felt Folk in particular is bloomin' superb!  Barking mad, but superb, and Songs for the Young at Heart also has some sublime moments on it, but is not quite as disarmingly bonkers.  
Note - you don't have to have children to enjoy either of them.

I realised (again) how long it's been since Millie was born yesterday, when my 18-month contract finished on the 'phone I bought not long after she was born.  It was my first "proper" phone - as in a cool one that did all kinds of things other than be a telephone - and I've right loved it.  But now I'm getting one of these...and I'm very excited.  It may not look as 'cool' as my old w800, but in terms of what it can do it's way cooler.  
Dude.

And I'm laughing out loud at the moment reading darts player Bobby George's biography - Bobby Dazzler: My Story. :-)

++LATE UPDATE++
I just had to add this, since it made me snort tea all over my work PC when I read it.
Charlie Brooker's IgnopediA in today's Guardian defines 'bling' as - 'any unnecessary accumulation of metal or jewellery which impresses the simple-minded.'
Snort!
Oh, I've done it again... Where are those tissues?

***
Thursday 1st March 2007
As part of Millie's continuing musical education (I'll be damned if she's going to grow up thinking bloomin' Jamiroquai or The accursed Automatic are the pinnacle of audio compositional excellence!) I've got a couple of new CDs today to broaden our musical horizons.
Yes, Fuzzy-Felt Folk and Songs for the Young at Heart look very interesting indeed.  And Songs for the Young at Heart even comes in a child's story-book, instead of a CD case!

I'll let you know how both Millie and myself get on with them...

***

Wednesday 28th February 2007

I don't know, you spend all that time, effort and intellectual steampower in order to get the RSS feed up and running...and then stop posting for a week!

I promised some more Millie news, and was going to do one of my semi-regular 'Isn't being a dad great?' pieces, but we're a bit pushed for time here at the moment, so we'll just have to settle for a bog-standard, 'Aren't kids daft?' style entry.

It's the communication skills that are really really coming on still.
Pushing Millie home from nursery at dusk a couple of days ago she spotted the moon high in the sky and kept pointing at it.  'That's the moon,' I told her.  'Moon.  People have landed on there - and in your dad's lifetime, too, although not in mummy's.  Moon.  Moon.'
But as we carried on home from nursery I said to Millie, 'Millie, where's the moon?'
And she looked straight up into the sky and pointed at the moon.
So, thinking it might have been a coincidence, I waited until we'd turned a corner (so the moon was now in a different place) and asked again, 'Millie, where's the moon?'
And the pointy finger swung inevitably up to where the moon had been, but wasn't any more.  Then she twisted about in her buggy and found it on her other side, pointing at it and saying 'Muh.'
Also, at bathtime, she now recognises 'Bath' or 'Bathy', and immediately heads off for the bathroom - which is unfortunate, because we have to go to her bedroom first to get her clothes off; but once we've done that she'll storm off up the hallway to the bathroom - and I swear, there's nothing like the sight of your little naked baby with a fat tummy and a huge grin striding purposefully towards the bathroom to make you proud.

Having known her from when she was a helpless ball of flesh, nappy and blankets in an incubator, to see this actual intelligence emerge is mind-blowing, just as much as seeing her crawl or walk for the first time - you almost can't believe it's happening.  Trying to imagine her as a full-fledged adult like you or me, walking, talking, learning, arguing, etc...  Well, it's beyond my current powers of imagination

We really do need a proper 'I love being a dad' entry here on The Truth, because I *@#$ing love being a dad.
Childless friends say, 'How's Millie...?' and you want to launch into a great uninterrupted hour long monologue about how brilliant it is and what she's been doing and how funny it was last week when...oh, and that time she...and how her daily reports from nursery bring you close to tears when they say 'Today I enjoyed singing in the group, playing with the sand and sticking glitter to a picture'.

And all you ever actually say, in a frankly miraculous feat of self-control, because you don't want to bore them, is 'Yeah, she's fine.'

***

Monday19th February 2007

Or, at least a demi-god, since I hope that at least some of you reading this will have noticed the new little  button in the "What's to do?" list, above left.

To 99% of the people who read this page means absolutely nothing, but it's yet another demonstration of my ever-growing power over the internet, because it means this site is now RSS-enabled.
Oh, yeah, baby - break out the champagne!

What is the hell is this RSS rubbish?

Actually, you probably won't be much wiser after reading that, but I find RSS can be pretty helpful in some situations, such as -
  • gathering a list of relevant job vacancies into one easily readable list
  • giving a summary of new items on your favourite sites (i.e. this one)
  • compiling a list of items you've been trying to find on eBay
I promise there'll be some interesting news about small children and stuff soon.

***

Wednesday 21st February 2007

I am officially an eBay god, since my eBay feedback reached 500 today.
Surely, conclusive proof that I have my finger firmly on the pulse of the world wide net.

And, purely because hearing this song still sets the hairs on my arms on standing on end, here's a bit of video.  
But not just any video, oh, no.
This is the video for the single, undisputed, greatest, most incredible song of the last five years - it's Johnny Boy with You Are The Generation Who Bought More Shoes (And You Get What You Deserve).
If you don't like this, then you're not human...


***

Tuesday 20th February 2007

Conclusive proof that Millie understands English, even if she can't really speak it yet.

She knows where the biscuit tin is in our house, and the first thing she usually does when we get in the door is point at the cupboard where the tin is, look at you expectantly and say "Buh".  
Ah, yes, she's her father's child; you can't imagine how pleased I am that she should follow in my footsteps so early on!
Anyway, she's not allowed biscuits before her dinner, but you have to give her points for trying.

Now, I chatter away to her all the time we're together, pretending we're having a proper conversation about stuff, and after she'd eaten her dinner last night I said to her, "Excellent work, first-born of mine, you have earned the right to a biscuit."
Or something like that. But at the word "biscuit" she sat up straight, her head swung round, eyes wide open, and she pointed out to the kitchen.
"Buh!" she said excitedly.  "Buh!"
I was quite surprised by this so I said again, "Do you want a biscuit, poppet?" And I swear, she gave me the kind of relieved look you give when someone very very stupid has finally grasped what you've been saying for the past ten minutes.  And every time I said the word "Biscuit" she did the same thing until we finally went and got a biscuit.
Not just any biscuit either - given the choice of the tin the foolish girl turned her nose up at the All Butter biscuits in favour of a Rich Tea!  Stupid child!

We've actually been very slightly concerned that Millie's not saying any proper words yet - only, as I say, slightly concerned, but the Lovely Melanie was going to mention it at Millie's hospital check-up later on today.  Now we know that MIllie's speech centres in her brain are working - that she can understand language perfectly well - she's just not using it properly herself yet.

