Great news

I’ve been at home again with a (very) poorly head, but never mind that because the big news in the family is that not only am I going to be an uncle, but my littlest brother is going to be a dad – and his wife, Carla, is going to be a mum!

Which must mean the Lovely Melanie is going to be an auntie!

Which means…   Well, you get the idea.

We’re obviously fantastically pleased for Rich and Carla, and just as obviously certain that they’ll be great parents.  On Rich’s blog he says he’s “pooing my pants,” which is a good indicator that he’ll be an excellent dad.  If you’re not pooing your pants over the prospect of fatherhood then you obviously haven’t properly thought the whole thing through and probably shouldn’t be allowed to have children.

I’m surprisingly pleased to become an uncle at last.  You’d think, having been a dad for four and half years now that I’d be all, like, “Meh,” about being an uncle (it’s a little like being a dad but with a great big safety net).

I thought I’d be all, like, “Meh,” about being an uncle, too, but I’m not.  Instead I’m really looking forward to seeing Rich and Carla experience all the joy and wonder we have over the past few years with our two, and to be able to share, just a tiny bit, in all that.

And it’ll be interesting to see how I get on with doing the uncle thing – whether your brother’s children are as easy to get on with as your own, or is it like the stranger’s kids we sometimes meet on the bus where I can still be a bit nervous and – sadly – concerned to make sure that the mum doesn’t think I’m a paedophile. 😦

And on top of that, my old friend from uni, Dr Nicky Perham of Cardiff University, has literally just had a baby with his wife, Dr Helen Perham, also of Cardiff University!  So congratulations to them, too.

I was seriously starting to wonder if anyone from our generation/circle of friends was ever going to breed, or were we doomed to be the non-childless freaks for the rest of our natural lives?

Turns out that as usual we’re the trendsetters rather than the followers… 😉

Supercompressedupdate!

I had a migraine yesterday, so the Pullitzer Prize-winning entry I was going to write about the weekend has been sadly lost forever.

The world of Literature will be the poorer for it, I fear.

In short?  Well, Saturday you already know about.  Sunday we were up with the lark and scouting the stables of Bexley village for free horse manure – a mission for which I owe eternal thanks to my mate Nik, who selflessly brought along Liz’s car, which we then filled to the brim with manure for the lawn.

Here he is, digging his little heart out –

That’s a LOT of manure…

We then went to B&Q and bought 50 million cubic tonnes (or thereabouts) of compost, also for the lawn.

In the afternoon I finished getting the necessary ten signatures needed for me to stand as a Green Party candidate for the St Marys ward of the borough of Bexley council.  It was pleasantly surprising how supportive our neighbours were and how happy to sign every single one of them were. It really made me feel as though we’d properly become part of the community where we live. 🙂

Then Millie’s friend Molly Killy who she knows from from After-School Club came over to play.  Her mum came too and corrected us regarding Molly’s surname, which is in fact Kelly.

I took Amber to the shops.  Amber walked all there and back and nearly got run over when she stupidly ran into the road.  I was about ten yards ahead saying, for the 50 billionth time, “Come on, Amber!” when she decided to make a break for the path on the other side.  I could hear a car engine around the corner so I dropped all the shopping and ran into the road to scoop up a laughing Amber.

She had stopped laughing five minutes later when I finally finished shouting at her for being so silly and naughty.

I concluded a productive day with a bonfire, vengefully burning all the wretched spiky pyrocanther bushes I chopped down last autumn.  It took a lot of lamp oil, firelighters, paper, cardboard and matches, but I managed it in the end.  All that ash should be good for the new lawn, which I’m going to start on Friday (it being Good Friday, so we’re all at home).  It’s supposed to rain all week, however, so the digging will probably be difficult – and we’re going to Hatfield for most of the weekend, so I’m going to be up against it to get this all done…

Save BBC 6Music!

We went to Broadcasting House this afternoon to a very polite protest against the imminent closure of BBC 6Music.

The Lovely Melanie got to meet Adam Buxton, whom she’s a massive fan of, so it was a good day for her.  A very gracious and polite Adam tried to talk to Millie, but Millie was having none of it and just blanked him.  Sigh.

Ms. Amber’s school…

Ms. Amber’s school is a harsh, disciplined environment that takes only a very small number of the very brightest children.  Those selected for the school can expect to receive Ms. Amber’s own very focused attention at all times.

AMBER: Listen me!  White, listen me!

(SNOW) WHITE:

AMBER: Listen White!  Listen me!

(SNOW) WHITE:

AMBER: Listen me!  White!  Listen me!

Poor Snow White.  I thought we had it bad, having to hear about her seemingly every single minute of every single day from a very proud Ms. Amber.  But White…well…

I do wonder where Amber’s getting this “Listen!” from though, as it’s not something we say to her very often ever.  Amber is, in fact, actually quite a good listener.

