I've been into town without Nancy. I fed her to bursting and left her with Ben while I strode forth solo. Before even getting on the bus I found myself doing the baby rock, which sans baby just makes you look mental. I sat on the top deck at the front, just because I could. And went swimming. And it was amazing.
The size 12 Asda swimsuit was a tad ambitious and I couldn't push off from the side as my boobs fell out every time, and a bikini wax wouldn't have been out the question, but all in all I felt pretty chuffed that I was there at all. The 20 minutes of peaceful mum swimming, where you do breast stroke while keeping your head firmly above water so not to get your hair wet, was only partially disrupted by the man in the baby pool who was trying to be calmed by his carer as he happily jumped up and down, belly flopping, while yelling 'COCK' at the top of his voice, but it somehow felt like a fitting soundtrack. And with a quick detour to Boots to pick up some pictures of Nancy, and Card Factory for a peruse, I was home before Nancy even really realised I was gone. So now I can go into town. Ace.
And we took Nancy on tour for the third time in her life. Armed with a folder full of pictures of her, we distributed them round relatives in Loughborough, Newcastle and the grand finale, the Lake District, for Nancy's Great Great Auntie's 90th birthday.
A life on the road isn't something I aspire to, but if I did, nine hours in a car is enough to change one's mind. Nancy was brilliant, mind, and slept whenever we were moving. But god it's boring going up and down the motorway. Especially if you forget to bring any CDs apart from The Dubliners, and I like them as much as the next person, but on forth consecutive listen, the fancy fiddle work is a bit like nails down a black board. We used to punctuate long journeys with smoking fags, it gave it a bit of a structure, and the passenger a purpose with having to roll one every few miles. But that's a thing of the past now obviously.
And any idea of giving up bread and chocolate for Lent was out the question, as every stop at a service station involved panic eating about three packet sandwiches, a grab bag of crisps, an extra large mars bar and a bottle of pop, cos we weren't sure when we'd stop again. Only to pull over 30 minutes later when one of us needed/ had done a wee, and repeating the whole feast again. I kept thinking of the swim though, and how that must have cancelled out at least three king size snickers and a couple of packets of Mcoys. At least.
But Nancy saw one grandma, two granddads, one nana, one great nana, two aunties and uncles, two cousins, one great auntie and one great great auntie, as well as loads of distant relatives who I'm not sure how we're related to them, but apparently we are, so I think we've done quite well. And she smiled, and laughed, and half blew raspberries. And everyone fell in love with her.
It's strange seeing relatives, or old friends, who you haven't seen for some time, when you have a baby. Especially if the last time they saw you, you were either a) a child yourself in the case of the relatives, or b) social, in the case of old mates. It's like your role has changed massively and they don't know how to categorise you anymore, and you don't always know how to act in front of them. Cos you want people to know that you're still you, that you're still a laugh/ clever/ interested in music/ up with current affairs or whatever, and that having a child has just added another dimension to that.
'I'm not going to let having a baby change me,' I must have said that about a million times while pregnant with Nancy. Making mental lists of festivals I'd take her to (I hear the Big Chill is fantastic for children, and Latitude positively encourages families, although I'd think twice about Glastonbury as it's so commercial these days.) Whereas now, the thought of four days in a field full of gurning, tanned girls who can get away with wearing cut off jeans and having their arms out unselfconsciously, paying six quid for a pint of watered down lager, while desperately trying to find somewhere to role out a changing mat where Nancy's not going to reach out and grab a hand full of rolly butts, and at the same time, attempting to appear totally mother earth about the whole experience, frankly makes me want to shed a lady tear.
So I've started to experiment with swearing a bit more to exemplify how, although I'm a mum now, I still have a young fucking outlook on stuff. (It didn't really work well in that context, but you get the idea.) It seemed an easy route to a before/ after child balance. And Nancy is far too young to pick up on how hip/ risqué I'm being. And I'll obviously nip it in the bud long before there's any danger of Nancy's first word being twat, or wanker or something like that.
And of course it has to be well timed swearing. It doesn't go down well in the library, the swimming pool or any of the child friendly cafes. But does work OK when bumping into the friend you haven't seen for ages.
Friend I haven't seen for ages: 'How's being a mum?'
Me: 'I fucking love it!'
Friend I haven't seen for ages: 'What about sleeping, do you get much?'
Me: 'No. That side of things is a bit shit.'
Friend I haven't seen for ages: 'Well, when you're up for going out for a drink, give me a shout.'
Me: 'Yep I will do. Sorry for being such a twat and not getting in touch sooner.'
Friend I haven't seen for ages: 'Totally understand. See you soon.' (Seemingly impressed with how little I've changed.)
Me: 'Ace. Hope so.' (Concerned I might have overdone it a bit with the self deprecating twat bit, but, other than that, good swearage.)
A different tac needs to be adopted with the older relatives, mind. 'I fucking love being mum, it's shit hot Uncle Ashley,' wouldn't go down too well. But then, a little person is such a focal point at family dos that I might just get away with it. Maybe I'll hold off till Great Auntie Margaret's 95th to give it a bash.