++UPDATE++
The Lovely Melanie has just rung to tell me that Millie's check-up went fine, as usual. Millie's a completely normal little girl, for her age.
We're going to give her a first taste of pancakes tonight, to celebrate.  I suspect she either won't be interested in them or won't like them, but you never know...

***
Monday19th February 2007
Today, we are not talking about babies.
Babies are great and everything, and Millie was a powerhouse of energy yesterday, stamping about the garden, racing up and down the house, absolutely unstoppable...
But we're not talking about babies today, because of the stupid BBC news coverage of the expansion of the congestion charge here in London, which was just so biased against it.

London has a traffic problem like every city in this country, not to mention many large towns, and the only way to do something about it (short of inventing a flying car) is to reduce, or at least stabilise, the amount of traffic on the roads.  You need fewer people driving cars on the roads.  Fewer cars equals less traffic equals less traffic jams.  It's not rocket science.

And if you ask anyone driving a car around London whether or not they want to pay a congestion charge then of course they're going to say "No!"  I'd say no!  Who in their right mind wants to pay for something that's currently free??

But that's a short-sighted way of looking at things, because it isn't possible to carry on the way we're going.  There are too many people driving too many cars in too small a space, and either we have to voluntarily stop driving cars around cities or...well, eventually we'll be forced to stop because the roads will be too crowded.

The congestion charge is aimed at stopping this situation arising, at keeping the roads usable and open to all, so that we can still travel around our cities without having to use a flying car.  If you're against the congestion charge because it's "unfair" or because it's "too restricting" then you're a selfish bastard - that's my opinion.
You're a selfish bastard because you don't care what happens in the future, when we get complete gridlock in our cities and towns, just so long as nobody tries to stop you driving your car wherever you damn well please now.
That's what Millie's like at the moment: she wants to have everything that she wants NOW, and if she can't get it then she has a tantrum.  She has no sense of the future, no sense of how a bit of self-control might benefit her in the long run.  All she can see is that she's not being allowed to have a biscuit NOW, whilst the Lovely Melanie can see that having a biscuit now will ruin her appetite for dinner in 20 minutes.

And obviously a congestion charge won't work outside of a city, and obviously if it's to work then it's absolutely and utterly essential that you have decent, affordable, reliable public transport.  It's the carrot and the stick - you've got the.stick of the charge and the carrot of a good public transport system.

So why did the BBC this morning feel it was necessary to ask various people IN CARS what they thought about the newly expanded congestion charge?  It's like going to a Catholic church and asking people what they think about abortion!

They should have interviewed me, and I could have told them how much easier my jorney to work has been since the congestion charge came in, how many books I've managed to read whilst on the tube, how many ideas I've come up whilst sitting on the top deck of a bus, how much money I've saved by not having to buy a car - and not to mention how much less carbon I'm personally responsible for emitting. :-)

***
Wednesday14th February 2007
So we were in Swindon over the weekend, following a schedule like a rock band on tour - it was a 48-hour scramble, every hour of every day planned in advance to give Millie maximum exposure to her adoring public.
If things got a bit gruelling at times that was the only way we could get to see as many people as possible, and even then we couldn't fit everybody in.  So to those we did see - lovely to have seen you; to those we didn't see - sorry we missed you, and you're on the top of the visiting list for next time.

Christ, I remember when a visit to Swindon was an excuse to sit back, relax and go to the pub a lot...

Millie was a screaming bundle of  misery most of the way on the train, miraculously cheering up only once we arrived, leaving her frazzled parents to dump her in the grandparents' arms with mutterings of "Stupid fat baby..."

Luckily she pulled it out of the bag for the rest of the weekend, indefatigably dazzling everyone with smiles, her walking/climbing ability, and by chattering away to herself and anyone within earshot ('Badger badger badger' and 'Hiya' are her two latest phrases).
Indefatigably dazzling everyone except Billy the cat, that is, who was hounded mercilessly whenever he dared step inside the house.  There's also a path worn into my parents stair carpet from where Millie kept going up and down, up and down, up and down (you may recall, we have no stairs in our flat here in London), often carrying extremely impractical objects - these seem to help her balance when she's walking: if she's carrying, say, a large Glastonbury cheese, she's far less likely to fall over.

She also got to try on her bridesmaid's dress for my brother's wedding in May (there's a picture on Flickr
naturally), and had her feet measured for her first proper pair of shoes.  
In case you're wondering, she's a size 3E.

And one particular moment of excitement - at bathtime on Saturday we'd just put her into the water when all the light went out!
Power cut!
My mum panicked a bit, as it really was completely pitch-black and we couldn't see what Millie was doing - whether she might be standing, sitting, drinking the shampoo, or had immediately plunged face down into the water when the lights failed - as my mum obviously suspected was the case.
But she was snatched from the dark, unfriendly waters while I went to get my 'phone, so as to use the light on that as a beacon to stop Millie being shipwrecked on the rocks that may have spontaneously arisen in the bathtub when the lights went out.

It was briefly chaos in the bathroom, as there were six people in there (not including Millie), but once candles were lit and milk had been warmed on the hob then things settled down a bit and Millie nuffled* off to sleep.
Candles - must remember that the next time she gets all riled up before bedtime...


* "nuffle" - word used as both a verb and a noun to describe (i) a blanket Millie likes to "snuffle" in, and (ii) the act of snuffling itself, so it is theoretically possible to 'nuffle your nuffle'.  Sometimes shorted to just "nuff" - as in the "popular" saying, 'You can never have enough nuff'.
***
Wednesday 7th February 2007
Things are quiet here.
Millie continues to do well in the "Lower Toddlers".  She had a nasty stomach bug last week, which had the Lovely Melanie fretting for a couple of days, lest we be landed with a sick baby for a month, like last time...
But "fortunately" Millie threw up for a few days, regularly filled her nappies with what looked remarkably like chicken soup, and then got better, as children generally do.
There was one memorable day when the washing machine was permanently spinning, filled with sick-soaked things; Millie had to wear a Christmas babygrow to bed, as she'd been sick on all her others, and we had to wash all the sofa covers, all our clothes, three towels, the rug and three lots of bedding.

Apart from that it's been very quiet.  My back is still healing well - there was a small hiccup in the recovery process when I went to How Does It Feel To Be Loved on Friday night.  Kevin Rowland (of Dexy's Midnight Runners fame) was DJing, and it's a tiny little venue, so I didn't want to miss that, did I?
Anyway, he played some absolutely beautiful tunes, and I absolutely danced my little heart out - as best I was able.  I must have some special muscles that I only use for dancing (people who've seen me dance will probably agree - nobody else in the world uses the same muscles as I do for dancing) since I was only a little bit sore on Saturday.

