The (true) Story of Millie Harriet Carter
Part 8, Baby Amber cometh...

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 7 - a third year

Read Part 9 - everything changes

Monday 26th November 2007
Oh, dear.  I went out dancing in Brixton on Saturday night - really dancing, not just bobbing about and shuffling my feet - and have been aching all over ever since - even Deep Heat has failed to work its magic on these old bones.
Guess it's time to relinquish my 'Cool Dad' crown. :-(

On the plus side, my Christmas shopping is nearly complete, and I'm very smug about that.
Friday 30th November 2007
Still here, not gone anywhere.  Except to my first ever parents' evening last night at Millie's nursery.  The first time I've ever been on the 'parent' side of the table for that.
They said Millie's doing really well and have no complaints or worries whatsoever.  Millie's relatively small size can make it difficult for her to climb up things occasionally (although that never stops her trying), but she's a cheerful, active, not to say bolshie (we all agreed) member of her class.
I really like Millie's nursery - they seem to love her and the other children, are all very friendly and always busy busy busy.  But the proof of the pudding is in the Millie, obviously, and when she talks about going to nursery it's with a smile and enthusiasm that's reassuring to us.

Nursery were surprised to hear that Millie was prone to the occasional tantrum at home, whereas we were surprised that she never asks questions at nursery.  At home it's 'What's that?'  'What's that noise?' and 'What's this?' all day long!

Her friend Jordan was there at the parents' evening, too, and it was nice to see that Millie is beginning to have a little bit of a life away from her parents.  I think it was the Lovely Melanie's mum who said this time in a child's life is a 'Golden Age' for parents: they're old enough to be enormous fun, but still young enough to be innocent and wide-eyed at everything, as well as completely unselfconscious.
And I think she might be right. :-)
Does that mean it's all downhill from here???

I've got some new headphones.  Isn't it incredible how much stuff you can miss in a piece of music without even realising it, just because your headphones aren't much cop?
My old pair were a good, reliable set - I've had 3 pairs of the exact same make and model over the years - but these new ones are just something else...
Monday 3rd December 2007
Millie's exact words upon seeing the Christmas tree this morning.  'Ooooh!'
Genuine wonder and amazement, followed by speechlessness for about 30 seconds, then - being Millie - by 'I did that,' which is partly true, since we got the tree down from the attic last night (I love having an attic!) and put it up before she went to bed.  I put the traditional Singalongamaxmas music on and Millie 'helped' put some tinsel and decorations on the tree.

I don't think we've ever seen her so gobsmacked by something - not scared or shocked, but just happily gobsmacked.  You start to understand why people say 'Christmas is about children, isn't it?'
Previously I'd have said they were mad - Christmas is about presents, damn it!
'Christmas is about children.'
Yes.  Yes, it is.  I get it now.

Millie had been in a good mood most of the day anyway - she'd been forcing me to dance with her in the living room (some Belle & Sebastian and the Postal Service) until I was sweating and exhausted and she was hoarse from laughing so much.  Dancing with Millie essentially means picking her up to swing and throw her around the room, so I'm not quite as unfit as that makes me sound.

Saturday she also got to see Father Christmas for the first time, with Grandma and Granddad in Hatfield.
In a typical Millie comedy moment she was bravely trying to disguise how frightened of him she was (having already been spooked by the eerie squeals of the goats from the accompanying Petting Zoo).  Bottom lips were quivering and tears were brimming...until Father Christmas asked, 'Would you like a present, Millie?'
At which point Millie perked up, as if to say, 'Yeah, well, since you put it like that - go on then,' and she was chock-full of bravado from then on.  
Afterwards it was all, 'I saw Father Christmas, I got present, Father Christmas see Millie, he give Millie present,' etc.  I imagine Millie telling and retelling the story to her friends at nursery until it becomes something like, 'Yeah, I walked in there - on my own, because Mummy and Daddy were scared of some silly goats - and I walked up to this Father Christmas bloke and I nicked a phone off him.  I said, 'What you gonna do about that?' and he just started crying, so I kicked him in the shins, nicked all the other presents and left him there.  Yep, that's pretty much what happened.'

Millie's present was a little toy 'phone, which soon replaced the Father Christmas episode as the main topic of conversation when Millie accidentally dropped it onto the head of a rabbit in the petting zoo.
Wednesday 5th December 2007
Leaving nursery last night I asked Millie, as always, 'Do you want to get in the buggy?'
Millie said, as always, 'Nooooo!  I do walking.'
We went about three steps and Millie said, unsurprisngly, 'I want get in buggy.'

So far, so usual...

Actually, slightly unusual was Monday, when I had to come out of work to pick up a little sick Millie.  Or so nursery said...
If you or I had called in sick with Millie's 'illness' then there'd have been a Daily Mail campaign to have us thrown in the stocks, sent to boot camp and deported as a 'malingerer' before you could say Jack Robinson!
Mille was fine!  I think her old nursery were a bit more robust about sick children - if you remember, the only thing that could get you sent home from there was conjunctivitis.  And maybe cancer.  Anything else didn't count.  That's the inner city for you - hard!
Meanwhile, out in the softie suburbs, the new nursery apparently regard 'not being herself' as a symptom comparable to coughing up blood.  If she had a temperature then presumably they'd have called the undertaker first, and myself or the Lovely Melanie second.

But - 'I want to get in buggy,' was the original focus here, wasn't it?  So we get in the buggy and start walking down the hill, only for Millie to start asking that 'Daddy do running,' - which we did a couple of weeks ago: running down Station Road to try and catch our bus.  There was no public transport imperative this time, but we did it anyway, just for the hell of it.
I start running pretty fast, pushing the buggy in front of me, and Millie is sat there, screaming like a banshee and throwing herself from side to side, headbanging like it's Anarchy In The UK all over again!
God knows what we looked like - an overweight, beardy, bald man with glasses sprinting with a clearly insane epileptic child in a buggy down the street.
We enjoyed it though. :-)
Monday 10th December 2007
The Millie swimming project - long on hold - was resumed yesterday, with limited success.
The girl was her usual cocky self all day - 'I go swimming, I go swimming' - on the bus on the way to the pool, - 'I go swimming, I go swimming' - while getting changed- 'I go swimming, I go swimming' - while walking out of the changing rooms - 'I go swimming, I go swimming' - right up until the moment she saw the pool - 'I go home to Millie's house'.
She can talk the talk, but when it comes to walking the walk Millie's a bit of a wash-out, frankly.
That said, we spent about 25 minutes in the pool, and though she was unhappy for a lot of that time there weer moment, when distracted by big floats and people diving in off the diving board, for example, that she forgot she was unhappy and began to enjoy herself.

After 25 minutes, however, teeth were chattering and noses were running, so we decided to call it a day.
And then, once again, it was all - 'I went swimming, I went swimming!' all the way home, as though she'd been swimming lengths, diving in and wrestling giant octopi!

Saturday was a jolly nice day, too.  The Lovely Melanie's London friends came round, and we had a houseful of children and babies.
Mayhem ensued, particularly when they started chasing each round the house (you can do a circuit round our ground floor - living room>hallyway>kitchen>dining room>living room...) pushing trollies, buggies, chairs, small babies in front of them, like a team of small, excitable, high-pitched snowploughs.

And after all that, the Lovely Melanie is not very well with flu, or something.
Poor the Lovely Melanie. :-(
Friday 14th December 2007
In what I very much hope is not becoming a Christmas tradition, Millie is not very well now.
I'm in work today desperately tired and probably smelling slightly of sick.  Other people in the office may well do, too, because we had our work's Christmas dinner last night; I, sadly, am tired and smell of someone else's sick because when I got in late last night (thankfully quite sober) the Lovely Melanie had taken Millie to bed with us - not something she does lightly, and which has only happened on two other occasions.
But the poor girl had been sick over her bedding so many times that there was none left clean to replace it with, and she had now started on ours.
She's been throwing up roughly every 10-20 minutes all through the night - gradually losing pyjamas, pillow cases and sheets as they became sodden with vomit; and finally, at about 3am, losing me.

I went to sleep on the sofabed downstairs, reasoning that if the Lovely Melanie and Millie were tired in the morning from not getting any sleep then they could have a little lie-down.  I, on the other hand, can't do that here at work, so I left them to it.

Thankfully when I checked on them before leaving this morning they were both sound asleep, just a little Millie head and little Millie feet poking out of the duvet.
Monday 17th December 2007
Still smelling slightly of sick, but this time it's mine and the Lovely Melanie's.
We'd both like to thank our (now fully recovered) daughter for her generosity with her microbes.

On the plus side, I'm looking forward to Christmas more than I have for years.  Not only are we at my parents for the first time in a few years and with both my brothers and their partners, but I just know Millie's going to have so much fun this year, and I can't wait to see that.

Right, I'm going to go and lie down for a bit.
Wednesday 19th December 2007
Back at work, but not sure how long for.  At least I won't have to worry too much about putting on weight this Christmas!

Just wanted to say 'hi' to a couple of the Lovely Melanie's friends, Steve and Kathryn.  Kathryn's a regular here, not to mention almost six months pregnant, and they had a bit of a scare last week.  I don't know any other details - I don't need to, I know how unpleasant the whole business can be, and I'm just glad things are OK.

And from the sublime to the ridiculous (to you, perhaps, but not for me!) I noticed that I've gotten a lot balder in the last few months.  I keep my hair very very very short usually, so don't normally notice its ongoing retreat across my scalp, but what with illness and Christmas it's had a chance to grow free for almost a fortnight now.
Or rather, not to grow free, since a large swathe of my bonce now seems to be almost free of this dreadful scourge, even without using a razor.
In retaliation, I'm letting my sideburns grow again.
Monday 24th December 2007
We're now in Swindon for Christmas.  The Millie Show is in full effect as we try to catch all the lovely people who've been good to us over the year - it's a long list, I can tell you, so excuse us if we either (a) don't catch you, or (b) do catch you, but are very tired and have a gigantic tantrum while you're there.

And have a lovely Christmas whoever and wherever you are.
Friday 28th December 2007
Sigh.  Back at work, and so tired.  Partly the excitement and fun of the past few days; partly having to sleep on a camp bed for four nights, but mostly from having to share a room with Millie for three of those nights.  A Millie who seemed not to sleep at all once the Lovely Melanie and I decided we needed to.

Millie, of course, always has a whale of a time at Nanny and Grampy's house, whether it's Christmas or not - the presents were the icing on the cake for her, really - thanks to absolutely everyone who bought her a present, and rest assured, Millie is steadfastly working her way through all of her gifts, playing with each and every one.

Christmas morning Millie was awake at about 6am, as usual, just sort of bouncing around in her cot, occasionally serenading us, occasionally asking for some juice.  We gave in just after 7, got up, changed a nappy, and then discovered - would you believe it? - a stocking hung on the side of the cot full of presents from Father Christmas!  These took a little while to open as Millie's unwrapping technique was still rather primitive and mainly utilised brute force (which isn't much use when you're Millie's size).  She got about two presents open before my parents heard the commotion and came in to join us.
The stocking just had ten little toys in it from the Lovely Melanie and myself, but every single one of them was treated as though it was some kind of gold, frankincense and myrrh cocktail!

And this was before we even got downstairs to the stupendous Himalayan mountain range of gifts that lay under my parents' tree.  There were more than usual because all of the Carter brothers were in Swindon for Christmas this year.  My brother Trev and his partner, Conny, spend every other Christmas in Germany (Conny hailing from Germany), and we haven't seen them at Christmas for years because of our habit of spending every other Christmas in Hatfield (where the Lovely Melanie hails from), and we'd gotten out of synch a long time ago, they being in Germany when we're in Swindon and vice versa.
But I digress.

There were a ridiculous number of presents under the tree, so that it took seven of us about 40 minutes to get through them all, even with Millie eventually getting 'wrapping fever' and, like a two-foot hurricane, just tearing into any still-wrapped present that entered her field of vision.  She carried on like that for most of Christmas, opening toys and leaving them strewn across my parents' living room - and she still hasn't opened them all!

I felt like a bit of an old man this year, present-wise.  I mostly got things I asked for, but had forgotten I asked for practical things for the garden and tools and food!
Fortunately, Millie had plenty of toys I could play with. :-)

Christmas dinner was a huge lavish affair, my mum and dad gallantly cooking for 11 people - which might well be a record for them - and doing a very fine job of it indeed.  It was truly a Christmas to remember, with everybody making a special effort: not just for Millie, but for my parents, too, as the unwelcome guest at the dinner table, certainly for me, was the thought of my Dad's heart condition and the hoped-for heart transplant sometime in 2008.

But whatever happens with that it was, as I say, truly a Christmas to remember.

Actually, I should add an extra-special thanks to my parents - not just for our wonderful presents, but for taking us to and from London.  If it would have been difficult getting the train to Swindon with all the stuff we had to carry then it would have been flat-out impossible getting back.  
As it was, their car was full to the rafters yesterday, and the Lovely Melanie spent a couple of hours last night sorting through Millie's old toys, selecting some of the more baby-ish ones to go up in the attic (there not being anything like enough space in the various toy boxes).

I'll try and remember to upload some photos to Flickr tonight, but I really am very very tired...
Monday 31st December 2007
We went to Dartford yesterday (which is just a couple of stops and ten minutes on the train) to look for a new bed for Millie - a proper grown-up bed without guards on the side.  The new baby is going to need the cot, and Millie's growing up fast, so it's about time, really.
Typically, we didn't find anything in the bed shops, but when we popped into Argos we found a couple we liked in the catalogue there.  And came back home to order it online.
The one we've chosen is a cabin bed (one with drawers and shelveing underneath the bed itself), and isn't actually recommended for children under 3, but we figure we can put a temporary guard on the side while Millie learns how not to fall out of bed.  She's not stupid - it shouldn't take more than a week or so.

I can't wait to see our little girl in a proper bed; I've heard it said that you never want your children to grow up, but I do: seeing them get bigger and cleverer is half the fun for me.  That was reinforced by the return of the Millie Showover the weekend, when Grandma and Granddad (the Lovely Melanie's parents) came to see us, not incidentally bringing a second round of Christmas presents, which was nice.

And on a slightly sad note: we don't currently know if we're going out anywhere for New Year's Eve tonight - the first time ever.
We've had an invite down to Croydon, but there's no bed for the Lovely Melanie there (she's heavily pregnant remember, and really is not sleeping on floors at the moment), and we couldn't possibly get back from there via taxi without taking out a second mortgage, so, um, yeah.

Even sadder for me is the fact that I'm not even especially bothered about this.  Old old old man...
A happy new year to you all - have a drink and a crazy party for me, won't you?  I'll think of you, lying in bed, hungover, when I'm out gambolling in the woods tomorrow for my morning constitutional. ;-)
Wednesday 2nd January 2008
Happy New Year, everybody.
So, we did go out for New Year's in the end - having discovered that public transport was not only free all night (as usual) but was actually running all through the night, too, we went to friend Mags' house and caught the train home at about 1am.
Millie was already awake then, which made things easier.  We'd blown up her inflatable bed and put her to sleep in an empty bedroom about 9 o'clock - very late for her, but she was having so much fun exploring Mags' house, eating breadsticks and peanuts, and saying hello to people, that we decided to let her stay up a while (I wish I'd gotten a picture of her sat on a big chair between two of our friends, looking for all the world as though she was engaged in a proper grown-up conversation).

