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?