Friday, we're off to Swindon in the morning via the train , to see the family and some friends...and that's all there is to say at the moment.
***
Wednesday 31st January 2007
Millie's nursery have moved her from "Babies" downstairs to "Lower Toddlers" upstairs.  She was supposed to spend a couple of sessions over the next week or so getting acclimatised to the atmosphere upstairs, but she settled in so well straightaway that the staff decided she could stay there.

It should be more fun for Millie, since the "Babies" department isn't where the action is, they're, frankly, a lazy, good-for-nothing bunch - sitting around all day, occasionally crawling, being fed and changed, read stories and sung songs.  There's no discipline there.  It's a very shoddy state of affairs.

In the "Lower Toddlers" department, on the other hand, there's an abundance of energy: lots of dynamic young minds, all competing to push the envelope that bit further, all thinking outside the box (but prepared to think inside the box, if the box is a big, comfortable, interesting box full of toys).  They're walking, talking, enterprising go-getters, the lot of 'em!

However, Millie's still got to prove herself: there's no "old school bib" network.

In "Lower Toddlers", she's a particularly small fish in a big, bubbling pond, and the real executive high-fliers (the bigger children) treat her just like a doll at the moment.  In the nicest possible sense "like a doll" - they want to hug her and take care of her.  
But Millie's a loose cannon!
She's a maverick!
She doesn't play by the rules!
She's certainly not one for being mollycoddled - no, sir!
So, while she's prepared to indulge the mollycoddlers to begin with, she soon gets tired of it and wants to implement her own strategies and initiatives and what-have-you (she's currently working on plans to redistribute all the glitter in the department, based upon a critical path analysis of its cost-effectiveness compared to plasticine).
It's a dog-eat-dog world in the nursery, and Millie's got to make sure her bite matches her bark, or she'll be downsized back to "Babies" before you can say, "Implementation of agenda-specific policy assessments!"

As for me, I went to see the doctor yesterday.  He's given me enough industrial strength ibuprofen to kill a horse and the rest of the week off work.

When I rang for the appointment the receptionist said, "We've got an appointment slot free in 15 minutes.  Can you get here for then?"

We live about five minutes walk away from our GP, and  I just barely made it.  With that in mind I'd like to apologise unreservedly to any old people who I've ever tutted at for walking too slowly.  Brothers and sisters of pensionable age, I feel your pain!

***
Monday 29th January 2007
Ouch.
Tried to pick Millie up yesterday morning and something at the bottom of my back went pop!
So for the last couple of days I've been creeping about the house like the ghost of some shuffling pensioner who died here.  Actually, even that's not strictly true - yesterday I spent most of the day lying very still in bed, getting up only to get a cup of tea and the biscuit tin, and to have a soothing hot bath (which was very soothing, thank goodness).

The worst thing about the whole episode?  The Lovely Melanie was very tired that morning so I'd gracefully offered to look after Millie, saying to Mel, "You stay in bed and have a lie-in, love, I'll sort the Millays out."
Which I did - for about 11 minutes - until forced to squeal from the other end of the house for her to come and grab MIllie while I lay on the floor trying not to writhe about too much.
And that, unfortunately, was the end of the Lovely Melanie's Sunday lie-in.

It was a shame because we'd had a lovely weekend up until that point.
My brother and his fiance were supposed to be coming up from Swindon for the day to meet us at Tate Britain, but obviously that didn't happen.

We'd had some old friends to stay on Friday night, with their little boy who's 10 months younger than Millie (so, adjusting for Millie's early arrival, that makes him only seven months younger, really).
It was quite strange to see our two children next to each other, because Young Oscar's a lovely little chap - he's about the same size as Millie, same height, although a bit chunkier.
And that, somewhat bizarrely, is where the resemblance ended, because Oscar still can't quite crawl yet, he certainly can't stand or walk, and although he's got a couple of words in his vocabulary he doesn't communicate in the way that Millie does.  That extra seven or ten months makes a massive difference development-wise.

And yet...they looked so similar!

We really got a sense of how small Millie still is for her age.
I kept expecting Oscar to get up, point at the door and totter off towards the hallway.   Conversely, Sarah (Oscar's mum) kept saying, 'Oh, my god, look at her standing up/walking/carrying a huge teddy bear.'

After the kids went to bed we stayed up (obviously, it was only 7pm!) and chatted about children and parenting and stuff.
And mortgages, of course; all of us being card-carrying middle-class, mid-thirties, homeowners.

Tjhe Lovely Melanie and I don't get to talk about parenting and children all that often, certainly not with people in the same position as ourselves.  We're something of an anomaly in our social circle, having had a baby, and of our friends, a minority refuse point-blank to hear a word said about children in their presence, most are more or less interested to hear how Millie's getting along, and some actually like to come over and make a fuss of her - all of which are fine with me (I don't want to become a parental obsessive with no other conversation in my repertoire).
But it's always nice to talk to people in the same boat as yourself: to swap funny stories, tips and experience.  Which is what we did. :-)

And our conclusions?  All kids are different, and all of them are great, almost all of the time.

Oh, and by the way, MIllie's exactly 18 months old tomorrow.  Hurrah!

***

Thursday 25th January 2007

I'm just beginning to get a sense of some of the wonders on the photo site, Flickr.
It isn't all wonky shots of babies, pictures of people you've never heard of on their holidays, or blurred panoramas of families enjoying Chriistmas together.

For instance, if you have time, take a look at this guy's amazing close-up photos of insects - they're incredible.
And the new "High Dynamic Range" photography, which so far as I can tell means mixing dark, medium and very bright versions of the same image together to give one single VERY vivid image, is... well, it's the photographic equivalent of the opera singer whose voice can shatter glass.  Take a look here.

***

Wednesday 24th January 2007
Forest Hill, 6.45am...


..And at 7.10am...

Yes, I know.
No, I'm at least as surprised as you are.
No, we don't usually get much snow in London.
Yes, Millie was amazed by it (the Lovely Melanie tells me).
No, I don't think it will last very long, sadly.