As I say, though, she was awake and actually saw in the New Year with everybody, having been scared half to death by fireworks outside her bedroom.  We got her up and had to cuddle a very very frightened little girl at about 11pm - I forget how children can be frightened of things like that - but since she was being so cute, seemed perfectly happy to hang out with the grown-ups, and would just have to get up again in 90 minutes we let her stay up.

I had been worried the train home might be so packed full of drunken loons that we wouldn't be able to get on with a buggy and a seven-months pregnant Lovely Melanie, but it was remarkably quiet, and I think we were back home within about 40 minutes of leaving Mags'.

Not like the old days, oh, no.  On New Year's Eve then there was no public transport, except for the occasional feral night bus, so you were lucky to get home before daylight if you went more than a mile from home.  Back then, taxis were so few and far between that you'd throw yourself naked into the road offering to sell your own mother if one came within 50 yards of you!
Bah!  Kids today don't know they're born!  We had to struggle on New Year's back then!  School of hard knocks, etc. etc.

No new year's resolutions or reviews of the year here, I haven't got time for that kind of thing.  There's book reviews to write (one of which is of the master, Iain M. Banks', new 'Culture' novel, Matter, which it's no exaggeration to say is the science fiction literature event of 2008); there are my birthday celebrations to sort out - not to mention the impending arrival of Junior, which is creeping up on us like a lion hunting gazelle...

Wednesday 2nd January 2008 ADDITIONAL
I know I said I wasn't doing new year's resolutions, but I think I'll make one - that of fighting against the introduction of ID cards.  Why not join me?  You can even print out a pretty certificate with which to impress your friends and neighbours, and annoy Jacqui Smith.
Thursday 3rd January 2008
Here's a rather endearing story.
Millie was bought a pot of plastic fish for Christmas (something to do with the film Finding Nemo, I think), which she loves - especially at bathtime.  The pot also has two turtles in it, a large one and a small one, that we told Millie are 'Mummy Turtle' and 'Little Baby Turtle'.  Since then the two turtles have always been carried around together by Millie, and she often holds them next to each other saying, 'Cuddle him,' or 'Mummy Turtle cuddle Little Baby.'
It's lovely to see your offspring developing empathy.

There's also some hilarious pre-tantrum behaviour: when Millie's slightly annoyed or upset by something, but not enough to merit a full-blown tantrum, she'll often quietly pick up her blanket, walk a couple of steps away, lay the blanket on the floor, then lie down on the blanket and pout.  
It's her equivalent of flouncing off in a huff, except she, er, gets comfortable and stays there.

Friday 4th January 2008
You know, it's often terribly difficult to tell how clever a two-year-old actually is.
On the one hand they chat away all day long, repeat offhand comments that you made three days ago and remember (frankly bizarre) scraps of information; they've learnt how to put together a toy wooden railway set they got for Christmas, are quite capable of lauching quite thorough searches for lost items and can even count to ten and recite the entire alphabet (no, really - Millie has mastered both of these astonishing feats; albeit the alphabet only in song form) - they can even undress themselves ready for bath time.

On the other hand, they can be scared very easily, too, regardless of how clever they seem.
Last night the Lovely Melanie went out with her friends, leaving me to bathe and put Millie to bed.  Only...Millie didn't want to go to bed: she wanted to sleep on the sofa downstairs because, she told me, she was worried about fireworks - the ones that scared her on New Year's Eve.
The poor thing was properly upset and frightened, and it took a good 15 minutes to reassure her that fireworks were indeed 'in the bin' and unlikely to return.

Oh, and the endless repetition of facts - sometimes it's like having a coversation with a stuck record!
Millie: Where Mummy gone?
Me: Mummy gone shops, poppet.
Millie: Mm.
(20 seconds pass)
Millie: Mummy gone shops.
Me: That's right; Mummy's gone to the shops to buy some bread.
Millie: Mm.
(10 seconds pass)
Millie: Mummy gone shops to buy bread.
Me: Exactly, little one.
Millie: Buy bread.
Me: Yes.
Millie: Mummy gone shops.
Me: She has, poppet.
Millie: Mummy gone shops to buy bread.
Me: To buy some bread, yes.
(20 seconds pass)
Millie: Where Mummy gone?
Me: Sigh. Mummy gone shops.
Millie: Buy bread.
Me: Just as previously discussed, monkey.
Millie: Mummy gone shops to buy bread...

It's as though she can't quite get her head around things and is just checking she's got it exactly right.

The Lovely Melanie continues to be fine, thanks for asking.  I wouldn't say she's enjoying the later stages of pregnancy, but given the alternative she's not complaining   'Junior' is well over 30 weeks now, and has all his/her bits, only needing to put on more weight, so that's a relief.
Bizarrely, we recently found out that when Millie was born she didn't have all her bits - she didn't have retinas in her eyes, and her brain was smooth like a walnut, with no folds in it.  These important 'bits' all grew when she was in hospital!
I'm quite glad I didn't know that at the time.
Having had an emergency Ceasarean last time the Lovely Melanie can't have a normal birth this time - something to do with the muscles they had to cut through last time still not being strong enough to withstand a full-term labour.  We hope to get a date for the Caesarean pretty soon, and it'll probably be sometime at the end of February...
I don't think she's that bothered about missing out on 'the miracle of birth' - frankly it looks messy, painful and dangerous (completely unlike a Caesarean, obviously!) - and it's the end result that really counts, anyway.
Monday 7th January 2008
Thanks to a very unexpected - but very much appreciated - windfall, we're getting a new computer!

The one used to produce this site is well over four years old, and wasn't state-of-the-art when new.  However it has been extremely reliable, entirely deserving of my pride in it and could, until about 18 months ago, just about handle everything the IT world threw at it.  
Sadly, it's been struggling of late, and as someone who likes to keep up-to-date with what all the nerds and the geeks are up to I've been feeling a bit inadequate.  The Lovely Melanie has pointed out that by no stretch of the imagination do we need a new 'puter; that this is if anything rather overmuscled for Office-y stuff, viewing photos, music playback and most of yer internet/email stuff.

But I don't just want to do Office-y stuff, viewing photos, music playback and most of yer internet/email stuff.

Consequently we're I'm spending a surprisingly small amount of money buying a surprisingly large new computer.
For those of you who know computers here's some hardware porn. 
Everyone else, you may as well stop reading now.

Intel Core 2 Quad-Core Q6600 Processor (2.4GHz, 8MB cache, 1066MHz FSB)
3072MB 800MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM
256MB ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT graphics card
320GB (7200rpm) Serial ATA/100 Hard Drive with 16MB DataBurst cache

The graphics card is a pretty average one, and I'd have preferred a 10,000rpm hard drive, but there's no way I could justify the cost to the Lovely Melanie. Still, even without those this is an unbelievably fast and monstrously powerful system.  I'm as excited as a kid at Christmas waiting for this mighty beast to arrive!

But there'll be no visible changes whatsoever here, except for me being a bit ADHD for a couple of weeks or so.

As for disposing of my trusty old 'puter, I'm still unsure quite what to do.  Donate it to a charity such as Campaign Against the Arms Trade, or (as the Lovely Melanie wants) sell it to offset the cost of the new one - unaware that the resale value is probably only just into double figures.  Although, it has good and quite recent graphic and sound cards, so they might bump it up to about £50...
Wednesday 9th January 2008
I'm wondering today if my upbringing was quite as ad hoc or 'on the hoof' as Millie's seems to be.
This was sparked by seeing photos of her various haircuts - none of which were done to a conscious plan; we only try to keep it relatively neat and out of her eyes (which she hates - it being in her eyes, I mean - her hair, that is).  
Were my haircuts and clothes - and meals and bedtimes and the games I played and, oh, everything! - were they all quite as anarchic as Millie's??

I seem to remember, when I was young, that my parents always knew exactly what was going on: what was happening next, what we were going to be wearing or having for dinner tomorrow, etc.  The Lovely Melanie is far more organised than I am, thank goodness, but even so there's always a faint feeling in the back of my head that at any moment we could - metaphorically - run off the cliff, like Road Runner in the cartoons, and carry on going for a few seconds before we notice, then drop into the deep abyss of chaos below...

It's not an overwhelming fear that' overwhelms me every hour of the day, you understand, just a sort of nagging feeling in the back of my head.

I overheard an extraordinary conversation on the train into work today.
I was sat, surrounded by three young-ish women, all the Platonic ideal of a women's magazine reader, all talking about lending each other their various Weight Watchers' books, even though none of them was even slightly overweight (one of them had two Weight Watchers books - as some kind of reserve parachute, in case the first one failed to open, I guess); all reading some version of Heat magazine and, upon spotting their friend ('Darren') in a picture of Dancing On Ice they had to phone him there and then to tell him.
Finally, there was vigorous discussion about the merits of various moisturising hand creams.  Each of them apparently had at least two different types with them (and one had another at home that she hadn't tried yet so couldn't really comment on).

It was like looking through a portal into some horrifyingly bizarre parallel world.

Meanwhile, safely back in Stu World, we are even more excited about the arrival of the new 'puter, and had trouble sleeping last night due to the anticipation.

I'm not surprised at having trouble sleeping, as Millie has been a most horrendous pain in the ass the last few days.  Dealing with endless mini-tantrums I've felt like a fireman battling a forest fire: dealing with the ones I can see right now, whilst trying to anticipate and heading off all the potential new ones.
It seems to be endless, and it's depressing, because it makes me think I'm doing something wrong in my parenting, especially when the Lovely Melanie is (fortunately) so very good at handling and dowsing these conflagrations.
Ah, well, I'm sure the arrival of the new 'puter will magically make everything better...

Thursday 17th January 2008
Crikey, eight days have gone by since I last wrote here!
You've missed my birthday - lovely, thanks for asking.  We went to see Stewart Lee do some stand-up comedy in dear old Forest Hill, and he was just amazing - if you get a chance to see him perform live in the next few months then seize that chance with both hands, tie yourself to that chance then superglue your hands to it!
Thanks to everyone who came up for my birthday, it was lovely to see y'all, and I hope your hangovers were as merciful as mine the next morning.

You've missed the new computer and new 22" LCD monitor, both of which are everything I could have hoped for.  That's the main reason there have been no new entries here, I suspect: I've been getting to grips with Windows Vista and transferring setting and programs and backups fom the old PC to the new one.
Windows Vista is nice - weird, but nice.  The new monitor is also nice; I thought my old 19" CRT monitor was just fine, but compared to the new one it's like watching in black and white on a very old portable TV.

The new computer is pretty much astonishing.  I've tried out some of my old games on it (such as Unreal Tournament 2004) and I can run them all at their never-before-seen maximum settings with no trouble whatsoever.  The new computer laughs at Unreal 2004.  The new computer runs Unreal 2004 at max settings almost as an afterthought.  The new computer... etc. etc.
Ripping a whole CDs to MP3 takes about 4 minutes - I haven't even tried the video editing stuff yet, the kind of thing which, on the old computer, would use up every last byte of processing power for hours and hours.
But the best thing is that it all just works, swiftly and beautifully.

On the negative side, I've had more trouble with Millie's tantrums.
I actually lost my temper with her yesterday morning, following a protracted dispute over the eating of cereal, which ended with said cereal being flung across the table.  I'm ashamed to admit to shouting very angrily at Millie, and we then had a vigorous 5 minutes in which I brushed her teeth, put her shoes and coat on and strapped her in the buggy, all done by ignoring anything she said or did, and using my greater strength to get things done.

On the plus side, we did leave the house with clean teeth, with coat and shoes on, and strapped into our buggy; on the minus side, I felt dreadful about shouting at her and generally being a considerably less than brilliant dad.  Millie was then very very quiet all the way to nursery, which made me feel even worse!
Fortunately, I spoke to the Lovely Melanie who says she's also lost her rag like that before.  With that in mind we've agreed to look into some sensible ways to avoid tantrums altogether if possible, and if not then to deal with them more appropriately when they do occur.

The problem at the moment is that Millie wants some independence; wants to feel in control of her life, to be given a choice, not simply told to do something (because, being a Carter, that doesn't work very well with her).
Saying, 'Millie, I want you to eat your cereal, please,' or 'Millie, we're going to clean our teeth,' increasingly just frustrates and annoys her.  Nobody likes being continually told what to do, and we've only just realised that Millie is no exception.
So we adults need to be using some of our much vaunted superior intelligence to avoid making her feel coerced into doing something - and 'feel' is the important word there, because she will be doing what we want, she just won't realise it.  
Hopefully by using our superior intelligence we can avoid having to use our superior strength ever again.

The Lovely Melanie suggests phrasing directions so as to make them sound like a choice, and to give Millie plenty of warning that something (e.g., teeth cleaning) is going to happen in the next few minutes so that she has a chance to take it in, understand it and, importantly, be expecting it.

Hopefully this kind of thing will be easy for us to get the hang of, and it will actually work.
Because yesterday morning was no fun for anyone. :-(

Friday 18th January 2008
Things kids don't learn in school.
Millie - pay attention to number 7 in particular, please.

Oh, and apologies for all the errors (since corrected) in yesterday's entry.  In my defence, I'm currently trying to use the mouse left-handed because of a strained wrist.  
I'm getting better at it now, but it's still frustrating - even more frustrating than having to buy a new webcam because your old one doesn't work with Windows Vista, and then discovering that the new one doesn't work with Vista either.

Oh - Millie and I had breakfast together this morning, and both of us enjoyed it immensely, I'm pleased to tell you.
Sunday 20th January 2008
Shh, Millie's sleeping in her new bed for the first time tonight.
First impressions weren't entirely favourable, and it took a lot of reassurance before she eventually went to sleep, but she's dead to the world now...

She's always been very very good at sleeping in new places (even sleeping in a cupboard drawer one memorable New Year's Eve) but I think that was because those were other places - not Millie's own room.  Seeing her bedroom turned upside-down and her old cot replaced with something much bigger and dfar more formidable is a very different kettle of fish, so her being upset by it is understandable.

We've had a busy weekend though, so I'm surprised she had the energy to make a fuss about it!
The Lovely Melanie stayed overnight in Hatfield on Saturday for a baby shower, and Millie and I were left to fend for ourselves - which given my recent worries was potentially a bit of an ordeal.  Fortunately, thanks to a little bit of psychology by me, but also thanks to some general good cheer on Millie's part, we've had a lovely weekend.  Today we met up with my friends Simon and Jo at Greenwich market and had a wander around there for a few hours (after which they came back to ours and Simon, a carpenter by trade, helped me put Millie's bed together).

Millie loved Greenwich market, and Greenwich market loved Millie.  There were so fascinating many things for her to climb on, play with, look at, hear, smell and eat - we'll definitely be going back there for a fun afternoon out sometime soon.
Greenwich market also loved Millie though, stallholders and shoppers alike making a fuss of her.  
I think it's the juxtaposition of her small size and apparent intelligence that makes for such an irresistible combination: she looks a lot younger than she actually is, so a lot cleverer than she ought to be.  Not that she isn't bright, she's just not as bright as you might initially think.

