weeknotes 100 Words Books

Weeknotes 037: And now we’re two.

After all that prep, we had ourselves a second birthday bonanza!

The pushing back of Freedom Day”1 meant we were restricted to grandparents in the garden. This ended up with a last minute shuffle from Sunday to Saturday to catch the weather. Not that anyone has plans to change at the moment.

Despite late morning nerves, The Chef’s cake turned out beautifully. Piglet coped admirably with the excitement and kept herself to two mini-meltdowns when she got overwhelmed by presents and the four grandparents going full belt in two languages.

Having it on the Saturday allowed us a quiet Sunday to recover. I set up the tree swing Piglet’s auntie bought. With uncut grass and birdsong, the video of her first go is positively idyllic. It was the one gift I wanted to make sure she got. Not having a tree growing up, I never had a tree swing.

At work my annual performance review went as it oft does, with vague praise for my results and a reminder for me to say no to extraneous work. Plus ça change. I rewarded myself by finishing Korra over lunch. Soooo good.

It was good to get it out of the way, because the football is back in earnest. The Euros are an excellent excuse to do nothing in the evening but wallow in the festival atmosphere. It does have me worried in the Annie Dillard sense that I’m spending too many days doing nothing. I don’t want my life to amount to nothing. It may be time to add a monthly task back into the rota. The abrasion of jobs to do is worth it at the end of the year when you can reminisce on jobs done.

Winter is our usual time for reflecting on the passing of time, but Piglet breaks that rhythm. The Chef put her hair in bunches and she immediately looked old enough to fly the nest. She’s moved up to the next room in nursery too. A cracking first half-day before she was sent home with a temperature.

When she does move out she can treat her room-mates to mashup songs. She’s got a perfectly segueing rendition of Twinkle Twinkle / A-B-C / Baa baa black sheep that doesn’t miss a beat.

She can show off Franny the Flamingo too. A present from Lǎolao and Lǎoyé when they visited Washington Wetlands Centre. There are a surprisingly large number of places to see flamingos in the North of England.

Exam nerves are visible on the horizon, prompting an even bigger Duolingo binge. The Chef is getting a nervous tic from the constant ding of the congratulations bell. Binging after every answer really is too much Duo.

  1. God they’re abhorent, aren’t they?↩︎

20 June 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 036: Am a comin’ in.

I’ve moved all my book reviews from the last four years on here. I’ve never been a stickler for recording dates and I’ve consolidated them into end of year lists. They’re a duplication of what I’ve got on LibraryThing and it took ages to do, so please skim read them.

I’d mulled over whether to include them on here or if this is just a Dad Blog. I also debated whether I should update the reviews where I’ve changed my mind. I decided against that for the same reason that weeknotes and 100words stand unchanged—they’re a reflection of my brain at the time of writing (spelling corrections aside).

All of which put me in a reflective mood as to the purpose of this Dad blog”. Theoretically I’m writing it to be read in public. Nothing too private gets in, although there should be enough for memory triggers and in-jokes. And for a few warts too. Selected but not selective. I’ve an audience of only 1.5 people and I don’t need to overly worry about the quality.

Long ago when I started 100 words, it was to help improve my writing and sound less like a middle manager. I’ve not succeeded at that yet, but I am writing more at work and I think I’ve got a unique voice in my reports. So not a total failure.

The other benefit, which in hindsight I should have anticipated, is that I’m noticing more. 100 words helped me remember and mark the passing of time in lockdown. Having a child was always likely to make me sit up and pay more attention, but since writing here, my memories have been more vivid. I’ve discovered that I’m a reader of my writing. And I find joy in rereading my mundane and prosaic life.

The habit is useful. I have a running note of Piglet’s Firsts. It’s not something I would have thought to do if I wasn’t already logging in to iA writer every day to make notes for here. We sat on the couch and went through nearly 2 years of Piglet’s growth and felt the warming glow of parental pride. The dates aren’t necessary, but they help.

I guess what I’m saying is, that I’ve no plans to quit soon.

In more traditional weeknote fare we carted Piglet off to her grandparents while we went out for a meal with friends. The time is coming when these routines won’t feel remarkable. But not yet.

We spent the earlier portion of the day at a collective second birthday party for the combined kids of the ante-natal WhatsApp group. To say there were nearly a dozen kids there, the quiet was noticeable. It’s going to be a while longer before Covid clears for this cohort of toddlers.

That party was a precursor for our own and we spent Friday night preparing. I texted my folks an apology mid-prep for all the unthanked work they had to do for us growing up. We gave up near midnight having attached the balloons to a garland and The Chef having shaved the rainbow cake to shape.

Amongst the birthday parties I’ve my HSK2 exam coming up in July. In a flashback to Uni life, I’ve started by making myself a revision timetable and structuring a OneNote around the topics. In lieu of conversation practice, I’m transcribing the coursebook to help force it into my brain. And I’m supplementing with a Duolingo binge. 12 months too late to join in the Twitter memes.