***
Monday 22nd January 2007
Another entirely satisfactory birthday extravaganza.  Thanks to everyone who made it along - especially the Swindon contingent (which consisted entirely of ladies - nice to know I've still got it, even at 35!)
And I wasn't even hungover on Sunday, just a little tired;  which is quite a result, given that I was drinking rum and ouzo when everyone came back to ours after the comedy club...
***

Friday19th January 2007
This completely slipped under the radar last week, but Millie and Mel were in (oh! The irony!) the Daily Mail over Christmas.
The premature baby charity, BLISS, was competing for some charity money the Mail gives to the most deserving charity, as voted for by its readers (that'll be the Refugee Council and Asylum Aid out, then).
As part of their "Why we deserve the money" piece BLISS had a quote from the Lovely Melanie about Millie, and also mentioned me (although not by name - possibly fearing that my dislike for the Mail, plainly evident on this site, might work against them).
That was in the December 27th edition.  I wouldn't bother checking the microfiche at your local library to find the piece, it's very small; although, I can probably email you a scan of it if you really really want.

But the girls have just been contacted by BLISS about a full-blown interview and photo-shoot, this time for the more ideologically acceptable Prima Baby magazine, possibly next week.
Forget Celebrity Big Brother - this is where the real stars are!

Millie's going to stay with her grandparents in Hatfield for most of this weekend - and without us, too.  
Despite any actual birthday being long past I'm having my annual "Birthday Extravaganza" this weekend, which consists largely of badgering everyone I know to buy me a pint at a date, time and place of my choosing.

So Millie's being taken to Hatfield, out of harm's way, until the dust settles sometime on Sunday afternoon.
It's actually a very small "extravaganza" this year, probably only about 15 people attending ("extravaganza" attendance figures peaked a few years back at somewhere between 35-40).  And this year's extravaganza is a more responsible affair, consisting of some standup comedy at a local venue
In fact, it's set to be a really nice weekend, as tonight I'm also out - going to see a play about the sadly-missed Bill Hicks down in Croydon.  Let's hope it does him justice...
***

Tuesday 16th January 2007

I'm beginning to think that, as a family, Millie, the Lovely Melanie and myself only have one immune system to share between us.
Millie's got it at the moment.
***

Monday 15th January 2007 (MY BIRTHDAY!)

That was the cultural weekend that was!
It feels like we really got some quality parenting time in there.  But first, I have to ask -  did you see the darts' final last night??!
Aye caramba, it was fantastic!  Anyone who's ever met me will attest to the fact that I'm the world's smallest sports fan, but I do like to catch the a bit of the darts.  It started off with a slightly ironic edge to it, but I've become a genuine fan.  The Lovely Melanie had just cooked us a bee-yoo-tiful meal last night for my birthday, and it was as though the gods were conspiring to make it  a perfect evening, since we sat down to eat just as it looked like it was absolutely all over for Phil Nixon - even the commentators sounded like they were packing up and getting ready to go home.
I won't bore you with any more details, suffice it to say it was an incredible comeback by Phil Nixon, and the best game of darts I've seen for a long long time.

But I'm jumping the gun a bit.  Saturday found the family Carter in Vauxhall, visiting Vauxhall City Farm.
Perhaps the most unlikely location for a "farm" in the UK (except for, maybe, Sellafield) we thought we'd take Millie along to see the animals there, as although she's growing up in the city I don't her want to end up like some kids here, who have no idea of the connection between their McDonald's and cows (a bad choice of example, perhaps, as you may ask if there is one!)

Vauxhall City Farm isn't very big, and doesn't have a great many animals (some spend winter in the country) - geese, chickens, pigs, horses, rabbits, a donkey and some sheep, but Family Carter had a smashing time there.  The chickens roam about the place pretty freely and aren't in the least bit frightened of fully-grown adults, let alone little Millies, so they ambled around us, only mildly curious as to whether we had any food.  As you can see in the photos Millie was fascinated by it all, and ambled around the place eyeing up the rabbits (she's seen rabbits before), being a bit underwhelmed by the sheep, unsure what to make of the pigs, not quite able to comprehend the donkey and a bit scared of the horses when they tried to lick her.

I'm not surprised she was scared of the horses - I was a bit allergic to them at the farm, after rather unwisely petting them and not washing my hands, but when we got home I rubbed one eye...and my eyeball almost popped out of its socket I had such an allergic reaction!
There were blisters on my eyeball that have only just gone away! Blisters!  On my eyeball!  
The Lovely Melanie even asked if I wanted to go to hospital, and I laughed, thinking she was being sarcastic; but she wasn't.
God knows what Millie thought - why was her dad looking at her with only one eye open for the rest of the day.
Probably nothing, actually. She probably just thought it was another of those weird things that grown-ups do, like voluntarily eating vegetables, or drinking that "beer" stuff, or taking their kids out to muddy places full of weird furry folk who can't speak...

Sunday, despite my sore eye, we met up with our friends Mike and Inge at 10 o'clock in the morning to go on the slides at the Tate Modern.  An artist has basically installed some very big slides there, and, unlike most conventional art, the whole point is to use them - slide down them from the top. There are five in all, from a very mild "kids" slide to a four-storey monster (there's a pic on Flickr).

Guess which ones I went on?

I did try to exercise some restraint by starting at the third biggest so as to work my way up to number five, but the enormous queue and the ticketing system (it's a very popular exhibition, so although it's free you need tickets) meant we missed our slot for that one and had to go straight on to number four, which, contrary to all expectation, had only a very small queue, and number five had no queue at all!
It was great fun to go on, but almost as nice to just watch: everyone coming out of the slides had a HUGE smile on their faces - nobody was "too cool for school" and all cynicism was left at the door; so that the simple act of going down a big slide cheered up everyone who tried it.  It was all jolly life-affirming and worthwhile.

As a bonus, Millie was fascinated by the Tate Modern - it's a great cavernous structure, and she kept pointing upwards to where, I guess, she thought the roof should have been; not to mention that the big open-plan spaces meant she could start walking and just carry on walking until she got hungry.  She also loved the cobbles on some of the nearby streets, quickly learning when we were pushing her in the buggy that if she went, "Uhhhhh" the bumping would turn it into "Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh..."  How we all laughed. ;-)

So that was a lovely morning: and when we came out it was still morning, which we were all a bit shocked by; it just didn't seem right to already have had such a great time and yet it wasn't even lunchtime, especially on a Sunday - that really didn't seem right, somehow.
So we walked along the South Bank for a bit, watched some dogs playing on the beach, browsed the book fair, and then crossed the Thames and went for a drink on The Strand in a very old pub called the Coal-Hole.

Now, that was a very nice weekend indeed, and, I'll wager, impossible to match outside London...
***

Friday 12th January 2007

A nice quiet week.  Still no new illnesses for Millie, although, she did manage to bite her tongue earlier in the week (drawing blood and floods of tears), but she's none the worse for it.  

I thought it was worth mentioning the "still no illness" thing, as that's quite an achievement after the last couple of months.