Anyway, a weekend of just the two of us has exhausted me, so I'll say good night now...

Monday 21st January 2008
Last night saw a very gentle reminder of what life will be like when the new baby arrives.  As a result, this morning we are mostly being: tired.

Millie woke up three times in the night and cried; which is not a bad tally for a little girl in a brand-new bed.
The first time was understandable - the Lovely Melanie and I were blasted into wide-eyed wakefulness by a sudden howling from the next room.  Millie had managed to fall out of bed and we found her sitting on the floor in the dark, shaken but not injured (which is how all us parents like our children to be after an accident).

Hopefully she'll be better tonight.
Thursday 24th January 2008
The new baby is coming!  The new baby is coming!

Thursday 21st February is the big day.
Earlier than we'd expected, but that's because the hospital really really don't want her to go into labour before they can do their thing.  The Lovely Melanie can't have a natural birth, something to with having had an emergency caesarean last time, and if she should go into labour then it'll have to be another emergency caesarean, so they're playing it safe and delivering a week early.
Pah!  A week early - that's nothing!

And the new baby will share his/her birthday with...
  • W.H Auden
  • Robert Mugabe
  • Nina Simone
  • Tyne Daly (who??)
  • Alan Rickman
  • Kelsey Grammer
  • William Baldwin
  • Aunjanue Ellis (again - who??)
  • and Jennifer Love-Hewit
Which is better than me - I share my birthday with Frank Bough.
Friday 25th January 2008
A link - you better believe I've been taking notes!

Slight concerned to see that it includes 'Baby sleeping in a drawer' as a don't, because we've actually done that one...
Monday 28th January 2008
See, now, that's the kind of weekend I imagined us having, when I imagined us having children: going out round friends' houses for the day; going shopping for new shoes for Millie; spending Sunday afternoon in the garden planting seeds - almost like a TV ad for having children...

Saturday, we had to go to the dentist in our old stamping ground of Forest Hill (we can't find an NHS dentist in Bexley).  Unfortunately, we hadn't planned on most of Kent's railways being closed for 'maintenance' this weekend, so what should have been a couple of short hops on the train became an endless spiral of bus journeys.
Still, Millie was in excellent humour, we arrived in good time and everyone's teeth were fine - even Millie's penguin's teeth, which was lucky because getting cuddly penguins' teeth fixed, even with the NHS, costs a fortune!
After that we stopped at the veggie cafe/food store for lunch, and ate some cheese-y spinach-y thing and chocolate cake; then went on to the garden centre to buy some bamboo canes.
We are so middle-class it hurts!

Our trip into the wilds of the inner city was rounded off with a cup of tea at our friends' Nik and Liz's house in nearby Brockley.  Millie loves Nik, for some reason (no offence, Nik, but there's no particular reason for her to like you above anyone else!) and had a nice cuddle with him, before falling asleep, knackered, on Liz.
Even the prospect of rabbits couldn't rouse her...

We should have known the day had gone a bit too smoothly though, because a very tired Millie unfortunately chose our final bus of the day to go feral, prompting a deeply unpleasant woman to make the Lovely Melanie cry by having a go her child-rearing skills.
The bus was quite full, which meant I was sat at the other end of the bus blissfully unaware of this until we got off and the Lovely Melanie told me.  I promise you, I would have been considerably less polite than she was to that damned ignorant woman.

I'm a mild-mannered Englishman, I dislike fuss - let alone actual conflict - and my first instinct when pushed is to apologise, but not when people insult an eight-months pregnant woman on public transport struggling with a tired child (who has otherwise been so well-behaved all day long).
That's just nasty and I won't stand for it.

Gluttons for pnuishment, on Sunday we braved the buses again for a trip to buy Millie some new shoes and the Lovely Melanie some new slippers (we've just sold the old 'puter on eBay, so had some cash in our pockets).  Millie has some nice new pink-ish shoes and the Lovely Melanie has some nice new green-ish slippers.  I got a battery charger and 11 clip-frames for a secret project I'm working on...
The day was made just perfect by that aforementioned seed-planting bonanza in the garden - filling the propagator I got for Christmas with tomatoes, lettuce, sweetcorn, peas, onions, etc.  Then I cooked us all a lovely family meal of chilli con carne, which we ate round the table like a proper family.
Which I suppose we are, really. :-)
Tuesday 29th January 2008
What we are not scared of: the frankly quite scary images in a comic of mine called Overman; the zombies in another comic called Atomic Robo.

What we are scared of: 'Mr Fox', whom we saw outside our house last night.  
'Look, Daddy, look, it's a squirrel!'
'That's not a squirrel, Millie, that's Mr Fox.'
(Cue goggling eyes, requests for cuddles and that Mr Fox 'not get Millie')

I suspect this is because of the book we've read called Rosie's Walk, about a hen (called Rosie) who goes - you guessed it - for a walk, and the various Roadrunner-esque attempts by 'Mr Fox' to 'get her'.

But I rather think my comics need to be put away before Millie's twigs that they're supposed to be scary.  She's waking up in the night enough as it is at the moment, without being frightened of things she's seen in comics...
Wednesday 30th January 2008
If you missed my last triumphant DJ set way back in 2005 (and I know most people did - although those there congratulated me on a fine set of retro-future-funk) then you've got a chance to redeem yourselves this Saturday upstairs at The Market Porter, near London Bridge.

It's my mate Spud's 40th birthday, and all are welcome from 6pm to about 1am.  
I'll be spinning an eclectic mix of techno, indie and Motown soul from 9pm onwards, so perhaps I'll see you there.

The Market Porter, interestingly, is almost slightly famous as a setting in one of the Harry Potter films and Bridget Jones.
Monday 4th February 2008
Remember, way back in December, when there was a lot of kerfuffle about me nearly getting a job with a 'big internet company'?
Well, they came back a few weeks ago, gave me yet another interview for a practically identical job and...I got it!

Yes, I'm finally leaving the glamorous world of subtitling for a job with Yahoo!

I go on paternity leave on the 20th February, and when I return (on March 17th) it'll be to a building about five minutes walk from where I work now, and as a Web Search Editor - basically, making sure that the results the Yahoo computers come up with when you do a web search are actually relevant to human beings (e.g., if you search for 'Arsenal F.C.' you get results for the football club, and not a place where lots of guns are stored!)

So, I'm quite excited about that - would probably be even more excited if I wasn't going to become a Dad again between then and now.

And R2-DJ went down a storm on Saturday, by the way.  Would have been even better if there's been a proper dancefloor there...
Thursday 7th February 2008
Hmm.  I suppose I beter put something here before y'all forget about The Truth and go wandering off to some other sci-fi baby website.

So...we've decorated Millie's room, as kind of a gesture so that she doesn't think the new baby is getting all of the attention.  The colour scheme was the Lovely Melanie's choice, surprisingly.  'Surprisingly' because she chose a cacophony of colours that even I, The Migraine Decorator, thought, 'whoa - colours!'
But it actually looks really nice, with one wall green, one yellow, one pink and one lilac.  It was gratifying to see Millie's reaction, too, which was her 'Oohhhhhh!' she does when she likes something (you can't always trust when Millie says, 'I like that,' as sometimes she's saying it just for... Well, I'm not sure what for, really).

The Lovely Melanie is off on maternity leave now, and we've got another two weeks before the big day.  So far everything is still fine and we're on course to be 100% ready.

I'm not a superstitious man at all, but I probably shouldn't have written that last sentence...

And finally, some cute Millie stuff.
Millie's a remarkable parrot at the moment, and the Lovely Melanie's noticed that she's started using some phrases that we do, such as beginningor ending a sentence with 'actually' -
'MIllie, do you want some grapes?'
'Yes, I do, actually.'
'Millie, do you want to go sleepy-time?'
'Actually, no, I don't.'
Or saying 'If you like,' instead of yes and no -
'Millie, can you eat your cereal, please.'
'If you like.'
Which sounds a bit cheeky, but I don't think is supposed to be.

Monday 11th February 2008  EXTRA!  EXTRA!
Click on the lips below to make someone's day by sending them a lovely Valentine's e-card, while simultaneously showing how kind, generous and caring you are by making a donation to Bliss, the premature baby charity.

Kiss For Bliss lips
Take a tip from one who knows, chaps - chicks dig kind, generous and caring guys who give money to charity!

Monday 11th February 2008

I know I've mentioned before the lack of broadsheet newspapers in Bexley, but I was genuinely quite disturbed on Saturday when we got back from the shops to find a BNP leaflet had been put through our letterbox.

I know the BNP exists, obviously, and what peculiar brand of idiocy they stand for, but I've never lived anywhere that  they had enough of a presence to get leaflets delivered.
The fact that this little scrap of hatred was put inside our house means that somebody nearby really, truly and honestly thinks the BNP aren't a gang of frightened, deceitful and ill-thought-out throwbacks on the edge of civilised society.  And they believe that strongly enough to deliver leaflets for them on a Saturday.

We've never lived anywhere like that before.

On the other hand, coming to work this morning through a thick blanket of fog was enormous fun.  I haven't seen anything like that in a long time either... :-)

Poor Millie's not her little self at the moment.  We're not sure why, but she's been very fractious and tired for a few days now.  If she weren't so tired I think she'd be a lot more fractious.  We're hoping it's mostly to do with the eczema which has recently broken out all over her: the poor thing, she's slathered in so much cream every morning and evening now that we could probably sell her at Wimbledon.

And her favourite new toy is 'Snakey', who goes everywhere with her at the moment.
'Snakey' is actually a bright yellow bike lock/chain we bought at Poundland on Sunday.  
Ah, the foibles of the young, eh?

Finally, I went to see the recording of an episode of Radio 4's 'Banter' programme last night, which was very very funny (but most of the really funny stuff probably won't get broadcast).  
Despite being a mere member of the audience I still managed to get a couple of laughs - one for saying my favourite crisp flavour was 'meat', and the other for an unbelievably witty reply to a questions about diabetics ('Yes... No.' - you had to be there)
Listen out for the first episode of series 3 of Banter sometime in early April.

'Meat' really is my favourite flavour of crisp, by the way. Bar staff never question it if you say 'And some meat flavour crisps, please.'

Thursday 14th February 2008
7 days till the new baby arrives.
This time next week we'll be in the hospital, possibly even in the operating theatre - hell, possibly even coming out of the operating theatre.  Do they call it an operating theatre for caesareans, or is it a delivery room?

Actually, I say 'gulp,' but I don't think either of us are terribly worried yet: having done it before and being given a definite date for the birth helps, but because both of us know that it just can't be as much of a roller-coaster ride as Millie's arrival we're both pretty calm about it.  And the Lovely Melanie is neither terribly huge nor unhappy, so she's not desperate for an end to the whole pregnancy thing, although, I know she's gagging for a bit of stinky blue cheese and a glass of wine.

Also, this time next week I'll no longer be a subtitler. :-)
Double gulp.

At least Millie's eczema has cleared up, and she seems to be a bit chirpier/bolshier than she has been.
Quite how it's possible for her to get more bolshie, I don't know, but she has.
The other day we were walking, both of us, to nursery, and Millie suddenly sat down on the floor and said, 'I don't WANT to go in the buggy!'
Which was lucky really since, as I say, she she wasn't in there and wasn't about to go in there.
Then we crossed the road and she sat  down again because the gate to nursery was already open and Millie wanted to open it.  In the end, because she was sat in the nursery driveway on a busy Monday morning, I had to shut the damn gate so that she could then open it.  Sigh.  
I think the words, er, 'stupid child,' may have passed my lips.

Of course, then the stupid child will suddenly flabbergast you with things she remembers.  This morning the subject of America somehow came up; I said, 'It's a long way away - but not as far as Auntie Kristine.' (i.e., in Australia).
Millie thought for a second and then said, 'I spoke to Kristine on the computer,' (i.e., on Skype)

I tell you, it's so hard - having known your children from when they were helpless babies who couldn't even hold their own heads up - so hard to make sure your expectations keep pace with their development, because they grow and learn way faster than you ever imagine.

Finally, this is amazing - nine unique structures currently being built or about to begin construction.  Most of them look like they've escaped from Blade Runner or something, but the last one makes me want to visit Dubai - just for a day trip...
Friday 15th February 2008
OK, I know no one cares - I know that most of you probably won't even know what I'm talking about - but last night I got the game Crysis to run at its 'Very High' settings on my our new PC!
This is quite a big achievement in computer games.  Trust me, your computer cannot do this.  No offence to your PC, but it can't.  We've got a smart new graphics card in our computer, and although the computer itself is not quite at the cutting edge it can certainly see the 'Danger - steep drop ahead!' warning signs.

Crysis uses a lot of very very very very high quality graphics indeed.  A lot.  It's brought many a fine computer to its knees, and the 'Very High' settings are literally unobtainable on PCs that don't run Windows Vista (for various reasons), and practically unobtainable even for most others that do.

But, last night, at about 9.30pm GMT, I managed to play Crysis at 'Very High' - it even worked with anti-aliasing on, damn it!.  It doesn't play well, and I'll be playing normally on just 'High' settings, but it did run, and I could marvel at the 'Very High' beauty of it.

The Lovely Melanie refused to look at the onscreen blaze of glory, citing 'tiredness'.  Bah.
Monday 18th February 2008
There's pink on everything!!
Since it was The Last Weekend Before The New Baby Arrives we tried to do lots of things with Millie - one of which was painting a wooden chest for her to use as a toybox downstairs.  And since Millie's now quite big and sensible (ha ha!) we decided to let her help.  
So on a freezing Saturday afternoon we took the paint and the chest into the back garden, put on coats and wellies, then put a waterproof on top of Millie's coat, and then the Lovely Melanie put a binbag on top of that.
Millie could have actually withstood a low-level nuclear blast, she had so many layers on.

As it turned out, the effects of unleashing Millie upon pots of grown-up paint and brushes weren't too dissimilar.

Just 10 minutes after the pots were opened she was back indoors being scrubbed by the Lovely Melanie, and I was standing in a garden now various shades of pink and green, next to a toy chest dripping great gobs of a peculiar sort of flesh colour (pink+green=skin colour - who knew?!)

We also made some flapjacks together (although, in true Blue Peter fashion, I had to quickly remake them after Millie went upstairs, as the recipe we were following didn't allow for our fierce fan-assisted oven...)  Still, they turned out very nice, and Millie was very pleased with the results, painstakingly collecting every single crumb of flapjack in the palm of her hand even though she still had half a flapjack in front of her.

We went to the woods, wrapped up warmly, with Millie looking particularly 'emo' - a single lock of hair hanging down from her hat over her face - and threw stones in the river; I held up some large branches for MIllie to push over, and we saw some doggies.  Millie got bored when we were talking to a neighbour and decided to go home, heading off on her own, quite unconcerned that we weren't following.  
One day I'm going to try an experiment to see how long it takes her to start worrying about being on her own.
I suspect it's quite a while.

We also had to adopt our own 'zero-tolerance' approach to tantrums, as there have been far too many of these for far too little reason recently; and what with it being The Last Weekend Before The New Baby Arrives they need to be nipped in the bud now.  We were being very adult, not shouting and instead trying to reason through them (as far as you can 'reason through them' with a two-year-old).
But, frankly, that's not working (or not working fast enough) so we're just getting very tough with Millie and refusing to listen to her or talk to her at all if she's having a tantrum.
It's not much fun, but seems to be having the desired effect.

