Some not terribly deep reflections upon Millie’s birthday

Events in our house like birthdays and Christmas are something I’ve begun watching the past year or so – mostly since I became aware of how randomly and easily “family traditions” can spontaneously begin.  We had ways of doing things when I was little – not hard and fast rules, just a certain order important occasions would usually take place in, and it’s become obvious that a similar thing is happening with Millie and Amber, too.

So today – Millie’s fifth birthday – I was looking out for the genesis of any traditions.  Not in a creepy way (it’s not a private science project or anything) – just to see if I could spot them as they appear.  Today was a school day, however, so there was never any real likelihood of anything out of the routine occurring.  I sang “Happy Birthday” to Millie when she got up and was hoping that Hooby might join in, but she just watched with a half-horrified half-amazed expression as I sang, never seriously looking like adding to the chorus.

We didn’t even open any presents or cards this morning, sad to say.  Millie didn’t seem to mind too much though, and everybody trooped off happily to school and nursery.  We were slightly early after dropping Hooby off at nursery so ‘Lays and I were able to take our time walking to the station and she got to walk along the top of  as many walls as she liked.  Usually we have to hurry and she can only walk along the walls by Sidcup station.  Today, though, we got to hang around on the bridge watching the trains go by underneath and read some of the newspaper, too, so all of these were my private presents for Millie. 🙂

I was worked at home today so was able to pop to the shops and buy a couple of helium balloons which I tied outside the house for when Millie came home.  Bloody hell, kids love helium balloons, don’t they??  They love ’em!  Such things were a real novelty when I was little, but despite being two-a-penny nowadays (well, £2.99, actually) our two still love them.  Even Hooby – who’s been scared of balloons since one my dad blew up made a scary noise – loved them today, carrying it around the house and getting quite upset when a gust of wind wafted hers into the kitchen and then blew the door shut.

Despite being blase about her birthday in the morning she began to get understandably impatient waiting for the Lovely Melanie to get home with Hooby so we could finally open cards and presents after school.  Both girls were exhausted by bedtime, especially after putting on The Lay-Lays and Hooby Show on video calls with grandparents from both sides of the family!

It’s getting late now so there’s no time for any great insights here, except to note once again how wonderful it is to see our kids utterly overwhelmed with excitement at their presents.  Even – again – Hooby, who got a little water bottle and hair-clips both with Hello Kitty on them and nearly burst a blood vessel she was so pleased.

Millie loved simple little things like the doorbell for her bedroom door and the lightsaber I bought off eBay, but she especially loved the tickets to see Mama Mia at the theatre.  It’s almost a shame she’s not going until August, as she’ll inevitably forget (although, every time she remembers once more she’ll probably be just as excited all over again!)

And so our big girl is now five years old, and those memories I have of seeing her in the incubator for the first time and being told not to get my hopes up are slowly beginning to fade; my recollections of spending endless evenings in the hospital, they’re slowly softening at the edges…  In a few more years I may struggle to remember what those weeks and months back in 2005 were really like.

At the time it seemed impossible to imagine this happening, caught up as we were in the adrenaline and desperation of it all, but time is not so much a great healer as a great softener of memories, and I can sense mine becoming ever more blurred as the years go by.

Given up on the politics…?

No, I haven’t given up writing about politics on here, but I am keeping a very very tight rein on it, otherwise there’d be a veritable flood of cross and despairing posts.  Not even I-told-you-so posts, rather, oh-no-it’s-happening-again posts.

I complained about Labour when they were in power: I was disappointed in their performance and regularly felt let down by their timidity in the face of business, but these complaints were that they could have done better, that we’d hoped for more and better from them.

Always at the back of my mind, however, was the reassuring thought that at least they weren’t the Tories.

Yeah? You want some, do ya?

I was not only alive but even old enough to vote (sometimes) when they were last in power in the ’80s and ’90s.  Back then we expected nothing but the worst from a Tory government and that was generally what we got – the worst.  They didn’t even pretend to care, let alone actually help anyone but the better off.

And so I’m holding my political fire for the moment.  We’ve got years more of this to come yet, and if you think it’s bad now – when they’re still slowly and painfully removing the disfiguring traces of that “Caring Conservatism” mask they wore to get elected – then you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Hell, I’m no longer even sure whether this kind of thing is funny or just indecently prescient.

