The (true) Story of Millie Harriet Carter
Part 7, a third year

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 6 - a second Christmas

Read Part 8 - Baby Amber cometh...

Read Part 9 - everything changes

Wednesday16th May 2007
'For the past 25 years between five and seven children have been abducted and killed by a stranger each year, and that has not changed.'

And that's 'between five and seven' too many, obviously, but hopefully puts into perspective the panic over paedophiles and the heartbreaking events in Portugal.  
There simply aren't terribly many deranged paediatricians around: not enough to justify draconian laws, and certainly not enough to justify surgically implanting a GPS device into your child's body.

If you're seriously thinking about doing something as weird as that to your children then you probably shouldn't have had children in the first place.  In fact, given that most in cases of child snatching/abuse/murder the assailant is someone they know, your best bet is to simply lock them indoors and keep their existence a secret from everyone.

Which, if you think about it, is what child snatchers usually do anyway.

***
Wednesday16th May 2007 (continued)
Ever buy one of those albums that you just can't decide whether you like it or not?
I had a similar problem with Joanna Newsom (whom I eventually decided I really didn't like, but she had one good song), and at the moment I've got the same problem with A Sunny Day In Glasgow.

I bought the album last week, on the strength of a recommendation from the usually reliable Norman Records, heard it once whilst not really actually properly listening and thought 'Wow!'  But then listened to it again later, this time a bit more closely, and was a bit bored, even annoyed, by it.  Now I've heard it again and I'm thinking 'No, that is pretty good...'
It's not helped by the fact that I've got another album since, Plastic Operator's Different Places, which is instantly accessible and extremely likeable, and which is kind of edging A Sunny Day In Glasgow off the stereo; kind of like the stupid - but funny - friend who always distacts you from getting talk to your other, clever and interesting, but shy, friend. (NOTE: no actual current friends of mine are being referrred to here)

Because in my experience, albums that are instantly accessible and likable aren't ones that become long-term favourites - it's the ones that you you can't quite decide upon at first, but don't actually take an immediate dislike to, those are the ones that stay near the top of your CD collection.
So I'm going to persevere with A Sunny Day In Glasgow.

***
Saturday 19th May 2007
We were in the far reaches of west London today for a fantastic birthday party (the 3rd of young Oscar Day, since you're asking).  Millie's still not much of a team player (in the sense of 'playing with other children') but by god she enjoyed herself this afternoon!
Oscar's lucky to have such a fine set of parents, since they not only have a sand pit in their back garden, which kept Millie happy for at least 30 minurtes solid, but they had hired a bouncy castle for Oscar.
Now, as usual, Millie was the smallest-child-that-wasn't-a-baby at the party, but despite the ever-present danger of being crushed by the older children she absolutely loved it.
Hmm, perhaps that didn't make it quite clear how  much fun she had on that bouncy castle -
Millie went absolutely bloody hysterically mental on that bouncy castle!I've seldom seen her laugh and jump and shout and throw herself about with such positively suicidal abandon.  Despite being the smallest active child on the castle she was easily one of the bravest: being thrown about all over the place, and only shrieking and laughing harder - especially when joined by her big, fat daddy, whose trampolining antics sent her spinning off all over the place.

Damn, but that girl's turning out to be a thrill-seeker, brave to the point of foolhardy.  And I am so proud of her. :-)

She loves playing with telephones at the moment; whether it's my mobile or our landline, she'll pick up the handset, press a few buttons and shout 'Hiya!' down the line.  
On the train home from west London, despite being knackered almost beyond endurance she still found the energy to shout 'Hiya!' at a man opposite us trying to talk on his 'phone.
Oh, how we would've laughed if our London public transport stiff upper lip instincts hadn't forced us to keep straight faces and just ignore this potential 'scene'.

And for those of you who checked out the band links in my previous post, they've all been superseded by The Bird And The Bee, who have a new single, Again And Again, out very soon.  It's a work of Latin lounge pop genius stuck on continual 'Repeat' on my stereo...

***
Saturday 26th May 2007
Quick update: we've bought a new house in Albany Park; the Lovely Melanie and I are flying to Scotland today; Millie's at her grandparents for the weekend; this is a wonderful page of pictures.

Have I missed anything?
Oh, yes - not much action this week because the Lovely Melanie and I have both had food poisoning.
Fortunately, we were somehow able to get Millie to nursery so that we could then return to the serious business of evacuating our innards.  
I assume that's all the detail you need?

***
Tuesday 29th May 2007
A manic Bank Holiday weekend.
Friday morning, I had a job interview (don't ask); Friday night, we were in Hatfield; Saturday night, we were in Livingston in Scotland (after a marathon 7.5 hour drive); Sunday afternoon, we were back in London (arriving by plane, thank goodness), and with my parents staying over; Monday, we were in Albany Park, having another look at our new home.
Last night, we were collapsed in bed watching Ocean's Eleven (although, I notice ITV decided not to use the possessive apostrophe in Ocean's - boo ITV!  Bad TV channel!).

Millie had her usual fantastic time with Nanny and Grampy this weekend.  I was a bit worried she might be upset at being away from us for so long, but by all accounts she barely notice, which I'm at once proud of and slightly hurt by...
My parents took her to Swindon on Friday, brought her back on Sunday, and were kept extremely busy in-between.  My mum had forgotten when she agreed to look after Millie, that she was away on a hen do that weekend, so my dad would be on his own.  As regular readers will know, my dad has a bad heart, so there were fears that Millie might overtax him a bit (god knows, she overtaxes me occasionally!).  However, my brother and his girlfriend came over from Bristol to help out.

I think everyone involved had a lovely time, but we were so glad to see her again on Sunday.  It was only two days, and we weren't pining away the whole time, but we did miss having her around in Scotland, and got a little impatient Sunday afternoon waiting for my parents to arrive back...

Millie's newest trick seems to be 'reading'.  She'll sit down with a copy of Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Anarchism...But Were Afraid To Ask, open it up and babble away for about 20 seconds, just as though she were reading it out loud.  Even better than that, she'll also give you a kiss if you ask her - 'Millie, can you give daddy a kiss?' will see her walk over to you, say 'Maah!' and put her face against yours.  
It's just brilliant - I can't recommend it highly enough, both for comedy value and pure feel-good factor!

We also went for a second look at our new 243,000 home in Albany Park, this time determined to be as negative and cynical as possible about it.
We also took my parents along, too - as a pair of more practical and objective eyes.

But Albany Park, even in the freezing wind and rain, was still a lovely place, and the house was just as nice as we remembered it - perhaps nicer.  So much so that despite my phobia of moving house (the physical removal bit, with all the boxes and packing and stuff) I can honestly say that I'm really looking forward to moving house!
We are trying so hard to be a bit cagey about this move, after we (stupidly! stupid-stupid-stupid-stupidly!) bought our current place on the strength of a single 10-minute viewing.  There are, I suppose, the mitigating circumstances of the stress of Millie's arrival at the time, which completely scrambled our critical faculties, but we basically bought a moneypit, and have been simultaneously repenting and trying to knock it into the semblance of a home ever since.

Well, sod that.  The new house, as best anyone can tell, is in excellent order: if we have the time and the disposition to we might decide to redecorate a bit, but builders and extensive repairs will not be required.

Three more things.
  1. The Truth really needs archiving.  Good web design dictates that a webpage shouldn't be more than 3 screens long, and I think we're currently up to something like 25 screens on here.  When I have a quiet moment I intend to not only archive most of it, but also look into somehow keeping it much shorter all the time.
  2. Wednesday night I should on the guest list to see my superstar mates the Manic Street Preachers play at the Astoria, and I'm going to the aftershow party  (actually, technically, they're mates of a mate, rather than my superstar mates, but, you know...)  so I've booked Thursday off work.
  3. Flickrvision - a mesmerising site that combines Google Maps and Flickr to create a real-time slideshow of what people are taking pictures of, and where, all over the planet.  I can watch this for hours...
***
Wednesday 30th May 2007
The Lovely Melanie can tell you what a gadget fiend I am (albeit, on a budget) so think yourself lucky there isn't more tedious geek jiggerypokery on this page...

However, I've just gotten hold of a pair of Bluetrek's new ST1 headphones, which I absolutely, unreservedly, 100% highly recommend.
The coolest thing is that they have no wires - they connect via Bluetooth; but the fact that they simply work, with no fuss or complications or need to read the instructions is also a big plus in my book.  I can put my phone away at the bottom of my bag, put the headphones on and listen to music, change tracks and volume, answer calls - even make calls - just using the headphones.
My experience of Bluetooth has been more than a little underwhelming up till now, but Bluetrek have single-handedly converted me to its virtues.

***
Monday 4th June 2007
Not such great news from back home in Swindon, where my grandad has been taken into hospital, is currently unconscious and lacking a hopeful prognosis.  
He was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease just a few short months back, a nasty disease,
whose only real 'positive' is that it's usually a while before it really takes hold (not much of a positive when you see what the "taking hold" entails, but you've got to take what you can get...)

The NHS and the Prospect Foundation and the MND Association, 3 excellent organisations, had only just been beginning to get into gear to make sure the later stages of 
my grandad's condition would be more dignified and hopeful than they otherwise might...but it seems he has a more ferocious type of MND than anyone had anticipated, and may not now recover consciousness.Sadly, this means Millie won't remember her great-grandad as a person - we saw him only a couple of weeks ago whilst in Swindon, and had a laugh and a chat with him then, but for Millie he'll be another face next to her in some old pictures: much the same as I remember any of my great-grandparents, although, I do at least have some very vague memories of them.

But, finally, to look once more on the 'positive' side: this does at least mean he'll be spared the brutal drawn-out end that MND frequently involves; and for that, as well as for his 79 years of life and the happiness he's given people, I hope we can be grateful.

***
Tuesday 5th June 2007
And just like that, he was gone: quietly, with my uncle at his bedside, at 7.30 this morning.
“You can shed tears that he is gone, or you can smile because he has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he'll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all he's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see him,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him only that he is gone,
or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what he'd want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”
- David Harkins

***
Monday 11th June 2007
Some curiously good news today - my dad is back in hospital!  Hurrah!
Nope, I'm not cheering because I've read the will (shame on you!), it's because he's gone to Papworth for a three-day battery of tests to see if he can join their heart transplant program - or, indeed, any other of a number of new therapies and techniques being tested
there.
It's a stressful three days for him.  The tests are psychological as well as physiological: more like a job interview than a medical exam, but if he passes them then he'll be put in the queue for a heart transplant - which might seem a bit drastic (a heart transplant still seems to me like a last resort for desperately ill folk), but apparently isn't quite as desperately last resort as you might imagine.
My dad's heart is in pretty poor shape, and he is tired of being so constrained by that.
Even if he doesn't get on the heart transplant list they'll have all his details on file for consideration with other new therapies in future.
So that's pretty good news.

Unreservedly good news was our weekend, when we drove down to Blandford Forum in Dorset for the wedding of another friend, Shash Khan, and his lovely wife Megan.
The drive down was not without humour - we hired a people carrier with four other friends - but ended up getting a little bit stressful after we got delayed in London, then lost in Dorset, and ended up arriving just 18 minutes before the wedding was due to start, and having to get changed in the venue toilets!

Fortunately the day itself was a wonderfully laid back affair in a beautiful country setting, and we all had a grand old time there: not least Millie, who loves visiting new places, especially if they have swings and slides and cake and dancing and other children to play with.