Finally, can any legal eagles out there make head-or-tail of this piece of gibberish, which I've just received from my current employers:
'21st February (my first day of paternity leave) will have to be taken as a holiday day.  This is because in order to be entitled to paternity leave, you need to be an employee of the company on the day you start it. So if your wife is due to give birth on 21st February and you’ve taken it as a holiday, then technically you’re still employed by us and can claim paternity leave.'

Just to clarify; I've handed my notice in, but go on paternity leave midway through my notice period.  
Do get in touch if you can understand this enough to explain it to me...
Tuesday 19th February 2008
Aye caramba. :-(
So we went out for a leaving drink with work yesterday, to say goodbye and to wet the new baby's head...
Only I didn't so much wet the baby's head as send the poor little mite to Davy Jones' Locker!

We spent a lovely afternoon in the pub, but then foolishly carried on drinking into the evening.  Before you can say 'I think you've had enough...', I'm staggering (literally) home at 10.30, Burger King in hand.  
My old friend Adam was staying with us that night, too, as he'd just flown back from Mozambique and couldn't get a train home till the next morning.  So I got home and somehow - miraculously - managed to set up our brand new digibox without breaking it, then waited up for Adam, who fortunately arrived quite soon, or I'd probably have been unconscious on the floor.
He got a big hug, a midnight tour of our garden and my new propagator...and then left downstairs to fend for himself while I went to bed.

Today I was a considerably less happy bunny, and had to phone in sick for my penultimate day of work.

Dear, oh, dear, oh, dear.  Well, at least that's got the 'party animal' out of my system for at least a few months, and probably longer.

The Lovely Melanie and I also think we've come up with a name for the new baby, at last.  It's a late arrival, but we've almost signed off on it...
Wednesday 20th February 2008
After yesterday's idiocies we're back on track for The Arrival Of The New Baby.  To continue the nautical theme, it feels as though the wave is beginning to rise around me now, getting ready to break tomorrow.
Plus, of course, it's my last day at my old job, so I walked from Charing Cross, up The Strand and through Covent Garden, and past all my regular haunts (the shop where I buy my chewing gum every week, the Post Office I've spent so many hours queuing, my favourite sandwich shop, etc.)
I've spent eight years doing this job, so moving to a new place and a new role with new people is going to be nerve-wracking.  
There'll be more than enough time to worry about that though, once we've gotten through The Arrival Of The New Baby.

Tonight, Grandma and Granddad are coming to stay, as they'll be taking care of Millie tomorrow.  We'll be heading up to Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup for about 8.30, and if it's a quiet day there then everything should be sorted by 11am.  Hopefully if, the Lovely Melanie is relatively well we can bring Millie and grandparents up to meet the new baby later in the afternoon.
My parents (Nanny and Grampy) are coming up the next day and staying over for a few days, as the Lovely Melanie has to stay in hospital for 3-4 days after the caesarean, so they'll mostly be looking after Millie while I'm at the hospital.

If I seem a bit blasé about the whole affair, um, well, that's because I am a little bit.  After the trauma of Millie's birth I kind of feel that nothing can shock me now.  No doubt I'm completely mistaken about that, and the difference between Millie's heavily supervised birth and initial few months, and the new baby, which despite being a caesarean ought to be far more normal, will catch me completely by surprise.
I'm trying to imagine the Lovely Melanie giving birth and then us being simply handed the new baby.  It doesn't feel quite right somehow...

This will probably be the last entry for a few days, but I'm going to try to put some photos on here later on tomorrow.
And those of you who still don't know the sex can finally be put out of your misery. ;-)


Thursday 21st February 2008
Amber Grace Carter, just under 6lbs in weight, delivered by caesarean section today at 11.23am in Queen Mary's Hospital, Sidcup.
Both mother and baby are doing exceptionally well.  Dad is rather tired, but would like to thank everyone who's called, emailed, Facebooked, texted, or simply spoken out loud their good wishes.

Monday 25th February 2008
Hello! We're back!
Amber's back home, so is the Lovely Melanie - back home a full two days earlier than predicted, actually - they were both released on Saturday.  Amber's already changed so much in the past few days: from a little wrinkled scrap of nothing covered in lard, she's now a pink scrap of nothing covered in proper clothes.
The lard thing was actually quite surprising - when she was pulled from the Lovely Melanie's stomach my first thought was, 'she's so pale!' which was only because she was completely covered in lard.  Now she's filling out nicely, eating like a horse and really rather cute.  I had been concerned that with Millie being so special to us that I might not feel quite as strongly about baby Amber, but she's just as lovely as Millie was and already firmly esconced in my heart. :-)

Speaking of Millie, she's been brilliant for the past few days.  Despite all the disruption, despite all the confusion and despite all the strangeness, we've never been prouder of her.  She's been gentle and concerned about Amber from the moment she saw her.  Not interested for long, but if Baby Amber cries or needs her nose wiping then Millie's there with a kiss or a wipe.  And she's had a lovely weekend with both sets of grandparents doing shifts here to help out, all making a huge fuss of her.  
Huge thanks to both our families for coming to stay with us and muck in.  It's been very tiring for both of them, but as a result we've been able to stay sane and well-fed.  So thank you both so very very much.

Big thanks to all our friends and family, too, for all the good wishes, the presents, cards and messages; it really means a lot to us that y'all took the time to do that.
There's also a nice, short entry on my Uncle Graham's blog.

We're sat at home now, just the three of us (Millie's at nursery).  My parents have just gone back to Swindon, and Amber's fast asleep.  She has, so far mostly been a very very good baby indeed.  This afternoon the Lovely Melanie and I are going to have a nap and perhaps watch a DVD together.  I almost feel guilty sending Millie to nursery - we could've kept her at home, but after five days running at high speed we both need a little bit of recovery time.

The Lovely Melanie is recovering very quickly, by the way, she's in excellent spirits and almost no pain.  There are still a good few weeks ahead when she can't lift or carry quite a lot of things, but she's doing a fantastic job of taking care of Amber, while I'm mostly looking after the much heavier (and frighteningly grown-up seeming) Millie.

So, after the last time, with Millie, it seems karma has paid us back with a smooth-as-silk delivery and homecoming.  Long may it continue.

Oh, and if anyone wants to come and visit us, then please do - we are most assuredly receiving visitors. ;-)
But give us a bell first, eh?
Tuesday 26th February 2008
I was really quite worried that being at home with a new baby, a Millie and a Lovely Melanie confined to bed was a recipe for disaster: that I was going to be rushed off my feet changing nappies, warming bottles, tidying away toys, making meals, taking little people to nursery, helping bigger people get to the loo, and so forth.

Turns out I needn't have worried

Millie's at nursery (and taking her there and back is proving to be great fun when you're not in a rush to get to work); Baby Amber pretty much just sleeps and is almost unwakeable unless she's hungry - although, boy, is she hungry!  It's easy to see why Millie has remained so petite for so long compared to her gannet of a sister! And the Lovely Melanie is so well and able compared to what we'd expected.

Today, for example, I took Millie to nursery at about 9 - and without the buggy, too.
The Lovely Melanie said I was mad, but Millie and I had a whale of a time on the bus, laughing, joking and watching out for the bin-men.
On the way home I bought a copy of The Guardian (obviously, not from Albany Park, as you can't buy it there) which I read with some hot cross buns and a cup of tea for breakfast; changed and dressed Amber, helped the Lovely Melanie with the crossword; shaved my head; shaved my face; had a shower; finally got round to tidying under the stairs, and watched some of This Morning with Amber on my lap.
In the afternoon I checked my emails and watched some films I'd recorded from TV.  Amber was either asleep in her moses basket on the floor or on my lap.  About 4.30 I went to pick up Millie, she was tired but chirpy, and, er, here we are now: Amber asleep in the living room, about to watch Horizon on TV.

It was a nice, lazy day; things got done, but without any stress.

I think the only bad thing to happen all day was that I managed to kick a plug socket off the wall in our bedroom.  Not a plug out of a socket, a plug fixture almost off the wall.  Tsk.

To balance that out though, I had words with the customer service department at Dell (where our computer came from) about a broken DVD drive.  I'd expected them to either prevaricate for hours over the exact terms of my warranty or to ask me to return the whole computer for repair for three weeks.
They did neither: after five minutes on the 'phone they said that a brand-new DVD drive would arrive in the post tomorrow and they'd ring me in the evening to guide me through its installation.
Go Dell! :-)
Wednesday 28th February 2008
Nothing to add, really: we're all fine, the Lovely Melanie's recovering well, Amber is eating like a horse and sleeping relatively well.  Certainly sleeping often, just not always when we want her to.
It was the first day with Millie not at nursery and with no one else here and it all went well.  We took the new double buggy out for a spin with both Millie and Amber in it...  Probably won't be doing that too often, as it handles like an oil tanker and is too heavy to lift up or down stairs (so that rules out most train stations, unfortunately).  I think we're going to have to,
  1. Travel light
  2. Get Millie better at walking or have some more practice with the sling for carrying Amber in.
Millie dotes on Amber at the moment and is eager to help out however she can with looking after her - she even puts on a slightly high-pitched voice when she talks to Amber - the same voice she uses when she says, 'Hello, Tigger!' to Tigger after a day at nursery; excited and pleased to see him. :-)
Millie also seems to have not only lost the need to sleep, but gained the courage to get out of bed, open her door and go wandering about.  Bedtime is currently a staggered affair, and not without tears.  We'll have to put Millie back to bed about three times before she falls asleep.
It was a bit startling the first few times - I'd be sitting at the computer, when out of the corner of my eye I'd catch a glimpse of movement, and there would be Millie stood there, silently watching, like a little ghost!

Heh.  Believe it or not, I just had to stop there for a few minutes - the little ghost was at my door again, only this little ghost had poo on her hand.
She has a habit of putting her hand down the back of her trousers at the moment, and only occasionally regrets it.  Obviously nervous about saying anything, she stood there poking the door until I realised the creaking wasn't the Lovely Melanie pottering about.
My first thought was 'How did you get ink on your hand?  What have you been doing?'  Then I realised...

I think I might go and have a small rum now.
Still, at least it turned out not to be a completely superfluous entry after all!

Monday 3rd March 2008
I don't want to bore people here with the tedious minutiae of our life at home, so I've not added any entries for a few days.  We haven't really done much, to be honest, except look after the kids and enjoy ourselves - I could easily get used to being at home like this!

Baby Amber (or 'Baby A' as I prefer to call her) is doing just fine.  The health visitor called yesterday and pronounced her fit and well.  She's now 6lbs 3oz, which may not seem like much of a weight gain given that she was just under 6lbs when born ten days ago, but babies lose weight at first - apparently they're sodden like a sponge when they're born, that excess liquid being lost over the first few days - and only after a few days do they start putting it back on.
But 6lbs 3oz is a very healthy weight gain, so we were pleased.
We were also pleased that the health visitor commented that not only is the Lovely Melanie doing remarkably well, but Millie seems exceptionally clever for her age.  It's so hard to judge your own children because you're completely and utterly biased as to their stupendous abilities/beauty/behaviour/intelligence...everything!  
Oviously, we already knew that Millie was exceptionally clever.  It's just nice to get confirmation from an independent source.

Millie is well and truly ready for potty training now: I can say this with some confidence after an ill-advised Saturday morning attempt to change her own poo-filled nappy.
Everything's all right again now - I've bleached the bathroom floor, we've all showered, and everything Millie might conceivably have touched has been thoroughly washed - but it was touch and go for a while...

Another thing to note is just how well-behaved a baby Amber is.  She's generally good humoured, unfussy, a good eater and a world-class sleeper.  This is a good and a bad thing: good because it makes our life so much easier; bad because it means that I - the Lovely Melanie less so - can sometimes almost forget she's there.
I feel terrible writing that, but she's such a good baby, (certainly in comparison with the excitable, highly strung Millie at the moment) that I almost have to remember to spend time with her.  Amber's very cute, and sometimes extremely amusing, but her repertoire is currently a bit limited, so that even when I am spending time with her it's usually with her in one hand and a book in the other.

Does that make me a bad parent?
Tuesday 4th March 2008
No doubt you're all eager to hear more about Baby A (or 'Bubbah Amber' as the Lovely Melanie currently calls her), but she really doesn't do very much at the moment.  
Really.  Millie, on the other hand...

I feel slightly guilty for going on and on about her big sister, who's already had plenty of time in the spotlight, but yesterday we had a fantastic moment when Millie finally got to ride on my bike with me.  
I say 'finally' because the Lovely Melanie bought me the bike at Christmas; it arrived in early January; I managed to get around to putting it together sometime in mid-January; my dad came up to sort out some teething problems with it (brakes, mudguards, gears, handlebars, etc.) in late January; I somehow 'broke' an inner tube while blowing the tyres up for the first time, and so the Lovely Melanie's dad at last managed to fix that and get it running yesterday.
The bike's had a child seat on it for about six weeks, which we showed to Millie and explained what it was for, which she got jolly excited about.  Then, over the course of six weeks, gradually calmed down about...

Well, yesterday she was home from nursery early to see Grandma and Granddad, and I finally took her for a spin.

It was one of those moments where you can't be sure quite which way Millie will jump.  On the one hand, she's often quite fearless, but she does have her moments where she decides - forever - that something is not for her, and I knew the bike could be one of those.
So it was nice to hear her shout, when I asked, 'Do you want to go on the bike, Millie?' a hearty, 'Yees!' (she might have added 'Finally!')
There was some slight fuss over the helmets, which the Lovely Melanie has insisted on for both of us.  Seeing me wearing mine swung the argument however, and we stepped out the front door like astronauts about to board a space capsule.
Millie was strapped into the capsule - sorry, the seat - without any fuss; in fact, with a big smile on her face. 
Not nearly as huge as the smile on her face when we actually set off though. :-)

We did a couple of laps of the street with her laughing, waving and yelling all the way - yelling (and I'll never forget this) 'Watch out, everybody - Millie's coming!'
Sunday 9th March 2008
Ahh...Monday tomorrow - my equivalent of the weekend runs from Monday to Wednesday, but I've only got this last week off before I start at Yahoo! a week tomorrow.  I'm quite excited about that, but there's a little kernel of nervousness beginning to grow in my head; not for any particular reason - I'm confident I can do the job, and Yahoo! looks like a nice place to work,'s a new job and I always worry about letting people down and embarrassing myself in new situations; not to mention it's been seven years since I had to learn a new job.

But back to the present - this weekend (this actual, normal person's weekend) we've had lots of family up to visit, which has been jolly nice indeed.
Saturday, my brother, Rich, and his wife, Carla (who was on TV's Richard & Judy on Thursday!) came up for the day to see Baby Amber for the first time.  We went to a little tea shoppe in Hither Green for lunch, taking the assorted offspring with us for a first proper outing, using Rich and Carla as our safety net.
We didn't take the HMS Double Buggy, relying instead upon the old buggy and the carrying sling thing.

