Weeknotes 053: This is so humiliating!
Keen to get a start on the week, Piglet gave up on sleep by 5 am. Mid-morning and both our moods were fractious. Tantrums were allayed by turning the couch into a den-cum-car. Lǎolao called to say she’d made dumplings and we postponed Sunday roast to Monday and headed round for our fill. She’s recuperating nicely.
We’re now confident that Piglet’s bad sleeping is the final arrival of the final molars. We drug her before bed, 4 hours later give her more and again 4 hours after that. I avoided sleep myself in the middle of the dosing regime, favouring our bathroom instead. That portentous inability to finish my steak fulfilled. Unlike me.
There was no chance of making Monday morning meetings. I called in sick and went to bed. At midday I repeated for the afternoon. In the evening I left The Chef to care for our daughter while I suffered cold chicken soup straight from the tin. I’ll grant that sounds disgusting, but it’s my comfort place when I’m ill. The Sunday roast ingredients moved to the freezer.
The Chef was treated to a 1 am declaration that “If I cry, mammy comes.” followed by sinister chuckling. What do you do with a power move like that?
Feeling moderately better I took the monitor while The Chef recovered from that psychological attack. I wasn’t awake enough to make it through the rounds of patting an had an involuntary co-sleep of sorts on the floor. The Chef responded by ringing the grandparents to baby-sit at the weekend to give us time to decorate the dining room.
Piglet can curl her tongue now. Just another in the ledger-book where my genes have top-trumped.
We made the mistake of putting her in an 18-month-old dress. I had to dislocate her eyebrows to get it off.
When she’s being tickled, if she’s enjoying it she’ll ask “again” once she’s got her breath back. It’s reassuring because without it, tickling is low-key aggressive.
Her toys will occasionally cry. When we ask why it’s because they’re sad. When we probe as to why they’re sad, it’s because they’re sad. Tautological, but you can’t argue with the truth.
After last week’s sombre tunes, a more upbeat paring of Nation of Language and Gabriels. The Gabriels EP has the quality of making me think “this is the best song on here” before the next starts and I revise my opinion up.
I left my charger at work on Thursday, so needed an unplanned office trip on Friday. After nursery we avoided traffic while playing in the park. Piglet needed to go for a wild wee and, unpracticed, that included over me. I’ll point her at the tree next time. Once home and everyone tucked up, I spent a couple of hours readying for decorating by (quietly) moving furniture and doing repair plastering.
Ever-eager grandparents turned up early to take Piglet to the farm while we decorated. Her presence elsewhere is enough to defer procrastination: we’ve given up the shared time and let’s put it to use. We had two coats on by 7pm. With other bits and bobs crammed in while the first dried. It was without guilt that we played games and bathed that night.
10 October 2021
Weeknotes 052: … … I want a pat
Through missed weeks, these don’t add up to the equivalent real-life passage of time. These aren’t the one year anniversary of weeknotes. I missed that a month ago. Oh well. Happy thirteen month anniversary instead!
We were joined on the park roundabout by a younger kid and her grandad. She was near-verbal, spouting gibberish with the candence of speech. The grandad shared that he thought we all learned to sing before we speak. Which reminded me of a quote that I can’t find. So congratulations Park Grandad, you get the credit.
The afternoon held a toddler meet-up. The Chef explained that it’s not the type of things that dads go to and I was left to plant out the winter flowers, turn over the worms and shovel a wheelie bin’s worth of weedd. Piglet returned—having staked her superior claim to the door handle from one of the other kids—to solemnly tell me about the watermelon she’d eaten.
We accidentally ended up eating out again on Monday. That same album of terrible covers playing. Now Piglet has ditched the nappies, we’ve got her salopettes instead of a puddle suit for those few vital seconds. Worth it.
Her internal world is growing. Overheard her reciting episodes of Hey Duggee when out on a walk. And she’ll sing Hush Little Baby to herself. Albeit she gets stuck in a loop of buying mockingbirds. Which, to be honest, is a better remedy to a non-singing bird than the adventure the actual lyrics go on. The washing basket now doubles as a bedroom sledge/cocoon. And I’ve convinced her that there’s an On/Off switch inside everyone’s nostrils. If she finds a sleeping adult—usually The Chef—she’ll jam a finger up their nose to wake them up.
I’m bored of contractual gubbins at work. It needs to be done. I just wish it could be needed to be done by someone that isn’t me. I distracted/rewarded myself with another round of office tarting. I now have an artfully arranged YouTuber background for video calls and a succulent shelf.
This is the same as productive work.
A sombre and autumnal tone to the music this week. Gia Margaret, Beck and Low.
Speaking of albums, this Moo Card player is all kinds of awesome. The kind where I overcome inertia and copy. It’s another link from Phil Gyford. He’s very good. Go read him.
We used the pickler to build Piglet a den. Our first where she cared, rather than our last. It’s better served as a den frame; she needs more derring in her do now. At Tumbles—once we got her off the trampoline—she scaled the gym ladders, gloated and shimmied down without a worry.