During the ceremony she chattered away to herself, saying 'Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy...' and embarrassing the Lovely Melanie, but was impeccably well-behaved for the rest of the day: scampering round the venue like a scampatious little scampity-scamp - only stopping when anyone came up to say 'Hello'.
Millie's usually as bold as brass, as you probably know, unfazed by anything short of a nuclear explosion (or bhangra drummers...), but upon first meeting unfamiliar people she often turns into Paul Whitehouse's gardener character Ted in the Fast Show.  She'll look shyly at the floor, go mute, and pretend she isn't there.  Then, after an uncomfortable minute or two, she'll slowly return to normal, i.e., putting cake over people's trousers, tripping over their shoes and babbling away about 'horsies' or 'birdies'.

There were puppodums with the delicious wedding meal, which kept her happy; then there were horses in the fields outside, whom she wouldn't stop shouting 'Hiya!' at; there was a playground behind the venue that she ran off to as soon as our backs were turned (the Lovely Melanie had a nasty moment when she thought I'd lost Millie - I had, but only for a minute, and as soon as I remembered the playground I knew exactly where to look for her), and there were lots and lots of 'uncles' and 'aunties' who were more than willing to play with and watch her.
The latter was great for myself and the Lovely Melanie, particularly since Millie's batteries didn't begin to fade until almost 11 o'clock.  Other parents there couldn't believe she was still fighting fit at such an ungodly hour!  But that's Millie - she'll go on and on and on if there's something worth going on and on and on for.

I simply have to say this again - it's becoming
still more and more fun to be around Millie, to see a real little person emerging where before was just an eating, sleeping and excreting machine.  I'm constantly amazed by how much she now understands - really quite complex requets for her to do things, or to do things we haven't asked her to do before: Can you give the ball to Mummy in the kitchen, please, Millie?'
At breakfast today she pointed out to me the 'fishies' and the 'duck-ducks' on the rim of her cereal bowl -
this is someone who, just a year ago, couldn't communicate at all; now she's always got something to say or to show you, can very nearly hold a conversation, is constantly delighted by things, and always completely over-the-moon to see you if you've been gone for more than five minutes.

This blows my mind if I ever stop to think about it.

Talking to another dad at the weekend we both agreed: having children endangers your sanity, both from the frustrations and the hard work involved, and from the wonderful rewards you get from them.  
It's almost too much of both.


Millie's favourite game at the moment is to climb up on our bed, shout 'Oh no!' and dramatically fall over.
She may become an actor.

***
Tuesday 12th June 2007
Those of you without children who read this won't have a clue what In The Night Garden is, but anyone under five and their parents will know exactly what I'm talking about.
It's a programme on CBeebies made by the people who brought you the Teletubbies, and the eagerly awaited new series started this week.  Millie is completely and utterly transfixed by it.
I mean it: completely and utterly transfixed.
It's on for a pretty lengthy (for Millie, who's not yet two, remember) 40 minutes, and during that entire time she can't be tempted by food, juice, toys, nuffle - anything.  
Even stranger is the fact that when it finished tonight Millie's bottom lip started quivering, and she was visibly a little upset .  Not badly upset, but rather saddened; still, 
we had a quick cuddle which forestalled any actual tears and she was quickly right as rain again.
Interestingly, it's a very common reaction, and I can understand why -
even I love the gentle melancholy theme tune.

Away from psychedelic children's fantasy lands: my dad's trip to Papworth hasn't been a waste of time, and he's almost been approved to go on the waiting list for a heart transplant.  Apparently he has the most enlarged heart that even the specialists in enlarged and damaged hearts have ever seen, which I guess is cause for some small measure of family pride.  

The all-too sobering flipside of this is that without a transplant he probably won't be there for Millie's fourth birthday.  My mum says she's been trying to tell us this, and my brother the paramedic wasn't the least bit surprised, but the rest of us are shocked that things are quite that serious.

I said 'almost approved' - frustratingly, the Papworth tests have also discovered some kind of unknown anomaly with my dad's blood.  No one seems to know what it is or might do, and until some further test results come back on Friday 
the worst case scenario is that it may preclude him from going on the transplant waiting list.
I can almost feel my emotional defences coming on-line as they did when Millie was born, and not allowing me to think about the consequences of that.

***
Wednesday 20th June 2007
My dad is officially on the waiting list for a heart transplant.
He's had the results back about his blood anomaly, and whatever it is isn't a problem for a heart transplant.
I predict you're going to be hearing rather a lot more of the ins and outs of hearts transplants here...

My granddad's funeral was a 'good' one: very much a remembrance and celebration of his life, rather than a mourning of our loss.  I was surprised to hear the poem I used here read out at the ceremony; apparently people liked it and thought it appropriate, which I was grateful for.

Millie was off nursery with a cold and a touch of conjunctivitis yesterday and Monday, hence the no-update thing.  The Lovely Melanie took care of her Monday, and I did the Tuesday shift.  Today we're all back we're we should be, i.e. work, work and nursery.

Yesterday was nice and frustrating in equal measures, since, as much as I love my daughter, taking care of her for a whole day on your own can be a bit tiring.  We did have one nasty moment where, following a poorly thought out and executed 'bouncy-bouncy', she fell backwards off our bed.  Fortunately no harm was done, and after ten minutes of tears and cuddles she was
once more fine.
Millie is fascinated by spiders at the moment, following a couple of encounters in the bath and in her room.   Whenever she passes the spot where these incidents have taken place she'll always say 'Hiya pidah.'
Ladybirds are a different story, however.  When I showed her one whilst at the shops yesterday she said, quite emphatically, 'No,' as though I'd done something very silly and she was gently, but firmly, putting me right.

I was going to write a big long post detailing the entertaining events of the day, for those who might be interested, but it would be a pretty long post and I don't have the time just now.  Plus, we all have Millie's cold, and that's sapping our will to...well, do much of anything, really.
It hasn't entirely sapped my critical faculties however, as I went to see Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer at the Peckham Premier last night, and eventually deemed it unworthy of my time.

***
Thursday 21st June 2007
In case you hadn't noticed, there are some new pictures on my Flickr page.
There haven't been that many pictures taken of Millie lately, but as the girl and I were home and bored on Tuesday I thought I'd take a few.
And I know you can't see her face in the one with the bookshelves, but I thought that was kind of the point: she looks as though she's after something to read.  To be fair, she does browse the bookshelves, but only the ones in her bedroom: often disappearing from the living room, only to reappear a couple of minutes later, book in hand and with a hopeful face.

Damn, but I've been busy.  After a fallow reviewing period where I wondered if I'd ever write another review again I've just churned out three in two evenings.  They'll be up here and elsewhere after the Lovely Melanie has worked her editorial magic upon them.
And I'm also pencilled in to do an interview with author Paul McAuley in the next couple of weeks, which should be fun.
***
Monday 25th June 2007
First, my favourite link of the day - to a fantastic theremin version of Crazy by Gnarls Barkley (sad to say, the only number one in recent years one that I've really liked - and not only because they refused to let McDonald's use it in any of their adverts).

Next a look ahead:  Saturday is Millie's second birthday, and we're going to London Zoo.
We originally had no real plans for her birthday (for various reasons a birthday party would be quite complicated and difficult to organise), but then some friends from up in Leicestershire, Adam and Sadie, said they were bringing their boys to the zoo on that day and would we like to come.  
I thought about it for about a second and said, 'Yes!'.
Then remembered to ask the Lovely Melanie.
Fortunately she said, 'Yes,' too!

And then, before I knew it, there were loads of people coming to the unofficial birthday party.
It turns out that my brother and his girlfriend are coming up that day anyway (to see Lou Reed play, I think); then there's Millie's Grandma and Granddad from Hatfield, Nanny and Grampy from Swindon, and some of the Lovely Melanie's friends with their own children are coming.

I just hope we get a chance to see Adam and Sadie, too!

Finally, tomorrow: I'm taking Millie for one of her hospital check-ups, the first time I've had to do so because the Lovely Melanie's running out of holiday to take for this kind of thing.  I'm a bit nervous about it, to be honest, not because I expect anything at all to be the matter with Millie, but just because I don't know what I'm doing.
I get a bit nervous about anything where I don't know what the hell I'm doing and can't fake competence either.
***
Wednesday 27th June 2007
Everything went fine at the hospital yesterday for Millie's two-year check-up.
She's on course for all her baby targets, except for the size/weight thing - which is not unexpected, but the doctor did say she's very gradually falling further behind with her weight.  It's nothing serious to worry about really, but is worth keeping an eye on.  Furthermore, we should be giving Millie as many fats and carbohydrates as possible - the kind of diet that would have that damned charlatan Gillian McKeith choking on her morning bowl of sawdust.  So if you were thinking of buying Millie some 'Organic Crunchy Carrot Nibbler Sticks' for her birthday - don't.  The girl wants - needs - lard.

I'd assumed the appointment would take a couple of hours, what with shuffling from doctor to doctor and all the weighing, poking, prodding and testing involved.
In actual fact, it took about 20 minutes in total.  We missed the main building to begin with, and had to ask at the information desk: 'Where's the children's outpatients department?' leading the very nice lady to very gently patronise us by very quietly pointing across the path to the big, gaudily painted building with the big sign saying 'Children's Outpatients' on it.

Anyway, we found our way in and queued up behind another dad with his daughter - who, I couldn't help overhearing, was also called Millie - before being led to a waiting room so full of toys that an already impatient Millie could only roll her eyes helplessly and point.
But before she could even point twice at the rocking horse, a nurse came in and asked for Millie - whereupon the other dad strode confidently across the room with his Millie.
'Whoa, not so fast there, pardner,' I didn't actually say.
'Which Millie would that be, sister...?' I
did actually say.

And we left the other Millie there, eating our dust...

There was one unfortunate incident, because Millie really doesn't like being in hospitals, so to try and cheer her up after she was weighed I threw her up into the air - which always brings a smile and a cackle normally.
Unfortunately, this time she banged her head on a curtain rail around the examining couch.
'Here,' I felt like saying, before handing her to the nurse to be adopted, 'call social services.  It's a fair cop, I'm a terrible father.'

It's also worth noting that I'd been really looking forward to taking Millie to the hospital: a bit of out-of-the-ordinary father-daughter time, and doing something that the Lovely Melanie has previously 
always taken care of (i.e. the hospital appointments).
I'd imagined pushing a happy, laughing Millie onto a quiet bus, where she would be enthralled by Daddy's encyclopaedic local knowledge as I pointed out  the fascinating sights of Catford to her.  Then we'd stroll into Lewisham Hospital where Millie would amaze all the doctors and nurses with her precocious chatter and good nature, before returning home to bounce on the bed, read some books and eat a hearty dinner.

The reality was that a tired and grumpy Millie whined and grizzled all the way there, struggling to escape from her buggy whilst I stood, sweating like a rapist, behind her on an overcrowded bus.  
At the hospital she didn't say a single word, except to ask get into - and then immediately back out of - her buggy, whilst continuing to whine and grizzle throughout.  I was sweating so much
whilst trying to talk to the doctor that even the rapists began to look glance suspiciously at me, and it was a relief the appointment was over so quickly, otherwise I'd have died of dehydration (which would have happened shortly after the police were called to stop me murdering my only and beloved daughter).

Sometimes this fathering business can be no fun at all.
***

Friday 29th June 2007

Bobbing and weaving through endless groups of stupid, shouting, meandering tourists today, trying to get to and from Oxford Street in my lunch hour, I saw the following Evening Standard headline -
Bid for 1,700 city dead!
And my first thought was: '100!  I bid 100 to have these idiots killed and out off my damn way!'
***

Sunday 1st July 2007

Pictures of Millie's second birthday, from home to the zoo.
Shame about the rain; everything else was fantastic however, but nobody had as good a time as Millie: jumping in puddles, being taken on merry-go-rounds, seeing loads of unusual animals and shouting 'Hiya!' at all of them.
Except for the giraffes.  She was a bit spooked by the giraffes.
Then, at 3.30, she fell suddenly and unsurprisingly asleep and had to be carried back to her buggy, and thence home.