That all went pretty well.  It's kind of hard for it not to go 'pretty well' with Baby Amber: so long as you remember to take some milk along and don't drop her then she's easy like Sunday morning.
Even Millie was pretty well-behaved.  The tea shoppe was a slightly 'shabby chic' one, and most of the people there were young-ish and trendy - there to quietly read the papers, I think.  
We may have interrupted that, what with Millie having to wait more than 45 seconds for her cake to arrive at the table, and continuously shouting 'Cake!' down the stairs so the waitress wouldn't forget.  I thought it was a proper hilarious Withnail & I moment, but then, she's my daughter, and even memories of quiet Saturdays in cafes reading the paper are just about lost to me.  
Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays I may get to read the paper, but not in a cafe...

Today, my Uncle Maurice, Auntie Jacky and cousin Claire came to visit and to meet Amber.  They brought a lovely lasagne with them - as well as my parents - and more presents for the girls.
That was nice because my extended family rarely visit us here in the wilds of Kent.  Most of them live in Swindon, which is a good two-hour drive away, and although I like all of my family a great deal, and always enjoy seeing them, we're not joined at the hip.  Realistically, even my parents and brothers can only visit us a few times a year, so it was a pleasure to have Maurice, Jacky and Claire make the big effort to come and see us.  Especially since they brought food with them!

My parents also brought a lovely a swing chair from Pat, Claire and Rob - relatives from 'the other side' in Swindon - that's electrically powered so as to rock a baby to sleep.
Unfortunately, we didn't have the right batteries today; which didn't stop both Amber and her big sister enjoying it.  Amber just sleeps very contentedly in the chair, whereas Millie likes both gently rocking her little sister and using it as some kind of NASA training unit to test astronauts' endurance.
Without Amber in it, I should add.

Not a great deal of change with Baby Amber - she's still filling out nicely, sleeping well, and - although it could be my imagination - seems to be more aware of what's going on around her, when she's awake, at least (which isn't very often).  She's already growing out of clothes it took Millie literally months to get too big for; clothes that were big on her when she was first born.  It's kind of weird to watch.  Even though both the Lovely Melanie and I understand that this is how babies are supposed to grow we've only experienced Millie 'size 0' Carter before.  Amber seems to be swelling before our very eyes!

Which reminds me, 'size 0' had another breakthrough this morning - she's learnt how to get around both the stairgates.
This morning all was quiet, so I went to get her up.  Couldn't see her in her bedroom.  Went and got my glasses.  Still couldn't see her.  No sign in the bathroom, in Baby Amber's room or in either of the laundry baskets.  Stairgates are both still locked...
But Millie has been wriggling through the upstairs bannister recently, so I suppose she could be downstairs.
I spot a clue - a pair of pyjamas on the stairs - and follow the trail into the darkened living room, where I find Millie, naked except for a nappy, sat on the big sofa eating her way through a packet of shortbread I'd left there last night.
And, bless her, she offers me one. :-)

The Lovely Melanie, paranoid that Millie's going to have a terrible accident falling down the stairs, tells her off; I'm rather more impressed with how clever and resourceful our daughter is, and congratulate her.

Monday 10th March 2008
Jeez, what a day that was - especially if you were a little Millie.
A Monday that begins with a chest of drawers falling on top of you is never set to be a particularly great one.
Millie was so excited about nursery today that she couldn't wait for me to haul my lazy ass out of bed and had to try and dress herself - pulling the chest of drawers down on herself in the process.  Big thud, a series of crashes and then a wail from Millie.  I had a nasty moment when I saw her pinned under the damn thing, but after initially checking for broken legs and so forth she didn't even get a single bruise and hasn't mentioned the incident since.
Still, she won't be trying to climb too many other items of furniture in a hurry.

Next, of course, was the stormy weather.  Despite the TV making a very big deal out of it all day long I wasn't particularly impressed.  It was windy enough to make me think twice about taking the buggy though (I had visions of it being blown away).  Instead, we put an extra layer of cardigan on Millie and put her waterproof 'monkey coat' on (a raincoat from London Zoo).  And hat.  And wellies.
Even so the wind and rain was almost too much for her, and I ended up carrying her most of the way to and from nursery.
Even Baby A noticed the wind, staring at the windows as it howled round the house today.  Millie was terribly pleased to see her sister when she got home tonight - even going so far as to offer Amber a bit of 'nuffle' (blanket).  And you know you've made it in this house when Millie offers you some of her nuffle.

Thursday 19th March 2008
Hello there! Bet you thought I'd forgotten about you, eh?  If it's any consolation, I do feel a bit bad about not having been able to update for the past, er... Well, yes, quite - the past ahem days.

Yahoo! have been keeping me quite busy for a start.  Far busier at a place of work than I've been for quite some years.  Without wishing to get all evangelical about them (there was a slightly embarrassing amount of that from new employees at my induction session on Tuesday, thank you!) I'm finding it to be a fascinating and challenging place to work.  It's not perfect, far from it, but certainly my eyes are being reopened about how rewarding work can potentially be.
There will probably be more on this later, as I start to actually do my new job and not just watch and learn from other people.

Monday, my first day, was one to remember, for all the wrong reasons.

The other reason this blog has been sparse is that my spare evening hours have been spent restoring the computer.  Sunday night it had a catastrophic breakdown after a routine update from Microsoft left me with a permanently looping boot sequence.
In the end I had to reinstall Windows - and even that final solution was a bit touch and go.  I had thought we'd lost everything on the computer (although, fortunately I'd recently done a backup of all the valuable stuff) and have spent two whole nights making it work all nice and  proper again.  Things are still a touch rough around the edges, but mostly we're shipshape and Bristol fashion once more.
Still, that was exactly what I didn't need the night before the new job.
Things got even worse when I arrived 45 minutes late at Yahoo! - arriving at Sidcup station after dropping Millie off at nursery, the big worry initially was what to do with the extra 45 minutes I'd given myself to get there.  Then trains started being cancelled...leaving me with the embarrassment of having to ring my new boss on my first morning at a new job to tell her I was going to be late. :-(
Fortunately my new boss is a very nice lady who told me not to worry, she'd yet to locate my new computer - one of the first things Yahoo! did was give me a laptop to use and abuse as my very own, which straightaway made me feel trusted, welcome and valued there.

Anyway, I'd barely put the phone down from calling my new boss when the Lovely Melanie rang to tell me that there'd been a loud pop and all the power had gone off at home.
Through a process of elimination I figured out that the fuses had blown and nothing was on fire, then managed to explain to the Lovely Melanie about fuses and how to reset them, then ascertained that the washing machine had gone postal on us - never a good thing when you have two small children in the house.
Finally, having been sat on a freezing station platfform for 90 minutes hypothermia was creeping into the very marrow of my bones.
By that point I was about ready to give up on the whole new job experiment.  Things, however, have largely sorted themselves out.  The washing machine is due to be fixed tomorrow - just in time, as Amber's brave attempts to clean our clothes with her own stomach juices haven't proven terribly successful...

Speaking of Amber, both she and her big sister are well.  Amber is growing at a phenomenal rate - she has cheeks the shape of a rugby ball now!  We're just beginning to realise how small and difficult to feed Millie was.
I'm not actually seeing much of either of them at the moment, due to my new hours at work.  The Lovely Melanie is being  incredibly good and making sure I get plenty of sleep at night so I'm at my awesome best during the day. ;-)
Monday 24th March 2008
Better put something here, I suppose, even though it's the last thing I feel like doing.  Both the Lovely Melanie and I have stinking colds at the moment, which with two young children to look after is no joke, since all we really want to do is climb into bed and watch a poor quality Channel 5 afternoon family movie.
But!  Millie is demanding our attention - Baby Amber rather less so, but still needing some looking after, so we're up and zombie-ing about.  The Lovely Melanie is even as I speak distracting Millie by playing her The Tigger Movie.  Some lazy, poor quality parenting on our part, I know, but the alternative is almost certainly tears before bedtime, as we don't have the patience today to keep Millie entertained in the manner to which she's accustomed.

Actually, I'm finding it quite difficult to do that anyway at the moment.  The pressure of having two children, of really not being able to go out anywhere with my adult friends, of spending all my time watching children's programmes, and reading and re-reading and re-re-reading Thomas the Tank Engine books is something I'm finding harder than I'd imagined.  I had a nice life before all this - I enjoyed it - and now I'm the tiniest bit resentful that it's been taken away from me.
Then Millie will come and give me a cuddle and I'll feel selfish and stupid.
But then, in the middle of trying to read a great book, I'll have to 'waste' 45 minutes taking her upstairs to change her pants and trousers, and explain for the 50th time that if she needs a wee she needs to tell me - not to do it in the new big girl's pants she's just started wearing.
And sometimes, even while still laid in bed at 6.30am, the prospect of a whole day of that makes me mighty weary.

The new job is helping, in that I'm more positive about going to work than I have been for a long time.  The new job is also not helping, however, in that learning the ropes and getting to know the new people is itself a bit of a strain, both intellectually and emotionally.

Yeah, so I'm finding two children more stressful than one - nothing terribly unexpected there.  What is unexpected is that I don't feel I've really bonded with Baby Amber yet either.  Part of the reason is that she's a very small baby, so naturally she's far more dependent upon, and closer to, her mother than to me.  That's not a problem.
The other reason, I've been thinking, is that the whole thing feels a bit - and I feel terrible writing this - but it feels a bit mundane.
After the roller coaster that was Millie's arrival: the highs and lows, hopes and fears - the real possibility that we might not have her for long, plus, I even suppose, being the centre of attention, it's just not there this time.
I'm certainly not saying I want it to be there, just that Amber's birth and first month have been so quiet and uneventful that, in comparison to her big sister's, there's a real sense of 'Is that it?'

Sorry if you're reading this in 2025, Amber, and it sounds as if I didn't love you as much as your sister - of course I did; your dad's just trying to come to terms with a situation that's vastly different to the one he'd expected.
On the other hand, if you're a complete mess then we know who to blame it on, don't we? ;-)

There were lots of other things I'd been meaning to add in here over the past few days: amusing anecdotes and observations of both children.  Sadly, they've been lost in my snot-filled head, like tears in rain.

Why not just look at the nice new pictures?
Tuesday 25th March 2008
I feel I have to share the fact that I spent this afternoon at work looking at porn on the internet.  Not just looking at it, but discussing and rating it with my (female) boss - as part of my ongoing training.
We spent particular time looking at a site about...well, never mind exactly what it was about; suffice to say it's not illegal but is one of the more extreme practices.  Anyway, I had to decide how I would rate the site for the Yahoo search engine given that it promised free videos of...this activity...but only had one video.  Anyway, as it turned out it wasn't even of that...activity, so we rated it 'bad'.

I look at internet porn for a living.  Well, occasionally.
I probably won't mention that bit when Millie asks me what I do at work.
Sunday 30th March 2008
Hard to believe I haven't mentioned 'big girl's pants' here yet.  Because Millie has been wearing them for over a week now - completely sans nappies, except in bed.
By and large she's been making a pretty decent fist of it, too.  The first couple of days saw a somewhat increased load on the washing machine, and quite a few false alarms as the novelty of having to use a proper toilet (albeit, with a Winnie the Pooh seat on top of the normal seat) only slowly wore off.  This weekend, having been to and from Hatfield, we were never without our trusty portable potty, which we had to use quite a few times on various trains, but Millie has become relatively adept at telling us when she needs a wee.  Clever girl. :-)
Hatfield was bedlam on Saturday, when we went to a new house/baby shower/reunion for a gang of the Lovely Melanie's friends - most of whom it seems have recently had a new baby, just the same as we have.  Most of them also have another child of Millie's age, or slightly older, so Saturday afternoon was a riot of tiny feet and loud voices running riot all around; and whilst quite good fun it left me knackered!

Baby A was measured at 8lbs 2oz late last week, so she's not doing too shabbily either.  She's slowly becoming more interesting to have around, too.  Although she can't support her own head yet she's not far from being able to do so, then we'll be able to take her swimming, too, and it also means she can look you in the eye for longer now - and you get the impression she might actually want to look you in the eye, rather than simply being stuck looking you in the eye.
We frequently get the impression she might not want to look us in the eye because so many of her expressions at the moment are rather severe - they range from basic disapproval to eye-rolling embarrassment all the way up to a sour-looking pout.  It's actually quite funny to see on a very small baby, particularly since Baby A is anyway getting cuter by the day.

On a completely different subject: Jacqui bloody Smith, the Home Secretary, and all her fascist (and I don't use the word lightly) mates in the government.
My blood was boiling watching her on TV this morning, desperately trying to convince us that it was for our own good that any of us could be locked up for six weeks for no reason.  The (so-called) Counter-Terrorism bill that's about to be voted on in Parliament includes plans to increase the time that me, you, my nan, your nan - anyone - can be locked up because...well, simply because.  No reason needs to be given.
It's bad enough that any of us can already be plucked from the streets and made to effectively disappear for FOUR weeks, that this outrageous abuse of power could be increased to SIX weeks frankly beggars belief.

And what was the reason given that our democracy needs to be dismantled?  Because, to try and quote Ms Smith from memory, terrorists and their plots and becoming ever more complicated and deadly.
What plots are we talking about exactly?!  When was the last complicated and deadly terrorist plot exposed in this country?  And I mean real complicated and deadly terrorist plots, not the half-assed attempts to make ricin or pathetic schoolboy boasts by social inadequates that the Daily *&@%ing Mail or Express heave onto their front pages for a week and which are later laughed out of court.

The fact that we don't lock people up without charge, that you or I (or our grandparents) can't be snatched off the streets by shadowy interrogation squads is one of the main things that differentiates us from, say, China or Zimbabwe.
And, last but not least, it's worth pointing out that no other government in Europe has - or even wants - such frightening powers, and correct me if I'm wrong, but the incidence of terrorism across the Channel isn't exactly sky-high, is it.
Wednesday 2nd April 2008
Bah!  The first gig I've really really wanted to go to in quite a long time and I can't get any bloomin' tickets because I found out about it far too late and the band are far too fashionable.  Holy F*** (their full name doesn't have asterisks in it) are astonishingly good.  Or rather, their single, Lovely Allen is astonishingly good.  The rest of the album, LP, is just fantastic.
The last time I got to go out and 'have it large', as it were, my old mate Dr Mike and I put this on repeat on the stereo for over an hour and never got tired of it.
Damn, I've got that link playing in the background as I write this and it's still making me want to go and jump around the room...

My music taste has gone a bit weird lately, actually.  As well as Holy F*** I've been listening to a fair bit of folk - notably a band called Thistletown that sadly no one's ever heard of, but their album Rosemarie (and particularly the track Rosemarie) is a thing of spooky beauty and should be listened to in a misty glade for full effect.  And The Lilac Time, who've been going, on and off, since I was a teenager have a new album out, Runout Groove, which follows their recent tradition of alternating good albums with crap ones.  This is a jolly good one, so the next one's surely going to be an absolute dog.  Interestingly, Stephen Duffy, the Lilac Time's mainman, wrote some of Robbie Williams' recent hits.
You may hold that against him, but if it gives him the money to make albums like this then I don't mind one bit.  
I suppose Yeasayer could be lumped under folk, too, although their album, All Hour Cymbals, is more psychedelic and upbeat than the others.  Deerhunter have more in common with Holy F*** on their album Cryptograms - lots of droning guitars and half-heard vocals.  If you're in the right mood it's an absolute killer album.

