Sunday, 29 April 2012

Week 34- swimming lessons, dueting with strangers and Alan Partridge

We've started swimming lessons. And it's kind of like Nancy's got a posh personal trainer, as it's only me and Nancy and another mum and her daughter on the course. 

Well, poshish. If you ignore the rank drains smell the moment you walk through the front door of the leisure centre. And the fact the receptionist won't let you into the changing rooms with a pram until 10 minutes before the lesson starts. 10 minutes? Does she  know how long it takes to get a pair of tiny waterproof pants on a baby?

Nancy was sent a pair of swimming trunks from our friend in Spain. The Spanish obviously know more about aqua style, as they're comfy and have lovely fish on them. Worlds away from the several costumes we've acquired that are all frills and inappropriate slogans, some of them, borderline slaggy, if that's possible with 6-9 month old clothes.

Nancy now goes nuts when you get into the pool. Kicking her legs really fast, and lapping up the pool water like a little dog. 

It's a bit of a double edged sword really, there only being the four of us in the class. Because on one hand, Wendy, the teacher, started off knowing all our names instead of just the children's as she said she normally does. Which was nice.

But on the flip side, I do spend the last half of the lesson singing nursery rhymes at a woman I don't really know.

I thought during the first week it was because there had been a mix up. 

The reception desk had told me initially the course was full, and it was only after some 'can I speak to the manager' chat, which, incidentally, I'm getting very good at these days, that it turned out it wasn't, so I could sign up.  That would explain why there was only two babies on the course. 

So of course Wendy didn't have a back up lesson plan.

With 15 minutes still to go, she asked me and the other mum to face each other, clutching our babies in front of us, and sing Ring a Ring of Roses. She explained that with the usual 12 people on the course, the mums would walk round in a circle, but not to bother as it was only us two. 

Wendy also said she wasn't much of a singer, so she started us off, then sat down a plastic chair and left us to it.  Fair enough.

But come lesson two, Wendy had us serenade each other with the Grand Old Duke of York, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, If You're Happy and You Know It, and Zoom Zoom. Which isn't even a proper song. Wendy had made it up herself. 

And she wanted us to sing them to each other, Scott and Charlene style.

And worse still, I can't remember the woman's name. And Wendy's long forgotten what we're all called, despite her promises on week one, but Other Mum has remembered mine.

I wasnt sure whether to call her 'mate' which seems a bit aggressive, or 'love' which seems a bit flirtatious, given that I've just been dueting with her. 

So I decided on making Nancy wave at her daughter and say goodbye to her, instead, which Other Mum now does back. It's just too cute for words. I imagine my alter ego sat off on one of the plastic chairs next to Wendy with a disapproving slow head shake, giving me the knob head sign. 

And if Nancy could roll her eyes and tell me to get a grip, I'm sure she would.  

In other news, I've nearly got enough Boots points from all the nappies I've been buying over the last seven months to get some Chanel perfume. 

In the words of Alan Partridge; cash back.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Week 33- baby sign language, Downton Abbey and the impending sense of doom


How do you make the transition from maternity leave brain, to, I'm a mum who works, goes out, and has a house that doesn't look like it’s been repeatedly burgled?

There must be a point when things start to become 'normal.'

My mum went back to work when I was about three months old. I was still congratulating myself for getting out once a week to the pictures at that stage.

Even now, when Nancy's 7 months, I'm giving myself a hearty pat on the back for leaving the house before 10am.

Or thinking I’m Myleene Klass for taking Nancy to baby sign language once a week, where the only sign I remember is milk, because it is literally imitating milking a cow. Which is a bit dispiriting for body image when you’re encouraged to do it every time you get your boobs out to feed.

Even with all the best planning in the world, though, it sometimes feels like days are full of half stuff, that nothing actually gets completed or done properly.

And with that comes the guilt.

I'll be sitting at the computer trying to write something. Or more likely, writing my name in different fonts to see which one looks the most creative and inspiring to write the amazing, mind blowing, 'I can't believe she wrote this with a seven month old baby,' play.

