365 days

Did you know, it’s exactly one year ago today that the Lovely Melanie and I made our midnight dash to Lewisham Hospital?

That means it’s only two weeks and two days till Millie’s birthday!

And by the way, thanks to all those folks who’ve been saying such nice things about the piece I wrote on being a dad. If I was a singer I’d dedicate the next song to you – Uh-huh, thankyouverymuch, as Elvis might have said.

And thankyouverymuch to the Lovely Melanie, who used four more strawberries from the garden to decorate some delicious iced sponge cakes last night.

Mmm…iced sponge cakes, and – sorry, what was that? You want more pictures of Millie, you say? Well, OK…


Summer and fruits

Hot Millie

The first is Millie waking up on Saturday afternoon, when we hadn’t realised quite how warm it was in her bedroom. The poor little thing was covered in sweat and her hair had gone like this…

The Lovely Melanie swears this was how Millie looked when she went in.

And as you can see, Millie was clapping: she now claps at everything, which is a nice ego boost for us, her parents. Walking into the living room – round of applause. Sitting down – round of applause. Getting up – round of applause. Watching TV – round of applause…

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAnd here is the first fruit from our garden (not including the rhubarb that the Lovely Melanie enjoys and the mint leaves Millie loves to chew on).

I am very proud. The Lovely Melanie and I split it on Sunday evening, and it was very nice.

The little things

A very minor thing set me thinking last night.

I was sat in a pretty grotty pub in “beautiful” Tufnell Park waiting for some friends (we were all going to see Harry Hill and The Caterers), and at the table opposite me was quite an old couple with a severely disabled girl in a wheelchair. And her parents just casually took care of her – wiping her mouth, moving her about occasionally, smiling at her, etc.

The girl didn’t move or say a word and seemed to have very little awareness of what was going on around her, but now having a child myself I was suddenly struck by how I’d feel if this was my daughter, and was really quite surprised to realise how much she would mean to me, disabled or not, and quite how fiercely protective I’d be.

Actually, no, “protective” isn’t the word I’m looking for; I think I mean how much I would still love my daughter, irrespective of any problems she might have.

I remember the Lovely Melanie and I having a small chat when she was first rushed into hospital (51 weeks ago today), about what we’d do if Millie – although we didn’t know she was “Millie” then – turned out to have significant problems, as was entirely likely. Would we want everything possible done to keep her alive, or would we want to leave it in the lap of the gods?

Not take any negative action, obviously (because that’s called “murder”) but to not take any aggressive life-sustaining action to help Millie. And at the time we both agreed, not without some soul-searching, that we probably would want to leave it to fate.

Fortunately, that decision remained hypothetical, as Millie came out fighting and as well as could possibly be hoped for a 1lb 7oz, three-month premature baby; but seeing that girl and her parents last night made me rethink somewhat.

Before we had Millie I considered myself a pragmatist: a practical, fairly logical person, one who could look at problems and think them through quite dispassionately.

I had thought that I’d want a child who was the very best, who was going to be smart and pretty and popular…and just perfect. Just what every parent hopes for with their children, I’m sure. But now, to be honest, I’m not so sure. Now I think I just want Millie to grow up to be happy and to feel loved all the time. All the time. 

And if she’s not the cleverest girl or the prettiest or the most outgoing, well, I don’t care; she’s my daughter and I’ll love her whatever she’s like. And I’ve realised that I’ll always be proud of her, whatever she does (or doesn’t) do.

One last thing. When I was about eight years old, I think it was, we had a fireworks display at home (I say “display”, we had a box of fireworks that my dad would carefully let off one at a time). Unfortunately, the stick on one of the rockets had snapped almost completely off, but my dad was convinced it would fly OK if carefully balanced. So he (carefully) put it in the top of a bottle, as you did then, and lit the blue touchpaper. We’d been watching the display for an hour or so and I’d gotten a bit blase about the whole business so I was now watching from the top of the garden, rather than the patio where my mum and brother were stood.

Disaster struck when the rocket flew sideways out of the bottle and hit me.

Now, what I always remember about this is my dad reaching me in what seemed like just two massive steps, grabbing me in one arm and whisking me away from the rogue rocket (which then span about and shot off somewhere else). But the point is, it felt like my dad was there in a fraction of a second to rescue me, with no thought for his own safety at all.