Thanks to the Lovely Melanie's parents, my parents, my brother and his girlfriend, Conny, and our friends Adam, Sadie, Dylan, Fergus
and Liz for coming and making it such a lovely day. :-)
***
Wednesday 4th July 2007
I went to see the Royal Society Summer Exhibition last night - a completely free science display near Trafalgar Square - and was quite touched to be given my favourite compliment of the year so far.  I was asked by one of the exhibitors, 'What do you do?  Are you a scientist?  You seem to know so much about this.'  
I was amazed that anyone might think that, but it put a spring in my step for the rest of the evening!

Now, I, of course, am an English graduate (with a Masters in Literary Criticism, thanks for asking), but I'm utterly beguiled by the world of science and technology, far more so than the world of Lit-Crit.
If I could go back to school now I know I'd make a far greater effort than I did with Maths and the sciences, and would want to be some kind of research scientist.
Whether my limited maths skills could stretch to it, however, is another question...

But, anyway, my compliment.
I got talking to one of the very nice ladies on the exhibition stand about the STEREO mission, and we ended up chatting for ages about sunspots and the solar wind and the sun's magnetic field and aurorae - where I even surprised myself with how much I knew about that stuff; I mean, for goodness' sake, I even remembered what causes sunspots, which is a pretty 
useless piece of arcane knowledge for someone like me; I don't think it's ever come up in conversation before...

Oh, and I saw Stephen Hawking and Colin Pillinger there, too.  Neither looked terribly well - Prof. Pillinger was on crutches and Prof. Hawking's glasses were on completely wonky.  
But it was nice to see them in the flesh: two people I admire and respect.

And Millie?  She's had an ear infection again - her infected ear smells like Wotsits, which I think  I've mentioned before.  But she's also gotten a strange obsession with money.  She loves playing with coins, and if she sees any lying about will start shouting 'Money! Money!' in a slightly hysterical voice.  She'll quite happily sit for hours in a big pile of  coins, either throwing them all over the place like some kind of miser let loose in a bank vault, or very carefully, one by one, picking them up and filling any convenient container.
Hopefully it'll be a phase that passes quickly - there's really something not quite right about a small child so obsessed with cash.  We already have more than enough adults with that problem.

Our move is creeping steadily closer, too.  It looks like we might even be in our new place by the end of the month.  And on the one hand, I can't wait to be in our nice new home, free of all the problems of our current place, but on the other hand, it means going through the whole nightmarish removal upheaval again...
***
Wednesday 11th July 2007
Feeling a bit unmotivated to write at the moment, to be honest, although there are a few exciting new things going on that I could tell you about.

First, the house move.
That's on course for the end of this month.
I dare not say anything else in case some of the legal entities
involved read this and decide they've really been working far too jolly hard - they haven't - although our solicitor has been fantastic.
The Nationwide, in particular, have really pulled out all the stops to ensure that as much of our time as possible has been wasted correcting their mistakes and compensating for their useless staff.
At one point they denied that we had made any mortgage payments to them in the past five years - 'So why haven't you repossessed our home,' we had to ask, 'or at least sent us a letter about it?'
And remember - these people are in charge of a lot of money.

Second, Millie's first parents' evening.
I couldn't make it along to this, but there were no surprises: Millie doing very well, blah blah blah.  Millie very forward and vocal, etc etc etc.  Millie loves dancing, and so on and so forth.
Ah, I may sound blase about this, but it was nice to hear from someone else how well she's doing, and from people who see lots of other children and can judge what Millie's like in relation to them, i.e. forthright to the point of being bossy!
While we were in the garden at the weekend, Millie was sat down sorting out  the gravel as usual (a Millie's work is never done...) and she would yell at the Lovely Melanie and myself, 'Dit down!  Dit down!' ('Sit down!') until we did, indeed, 'Dit down.'
'Bossy?  Moi?'
Millie's favourite thing at the moment?  'Boing!'  Which involves throwing all the pillows off the bed, grabbing hold of the headboard and bouncing up and down in a fit of giggles yelling 'Boing! Boing! Boing!'.
Oh, that, and then getting us to climb into bed with her and pretend to be asleep.

Tonight, I'm going to Plan B in Brixton to see the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, a brass band from New York.
They might be good, they might be rubbish; but they've got a cool name and it's only a fiver to get in so...

Speaking of music, I've got loads of new stuff I'm trying to catch up with at the moment, but am particularly enamoured of a chap called Ulrich Schnauss and his new album '
Goodbye' - not to mention Maps and their new album We Can Create - it's like shoegazing never went away!
There's also a band called Young Galaxy, whose song 
Swing Your Heartache (which you can hear here) is an unexpected favourite of mine at the moment, too.  The rest of the album's not bad, either.
***
Thursday 11th July 2007
The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble weren't rubbish at all, you'll be glad to hear.  In fact, they were about as far from being rubbish as it's possible to get without there being naked ladies involved...
And that's damn not rubbish!
***

Monday 16th July 2007
Tiring is the word for that weekend.  Sporadically fun and enjoyable, but tiring.
It didn't, of course, help that, like the weak-willed fool I am, I was out with the boys till 3am on Friday night, knowing full well we had a train to catch at 10.30 the next morning.  Fortunately, despite the dirty 3am stop-out, I did stop drinking (alcohol, that is) at 1am, so Saturday morning dawned with myself only moaning softly, as opposed to sobbing.

We had a train to catch to Swindon for the lovely wedding of my cousin, Mark, and his radiant bride, Maxine.  
Although the wedding was in
the Oxfordshire town of Witney there was a hired family coach going from Swindon at 11.30. What with train delays due to 'bridge strikes' we nearly missed the coach though, and then the coach itself rear-ended a car on the way there!  
Transport really wasn't our thing this weekend.

It's been a long time since I went to a wedding in a church, despite the remarkable number of weddings recently attended, and I was a bit nervous about Millie getting bored at it (I have grim
childhood memories of endless weddings in dreary, cold churches).  Fortunately, Millie was relatively well-behaved, and Mark & Maxine got married, I'm pleased to report, without being at any point told to 'Dit down!' or that the 'Pussy/horsey/woof-woof/rabbit/Grampy' was 'Gone!' and the day was a great success (although, I did rather wish we could have gone home a couple of hours earlier, as by one AM I was perilously near the end of my tether...)

Millie went absolutely mental on the dancefloor again, having another whale of a time until she eventually collapsed into her buggy about 10 o'clock.  Damn, but that girl loves to dance.  Pushing her home on Sunday she even started trying to boogie to the tune from a nearby ice-cream van, and gave him a round of applause when his tune finished - I kid you not!

I would have laughed more at this if it hadn't taken us five hours to get home, following a massive signal failure somewhere between Reading and London, which left us stuck on the train for three hours.

Now, I'd like to point out something important for those of you without children.  The more child-phobic amongst you may even want to write this down.
Ready?  OK, here it is -

The parents of crying children on crowded, delayed trains aren't enjoy hearing the experience any more than you are.

In fact, we probably like it even less because:
(i) we don't like our offspring to be upset
(ii) we hear them crying quite enough as it is anyway, and
(iii) most of us are acutely aware of how annoying it is for other people and
find it very embarrassing.

Unfortunately (this is another important bit) sometimes there's nothing we can do about it.
I apologise profusely for all such occasions - honestly, I do - but at such times your patience is greatly appreciated.  
Funnily enough, moaning, shouting, huffing and puffing, glaring or telling your friend on the phone
very loudly about it doesn't help at all.
Thankfully, this advice wasn't actually needed yesterday; everyone on our train was very understanding, and we managed to get Millie calmed down after about ten long minutes.
***
Thursday 19th July 2007
Ooh, another new look!
I'm reading a book about designing functional and user-friendly websites.
This is the result.

Also, I had an idea - well, a challenge, really - for all the people still denying that global manmade climate change is taking place.
If you're a climate change naysayer - a serious climate change denier, the kind whose efforts bring a proud tear to the eye of oil company execs the world over - and you want me to take you seriously, then I want you to invest all your money, and all your children's money, in beachfront or low-lying property.
Go on, I dare you.
***

Sunday 22nd July 2007
Wet, isn't it?  Which makes it seem rather opportune that I have a job interview on Wednesday for a position writing web content with an environmental campaigning group.
At least if I get it then there should be no shortage of work!

We took Millie to the Lambeth Country Fair on Saturday.  
Lambeth's just about the most inner-city borough in London, and the fact that it has a 'Country Fair', complete with sheepdog displays, old steam engines, cart horses and god knows what else has always rather tickled me.  We'd been hoping for a grand day out with lots of my friends and Millie, which sadly doesn't happen terribly often, but all except one cried off due to the rain.
Well done for braving the weather, 'Uncle' Mike.  Boo to all you other namby-pamby hydrophbic babies.

One particular point of note: we've been refused entry onto buses before because there was already one baby buggy onboard (and after the Lovely Melanie had paid for her ticket, too - grr...).  On the bus to Herne Hill, where the Fair takes place, the bus driver let five buggies squeeze onto the bus!  Five!
Getting people on and off was like one of those games where you have to move a lot of shapes around an enclosed space to let one escape.  Madness...

Anyway, was it ever wet!  At one point we had to give up and take shelter in a nearby baby-friendly pub for an hour because the rain just wasn't funny any more.  Finally,  the sun came out for a couple of hours and Millie went on some bouncy castles, saw loads of animals, an old steam engine being used to cut tree trunks into planks, some clowns and a cow.  After which it started to rain again so we all went home.

We'd have been better off going there today, really, when the sun's been blazing all day, but had already been invited to a
birthday party at Topsy Turvy World in the wilds of north London.
Topsy Turvy World is one of those indoor adventure playgrounds where everything is wrapped in padding and it's impossible for even the most foolhardy child to hurt themselves.
Not that some foolhardy children didn't try pretty hard to do so.
Still, the aforementioned child had a wonderful time there, and it set her up in the most fantastic, cheerful and chatty mood for the rest of the day.  If we could have more days like today with Millie then you'd never hear me complain about how tiring parenthood is ever again.
So thank you to Danny and his parents for inviting us, and for the great party. :-)

***

Thursday 26th July 2007

What has Millie been up to of late?

Well, she's been a bit perturbed by watching You've Been Framed.
Even the smallest mishap in our house causes her to say, 'Oh, no!', so watching it with her last Saturday all we heard was 'Oh, no.  Oh, no.  Oh, no!  Oh!  Oh, no!' all the way through.

Of course, we often can't hear anything she says at the moment because she's taken to carrying around her bear (Bonkers - or 'Bonkeesh'), her blanket ('nuffle'), her toy boat ('bot') and her balloon ('bawoon') everywhere she goes.
Despite being loaded down with all these valuable possessions, she continues to wander the flat like a lost soul, occasionally dropping one or more of them: at which point we hear a plaintive 'Oh, no!' from somewhere down the other end of the flat.

Millie also seemed to have largely given up feeding herself meals; perhaps she was concentrating on other skills; perhaps the use of a spoon seemed unnecessary; perhaps she's just been feeling lazy, but last night she took the spoon off of me and fed herself an entire pot of Petit Filous ('Pe fiwous') just like you or I would.

Well, almost.  You or I may have used a napkin to wipe the excess yoghurt from our chin.

Slightly sadder is that, now we're definitely moving house next Thursday (August 2nd), we'll be saying goodbye to her nursery, and to her friend Holly that she's made there.  Millie, on her way to nursery, will start calling out 'Holly!' even before we reach the end of our road, and when they see each other in the morning they both yell 'Hiya, Millie/Holly,' and give each other a hug.  Ahh...