But let's end on a cheerful note, shall we?

Brent Cash I know absolutely nothing about, except that he must be channeling the spirit of Karen Carpenter on his album How Will I Know If I'm Awake, it's such a bright and stereotypically pop album.  
Vampire Weekend everybody knows about now - and rightfully so; but no one knows about Little My and their oh-so limited edition CD single, Little My's Sixth, on the lovely WeePOP! Records.  Millie and I both love that.  
The Lovely Melanie will only say it's 'SO Stu'.
Saturday 5th April 2008
It's the weekend and Millie and I have been out in the garden planting fuschias in pots.  I put the potatoes in the ground, too - I had wanted to plant out everything that had been growing in the propagator - carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, basil, onions, chives, spinach, sweetcorn and rhubarb - but it's supposed to snow tomorrow so we decided to wait.
I was particularly proud that Millie wasn't the least bit afraid of picking up worms and puitting them back in the earth.  The Lovely Melanie is.
At least it kept Millie quiet for a bit; she'd been whinging and grizzling most of theWednesday 21st May 2008
Millie's going to the theatre for the first time this weekend: to see Lazytown Live at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford.
I mentioned it to her on Monday, asking at breakfast whether she would like to see Lazytown - one of her favourite programmes on CBeebies.  After I asked her you could almost see her brain going into overdrive, struggling to process the unbelievable scenario of actually seeing Lazytown with her own eyes.  God only knows what she thinks a 'theatre' actually is!
And I strongly suspect she's going to go a bit mad when we actually get to the theatre and see the show itself, since she's excited enough already.  The Lovely Melanie told me that  Millie subsequently spent most of Monday morning asking if it was time to go to see Lazytown yet.  Millie herself told me that she would have to have a little sleepie before we went, too.  She was most emphatic about this; but then, Millie's most emphatic about most things these days.

We haven't decided who's going to take Millie to the show yet - only one of us can actually go, less because of someone having to look after Baby A than because the tickets are so damn expensive.  One child and one adult, in some reasonably good seats to watch a children's theatre show in Dartford: how much do you reckon that would set you back?  
£37.00.  Thirty-goddamn-seven pounds and nought pence!  Gah!

Let's hope she doesn't like the theatre too much.
morning - in fact, when I first went out into the garden on my own there was such a racket coming from the kitchen, of Millie and Amber both wailing in synch, that I thought something terrible had happened!  Turns out they were both egging each other on in the wailing stakes.  The Lovely Melanie was stood stoically in the middle of it all, a brave smile on her face.

Hopefully they'll both cheer up as we've got friends coming round later this afternoon (and they're going to cook us dinner, too),  The only real flaw in this extremely middle class weekend is that I'm a bit hungover, having been out with work in Soho last night, then meeting up with friends in Wardour Street.  Then I was very sensible and went to go home before things got too messy, but saw my work mates were still at the same pub as when I left them so ended up having a couple more pints there.  Yahoo! is turning out to be a really nice place to work - nice atmosphere, nice people and a nice attitude: people mostly like their jobs and like the company, but they're not obsessed with it.

Anyway, after so much booze I was expecting to feel rough as anything today (never mind Millie whining, I thought I'd be rolling on the floor and moaning), but lots of fluid and a bit of exertion in the garden has just about put me straight.  Time for a nap in a minute though, I think.

One more thing to keep you happy over the weekend: light graffiti.  Drawing pictures using nothing but light and a long exposure camera.  
I may have a go at this myself...
Sunday 6th April 2008
Jolly proud of the Lovely Melanie today: watching the news at lunchtime she told me - if we didn't have the girls to look after - she'd have been in town with all the protesters along the route of the Olympic flame as it was carried by various nobodies through the centre of town.
I replied that we could have taken the girls and gone, but looking outside at the snow my heart wasn't really in it.
She would have been protesting against China's presence in Tibet, by the way.  I would have been protesting against that too, but also against having to pay wads of extra council tax for something I consider a complete waste of time, money, real estate, concrete, lycra, bronze, silver, gold, and whatever else the damn thing uses.  Lucozade?  Steroids?
Wednesday 9th April 2008
The last few days have been lovely taking Millie into nursery in the mornings - Bexley schools are still off for Easter (even though Easter was two weeks ago!) so the buses in the morning and evening are quiet, empty and fast!
All of which means Millie and I can wander the upper decks at our leisure, trying out different seats and windows as we choose, and it makes being a Dad feel a lot like I had romatically imagined it would - witha soft-focus Millie asking me naive but interesting questions about anything and everything, and me chuckling indulgently as I patiently answer them: which is harder than you might think, given that her general knowledge is pretty poor and you don't want to confuse her any more than she already is.  There's a lot of rapid internal editing of my answers going on, I can tell you!

I'm rather looking forward to the weekend, too.  The Lovely Melanie is going to Hatfield with Baby A for yet another baby shower, and it'll be just me and Millie at home.  I've got plans for us to go swimming on Saturday and then some half-hearted football with the lads in Croydon on Sunday.
Obviously, I won't be able to fully unleash the twin footballing dynamos that are my two left feet, as I'll have to keep a good eye on the girl, but I think she'll enjoy a trip somewhere different with some people she doesn't see all that often.

Baby A, it turns out, shouldn't have been putting on weight quite as fast as she has been.  The Lovely Melanie, upon checking her milky calculations, discovered an error in them that has meant poor Baby A being force-fed milk like a goose being readied for pâté de foie gras!  
She's now getting significantly less milk at a sitting, but looks no less chubby than she did before.
Saturday 12th April 2008
I'm officially feeling a bit old tonight.  While the rest of the world is getting ready to go out to the pub or clubbing or, in fact, anywhere, I'm sat at home in my pyjamas, on my own, blogging, and trying to decide whether to watch a DVD or play Crysis until my eyes fall out of their sockets.  I know, I know - so Bohemian!

On the plus side, I've had Millie all day and she's been very good - particularly good since I had a slight hangover from being out with work again last night.  I had one of my nastiest moments for a long time, though, when she fell out of her chair just after we'd eaten lunch because I'd forgotten to do up the straps, and when I pulled it out from the table she fell flat on her face.  That alone is quite bad, obviously, in the parenting game, but it rapidly got worse when blood started to gush from the poor thing's mouth.

Sigh.  Hold on, Millie's out of bed; let me just go and put her back...

OK, yes, blood everywhere - on blankets, my top, and, most alarmingly, all over Millie's face.  My first horrible thought was that she'd knocked a tooth out.  She's not quite got all of her teeth yet so looking into her mouth it was very hard to tell.  Despite unhelpful thoughts of simply calling an ambulance I stayed calm and Millie was extremely good - despite being frightened and in pain she opened her mouth and stuck her tongue out upon request, which made diagnosis a lot easier: a nasty bite to the tongue.  Phew!  She's fine.

Is there some kind of emotional mechanism that operates in parents to stop you panicking when your child needs you to be calm and on the ball?
Any parents out there who similarly don't panic - or who do?  Am I quite good in an emergency or just...average?

Well, in the end the day ended just fine as Millie and I had bathtime together - by which I mean both of us in the bath together.  We only do this very occasionally (the Lovely Melanie never does it, for some reason) and had an hysterical half-hour splashing water all over each other - and no one telling us to stop spilling water all over the bathroom floor - heh heh heh.
So I may not be out partying tonight, but I've got that memory instead, and it'll make me happier for far longer, I reckon. :-)

And now I'm going to watch a DVD.

UPDATE - two hours later.
OK, so maybe the DVD (Superbad) wasn't so great, but I've just been stood in my garden looking through the trees at a moon and stars sharp enough to cut yourself on; the house is quiet, and my eldest daughter is sleeping peacefully.
It's not a 'rock'n'roll' story, but it'smy story and I rather like it.
Monday 14th April 2008
Seems we had an unscheduled interruption of service over the weekend, sorry about that.  The last update apparently didn't - update, that is.
Anyway, it's fixed now.
Sunday 20th April 2008
That big gap in posting wasn't another technical error, it was more of a life error - just too busy and/or tired to post anything.

And what have you missed?  Well, lots.
My dad is going into Papworth Hospital tomorrow to stay for at least a couple of weeks.  The heart transplant people there have reviewed his latest results and decided to bump him to the top of the waiting list for a new heart.  The very top of the list.  Which is a double-edged sword, I guess.  On the one hand it means that he's significantly more likely to get a a badly-needed new heart very soon (although they won't say how likely); on the other hand I'm assuming it also means he's taken a bit of a turn for the worse and that's why they're reprioritising his case.
And even I'm struggling to find anything very funny to say about that.

Basically, he's going to stay at Papworth for two weeks, and the hope is that during those 14 days a suitable heart will become available for him.
Which would be great, obviously: heart transplant survival rates hover around 90%, and even longer term survival rates are only slightly lower, which is pretty damn good odds if you're, say, betting on the Grand National.  However, if you're talking about the survival of a close family member then they don't feel nearly so comfortable.

We're going to visit him at Papworth on Wednesday - always assuming he doesn't get a transplant before then.  The visit is about seeing my mum as much as my dad, because I can only imagine what a nightmare this is for her: it must be bad to be at home every day enough waiting for the call saying a donor heart is available, but at least you're at home and you've got the daily business of living to be getting on with.  Being sat in a hospital with nothing to do but wait for that heart to become available sounds like the sort of cruel and unusual punishment that Torquemada would've been proud of.

On a rather more mundane level, something one of the Lovely Melanie's friends said has been bothering me a little.  Basically, it's to do with the fact that all of her friends from Hatfield either have kids or are pregnant.
All of them.  Every single one.  And of my friends, only a tiny minority have children, which means that when we visit Hatfield pretty much everything is organised around the presence of the little people - when we meet, where we meet, how long we meet, everything; it's unavoidable, but it does mean that they get to see each other fairly often.  
With most of my friends, they'll meet at the pub, they'll meet up at night and they'll stay out till late, and it's extremely hard work for us (well, let's be honest - for me) to do this anymore.  My possibilities for socialising are actually quite restricted.  I've also noticed that it's increasingly hard for us to be spontaneous, too.  We can't just turn up at someone's house, can't just go out in the morning and stay out till it's dark (we need nappies and milk and spare clothes and wipes and blankets and god knows what else).
Where am I going with this?  Oh, I don't know.  Perhaps I just feel a socially adrift these days.  I had hoped we might be slightly more 'hip' parents, taking Millie and Amber to festivals, down the pub in the afternoon, even away for weekends to glamorous European cities.  Ahh, the naivete of youth.  Looking after children is far more involved than we'd imagined, and frankly we mostly can't be bothered with being cool.
All of which means we're seeing progressively less and less of quite a few people, and though that makes me sad, it doesn't make me as sad as looking after Millie and Amber whilst hungover.

And, typically, having just written that piece Millie has just been in, full of beans, and we've had a wonderfully crazed half hour of tickling, dancing and 'mastics (what she calls 'gymnastics') and I'm considerably less bothered by any fading friendships. :-)
Tuesday 22nd April 2008
Most of the time I write these entries I know in advance pretty much what I'm going to write: there's a list of things in my head that we've been up to or will be up to, an injustice that needs exposing or something I want to share.
And other times I just kind of start to write because I feel I should - maybe I haven't written for a while - but tonight I almost needed to write something, because we're going to see my dad in hospital tomorrow.

The Papworth doctors have decided he's staying in hospital now until he gets a transplant or - to be monumentally blunt about it - until he dies.
Thankfully, everyone involved seems very upbeat about the situation at the moment; they're talking in terms of weeks rather than months until a heart becomes available, and my dad is actually pretty happy about being staying in hospital.  I think his damaged heart was making daily life increasingly difficult to deal with, it had been wearing him down until he'd reached the point where no matter what he has to go through he just doesn't want to be bloody well ill any more.

The whole situation feels a bit unreal for me at the moment.  I'm still going to work, still going to the pub, still taking Millie to nursery, still changing Amber's nappies.  Speaking to my parents on the 'phone it's hard to believe they're not still at home, that they're in a hospital - that anything's different.
We talk about how the hospital is, how they're getting on, whether there's any news about a transplant, but the situation doesn't yet seem serious, somehow lacks the gravity, the import, you'd expect it to possess.  I have to remind myself that we could get a call at any moment saying a heart has been found and my dad's even now being wheeled into the operating theatre for the operation that will save his life.
The prospect of that somehow feels remote.  No doubt seeing him in hospital tomorrow, wired up to a drip and unable to go outdoors, will bring it home.

The big question, however, is how do you talk to your dad with the evil knowledge lurking in the back of your head that this might be the last ever time you'll talk to him?  How do you say good night, turn your back and walk away knowing that that might be it?

I'm damned if I know.
Wednesday 23rd April 2008
Just back from the hospital.  No big dramas, no tearful farewells, and almost no question that, to reuse a phrase from Millie's days in hospital, everything is going to be all right.  My dad and I chatted about fairly inconsequential stuff, shared a joke or two and had a quiet hug before we left.  It was a nice day, and both Millie and Amber were very well behaved, too.  Seeing their grandchildren always cheers up my dad (and my mum) no end, and their being so well behaved during such a long and tiring day makes me jolly proud of them both.
Having seen him in hospital - how well both he and my mum are coping, how stoical and unbeaten both of them are, I confess to feeling a lot more optimistic about the prospects for the transplant.  
Not that I wasn't quite optimistic before, but now I'm optimistic on an emotional level as well as an intellectual one.
Sunday 27th April 2008
Ahh, the tail-end of a lovely weekend for us, but we're so incredibly tired that I'm seriously wondering if I'm not coming down with something.
Millie and I went swimming this morning at the new local pool.  We had hoped that Baby A could come, too, since she's had her vaccinations now, but the baby pool was so full that they weren't letting any further people in, and since it was to have been Baby A's first public dip the Lovely Melanie was nervous about taking her into the big pool which they were letting people into.  So, it was just Millie and I who went into the big pool, and wouldn't you know it, after a few minutes got waved through to the previously forbidden baby pool.
The Lovely Melanie said something very nice afterwards, basically that a lot of the dads in there with their sons and daughters had looked a bit 'surly' and uninterested, whereas I'd been laughing with Millie the whole time, throwing her about and obviously having a whale of a time.  Which I had.  I'm a dad, it's what we're supposed to do, I thought!

Spent a lot of time in the garden, too: mowing, planting, weeding, strimming, digging, thinning, and any other of the 101 verbs that I never knew were necessary to grow plants in the ground.  Frankly, the more work I do on the garden the more I'm amazed that any plants survive untended anywhere - the damn things are so delicate and dependent on my endless ministrations!  I had hoped to get the tomatoes out of their cramped starter pots and into the ground - or at least some bigger pots - but it wasn't to be.  The surviving onions are now in the ground, however, but it's going to be rather touch and go whether they survive, let alone go on to make for some good eating.  At least the peas, carrots, lettuce and spinach seem to be doing OK in the ground, but I'm going to reserve judgment on the sweetcorn, which seems to be making heavy weather of its recent removal from a cosy indoor windowsill position out into the real world.

