Thursday, January 25, 2007

Will you be staring out of the window this weekend?

Around half a million people across the UK are expected to spend an hour staring out of the window this weekend. And far from idly daydreaming they will be doing something useful - taking part in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch.

This annual survey is by far the biggest of its kind in the world. It has been running for 27 years and provides valuable data on trends in garden bird populations - useful stuff when it comes to monitoring the impacts of climate change and the like.

Already thousands of children have been participating in the Big Schools Birdwatch this week. I know Dan is going to enjoy this when he gets older - the headline message for this event is 'I must stare out of the window in class.'

It doesn't get much better than that for kids.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Deep and crisp and even

It snowed last night.

I'd almost forgotten what snow looks like, but here it was again - a couple of inches coating everything in a satisfyingly crunchy blanket of the white stuff. With all the evidence of rising temperatures, I sometimes fear we'll never have snow again, so despite the cold and a bit of minor hassle it's something to be welcomed.

Here's Dan tucked up in his snow suit and pictured at the front of our house. I promise he was only there very briefly - or so Liz assures me - so there's no need to report us to the NSPCC.

This was of course Dan's first experience of snow - and hopefully not his last. Whether he'll be able to enjoy the same amount of sledging, snowball fights and snowmen building as I did as a child is highly unlikely. But for now a night of snow feels like a positive reminder that the world's weather hasn't gone completely bonkers - at least not yet.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A parent's wishful thinking

"Thank you for screaming. Both your parents are busy right now. Your scream is important to us and will be dealt with as soon as a parent becomes free."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Marriage guidance anyone?

No, I'm not suggesting that Liz and I need this.

But I have just read a hugely entertaining article with some great tips on improving relationships. The article is linked to from a blog post with one of the most enticing headlines you'll ever see. You can find it here.

I'm starting to experiment on Liz already. Some of it may also be relevant to Dan, so he's next - followed by my team at the office!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Not exactly Grand Designs

If you're anything like Liz and me you'll enjoy watching Channel 4's Grand Designs, presented by the very engaging Kevin McCloud - pictured here promoting National Gutters Day no less. For those of you who haven't seen it, this is the more acceptable face of reality tv - a programme that follows the fortunes of people with unthinkably ambitious schemes to build their dream home. Tempting as the idea is, it's far too scary a prospect for people like me who find even the most basic DIY jobs challenging.

However, with Dan's arrival we are contemplating how we can create some additional space without having to spend a fortune in the process. So we spent yesterday morning wandering around the house with an architect, exploring various options for extending and converting what we've got.

If all goes to plan we'll have significantly extended our lounge, converted the garage to a playroom and created some proper eating space in the kitchen by the autumn.

That's grand enough for me, for now.

In the meantime there's no escape from runing repairs such as fixing the shed roof felt, part of which was ripped off in the recent storms. So here I am, testing those limited DIY skills to their extreme. Quite a tidy job by my standards - if you ignore the cup of tea that took an unfortunate tumble!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A good meal goes a long way

It's no good moping about your team's FA Cup defeat for too long - especially when there's a birthday to be celebrated.

In fact we had double cause for celebration - it was Liz's mum's birthday and she's just bought a house. Being a gentleman I'm not going to reveal how old my mother-in-law is - except to say that Paul McCartney wrote a rather famous song about being this age.

The Three Horseshoes at Madingley is a rather splendid gastro pub and we enjoyed an excellent meal. Dan behaved himself very well. We enjoyed the views of Madingley Hall, where King Edward VII stayed as a Cambridge University undergraduate. And Daniel got his grandmother some entertaining presents, including a pair of pink fluffy dice for her new car, plus a pink sign saying 'Princess on Board.'

And to make life even sweeter Everton were thrashed 4-1 by Blackburn.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

It still hurts after all these years

As a young child it used to make me cry myself to sleep. As an adult I manage to exercise a bit more restraint, but I'm not sure that I feel any less miserable about it.

I am of course talking about football and seeing Liverpool defeated in a crucial game. In my book every match is a crunch match, but today's was especially so - our first defence of the FA Cup since we beat West Ham in a thrilling final last May. Today saw us soundly beaten 3-1 by Arsenal - and at Anfield to make matters worse.

Two years ago en route to winning the European Cup for the fifth time, there was a Liverpool fans' banner that read 'Make Us Dream'. We dreamt of winning then, but without any great expectation. We simply wanted our team to perform in a way that filled us with hope.