13 June 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 035: More please. Want it back.

As a further example of the returning normality, I’ve my first cold in nearly 2 years. I’m bored of it now.

It was given to me—with kindness and no regret—by Piglet. Those lessons in sharing are paying off. She managed to go to nursery without tears for the first time ever, only for The Chef to get a call within the hour to take her back for a Covid test. Negative. But ill enough to stay home. The Chef took carer days to look after her. That it was sunny was a coincidental bonus.

She rested as I would with Hey Duggee on the couch while indulging in junk food. We’re back on overnight cuddling shifts. Her little heart still beats so fast.

To draw attention from her sinuses, we’ve been concentrating on distractions. When practicing her days, she knows the main activity for each one. Saturday is a reverentially whispered, Bakery.” The Chef was on weekend shift, so we headed down together for cookies before a day spent in parks and fields.

We spent a lazy Sunday recuperating in the garden watching the bumbleflies (bluebottles), bumblebees and the returned blue tits working to feed their new chicks1.

Piglet recovered from her shyness around the neighbours to spend the day heckling them through the fence and from her window. It was a genuine jump from nextdoor’s kids at an expert-level peekaboo shout.

She’s started to grasp the difference between mine and yours and can refer to her stuff properly. Shame she’s not as distinguishing when it come to her germs.

It’s been a good week at work. The Ivy League To Do is working well and I’m definitely feeling less overwhelmed. Which means I’m getting more done and spending less time fretting pointlessly.

I’ve started watching TV on my lunchbreak as a reward. I’ve restarted The Legend of Korra. Whisper it, but I’m enjoying it more than Last Airbender.

Spotify’s latest bout of nonsense is well summed up here. Like Jon Bois, I’m the only one cool enough to switch from British Folk to British Indie.

The roof is leaking again. I’m contemplating making it a feature.

  1. I’ve just checked and their life expectancy is 3 years. Guess I’m cleaning out the nest this autumn.↩︎

6 June 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 034: Where’s the cookie? In my tummy.

As with the last time we camped by Hadrian’s Wall, the scenery is more reliable than the network coverage. Which is to say, sorry these are late.

Piglet’s week got off to a storming start when she rode the metro for the first time since sentience. The Chef sent a video of her singing On a choo-choo train” to herself. To be fair, the Metro is pretty cool.

And it stayed storming through Bank Holiday camping—2 nights was too short.

We set off, car laden—new airbed, sleeping bag and chair for Piglet; a foldable cabinet; pillows—we’re glampers now. Piglet chose a sprinkle covered cookie for her bakery snack and we heard delightedly about it for the rest of the weekend.

It wasn’t sunny enough to crack out the BBQ, so we headed pubwards instead. A pint and a meal. Just like the before times. Woof.

And it still turned out to be sunny enough to burn an under-creamed Piglet. Parenting fail.

That night I had a caffeine-withdrawal headache. Which may explain why I had a nightmare that Piglet had suffocated. It doesn’t explain why I got out of the sleeping bag at 2 am to check on her, leading to 2 hours on a cold floor patting and singing her back to sleep. The downhill neighbours were very complementary of The Chef’s singing voice when we sheepishly offered our morning greeting. Does it mean I’ll cut out caffeine now I’m back in a city? Betteridge answers that.

Wearily we set off for an outdoor swimming pool. A heated learner pool in the sun is an excellent way to wake up. Piglet laid claim to a penny floater and refused to relinquish it, until we took her on the big slide. Tens of kids queuing up and me stuck halfway down it trying to regain momentum.

Frazzled, tired and hot, we trooped around Chesters. Nerves were fraying when Piglet was forced into the sling to sleep and we could set off for shade and calmer moods. A feat we repeated on the hike to sycamore gap the next day. A stranger used The Chef’s phone and it wasn’t scary to hand over a possession to be touched by a potential disease vector.

Piglet is obsessed with driving the car” and we could use it as a climbing frame when we needed peace to get the BBQ going. She’s sussed the control panel though and did her best charva impression, banging out the tunes at full blast. An effect ruined only by her choice of Radio 3.

More pub food and pints on the way home, before that sweet cleanse of the first post-camping shower, Piglet running around the garden chanting we’re home”.

Too tired to write these straight away I skived online. Only knowing him for brutal teardowns, I was worried to see a review of Bryter Layter by Neil Kulkarni. But he loves it too. And I relistened. Which is the second Richard Thompson appearance in as many weeks.