Is it funny?  Is it??

Oh, I suppose it is.

On an entirely different note, one of my last pieces for the Spark at Yahoo! is now up.  It’s about the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  Read it, then email them demanding more from this up and coming young (ahem) writer.

In which water causes a fall

Yeah, it’s raining.  After more than a week of blazing temperatures and sunshine.  And it’s only taken that long for me to get sloppy and forget that I live in England and should always be prepared for inclement weather.

So we left the house to go to nursery, school and work this morning beneath a grey sky; but it was still warm, so nobody had coats – I didn’t even have my trusty umbrella in my trusty bag (I’m normally much better prepared than this!), having taken it out to save weight on the weekend trip to Bristol.

Once we were on the bus it began to rain.  Foolishly, we thought we were safe, but it rained some more.  And when we got off it rained a lot more.  So we hung about in nursery for as long as possible but, no, it carried on raining.

So Millie and I headed down the hill to Sidcup station.  In the rain.  Me in a t-shirt and jeans, Millie in just a school uniform and sun hat.  And we got soaked.

Then at the station Millie slipped going through the ticket gate and took a nasty bump on her forehead.  Lots of people stopped to try and help us, and the station staff couldn’t have been more sympathetic and helpful: taking us into the office and getting the First Aid kit out and everything.  She seems to be fine though – I kept a close eye on her afterwards and she had none of the symptoms of concussion.  She was very brave, too – obviously there were tears, but she soon rallied and didn’t make a great fuss.  I was jolly proud of her, especially in front of all those people.

But she will have a nasty bruise and lump on all of her 5th birthday photos.

What with the panic about that, the running about trying to stay dry (Fail!) and then having to return home and both of us get changed into dry clothes I am now shattered.  We only barely got Millie to school in time – the gate was shut when we got there, but luckily a teacher was still outside seeing to some children and she unlocked the gate and let us in; otherwise that would have been the last straw for my aching, sweating legs and sore hip (from carrying Millie on my shoulders).

In which I travel a bit…

Busy weekends?  Pah, I laugh at ’em!

Well, I do until I wake up really hungover on Sunday mornings a hundred miles from home; then I apologise profusely to them and promise it’ll never happen again, guv’nor.

And everything had been going so well until then.  Millie’s party at the Crayzee Barn play centre in Bexley went very well, everyone having a great time and coming home absolutely worn to a frazzle.  There were lots of pictures taken (most of them not so good as the subjects were usually in extremely rapid motion) which I’ll try and upload tonight.

One thing I couldn’t help noticing was how rough some of the boys play.  Now, I’m pretty much a lily-livered pacifist – violence makes me extremely nervous – plus, both my children are girls, but I didn’t think this would make quite such a difference amongst 4-5 year-olds.  Perhaps the girls argued and fought just as much as the boys at the party (or even more?) but I didn’t notice it because their disagreements didn’t end up in physical confrontations as often as  those of the boys did.

And when the boys played  – even if they weren’t arguing – there was always pushing and shoving and people getting kicked and hit and knocked over.  It was actually a bit unnerving to watch and made me feel a bit helpless to intervene, to be honest (I know, I know – they’re five-year-olds!  Get some nuts!)  Luckily some of the mums (the ones with boys) had no such qualms and waded right into the thick of things whenever a bit of argy-bargy broke out.

I came out of the Crayzee Barn once again secretly quite glad to have two daughters.  They might whine a bit sometimes, they might love screaming loud enough to perforate an eardrum, they might even smack me occasionally, but I’ve never seen them deliberately punch or kick or push over another child.

Well, maybe I have seen them do it occasionally, but always somewhat half-heartedly by comparison.  And I’m not saying that to brag or boast, rather as someone genuinely a bit unnerved.

Straight after the party I made a dash for Bristol, which all went surprisingly smoothly.  Arriving at Bristol Temple Meads at 7.45pm it was a beautiful warm evening so I walked to the pub (following my iPhone directions – I don’t know Bristol that well!) and had a really lovely night.  It was my sister-in-law Conny’s 30th birthday, so I was glad to be able to make it for that, but loads of old friends had made the effort to come, too, so it was lovely to catch up with all of them.