Steak night was moved from Friday to Saturday and what a steak to finish the week on. Shame I couldn’t finish the steak for a sense of poetic symmetry. Too full and uncomfortable a stomach. Here’s hoping that’s not ominous.
3 October 2021
Weeknotes 051: What makes you happy? Mama
Meadowhall Travelodge wasn’t as bad as anticipated and we slept for another glorious 9 hours. A sterling start to a Sunday. Our timing worked out better in nabbing a charger and we had a leisurely coffee while juicing the car for the home leg.
Piglet was happy to see us and took us to visit 黑马和白马 (black horse and white horse) at the farm at the end of lane. Back at Lǎolao and Lǎoyé’s, over delicious home-made 羊肉烩面 (lamb noodle soup), we were recounted with stories of her excellent potty usage.
The final drive home of the day had a rainbow, one of those ridiculous sunsets where a painter would get told to tone it down, diggers and Hey Duggee on the phone. It couldn’t have been a better drive for Piglet without a unicorn dancing past.
The Chef is over her cold and I’m back in the Big Boy Bed™.
She’s replaced her cold with hand, foot and mouth disease. Looks like Piglet wasn’t teething after all. Because of the foot blisters, she’s hobbling about like a pensioner with severe gout.
I’ve had a strangely productive start to the week when I stopped procrastinating on the thing that’s been Too Big To Start and just started it. Evergreen lesson, that one.
Lǎoyé came round to watch Piglet over lunch. I found him in the hallway struggling to get into her room. It is an effective baby gate, to be fair.
After 3½ years, Chinese class is over. Sad, but we’ve been shedding students each term. We’ve kept going with just the four, but three of us have small kids. We’ve promised to meet up for a drink in 2022. I think I’m still going to go for the HSK3 exam in December. I’ve enough native speakers around to help me when I get stuck and it’ll keep me going till I come up with a plan for next year.
Lǎolao underwent surgery on Wednesday and my folks were away in their new caravan, so I took a child care day. As it was 20 °C and sunny, we went to the nature reserve where we saw deer. They eyed us suspiciously while Piglet sat on my shoulders barking excitement at them. Once I let her down they scarpered. A post-nap trip to the park included a meltdown on the boat over needing to take turns on the steering wheel. The other toddler felt sad about Piglet’s tears and offered her a turn and when I asked her to say “Thank you” she snarled “No” which led to another chat and meltdown. We made up over chocolate covered ice cream and The Chef joined us for a cheeky meal out.
It was another tasty meal, but the music was atrocious. Limp, soulless cover versions. I forget where I read it, but someone pointed out covers frequently miss the sexiness of the originals. Especially the twee ones beloved of adverts. Which put me in mind of this write-up of acoustic rap covers (via Phil Gyford).
Piglet managed no backsliding in nursery with her potty. Two days and only one minor accident. And The Chef has her Covid booster in her arm. It means I keep the overnight shift. But it’s all about Daddy this week anyhow. I’m so f■■■ing tired.
I was the only person in the office on Friday. I’ve got a dedicated desk now that I’m back and spent half an hour being an office tart again. There’s a clean desk policy—no plants or books—but everything tidied and aligned the way I like it.
Saturday was spent manufacturing mRNA and pottering about the area. A new cafe, a new butcher’s bag and new plants from the garden centre. Popped round to see that Lǎolao is recovering well. We even booked up Santa; already too late to get a weekend slot though.
We finished the week playing computer games and drinking beer while The Chef told me she used to keep her baby teeth in the bobby pins box. And that she can’t remember what she did with them. Sweet dreams.
26 September 2021
Weeknotes 050: It tickles my bum.
We took part in our own Great North Run this week. Not out with the joggers, but at home with the potty.
Piglet’s reaction was to fuse her hand to her arsecheek, as she wandered about in a state of nappyless wonder. The book The Chef had read on the matter advised to treat it like poker: watch for her tells, give nothing away and if she pees at the table to pick her up and plop her on the potty. (I think I remember that last one happening at a late night game in The Bay once.) This was made difficult by her tell being playing with her arse (see above) and her pee lasting all of a gushing second.
Still we felt we made alright progress on day one. I was at work for day two and could hear the setbacks though. I took over at the lunch nap and left her to self-settle. She instead elected to jump around and crap her pants. At least The Chef had some friends over in the afternoon to lower her cortisol. Piglet is firmly in the toddler, “No! Mine!” stage of sharing. We’ll have to plan for a few more visitors to smooth that out.
Day three something clicked and we mostly hit the potty. The evening I read a story to her while she stared fixedly into my eyes, puce, and did her business. From there we’ve only improved. Chatting to other parents, that was a quick training.
I’m still in the spare room while The Chef fights off the remnants of her cold. It means I’ve been up through the night while Piglet teethes(?). I accidentally confined her to bed when I asked her to try and sleep while I lay down. I left her for an hour and she looked up as I returned and asked if she was allowed to leave the bed to play. We continued the story of the little boy on his bike. He’s become a cypher for her to process her experiences.
At work, my tiredness has been amplified by a week of contracts, paperwork and admin. These weeks have to happen sometimes, but they’re bloody dull.
The constant up-and-down did give me the chance to finish reading the Tiffany Aching stories. The final back matter which describes how Pterry was a beloved writer still hits.