The nursery have been ever-so good to her.  We were very touched at how sad some of the carers were when they found out she was leaving, so much so that I almost felt bad about...but then I remembered Millie's new nursery in Bexley was 200 a month cheaper (purely because it's further out of London), and I suddenly felt much better.

And, on a completely different subject, what do we have here?  Oh, my giddy aunt, it's only a 3D bloomin'  tour of the International bloomin' Space Station!
I've changed my mind - I don't want to live in Bexley, I want to live in space, even if it does look like the 1970s never went away up there!

***

Friday 27th July 2007

Bah.  No new job writing web content with an environmental campaigning group for me.

Apparently, I did very well in the interview and excelled at the writing and ideas test; I only fell down because the post was with a Christian group and they felt that I 'had a dearth of experience with faith groups and churches,' which I'm rather cynically interpreting as, "You're not a Christian.'

To top it all, both Millie and I have colds.
Again.

Still, we fall to rise, as Browning once said.

***


Monday 30th July 2007

Two sentences I never thought I'd need to say, but recently have:
  • Millie, don't try to eat the submarine.
  • Millie, don't try and put the sunglasses up your bottom.

We're definitely moving house on Thursday (2nd August).  
Our removal people delivered lots and lots of boxes and packing materials on Saturday, and from Millie's perspective the flat must currently look like a giant monochrome game of Tetris.

***
Wednesday 1st August 2007
First of all, I'm very impressed indeed by a mashup of the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's and lots of other songs.  It's called Cracked Pepper, and there's a completely free BitTorrent download available from this page, or just click here to get the torrent file - I'm assuming you know what torrents are? If you don't, click here for a helpful explanation of how to use it.
Really - it's well worth it.

More importantly in the grand scheme of things, today is our last full day in our old flat.  
I'd like to say I was sad about this, but I'm not.  As I've said before, we've never properly felt at home there, for various reasons, but the main one is the amount of vandalism, pure and simple dodgy DIY the previous owners left us to tackle.

Perhaps I was a bit sad this morning as I took Millie to nursery.  Tonight she's going to visit Granddad and Grandma in Hatfield for a couple of days while we sort the new place out, so this morning she did leave the flat for her last ever time ('Bye-bye housey! Bye housey!'), which felt a bit poignant, but rather more sad is that it's also the last ever day at her nursery.
I pushed her pushchair up the road one last time, stopping, 
as we always do, to eat some blackberries from the garden of the derelict house; then to wave at the pussy cats halfway up the street ('Bye, pussy! Bye!'); to poke the flowers outside the local pub, cross at the zebra crossing (where it's always a gamble whether cars will stop or not) - all the simple rituals we go through most days.

Of course, Millie doesn't have a clue what's about to happen, and I felt a bit bad when I saw her smiling and eating breakfast with the other children at nursery, knowing she was about to be heartlessly ripped from the innocent bosom of her young companions forever (sob).

That might be a bit of an exaggeration actually;
Millie's best friend, Holly, is having a birthday party soon, and her mum took our new 'phone number for that.

But I'm signing off now - wish us luck and we'll see you
, as it were, on the other side...
***
Wednesday 1st August 2007 - LATER
Packing!  So much packing still to do!  Where did we get all this stuff??
The horror!  The horror!
***

Tuesday 7th August 2007

We're in the new house.  It's brilliant.  We love it.

BT have made such a pigs'-ear of our broadband, however, that it's going to be another week before we have internet access at home - the best thing is, BT isn't even our broadband supplier, and we still have to wait for them to clean up after themselves!
This means updates here and all responses to emails are going to be slow and patchy for another week or so.

But, on the plus side: Millie loves the new place; the actual move went as smoothly as we could ever have hoped, and we've been starry-eyed and dribbling about the place ever since we arrived there.
***
Wednesday 8th August 2007
Gah! So much to do!  Still so much to do!
Just time to mention that the Lovely Melanie was interviewed on BBC Radio London last night, at about 10.15, regarding Millie's premature birth.  She did very well indeed, and I'm terribly proud of her (I'd rather have been on the radio myself than trying to shoehorn all of our many many many books into just three bookcases, but there you go...)

I would have recorded it for posterity, but with our internet connection being out of action I couldn't.  I'm going to get an old-fashioned dial-up modem today, to tide us over, so your emails may get answered now.

Milie's got a touch of the 'terrible twos' at the moment - she wants everything her own way immediately, and is apt to have a quick tantrum if she doesn't get it.
That said, when she isn't having a tantrum she's extraordinarily busy: running around the garden, pushing her chair or
her buggy around the house, opening and closing doors, playing with toys, bouncing on the bed, climbing on top of the toilet - you name it - and all with a big smile and a cheery 'Hiya!' and  'Bye!' for anyone nearby.
Except for the postman.  She's deeply mistrustful of the postman, for some reason.
***
Monday 13th August 2007
It's a sign of the End Times for sure!
I bought some wood from a shop, sawed it up using my own saw and workbench, and made some shelves for our bathroom!
And they're not rubbish!

OK, OK, so maybe I just got lucky?
Nope, because I also fixed our bed using nothing but more wood, a saw, tape measure, hammer and nails.
The bed broke from a surfeit of 'boinging' by a certain short person in our household (and perhaps their daddy being forced to 'boing' too).

These two DIY miracles accomplished, I did rest.

No, I didn't, I ventured up to the boondocks
of Hackey with some friends for the Field Day Festival.
Sadly, that was a bit of a mistake.  
Not only was half the tube network shut, lengthening the journey time by about an hour, but the festival itself was, I suspect, organised by a group of people who are still working their way up to organising a piss-up in a brewery.
The piss-up and bewery references are relevant because that's what we had most trouble with: the first thing to be seen upon entering the festival was the mile long queue for the toilets; the second was the mile-and-a-half long queue for the bar (behind both of these was the half-mile long queue for food).
So we only stayed in there for about two and a half hours (two hours in queues, half an hour watching The Earlies).  Then we went to the pub, which was much better, even if the landlady insisted on playing Randy Crawford's Great Hits all night..

In fact, but for the fact that it took me two and a half hours to get home, I would've counted this as a pretty successful day out.

It's also Millie's first proper full day at her new nursery today, which we've been a little it nervous about.
Not because we've any worries about her new nursery, rather because Millie's been a little bit insecure the last few days, which the Lovely Melanie and I think is to do with the move to the new house.
Millie's been very nervous about one or both of us being out of sight whilst indoors, which is unusual for her, since normally she isn't scared of anything. 
Other than that, she seems to love the new house - and especially the garden; as do we. :-)
***
Tuesday 14th August 2007
I picked up Millie from the new nursery yesterday and had to take her in this morning, but after last night's performance I'd been dreading this morning.

Basically, we think the girl is a bit unsettled by the house move.  She's been very clingy the last week or so, and often gets upset if either myself or the Lovely Melanie goes out of the room.  Not always, but sometimes.
Starting at the new nursery isn't helping things either .  Even though she was relatively OK at 
last week's settling-in sessions, this week - properly at nursery, all day long - she's so far been very very very very very upset by the whole business.

The Lovely Melanie reported that yesterday when she
saw the nursery coming Millie immediately started saying, 'Mummy, no.  No, Mummy, no,' in her most heart-breaking, trembling-lipped voice, and did not want to be left alone, to the point of throwing her arms round the Lovely Melanie's neck and refusing to let go - something I've never ever seen her do before - whilst wailing and crying a sea of tears.

Last night, she was crying when I arrived to collect her, but the carers said she had been mostly fine during the day, although she was very tired, having decided not to sleep during nap time (she's obviously seen 
the '70s remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers!)
We got home on the bus with no problems though - Millie even asking for 'a biscee,' on the way and taking my refusal quite good-naturedly, which is a positive sign usually.  Then, the minute we stepped through the door, she started having a tantrum due to a combination of my not letting her go upstairs and the Lovely Melanie not being there.

And pretty much continued having a tantrum, on and off, for the next 90 minutes.  There was:
  • A tantrum over not wanting any more toast
  • a tantrum about not wanting pudding (although it turned out she did, in the end)
  • a tantrum over keeping her bib on (I had to go into the living room and ignore her for five whole minutes then, while she calmed down)
  • a tantrum about getting undressed for bath time
  • a tantrum about getting out of the bath
  • a particularly impressive tantrum about getting her pyjamas on
  • and, finally, a short-lived tantrum about going back downstairs
By the end of all this I'd really had enough.  More than enough, in fact.
It's ordinarily quite a simple process, getting her fed, washed and ready for bed, and we usually have fun, even if sometimes there are a few tears along the way, but last night involved me fighting her every single step of the way to get even the smallest things done.

Fortunately, this morning started off quietly - we woke up, got dressed, had a nice leisurely breakfast...
and then I had the bare-faced cheek to try and clean Millie's teeth.

By the end of that skirmish her teeth were still not clean, a complete change of clothes was in order, and both of us had to sit down together with a blanket and calm down for a few minutes before leaving to catch the bus to nursery...
..where I saw first-hand how upset it's possible for Millie to get without actually exploding from misery.
She would have made even the most histrionic mourners at a Middle Eastern funeral stop, look around and wonder what on earth had happened.

Yes, that miserable.
***
Thursday 16th August 2007
Still no broadband at home, sad to say - hence the lack of any Hello!-style pictures of our palatial new home.
That's three weeks today since I told my ISP that we were moving and could they please set the wheels in motion for that; and two weeks since we actually moved house.
I'm quite a patient fellow usually - I like to give people he benefit of the doubt, and I realise that shouting at call centre employees seldom gets anything done - but I'm now seriously thinking of changing our broadband provider to one which isn't, well...crap, basically.

If anyone can recommend an ISP that does high-speed broadband, cheap'n'cheerful
domain hosting, lots of free webspace and isn't called PlusNet then I'll be interested to hear from you.
Some observations I have made about the area where we now live, by Stuart P. Carter, Esq.:
  • It seems to be where all London's taxi drivers live; the driveways and parking spaces are full of black cabs (without the meter running, obviously).
  • I am the only person on the train in the morning who isn't wearing a shirt and clean shaven.
  • The shirt-wearing, clean shaven folks on the train in the morning only read the tabloids.
  • They don't sell The Guardian at our local newsagent!
And finally...the Lovely Melanie said to me: 'I read that last entry on your website and it made me laugh.'
It wasn't meant to be funny!
***
Tuesday 21st August 2007
Or at least, I was this morning, dropping the girl off at nursery.
Bless her, she was doing so well on the way to nursery, even to the point of saying 'Nursery' a few times (her speech has made a sudden quantum leap forward over the weekend, to the point where she's putting together working sentences, and continually surprising myself and the Lovely Melanie with what she knows - for instance, last week I said to her, whilst in our bedroom, 'Millie, can you get your hairbrush, please?' whereupon she ran out of the room; now, Millie's brush is in a box in her bedroom, so the Lovely Melanie Of Little Faith said, 'She can't possibly understand that, and find the brush, and not get distracted by something else on the way back'.
But she did.
Hmm, I really need to close these brackets and get on with the original story, don't I?)