31 May 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 033: If it’s not an apple, it’s a tomato.

  • We’ve had an unusually usual weekend.
  • Piglet went swimming for the first time in over a year. Our worries about how she’d react were unfounded and she took back to the pool like the water-baby she was/is.
  • Insides of restaurants are nice. Really nice. Piglet loved it more than swimming.
  • I’m out of practice though. Walking round town left me exhausted, with pangs of jealousy staring down at the comfort pram sleeping.
  • She’s gone from hating the bus during lockdown to giddy glee; people-watching and the world rolling past big windows. She loved it more than the restaurant.
  • Around that we’ve hung a weekend of shopping for birthday and camping supplies. Piglet’s actual favourite thing of the weekend was escalators.
  • So. A normal weekend. We’re finding out—along with everyone else—how exciting normal is.
  • A salve to a week of disappointment for friends and illness for Piglet. Her preference for The Chef at bedtime gets me out of the first round of whinginess, but means I’ll get early morning screaming for Mama. My eardrums aren’t brilliant, so no great loss.
  • She’s getting better at nursery drop off. We thought we’d cracked it on Thursday, but she thought she was going to Whitley Wildings. Upon spotting her mistake, she lost it.
  • Speaking of the Wildings, I got the story of Sandy’s yellow wellies and Kendra’s boots. Which wouldn’t have been gripping at the best of times. At 2 am it was an affront.
  • At work I read about the Ivy league approach and I’m trying it to control anxiety while I’m out of the office. One week in and it’s a helpful addition. I’ve only crossed the finish line once (and it felt great), but the removal of multitasking is keeping my brain buzz quiet. I’ve even restarted trying to touch my toes.
  • In other blog posts that got me thinking, I wrote in to the NS Podcast and wasn’t roasted for a terrible question.
  • I’ve given up on the lunchtime YouTube in favour of scripted TV. I finished second series of The Boys. Less fun than the first and it’s still punching at the wrong targets. But Karl Urban, so it’s not without merit. I’ll probably pass on the third series.
  • I’ve split the photos of Piglet into the twenty” and the rest”. Now it’s on The Chef to spend a stressful month deciding and we’ll get them up before she leaves home.
  • I’m one of the lucky ones for vaccine side-effects. Not even a sore arm.
  • Beeswing is a delightful song and it’s allegedly about Anne Briggs, who I’ve never listened to. She’s good.
  • It’s June in a week and we’ve got the heating on. Pray for our camping trip.
23 May 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 032: The swifts are back

  • I’m full of mRNA. Not that I’m not usually. But this time it didn’t start with my ribosomes.
  • The health centre pulsed with shambolic efficiency. Professionals, volunteers and the public mushed together in grumbling harmony. One bloke ignored the barber’s queue etiquette to much head shaking. He left the car park against the one way too. I presume he’s one of those types.
  • Piglet did her first sleepover at Grandma and Grandad’s. It went as smoothly as her stay at Lǎolao and Lǎoyé’s, meaning we’ve multiple babysitting options. And they’re thirsty for it.
  • We wasted the first part of our freedom on repainting the nursery ceiling while she wasn’t asleep in there. But recovered our self-respect by drinking and eating ridiculously good Indian street food. The Chef peeled off to play on the computer and I marinaded in the bath with When Harry Met Sally. I’ve not seen it before, but it’s a hell of a movie. A non-stop setup–payoff of a script. And a rare RomCom where I know why the characters have fallen in love.
  • A tipsy 2-hour bath was much needed relaxation. Work anxiety is such that I ended up having a meeting in my dreams. And when I hadn’t finished enough work, I was kicked out of my own dream. Which was certainly a different way to wake in the small hours.
  • Now that summer” is here”, Grandad has taxed his sports car and Grandma can use the Fiesta and I can stay undressed on a Tuesday. I hope, now that I’m vaccinated, work don’t want me in the office.
  • Life under the various lockdowns has made Piglet a creature of habit. She woke on Saturday and earnestly told me Bakery. Then park.” There are worse routines to have.
  • She’s been on a conceptual binge recently. She can use yes/no correctly, gets another means one more of the same thing, x not y comparisons, and this is not for you.”
  • Monday is a good day for Hot Pot.
  • This List of lists and article about pocketssss are worth 5 mins each. I want a pocket further down my thigh so I can check on my list of which animals have genuine diplomas.
  • We’ve backed a crowdfunder to get one of them Shoreditch murals in BoHo Gosforth. Feel free to chuck a bit of cash their way to make my commute more interesting.
16 May 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 031: Bye-bye! Open the gate!

Look at us being all instagram-friendly with our repurposed eggshells and the seeds from a moldy tomato. Eggshells

We got lucky with dry Bank Holiday weather for clomping about Whitley Wildings’ rail-side garden. Piglet hunted for snails, hid stones and dug in mud. She enjoyed it so much, she skipped her nap.

We had tables booked at Scream for Pizza. The Chef, having looked at the weather, had cancelled them a few days prior. We switched to takeaway. Collecting while the tables were battered with freezing rain, I felt the warm glow of the right choice made. Piglet was haunted by her decision not to nap and fell asleep with pizza half in her mouth.