We finished the week with a Chef birthday / friend’s wedding one-two. I bunked off to go for a delightful meal out complete with champagne and chablis for The Chef, while I nursed sparkling water. My revenge was to inflict the woohooctopus playlist on her during the drive. She fell asleep, upset by the jarring tonal shifts, but pleased at the banger ratio.
I’ve never managed to get Scotch Corner’s electric chargers to work and there are only three at Wetherby. It meant lots of waiting round and polite small talk while queuing. For petrol sales to stop in 9 years, infrastructure is going to need some major work. Good job we’ve a competent government who are up the task…
By the time we got down to Derbyshire we were well past mingling mood and hid in the AirBnB with wine, junk food and Yasmin Williams. The place was a converted barn and the definition of quaint. It was providential that we spent the evening relaxing there because we woke to a “Thank you for your stay” note. Turns out we’d booked one night instead of two. We managed to book a Travelodge for the night. A downgrade to be sure, but in terms of time to screw it up, a post-wedding, child-free night with no plans the next day is about the best we could ask for.
The wedding itself was a marriage between two small Yorkshire villages. A background soundtrack of thees and thous through the day. The boxes all ticked: happy couple, tearful parents, good speeches, easy table company and catching up with people not seen in the flesh since pre-Covid. The lack of masks indoors wasn’t entirely comfortable and when the band shorted the power with a rousing Jailhouse Rock, we took our chance to slink away and let some of Yorkshire’s finest hit the shots.
19 September 2021
Weeknotes 049: Franny-Annie
It’s that one hot, sunny week in September. Piglet chose a summery dress from her wardrobe and demanded bunches. We chased—in the specified order of me, Piglet then Mama—across the moor to the Hancock via the park and pizza. A shade over a mile and Piglet pretty much ran the whole thing. Those legs are getting stronger. I blame all the jumping in the new bed.
Probably the best thing about the Hancock was the concrete rhino outside. Except maybe the elephant. Hello elephant.
Back at work on Monday, the morning was spent in meetings that could have been emails. Happily I had the afternoon off to bimble round a warm beach. We got home the same time as the neighbours and Piglet conquered her fear and went in to play. She took her emotional support flamingo and it was rechristened “Franny-annie”, which is the single funniest thing that she’s heard. She was still giggling to herself about it when we put her down to sleep.
To free ourselves from the prison of endless patting and singing, The Chef trialled two songs and a goodnight. The first two nights went smoothly and I copied. We’re one week in and waiting for the regression, but we have a self-settling toddler.
It being that one sunny week, we snuck in the last BBQ of the year. Granddad’s rubber arm was twisted and he consented to a couple of beers.
The Chef is struggling to shift a chest infection and I’ve relocated to the spare room away from her impression of a chainsaw with a faulty motor. Lying there I realised my dreams have shifted from vivid lockdown tedium back to being forgotten on waking. Can’t say I going to miss them.
Piglet’s newest request is to “have a chit-chat”. It revolves around a little boy on a bike whose shoes have run away and he’s chasing them. It’s been unfolding over the week and I’ll keep you updated if he manages to catch them.
We’re trying to raise her in a considerate way and she has a couple of toys who use they/them pronouns. Piglet hasn’t a clue and the only three genders she recognises are mummy ones, daddy ones and baby ones.
I took to drastic measures on Duolingo to complete the achievements. Frustrated with the score-getters (shut up, I see the irony) and skipped Monday to enter a league with more chill people. And look at this shiny fella:
Needless task completion.
It totally wasn’t worth it, but I can relax and go back to studying normally now. I don’t understand the people doing it just for the scores; I lost one week to someone with over a million points who’d only learned 800 words. They were literally signing in every day for years and doing the first dozen lessons over and over to rack up high scores. I mean, why?
Anyway. Inspired by the Department of Enthusiasm I’ve made a playlist of the miscellaneous tracks that get mentioned on here. The latest track is from Little Sims, which the whole world (Mercury excepted) thinks is marvelous. Have a gander and chuckle at my atrocious taste.
We rounded off the week with a final pre-6 am start for Daddy-Daughter day. Nap time worked against us for meeting for the playout on the village green. But we took the balance bike out for a whirl regardless and had our first bit of independent whatever-the-balance-bike-equivalent-of-cycling-is.
12 September 2021
Weeknotes 048: I can’t remember how to disintegrate anymore
I’ve had an inexplicable grump running for the duration of this week. I’m not ruling out the cricket as the cause. But otherwise, an unidentified churl is a precursor to me working out what’s actually bothering me.
Sunday was supposed to be my lie-in and I wasted it with an inability to sleep. Knackered, we set out. Everyone in Newcastle had the same idea. About once every 15 minutes we bumped into someone else we knew. Piglet did well with the many cuddle requests from—in her eyes—strangers.
Her reward was to play on the Quayside summer see-saws and the Baltic’s senso room. She all but popped with delight at the interactive LED wall before claiming a toy car as her own and trying to do off with it.
