Weeknotes 089: Fee, fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of an English mum

weeknotes

Weeknotes 088: And now we’re three

weeknotes

Weeknotes 087: Do you have a toy cake in your bedroom?

Our biggest worry for Parents’ Evening 2: Judgment Day, was Piglet being too shy to stand up for herself. Instead we were told that she scolded another child; Don’t snatch. That’s naughty. You’re supposed to share. Give it back and ask for it nicely.” Her tone sharp enough for it to work. Narc.

We also found out she’s the first in the lunch queue and by the time the last kid has dished up, she’s rejoined the queue for seconds.

The polite way nursery describe her shyness is to say she has a high EQ. At home she pretends to be a cat. A soft cat. When she’s in character she can describe her emotional state and if the cat feels sad we can ask why.

When The Chef tried to recount to a bathing Piglet, she humoured her for a minute or two before saying, bath time’s over,” and pulling out the plug. Murder.

She was more engaged in birthday cake chat. She wants a strawberry sparkle cake and The Chef has found a recipe. We’re going to be reinforcing her choice for the rest of the week.

I had midweek gig plans with my time travelling friend to see. Laura Veirs was excellent as usual and mentioned that she’d brought her kids on tour with her, because she’s nearly fifty and that’s what you do. I felt the profound passing of time. Compounded when she asked for shout-outs and took the bold decision to play songs from far enough back in her catalogue that she couldn’t remember the lyrics. The type of crowd that loved that though.

I’m working from home so I can nip out at lunchtimes to get gravel to pour around the paving stones. I have to do it at lunchtime because Piglet saw me do one bag and she’s been mimicking a middle-aged groan any time she picks something up since. In case it wasn’t obvious earlier, this girl is brutal.

I had the best of 2005 on while scattering stones and this Broken Social Scene track must be the inspiration / sample for Public Service Broadcasting, albeit I can’t find any references.

Carting heavy bags about is excellent for my sleep. I’m afraid to admit that I’m going to work regular exercise back into my life. I’m still so Covid broken that I can’t fit a haircut in once every couple of months, so daily exercise might be too much. Guess it’s back to interrupted sleep.

Between lunch-breaks, I’ve negotiated my way out of an upcoming work trip to the US. I’ve holiday and a conference in the next month. Travel in the middle is too many missed family nights. A few late night Teams calls is preferable.

With the third birthday on the horizon, we sent Piglet in to nursery with a chocolate cake. She got flummoxed when people started singing and needed a cuddle and to be talked down with, you’re like the queen and have two birthdays.” I try not to post pictures and videos of her, but please enjoy this recreation of her eating the cake.

Cuddling her at home while she told the story, I could feel her heart. It doesn’t beat so fast anymore. Slower. With the distinct dum-dum of a full-sized heart.

The Chef collected the food we’d reserved and managed to add another barbecue’s worth on top. Here’s hoping everyone’s hungry at the weekend.

A weekend started playing in the street. The dads of the street are all of similar ages and backgrounds. Shout Dave, Paul or Peter and you’ll get an answer. Witnessed a lovely bit of third-child-itis. Youngest is about one and was put in the middle of the street to crawl about unsupervised and unworried. The older kids played on hoverboards and bikes, while the younger ones got excited and wet themselves. Top street closure. We’re doing it again in a month. Now I’ve got to resist using the roadsigns in the garage to close an arbitrary road.

While making small talk about a dent in someone’s car, I presumed the word was a contraction of indentation. Then—small talk allowing my mind to wander—figured that must be something to do with dente/teeth. Wrong on both counts.

Post-street play, we had a first birthday to get to. It’s fun listening to the subtle tiger parenting going on. Nothing explicit, but pointed questions about how old a kid is when they start doing something and to what degree of competency.

With Piglet in bed for the week, all that’s left for us to do is to stay up past midnight tidying, baking strawberry sparkle cake and blowing up balloons before everyone arrives.

weeknotes

Weeknotes 086: When Mama was teeny-tiny I gave her a bunny.

Overheard in the greengrocers:

What’s pesto?”
“It’s an Italian sauce that’s, erm, from Italy”

Lovely stuff.

