Sunday, December 31, 2006

The most momentous year of my life

I've had other momentous years, but I don't think it's an exaggeration to describe 2006 as the most momentous year of my life.

And the second half of the year was certainly the most momentous six months I've ever experienced. The four and a half months from mid July to the end of November, saw me get married, become a father and turn 50 - all for the first time! While there's no choice about the timing of the last one, with regard to the first two it's definitely a case of better late than never.

Liz and I sat down this morning and made some resolutions and plans for 2007 - after all we want to keep that momentum going and we've now got Dan's future to think of as well as our own. And of course I'll continue to blog about or experiences here. In the meantime a very happy new year to those of you reading this.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

What do Pele and this blog have in common?

Edson Arantes do Nascimento is by many people's account the greatest footballer the world has ever seen, although Maradonna could also lay claim to that accolade.

He was given the nickname Pele at school - and promptly thumped the boy who coined it. He thought it sounded like 'baby talk' in Portuguese. It actually means 'miracle' in Hebrew.

Still, it could have been worse. Read the full story - and the nickname his parents originally gave him - here.

Can't let the kids have all the fun

Dan got some lovely things for Christmas, including clothes, games, books and educational toys.

Mum and Dad were feeling a bit left out so we've just bought soome toys of our own - a camcorder and a flat screen monitor for the PC. Still I did get a Jeremy Clarkson DVD, so I'm not doing too badly in the toy department. Must hurry up and get on with sorting the extension so I can set up the Scalextric.

Working out

We all need to keep in shape and Dan's no exception.

Here he is in his new 'mini gym', stretching those little arms and legs to reach the various toys hanging around him.

He seems to be having a lot of fun - after all that Christmas indulgence I think his dad would benefit from something similar!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Five things you may not know about me

Keen blog readers will have seen the 'five things' meme on a range of blogs - usually in response to having been 'tagged ' and thereby invited to participate.

Invitation or not, here's mine:
- I saw the Beatles live at the Liverpool Empire in 1965, when I was just eight. (I think my mum had a crush on Paul McCartney).
- The best job I've ever had was spending a summer selling oriental rugs to tourists in Istanbul's grand bazaar. I didn't sell many rugs, but it was a great adventure.
- My birthday is the same as Winston Churchill - 30 November.
- When trekking in Nepal my companion and I got lost in the mist and ended up sleeping out at c13,000 feet.
- In 1985 I cycled from Old Hall Marshes on the Essex coast to Islay off south-west Scotland in aid of the RSPB's Eric Morecambe memorial appeal.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

My name's Paul and I'm an introvert

Yes, I am one of the 25 per cent of people who are introverted, usually found in the kitchen at parties (if they go to them at all) and often poorly understood by the extrovert majority. Yesterday I came across this excellent blog post about marketing to introverts.

Introverts are thoughtful, imaginative, tend to work independently and think outside the box. Introverts are keen observers and sensitive listeners. Introverts prefer one-to-one contact, can be loathe to speak up in group situations and are often drawn to life’s spiritual side. Introverts like to stop and think before responding or taking action. Introverts are not antisocial, shy, or aloof.

While introverts may feel at a disadvantage in an extrovert world, well-known introverts in fact and fiction include Clint Eastwood, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Al Gore, Carl Jung, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Potter and Jane Eyre.

Improving one's understanding of what makes a quarter of the population tick seems a pretty valuable exercise - especially if it helps you understand yourself better. If you want to know more take a look at this website. There's even a book on how to make the most of the special gifts of introverted children.

The ultimate baby instruction manual?

Having problems understanding your baby? Well I may just have found that elusive baby instruction manual that so many parents are searching for.

On the recommendation of our friend Justine, we have bought a copy of 'The Social Baby - understanding babies' communication from birth.' This uses stills from video footage of babies in action, to explain the tell-tale visual cues that can help you understand what your baby is thinking. It covers topics such as crying, distress, social contact and emotional support and looks like a 'must read' for every new parent. (Also available on video and DVD).

We've also acquired 'Games to play with babies' - 225 fun-filled games which help to build important developmental skills. Published by the modestly named 'Brilliant Publications', this should ensure that Dan isn't subjected endlessly to the same feeble attempts by his dad to be entertaining.