No more news about my dad yet.  He's still at Papworth, still relatively well, still awaiting a new heart.
We're planning to visit him again on Saturday; I'm trying not to use any compassionate leave from work to do so as I'm sure we'll want that for when he has the operation, so Saturday it is.  We're going to try a different route this time, as the signposts in Cambridgeshire are the most diabolically unreliable, not to say absent, in the whole country - it shouldn't be difficult to find a motorway when you're just a couple of miles away from it, but the M11 to Cambridge is a damned elusive beast...

Baby Amber has been smiling a lot.  The Lovely Melanie took Millie to Bexleyheath to buy her some new shoes today - although, they came back without any in the end, since, somewhat to our surprise, Millie's current shoes are still a perfectly good fit.  But it gave Baby A and I some time to bond, which we did.  Since she's started smiling, and since you can see her eyes track your movements, I've found myself becoming a lot more engaged with her.  As I said before, I had been feeling a bit bad about spending so much less time with her than I did with Millie, but that situation seems to be slowly righting itself now, and it helps that Amber's making more of an effort. ;-)

Also, one thing I've noticed with Baby A that I don't remember with Millie is the very early development of her facial expressions.  It used to be that when Amber was unhappy she would cry, and it was a sudden, explosive change: from quite calm to tears and wailing.  Now, though, if she's upset you can see the expression on her face build-up to a cry, just as you would with a grown-up - wobbly bottom lip, furrowed brow, intake of breath and...waahhhh!

I'm sure there are another 20 things I intended to mention here, but since it's quarter to 11 on a school night you'll forgive me if I cultivate an air of exciting mystery about the rest of the past few days - i.e., I'm tired and I want to go to bed: there's another exciting and educational day at Yahoo! to tackle tomorrow (and I say that without a trace of irony)  
Ahh, isn't it great not to hate your job?
Tuesday 29th April 2008
There's been a call from Papworth: a heart has become available - over in Belfast, of all places!
It's currently 11pm.  If the heart is good then my dad will probably be going into surgery around 3am, and they should be finished by 6am at the latest, so I'll be catching a very early train to Papworth (just me, the girls will stay at home).
That's if the heart is good.
If the heart's no good then, well, there'll be a slightly sheepish update tomorrow.

I spoke to my Dad - he sounded calm, but a little edgy, as you might expect.
Personally, I'm going to bed.  My mobile is charged and by the side of the bed awaiting the call.
Please, don't ring me on it for the next few hours - that wouldn't be funny.
Thursday 1st May 2008
We won!  Damn it, we won!
That's what it feels like at the moment: as though we've finally defeated some awful enemy, even though the reality is that 'we are winning', rather than 'have won.'

My dad has had his heart transplant and is doing unbelievably well, frankly.
He's awake and chatting; they've been taking out the various drips and monitor leads stuck into and onto him; he's been out of bed and sat in a chair, and tomorrow he moves from the intensive care ward down to a more mundane one.
Before we left this evening his nurse even said that he's the wellest person on the ward, so if there's an emergency case admitted to Papworth he's the one who would be moved out of the ITU to make room for them.
All this barely a day and a half after the heart transplant.

So, thus far we are winning, and our unending thanks go out to all the staff at Papworth Hospital who not only do a remarkable job but also manage to be kind, helpful and sympathetic at the same time.

The fact that my brothers and I have all left the hospital after two days of waiting there is testament to how well we think the operation has gone and our trust in everyone at Papworth: if there'd been any doubt or worry in our minds then we'd still be there now.  Shocking as it may sound, we're all home again and going back to work tomorrow.  I'm going back there on Saturday with the Lovely Melanie and Millie and Amber because, much as my dad likes to see us, he likes to see his granddaughters more (which is fine - I'd prefer to see my daughters smiles more than I would my balding head, too).

I think the whole family's stunned by the events of the past couple of days.  Not only because of the enormity of what's happened (a frickin' heart transplant, man!) and the speed at which it took place (two goddamn days, dude - although it feels like longer), but that my dad came out of the operation looking better than when he went in, which just goes to show how unwell he had been looking for the past couple of months - after a major operation like that showing an immediate improvement...  Well, that's how ill he had become.
This morning he pulled his blankets up to show us his toes, 'Look at that,' he said.  And there at the end of the bed were ten bright pink toes.  Nothing terribly remarkable about that, you might think, but my dad's toes have been a grey-blue colour for a couple of years now because his heart couldn't pump enough blood to them.

And it's remarkable how famous he seems to have become in the past 48 hours!
The entire operation and its effects upon all of us were filmed for a Channel Five documentary.  The filmmakers were very nice guys, and what could have been an unpleasantly intrusive experience was actually quite helpful in that it gave us something to do rather than just waiting around - in fact, just speaking to the guys was quite therapeutic in itself.

I was also interviewed on the 'phone by my dad's local paper, the Swindon Advertiser - but that is as nothing compared to the megastardom of my dad, who was their main story for two days running, including a front page spread the first day.

His first appearance was as part of an ongoing campaign of theirs to encourage people to carry donor cards under the headline 'Waiting In Limbo' (or something similar), telling about his stay in Papworth and how it might take months to find a donor.  
We first saw this front page exclusive when we came out of Papworth after the heart transplant had finished, which amused us no end at the time.

I'm quite flippant about this all now, but we spent six hours waiting for him to come out of the operating theatre.  It was remarkably similar to my experience when Millie was born - another 'eye of the hurricane' situation, except that all of my immediate family were there, which made it easier to deal with.  I've been very proud of all of them these past few days.  All of us dropped everything and came the second we were called - well, actually, my brother, Trev, and his girlfriend, Conny, came from Bristol and picked me up in their car, so when the call came through at 4am that the transplant was definitely going ahead I was actually able to grab another hour or two of badly-needed sleep before they reached us!
And my mum was doubly impressive - she's been waiting with dad at Papworth for most of the past fortnight (and Papworth, the place, isn't a terribly great place to stay), but she's been absolute unshakeable.  Where my dad had it easy - being unconscious and not having to do anything - she, fully conscious,managed to stay upbeat and cheerful throughout.
If anyone deserves a front page spread on the local paper it's her, and I'm sure I speak for all of us when I say how proud of you we are and how much we love you, mum. :-)

And finally, what I'd like everyone reading this to do next - right now, before you do anything else - is go and sign up to become an organ donor.
Do it now, before you forget.  This is desperately important to so many people out there who you'll probably never meet, but whose lives you could save, whose daily suffering and pain you could relieve, and whose families and friends would be forever in your debt.

All you have to do is sign up to be an organ donor.
Trust me, there is nothing better you can do with the next five minutes of your life than become an organ donor.
Friday 2nd May 2008
A little bit of background - the page from the Swindon local paper, the Evening Advertisier, where I'm interviewed about my dad, and then my Uncle Graham's blog, where he does a far better job than me of recounting some of the actual details of the past few days.

My dad is definitely out of intensive care now and in a normal ward.  They've had him standing up today and walking on the spot.  Let's hope he's still feeling as bullish tomorrow when The Millie Show rolls into Papworth...

Thanks to everyone who's 'phoned or emailed us with messages of support, by the way.  If we haven't replied or didn't speak for long that's not because we weren't jolly glad to hear from you - we were. :-)

Saturday 3rd May 2008
The whole family drove up to Papworth today to see my dad (or Grampy), although it was also nice to see my mum, plus my aunt and uncle, Maurice and Jackie, who were also visiting.
I'm pleased to say we have almost nothing to report.  Many of my dad's tubes and leads have now been removed (although, plenty remain) and he continues to recover at a phenomenal rate.  He did seem a bit tired today, but that was apparently because the nursing staff had to keep waking him up during the night to check this, that and the other.  The new heart is bedding in well though, and there's a kind of tension between my dad's desire to get back on with his life - which had been so rudely interrupted by all this - and a real caution not to take anything for granted.  Although, at this rate the former is surely going to overtake the latter very soon!

I'm also pleased to report that the Lovely Melanie's map reading and direction-communicating skills are improving.  Despite a lengthy and unnecessary detour around Cambridgeshire on the way to Papworth, the way home found us completing the journey in just over 90 minutes without a single excursion.  Well done, Lovely Melanie!
Unfortunately this comes just slightly too late, since - all being well - we won't be going to Papworth again for at least a couple of weeks: next weekend is my annual drunken bender holiday at ATP in the Pontins Holiday Camp at Camber Sands, so we can't go then, and since he's doing so well I can't really justify taking any compassionate leave from work for a visit either.

Have you signed up to become an organ donor yet?  Why not?  Eh?  No, come on - email and tell me why...
Monday 5th May 2008
We've been to Camber Sands, to the beach, today, and between a naked Millie roaming the beach carrying a large spiky pink ball, Baby A apparently having a mystical experience watching a spinning windmill, me getting sunburnt (except on my head, the only place where I put suncream) and the Lovely Melanie only sending us the wrong way once, a glorious day was had by all.
It was even a secret double delight for me, since All Tomorrow's Parties begins on Friday and that's at Pontins in... Camber Sands!

It's remarkably seductive having a car, isn't it?  I've never owned one before, but having had the use of one for this whole weekend I'll be sad to see it go back tomorrow.  Nowhere near sad enough to actually get one, of course - that's crazy talk - just slightly more frustrated there are so many places that seem to be effectively out of bounds to non-car owners.
But, hey, it's not the end of the world!

Somewhat closer to the end of the world is that when I finish reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road tomorrow I don't have another book ready and waiting to be read.  A scary event such as this hasn't happened in years, and just goes to show how much the old book reviewing has fallen off since I became a dad (actually, technically I do have book waiting to be read, but the Lovely Melanie grabbed it from my 'to read' pile and won't give it back).
Friday 15th May 2008
Yes, I am still alive.
Yes, there is lots of stuff to catch up on (a nice time at ATP, my dad is home from Papworth).
No, I don't have enough time to write about it here.
Maybe over the weekend...?  Maybe.
Saturday 16th May 2008
What? Another update?  But, Stu, after the last one we were all quite sated with intimate knowledge of your daily life!
Ha ha, very funny.

Today we've been out and about in a rented car again, having a beautiful day, despite spending much of it travelling up, down and around the M25, M3 and M4.  
Lunchtime saw us near Richmond for the birthday party of young Oscar Day.  We arrived late for that because the instant we left the straight safety of the M25 we got hopelessly lost.  Still, everyone had a nice time once we arrived, and it even turned out for the best because we decided that - since we were already halfway from Bexley to Swindon - we may as well go the whole hog, hit the M4 and go and see my parents in Swindon.  Amber has never been there, despite being nearly three months old, and my dad is back home from Papworth, still doing very very well.  
It was good to see him back home looking so hapy and so well.  He may not quite be back at full strength yet, but that's because he's recovering from having his ribcage broken open rather than any problems with his new heart.  
He's also still a bit weak because he had done no exercise at all for two years.  Literally, no exercise.  When walking up a single flight of stairs requires you to have a sit down for a few minutes afterwards you'll find yourself getting out of condition like that.

So we spent about three hours in Swindon before we had to drive back for various people's bedtimes.  I need a good night's sleep, as well, since the Lovely Melanie is away for most of tomorrow, visiting friends; the girls and I are being left to fend for ourselves, and I confess, I'm nervous about the prospect of that.  Baby A has a remarkably stringent schedule to keep to (really - you should see it - I'm going to be on edge all day counting down to various sleeps, feeds, wake-ups, nappy changes, etc.)

Back to today, though, I was going to mention the drive back in particular.  Millie was wide awake, Baby A was fast asleep, we had the soundtrack to The Harder They Come playing for most of the journey, and we were all - Millie included - singing along to it as we belted along the various M roads.  Rivers Of Babylon by The Melodians is one of Millie's all-time favourite songs, and she knows most of the words to it, too, as well as various other tracks a bit.  I think The Harder They Come is one of the best soundtrack albums of all time, and, somewhat surprisingly, the Lovely Melanie loves it, too.  So we had a whale of a time driving back with that playing.  
Now, if we can only convince Baby A to join us in a family reggae singalong then everything will be perfect!

In other good news, I've been taken on as a permanent hire by Yahoo!, rather than the one year contract I was on before - and they've given me a pay rise.  They rang me up on my mobile to offer it to me while I was at ATP.  I'd been in the pub for a couple of hours when they called, so I was perhaps more effusive and excited about the offer than I would normally have been, but nobody noticed anything was amiss.
I had my first 'all hands' at Yahoo! yesterday afternoon - which is basically a big meeting for all Yahoo! employees.  They hired out the Odeon in Leicester Square for us all, gave everyone free mineral water and popcorn, then the big cheeses took to the stage and talked about what had been going on in the company and plans for the future.  It could have been rather ingratiatingly awful, but somehow wasn't.  I'm really liking working at Yahoo!, and the especially the fact that they really seem to give a damn about their employees.  We're not there simply to raise the share price, we're seen as human beings who are important in their own right.
They also raised my opinion of the company by afterwards not expecting us to go back to the office, but instead giving everybody free drinks at a posh bar for a couple of hours.
Being treated like that has bought them more good will from me than any pay rise ever could!
Almost any pay rise, anyway. ;-)
Wednesday 21st May 2008
Millie's going to the theatre for the first time this weekend: to see Lazytown Live at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford.
I mentioned it to her on Monday, asking at breakfast whether she would like to see Lazytown - one of her favourite programmes on CBeebies.  After I asked her you could almost see her brain going into overdrive, struggling to process the unbelievable scenario of actually seeing Lazytown with her own eyes.  God only knows what she thinks a 'theatre' actually is!
And I strongly suspect she's going to go a bit mad when we actually get to the theatre and see the show itself, since she's excited enough already.  The Lovely Melanie told me that  Millie subsequently spent most of Monday morning asking if it was time to go to see Lazytown yet.  Millie herself told me that she would have to have a little sleepie before we went, too.  She was most emphatic about this; but then, Millie's most emphatic about most things these days.

We haven't decided who's going to take Millie to the show yet - only one of us can actually go, less because of someone having to look after Baby A than because the tickets are so damn expensive.  One child and one adult, in some reasonably good seats to watch a children's theatre show in Dartford: how much do you reckon that would set you back?  
£37.00.  Thirty-goddamn-seven pounds and nought pence!  Gah!

Let's hope she doesn't like the theatre too much.
Sunday 25th May 2008
I'm beginning to see how our two girls are going to be different.
You wouldn't think that at three months we'd be able to put a personality to Baby A - and you'd be right, we can't.  What we have noticed is different behaviour at similar ages.
Baby A is a BIG smiler.  Millie smiled, obviously, but Baby A smiles a lot, and she smiles at you.  Just seeing us come in the room she'll often grin (and by 'us' I mean me, the Lovely Melanie and Millie, too, which is a nice touch).
While the Lovely Melanie and Millie went to see Lazytown at the theatre this afternoon (of which more in a sec) the two of us stayed in and watched Starship Troopers together.  Although Baby A got bored after about five minutes.  She much prefers loves lying on a play mat which has some Winnie the Pooh characters hanging off of a dome structure.  Millie was always happy enough to lie on the same play mat, but she was never interested in the toys above her until she could sit up and pull them off.  Baby A, on the other hand, will quite happily watch them for up to half an hour at a time, smiling, utterly transfixed.  If I reach over and squeak or shake the toys that's nice, but not really necessary - the miracle of the floating Piglet is enough by itself, it seems.