Bank Holiday Monday meant I could join the girls for tumbles along with every other dad who was off for the day. Piglet’s nursery cold was developing nicely and there was liberal need for the hanky before the ball pit. As befits August, it was too mizzly to stay out and we headed home for the girls to nap while I caught up on these.
We managed to get back out to Seven Stories in the afternoon. Which included an unexpected interactive story time. A determined, if sheepish, Piglet went to the front to get her finger snapped by a crocodile hand puppet. She’s getting better at interacting with the other kids too. Covid’s high tide receding.
By that night her snots had reached critical mass and her nostrils were no longer useful. Overnight comforting was back. We’re out of practice. How did we / will we cope with the bad nights?
We’ve read her books to her enough times that she can “read” them to herself. With the right sentences for the page. It’s like those old magic tricks where horse could “count”.
It’s official. I’m going back to the office. They want their stuff back by the 20th or they’re sending round the heavies. I’m ambivalent at the moment, but we’ll see how I readjust. Friday Night Steak Night softened the news.
By Saturday Piglet’s nose was clear and she was up at 5.45 to let me know the good news. Hey Duggee helped me by babysitting while I nailed coffee and whimpered. Caffeine is a wonderful mind-altering substance though, and we were down playing with the blocks not long after. She’s playing with them now too. Not just smiting towers for upsetting her love of a horizon. An afternoon was notionally spent in shops. But was actually spent on the escalators.
5 September 2021
Weeknotes 047: Oh George, it’s long enough for a ponytail
These weeknotes brought to you by the song “Down in the Jungle”:
A quiet afternoon with both girls sleeping let me catch back up on these. Apologies to RSS readers for a glut of out of order weeknotes.
On the topic of RSS, Jeremy Keith splits his RSS into two folders: blogs and magazines. It’s like Hey and their feed and paper trail. It worked for me while I used Hey (before everything happened) and I ported the labels back to Gmail. Is it too broad for my feeds? I might try and simplify.
Last bit of RSS. I found an RSS club in one of my feeds. I’d link out to it, but they ask for secrecy and organic discovery. Both of my readers can be disappointed here.
Weeknotes have been steadily growing in length. This is mostly because I’m in the habit of jotting down ideas as they happen. And I’m also in the habit of not leaving myself time to edit before publishing. They’re overly indulgent these days which marks the shift in focus from an attempt to improve my writing towards memorialising our lives. Still, I’m going to try to edit down to 500 words max. You know, to improve my writing.
It’s taken me a few days this week to shake last week’s illness. Work’s been too busy for me to wallow and I’ve had to carry on, albeit more grumpily in calls. The Ivy League To Do + Analog is keeping me on track.
In one of my grumpy calls, I was chatting to someone with a beautiful office. Then I found these and I want to repaint our office and move the furniture about. Just need to do all my other DIY jobs first.
Piglet’s been processing the round of everyone is ill with “Daddy’s not sick. Daddy feels better. Mama’s not sick. Mama feels better. Piglet’s not sick. Piglet feels better,” on loop.
The Chef took her to Seven Stories where The Chef was very brave and joined in playing with the toy spiders and Piglet raged when she couldn’t take the tigers home for tea.
I passed my HSK2 with 100%. I’m feeling swotty.
29 August 2021
Weeknotes 046: That’s Duggee on CBeebies.
Birthday lists get harder to write. Particularly when everyone thinks I already have too many books. Piglet thought long and hard and got me norovirus instead.
It started last weekend at Whitehouse Farm. We met celebrity owl Pigwidgeon, fed milk to calves and jostled around the go-kart track. It was at the petting rooms after this that Piglet projectiled. It caught us off guard and—forgetting how literal toddlers are—I asked where it came from. Piglet offered her best “not now Dad” stare and deadpanned “My mouth,” which brought levity for the poor staff swiping up her puke.
We spent the rest of the day trying to decide which food we’d poisoned her with; leftover rice and Weetabix were both in the running. Her late afternoon attempts at vomiting on an empty stomach were heart-breaking. She retched and cried with confused betrayal, “I don’t want to be sick any more.”
It was a fitful night for all. Piglet was upset and restless with discomfort. We were nervous that she’d vomit, choke on it and DIE. We made it through, but when she cried again the next day while dry heaving, it was a fresh punch to the heart.
The Chef took ill that day too. We moved our earlier food-poisoning diagnosis back to norovirus. Regardless, she’s not getting leftovers any time soon.
Away from Plague House, Lǎoyé has rescued a baby pigeon from a seagull attack and has been nursing it back to health. There were regular progress updates on the family chat. Which ended abruptly when Lǎolao put it out in the garden to get some sun and a cat did off with it. It’s not the first time she’s done this to him either. The family chat stayed tense and terse for a day.
Piglet had been enamoured of it when she visited. Not that she wanted to visit. With the various sick days she’s been extra clingy. There was a full sobbing into my neck hug when she had to leave in the morning. Which switched to sweetness and light by drop-off. She was so charged up that she again refused the sleep. She did get me to corpse during the second hour by singing “I’m going to stay awake forever” to herself.