That's my Christmas holiday activities sorted!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Babies don't last for ever

It's true - babies grow up faster than you realise.

In the past week Dan has:
- had his first jabs
- started wearing separates
- begun sleeping in a Grobag
- graduated from a Moses basket to a cot
- almost certainly passed the eleven pounds mark
- slept for more than five hours in a stretch
- acquired this rather fetching new hat

He's more alert, responsive and demanding. He smiles more, gurgles and yells with frustration when he doesn't get what he wants. Before we know it, he'll be talking and moving around under his own steam.

I'm still left wondering, how come I'm responsible for this growing child when I haven't yet grown up myself?

The ultimate prioritisation tool

Need to improve your prioritisation skills? Get yourself a baby!

Once you have a baby to look after, you have to make some hard choices. Do I get washed and dressed, have some breakfast or write an entry on my blog? And of course there's feeding the baby, changing his nappy and winding him. Not to mention giving him a bath, washing his clothes, keeping him entertained, getting him off to sleep.

However many things you'd like to do in any one day, you can probably only do half of them. So, think carefully about what matters most - and don't forget to change out of your night clothes before you rush out of the house.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

So this is Christmas!

Friday was my last day at work for over two weeks. It was also the day of our department's Christmas lunch - here we are at the White Horse at Southill.

I got a very appropriate book in the secret Santa - 'Why don't penguins' feet freeze?', together with a note saying it would help answer all those 'why daddy?' questions in the future. I suspect I'll need more than the one book to answer those, but it's a good start. It's a compilation of answers sent in by readers of the 'Last Word' - a column in the New Scientist - to questions such as 'What is the best way to produce winning conkers?' and 'Why do flying fish fly?'

They're very smart those New Scientist readers. If you want to know the answers you'll have to get a copy.

Born in the apple time

The apple tree in our garden was in full leaf and heavy with fruit, ten weeks ago yesterday when Dan was born. Today the leaves are all gone, but as you can see many of the apples remain.

Nearly eighty-five years ago my great-grandfather in Denmark planted a tree to mark the birth of my mother. He went on to plant four more to celebrate the arrival of each of her sisters over the following twenty years.

My mother has given us some money for a tree to comemmorate the arrival of Daniel - her third grandchild, born some forty years after the first. Family traditions and continuity take on so much more meaning once you have a child of your own.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Improve your relationships by blogging

What makes a great relationship?

Understanding what makes each other tick is high on my list.
Occasional surprises is another one.
Having a few laughs along the way helps too.

I mentioned my sister in my last post. As she is in Denmark we only see each other about once a year - sadly the last time was at her husband's funeral. Yet despite the distance and the infrequent nature of our seeing each other, we have a great relationship. And I think it's fair to say that me blogging has helped to make it even better.

Reading personal blogs is a great way of catching up and finding out what makes people tick. If you're anything like me you'll probably write stuff on your blog that you're unlikely to come out with in conversation. There's something about the more intimate and reflective nature of writing that encourages me to say more about how I think and feel than I'm likely to do face to face.

Which brings me to young Daniel. At just nine weeks old he isn't very interested in much beyond his next guzzle of breast milk, staying warm and comfortable, and sleeping for around fifteen hours each day - though not necessarily at the times we'd like to!

What will Daniel make of this blog in years to come?

I never really knew what made my dad tick and once he was gone there were no diaries, blogs or podcasts to provide a better insight into his life, his aspirations and his motivations. He didn't share much with me in his later years - other than long silences over the occasional beer. Hopefully my relationship with Dan will be rather different. I hope that we'll be able to say and do things in a way that I didn't with my dad. But if not - or we simply run out of time - I hope this blog will help him to better understand his father.

In the meantime I intend to enjoy my blogging - and I hope that you as a reader will enjoy it too. And that we'll have a better relationship as a result - whether I see you every day, once a year, or only 'talk' to you through this blog.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Does traffic matter?

Yes - but only if getting lots of traffic (or visitors to your blog) is your primary objective.