And Nancy will be sat of the floor surrounded by a WWF style ring of cushions, with a selection of toys stacked up in front of her. And she looks bored out her brain. And I feel massively guilty.

So we'll play, and make each other laugh, (which has to be up there with one of the best things ever,) and then I'll remember that we're meant to be getting into some kind of routine.

So will try to feed her some rice cakes and a strawberry. Then feel guilty that I'm not taking it seriously enough, or I'd have Annabel Karmeled the shit out of dinner, and made some kind of baby three courser that she'd just love.

The flat is in a constant state of border line chaos. And now Nancy's starting to move around a bit and pushing herself backwards at an unnerving speed, I think I should do a bit of a better job of clearing a gangway for her to do so. And, again, the guilt creeps in.

And as if to complete the circle, four weeks or more go by, and the only writing that I've done, is cheques to the managing agents, for replacing a carpet in the main part of the building, which we will never see nor benefit from.

Or turning the computer on just to nosey on Facebook, bid for crap on eBay, or sift through emails from Gambian princes who just need my bank details to complete the transaction to transfer two million quid of tax avoidance money into my name. And then turn the computer off at the end of the day, convincing myself that updating my status, or uploading another picture of Nancy, is, kind of, like writing.

And there it is again. Niggly guilt.

But when did it start? The journey home from the hospital when I was thinking more about how to comfortably sit on one bum cheek than how lucky I was to have Nancy? And more to the point, when's it going to end? Or does it continue forever once you're a parent?

Really, pre Nancy, the only time I'd feel really bad about something was after a heavy night, and the impending sense of doom would sit over me the whole next day, while I pieced together the previous evening, mainly through receipts for cashback from a variety of pubs.

A fry up and about 30 cans of coke would normally sort it out. That, and a blanket text apology to everyone I was out with, and hope that nothing too bad was said/ done.

But a fried egg sarnie doesn't stop you constantly worrying that you're not doing enough to entertain a little person who hasn’t, as yet, learnt enough signs to say bouncing up and down on your knee isn’t fun anymore.

Then other days I just think, fuck it. It's raining outside. Nancy doesn't want to eat organic hummus. I can't think of anything to write even if I could be bothered to turn the computer on.


Let's just clear a space on the floor, have a cuddle, and watch the first four episodes of Downton Abbey back to back.

I can always baby sign it like the man in the corner of the screen on the Hollyoaks omnibus if things get really desperate.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Week 32- spaghetti westerns, Mr Miyagi and fighting in swimming pools

I nearly had a fight with a 19 year old at the swimming pool. Well I say fight, it was more of a slanging match. And it was definitely her fault.

I'm not one for scrapping but this was a matter of principle.

In fact I don't think I've had a proper fight since primary school. And that was because someone pulled my snood on purpose, I mean, come on. Not on, right? In that situation, I thought the best line of defence was attack.

My mum had been sending me to karate lessons since I was 7 and at the ripe age of 9 I thought I was somewhat of an expert. So getting into a Mr Miyagi zen like mindset, I closed my eyes and resumed the first pose from the kata, (karate version of a dance routine for those not familiar,) and got ready to let rip.

To which my opponent retorted, 'did you learn that at karate? Cos I learnt this at home!' and belted me full on in the tummy. A fair win with an enviable one liner. Hence, my fighting days are pretty limited.

So back to the swimming pool....

It was the second time Nancy and I had been swimming. It's a bit of a faff at the best of times, what with the amount of stuff you need to bring. Far more than fits into a locker. And on top of that there's the fox/ chicken/ grain brain teaser of how to put all the stuff in the locker, lock up the buggy at the other end of the changing room, and end up with me and Nancy in our cozzies, with just a towel and two keys in my hand, ready for approximately 2 minutes in the pool for 4 quid.

With those kind of pressures, the last thing you need is some total prat buggering it all up by nicking the family size changing room you've been queuing for, for the best part of twenty minutes.

It was like a scene out of a spaghetti western.

I'd tried all three doors just to be on the safe side, even though they all said they were occupied.

And then I parked up and waited.