And she now has three definite teeth.  And has almost grown out of her first ever proper pair of shoes (as opposed to sandals or booties).
And she's still eating like a horse.  If you're eating something, she wants it.  If something looks like it might be edible, she wants it.  If something doesn't look like it might be edible, but she hasn't tried to eat it before, she probably wants it.  If something only looks marginally edible and she's tried it before and it wasn't fatal, she probably wants it.

Actually, one thing worth mentioning: now that MIllie's back to her old self she's doing a lot of playing.  But she seems to be taking after her parents in that most of the time she doesn't want to play with toys, what she wants is for you to read her her books.
She'll pick up a book and then come over and plonk herself down on your lap ready for a story; she still plays with toys, but more often than not she wants books - books, or to skitter off down the hallway to look in the washing machine or turn the radio on in the bedroom or to climb on the bed to look out the front window or to roll around in the big green beanbag in the living room or to climb into "Davros" (a little wheeled chair with lots of noisy buttons on it, so-called because it vaguely resembles the chair Davros in Dr Who used to sit in) which is kept under the table in Millie's bedroom.

You haven't even noticed all the shiny new reviews and articles in the "What's New?" column on the left, have you?
I spend hours slaving over a hot PC, writing reviews of books you've never heard of and articles about placesyou've never been to, and what thanks do I get...? (apart from judging the Clarke Award, and the endless free books, that is)

***
Monday 8th January 2007
Millie gets well, her parents get sick.  
The Lovely Melanie and I both had flu over the weekend.  Fortunately - or unfortunately, depending upon how unwell and exhausted you've been feeling - Millie doesn't appear to have caught it, which is what the Lovely Melanie and I were both dreading after the last time.
We're mostly better now, although I, bizarrely, still have no sense of taste or smell despite my nose being quite clear (which is a shame because on Sunday we managed to drag ourselves out to a lovely tea shop serving some very fine sandwiches and cake, but I may as well have been eating teabags...)

But no, no illness for Millie.  She spent the weekend running riot and piling on some sorely-needed pounds.  If you look at the pictures on my Flickr page (there are some new ones) you might notice that Millie over Christmas was often either asleep or looking as though she'd like to be asleep.  If you see her in the flesh now... well, you'll be lucky to see her in the flesh - you might just catch a glimpse of her heels as she scoots off around the corner...

Her favourite thing this weekend was the little fan set into the window of my "office".  She loves my office at the moment, and it's invariably the first place she heads for if put on the floor and left to her own devices (as she frequently was over the weekend).  I'd love to know what's going on in her head - all these new toys and books she got for Christmas, and she keeps pointing the a desirous finger towards a little wind-driven fan almost hidden behind blinds at the top of a window in a part of the house that's more usually closed to her.
And if she's not pointing at the fan then she's pointing to get up on the desk to throw things behind the big old 19" CRT monitor,( where they are lost "forever") then turn around and giggle at me with a toothy smile (there is now a third tooth coming through, next to the lone incisor on the bottom, so I feel justified in calling it a "toothy" smile now).  
And if she's not throwing things behind the monitor then we're both "dancing" to some MP3s and watching mindbending psychedelic graphics which are synchronised to the music via a free program called Milkdrop (which is meant for WinAmp, but I've found a plugin for my favourite music player, foobar20000).  
God knows what Millie makes of the graphics, but she's got happy feet and loves to hear music.  Whenever a tune comes on - any tune - she'll bob from side to side for 5-10 seconds, before getting bored and returning to whatever she was doing before.

Some good and bad news on the cultural front.  The bad news is that our freeview hard-disc recorder has broken, after just 14 beautiful months; so at present we can't watch BBC4 or More4, or pause and playback, live TV, and we have just a paltry 5 channels like mere mortals.
Luckily, I had (illegally) downloaded half a dozen episodes of US drama Heroes to watch on the computer, so I was OK (only "OK" though, as it's a bit patchy, and, as usual for US sf TV drama, dragged out for far too long).

The good news on the cultural front is that my new favourite band are absolutely fantastic!  They're called The Decemberists - go and buy their album, The Crane Wife.
Their songs are described as singing prog-rock sea shanties, but... well, I can see where the talk of sea shanties might come from (there are accordions and fiddles and lyrics about strange happenings), but the prog-rock similarities are only because the length of some of the songs is up into double figures.
Um, I'm not really selling this, am I?  Honestly, most of the songs are foot-stomping, spirit-raising 4-5 minute-length masterpieces, with barely a sniff of the hornpipe in them.

***

Wednesday 3nd January 2007
Welcome to the hundreds of new arrivals linking here from my uncle Graham's blog. Like me, he's a published writer; unlike me, his earnings from writing have broken the 10 barrier.

Millie's nursery commented when I picked her up yesterday that she's so different now - how she's a little babbling tornado compared to the placid, sleeping, pale child they had before Christmas.
I hope this doesn't mean they want to charge us more - we haven't got any more to give them!

We can see the girl almost swelling before our eyes now she's got her appetite back - that "heroin chic" look is quickly being replaced by a more "English rose" demeanour, thank goodness.  
I'll have to try and put some new pics on Flickr for you to see for yourselves...

In the meantime, why not read this very interesting article about modern comedy and all that right wing hysteria about "political correctness gone mad"?
When I last read the Daily Mail (at the start of December, but I'm feeling much better now, thanks) it had a never-ending steam of tragic stories about how decent, hardworking, middle-class, racist, Anglo-Saxon folks couldn't express their decent, hardworking, middle-class, racist, Anglo-Saxon views any more because communist, homosexual, one-parent family muslims from eastern Europe had quite entirely taken over the country.

The above article goes a little way to helping explain some of that, but will require you to have your brain in gear, I'm afraid.

***

Tuesday 2nd January 2007
Happy new year, folks, and welcome back to work, or wherever you are.
You'll be pleased to hear that Millie is finally free of disease, although it took a nerve-wracking trip to A&E on Christmas Eve eve to finally achieve that.  Millie woke up that morning worse than ever: the ear infection, conjunctivitis and cough all joined forces for one last big offensive that day.  She was coughing almost continuously from the moment she tried to open her eyes (and couldn't, because of the conjunctivitis).  We kind of hoped she'd calm down a bit after having her milk and some cereal, but  the poor thing was obviously  a very very unhappy baby indeed.
Things then got worse when we discovered a leak in our toilet, leaving the Lovely Melanie in tears, worrying about both Millie and plumbers.
So we were incredibly grateful to our old friend Nik once again, who I texted to ask if he knew a good plumber. He texted back just minutes later offering to come round and have a look at the leaking loo himself.

He arrived soon after, with his neighbour, Matt (who knows about this sort of thing) and they managed to fix the leak.  By this time Millie was looking and sounding very unwell, and just would not be comforted, so Nik offered to take us to Lewisham A&E in his car.