'Baby Talk' is just one of 62.2 million blogs being tracked by leading blog search engine Technorati. And this number is steadily growing. That's a hell of a lot of people around the world tapping away on their PCs and laptops.

Many of us are doing it simply for fun, or for creative expression, some are doing it for commercial benefit.

You can put any blog url into Technorati's search facility and see how that blog ranks - largely based on how many other blogs have chosen to link to it. The top 100 ranked bloggers are known as 'A listers' and some people's main mission as a blogger appears to be to break into this elite club. 'A list' blogs I enjoy reading include Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, PostSecret and Treehugger. If you want to keep up with a range of blogs you need a newsreader such as Bloglines to alert you to new posts in your chosen blogs.

Put 'Baby Talk' into Technorati and you'll find that it's currently ranked at 2,291,044 and no other bloggers have chosen to link here - yet. Being a guy, I'm not averse to a bit of competition, so I'd love to see my blog climb up the chart. However, rankings are not everything and are certainly not my main motivation. I spent 20 minutes this morning talking to my sister Wicki in Denmark - free of charge thanks to Skype - and she told me just how much she enjoys reading about my new family's adventures.

So, I do have at least one avid reader and her feedback, combined with the satisfaction I get from doing this, is enough justification for me.

Actually I have a few more than one. At the top left of this blog you can click on the Sitemeter button and find out who's been visiting. In addition to the UK and Europe, I've had visitors from California, Alaska, New South Wales and South Africa - some of them have even come back! Quite a few of my regular visitors I can identify as family, friends and colleagues. Other than those in Denmark, I don't know who the overseas visitors are. Do they stumble across this blog by chance? do they know me or Liz from somewhwere? are they looking for stuff about parents and babies?

If you're reading this blog I'd love to hear from you. You can leave comments at the end of any post or you can email me at

If you're a fellow blogger please consider linking to here. Oh, and if you happen to be an 'A lister' do give me a plug.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ten things I didn't know before I was a dad

Some of them I did know once, but had forgotten. Also there are far more than ten, but here's my 'starter' list:
- Mothercare does actually serve a useful purpose
- singing nursery rhymes can be fun
- the joys of gurgling
- how wonderful my son smells
- work isn't as important as I thought
- just what a difference a day really can make
- prams don't fit into cars as easily as they should
- the expression 'sleeping like a baby' is an oxymoron
- what miraculous stuff breast milk is
- how great it feels when people say 'what a beautiful baby!'

Anyone care to add their own?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Going away

We're off to Southwold on the Suffolk coast for a few days, staying at the rather splendid looking Seaview House. Some friends are joining us for part of the time and I'll post a selection of birthday photos on my return.

On this day 50 years ago

I came into the world in a Liverpool hospital, born to a danish mother and an english father.

Among the many lovely things I've received this morning is this photograph, taken about 35 years ago of me (on the right) with two of my danish cousins.

What can I capture in a short blog entry to give a flavour of all that's happened in those 50 years? I thought about setting myself the challenge of summarising 50 years in 50 words, but it would probably have been meaningless to anyone else.

What are the things that have mattered to me most over those years? Family and friends, special places and special people. As you get older your life is increasingly punctuated by significant events - weddings, funerals, births, journeys, some shocks and surprises.

Most painful among the memories is the loss of two special friends, each of whom committed suicide before reaching 40. While I was no longer particularly close to either of them when it happened, both had been very important to me at different times in my life - such a tragic end.

I could equally write about many happy times with many special people, but they know who they are and those stories won't mean much to you if you weren't there.

So, I'll finish by recalling some special places and special experiences, which you could choose to share if you haven't already...
- travelling along the Bosphorus by ferry from Istanbul
- walking in the Lakes and north Wales
- dawn on the Ganges at Varanassi
- evenings in downtown Havana
- trekking the Langtang valley in Nepal
- dinner at sunset in Gumusluk, with the sea lapping your feet
- a summer selling oriental rugs to tourists in Istanbul's grand bazaar
- cheering on Shankly's Liverpool from the Kop
- cycling in heavy snow through the mountains in Majorca
- close encounters with eagles and otters on the Isle of Mull
- dinner with Clint Eastwood
- strolling along the sand at Holkham
- the interior of Rustem Pasha
- camel trekking in the Sahara
- dusk in the Djemma el Fnaa
- watching whales and albatrosses off Monterey and Kaikoura
- the bar at the Infante Sagres hotel in Porto

I could go on...