So.
Millie was doing so well on her way to nursery this morning, but when we got into the cloakroom I could literally see it in her eyes that she was getting worried.  No tears, no fuss, just a touch of fright.  Then the fright reached down to the bottom lip and I could see it start to tremble - still no tears, just an obvious heartbreaking fear of the inevitable.
We had a little cuddle after I got her out of the buggy, she helped me take her coat off to hang on the peg, and only then did she start to quietly cry and look at me as if I'd just shopped her to the Daily Mail for being an immigrant (illegal or not).
It was somehow worse than the tears and hysterics of last week. :-(

I also felt bad about something I only thought last week.
Watching The Music Of The Primes on BBC4, the narrator said, 'So-and-so was a mathematical genius; by the age of two he could (insert amazing mathematical feat here).'  
For a second I had a little flash of disappointment that Millie's also two and can't do anything remotely like that.  Only for a second, if that, but still it was still there: a twinge of disappointment in my own daughter.
Even though I immediately thought, 'Don't be silly, so-and-so was a freak, and I'd rather she was happy, and I'd absolutely love her to death even if she never learned to count beyond two,'
it's been bothering me that I even thought that ever since.
Sigh.  Betrayed by my own subconscious.
Although...perhaps Millie, being so very sensitive to the needs and feelings of others, picked up on this, and that's why she's put extra special effort into her speech just now? ;-)

What does Millie the non-genius like at the moment?  BATH TIME!
I'm about 95% certain she'd stay in the bath all day if we let her: filling and emptying pots, being sprayed by the shower, simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by cold water.
Hmm, remind me to get her a sponge - that will almost blow her mind!

If she's not in the bath then she's ordering the Lovely Melanie and myself to push buggies, trollies and carts - anything with wheels - around behind her at home..
'Ordering' not 'asking'.

There's now a date - and even a time - for the return of our broadband: the 25th of August at 12pm.
We're currently managing by piggybacking off the wireless network of someone known only as 'Phil'.  
Phil lives very very nearby, has a very fast broadband connection and no security on his wireless network.  It is, technically, illegal to piggyback on someone's network, but it's only for a few days, and 'Phil', gawd bless him, has the capacity to spare!
***
Thursday 23rd August 2007
I've just bought a whole load of books to read from Amazon.  My friend Caroline asked me, a few weeks back, if I didn't ever get bored reading science fiction - I don't, as it happens, but I'm wary of the problems of reading nothing but science fiction.  That way lies the path of madness, BO and dressing up as a Klingon at Star Trek conventions...

Not that I don't read pretty widely in comparison to most people, but the book review side of this site means that I get sent many free books to read, and most of them are
science fiction, so I read more of those than I would if I wasn't a book reviewer.
The book reviewing side of things has certainly slowed recently, for various reasons, but I'm not planning on stopping completely; in fact, a couple of reviews are on the horizon even as I write this.  After that, though, I've got books on the recent history of Africa, new and strange ideas in sciencethe history of Sunderland in comic book form, a couple of historical novels, a superhero graphic novel and even some fantasy to read.

Of course, I need to get in as much reading as I possibly can 
in the next few months because the Lovely Melanie is pregnant once more.

Yes, that's right, no joke: the Lovely Melanie and I are having another child together.
The first scan is tomorrow and the baby is due in March - but (as I've been nervously joking with people) we're keeping our commitments in January/February to a minimum, just in case lightning strikes twice!

***
Sunday 26th August 2007
We've got it!  Our broadband is working again - and wirelessly, too!
To celebrate, I've put  up a load of new pictures on Flickr.

More DIY miracles, too - I was putting a new bulb in the outdoor light when - catasttrophe! - it fell off the wall.  So, cool as a cucumber, I took it apart, put some new plugs and screws in the wall and reattached it.  No fuss, no swearing and no sign that anything had ever happened...
Damn, I rock!
***
Tuesday 28th August 2007
I'm guest blogger on my friend Abraham Love's blog this week, with a short piece about boring old science stuff (although it's not actually up yet...oh, no, it is now).

There are times when I hate being a grown-up: all the stupid stuff you have to take care of and the boring jobs that always need doing.  On the other hand there are times when being a grown-up is most excellent.
Take tonight, for example.  I fancied having pancakes for tea - just a whim, but I get home, tell the Lovely Melanie that I want pancakes for tea, she agrees - hey presto, ten minutes later we're eating pancakes for tea.
If Millie was to ask us if she could have pancakes for tea we'd laugh in her face!
She's had it pretty good for the weekend anyway, what with being taken to nearby Foot's Cray Meadow and feeding the ducks (although a big, flapping swan frightened her), paddling in the river with her parents, stuffing her face with blackberries till the juice running down her chin made her look like a vampire and then topping it off with an ice cream.
She also impressed us by remembering her that Mummy has a baby in her tummy, having been told about it the day before.

***
Thursday 30th August 2007
The 20 Most Bizarre Experiments of All Time!
Sickbags ahoy!
Some of them are just ugh! but others are genuinely what the **** were you thinking???

***
Monday 3rd September 2007
A jolly good 'bonny' - or bonfire - over the weekend.
Saturday, we had a small housewarming for some folks we know in London (and a very welcome contingent from Swindon, too) on Saturday.  We had a barbecue, a good chat, a walk in the woods, and then, when almost everyone had gone home, we fired up my new wood burner!

Cor, blimey, I'd forgotten how much I love the smell of woodsmoke; and seeing the flames dancing around inside it (and occasionally outside when we got a bit carried away!) did me the power of good.
Even the Lovely Melanie - once she stopped panicking that the house was in real danger of burning down, due to
its being in the same postcode as our 'inferno' - even she was later heard to say that there was something inherently fascinating and calming about a real fire.
I was more fascinated to discover that rum thrown on a fire really does burn quite ferociously, but only if thrown onto the flames - hot coals aren't enough.

I'd been saving the wood from various of my gardening exploits these last few weeks, and we burnt up nearly all of it over the course of a few hours, even adding the still relatively green pine branches I lopped off next-door's tree - they were noisy as hell when they went up, but they still went!

It's a shame Millie was in bed and couldn't see it, but she'd already shown remarkable self-restraint regarding the earlier barbecue: whenever she went anywhere near it (prompting a whole chorus of adults to scream, 'No, Millie!') she'd clasp her hands behind her back, say, 'Hot!' and then, bless her, blow on it  to try and cool it down.
When my brothers and I stayed round my Nan's house as children she always used to keep us amused by letting us have a bonfire, and I'm curious whether Millie has inherited that pyromaniac tendancy, too...
***
Tuesday 4th September 2007
Good morning.
Three minor landmarks have occurred in the last 12 hours:
  1. At the risk of seeing my last few tattered shreds of 'cool' fall away I'm going to put Millie voluntarily taking a poo in potty at number one in this list.  Millie always likes to sit on her potty before her bath and supposedly have 'a wee-wee', but she almost never actually does it.  Last night she was there looking far more serious for far longer than usual...and when she finally stood up had done a poo in her potty!  Well done, Millie!
  2. Then, this morning, we didn't take Millie's buggy with us to nursery!  We walked from our house to the bus-stop, were able to sit on the top deck of the bus, and then got off and walked the 3-4 minutes to her nursery.
    I'm not sure we'll be making this a regular thing yet, but no longer needing to take the buggy with us when we go there is handy.  And I love walking down the street holding Millie's hand, listening to her chattering away about how that gate is closed, there's a bin over there, there are no pussy cats about, that car is blue (it's not, it's red), grampy isn't here, Millie's house is just around the corner, a leaf has just fallen down, there's a bus -  a bus! etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.
  3. I had sweetcorn for tea last night - fresh, that is, not tinned, and quite enjoyed it.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not gutted to have missed out for the last 25 years since I last tried it (tinned), but I didn't dislike it at all (we didn't have just sweetcorn, I should add - there was mackerel, too).

***
Friday 7th September 2007
The bed's broken again.
Sigh.  Not the bit I repaired a couple of weeks ago, no, no, no, that's the only bit still holding together.  The rest of it has broken now.
So the pieces are stacked up in the back garden, awaiting the warm embrace of the wood burner...
Meanwhile, we've got to wait a fortnight for our new bedstead to be delivered.

The Lovely Melanie is meeting her midwife today.  They brought the appointment forward a bit as they think she may have a urinary tract infection, which is what caused all the drama last time.  It's something easily sorted with antibiotics, but not really what we wanted to hear!  
Anyway, as I say, it's easily sorted with antibiotics so shouldn't be a problem.

Meanwhile, as a responsible father, I'm going out dancing and drinking tonight; and since it's effectively impossible to get back to Bexley after midnight I shall in all probability be staying out until daylight returns on Saturday.
Have to be back on form for Sunday, however, since I've been invited to take part in an online panel discussion about the upcoming Harvey Awards - the Oscars for comics.
It should online here early next week.

Finally, I'm going to belatedly point out that I'm on Facebook as boring old Stuart Carter.  If you want someone to be your friend on there then I have absolutely no compunction about adding strangers to my list of compadres.

***
Monday 10th September 2007
Some good news - the Lovely Melanie doesn't have a urinary tract infection.
And I think she'd rather I shut up about her urinary tract on this page now, to be honest.

I had a bath with Millie yesterday.  
Millie has a bath every night before bed, I normally have a shower in the mornings after bed, but yesterday I'd been working in the garden half the day: digging, mowing, uprooting, weeding, etc., and was absolutely filthy, so I got in with Millie, just to wash off all the mud.
Millie spent most of bathtime repeating, 'Daddy in the bath!  Daddy in the bath!' as though she could barely even grasp such an incredible idea as daddy being in the bath at the same time as her.
The back garden now actually  looks worse than it did before, but that's all in preparation for next year; and next year it'll not only look nice, but hopefully taste nice, too (at least, we hope it will - I've got very sore palms today from all that digging, and would hate to think it was all for nothing).

One last thing - Millie now has own email address.  She doesn't check it very often, and replies even less frequently, but I thought I'd nab the milliehcarter(at)gmail.com address before another Millie H. Carter does.
You can click here to send her an email, but as I said, she doesn't check it very often...

***
Tuesday 11th September 2007
I heard on the news this morning that 1 in 5 young people say they know how to get hold of a gun.
This is, apparently, proof of The General Decline In All Things Generally In Great Britain ( The Daily Mail).

I'm a bit skeptical myself.  
There's always at least one slightly mad kid at school who has a mate whose dad's brother can get them a gun from a former member of the IRA who's in hiding next-door to him.  The same kid was usually in the 'slow reader' group, and also knew other various people who could get you booze, hardcore porn, cheap nicked stuff and (who knows?) maybe even a forged passport.

None of this ever turned out to be true.  He might be able to nick you a Mars Bar from the local shop one particularly crowded lunchtime when the woman on the till was busy -
and that was only because the woman on the till was his mum.

Now, I can't help thinking that these days, what with all this 'gangster rap' malarky being so popular with the nippers, and 'gangster rap' being itself obsessed with guns, that kids are even more likely to want a bit of that 'glamour of guns' by association.

So, imagine you're 15 years old and an idiot who nobody particularly likes or respects; then a nice, earnest, pretty young lady actually comes and up and talks to you, and says, 'Do you know how to get hold of a gun?'

Do you reply -
'Are you mad?  I'm 14 years old and I can barely get hold of a McDonald's; how the hell am I gonna get a shooter?'
or
'Yeah, course I can.  I can get you anything you need.  I'm a bad-ass gangster, me.'

***
Wednesday 12th September 2007
I had an absolutely blindingly obvious revelation at the weekend - admittedly whilst I wasn't entirely 'with it', but perhaps we sometimes need our intellectual edges blunted to notice things that have been in front of our face for so long.

And it was simply this: when I was born and growing up then my parents must have felt the same way about me as I now feel about Millie.

I was both amazed and aghast to realise this: amazed at how much myself and my brothers must have meant (do mean) to my parents, and aghast that I was so often such an enormously unappreciative pain in the ass to them.
And, finally, humbled that anyone should ever think so very highly of me.  Not just of me, but all of us.
If nothing else then parenthood makes you realise how loved you were and (hopefully) still are.