It gave me the chance to ruminate on the fact that my lot have stopped listening to new music. I think I have a causal theory: Radio and blogs. They’re both human-driven discovery services. Here is something worth listening to. And here’s the reason. With that in mind, two recommendations this week. First Lucy Dacus (via 6music) and second, the Sweeping the Nation playlist (via Phil Gyford’s blog).
My second work weeknote was late, but it went up. It even got an unsolicited compliment. I guess this is a thing now.
A propos of nothing else either side of this sentence, isn’t the NHS wonderful when it’s various parts manage to talk to each other?
Piglet has been baffling nursery with her one-handed counting. Her clarifications in Chinese didn’t help. Away from nursery her formerly prodigious vocabulary has shrunk to “I want insert thing here.”
Shipped off to her grandparents on Friday freed us for my birthday meal out at Bichon Bistro. Expectations were too high for a meal that was alright. But it was more than redeemed by the sterling company.
This essay on the Qualities of Earth (via ADS) is so precise. There’s texture to the words.
The earth (or shingle) we tend becomes an extension of our physicality — I suffered from a lack of vigour last summer and the weeds soon told on me. When I returned to the plot after six weeks away, an allotment holder I admire was momentarily cold and uttered the words, “they soon come back”.
An allotment is too much for us. But as a system for displaying your own mental health to yourself? There’s something in that. A to-do list is no good. It doesn’t tell on you; it just whines that you’re not paying it enough attention. Maybe I should photograph the kitchen floor as a proxy for vigour. A casual relationship between brain crud and physical crud.
Which brings us full circle to my turn feeling crud and spending my birthday holed up in bed. It’s an effective technique to get quiet time. 4/5 would recommend voiding yourself to avoid others.
22 August 2021
Weeknotes 045: C’mon beautiful
I needn’t have worried about Piglet. We went round Lǎolao and Lǎoyé’s and after hugging The Chef she glommed on to me and refused to leave me for more than a few minutes. When we got home she proved difficult to settle. At the point where I felt frustrated she sat up, beamed her biggest smile then lay back down to be patted to sleep.
We visited my parents for the anniversary itself. We couldn’t think of a gift to ask for, so they made us Sunday dinner instead. And gave us a bottle of champagne too. It was with a supreme feeling of contentment that we sat in our forever home drinking and radiating good vibes.
These were punctured in the morning by the return to work. I remembered my password, which was a better than normal start. We’re off-shoring one of my projects and I’m in meetings about it all week. Flatteringly, there are over a dozen people from different disciplines taking it on. I might not be 100% useless at my job after all.
Two weeks of holiday meant two weeks of wearing shoes. I’m sure that didn’t used to give me athlete’s foot, but here we are.
Piglet’s shoes and slippers fit on the shoe rack now, instead of falling through the gap. This wasn’t a milestone I was expecting to be in any way poignant, but again, here we are.
She struggled to get to sleep one night. She lay in bed scrunching her eyes tight and patting herself to no avail, before turning to The Chef, “I’m sad mama. I can’t do it. I want to sleep.” 🥺
She managed in the end, only for me to make her cry again in the morning when I confiscated a toy for her kicking me. It doesn’t feel pleasant, but it’s got to be done. Right?
Look at this little guy
I’ve completed the first level crown in Chinese Duolingo course. It’s not a good app by itself for learning Chinese, but it’s helped my unthinking grammar, which is an area I struggle with in class. I’m scarred by high school Spanish and instinctively go to Latin grammar, despite Chinese more closely following English word order. Counter to its reputation, only the characters and (for the musically illiterate) tones are hard. Otherwise Chinese is one of the easier languages to learn from an English starting point. And there’s no irregular verbs to memorise.
RSV has been running through nursery and we kept Piglet out last week. It’s settled down enough that we’ve sent her back in after much circular fretting over our decision. The two weeks out led to a temperamental drop off. Which was soothed by an offer of toast.
The neighbours two up have a two and five year old. They walked past while Piglet was “driving” the car and The Chef was sat in the garden shelling peas for tea. Which was enough to pique the eldest’s curiosity and she asked to help. That led to the youngest having a go on our tree swing. And that somehow led to everyone doing Ring a Ring o’ Rosie. It’s a nice neighbourhood.
This week’s “new” music is the Ace of Bells. I played it to The Chef while she finished choosing her 20 photos in a swift three months. They’re ordered and now on to procrastinating over layout.
This article about the bleakness of Recaptcha has been doing the rounds. And it captures everything wrong about them.
It was Lǎoye’s birthday at the weekend and we celebrated with wine, more champagne, BBQ and blueberry cheescake. His highlight though was the video message from Piglet to say “生日快乐!”
That off-shoring project I mentioned. Well, I did it: I did a weeknote at work. Not sure how I feel about that to be honest.
I visited Giles Turnbull’s website for tips from the master on doing a work weeknote and spotted an unexpected link in his blogroll. That one exception aside, it’s a good list and I got another dozen high-quality feeds for my RSS. I’m through the 800 barrier and should make a blogroll of my own. I don’t know what I did to get on Giles’ list, but I’ll take it. This is my first shot at blogging, so getting linked by respectable strangers is still weird. In fact, you should stop wasting your time here and head over to read some better quality stuff.