After a morning trying unsuccessfully to show off that big stick at forest school again, Piglet and The Chef hit up TKMaxx. Unsupervised. We own more plant pots and cushions now. Piglet was responsible for QA, vetoing colours and laying on each cushion before purchase. With room left in the boot they went to the zoo1. Treacle—like me—is tough to buy presents for. Her nugget-and-hay-ice-cream-cone treat is ignored, which has annoyed Piglet.

To separate the toddler from the ungrateful guinea pig, we had a cheeky mid-week babysitting scheduled and returned to the scene of our last midweek crime. Distinctly less hungover this time. And we got to take a video of the dinosaur digger eating a building to soothe Piglet.

Dinosaur digger eats Pilgrim Street

She came back late because we were at our first ever parents’ evening(!). We’ve already met the Type-A extroverts of the PTFA and The Chef has been added to a WhatsApp by one of the keen mams. So keen, that she signed up as a school governor before her kid starts. I’m unrepentantly glad people like this exist, because they make the world move. Without them much of the invisible glue of society isn’t there. And I’m equally glad it’s not me.

No sooner had we recovered from the shock of Piglet getting ready to head to uni, when nursery opened their doors for drop off for the first time since Covid. The parents all got to look sheepishly at each other as we were led by the hand by our toddlers. Everyone is so giddy about it.

This article on Dad rage is excellent. It brought to mind one of Robert Heaton’s (also excellent) dad posts, where he expressed the frustration of managing interactions with a small human. The natural conclusion, to me at least, is to use the anger and frustration to switch the 50s gender roles. Instead of asking mam to nag and dad to blow up as a last resort, get dad to be the base level nagger. Nips the anger off and frees mam from one of the multiple unasked jobs that society piles on her. I’m immensely lucky to be in the cohort of dads where these conversations are happening, and that there’s more than a few role models from the generation above. I don’t think my dad was as fortunate. If you didn’t click the article link yet, please do. It has a hell of conclusion on the parents’ journey.

Contra dad rage, we’re experiencing toddler rage. We might have to bring bedtime forward because we’re living through nightly meltdowns. Every time we’ve experienced a sustained bout of tantrums in the past, she’s unlocked a new level of life a week or two later. The curiosity for what’s coming is getting us through the week.

Related to curiosity, being in the office has been better than working from home for the casual causal productivity of helpful interruptions. And, as one of the first into our office, I can run around opening blinds and windows before anyone else thinks to use the lights and air con. It’s made for a warmer office, but I’m the only warm-blooded one and everyone is noticeably happier for the outside in. It’s even nice enough for lunch at the nature reserve to watch the bunnies sunbathing and the beekeeper do whatever it is that beekeepers do. And when the interruptions aren’t helpful? There’s always good cover versions (via Tom MacWright).

I’m ending weeknotes stiffly. Piglet was shipped to Lǎolao and Lǎoyé’s for the weekend while The Chef was at work and I prepped for her upcoming birthday party by ripping up the last of the decking and laying the paving stones. We fit a cheeky child-free meat, cheese and wine at Carruthers & Kent in the evening. I’m going to need a bath on this one though.


  1. Pets at home.↩︎

weeknotes

Weeknotes 085: This isn’t the wee wee dance

Mirroring last year’s Bank Holiday, we went camping. And, as with last time, sorry these are late.

The build up to the loooooong Jubilee weekend was spent fruitlessly filling forms and feeling frustrated at work. Lucy Dacus on repeat helped. The break is welcome though. More so than usual.

It got off to a less than auspicious start. I professional-ed my driving by reversing into a car in the beach carpark. Fortunately, there was no damage and the person I’d backed into was beyond nice about it. The nearest cafe had an hour’s wait for takeaway. With Piglet hangry and ratty while she adjusts to her dropped naps, I set off ahead to get fish and chips. After a hefty queue I was told that, in the year of Our Lord 2022, they’re cash only. By this point the rain had started. When I made it back I found The Chef stripping pee-soaked clothes off Piglet. We cut our losses, popped Piglet in the only dry clothes we had—her swimming costume—and headed for the campsite.

That was the point the world turned.

