Archive for June, 2011


Craft

Last night I decided to learn how to crochet, with a view to doing it whilst feeding. Knitting is too cumbersome to hover over Bub’s head, so I thought the nimble crochet hook might be the answer to my craft withdrawals.

Not so. Every type of crochet stitch I try my hand at ends up looking like a knotted penis. It gets narrower at one end and obscenely shaped at the other. It’s a bit frustrating. As with last year, I plan to make as many gifts as I possibly can this Christmas. So far, I’m half way through my father-in-law’s sweater – yes it should have been a birthday present but we got him a cook book instead – and have completed one knitting project which may or may not be for Christmas. It might serve as a birthday gift.

I think I’ll try finger knitting as my next endeavour. It’s basically French Knitting for those of you who had those funny wooden dolls, but on your fingers. I never knew what to do with the long strands it creates before and I probably won’t now, but if it’ll keep my hands busy during feeds then it can’t be all bad. We shall see….

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New

So I lasted a day. I am typing this post on a super-shiny new red laptop. And it cost me all of the money in my account – we will be living on potatoes and herbs for a while because that’s what I’m growing in the garden.

In other news, Bub had her first injections today. It was something of an eye-opener, sitting in the waiting room with loads of other mums – all as anxious as me. I started thinking about being a mum and just what that meant. I would be, to the small wriggling wormy thing in my arms, a source of comfort, advice, love, money, and lifts to friends houses. I would eventually become a confidante – relationship-willing – a nurse and a teacher. And so would all the women in the waiting room around me.

Before setting out, I had been researching my options for switching to formula feed. God knows I’ve tried to breastfeed and with all the fight I’ve got in me, I’m still going. It’s tough though. Aside from the mastitis and the physical inconvenience of having boobs the size of Canada, I’ve been finding the whole thing mentally and emotionally draining. Some nights, when I’ve sat with my tits out for 5 hours while Bub cries at one and then the other for no discernible reason*, I have a good cry myself.

It is my duty to do right by this child. She didn’t ask to be born, and certainly didn’t ask to be born to a melodramatic writer with a chronic case of procrastination. It’s hard to keep going, and in my hated weaker moments I do stroke the car keys and ponder the convenient evil that is the 24 hour Tesco. I could sneakily buy some powder, nip home and feed it to Bub without anyone else having to know. 4am is, on rare occasions, a most forgiving time.

Thinking all of this, waiting with my smiley little worm to meet the needles, I took another glance around. Two other mums were giving their babies a bottle of formula to comfort them after their own jabs. My initial reaction was to sit and smugly think about how much better Bub would be for being breastfed, but today I decided I needed to be slower to judge. Perhaps these women had been through what I had, and had been equally miserable feeding. Perhaps their children had been born to a surrogate and so lacked  milk of their own to give them. Perhaps there was some underlying medical reason to use a bottle. Perhaps those women weren’t willing to flash strangers from the back seat of a Micra when their baby was hidden from view in readiness for the coming meal.

Bub had her jabs. I took a smiling, happy baby into the room. She looked me in the eye and grinned because she knew me, then I held her in place while a nurse caused her pain. It felt like a betrayal. I tell myself that she won’t remember it and that it’s for the best in the long run, but I’ll remember that bright, trusting smile until the day I die.

Of all the things I will do as a mother – breast or bottle feed, to vaccinate or not – and of all the things I will become, only one is really certain. In my eyes, in the eyes of my peers, and sometimes in those of my daughter, the only inevitable thing is that at some stage, everyone will see me as Wrong.

For someone like me, who was always so sure of her convictions that she repeatedly told the teacher off at age 10, this is a very bitter pill to swallow.

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*I’ve seen midwives, health visitors, breastfeeding councillors and the doctor. They all say the latch is good and Bub is gaining weight well. I’ve been told she might grow out of it at 3 months.

Broken

The laptop, my door to the universe, is broken.

I will return at a later date when either:

a: S- has fixed it. He is a genius with computers.
b: I get impatient and buy a new one.
c: I get a minute to go on this colossal beast of a PC.

Frankiesoup out.

Maternal

I don’t mention her often, but this post mostly centres around my ‘maternal’ grandmother.