15 August 2021
Weeknotes 044: Daddy’s a silly sausage
Week two of my holiday started lazily. Relearning the locations of toys with an excited toddler.
Toddler Godiva rides again
Following a day of indoor play, Piglet let herself out of the bathroom after her bath and sprinted to her “Big Girl Bed” shouting for stories. The acceptable adult reaction is to remain in the bathroom whispering “Squeeee.”
Rather than go into work for a single day, and continuing the day of odd jobs, I picked up the forever unfinished to-do list. Not as productive. Mostly standing in shop queues, despairing at the British public.
It was in service of leaving with banked brownie points before the Annual Boys Cricket Away Day: 2020-ish Edition in Nottingham. It’s my first time away from The Chef and Piglet since March 2020 and it felt unexpectedly sad to be leaving them.
A quiet sunny morning to re-pot the tomatoes and tidy with a strong coffee was a sterling tonic. I embraced my hipster leanings and rode my first eScooter to the train station.
Once all there and as, let’s say, mature gentlemen we decided against trying to save ourselves for a night out after the cricket and went big (for a group of dads) on the first night. Almost breaking a table in the burger place while the staff despaired at the British public was a giddy start. On to pints and Indie Wednesday with Jaegerbombs aplenty, we left when down to our last soupçon of dignity. Never did the Courteeners sing more aptly.
Shockingly, I’m the last one listening to new music. Have a Curtis Harding interlude to acknowledge this.
With surprisingly few sore heads, we sat under heavy skies for the cricket. The game mirrored our energy levels. One for the purists as the euphemism goes. The arrival of afternoon rain meant we could sneak back to the flat for naps. No-one pretended to be upset. The rain, in a bout of cruelty, stopped before we could lie down. And started again after we’d returned to the ground. A taxi ride to walk home in the rain twice. That soupçon of dignity was damp.
The last day was filled with clear heads, vicarious Olympic triumph and a wander around gentrified Sneinton market. I met The Chef off the train for delicious food to celebrate six years. We matched the years with six glasses of wine. Between us, mind.
She told me of Piglet’s bad night’s sleep and crying out for daddy from her nightmares and my heart just.
So I’m looking forward to being reunited tomorrow and hoping she’s in the clingy-cuddle mood and not the punish-and-ignore-me one.
8 August 2021
Weeknotes 043: Nancy said BYE!
tldr; We had a holiday this week.
As you couldn’t bribe us to go near an airport at the moment, we spent our week’s summer holiday glamping in Berwick. We’d each taken a piece of fiction with us. I think I derived more enjoyment from the Conan books than The Chef did from the weather reports.
Setting off was the one day of guaranteed sun and we stopped off at Whitley Bay to play on the beach with the grandparents and Auntie R before heading North. It was tiring enough for the girls to sleep in the car and for me to turn off the cruise control before I joined them.
It remained pleasant on arrival at our wooden home and we headed to the long shallows of the local beach; the dangerously named Cocklawburn. We waited to hear a local say it before we strayed into tourist territory (pretend to be a French, lost somewhere between Newcastle and Scotland and say Coq-le-bun in your best Geordie-Scots). The best way I know to pronounce British place names correctly is to live here for hundreds of years first.
With the storms imminent, we sat over the BBQ sipping a bottle of red and watched the farmers work together to race the rain to get the harvest in. The first combine harvester startled a deer from the long grass to complete the bucolic atmosphere.
Piglet embraced the countryside by mimicking an angry owl at 3 am, bellowing without recourse to comfort for over an hour in the dark hours. It was with sheepishness that we apologised to the neighbours at breakfast the next morning. They were all polite enough to pretend to have heard nothing.
It was an unspoken agreement that we’d nap before attempting anything for the day and we headed over to a surprisingly lovely Berwick in the afternoon. The local pool has no right to be as good as it is. It even had a free electric charger to refill the car. The town itself is a mix of charm and neglect typical across England.
The Chef has done her pre-holiday homework and we headed over to a mini steam railway on the next day—even spotting a heron chilling over the river Till. Piglet, exhausted from shouting choo-choo for 20 minutes, napped in the sling while we took the riverside walk. And we were lucky enough to see another heron—fishing this time—while we sheltered from a passing shower.
Piglet had fared better than the previous night, but was far from flawless and I drove a tired Chef and child back to camp to cook delicious pasta with more nutritious wine. Piglet by this point was bored by the regular beats of Baby Shark and was asking for improv and it’s at this point we realised the bisyllabic nature of most relatives in English.
The wind had died down enough by this point in the week that it was worth venturing across to Lindisfarne for another sling walk. This time it was seals, curlews and (the surely made-up) wigeons. When she woke, we were in the town itself, which is boring for a two year old, but she stuck with us as long as we’d let her run in circles. A late enough tide meant we could grab tea on the island. Eat at The Ship if you get the chance. The fish stew. Woof. And they were good enough to get our food out early so we wouldn’t be stranded. While The Chef cheered for the encroaching sea on her first trip across the causeway, Piglet ignored it in favour of sticky, sticky, stick, stick.