I very much hope that by the time Daniel reaches the age of fifty he'll have experienced at least as rich a range of special places and special people. And that he will have his own family to share them with.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Your baby needs feedback

Successful relationships are built upon effective feedback.

At work and at home we need to feel, valued, respected, listened to and loved. We all enjoy getting encouragement, praise and rewards. Whether it's in the boardroom or the bedroom, we can all benefit from constructive advice about where and how we can do things better.

The Gordon Ramsay school of feedback, with his constant effing and blinding is somewhat extreme. He knocks people down, then builds them up. His feedback style is always blunt and often brutal. He makes the X Factor's Simon Cowell look like a pussycat. Yet he leaves people in no doubt where they are going wrong and what they need to change to get the results they want. Judging by last night's Kitchen Nightmare, this can be a recipe for success.

Babies need feedback too, although not of the Gordon Ramsay variety. They need to feel that the world is a happy and safe place where all their needs will be met. They're constantly getting signals from you and others around them. How you speak to them, look at them and hold them. How you respond when they cry, when they pooh and when they feed - it all shapes how they feel about the world, which in turn must influence their psychological development.

With babies of Daniel's age it's pretty simple. They need unconditional praise and unconditional love. Get this right and you'll be rewarded by the greatest feedback of all - your baby's smiling face.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Let's hear it for the sound of silence

I'm not sure you can fully appreciate just how glorious the sound of silence is, until you've endured a baby screaming uncontrollably for half an hour.

I write this having just listened to Daniel do this for the first time. This was no ordinary crying fit, but a deep, guttural and gut wrenching succession of screams, punctuated with occasional, all too brief seconds of respite.

I found myself desperately flicking through the pages of Penelope Leach's Your Baby & Child, looking for a swift and miraculous cure. Could this be colic? Is there something seriously wrong with him? Is my baby about to explode?

And then - just as we were contemplating going for a drive as a last resort - he stopped. Actually he seemed to respond to us turning the main light on, suggesting he got panicked by being put down on his own in the near dark.

Managing your baby's performance

Spent most of today in a training course about performance management.

Lots of useful advice about how to ensure you get the performance and behaviour you want out of the people around you.

It did start me thinking about 'managing' Daniel, but Liz assures me he's still a little too young for written objectives and appraisals.

Mothers and babies

We've just been watching a BBC programme about incredible animal journeys. Apparently a female gray whale swims with her calf all the way from Mexico to Alaska.

Puts a rather different perspective on the trip to the local supermarket.

Not that I'd try to compare Liz and Daniel with a whale and her calf.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

All dressed up and ready to go

Water baby

Elusive smile

Over the last few days Daniel has begun smiling, with occasional longer 'chuckles'. And no, it's definitely not wind.

I'd love to post a photo of him smiling. However, whenever I point the camera at his face he puts on his rather serious 'fascinated by camera' expression and his smile remains elusive.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy this photo of some smiling kids having fun.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Piling on the pounds

Breast milk is clearly powerful stuff. Dan has gone from a modest 7lbs 3oz to a chunky 9lbs 2oz in a fortnight. That's a pound a week, which is not inconsiderable if you started out only a few weeks ago at just over 5lbs.

All that guzzling is paying dividends. So much so that he needs to ease off the bodybuilding a bit within a couple of weeks. I'm sure Liz won't object - feeding a baby on breast milk must feel a bit like having a ball and chain.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Just how long is five years?

Yes I know this sounds like a stupid question, but do bear with me.

Yesterday I was in a meeting of senior managers discussing the RSPB's next corporate strategy, which looks ahead for five years. When you're talking about an organisation that has been around for nearly 120 years, five years is a relatively short timescale. Which isn't to suggest that a lot can't happen in that time, but at the end of it the organisation is unlikely to be radically different.