Granted she says “No” to everything at the moment, but she always replies!

From the very small to the VERY big

Do you know how how big the universe is?  Do you?  Honestly?  I’ve seen numbers for the size of the universe and I still don’t know how big it is.

That’s because these numbers are different.  These numbers are big.  So big they can barely fit inside the heads of human beings, and that’s before you remember that they’re not just numbers, these are the figures that describe the actual distances and timescales of our universe.

When I was little I used to try to imagine what could be outside the universe, but my brain would almost literally recoil from such craziness and instead show me some very big monsters sitting just outside it (they looked a bit like the monsters from Where The Wild Things Are, as I recall).  What’s outside the universe?  Very big monsters!!

But as if Very Big Monsters weren’t bad enough there’s now growing evidence that something outside the universe is pulling great swathes of galaxies and superclusters towards it.

There’s stuff outside of our universe so utterly gigantically, titanically, stupendously massive that it’s pulling our – already gargantuan, colossal universe – towards it?????

There are scientists and philosophers who have suggested that human beings – as clever as we are – may not be clever enough to fully understand the universe we live in, that it may be more complicated than our brains can ever grasp.  Like outdated computers, our human minds simply can’t run the software needed to properly comprehend the universe.

I would be less surprised than disappointed if that turned out to be the case.  More disappointed because I want to understand how the universe works – I really do – but less surprised because our human brains evolved solely in response to the challenges of hunting and scavenging on the desert plains of Africa a few hundred thousand years ago.

That a biological computer which evolved to help us fill our stomachs could come even this far in understanding how the entire universe works seems an absolutely remarkable achievement.

Going soft?

I went to see Shutter Island the other night: a surprisingly average film remarkable in just one particular way: it was the first film I’ve ever seen where I came even slightly close to leaving the cinema.

Now, horror, even more than science fiction, is my cinematic genre and I’ve seen more horror films than I’ve had hot dinners, both the best and the worst that the genre has to offer.  These days it takes something a bit special to scare me

So what was it that nearly sent me scurrying for safety after all these years?  What could have had me seriously thinking “I don’t want to watch this any more“?

It was a scene in the film involving some dead children.

I won’t say anything else in case you want to see Shutter Island for yourself.  However, a few years back I could have easily watched this scene and simply thought, “Ooh, that’s not good.  Dead children=very nasty,” and carried on watching without difficulty.  Now though…

I didn’t, of course, leave the cinema – I stuck it out; but as someone who’s never even thought about stepping outside during a film before (except for the loo, obviously!) that’s honestly the closest I’ve ever come to doing it.

It’s the old chestnut of empathising more with the character in the film because you have your own kids: you try to imagine (and simultaneously try not not imagine) what it must be like to be that person – that poor damned soul who loses all their children.  And my imagination pretty much failed me on that score – tripping some kind of emotional failsafe, perhaps…?

Furthermore, the Lovely Melanie and I watched One Born Every Minute last night, a fascinating real-life TV show about babies being born.  Filmed in maternity wards around the country, cameras follow some of the women there having babies, their circumstances and those of their partners and families, all interspersed with talking head observations upon pregnancy by the professionals there – the midwives and nurses.

Anything related to the marvel of childbirth, basically.

This week was an episode about premature babies, which brought back so much of our experience with Millie in 2005 and had me feeling quite emotional about it all (I kept looking over to check that the Lovely Melanie was OK, but she was fine!)  At almost five years past it seems like such a long time ago for us now: Millie is a healthy four-and-a-half-year-old at big school who loves princesses, Star Wars and Cheerios, and most of the time we completely forget how she very nearly didn’t get the chance to be any of those things.

Watching the families on this programme struggling to keep their spirits up, to come to terms with what had happened, and to do the absolute very best for their new arrival…and having been in that same situation it made me want to reach into the screen and give them a hug; to help and comfort them any possible way I could.  It reminded me of why I volunteer for BLISS on their telephone helpline (even though I feel I’ve done disappointingly little to really help people on there of late).  It reminded me of how lucky we are to have both our girls – even if sometimes they’re a complete pain in the ass!

Between One Born Every Minute and Shutter Island it was a real jolt to my memories of that time in 2005, how amazing and how simultaneously terrifying it all was; and so I gave Millie an extra big hug this morning. 🙂

I’d be interested to hear if anyone knows of any scientific studies or evidence that being a father makes you “soft”.  I don’t think it’s a bad thing by any means, but I would swear that since the girls were born I’ve become “softer” – more willing/able to shed a tear, maybe more upset by other people’s pain and suffering, and I’m curious to know if that’s a universal experience or not…

Chaps – have you turned into a right ponce since the missus dropped that sprog?!  Let me know!