The campsite was unabashedly lovely. The sun returned. Piglet refusing to take her costume off, helped me put up the tent, stopping only to point out that she’s a crocodile. Lumpwood continues to never fail. And neither does Charlotte. With no lights, phones or bloody deadlines I had the deepest sleep I’ve had in months.

A brick rail bridge on a sunny day

We opted for a lazy start, cuddling in the sleeping bags before setting off for a coastal walk. Piglet besotted by the paragliders. Or in her words, no! The parachutists” and pointing to aeroplanes. Noticeably more than when we camped between Covid lockdowns. I’ve seen it at work too. Travel is back. It’s a good thing because people are having holidays and seeing loved ones again, but I’ve a small sadness for the empty blue skies. Only partially in a Station Eleven kinda way.

At the height of the afternoon we doubled back on ourselves before we accidentally gave the toddler a half marathon to complete. We snuck down Hawthorn Burn to a secluded beach. I couldn’t shake a dissociative feeling that we were in Scotland rather than 20 miles from home. Probably all the brick rail bridges. Instead of splodging in the sea, Piglet chose the stagnating burn. At this point it’s worth noting how much she hates a shower. And we’re camping. The entire campsite was made aware of her feelings that evening.

Post-trauma, she could put her camping onesie on. It’s a big multi-coloured thermal that she’s been pulling out of her wardrobe for weeks to cosplay as a fluffy teddy. She loves it. The perfect succour to a shower before our now traditional guanciale camping pasta.

With a British turn to the weather, we headed for Locomotion and boy, does the designer want you to know that they’ve designed that logo1. Piglet got to dress up in wartime fancy dress and it’s a shame bowler hats for toddlers have gone out of style.

A trip to Durham to recharge the car and our stomachs was faintly disappointing. To cheer ourselves we took Piglet to see the Wear and get a calippo. If ever you need to laminate a child, don’t bother trying to squeeze them through an expensive printer.

We’ll never head straight home on the back of a sub-par meal. Once the tent was down the next day, we called in to Barrio Comida and, woof. If you’re in Durham, don’t skip it. Bertie’s Play Barn is decent too if you need to work off toddler beans before a car journey.

Back home we could appreciate the comfort of our bed, the acceptance of nap backsliding and just how big Piglet looks when she lets herself into her old room to climb in the cot.

The Alphabetti Theatre featured in a Guardian write-up of Newcastle and I’d never heard of it. Looks cool. We’ve booked tickets.

Oh, and I guess, Happy Anniversary Liz! Sorry we missed it. The signal’s not great in the countryside.


  1. It’s the only National museum in North East England. Naturally, the architects are headquartered in London, but they at least have a national footprint. More offices in Abu Dhabi than the North East, but let’s be grateful for getting a museum first. When we get a second one, we can build it ourselves. The third we might get to tender too. We’re not getting a fourth.↩︎

weeknotes

Weeknotes 084: One is a sticker and one is a tooth

Sunday. Late

I wrote last week’s vibe check while The Chef slept and Piglet bounced on her bed singing every song in her repertoire. It was after 10 pm at this point. It’s time. We’re going to drop the nap.

Monday

Not that the late night did her much harm. She spent the morning carting a stick—nay, a log—around forest school before visiting her hero for princess dress-up. Admittedly, she crashed on the journey home. She walked into the house, pink and wobbly, with visible cheek stains and turned to The Chef to apologise and say, Sorry about crying, I felt sad because I couldn’t help with the Metro card.”

Chugging through deployment at work gives me some mental downtime while I cook up relevant examples for every team. They get a useful classroom training and outsourced data entry. I get to test all the flows. And it’s going to take the time it takes with my boss is happy for me to do it. Wins all round. It’s sound-tracked it to a tune discovered by algorithm.

Tuesday

As Covid recedes further, the travel budget is back. I don’t want to miss out and I’ve bought tickets for UX London. It’s brimming with speakers that I follow on RSS and I already own books by four of them. With a sense of pregret, I’ve booked my bike on to the train to get about London. I hope it goes better than Sarah Berry’s experience.

Wednesday

Should we buy shares in a wind farm. The risk to reward feels right?

Related to grids, after an afternoon back on it, my friend is back off. So it was time to cosplay 1996 and take the metro south of the river to knock on his door unannounced for a pub quiz. I’ve got the landline this time to make the next check-in before Laura Veirs easier. Albeit in a still very 1996 way.