Lewisham, you may remember, is where Millie was born; they were very nice and even more efficient, so that when we went home late that afternoon Millie was already looking and sounding much better.  Of course, it had buggered up our plans a bit, as the girls had been about to catch the train to the in-laws in Hatfield just after lunch, and I was meeting some friends for a Christmas drink in the evening, before joining them the next day.
As it was, I felt a bit  too frazzled to go out, Millie wasn't well enough to tackle the Hatfield express, and we eventually ended up calling in the cavalry the next day in form of Mel's sister and her boyfriend, who generously came down in the car to pick up all three of us - we used a up a lot of favours this Christmas, I can tell you.

Thanks to Nik, Matt, Kristine and Tim, who selflessly helped us out over that horrible 48 hours: you really did save the Carter family Christmas!

Despite - or, more likely, because of - Millie's meals over Christmas consisting of more antibiotics, ibuprofen, cough mixture and eye drops than actual food, we had a very nice time, and the girl herself is now fighting fit once more, and finally putting on some of the weight she'd lost over the last month or so.  
That was what made her so ill in the first place - she'd been fighting an endless stream of illnesses for a month, all of them had weakened her, and she just had nothing left in her with which to fight this latest onslaught.  We knew she'd lost some weight (and she didn't have that much to lose!), but it wasn't until we looked back at photos of her before she got ill that we realised quite how much.  Her face had changed from a circle to an oval, and the pink-ness in the cheeks had pretty much gone, too. :-(

New Year's, Millie came with us round to the house of my old friends Jimmy and Simon, and a gang of us welcomed in the new year in fine (if relatively subdued) style.  Even so, we were very "tired" in the morning, and would have probably failed any parenting exams if we'd had to sit them yesterday.  Fortunately, Millie was pretty sleepy, too, due a much later bedtime than usual (she was playing with all the great stuff in Jimmy and Si's living room) and being woken at 2 in the morning to catch a taxi home...

Oh! Oh! Oh!  I can't believe I forgot this!
Millie took her first solo steps on New Year's Eve!
She's been "walking" for a while, but always holding on tightly to some form of support, stopping to crawl between places that had no obvious handholds.
Well, on New Year's Eve, just before lunch, she deliberately took a single step without holding onto anything!

And then promptly fell over.

But she wasn't discouraged, and that afternoon took quite a few more steps and didn't fall over.
She's still pretty unsteady, and will only walk if it's absolutely necessary, but she can do it - she can walk!

***
Friday 22nd December 2006
That's probably just about it from me for this year.  
Tonight I'm going for a quiet drink at a local pub with friends before we all scatter to the four winds for Christmas.  The Lovely Melanie's taking Millie to Hatfield tomorrow afternoon.  I'm not going up until Christmas Eve because I've got a couple of bits of very overdue writing to get done, and also because I'm desperately allergic to the in-laws' cat (three days there is going to be hard enough for me - four days would probably require hospitalisation).  And Saturday night I'm going for a very quiet pint with a couple of old friends, which should be nice.

So no time to update the site before Christmas, no "proper" internet connection with which to upload it during Christmas in Hatfield, and, again, no time to write straight after Christmas because my parents are coming to see Millie...er, I mean us.

I'll leave you with unconfirmed reports that Millie may be starting to talk - in English, that is; she talks Millays almost constantly.
At the shops on Monday she kept pointing at batteries and saying "Bah?", which either means she wants to know what they are or wants to touch them.  So I kept repeating "batteries" every time she pointed, and then Mille repeated "badwies" quite out of the blue.  It certainly surprised me, I can tell you!
I'd have dismissed it as coincidence if the Lovely Melanie hadn't told me that yesterday she was playing the "Passing Things To Mummy And Back Again" game, and saying "please" whenever Millie reached for  a "Thing" to "Pass" (which is something you do in the "Passing Things To Mummy And Back Again" game), and Millie said "please" when she had her hand out for something to be passed back.

Millie's been laying the groundwork for language for a few months now; as I mentioned, she likes to point at things (especially in books) and have you tell her what they're called, there's a lot of pointing and making interrogative sounds - "Bah?"

Actually, that reminds me, there's also a definite sense of the location of things, too.  
A gummy-eyed and upset Millie was in her bedroom the other day, pointing at nothing, apparently; but it turned out, following a bit of detective work, that she was pointing out of the room, towards the kitchen and into the fridge where her juice is kept.  She's also managed to point her way to her blanket, in the bedroom, when she was in the living room...

So have a lovely Christmas, everyone; I know I intend to. :-)

***

Wednesday 20th December 2006

Tantrums and conjunctivitis.  Lots of both.  I'm not saying anything else.

***

Friday 15th December 2006
Another long and sleep-deprived night.  I thought we were supposed to be past this??

Thanks to Bill Withers and Mother Nature for bolstering my sanity this morning.  I staggered from the house to come to work, turned on my MP3 player, and as Bill's Lovely Day unexpectedly started playing I looked up to see a stunning orange and pink sky shot through with incongruous slashes of bright blue.

Thanks also to the makers of Calpol.  When the Lovely Melanie finally snapped at about 2.30 this morning (after two and a half hours of Millie whining, screaming, babbling, hollering and shouting) in desperation she gave Millie some of the magic medicine.
20 minutes later, everything's peace on earth and mercy mild.
Which was lucky, because it's frightening just how angry we had both become last night.

***


Thursday 14th December 2006

A long night.
Millie was awake and howling every 3-4 minutes, from about 3am till 5am, when I finally overruled the Lovely Melanie and brought an inconsolable Millie into our room.  She quietened down, but  - naturally - stayed awake, fascinated by the occasional lights passing cars, until about ten minutes before I had to get up for work.
We've been theorising (not seriously, I hasten to add) that Millie has a psychic link with my dad, who was taken to hospital againlast night with a nasty infection on his lungs.  Fortunately, he seems to be recovering well, thanks to some kick-ass antibiotics.

As an addendum to my last entry, I suddenly remembered that when I was little I did think my mum had some kind of super powers; just different ones from my Dad.  There's a vivid memory I have of her dressing me one morning (putting my socks on in the living room, probably in winter, as it was dark outside) and picking up some clothes and saying, "Those are dirty."

Which was astonishing to me at the time, because I couldn't see any dirt on them at all!  The only explanation I could come up with at the time - and, like I say, I vividly remember thinking this, even though I could only have been 4-5 years old - was that my mum had some kind of super vision, whch meant that she could see dirt that ordinary human beings like myself couldn't.

It took years for me to realise that stuff was "dirty" and had to go in the wash purely because I'd been wearing it for a certain amount of time!