Don’t let the name confuse you, by the way. I mean that she is my mother’s mother, rather than a snuggly, pleasant old woman who bakes a lot and bustles rather than walks. Snuggly or not however, she’s an incredibly admirable lady. I’m told that when her husband died, she made the conscious decision not to be a grieving widow and took up disco-dancing classes instead.*

Anyhows, a while ago she was approached by someone researching their family tree. It turned out that there was a connection  through her father – my great-grandfather – and since then, Grandma and her long-lost cousin** have been keeping one another informed regarding genealogical discoveries. Recently, said cousin got in touch to say that she’d found out we’re related to Jack Crawford, of The Battle of Camperdown fame.

Being as disinterested as I am in any history between Henry VIII and 1850, I had no idea who this sailer was, or indeed, that there had ever been a battle at Camperdown. If I’m honest, I’d never even heard of it until I discovered some obscure relative apparently did something heroic there. Anyway – according to wikipedia,  Crawford ensured that the enemy didn’t mistake a falling flag for surrender by nailing said flag to the mast. Then spent the rest of his life drunk.

It’s got me interested in researching my family tree again so I took out an old notebook and began writing down the information I have. Which, as it is next to nothing, didn’t take all that long.

The internet stepped up to the mark. Only, as is always the case with the internet, I ended up procrastinating and came across my newest addiction: Scandinavia and the World. I don’t know if it’s funny when you’re not familiar with Nordic stereotypes but it’s had me cackling aloud like a crazy woman many a time. Which Bub doesn’t seem to like.

A bit of a convoluted, not saying very much sort of post, but it has taken me two days of sporadic intervals to type all this up. Between washing nappies and joining the National Trust, I haven’t had a great deal of time. I have, however

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*He died at 49 before I was a twinkle in my daddy’s eye, so to speak. This being the case, I can not vouch for this story being accurate.

**I don’t know what the relationship actually is… As I said, there’s not been a huge amount of contact there.

Gap Year

So I was looking for short stories to enter into a contest yesterday and stumbled upon this, a not-so-fictional entry for a gap year themed competition from years ago. Since I apparently didn’t win, and since I don’t have anything better to write about today, I thought I would share it.

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Middelfart, Norwich and a long ride home

The train pulled out of Norwich station just as I arrived, but that didn’t stop me from running after it. I don’t know what I’d have done, had I somehow managed to match its speed –  the carriages had no platforms onto which I could daringly jump and besides, despite my delusions, I was no Indiana Jones.

My appalling fitness level meant that I hadn’t even made it past the ticket desk by the time the cars were half way to Brandon and so, defeated and miserable, I sank down onto the cold Victorian station floor. That had been the last connecting train to Peterborough that I could have caught to make the GNER for Aberdeen. There was no way that I could be at my parents’ tonight.

True – nothing was stopping me from returning to my Norwich flat, but my Nan had just died, and I was hundreds of miles away from family, isolated and alone.

At least I’m not in Denmark, I thought to myself. At least this isn’t as bad as the time I got stuck in Middelfart.

Middelfart, as it happens, is a rather pretty place despite its tragically comic name. I had been trying to get to the ferry terminal in Esbjerg for the better half of the day, however the clock in the drivers cabin had been an hour too slow, due to daylight savings, and I had been duly late for any connections.

I reached into my pocket and blew my nose – the year I’d spent on the Danish-German border seemed a lifetime away now, stuck in drizzling February Norwich. Feeling as helpless and as homesick as I did just then, I began to doubt whether the whole thing had really happened. There was no way that this sullen little girl, folded into a grotty anorak on the station floor, could possibly have had the balls to move to a country where she knew only enough of the language to demand a beer and sing ‘that funny flag song’.

I sighed and stood up, trudging towards the taxi rank – what had I done in Middelfart? How had I managed to get back?

Local buses. I had locally bussed my way back to Århus when things had gone wrong. I turned back towards the platform. I might not be able to catch the direct train to Aberdeen, but doubtless I could make my way up on the bevy of two carriage vehicles which shunted commuters to and fro. As long as I avoided the London and Yarmouth lines, all of the trains pulling into the station would go through Peterborough, or at least Ely.

From there I could probably get a local line to York, or even Newcastle if I was lucky. Then to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Aberdeen and finally a car ride back to our family home. It was possible – I could do it.

The train to Cambridge drifted up to platform two and I joined the mass of people jostling to climb aboard, sinking down in a seat by the window.