About five minutes later, the 19 year old, with her two small children, and mum in tow, stood dripping wet at the other end of the corridor. The children complained about being cold so the grandma gave them a rub down with a towel. The19 year old went off to unlock her buggy, and on bringing it back, parked up facing me.

Her eyes narrowed as she surveyed the scene.

Swimmers fled in all directions, until all that was left was us. And tumbleweed.

There was one false start, where the changing room door nearest the 19 year old unlocked, and a mum pelted out to get a first aid trained member of staff to come and sort her daughter out, who'd trodden on something sharp and was bleeding.

So now there were only two changing rooms in play.

The grandma was distracting the 19 year old, chatting about where they should go for lunch, a choice of Maccie Ds or Burger King, when suddenly the door to the changing room in the middle swung open.


We were both equidistant.

I swung Nancy into action, but the break was on, and in the panic I tried to push the stationary wheels along the slimy, bumpy floor.

We weren't nearly fast enough, as the 19 year expertly skirted passed the first aider and shoved the front of the buggy through the door before we'd even started turning.

'Mum, grab the kids!' she shouted, like I was going to hold them to ransom until she did the decent thing.

'Listen love' (the 'love' bit was a mistake, I see that now,) 'I was here first.'

I fronted up to her, while keeping two buggies length between us, cos close up she actually looked nearer 30, just with the body of a girl.

I would have been in a stronger position if I'd had my glasses on, but they make Nancy cry, maybe cos she doesn't recognise me in them.

Like when my dad shaved off his trademark beard for Comic Relief Day when I was 7 and my sister was 4, and we wouldn't speak to him until it grew back as we thought he was an imposter.

The girl/ woman also had loads of pretty ropey tattoos, several of which looked hand done. And if she can handle that kind of pain, she's not going to think twice about having a scrap at the swimming pool.

'No mate, I think you'll find I was,' (I'd used the patronising 'love', she'd trumped it with the intimidating 'mate'.)

And then she pushed her family one by one into the changing room like a Sargent counting in his troop.

I was at a loss. Where do you go from there.

'That's just not even a bit true!' I weakly shouted back at her, kicking myself almost immediately for not thinking of anything better to come back with.

This is the bit in the western where the town folk start to emerge from their hiding places, the pianist starts playing, and the bartender pours the drinks, cos they all know that danger has passed.

I looked down at Nancy, who grinned back at me. And I thought, who actually gives a shit. The fact is I would have let her go first if she'd asked, as her kids were wet and did look a bit cold. But it's the rudeness that pissed me off.

So moments later, when the changing room next to theirs became available, I talked loudly to Nancy about how good manners cost nothing, and how she'd grow up to be a polite girl etc etc.

And then I remembered how hard the girl and her mum looked. And so we hung out in the changing room until we heard them leave, and then unlocked the door.

But I think I really made my point. And I don't think she'll be doing that again in a hurry.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Week 31- cyber bullying, cool 10 year olds and sitting on bins

So Easter's here, and with it, millions of kids who have nothing to fill their days with, other than sitting off on the steps near the shop round the corner, or pushing each other aggressively on the swings that are way too small for them, in the park.

I was pretty relieved about this. Not that they've got nothing to do, but that the way they fill that nothingness didn't seem to be that different to when I was young. When you could hang out in the adventure playground all day, taking it in turns to push the roundabout really fast until someone was sick.

Or sit off somewhere inconvenient for normal people. Like the bins in the market square, and just lurk. Occasionally leaving to buy sweets or crisps, and then stay there until your mum, or a mate of your mum's tells you to go home.

But as I sat on a bench in the park rocking Nancy's push chair, I started nebbing into the girls' convo who were within earshot on the grass, and quickly realised how massively different it actually all is now.

I don't think girls will ever fundamentally change. Going around in packs at school, forming the most amazingly powerful friendships, but also being skin pricklingly cruel if you're out of favour.

It's just now the means of communicating all this is so sophisticated, it's terrifying.

These girls couldn't have been older than 10. They all looked über cool. Skinny jeans, over sized bags, Ray Bans. And were texting away on their mobiles, which looked posher than mine. Not that that should mean anything, other than they're 10 and I'm 33.