Our last shower on the campsite came after they’d run out of hot water. We didn’t know they’d run out until 30 seconds into it. Bracing. Still, it was an improvement on the previous day where Piglet had tried to run away and ended up splatting on the concrete. We got through both experiences with a rousing chorus of ABC’s. Piglet refuses to bow to Americanisation (or rhyming structure) and finishes with a Zed.
Frozen, but clean, we set off to walk the walls of Berwick. In the rain as it turned out. Cowering in a covered alleyway we Google mapped around to find somewhere to eat. A fat thumb found us Atelier. We’re blessed to have a toddler comfortable in a hipster bar-cum-cafe eating raclette. A second day wandering round rainy border towns had soured her mood and she spent the meal soothing her sad toys. We took the hint and didn’t hang around for a second drink.
Clearing out from the camp, we scored Piglet one sleep-through, one near sleep-through, two climbs into our sleeping bag and one howler. A win for us on balance. Albeit a win without music, because she demanded, “Alexa, play twinkle twinkle by boy,” whenever she saw the speaker. We tacked on a final return to Atelier for lunch and pub grub for tea before managing to unpack better than last time.
Being offline except for the ever-more-complete maps app and keeping up a Duolingo streak (Pearl league) left me feeling like I’d missed nothing except for the Olympics. We drove back with the previous week’s 6music on Sounds adding to the effect of news standing still. Upshot is that I’m going to remove a few more news apps from my life.
A good first week.
1 August 2021
Weeknotes 042: Want big bed. Want pictures
25 July 2021
- When Piglet hands me a toy cake, I pretend to eat it by shoving it down my T-shirt. When it emerges, she screams with delight and shouts “Daddy pooped out a cake!” That’s never going to get old.
- She’s reached an age where she’s starting naming her toys. Beautiful. Teeny tiny. Sprout. Mammy. Daddy. Steve. Tillakaratne the Sri Lankan Polar Bear. It may be apparent in that list when Piglet took over from me in the naming department.
- We’ve accidentally created a game where I shout “六月, I’m a get you!” and I have to chase her around the block. That one might get old.
- The Chef had a rota’d day off with plans for a (late) Spring Clean. These were scuppered by a call from nursery to say the regular rotation of viruses has hit Piglet’s intestines.
- She was recovered enough to be carted off to her grandparents on Saturday to free me up to assemble her Big Girl Room™. Time’s not slowing down. The Chef had me clear out the nursery too. Providential as, after her bath, there was a moment when Piglet wanted to sleep in her cot. We took her to the empty room and, content, she returned to her new room to sleep in her Big Girl Bed™.
- After a restful night’s sleep for everyone, we visited my family for Auntie R’s birthday. We need to invite our parents round for Sunday roast soon. We keep turning up at their houses for food and we’re accruing significant cooking debts.
- Dappled is a word which I hear only in reference to sunlight. It’s an inherently joyful word and I’m trying to shoehorn it into other contexts where there is a happy smattering and interplay.
- I metaphorically sprinted (Agile folks, you know what I mean) to the end of work. Yet I still spent Saturday and Sunday evening on the couch hacking away at my remaining to-dos. I need to get better at leaving for holiday. I’m on holiday now though.
- Magnet fingers!
Weeknotes 041: Nanananananananananana Batman
Bullety-bullets this week:
18 July 2021
- HSK2 exam day!
- Cycling across the moor wearing my best middle-aged hipster-dad gear and listening to Fana Hues in the sunshine was the perfect preparation.
- The exam itself went OK? I saw my class in the flesh for the first time in a year. It’ll stop feeling remarkable any day now…
- I mooched around a coffee shop and a book shop before meeting a mate in a beer garden. Where we stayed for the majority of the afternoon. I pushed the bike home, rather than have a tipsy crash. Too old for them these days.
- Watching Piglet chat away I can compare her development to my own in Chinese. We’re about equivalent and she’ll surpass me in the next few years. I’m stuck at the better-than-a-two-year-old-but-worse-than-a-five-year-old level. I can be understood in rudimentary ways, but I’m frustrated at my inability to articulate any complexity. And I’m going to be at this level for years. I need to stick with piglet and keep powering through.
- The nice weather meant Piglet managed two beach trips. Once to Blyth with Lǎoyé and Lǎolao and a Costa del Druridge with us. Via a miniature choo-choo train en route. And via fish and chips ordered on an app on the way home. Modern times.
- I’ve been feeling so-so, so I’ve taken my first Covid test. Negative.
- All the furniture has arrived for the Big Girl Room™. I’ve a day next weekend where Piglet is being sent to grandparents for me to put it all together.
- She threw her first proper hour-long wobbler on the way to the park after nursery. Coupled with the new room, she’s a toddler now. One who doesn’t deal with being hot. Like her mother really.
- The Euro final could have ended better. The salve is that Italy deserved it.
- We visited Gosforth Nature Reserve but didn’t think to wear DEET. We’re recovering from 20 mosquito bites each.
Weeknotes 040: I love you swing
The weather forecast didn’t lie. Hope Valley was wet. The platitude about camping in the rain being OK as long as it’s dry when you put up and take down the tent was tested.