***

Monday 11th December 2006
Ooh, bad website writer person. Bad bad bad bad bad. You no update website at all so far in December!  We go elsewhere and read proper website.

Ahh, don't be like that, fellas!  Look, Millie's been moping around the place like a wet blanket; we've been away in Swindon for a long weekend, we've had to take time off work to take care of Millie (despite the astonishing amount of money we pay childcare, they just don't want to know if your child falls ill) and...oh, just everything.
We thought we were doing well yesterday to get the Christmas tree and decorations put up!

Good news is that Millie's well again, although still on antibiotics; I'm back at work, the Lovely Melanie's back at work and the girl is safely back at nursery.

It was much worse watching Millie being ill this time, as she was racked by coughing fits and really really unhappy, which is horrible to see.
As with so many things about parenting, I'd never really thought about it before, but watching your daughter hacking away to the point where she's throwing up her food is not something I want to do again in a hurry.  In some ways it's almost  worse than when she was born and in the incubator, because at least then she didn't seem so distressed.  OK, we could have actually lost her at any moment, but that's a different experience to the more visceral, immediately upsetting prospect of seeing your daughter desperately unhappy and being unable to do anything to help, except give her a hug, rub her head and try to calm her down.

Until you've seen your daughter's repreoachful tear-streaked face looking up at you between coughing fits, as if to say, "Come on, daddy, you can do anything - can't you help me??" then you don't know what helplessness is.

I'm reminded of the bit in the original Superman movie, when Pa Kent dies and Clark says, "All these powers, all these things I can do, and I couldn't even save him."  Because I remember how all-powerful my dad (and mum, but mostly my dad) seemed to me when I was small - he had unbelievable strength, could jump higher than I could stand, run faster than my naked eye could follow, solve any problem in an instant...

Any adult is basically a super-hero to a small child: adults have such utterly unfathomable abilities that, when you're small, it's almost impossible to believe that you'll ever be as mighty as they are.
And then, suddenly, there you are, with the same super abilities yourself, and you don't feel very heroic at all. :-(

But I digress, as usual.
After almost a week of Millie getting slowly but steadily worse I took her to the doctor's on Friday (having said the magic words "premature baby" and gotten an emergency appointment).  The doctor was very very nice, and despite Millie looking (of course!) not nearly as sick as she had just 60 minutes previously he did take me seriously, giving us some spectacularly yellow antibiotic medicine, with the result that Millie is already much better.

You'll find some new photos on my Flickr page.  Millie looks quite solemn in most of them, and that's because she wasn't very well when they were taken, but in the most recent one (taken when we were putting the Christmas decorations up yesterday) she's obviously almost back to her old self.
Which means I get to be a superhero again, rather than just a particularly comfy chair to lie on whilst watching daytime TV.

***

Thursday 30th November 2006
(sniff) Millie's not very well again. She's (sniff) got a real (sniff) snot overproduction problem going on (sniff) and a (sniff) bit of a temperature.
And (sniff), of course, she's given it to (sniff) us.

***

Tuesday 28th November 2006
That new James Bond film's quite good, isn't it?
I've not been a Bond fan since Timothy Dalton left the franchise, but Daniel Craig gives good Bond!

The Lovely Melanie is worrying about Millie today, as the girl was sick all over everyone at nursery this morning. She's gotten terribly paranoid about the girl's health since the Great Vomituous Fortnight (although, I also think Millie's entrance into the world, traumatic as it was, quite profoundly affects the way the Lovely Melanie thinks about her health and hardiness).

I've been trying to convince her that, honestly, this is just what babies do - they vomit. Obviously, you don't want them vomiting all the time, but they do vomit a lot more than the rest of us.
If you start worrying every time a baby is sick then it's a one-way ticket to the neurosis factory for you, and probably them, too!

Oddly enough - and I'm just thinking aloud about it now - Millie doesn't throw up very often when she's with me. I'm not saying that as any kind of boast, just wondering in a purely scientific fashion "why" (and, for that matter, "if" - we don't have any actual statistics on this) Millie is sick more often with her mam than with "pops".
What do I do differently to the Lovely Melanie when feeding Millie?
I am a bit more "rough and tumble" with her: throwing her about, pretending to drop her, tossing her over my shoulder, etc., but you'd think that would make her more liable to vent her guts upon me, not less. Hmm... (wanders off, scratching feverishly on a notepad with a pencil).

I know I always say this - and I'm sure I'd be feeling bored and underutilised (like I do at work) if it was any other way - but, blimey, have I got a backlog of stuff to get done.
The regular Christmas cards have still be finished in Photoshop, and then put into production; I've got a review of a very large book to write, another (double!) book review almost ready to be written; then Thursday I'm going to an event at the Dana Centre (which I always think sounds like some kind of sinister Scientology HQ), about which I've got to write an article and get a few photos of.
And this is all before we go away to Swindon for four days on Friday.

I know I make it look so easy on here, but believe me, blood and ink are sweated behind the scenes!

And no, there are still no new photos up. Did you not read the last paragraph?

Finally, do you own an mp3 player (you know, an iPod or similar)?
If you do then I'm afraid you're a thieving, no-good, evil criminal lowlife. All of you. Every single one.
"That's a bit strong, Stu," you say? "Easy now, fellah"? Hey, don't shoot the messenger, guys, I'm just telling you what the head of Universal Music, Doug Morris told me. In fact, he told everybody:

These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they (people who own mp3 players) all know it."

What a nightmare, eh? Here's me been spending hundreds of pounds buying CDs which I then "rip" and listen to on my mp3 player, and I may as well have been mugging shivering, helpless pensioners and blowing the proceeds on drink, drugs and porn!

***

Monday 27th November 2006
I'd rather like to stay at home for a bit now, I think.

Saturday, we took Millie to deepest, darkest west London, round to the flat of Balraj, an old friend of mine from university, and his wife, Lois. Also there were a whole bunch of other people I see more or less often, all from London, and all ex- of Wolverhampton University (although, it was just a polytechnic when we all started there). So a long, long journey there, although fairly straghtforward; Millie stayed awake for all of it - unsurprisingly, since she'd had an extra couple of hours sleep that morning, in preparation.
She made a hell of a mess out of a cheese sandwich on the brand-new train from Waterloo. Those two teeth mean she now tears into food, ripping great chunks out of it...only to hit a bit of a bottleneck on the chewing and swallowing front, since she has just two incisors and no molars at all.
Hence, lots of cheese sandwich on the floor of the shiny, clean train.