Perhaps I wasn’t such a pathetic, anorak-wearing sad case after all. Since coming home, I had slipped out of the wonderful, independent habits I’d formed in Denmark and back into my old routine of being looked after by my parents and friends. I knew – somewhere deep down – that I was perfectly capable of crossing the country using only local public transport. In fact, I was able to cross any country in this way, whether I spoke the language fluently or could merely demand alcohol. Yes, I was alone in Norwich, hundreds of miles from home, but I wasn’t incapable. I had proved that to myself in the terminal whilst stuck in the hilarious – if puerile – Middelfart.

The feeling of isolation remained as the guard punched a hole in my ticket, but it gave me strength now, rather than leaving me lonely. The familiar gap-year feeling that everything was a challenge, an adventure, slowly began to creep up on me and I welcomed it.

Clinging to this sense of independence that I would never have gained had I stayed at home last year, I stood and went to gather some time tables from the vestibule. It would be a long trip home, but I was ready.

Volunteer

So I was going to write about something totally different – though I’ve forgotten what – but after scanning the BBC news pages, I thought I’d get on my high-horse and go crusading.

A couple of years back, husband and I were in a hifi store. He was trying to educate me (read: talk me into not having a fit when he bought a new amp) and I was duly disinterested. The sales clerk had just been over and had tried to sell us one of those mini hifi systems and S- had taken great pleasure in boasting about the virtues of his home cinema set up by comparison. I watched as the clerk then went over to speak to an elderly woman, also looking at amps.
“The radio in my amplifier has broken,” she explained when asked if there was anything she needed help with, “I just need a cheap new one.”
“You can’t really get those any more,” the clerk explained as if speaking to a child, “You’d have to get one of these mini systems.” He pointed to the one he’d just tried to sell us.

Something twigged in my brain and I tuned back in to what S- was saying.
“… and that’s why I need to fill the house with 7 billion cables.*” I whacked him on the arm and nodded to the exchange I’d been watching, noting his brow furrow.
“About ten of these amps have a built-in radio…”
“Which is cheapest?” He pointed to a sleek-looking black box in the corner. I walked over to it and, raising my voice to ensure it carried I stared at the clerk and said, “Look S-, this is the amp I wanted. The cheap one with the built-in radio.”
The lady glanced over, smiled widely and made her way to another clerk to ask about the amp while I glared daggers at the little slimy git who’d presumed that because his customer was old, she was stupid.

I came out of the shop fuming, ready to tell anyone who looked at me for longer than half a nano-second about the injustice I’d witnessed. And then I started thinking about other injustices I’d seen over the years. I remembered my Nan – who regular readers may have noticed was my absolute hero – and the day the doctors told her she had Parkinson’s. I was in the clinic with her – 17 years old and passionate. She had just moved up to Aberdeen from Sheffield and explained the tests she’d had done, and that her doctor had spoken about Parkinson’s. The consultant dismissed her, saying they needn’t worry about that sort of thing, asked her a series of questions and then asked her if she’d ever heard of something called Parkinson’s disease. If he’d just bothered to listen to her to begin with, he’d have saved himself looking like a twat. Nan, having a very dry sense of humour, told him she’d never heard of Parkinson’s and ‘oh yes’ed and ‘oh no’ed in all the right places.

There were a dozen other things I could have listed and even a cup of tea couldn’t calm me down, so when I got home, I contacted what was the called Help the Aged and volunteered. They put me in touch with my 85 year old drinking buddy and life hasn’t been the same since. The other day we were comparing stories about our first cars and it’s amazing that regardless of whether your first motor was a ’36 Ford or a ’92 VW Polo, the human experience behind it is just the same. I remarked on this my friend smiled,
“I get a shock every time I look in the mirror,” he said, “I expect to see a young man in his naval uniform, ready to go out and pull. You never really change from your teen years on – you just get a bit wiser to the world and feel increasingly under the weather towards the end.”

That’s why I thought I’d write about the BBC article I linked to above. The elderly neighbour, the woman in the hifi shop, the Sunday driver crawling slowly through country lanes with his indicator still on half an hour after he last turned – they are ourselves in a few short years’ time.

And if we don’t start doing something about how they’re treated, we’re going to end up in exactly the same predicament.

I’ll get off my high-horse now and go back to my knitting.

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*That wasn’t actually what he said, but when translated from Stereo-Geek to English, that’s pretty much what it meant.

 

Cars

Bex made the point after my last post that the best childhood memories take place in cars.