When you're talking about a six week old baby, five weeks is plenty long enough to experience radical change. At this stage of their development no two weeks are the same, which is all part of the fun. Every single day young babies experience something new and do something different.

In five years' time Dan will certainly be radically different from how he is now - he'll be walking, talking and going to school. His personality will have emerged and we'll have some strong indicators of what his future might hold.

Of course as adults we have much more control over lives - five weeks, five days, five years or five minutes - they can be as long or short, as radical or predictable as you choose to make them.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Here's to reaching 50

Yes, in ten days time - at the end of the month I'll turn 50 - on St Andrew's Day no less.

It feels both exciting and scary, rather like becoming a parent. I guess both of them are signs that I may finally be growing up, which arguably is a 'good thing'. So, I'm older, fatter, greyer and slower than I used to be. Each day I destroy more of my brain cells and my arteries get harder.

Last week my boss Mike said he could barely remember what it was like when his children, who are now twenty somethings, were babies. I retorted that by the time Dan is twenty something I'll be lucky if I can remember anything at all.

And yet, despite being older, fatter, greyer and slower than I used to be - with fewer brain cells and narrower arteries - I am also happier than I can remember being before.

So, here's to being fifty - bring it on! (But please, no photographs...)

Five things that get up my nose.

How honest is your blog? I ask because you may feel there are limits to what you can and can't say.

If like me you flatter yourself that your partner, mother, mother-in-law, colleagues and friends read your blog - at least occasionally - then you're probably going to take care about what you say about them. The thing is that - wonderful as they all are - most of them get up my nose from time to time.

And of course if I say what it is that's getting up my nose, then whoever I'm referring to is probably going to work it out. Should I worry about that? I'm not sure, but I do. So, here's a reasonably generic list of things that get up my nose - and my readers can work out which if any apply to them.
- unnecessary mess
- sloppy work
- lousy spelling and grammar
- whingeing on about the same old things
- lack of consideration for others

Looking at that list again, I can see I'm guilty of all of them - except number three I hope - myself at times. Still, it's been a long day - time to chill out with another glass of wine.

So, that's what gets up my nose - what gets up yours?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Do psychotherapists think we're all barmy?

I was reading a leaflet this morning about newborns' crying and sleeping habits. According to psychotherapists it is important to meet all of your baby's needs in order to help his or her emotional development.

So, should we accept this at face value as sensible and objective advice based on years of experience and detailed research? I always imagined that psychotherapists - however well balanced they may be themselves - would prefer us to pay them to fix our emotional problems, rather than helping us to fix them for ourselves without their expert intervention.

I'm sure I do them a disservice. What's more I recommend the work of the Child Psychotherapy Trust for providing clear, well-presented guidance about the everyday problems that beset parents everywhere. You can find their excellent Understanding Childhood leaflets here.

Friday, November 17, 2006

What is it about Children in Need?

Here we go again - Pudsey bear, Terry Wogan, naff soap stars, ancient actors, egotistical newsreaders, the Sound of Music and artificially-enhanced 'models'.

Yes it's Children in Need, the BBC's annual fundraising extravaganza. Yet there are some bright spots among the dross. Right now I'm listening to Westlife singing 'Easy'. Ok, it may not rate as cool, but it is one of those songs that puts a smile on my face.

Coming later...Emma Bunton. She's not exactly Petula Clark, but hey here's to 'Downtown' - it doesn't get much better than that! Rather uncharitably the Daily Record suggests this year's event would be more appropriately entitled Unemployed-Spice-Girl-In-Need.

It's certainly a mixed bag, but I don't mind admitting that there was a clip just now that brought a tear to my eye - as a new parent it seems to be hitting a spot that wasn't there previously.

So, whatever you think of some of the performers - and it is all just a bit of harmless fun - just remember that all that money can make a real difference for children who really need and deserve it.
(Emma - whose idea was that ridiculous little hat?)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Top tips on getting your baby to sleep

As you may have gathered, I have no claims to any great expertise on this subject - in fact quite the opposite.

Fortunately the internet is a wonderful resource and there is no shortage of helpful advice. Take this page of sleep links from The Mother of All Blogs for example. In addition to the practical stuff there is also a link to a Flickr pool of sleeping baby photos.