At the moment she also, when awake and fed, likes sitting in her chair with both arms flung out like Superman about to take to the skies.  In fact, she looks so much like a preflight Superman that I've taken to lifting her up and 'flying' her around the room.  Baby A takes this with bemused good grace, but Millie thinks it's the single funniest thing she's ever seen and runs off screaming every time I do it.
The standing joke in our house at the moment is that Baby A really believes she can fly and is mystified why the rest of us (particularly her big sister) find the 'flying' so funny.

When not flying around the house, and perhaps not feeling quite so energetic as to hold up both arms, Baby A sits there with just one arm raised in some kind of cross between a Nazi salute and a Black Power salute.
And she sits like that for ages looking at her own outstretched arm and fist - you could safely hang your coat off that arm if you came round to visit.

And, of course, Millie's visit to the theatre...
I didn't take her in the end, the Lovely Melanie did, but all reports suggest Millie had an absolute whale of a time (as I'd hoped).  She was full of it when they got home this afternoon, and Millie showed me a Lazytown balloon full of helium which she's so proud of.  It's a pity she keeps forgetting to hold onto it, so that every five minutes we have to retrieve it from the ceiling.
The Lovely Melanie says that the show was actually quite good - certainly better than she was expecting - but was a bit deafeningly mental at times.
The staff at the theatre, she said, looked 'harassed'.

Have you seen on the news the tragic story about Robert Knox, who was knifed on Friday night in Sidcup?  Well, that's just down the road from us.  
Millie and I went swimming there, as we often do early on Saturday morning - before we'd seen the news or anything - only to find the whole area around our bus stop was taped off and full of police and forensic people.  I didn't think much of it at the time (except that the area taped off seemed a bit excessively large and made us late for swimming!)  Then obviously, upon arriving back home home discovered we had probably just missed being interviewed on the national news by a few minutes.  It was empty of people when we passed through (eight o'clock Saturday morning).;
Not that we could have added much to the story: 'I got a balloon,' and 'I going swimming, I am.  I like swimming.'

But seriously, it seems to have been a violent, tragic and stupid waste of a life, as these things so often are.  Our sympathies go out mainly to Robert's family, but also perhaps to the killer, who's obviously a frightened, foolish and not very clever man who's thrown his life away for absolutely nothing.  
What a complete and utter waste all around. :-(
Monday 2nd June 2008
It's getting harder and harder to make regular updates to this site.  With all the demands from work, home and friends (good demands, mind you - I'm not complaining!) finding time to update on the exciting minutiae of our lives here in bustling BNP-biased Bexley isn't always easy.  Excuse me then if the frequency ebbs and flows a bit - and it's definitely 'ebbing' just now!

The ongoing good news about Baby A (from sometime last week, I'm afraid) is that she was 10lbs and 13oz when weighed, which is bigger than I expected.  Some nice comments from the doctor, too, who commented on the strong bond between Baby A and Millie. She said she could tell from the way Baby A was watching Millie that she looked to her for stimulation and felt attached to her. :-)
Baby A does watch her big sister a lot - even I've noticed, so she must do it a hell of a lot - and, now that she seems to be getting some control over some of her limbs some of the time, it's easier to tell her moods.  There's no doubt at all that she loves watching Millie.  The Lovely Melanie even swears Baby A actively tries to make eye contact with Millie and then gives her a huge smile on the occasions when she gets it.

More ongoing good news about my dad, also: he's been back to Papworth twice now, each time for a detailed two-day check-up on his new heart, and everything continues to run like clockwork.  
We're almost getting blasé about the whole thing now, which seems insane, but there's only so long you can worry about these things if everything's going well.

We spent most of this weekend in Hatfield, and thoroughly enjoyed Auntie Kristine's 30th birthday on Saturday afternoon - possibly even more than Kristine herself, who was still a bit ill with flu.
Anyway, the Millie Show was, as usual, in full effect with lots of comedy turns by its star, but this time she brought a support act - the Amber Show!
All-Star Amber  is a bit more subdued and her particular act works best on a one-to-one level, but still got some rave reviews from all who saw it. She got slightly less rave reviews from us later on because we had her in a bedroom with us.  
Aye caramba, that girl makes a lot of noise at night!  She sucks and sucks and SUCKS on those little fingers of hers.
It was a relief when the Lovely Melanie eventually got her up and took her downstairs for some milk at 7am, albeit a short lived one, as about 30 minutes later there was an almighty 'thud' from next door and Millie started crying, having fallen out of bed for the first time in months.  Sigh.

One event to note of the weekend was that I saw the space shuttle Discovery fly overhead on Saturday night.
I received a tip from Bristol that somewhat unusually the launch path would take the shuttle over the UK this time, and that about 10.12pm both it and the jettisoned external fuel tank would be visible from the west.  So, 10.05pm that night saw me stood nonchalantly in my in-laws' driveway.  I'd checked on my 'phone that the launch had gone ahead on time and was trying by sheer force of will to shift some of the patchy cloud cover.  
By an amazing stroke of luck I realised just in time that I should be looking east, not west, and just caught a 2-3 second glimpse of what I'm 95% sure was the shuttle: a fast-moving star-like dot that quickly disappeared again behind the clouds.

When I came back in the Lovely Melanie told me she loved me in a slightly put-upon voice.  Which means, 'you're a terrible geek, but I kind of like that - up to a point.' :-)
Wednesday 4th June 2008
The scene: in the same sandwich shop I go to almost every day, just off Shaftesbury Avenue.  It's lunchtime...
MAN: Next!
ME: Uh, yeah, tuna mayo in a brown bap, please.  And some tomato.
MAN: (picking up a white bap) OK.
ME: No, a brown bap, please.
MAN: Eh?
ME: A brown bap, not a white one.  That's a white one.
MAN: OK.  Tuna mayo, yes?
ME: Yes.
MAN: Any salad?
ME: Yes, some tomato.
(I pick up a cake from the selection on display and put it on the counter at eye level directly in front of the man)
MAN: Anything else?

This pretty much happens every day.  The sandwiches are cheap and tasty, but they need to be to make up for the staff.
Tuesday 10th June 2008
Time for a new mobile phone, methinks!

Noticing that the new iPhone 3G was announced today I decided to check my mobile phone contract to see when it was up.  
I was considering getting one of the new iPhones now that they've finally got 3G - I don't like Apple much (for various petty reasons), and I certainly dislike being forced to use software like iTunes, but I read some good things about the iPhone and was maybe prepared to install iTunes if absolutely necessary.
Anyway, checked my contract and - quite unexpectedly! - it turns out I can upgrade my handset now.  Which is nice, especially since my mp3 player has gone a bit schizo lately: it keeps restarting for no apparent reason, which wouldn't be so bad if the restart process didn't take at least a minute.  Not to mention that I kind of miss my old Walkman phone a little bit, and having to carry both a phone and an mp3 player around (particularly in summer, when I have fewer pockets in my ensemble) is inconvenient.
My mp3 player is hardly one of the smallest on the market, either, and I wanted a decent camera to catch some photos of the family when we're out and about, without needing to remember to pack the 'proper' camera.
My current phone has been great but, first of all, it really is ugly.  I'm not too bothered by that, so long as it works well and is packed full of useful stuff, but that lack of a camera...well, that's just started to bug me now that phone cameras have gotten so much better.

So, to cut a long story short, I'd been thinking about going back to having a phone that did everything - in particular, a decent camera and music player, and so have ordered a Samsung F480 Tocco.  'Tocco' is Italian for 'touch', because it's a touchscreen.  Touchscreens are very fashionable just now, I'm told, and having already had a touch screen phone for over a year I can completely understand why.

It's due tomorrow and I'm, as usual, very excited and desperately impatient to get my hands on it.
The F480 is quite similar to the iPhone, but a lot more customisable, doesn't require iTunes, has a much better camera and isn't made by Apple.
Even more interesting, it isn't made by Sony Ericsson, as all my previous handsets have been.  We'll wait and see how much of a hurdle that turns out to be.
Monday 16th June 2008
Ahh, jeez, is it a week since the last update already?

Yesterday, as you probably know, was Father's Day, which was always going to be nice.  It's still a novel experience for me; even more so with Millie getting bigger and being able to participate in it a bit more.  I got cards nominally from each of the girls, and Millie came in with a big kiss to wake me up.  We had a nice breakfast, went swimming, and spent the afternoon hanging around the house, before the Lovely Melanie made me a delicious Father's Day dinner (which, paradoxically, the girls didn't even see!)
Not that they were particularly hungry anyway - we had brought in some of the 'next wave' of harvest from the garden: the peas and carrots, and were slightly underwhelmed by those.  
We were completely overwhelmed by some home-made popcorn, though - especially Millie, who eventually took the enormous bowl with her into the living room.  I bought the popping corn months ago, but we only got around to making some yesterday, having expected the doing to be difficult.  It was.  I burnt the first trial run to a cinder.
The second time I paid attention to the instructions from the internet, improvised a little with the flavourings...and produced some of the best popcorn I've ever tasted!  No word of a lie. :-)

Baby A also properly laughed for the first time yesterday.
We were all in our room, rolling on the bed, singing along ( as always) to Rivers Of Babylon on the PC; Millie dancing on the bed, demanding to be tickled and tickling in return; Baby A was smiling at her, and then suddenly she started making a strange noise.
We were a bit alarmed at first since we didn't realise that's what she was doing, but since we were all being tickled by Millie it dawned on us that Baby A was laughing, too, because Millie was tickling her.  Phew!
I'm sure I don't remember Millie laughing so early on.  Actually, I don't seem to remember Millie doing quite a lot of things so early on, but that's most likely because our sense of time in relation to Millie's development is a bit twisted because of those difficult early months we spent with her.
Baby A is just a normal baby - which (I've said it before and I'll say it again) doesn't seem quite right to us, somehow.  We're really only now beginning to appreciate how relatively thin and small Millie was by seeing Baby A.

When I left this morning Baby A was gripping onto the string of a couple of large helium balloons, which she loves holding onto and occasionally pulling; punching them whenever they came into her reach.   Very busy with her hands, is Baby A: if she's not sucking them she's punching with them.
She's going to be a thumbsucker, that one, you mark my words. ;-)

My new phone, you say?  How is my new phone?  Do I like it?  Why, thank you for asking.  Yes.  Yes, I do like it very much indeed.  In fact, the more I'm getting to know it, the more I'm liking it.
Wednesday 18th June 2008
Here's a very long, but interesting, article about how the internet is changing the way we think.
It caught my attention both because I absolutely agree with it - I read books and newspapers differently now compared to just five or six years ago, when the internet got fast and ubiquitous - and now that I also work on a very large internet search engine I'm intrigued by how they work, and how they should work, i.e., what do we want our search engines to do for us in future?

As if that wasn't nerdy enough, I've found myself really genuinely enjoying the musical stylings of The Two Man Gentleman Band.

Well done to Baby A yesterday, who had three vaccinations and was very brave about it.  A much fatter baby (most babies are fatter than Baby A) came in to be done next, and the doctor commented that this one would have an easier time of it because there was more podge to bury a needle in.  Millie was left a little upset at seeing her sister 'jabbed', too, but since she had no actual needles stuck in her leg we had slightly less sympathy.
Perhaps this is why she later called Baby A a 'silly sausage'.  Who knows how Millie's mind works?  This morning she ran all the way to nursery.  The only time she wasn't running was when we were on the bus, and then she was stood up on her seat singing, 'Hello bus; hello, trees; hello choo-choo, and how are you today?'
Thursday 19th June 2008
Baby A is just two days shy of being four months and has this morning been officially weighed at 11lb 11oz.
And don't forget, of course, that she is a silly sausage.

And on a completely unrelated note, another good article to be read - this one about the treatment of people convincted of paedophilia, because I'm a bit tired of receiving regular emails asking me to support the brutal murder of anyone convicted of this crime.
I'm completely anti-death penalty, let's be clear about that.  I think it's a barbaric and demeaning idea.  Studies have shown that it doesn't deter potential criminals, and that actually it dehumanises our society, making us more accepting of violence and murder.
I also think child abuse is a horrific act that should absolutely be punished; it's also something that needs to be dealt with by us as intelligent, adult human beings.  Get a grip, people - as intelligent, adult human beings we sometimes have to deal with horrific things, and it's at those particular times that being adult, intelligent and, above all, human, is more important than ever.
We need to address not merely who is reponsible, but to understand why these people do it so as to try and stop it happening ever again in future.
I really don't believe that graphic fantasies about hurting them in return are the way to solve such a difficult problem.

So.  Read the article.  Think about what it's suggesting.  And, if nothing else, please stop inviting me to sign petitions asking for another human being to be abused, brutalised and murdered, because I'm not going to do that.
Monday 23rd June 2008
Some exciting news just in - I've managed to figure out how to upload pictures from my new phone to both Flickr and my Facebook account!  And even though I like to consider myself something of an amateur computer wizard this was still one of the most complicated things I've ever tried to do on a PC, let alone on a mobile phone!
Anyway, what this means is that I can post pictures I take with the phone direct to the internet without having to go near a PC, so hopefully there'll be a lot more Carter family magic gracing the small screen.

Or, if not magic then certainly insanity - mainly on Millie's part, of course.  You may remember the Lovely Melanie took her to see Lazy Town at the theatre a few weeks back?  Well, one of the main characters in Lazy Town is Sportacus, a sort of athlete superhero, and Millie has developed a fairly major obsession with him.  On Saturday I decided to indulge this by printing out a picture of the man himself on a piece of A4 photo paper, little realising that  'Sportacus' would then have to come with us everywhere we went for the rest of the weekend!
He's been to the loo, in bed, to breakfast, lunch and dinner; we've been on the toilet with him; he came for a walk; he's been playing in the garden with us - he even had his hair dried with us after bath time.

He didn't actually come in the bath, fortunately.  Baby A did though, which was a lovely few minutes.  Baby A doesn't really like bathtime very much; fortunately Millie was spectacularly good with her - reassuring her, patting her head and playing very gently with her, so that Baby A almost didn't want to get out.
I should've got some photos, but I was enjoying watching it too much myself. :-)
Tuesday 24th June 2008
Look at this boring picture.  Some kind of weird-ass spade on a gritty looking beach, eh?  No.

I have trouble getting my head around this picture; this picture sends shivers up my spine, because this is a picture from Mars!

Do you have any idea how amazed we should be to routinely see pictures of machines working on another planet?  Eh?  We should be so amazed that we need to drink a bottle of whisky just to calm down!  A bottle of whisky every time we look at it!
This is a place tens of millions of miles away through the cold darkness of space, it takes months to even get there, and when you do it's considerably more dangerous than Lewisham town centre on a Saturday night.  Whenever I try to get my head around this - whenever I spend more than five seconds thinking about it - it freaks all hell out of me!
No one has ever been there; no one has ever touched that soil before - no life has ever even looked at that soil before.
Forget Big Brother, forget Paris Hilton, forget the the UEFA Cup - this is the important stuff.