I couldn’t agree more. I tend to define my life in terms of which cars I, or my parents, have owned. Many a tale I’ve told has begun, “When we had the Golf convertible/Mini/Percy Polo,” and then continued with something totally irrelevant as if the person I’m talking to understands the bearing these cars have had at varying stages of my life.  No one other than my immediate family could ever know that the label Saab 95 covers my late teen years, or that the Subaru Forester represents the beginning of my relationship to my now-husband. And as for the immortal Bobby Boot… well…

I don’t know how other people define key stages of their lives – by years perhaps, houses?

On a totally unrelated note, I highly recommend Totsbots for reusable nappies. Not only are they UK based and super-ethical but they have the best customer service I have ever come across.

Time

I’ve been told not to wish away these ‘precious’ first weeks with Bub, but frankly, I’m finding it to be a task of endurance rather than enjoyment. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my little wormy thing, I just wish I understood her.

It’s amazing what a huge effect words have, how much easier they can make life. They’re powerful things. It’s only when you’re stripped of them that you come to understand that they say far more than their literal meaning. They say, ‘I am communicating, I am reaching out to you.’

Until Bub gets words, I will continue to find this whole experience very difficult. I love her. I want to make everything perfect for her, but until I can understand what’s wrong, it will be incredibly hard.

In other news, I made my ‘we’re home now’ shopping list yesterday and got all geared up, ready to brave the supermarket. Then realised my keys were locked in my car. At first I was royally hacked off at this but I actually had a great day. The cat brought me a vole, a rabbit and a bird, and Bub and I played on the floor to the best of Don McLean.

And there it was, my childhood encapsulated in a single album. All that time spent in the passenger seat of a Nissan Prairie blaring out American Pie and singing along in an off-key cat howl. Eve 6 said it best, “I crack a window/feel the cool air cleanse my every pore/as I pour my poor heart out/to a radio song that’s patient and willing to listen/my volume drowns it out. Yeah, but that’s ok/I sound better thank him anyway, any day/my voice is sweet as salt.”

I remember it clearly enough that it could have been yesterday – time really does fly.

Future

You may or may not have noticed a considerable decline in my number of posts recently, but I just got back from a trip to Cornwall with my group of friends from university. Aside from reminding me of how society functioned before mobile phones and the internet infiltrated every aspect of our lives, the time away got me thinking about how far my little group have come since we met.

Beginning in the same place – fresh out of school and eager to learn – we’ve all gone in very different directions. It’s funny to think how such similar people can end up leading such remarkably different lives. The journey home was very interesting as it gave me chance to think about the events which led me to be where I am today.

And as per usual, I am all too ineloquent to express how incredible I find the fact that as simple a decision as to fill in my last remaining UCAS application spot with a Danish language course, led to the creation of a whole new person. It boggles the mind.

And so, to prevent any further boggling – here are some arty pictures from our trip:

What I think of as the epitome of British summer holidays.

A friendly little robin we met at the Eden Project

And equally sociable lady-blackbird (I'm told - I know nothing about our feathered friends)

I took a lot of flowery pictures on this holiday...

Aaand now I will spam the page with the rest of the floral images

Well, I'll post this and the previous one. I'm feeling too lazy to add all 22 of my 'best of Eden' folder. Yes. There were enough flower shots to merit a 'best of'.

A cute little cafe that A- and I found while everyone else went scrambling over some rocks. We got tea though. Therefore, we won life.

This is a pretty harbour. I think I took this in Padstow.

But I’m tired now so any other pictures will have to wait for when I can’t think of anything else to write about (i.e. tomorrow).

Goodnight y’all.

Epic knitting

Since I know the fabulous pair who created this blanket won’t be blogging it, I thought I would share it with the world, because it’s far too good to keep to myself.

I present, for your viewing pleasure, the alternative knitted baby alphabet.

A – apple
B – bee
C – cake
D – dinosaur
E – elephant
F – fort
G – Gandalf
H – holly
I – Indiana Jones
J – Jam
K – Knight
L – Lego
M – Motorbike
N – Narwhal
O – Octopus
P – pirate
Q – quintain
R – robots
S – sailboat
T – truck
U – UFO
V – Villain
W – Weber BBQ (just like Daddy’s)
X – X-box
Y – yellow
Z – A gun from Stargate that I can’t remember the name of.