But we had a lovely time at "Uncle" Bal's, plenty of food and a bit of catching up (god help us, we even played Screamadelica for that extra bit of nostalgia...). Then at 6.30, already tired, we left to go to Hatfield, traipsing most of the length of the Piccadilly Line - not our capital's fastest tube line - to be picked up by car at Cockfoster's and whisked the short distance to the Lovely Melanie's parents. Millie straight to bed, her parents not long after.

And all this because next day was Grandma Fisher's 60th birthday!
All the family went for a delicious lunch at an old manor house near somewhere called Ware. Kristine, the Lovely Melanie's sister, is in charge there, so we were very well taken care of.
We were a bit shocked to bump into my parents there, too, especially since they live in Swindon! But they'd been invited, and decided to travel across for the event - surely not because their one and only granddaughter would also be there...? ;-)
I took loads of photos and will put some up when I have a spare moment (so don't hold your breath...)

We were glad to finally stagger back through our own front door at about 7.30, and tried not to think that we were heading off again - this time to Swindon - in just five days.

Still, the journey home was made a lot more fun by Millie been miraculously wide-awake and chattering the whole way home. Just chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter. Sometimes out loud, sometimes under her breath, sometime to one of us, sometimes to thin air: just streams and stream of nonsense syllables, but sounding oh-so close to actual coherent talk, not least because there was a lot of intonation in them: questions, requests, answers, explanations - it really sounded as though we could have had a proper conversation, if only we understood "Millays" - the dialect of Millie.

***

Thursday 2rd November 2006
No doubt this sort of thing will soon no longer merit any mention here, but for now myself and the Lovely Melanie are very pleased to announce the arrival of a second tooth for Millie.
It's almost directly above the first one, too, so beware when putting fingers near Millie's mouth, as she now has "bite" capability!

***

Thursday 23rd November 2006
So...we're going to rather have to skim across the surface of recent weeks. Suffice to say that a grand time was not had by all; that Millie was ill for so long that even I, the perennial optimist and practical chap, began to be a little bit worried. But three different doctors told us that babies can be ill for weeks with diseases that you or I would cast off in a day or two (as I did, as the Lovely Melanie did). And Millie is completely recovered now.

And what a recovery! It's as though her two weeks of unwellitude (I just made that word up) were a kind of gathering of forces, a pause before a great leap forward. To put it perhaps another way: she'd been developing all that time, but didn't have the energy or the disposition to to do anything about it.
Now that she's back with us, it's almost as though we have a different baby.

For a start, there's the tantrums. Well...not really "tantrums" properly yet - Millie now knows what she does and doesn't want, and her growing realisation that she's an independent person and can affect the course of events around her, coupled with a complete and utter lack of any patience whatsoever, means that she can get a bit hard to handle at times. Only very briefly - she still seems to have little real concept of time, and can go from a screaming whirlwind to a giggling mess in just seconds - but you try to explain to a 17-month-old that if she is quiet for five seconds while you put a nappy on then she can go and play, whereas if she carries on kicking and screaming the putting-on-nappy experience is going to last a l-o-t longer.

There's also a lot of giggling now, especially since we discovered gravity.
Did you know that if you push something - a toy, say - over the edge of a table or a high-chair, then it disappears? Did you? Millie's in the final stages of some exhaustive scientific tests on this phenomena, but it appears to be a universal law that objects pushed over the edge of a table will always disappear in a downwards direction.
Although, as I say, we haven't finished every single possible test of this yet.
An unforseen side-effect of this phenomenon is that it appears to induce uncontrollable mirth in human children of approximately 17 months.

What else? Well, Millie's discovered how objects can fit inside other objects (e.g. boxes), that some objects will fit together in various ways, and also that you can pass objects to other people and they will hold them or pass them back to you. When not engaged in her gravity experiments Dr Millie is endlessly experimenting with putting stuff in containers, then taking them out again, then putting them back in again.

There's also speech. Millie can definitely communicate "No" or dislike; "no" is "nying-nying-nying" (repeated until you get the message), and there's also some other communication which is kind of hard to explain, a mixture of pointing, noises and just...familiarity with her personality. And it is a personality now. Looking at younger babies, I'm quite startled at how unexpressive and passive they now seem. It makes me wonder, if we ever had another baby would he/she seem rather dull compared to the blossoming Millie we now have?

And she's still got her natural rhythm - oh, yes - whenever some music is played, whether on a toy, on the radio, on the computer, or even sung by her faithful research assistants, Dr Daddy and Dr Mummy, you'll find Millie, er, wobbling back and forth a bit.

A busy couple of weeks coming up for us now, what with Grandma's 60th birthday party this weekend, a wedding next weekend (to which Millie's invited) and a long weekend in Swindon to catch up with all the friends and relatives there.
Quite how I'm going to find the time to update this site, write a couple of reviews, apply for ever more jobs, design and make this year's Christmas cards, see my friends and spend some time with my family I don't really know.
Perhaps I just won't sleep.

***

Tuesday 21st November 2006
That was rather a long break, wasn't it?
Don't panic, we're all still alive and well - at least, we are now. One or other of us has been constantly ill for the best part of two weeks, but finally the Family Carter appear to be over the Great Stomach Flu Epidemic of 2006.

More to follow as we get back to normal.

***

Friday 10th November 2006
Poor Millie, she's not very well at the moment.
Sure, she's had a runny nose and a cough for a week or two, but now she's got a stomach bug and she's not her usual little happy self. We haven't heard her laugh at all for a few days, and we miss it. She spends most of her time at the moment either fast asleep, snuffling with myself and the Lovely Melanie, or just sat forlornly on the floor with a serene but slightly bereft expression on her face. The occasional sad smile only makes the situation even more heart-rending.

She's being sick a lot - after every meal, pretty much. The Lovely Melanie took her to the doctors yesterday, and they were very good. We were told not to worry too much about the vomiting, just to make sure Millie gets plenty of fluids - fluids all the time, morning, noon and night - as small children can dehydrate with astonishng speed. In the morning they can be a bit under the weather; by evening, in hospital.
Which is important to know, I suppose, but not very reassuring.

So poor Millie's just moping slowly around the house, too poorly even to get interested in her usual toys or the BIG spider that has the Lovely Melanie in fear of her sanity/life in the living room (I captured its smaller mate in a glass jar the other night, put the lid on the jar and had to leave it on the floor while I saw to Millie. Later, when the Lovely Melanie got home and saw the jar, she picked it up with a sigh and said, "What's this in here for?" "There's a spider in it--" was all I managed to say before - CRASH! - the jar very nearly smashed on the floor).

Come back to us, Millie - much as we love getting so many cuddles, we want the old Millie back, the shouting, banging, scampering, mischievous, smiling, laughing bundle of fun that we love...

***

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