Thursday

After nearly two weeks collecting more dust than usual, the car left the drive. Disappointing, but we’re not cycling uphill into a 40 mph headwind.

We’ve let nursery know about the end of naps. They’re amenable. Piglet looked beyond exhausted when we collected her.

Friday

I’ve never had a better entertainment-to-effort ratio than Piglet bringing a feather home, dropping it down the stairwell and running to get it back. 20 minutes of the easiest non-TV parenting I’ve done.

Saturday

The Chef is catching up with buddies in the deep South1. We fitted in a Slice Wars at Wylam beforehand, but the queues have nixed out future attendance unless we can drag friends along. An afternoon spent apart and stomachs not full enough for the effort.

After getting Piglet to bed, I finished the football, followed by I may Destroy You. The lazy cricket review is to compare it to Fleabag. And it’s at least as good. I don’t watch much TV, but I’ve got a high hit-rate with the BBC. Fleabag, Wolf Hall and this are all excellent and unqualified recommendations.

Sunday

Flying solo, I took Piglet to her favourite place on the planet—the top floor of Fenwicks. In a leaf out of her mam’s book, she settled on the most expensive cuddly toy in the shop. She didn’t get it.

We left to go to Broad Chare for Sunday dinner. Eventually. Worth the wait. Piglet fell asleep during her meal, much to everyone’s delight bar hers. It leaves us one restaurant to complete the Michelin Guide for Newcastle.


  1. Durham↩︎

weeknotes

Weeknotes 083: I’m here to buy strawberries. I got me a bag of bread.

Not every weeknote needs to be a blow by blow account of the week. Sometimes it can just be vibes.

A laden gooseberry bush

A laden gooseberry bush. Ribollita. Bucolic delight, playing in unmown grass after cycling home from the market. Tears at the dentist. Rediscovering a single, now the album’s out. Dressing up as a cuddly teddy. Eating tea in a pub at the end of a week filled with parks. Cosplaying a guinea pig and getting lettuce through the cage bars. Iterating on the cycling commute. DIY playing nice and taking less time than anticipated. A superb book.

Vibes.

weeknotes

Weeknotes 082: Mmmm. Smells like sellotape

The swifts returned this week. Piglet and The Chef braved glacial weather at the beach. It’s officially summer!

To ameliorate Piglet’s daily demands that I climb in the bath, we’ve made Wednesday night shared bath night. It’s after 5-a-side, so the spritz is good. When I lifted her out this week, she announced, When it’s Christmas and I see Santa I’m going to ask him for roller-skates.” It’s May. This could get tiresome.

Not as tiresome as why?” I’m winning the never-ending answer game. I haven’t needed to resort to my cheat phrases of why do you think?” and I don’t know but let’s look it up.” Any time she strays into science I can see the boredom well up in her eyes before I even hit my stride. She’s going to hate being a teenager around me.

Waking her for nursery she told me At the moment, I’m mostly enjoying Zog, the orange dragon.” Know your own mind, Piglet.

With a pleasant turn in the weather, we tried cycling to work/nursery as a family. There’s a shocking paucity of cycling routes that go anywhere in Newcastle. Stretches broken up by hellish roads. Juxtaposed horribly with my solo route from nursery to work which winds along tree-lined bridleways.

I had a work leaving do on Saturday afternoon, so naturally Piglet chose to forgo her nap in favour of a meltdown. We bumped into our neighbours in the park and I sheepishly left a sour Chef and whiny Piglet to chat with them. My cycle beset this time with fences across the cycle path which need a climb off / climb on to navigate. As we had a BBQ planned and my WhatsApp check-ins were staying on grey ticks, I kept the visit short. I anticipated coming back to a general air of annoyance and found instead the neighbours piled round drinking prosecco in the garden while the kids bounced and swang. I chose to kick the BBQ off with what is, frankly, a tune.

Having said that I would recommend 4000 weeks to The Chef, this review has given me pause by centering it on female experience. And made me realise I really need to get involved in the meal planning again.

As per the above review, having a toddler makes living in the now not only possible, but essential. Which is to say, we went to the Baltic and came home via I scream again.

weeknotes