Since then, my measure of being a dad has always been: would I have done exactly the same? Would I have moved that quickly and carelessly to help my child? 

And my (already high) respect for my dad has always been boosted by that one incident, not least because I’ve never been sure that I would have been able to do the same thing.

However, somehow, just seeing that girl with her parents last night has made me realise that, yes, I would do that, without a second thought; no question.

And not to in any way diminish what my dad did that night, but all parents would, too.

Oh, and I was fine after the rocket attack. Shocked and shaken, with a small melted patch on my blue nylon anorak, but fine. 🙂

Urban weekends: not all crack and gangs.

Er, I was going to put up a few pictures of Millie and the Lovely Melanie relaxing in the garden this weekend, but I usually update The Truth at work, after emailing myself new pictures from home.


Unfortunately most of them haven’t arrived this morning – apologies to someone on my email contacts list who’s just received, from nowhere, two pictures of Millie and the Lovely Melanie; so there’s just this one.


Fortunately, it’s a good’un. 🙂


Got lots and lots and done in the garden at the weekend, so much, in fact, that Millie and I had to go to the garden centre Sunday morning to buy more stuff.

That’s the one major unexpected consequence of not drinking alcohol: you have a lot more time to do stuff in. I went to a party in Bow on Saturday night, stopping first at my friends Mike and Inge’s in nearby West Ham for some barbecued food, but – since I wasn’t drinking – Sunday morning saw me up and ready to go!

Actually, that’s not quite true – I was a bit grouchy Sunday morning because despite drinking nothing but ginger ale and bitter lemon at the party I still felt unpleasantly rough the next morning, which kind of defeats the whole object of not drinking.

Fortunately, that walk in the sun with Millie to the garden centre sorted me out soon enough.

But, yeah, the whole not drinking experience – because you’re not hungover you almost have a whole extra day to play with at the weekend! I got absolutely bloody loads of stuff done this weekend: wrote a book review and a short piece for the British Science Fiction Association, caught up on some reading, spent loads and loads of quality time with Millie and got rid of a bike and a lawn mower on FreeCycle

My dad found the bike at the back of our garden when we moved in, and I kind of meant to get it fixed up, but realised a month or so ago that (i) this was just never going to happen, regardless of my good intentions, and (ii) that it would probably be cheaper to buy a new bike; the lawn mower was given to us free by some friends, but it tended to plough my lovely new lawn rather than mow it, which was no use at all, so we gave it away and bought a shiny shiny new hover mower.

I taught the Lovely Melanie how to use the shiny shiny new hover mower last night, which was quite amusing. There’s so many things that I take it for granted everyone knows how to do simply because I learnt how to do them as a child, and mow a lawn with a hover mower was one of them.

The Lovely Melanie…was never taught how to use a hover mower as a child, and didn’t at first realise it could move from side-to-side, backwards as well as forwards – even diagonally! Or that if you want to move a hover mower the best way to do it is to turn it on (so it’s hovering) and then move it; simply dragging it across the lawn when switched off is far more difficult…

But she has done a lovely job on the back lawn. 🙂

Millie woke us up again this morning by “singing” – not crying, not talking, but just “singing” some very long notes at random. It’s not an unpleasant sound at all, and always makes us laugh when we hear her doing it. She also spent most of the weekend in the garden with us, and was fascinated by the whole experience. She (unlike us) was usually naked, because of some very bad nappy rash, so we thought we’d “air” her bottom, and that seems to have done the trick.

Just time to quickly say “congratulations” to a friend of ours in California: Mrs Rebecca Cate – or Doctor Rebecca Cate, as she is now, having just completed her PhD. Well done, Rebecca, jolly good show, old girl!

Actually, while I’m here, well done to her husband, the irrepressible Mr Martin Cate, whose new business venture, the Forbidden Island tiki bar in Alameda, is going great guns. It’s been a dream of his for years to own a tiki bar and well done to him for actually getting off his arse and doing it.

But more well done to Rebecca because that’s more recent. Not that I’m putting Martin down, but, you know, you’ve had your congratulations, give Rebecca a moment to shine, eh?

Yeah, so well done Dr and Mr Cate.