On that occasion they didn't disappoint us and won in unprecedented style in Istanbul. Today a dream was shattered for another season.

The legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly was one of my boyhood heroes. He is commemorated with a statue - based on this photo - at the entrance to Anfield.

It bears the simple inscription 'He made the people happy'.

You can't ask for more than that.

Weighing in

Dan now weighs 12lbs 9oz (5.7kg), which is only just under the average for his age and means he's putting on half a pound per week.

When I mentioned this at work one of my colleagues rather uncharitably volunteered that he'd 'soon have a beer belly like his dad' - I don't know, you just can't get the quality of staff these days.

Beer belly is such an unattractive term - which may be entirely appropriate - but personally I'd find it far easier to think of myself with a 'wine midriff'.

And it would a more accurate description to boot.

Young love

Here's Dan with his 'girlfriend', Erin.

As you can see they are already cuddling up to each other on the sofa. He's looking pretty pleased with himself and she obviously recognises a good catch when she sees one.

Who knows where it will lead?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Seven up!

Dan slept for over seven hours in one stretch last night - beating his previous record by two hours.

The prospect of a return to something approaching normal sleeping patterns finally beckons!

A pussycat and her pink palace

We've had to do a certain amount of re-organsiation since Dan's arrival. What was our office is now Dan's nursery and we've just replaced the bed in the spare bedroom with a sofa bed. The upheaval has left one of our cats - Starlight aka Fatdust - without a settled sleeping place.

However, we've now rectified this by providing her with this splendid pink palace.
I don't know, cats have all the fun!

Shit happens!

One thing you can guarantee with babies is that they are constantly active at both ends.

A steady stream of dribble trickles from their mouths, with occasional more substantial regurgitations of their last injection of breast milk. While at the other end... well I'll leave that to your imagination.

Thankfully what ends up in their nappies has no significant odour - not until they're weaned at least. And I have to confess I've become rather partial to the smell of the scented nappy disposal bags.

So far so good, but all those nappies present a major environmental problem. According to the Women's Environmental Network, here in the UK we dispose of three billion nappies every year - that's eight million every day. Ninety per cent of these end up in landfill where they can take hundreds of year to degrade and the disposal process is costing local authorities millions of pounds.

I do feel somewhat guilty that we're contributing to this problem by using throwaway, disposable nappies. Then I look at the huge piles of washing we now generate without any terry nappies.

How my mother's generation coped with washing all nappies and baby clothes by hand, I simply can't imagine.

Understanding baby talk

Having trouble interpreting your baby's babbling noises?

Well according to one researcher all babies make the same sounds, regardless of which country they come from.

She concludes that the most common baby sounds have the following meanings:
Neh: "I'm hungry"
Owh: "I'm sleepy
Eh: "I need to burp"
Eairh: "I have lower gas"
Heh: "I'm uncomfortable"

Read more about it here

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

This life or that - it all makes for great TV

Ten years ago I was one of millions of avid viewers of 'This Life ' - a lively and often frenetic series about the unfolding lives of a group of twentysomething friends sharing a house in London.

Last night our protagonists were brought together again in 'This Life + 10' - a special, one-off reunion programme. The old chemistry and fireworks were still there. Sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, career rivalries, peer pressure and paranoia continued to be much in evidence. And there was Miles posing the question 'Should I be getting all the sex Egg thinks I'm getting?'

While the urge to party - in more ways than one - was still evident, it had been outstripped in the minds of our thirtysomethings by bigger issues - life and death, long-term relationships and personal fulfilment - with and without children.

It seems that even tv characters have to grow up and take on some responsibilities...eventually.

Monday, January 01, 2007

One cure for a New Year's hangover

Just ten hours into 2007, I was outside enjoying a beautiful sunny morning with my neighbours and taking part in our annual hangover curing ritual .

No this doesn't involve indulging in a stiff 'hair of the dog', rather some stiff physical exercise. As the lane is privately owned, the six householders are responsible for maintaining it. This means sorting out potholes, raking over gravel and clearing out debris (mostly footballs), muck and vegetation from the stream that runs alongside it.

Here's yours truly working off the after effects of that new year fizz. Even better I was able to soak in a relaxing bath afterwards and listen to Liverpool thrash Bolton 3-0. The new year can't get off to a better start than that!