***
Friday 14th September 2007
Long-time seekers of The Truth may recall that I have some fairly strong opinions about people whose music taste has fossilised at a certain age - or rather, people whose music taste has fossilised at a certain age AND who are convinced all modern music is just 'noise' or imitations of past glories.
I'm not about to change that opinion, but I confess that I went to see the House Of Love play their self-titled album as part of the Don't Look Back series of concerts last night, and really really enjoyed myself.

The premise of Don't Look Back is simple: get a band who've made a classic album of the last 20-30 years to play that album in its entirety and original running order.
That's it.  No new material, no reinterpretation, just a good old bit of nostalgia for slightly older music fans (like myself).

I was originally suspicious of the concept, seeing it as an excuse for culturally deceased people with jobs in the City to safely relive their halcyon days as ker-razy students, and there was an element of that at the gig last night; but mostly it was people like myself appreciating a classic bit of indie rock (from back when 'indie' meant 'Indie', and not just a subsidiary of Warner Bros).

The House Of Love, who were one of only a handful of decent bands ever to play Swindon while I lived there, were enthusiastic and pretty much note-perfect.  Miraculously they looked only a few years older, rather than decades, and I felt like I was 16-17 again, when I worked in a supermarket, and after it closed I'd put my Walkman on and listen to a tape that had that album on one side and the Pale Saints' wonderful Comforts Of Madness, on the other.

Ahh...  Perhaps the odd bit of nostalgia isn't quite the implacable enemy of innovation that I'd previously believed.
Still, just to be on the safe side I listened to the excellent and brand-new Go! Team album all the way home.

***
Thursday 20th September 2007
There is a modicum more joy in my world today, since I discovered that not only does everyone's favourite uncle, Stephen Fry, have his own blog, but its current entry is a long, erudite and fascinating article about mobile phones and PDAs and their operating systems, something I'm rather fascinated by, being a relatively recent convert to the high-end mobile phone  and, almost as importantly, its operating system, Symbian.
It's not the kind of thing you might expect Fry to be an expert on, but, as always, he knows more about a subject than all of the rest of us put together.

On a wildly different topic, Millie's potty training continues apace.  It's a remarkably easy process so far, with Millie simply telling us when she wants 'a wee-wee on the potty,' at which point we take down her trousers, remove her nappy and sit her on the aforementioned potty for anything up to five minutes.  At some point during those five minutes Millie, with a slightly nervous face, will get up and look into the potty to see if there's anything within (and more often than not there is now) before announcing to the world at large that, 'I did a wee-wee!  I did a wee-wee!'

I very nearly burst with fatherly pride, too, when a couple of days ago during breakfast she saw a wood pigeon standing dejectedly on our empty bird table.  'The birdie wants some food,' I told her, 'but food gone.'
Millie looked at the birdie, then picked up a piece of her toast and said, 'Daddy give birdie.'

Daddy did indeed 'give birdie'. :-)

***

Monday 24th September 2007

Hmm...
(Drums fingers on table)

The rock'n'roll parenting lifestyle has rather ground to a halt at the moment.
Um... We've got some lovely new curtains (lovely and expensive - good grief, curtains are expensive!) and a genuinely pretty roller-blind for the kitchen.  Our house has been extensively damp-proofed; I cleaned the patio with some noxious-smelling chemicals, to very little effect..  Peter over the road has had an operation to remove his cataract - only took 25 minutes!  Isn't it amazing what they can do nowadays, eh?
So, er... The IT Crowd was good on Friday, wasn't it, eh?

Millie's been down the woods a few more times, paddling in 'the ribber' and throwing 'grabel' - she starts off with just vanilla 'grabel', but quickly gets more adventurous and starts tossing in 'big grabel!'.  She also spent Saturday being monumentally touchy about everything, to the point where bedtime was a merciful release for all concerned and I was inordinately glad to go down the pub.

***
Thursday 27th September 2007
I know I said I never wanted to move again after the last time (did I say that?  I'm pretty sure I did say that - I certainly said it to the Lovely Melanie quite loudly and repeatedly whilst dragging boxes around during the last move)
However, I would move again if I could live here - in a real, honest-to-god missile silo!
And, hell, the price tag is only $1,500,000 - given the parlous decline of the dollar against the pound and the insane level of rising house prices here in the UK I estimate that in a mere... (taps figures into calculator, sticks tongue out of side of mouth and scratches chin) ..seven years we could probably afford it!

You can expect some new pictures of Millie fairly soon.  I've just bought some new rechargeable batteries for my camera, since the old ones had some kind of random charge generator in them, which meant that every time you switched the camera on it would have a different level of charge (with a strong bias towards 'Empty!' or 'Nearly empty, but not quite empty enough to warrant recharging - you could probably just about get away with it' - and then as soon as I got out of the house would turn to 'Empty')

***
Tuesday 2nd October 2007
Oh, dear, I'm afraid it's back to the serious stuff here at The Truth.
We had to go to Accident & Emergency Sunday evening, regarding the new baby.

Now, two very important things to say:
One - don't panic, everything is OK; nobody died, no one was even slightly injured; the only things to suffer any damage were our nerves.
Two - the Lovely Melanie is fine, but would really rather not have to think about  Sunday any more, so if you see her then, please, she really doesn't want to talk about it.
I repeat, she's fine, baby is fine, Millie is fine, I'm fine.  The only remaining worry about the events of the weekend is that this is remarkably similar to what happened when the Lovely Melanie was pregnant with Millie (i.e., a scary, isolated incident early on, followed by, well, you know - that).

Millie and the Lovely Melanie were both absolutely brilliant while we were at A&E.  My wife is easily the bravest woman I know, and my daughter - the potential weak link in an otherwise strong chain - was also fantastically understanding.  She spent a few exciting hours exploring the waiting room, learning not to fear the automatic doors, making friends with lots of injured people, as well as occasionally shouting at the top of her voice, 'I want money!' because she'd seen me buy a Diet Coke from the machine (I was a bit hungover from the night before).

So, yes, hopefully this is only a tiny footnote to our premature baby saga, one that we'll laugh about in a few months time and...  Hmm, maybe not laugh about, actually.  'Only dimly remember,' would be better.

Anyway, so we had a bit of a scare, but we're all right, and we'd like to forget about it now.
If there are any questions then email me, not the Lovely Melanie.

Oh, and as usual, God Save the NHS!

***
Wednesday 3rd October 2007
It's Millie's second termday today - which, if you remember, is the day she was supposed to be born, as opposed to when she actually was.
It's kind of her physical
birthday, one that comes three months and three days after her calendar one.

The Lovely Melanie bought her an enormous coat that makes her look like an eskimo and some new pyjamas with dinosaurs on.  The coat is nice, but I was more impressed with Millie recognising and knowing how to say 'dinosaurs!'
Almost everything Millie says has an exclamation mark tacked on the end at the moment; she's exciteable and enthusiastic about anything, but particularly dinosaur pyjamas.

***
Friday 5th October 2007
So, you probably already know this, but when I'm not either writing here, parenting, getting drunk, eating or sleeping then I work in our nation's capital as a subtitler or, sometimes, 'subtitle editor'.

Hence, I set a very great deal of store by spelling things correctly, checking facts and generally making sure that the English language is used to its full and proper purpose.  I've been doing this for so long that I almost can't help it any more, to the extent that I sometimes find myself using words like 'epiphany' or 'inculcate' in everyday conversations - not to show off, but merely because that's how I think (I hope I don't turn into John Sessions...)

This is becoming rather a verbose and pointless introduction to what is, at best, a marginally amusing story.
Sorry.

The point is that yesterday I was working on the subtitles for the DVD of Nirvana Unplugged, the groundbreaking 'acoustic' appearance of
the late Kurt Cobain and co. on MTV in 1993, which, amazingly, has never had a DVD release before (it's peculiar what is and isn't available on DVD - some of the most inane sitcoms ever produced have been available in lavish boxsets for years, but Nirvana Unplugged has languished in the vaults until now).

Anyway, my point?  Oh, dear, it's a bit of an anticlimax now; my point is that in the end credits of Nirvana Unplugged
MTV have managed to misspell the name of almost everybody onstage!
These are the credits put there by MTV themselves, which have been broadcast umpteen times around the world since; they're the names of one of the most famous bands in the world at the time - and only one name is spelled correctly in them.  Two of the band members and two guest musicians are all spelt wrongly.
Ironically, the cello player, whose name is mispronounced by Cobain during the show, is spelled correctly.

***
Sunday 7th October 2007
My pop music guru in the USA has pointed out to me that not all of the mispellings in
Nirvana Unplugged may have been mispellings at the time.

Why is that, Martin?
Didn't Chris change his name back to Krist around that time?  Was that one of MTVs typos?
Yes, it was, Mart.
Well, Stu, for most of his life, Novoselic had chosen to go by the English spelling of his name, 'Chris'. However, following a 1993 trip to Croatia, Novoselic decided to honor his heritage and return to the original spelling of his name, 'Krist'.

Sorry, MTV.  Sorry, MTV's lawyers.

***
Tuesday 9th October 2007
Ooh!  What's the sexiest thing in our house at the moment??
Yes, yes, yes, obviously it's me.  OK, the second sexiest?  
Sigh, all right, all right, it's the Lovely Melanie.
What, then, is the third sexiest thing in our house?
Oh, you'll never get it, so I'll just tell you - the sexiest thing is my new mp3/media player, the Archos 605!

It is literally figuratively sex on a stick.  I can watch movies, view photos, listen to music, surf the internet via wi-fi on it.
But I can also look at photos, listen to music or watch video streamed from my computer (which is upstairs) using the wi-fi connection!
The great thing about I've realised is that now I can sit downstairs with the Lovely Melanie, and don't have to leave the room while she watches endless episodes of My Dog's Too Fat To Move House And Needs A Fashion Makeover - instead I can catch up with Heroes or a DVD and still be in the same room!

I've been very excited about some new technology before, but this is really something a bit special.

Millie's quite impressed with it, as well, because it has a big, bright, colourful and touch-sensitive screen.
Thank goodness she's impressed with something, as she's being very difficult 
at the moment.

Sunday, we had to invoke the ultimate sanction of The Naughty Step, where she spent ten howling minutes after deliberately dropping her blanket in the mud in the garden - despite being told that if she did that then it would be taken away to be washed.  She thought about this for a little while, looked at the blanket, and then carefully dropped it onto the mud, whereupon I took it away and tried to explain why it was being taken away.
After a couple of minutes I had to give up trying to explain, scoop up a writhing, wailing Millie from the floor and put her on The Naughty Step.
Three minutes later I tried to explain again.
Three minutes after that I tried again.
Three minutes later I tried again.
A minute after that, the Lovely Melanie waded in and managed to calm Millie and eventually even get an apology from her.
After that, we were able to sit down in the living room and watch some of the 'feeshez' on The Blue Planet for a little while.

I wish she was a bit more reasonable (i.e. logical) and understood the concept of punishment and reward a bit better; everyone's lives would be so much easier then. :-(

There's a couple of new photos of the girl on Flickr, looking as though her mouth is where we store the butter in our house.
Don't be fooled.  We store our butter in the fridge, like anyone else.

***
Tuesday 9th October 2007 (continued)
That last entry seems a bit unfair on Millie (who does have a cold at the moment).  
Life with Millie is not an endless cycle of tantrums and cuddles, nor does it ever feel like that; rather, the tantrum moments simply tend to burn brighter in the memory, not to mention making for more entertaining reading here.

This morning, for example, we were in our usual rush to get me ready, get Millie ready, get to nursery and then on to work, but there were still a few minutes to sit down, have a cuddle and then a 'discussion' about the hotness of my cup of tea - whether it was, indeed, 'hot,' whether blowing would cool it, and how quickly (Millie instinctively blows on anything labelled 'hot'); plus, how the handle of a cup was usually 'not hot,' and could be used to pick up the cup of tea safely.
Just a few minutes doing nothing very special, but I love telling Millie about the world and how it works, and then watching the delight on her face as she figures it out and looks at you for approval.
You can't get that feeling from anywhere else.