I don’t remember drinking to excess (although I’m not sure what counts as “excess” these days since I don’t drink at home and very seldom have more than 3-4 pints when at the pub) but I surely remember how utterly crappy I felt on Sunday.  Having to travel back home feeling like that really was a dreadful prospect, I don’t mind telling you.  Luckily, I was just beginning to rally slightly by the time my train was due at 1.30, so it wasn’t too bad.

Just “bad”.

Thank goodness I booked a first class ticket so I had a quiet carriage, fierce air conditioning and a large comfortable seat.

I made a pact with my body – we agreed that if it would just get me home to Bexley then it could collapse, which is exactly what happened.

Just so you know…

Don’t expect too much on here over the weekend.  in fact you may as well go out, catch some sun, see your family and friends.  Go on – don’t sit indoors all day waiting for me to update here! 😛

I’m staying in tonight as the Lovely Melanie is going to the pub with some mums of Millie’s classmates.  Tomorrow, however, I’ve been invited to TWO birthday parties!

Party#1 is Millie’s, the one for all her school friends (the one for family is the weekend after).  It’s a joint party with Freya, a girl from her class, so we can split the cost of hiring a play centre for the party, otherwise the party would probably be happening somewhere else…

That party’s from one till three, but we’ve also got to set things up and sort stuff out afterwards, so add maybe another hour on either end?

Party #2 involves me getting to Paddington station to catch a six o’clock train to Bristol where Conny, my sister-in-law, will be celebrating her 30th birthday with a big night out on the Bristol town.  I’m staying the night at their place after that, catching a train back on Sunday afternoon – first class, too, in an attempt to make my hangover on the train a bit more manageable. 😉

Tragically, it seems the England vs. Germany World Cup match takes place while I’m travelling so I’ll have to forego that dubious pleasure. 😛

No-2 (see what I did there…?)

Bah!  I’ve got sore feet from waiting outside of an O2 store in Bexleyheath for over two hours this morning, and all to no avail. 😦

My cunning plan to get an iPhone 4 saw me on the bus at just after 7am this morning, the Lovely Melanie’s mocking “You’re A Geek, My Husband Is A Geek” song ringing in my uncaring ears, half convinced that I was ridiculous geek and that I’d be sat outside the O2 shop by myself waiting for the manager to arrive and favour me with a pitying smile.

Turns out I know nothing about the cult of Apple – I was there at about five past seven and was still about 40th in line.  Why was I there at five past seven queuing to buy a new phone?  It’s a fair question.  Mainly because I knew that the iPhone 4 was going to be in short supply for a while yet – if I could get one today it would be quite a coup, and getting one from Bexleyheath should have been a doddle: a case of simply dropping by the store to renew my contract, grab my phone and continue on my way into work.

Again, as I say, I learned a valuable lesson about the cult of Apple today.

There was a nice mix of ages and sexes and the queue was quite chatty and good-natured.  The weirdest thing about it was Bexleyheath town centre – it was teeming with school kids, a hundred or so of the buggers just hanging around!  And 5-6 policemen keeping a friendly eye on things, too.

Anyway, the O2 shop opened at 8am and the line crept forward with agonising slowness until about 8.50, when the manager came out to announce that all of the 32Gb models were gone but they still had plenty of 16Gb ones left, so if we could all please exercise some patience then we’d all get a phone.

Cue smiles all round.

About five minutes later he came out with another announcement: there are 8-ahem iPhones left.

How many?

8-ahem.

80?  Well, that’s OK.  There’s about 120 people in the line by now, but I’m easily in the first 80.

No, not 80, 8-ahem. (his inability to enunciate numbers was now becoming annoying)

80?  Or 18?

8-ahem.

18?

Yes.

Not 80?

No.

Bugger.

Well…hold on, the manager’s just counting the line… He’s coming closer to me, closer and…

Yes!  I’m four inside in the safety zone!  Yay! 😀

Five minutes later he comes back, counting again, and stops at the woman in front of me in the queue.

Sorry, we only have 14 left now.

What?! You said 18!  What happened to 18?????

Yes, I forgot to count the people inside the shop.

At which point I set fire to the Bexleyheath branch of O2 and laughed as it burnt to the ground.  In my head.

I’ve since decided to buy an iPhone 4 direct from Apple, use that on O2 until my contract with them is up in a few months then move to another – hopefully better – mobile operator.