The bad forecast had scared off half of the Southern Softies, including the other toddler. We’d been building up the meeting for Piglet and—unfulfilled—she spent the week saying “Hi Auntie A. No [insert toddler name].”
We had borrowed two gazebos. The first wasn’t waterproof enough for storms. Instead of being lashed with rain, we were lightly misted. The second blew over irreparably in the high winds. We’ll have to find a replacement before we see them.
Fortunately Auntie A had brought a 95-man (ish) inflatable tent with her. It had enough ante-chambers for a dedicated wet and dry room to change and shelter in.
One dry evening was enough to get the BBQ out. I can’t stress this enough kids. Lumpwood. Always lumpwood. It burned so long that we ended up making smores.
Piglet grew bored of the BBQ, but with a gravel pit 10 m away and a tree sing in the next field, she was set for the evening.
Hope Valley is very much in the Chef’s old stomping ground. She booked in for a spot of open air swimming and spent the time parodying Yorkshire by pointing out what was different from when she was a kid.
There was space between rain and naps to pop to the local dairy for ice cream and for the girls to have a night out in Bakewell. I stayed back with Piglet, Uncle D, pizza, Thud! and beer. I don’t think I can decide which piglet was more enamoured with: Uncle D or the pizza.
We ran the whole gamut of Piglet’s sleep in only three nights. On the first, her mattress deflated and she was fitful and cold. The second (my shift) a sound sleep through. The last, terror and climbing into our sleeping bag. It’s not roomy with two of us. Adding a diagonal wriggler wasn’t the peak of comfort.
We were exhausted when we made it home. Pre-toddler we’d have dumped everything in the hallway, had a drink and lazed off to bed. Instead we had to unpack semi-properly while entertaining. This is not an improvement.
I was granted the rest of the evening off from being an adult to watch the semi-final. England are in a real tournament final. In my lifetime. I mean, Italy will likely murder us 1-0, but we’re there.
Piglet was nonplussed to hear that football might be coming to our house and dug out her cursed toy van. I don’t get V-Tech toys. They’re well-made till the tunes start:
C’mon my friends buckle up tight
Room for my friends, happy as we go
Zoom around the town
It’s even worse when they spontaneously go off in the toy box.
Counter to the V-tech inanity is Barbara Throws a Wobbler which deviates from the suddenly rule.
After the bumpiness of the first rooms at nursery, Piglet has settled right in to the new room. She even does impressions of the other kids.
Watching her sleep at the end of the day still gets me right in the feels. That is, when she’s first asleep and looking angelic. Not later when she’s thrashing about like a folkloric marionette.
I rounded off the week with a solo trip to Ikea. It might be the future. Less stressful than a whispered, tense argument about the requirement for more smart storage. One of the purchases was an £8 rug with some roads on it. It might have displaced Uncle D as the greatest thing in the world for Piglet.
We tore her away from it so The Chef could pop her Francesca’s cherry. A gesticulation of kindly and very Italian waiters entertained and were entertained by Piglet. One had a play with her and it was only afterwards that we thought about the plague. Maybe we’re approaching the end in England?
11 July 2021
Weeknotes 039: Alexa, play Mambo Number 5
These are out earlier than usual because we’re going camping again and I’m expecting the usual internet deficit. Weather looks like it’s going to be awesome:
We finished last week with another second birthday party and it was as quiet as the first. I spent most of it with Piglet attached to me. She’s started with a daddy phase in the last few days, which I’m planning on enjoying while it lasts.
I’d spent the run up ill and feverish. I tried reading Gnomon, but the characters’ habitation of other people’s dreams messed up my already poor and limited sleep. It’s a great way to feel their distress though. 5 stars. Would recommend next time you’re sweating in bed.
I took the next day off work to recover. Twitter pointed out that the ski lodge episode of Frasier was starting and that I should settle in for perfect TV.
While I laying giggling, Piglet went for her first swimming session with Grandma. Success enough that I think it’s now part of the weekly calendar.
She’s started a possesive phase and shouted at a resting bird, “Piglet’s garden. Not the pigeon’s!” We’ve surrendered a square of dirt in the border for her to dig and rake. Next spring she should have enough understanding to plant something in it.
Akin to the possesive phase she’s getting strict about her bedtime routine. When The Chef mixed up the order of the lyrics to Hush little baby she was told, “Not brass! Start again!”
There was a first taste of crackling with her roast. We were unsure what she would make of the texture, but a demand of, “more crackling!” followed by her swashbuckling laugh to denote winning assuaged any doubts.
The Chef’s Nǎinai snuck out her second birthday of the year this week. She’s like the Queen with official and unofficial celebrations. As the kids say, “Yaas, slay queen!”
I’m back to earth in Duolingo following the binge of the last few weeks, but with the HSK2 in sight I need to pick it back up, along with mock exams and finishing that timetable I started
We’ve taken the time to talk through the last week and seek something like closure. I’ve a longer version of the weeknotes written, but unpublished for privacy’s sake.
4 July 2021
Weeknotes 038: Again.
Piglet’s wait for a sibling continues. We miscarried again.
What a big pile of shit.
27 June 2021