***
Monday 15th October 2007
Yesterday saw Millie's first proper gig (or concert, if you prefer), a Green Party benefit at Jamm in Brixton.
Despite a two-hour journey to get there - caused by those three little words that strike terror into the heart of any rail traveller - Replacement Bus Service! - it was good to see a few old friends and to sit down for a quiet beer.
Sit down for a quiet beer, that is, until I took Millie into the back room where the bands were playing.  

Hopes weren't particularly high as to how she would react to the combination of very loud noise, darkness and the punk girls gamely throwing themselves around at the front of the stage, but I took hold of one of Millie's little hands, made sure she was holding her 'Green Party' balloon tightly in the other, and we walked in.
Picking her up so she could see the stage (a folk band called Homebrood were playing, which I thought would be a good place to start, as folk music's closer to nursery rhymes than a lot of other genres), 
Millie was mesmerised by it: the volume, the darkness and thrashing pink hair didn't frighten her at all.  For the next couple of hours she kept insisting that somebody take her to 'go see moosic' - particularly indie rock covers band Black Widow (who were so loud that our friend Chi eventually had to give up on his DJ set in the bar outside!)

Damn, but I was so proud of her - only two years old and enjoying a honking great loud rawk gig more than  people 15 times her age!  Also, every time I went to get a beer the barman would give Millie a couple of sweets, which was a nice touch.  So the Carter Family thoroughly endorse Brixton's Jamm Bar,
and it all bodes well for a hoped-for visit to a music festival next year (if only I can persuade the Lovely Melanie that camping in a tent in a field is not the pinnacle of ungodly misery she currently imagines it to be).

Given that we were travelling for hours, had no proper tea and her bedtime was two hours late, Millie was in wonderfully good humour throughout it all: laughing, running about, telling people about her balloon, and later pointing up at the stars and singing 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' - they're a new phenomenon to her, since
until now she's usually been in bed by the time it gets dark, so I was surprised she even knew what they were.

Lots of fun was to be had on Saturday, too, when we had a houseful with a housewarming for friends from Hatfield...

But the greatest triumph of the weekend for me was when I managed to plug my new mp3/media player into our television and then stream a film through it from the computer upstairs!
The Lovely Melanie and I watched an (illegal - shh!) download of the excellent Sunshine using new technology worked exactly as it was supposed to, e.g., plug it in, connect to wireless network, find film, play film, watch film.
It's not what I bought my new device for: I initially thought the wifi was a bit of a novelty, but it's quickly turning into one of the best things about it.

***
Tuesday16th October 2007
My new favourite thing on the internet.
(it's basically 'Mr Potatohead')

***
Monday22nd October 2007
No updates for a while because I've been so busy the last few days that there has barely been time to eat a decent meal, let alone compose moving words of wisdom and forethought on the world wide web!
Thursday night I went straight from work to see Black Sheep at the cinema (it's not very good); Friday night I went straight to a work's leaving do (not mine, sadly), then on to a poker game in South London (or, more correctly, to learn how to take part in a poker game); back home for midnight, then up again at 6.30 to catch a train to Swindon.

Let me just get my breath back.

OK.
The Lovely Melanie had planned a weekend away with the girls in Brighton, so it was going to be just myself and my girl at home...which would be nice, but I figured it would be nicer if I didn't have to do everything Millie-related all weekend long.
So we jumped on a train to Swindon to stay with my parents and catch up with friends and family.

It was always going to be a little nerve-racking as I'd never travelled so far without Millie, but sans Lovely Melanie before; so we left early on a cold cold Saturday morning,
after I'd unpacked about half of the stuff that the Lovely Melanie had packed for Millie (reasoning that my parents probably already have some shampoo and soap, and also being fairly certain that there's a shop in Swindon somewhere selling nappies, should we need more than the eight I took with me).
In the end we had a smooth and quiet trip down - the gateway to a lovely weekend.

Now, stay with me a second while I add some background colour for mild comedy effect...

The Lovely Melanie says that Millie, when we go away, does something she calls The Millie Show.  It mostly means that she'll be a sort of Six Million Dollar Millie - Happier.  Chattier.  Livelier and funnier - than the normal Millie: and, my god, you could see it in full effect this weekend!  We had so much fun!
Maybe it's because the Lovely Melanie wasn't also there for Millie to focus on when needing a cuddle or reassurance or whatever, only me (it's a beautiful feeling, to have someone love and trust you so absolutely implicitly); and also, that other people were also there, so I didn't have to work too hard with Millie (it can feel like a job sometimes - one with fantastic fringe benefits, but a job nonetheless).  Being in the audience of The Millie Show - and it felt like being in the audience, just wind her up and watch her go and do something funny or sweet or clever - felt like a privilege.
Even when I got back from a quiet night at the pub with some very old friends and had to change a full-on 'code red' nappy, even that was almost funny.

So The Millie Show managed to feed some ducks and go on the swings at Coate Water (Millie's 'swing-face' is the equivalent of a grown-up's 'orgasm-face'!); have seemingly
endless fun and games with Nanny and Grampy; visit Great Nanny Bet early Sunday morning, and consistently charm everyone involved.
Really.  I've seldom had such a concentrated and sustainedly fun time with my daughter before, and that's saying something.

The cherry on the cake was when a tired Millie and myself  caught the train back on Sunday afternoon...and to our complete surprise discovered our reserved seats were First Class!  Of course, it didn't make any difference to my egalitarian daughter - she still spent almost the whole journey playing with the automatic doors that separate the carriages, just as she had in standard class on the way down.

In other news from last week...our new sofa has arrived and is even better (phew!) than we remembered it being.  We've had a proper aerial fitted so that our TV now works all the time, rather than only when there's a wind blowing from the east.  And, last but very far from least, I've got a second interview for a fantastic-sounding job with a rather large internet company; so cross your fingers for me, eh?

***
Thursday 25th October 2007
Potty training.  We're about to start doing it.  Wish us luck - and we completely understand if you don't want us to visit you in your beautiful clean home for a little while...
I'm glad most of our floors at home aren't carpeted - it'll be much easier to get the stains and smells out.

I was going to write a bit about abortion, 
having seen two men arguing on the news last night about whether women should be allowed to get an abortion in the UK.  But then, while thinking through what I wanted to say, I remembered that I'm a man, so I should just shut the hell up about it.

One thing I will point out is that a recent large study found there is little difference between abortion rates in countries where it is legal and countries where is it is illegal.  The only figure that changes between those countries
is the number of deaths of women from botched 'backstreet' abortions.
So rather than anti-abortion campaigners
being 'pro-life' it might perhaps be more accurate to say they are 'pro-murdering-women'.

***
Friday 26th October 2007
When you screw up as a parent you can feel terrible - especially when your daughter seems to have been trying to tell you for days that there's a problem.

Millie's had a few blisters on her toes this last week or two, which she's been pointing at and asking
(as with so many other things), 'What's that?',and also practically begging us us at every opportunity to 'tickle' her feet: in the bath, on the potty, before bedtime, in bed, etc.  We shrugged it off as something she'd learned at nursery (or from Grampy - the Tickling Terror!), but the Lovely Melanie took Millie to a shoe shop in Bexleyheath yesterday and it turns out both Millie's shoes and her slippers are far too small for her!
So, the poor girl has basically been trying to tell us for a week that she has sore feet as a result of tight shoes.  And what have done about it?  
We've been tickling her.

I felt terrible when the Lovely Melanie told me.  The only consolation is that Millie was made to feel like a filmstar in the shoe shop: being fussed over, having her picture taken and trying on lots of new shoes; and when I came through the door after work last night she couldn't wait to show me her new shoes and slippers.  So it was lovely to be included in the whole shoe buying excitement, even though I'd been at work all day. :-)

We're continually surprised trying to keep up with Millie's development.  At first I thought it was only how fast she learns things; now, though, her physical growth has at long last stepped up a gear, and we're being caught out by how fast she's growing.  
Or that's my excuse for the 'ticklish shoe' debacle.

It seems you barely get used to her doing one new trick when she startles you with another.  Perhaps it's because I've gotten too used to being with adults, most of whose capabilities have peaked.  Think about it: when was the last time a friend of yours turned up at the pub and had out of the blue learnt to do something completely new and fantastic?  
If Millie was a grown-up the equivalent would be her arriving at the Nag's Head with a pilots' licence one weekend, a black belt in karate the next, then having written a novel the weekend after.  
For all children her age it's continually that kind of level of achievements every week or two.

I'm going to see Alan Moore and Michael Moorcock 'in conversation' tonight, which I'm very excited about (and if you know anything about Mr Moore and Mr Moorcock then so would you be, but you probably don't, and so probably aren't).

***
Monday 29th October 2007
We're pausing the great potty training experiment for a little while.  Millie's getting a bit freaked out by being constantly asked 'Do you need potty?', to the point where she denies ever needing the potty and gets quite upset if you persist.  So we've decided to postpone it for another month or two.

Poor Millie - Saturday we promised her we were going swimming for the first time in ages.  The Lovely Melanie rang our 'local' pool in Bexleyheath to check they were open, and when we caught the bus Millie
She was so excited by the prospect, she kept telling anyone who'd listen that, 'I go sweemin!'
We had a short walk to the pool so I carried her on my shoulders, and she kept announcing that she was going swimming, and so was her daddy (although, for some reason, the Lovely Melanie wasn't).

Imagine, then, how guilty we felt when we got to the pool and a handwritten notice told us that, no, actually, no one was going swimming because the pool was shutting at 3pm (it was about 2.55pm).  The Lovely Melanie was absolutely furious that they'd made liars of her and I, not to mention ruining Millie's day.
I wouldn't have minded so much if we hadn't rung up two hours earlier to check the pool was definitely open and allowing small two-year-olds and their parents in.

As luck would have it, we were pretty close to the park where we're going for fireworks this Saturday, so we decided to go there, try and play down the whole swimming thing and 'big up' the prospect of swings, roundabouts and slides in the park.
And after about five minutes Millie started to switch from a worried-sounding, 'I go sweemin?' to a more hopeful 'Swings coming!' and we had a lovely hour at the very smart (and obviously very new) playground.

And now, an update on my job search.

Last week I had
a second interview for the previously mentioned fantastic-sounding job with a rather large internet company, and it turned out to be a marathon two-hour telephone interview with a succession of folks (very nice folks, fortunately) in the USA.  
BUT the email they'd sent me about this interview never reached me, so I got a phone call out of the blue from a strange lady on Wednesday afternoon looking to interview me!
The whole thing had begun to degenerate into farce when I missed the first call altogether.  Noticing the 'missed call' icon on my phone I'd casually rung my voice mail to see who it was.  Confused, I then found a second voice mail message from the same lady in the USA who'd called back just as I was listening to her first message!  Having listened to both messages with mounting horror I hung up the second time to find a third message from her, saying she was going to call the UK office to find out what was going on here.

Gah!!!

Obviously, I was just about convinced that my dream job was going down the tubes thanks to a Terry And June-style comedy cock-up - Terry And June wasn't very funny anyway, it's even less comedic when the situations happen for real.
Fortunately, the interview people were very understanding and we rescheduled for two and a half hours later, giving me at least some time to prepare for it, even if I was travelling home on the train while trying to do so.

So, I'm still waiting to hear about the dream job, going quietly mad with impatience, and trying not to think about what happens if I don't get it (I probably go rather noisily mad in my current job).

***
Tuesday 30th October 2007
Apparently, there's been quite 'an increase in immortality in North America'!
Did they mean 'immorality,' or is this a case for Mulder and Scully??