But they were talking about a girl at school who none of them seemed to like.

'I'm totally going to unfriend her.'
'I already have.'
'And I might tag her into that picture from the theatre trip where she looks awful.'
' Do it. And tag James into it as well so he definitely sees it.'

And I suddenly shit myself for Nancy.

This is a new, far more dangerous, minefield of social politics to navigate through. It was bad enough trying to survive primary school when all you have to worry about was the school bully not picking on you that day.

But what if you then have to go home and check your Facebook page, and that of all the girls in your class, to make sure no-one's bad mouthing you.

Or work out if there's a deeper meaning to the fact that your best mate has sent you a text, and only typed one kiss, whereas normally she'd type three.

All this on top of face to face interactions and hormones.

No thanks.

I don't want Nancy to grow up completely sheltered, but I do want her to play outside with her mates. Have a pen pal in France than she never meets in real life but loves receiving letters from. Know the names of the different birds in the garden, and not because she was given a bird book by her Granda for Christmas, but because she's genuinely interested.

Not spend her life socialising through the Internet and talking in acronyms.

And more than anything, I want her to have the right to reply in person.

I felt like grabbing the phones off those girls in the park, honing my disapointed mum voice and telling them that if you don't like this girl, fine. But at least have the good old fashioned courtesy to ignore her so she knows where she is. Instead of keeping her in the dark until she logs on at home and then realises you're not mates in cyber or real life.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Week 30- weaning, gurning and getting pooed on

Nancy and I are now officially a pair of weaners. And it's a high stress, toxic job.

High stress, cos Nancy has quickly realised that if she sucks her lips in like she's gurning, then nothing will go in. And no amount of singing, zooming of spoons, enthusiastic clapping, will unclamp them. Which is a bit depressing when she's quite happy to have a bash at licking the rusty metal chain that holds the swings up at the playground, but not the sweet potato mash I've spent all morning lovingly making.

Toxic cos some food must eventually go down, as the poos are now something else.

How can a person so small and beautiful create something so disgusting? I'm talking 24 hour benders poo, where you forget to eat anything other than pub nuts and the closest to a glass of water you get is watered down lager.

And the smell is unbelievable. It sits in the air long after everyone's been hosed down and the nappy bags been put in the neighbour's wheely bin.

It's like tar.

And it dyes everything- clothes, changing mats, bums.

I feel like, if we're going to have to deal with this level of gross then the pay off could at least be Nancy eating maybe one mouthful of baby rice a day. But no. Mind you, I tried it and it's not very nice. Apparently Jennifer Aniston lives on jars of baby food which is why she's so skinny. Well good luck with that.

Poogate started on Monday, when we were sat off in the garden with Ulrika and Ebba. There was an almighty smell, so we routinely sniffed the girls bums.

'Mine!' I called like a pro doubles tennis player, and without thinking, stuck my finger inside her nappy to confirm my suspicions that it was just a trump.

The slow motion voice came out. 'It's a poooooooo. It's all uuuuup her baaaack. And all ooooover my fiiiinger...'

We rushed her inside, stripped her down with Ulrika clamping both her hands to avoid a poo to mouth incident. We soon realised that it was beyond a wet wipes job, and dunked her in the bath. Feeling slightly traumatised, we all had a snooze, and wrote it off as a one off.

Until Tuesday came and we were hanging out in the park with some friends and their children. There was a similar stench, and sure enough, poo everywhere. As she lay naked on the changing mat, this time with Helen holding her hands while I desperately searched for something for her to change into, Wadey shouted, 'she's doing a wee!'

And the tar turned into a brown river.

'Shes doing another wee!' as I held her up over the mat.

And having done a mediocre job of cleaning her up, the final insult. She did wee número three all over my new eBay jumper, as I gave her a hug.

So we decided to give baby jam a miss and just head straight to Boots on London Road to stock up on wet wipes as neither of us were looking our best.

The baby book says she should be eating meat in two weeks time. I'm not holding my breath.