It has to be said that many of them are extremely cute - almost as cute as Daniel (when he's asleep that is).

And here is a Squidoo lens featuring answers to the top seven baby sleep questions - sweet dreams!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Yes it is all true...

Surprise, surprise, I can confirm that looking after a baby sometimes feels like an endless round of feeding, nappy changing, wiping up sick and not getting enough sleep.

As a first-time parent it's easy to fret about whether or not you're doing the right thing, whether your little darling is unwell, tired, hungry or simply giving you the runaround. At five weeks I don't think he's quite reached that stage, but I suspect he'll be making mischief before too long. And of course I'd be disappointed if he didn't. After all he is his father's son and he's got things to live up to.

His sleeping patterns have been somewhat erratic. Liz looks forward to the time when he starts to make more of a distinction between day and night. He's also being 'sick' quite often. However, a bit of online research suggests this is more 'spitting up' after feeding than anything else.

Apparently the time to really worry is if they start projectile vomiting over distances of three to four feet. Part of me is intrigued by this prospect and part of me most definitely doesn't want to witness it - especially if I'm in the line of fire!

A cat called Fatdust

Poor old Starlight has acquired a rather unfortunate new nickname.

It's not the first time her name has become the subject of some amusement. Latterly Liz's dear old dad got a bit confused and began calling her Skylight. More recently various visitors have commented on the fact that she's become a bit tubby of late.
Then my mother referred to her as Stardust when she was here over the weekend. Being a boy I can't resist a bit of teasing, so I've taken to calling her Fatdust. Luckily she can't understand, but then again she has been giving me some strange looks...

Monday, November 13, 2006

The generation game

I was going to post a photo of my mum, Daniel and myself, but looking at it again I'm sure neither my mum nor I would have thanked me for doing so.

Instead here's another and far more attractive photo of three generations, photographed at Waresley. My mother being danish, prefers to be referred to as 'farmor', which is the danish for 'father's mother'. I guess this helps to avoid any possible confusion that might otherwise arise between sets of grandparents. And there aren't many babies here in England who can claim to have a farmor.

Grannies are a good thing

Here's Liz's mum with Daniel.

In the last few days we've had separate visits from both grandmothers. They are now of course understandably more interested in their grandson than in either of us - he has considerable novelty value whereas they've had to put up with us for years.

I guess Daniel is also something of an unexpected bonus, as probably both mothers - mine especially - had pretty much given up on the likelihood of either of us producing any offspring. Unfortunately neither of them is close enough to see him as often as they might like, but that makes the time they can spend together all the more precious.

So it's lovely to see them enjoying this somewhat belated gift in their lives.
Talking of gifts, here is a photo of Daniel with presents from his auntie Karin - letters for his nursery door and hand-knitted socks to keep his feet warm - I'm sure he'll grow into them before too long.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The price of parenthood

You know how everyone tells you that being a parent is expensive?

You get those jokes about a father being someone who has a photograph where his money used to be. Of course as an expectant/new parent you nervously laugh these off as scare stories, reassuring yourself that for all sorts of reasons your own children are going to be 'cheaper to run' than suggested.

Well, a new report confirms every parent's worst fears - £180,137 is the current cost of raising a child until the age of 21. Although by most accounts it's not as if the bank of mum and dad becomes magically redundant once this milestone has been reached.

"Raising a family requires careful financial planning and regular saving, as well as a great deal of hard work," said Liverpool Victoria's communications director Nigel Snell.
So, my thoughts are already turning to how Daniel might make a fast buck or two.
While he's small enough to go up chimneys quite easily, I don't think it's a particularly lucrative option.
Being adopted by a multi-millionaire pop star is another obvious option.

Or given that he's so cute maybe we'll hang onto him in the hope of landing a well-paid child modelling contract.

You can buy an awful lot for one hundred and eighty grand - two Aston Martins for a start. Though why you'd need two I'm not really sure - his and his maybe?

Or how about that villa on the turkish coast, luxury house, early retirement... Still, I'm sure he's going to prove worth every really, I am.