***
Thursday 1st November 2007
Millie and I paid a last visit to Lewisham Hospital - where she was born - yesterday; whereupon she was finally and fully discharged from their excellent care.

It was only a checkup - the doctor herself saying it was merely 'ticking boxes,' - most of which she ticked as soon as we walked in the room and Millie pointed out the window saying, 'Bus there.'  Followed in quick succession by, 'What's that there?  Daddy sit down.  I want sit down.  I seen Tigger,' and, 'Mummy coming soon?'

So that's it, then.  Millie is now officially just another little girl, albeit, a very portable one.

I couldn't help asking the doctor one last question before we left: 'So, just how lucky have we been with Millie, given that there's nothing discernibly wrong with her whatsoever?'
The answer?  
'Very lucky indeed.'

***
Friday 2nd November 2007
Shocked awake this morning upon hearing the BBC news report  that Papworth Hospital have temporarily suspended all heart transplants because of a sudden increase in their failure rate.
Ordinarily, about 18 out of every 20 heart transplant patients make a full recovery, but at Papworth recently only 13 out of 20 have done so (the figures for Papworth are actually slightly better than 18 out of 20, but let's not split decimal points, as it only makes the failure rate increase sound worse).

Papworth, you may recall, is where my dad is due to go for his heart transplant as soon as one becomes available.  
On the one hand, we want him to go in there with the best possible chances; on the other, he's not getting any better, and can't wait forever for a new heart, so any delays at Papworth are worrying.
Hopefully the Papworth eggheads will find the problem very quickly, fix it, and start operating again.  It would be a particularly cruel stroke of fate if a heart suddenly became available now, after months of waiting, just when they couldn't use the damn thing... :-(

On the shallow-sounding plus side, I fulfilled a long-standing dream from my childhood last night when I - no laughing at the back, please - when I had a whole packet of delicious, golden marzipan all to myself!
Now, I know what you're thinking - 'as a diabetic, Stu, surely you're writing this from a hospital bed?'
Well, no, because I only actually nibbled at that kilogram of beautiful, yellow almondy stuff; instead I used the rest, along with a bar of fine dark chococlate, to make some marzipan chocolate sweets.
I love marzipan in chocolate, but damn if it isn't more expensive than chocolate-coated gold!

So I made my own.

For me.

And, I suppose, maybe a couple for my dad.

***

Monday 5th November 2007
What a lovely weekend. :-)
Useful things got done, family fun was had, a visit to the pub was made and fireworks were seen.
I spent all day yesterday painting the garden fence.  Literally, all day.  I finished just as the sun was setting, having started at ten, and (also literally) as I finished the very last piece of panel my pot of paint came up empty.  Very nice it looks, too, if I do say so myself.

Family fun was particularly had on Sunday night when we had a lovely fun meal together, all three of us.
Millie and I had been sat in front of the TV watching The Empire Strikes Back (Millie wanted CBeebies on, but I refused, and after only a little bit of pouting she ran over and sat in my lap to watch the film).
Ever tried to explain what's going on in Empire to a two-year-old?  It goes something like -
'Oh, people running - run, people, run!  Yellow man fall over, oh, no!  Get up yellow man!  They all getting on, er, choo-choo train now.  Ooh, choo-choo train flying!  Oh, no!  Big walking choo-choo fall over!  Flying choo-choo train in space - can you see the twinkle stars, eh?  Ooh, fireworks!  Oh, no!  Big gravel in space!  Watch out flying choo-choo train!  Bang!'

But, yes, a lovely family meal; then I needed a bath after the fence painting, so Millie and I had a bath together, which always blows her mind.
At the fireworks the night before we'd bought a couple of cheap lightsabers to play with - and I have never seen a toddler run up the stairs faster than when she was reminded that these were up there.  The Lovely Melanie wouldn't let her touch them during the day, as it was too bright to enjoy them properly.  Come the night, however, we turned off the lights and reenacted The Empire Strikes Back across the upstairs landing (with me, her father, as Darth Vader, obviously).

The fireworks on Saturday night also went pretty well.  I was worried Millie might be genuinely frightened by them - with her being so fearless most of the time it's easy to forget how small she is and can be scared.  For instance, 
in the woods on Friday she was licked on the face by a friendly dog, and is now a bit unhappy about anything that barks...  Also, the film Tron made her very unhappy a few weeks back.  But fireworks?  No, Millie loves fireworks!
We walked the mile or so to our local big charity display, all the way there pointing out fireworks to a bemused Millie until she got the idea and the word.  By the time we got there she was desperately excited. Fortunately, we'd timed it so we only had a short wait before they started, we found a good spot and tried to control an impatient Millie.
40 minutes later: still no fireworks, Millie is almost asleep, and her parents are rather cold and bored.  Not only that, but Millie's best friend in the whole wide world - Tigger - has been dropped somewhere in the darkness (Millie later told us she had 'put him down').  We tried to gloss over it, but all the way there Millie had been holding Tigger up and saying, 'Look, Tigger, fireworks!' so it was hard to pretend ignorance ('Tigger?  Tigger who?')

When the fireworks eventually started they were very good (fortunately!), but a very sleepy Millie watched them
on my shoulder out of one drooping eye.
Typically, on the walk home she perked up again, and was going mad about all the bangs and flashes in the sky, waving her lightsaber about, and endlessly repeating 'I saw fireworks,' as though the Lovely Melanie and I had been elsewhere during the display.

And Tigger...?  Well, Tigger had to, ahem, be washed that night, and took until the middle of the next day to dry off.  In fact, it wasn't  until the Lovely Melanie got back from the shops in the afternoon that he was
properly dry.
But, my goodness, Tigger was clean and fluffy!  He was almost as good as new, and, er...
Hmm.  Wait a minute...  No, they wouldn't have done something like that - would they??

(oh, yes, they would!)

Monday 5th November 2007 (later)
++QUICK UPDATE++
The Lovely Melanie's just had another scan, and we now know the sex of the new baby!
If you want to know what it is then highlight the seemingly blank section below.
--------
It's a girl!
--------
***
Monday 12th November 2007
I've been a bit down since finding out last week that I didn't get the fantastic-sounding job with the rather large internet company.

Or rather, I did basically get the job with
the rather large internet company, in that they really liked me, I really liked them, I excelled during the four hours of interviews, it was all sounding very positive...until their head office in the US decided to institute a hiring freeze, and the job just about evaporated into thin air (there is a small chance that the freeze may lifted early next year).

I have still yet to decide whether this is worse than failing the interview or not.

On the plus side: I am now a qualified telephone counsellor with BLISS, the premature baby charity following an informative and educational training course on Friday; plus, all the family had a lovely weekend at my brother's in Bristol - which has spawned loads of new pictures on Flickr.

Oh, and my Uncle Graham has a short but sweet piece about the sex of our new baby on his blog.

Sigh.

***

Thursday 22nd November 2007 (later)
Almost forgot - a funny Millie story.  Hopefully it's funny,  I think it's funny.  
Hey, nobody's forcing you to read it, right?

ME: Millie, eat your lasagne, please.
MILLIE: I not.

'I not' is the disobedient phrase of choice amongst under-3s in our house at the moment.

Is that funny?

***

Thursday 22nd November 2007
A week passes.  (Imagine the wind whistling here...)
So we're a week older, and what have we learnt?
Hmm.
Millie's obsessed with books at the moment - not so much as literature, more as objects to be acquired and carried to and fro around the house.  She does enjoy looking through them; has memorised certain plot points in Goldilocks (Goldilocks sits on Baby Bear's chair and breaks it) and knows the basics of The Tiger Who Came To Tea - all of which we're jolly proud of - but it's as though this is a fortuitous fringe benefit, the primary purpose of books seems to be as possessions.
But at least she's interested in books and reading - we're secretly a bit relieved that she's contracted her parents' love of literature - imagine if we had a child who just wanted to play sport/watch sport/whatever else you do with sport?  It'd be a nightmare!  Neither the Lovely Melanie nor myself have the slightest interest in this kind of thing; we'd have to try and rustle up some interest and pride - with Millie's reading and clever-ness the pride and interest comes naturally.
Let's hope the new baby is the same.

The Lovely Melanie has gone for some steroid injections today - a prophylactic measure to aid the development of new baby's lungs.  She had them before, whilst in hospital before Millie was born, and they probably saved Millie's life.  It's a precautionary measure just in case history repeats itself, but reminded us that sometime next week the Lovely Melanie will be the most pregnant she has ever been.  
Which is very weird, and means we're in uncharted territory now, folks!

Millie has picked up on the little baby thing pretty quickly.  We were talking about it briefly this morning, and I've noticed that Millie instinctively holds her mum's arm whenever they talk about it.  It's lovely to see.
Millie seeks out cuddles and sometimes wants to be carried, but this is something different, more mature and quite touching.

Speaking of different - my music taste has taken a bit of a left turn recently.
My favourite new album is a prog rock thing that ten years ago I'd probably have laughed at.  It's called Collected Works by A Mountain Of One (check out - oh, dear, did I just say 'check out'? - anyway, check out Innocent Line on I think is called dubstep - Untrue by Burial.  I may have just embarrassed myself with the dubstep reference, but this reminds me a lot of Timeless by Goldie (not a bad thing) but is a lot shorter (a good thing).  
In a similar vein is Preparations, an album of - for heaven's sake - 'ambient hip-hop' by Prefuse73.

Next, is German '70s experimentalists Neu!  I've always suspected I'd like them, since they influenced a lot of more recent bands I like, but have only just gotten round to, ahem, checking them out.  Is good, ja?

Finally, some more traditional Stu music in the form of Ladybirds.  'Traditional Stu music' in the sense that they're quite twee with lots of primitive keyboards and high girlie vocals and nobody, least of all me, is surprised that I really really love their album Regional Community Theater.
If you can get past the helium vocals and cheap-sounding keyboards then there's some beautiful songs and lyrics on there.

Heh.  I've just looked up 'dubstep' and it turns out I haven't embarrassed myself.  Hooray, I am officially 'Cool Dad'!

***

Thursday 15th November 2007

OK, I'm back.  I've finished moping about the non-job and am once more able to talk to other members of the human race without biting their head off for being so stupid (Daily Mail readers please note, this does not include you).
It helps that Millie's been so chatty and good humoured this week, but getting off my arse and doing something has also helped.
In this case 'doing something' means applying for more jobs, doing some writing (The Truth has been a bit thin on reviews lately, but that's about to change), watching lots of educational TV on my 605 (Heroes is perfectly OK, but it's not Great Art - you're never going to learn anything from it) and finally, by going to the cinema last night to see In The Shadow Of The Moon.

In The Shadow Of The Moon is a great film; a glorious film - it'll make you laugh, it'll make you gasp, it might even bring a tear to your eye; and all this from a load of old geezers sat around talking about some stuff they did back in the Sixties.

Oh, dear - so much to do.  A stack of reviews waiting to be written; I've got some longer, more reflective stuff I want to write here, not to mention that this page is now far too long and urgently needs archiving.  Christmas cards need to be designed and made; my CV needs updating, the garden needs some urgent attention, there's lots of decorating still to be done...
Plus, I need to eat, sleep and see my family at some point.

And what am I doing?  I'm sat here here writing about how much needs to be done!

Well, it isn't going to get done this weekend as we're on another rail trip - this time to Cardiff to see my old friend Dr Nick, and his partner Dr Helen (they are doctors, but not medical ones).  It's a training trip for both us and Millie - training to travel as light as possible - and Dr Nick has no baby facilities beyond what you'd find in your average house...
Should be interesting.
***
Friday 23rd November 2007
unsubscribe from human rights abuse in the war on terror
***
[READ BEFORE]