Stomachs remained filled with delight as The Chef cracked on with Rosa’s Thai Cafe and made a stunning salmon red curry. I took over the cooking for the rest of the week. Prevented us dying at least.

Piglet missed nursery with the classic toddler-loose-stools-from-eating-soil. She did not enjoy returning this week.

Today involved walking over to the quayside and bagging a table at By the River for the food market. It was socially distanced table service and the regular bouncing atmosphere was replaced with something more chill. But let’s face it, we’ve a 1 year old: chilled table service through an app is an upgrade for us.

We stuck our heads in the shops on the way back and picked up Piglet her first pillow. She got very excited for it being in the cot and is currently dramatically flounced across it.

I’ve had niggling hand eczema from all the disinfecting and bubble-bathing Piglet. The Chef dug out the hydrocortisone and put it on my bedside table a few weeks back and I’ve been clear since. There’s a moral there if I bother to look for it.

To get back in to the swing of reading something other than comics—and because we read a lot of Where’s my cow?”—I reread Thud! this week. It’s a good book to read as a dad. It prompted The Chef to binge through all the Vimes books. It failed to help and I spent the rest of the week reading Sandman comics.

We ordered 20 picture frames and we’re stalling on choosing the 20 best photos of Piglet to go in them. I’ve whittled the original 200 photos don to 60-ish. Let’s see how many notes it is before we’ve ordered the final set…

I’m enjoying having moved the blog to Blot, but what’s the deal? I’m able to accidentally bag domain stubs all the time. You can read these on ink.blot.im, paul.blot.im or woohooctopus.blot.im. I’m going to stop switching before I unfairly catch em all.

Those elections were a load of s■■■, weren’t they?

9 May 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 030: I’m a sausage!

We started the week disagreeing with grandparents about how much to upset Piglet when teaching to share and finished it with them running up and down Northumberlandia together.

I traded away a daddy-daughter day while The Chef worked to repair the damaged nursery ceiling from our roof leak. It felt unkind. I’d imagined it would be a two-hour job and was debating which secondary bit of DIY would fill my Saturday. But after an hour and only 3 square feet scraped, I sunk into the familiar frustrated despondency that follows my overly-optimistic DIY estimates. Leaving it half-done would only exacerbate my annoyance, so I traded the second day away too. Watching the videos of everyone gamboling on the hills was the lift I needed.

The upshot of being stuck in a steamy room with sore shoulders was that I could binge on podcasts. I don’t tend to listen the same channel consecutively and it’s led to some serendipitous clashes:

  • Katy Brand talking about Joseph Campbell’s influence on Disney followed by Mike Jones of Pixar saying they need to ditch this structure because it’s too predictable.
  • Sam Lee preserving folk songs just before Alisdair Beckett-King did the same for folk stories.
  • Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley discussing the patriarch-matriarch-craftsman-clown in Red Dwarf before Gabby Hutchinson Crouch does the same for Pratchett’s witches.

The thing I got from it (beyond comedy script advice) is that most folklore is a bit silly and not as dramatic as the Big Folk tales and that Old Wow by Sam Lee is just lovely.

Piglet bagged her first dentist trip. We did the parent thing of being angsty about it. She loved it and got a sticker for being brave. Then spent the rest of the week counting my teeth at every opportunity. She’s coupled that with grabbing cloths and holding them in front of her face and giggling, got a mask” to make us smile during the day.

Nights on the other hand have been aggravating. She’s reached an age where bedtime is a fight. Three nights in a row one of us would still be by the cot at 9 pm listening to renditions of ABC. The Chef, as usual, has researched and found a trick for us to try. We’ve our fingers crossed for it.

Working from home
A year working from home

And to round off, this week is the one year anniversary of deciding to not make sourdough. It’s reminded me the swifts are due in a week or so.

2 May 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 029: Time Wasting Scenarios

To prepare for going out out, I went for the fastest run I’ve been on in the last 5 months. It was my slowest of the last 5 months too, but I’m taking the positives.

The main positive being that we went out! To a restaurant. Without Piglet. It was, just, yeah…

It feels good to know that we can leave her with grandparents for babysitting and enjoy a grown up evening. It was the last restaurant we went to before lockdown one too. Barbecued meat in the brisk open air. Delicious.

We’d been nearby earlier to visit Byker Farm and let Piglet scream delightedly at bemused animals and shout choo-choo” at passing metros. I could get used to lockdown relaxing; the return of routine feels exhilarating.

At the other end of the week, I successfully cooked aubergines on the twentieth attempt. The Chef let me in on the secret—use loads of oil.

While there was a cow at the farm, Piglet’s used to hundreds on her walks around the Moor now and a single cow doesn’t elicit a supersonic, Cows!” It’s not that she’s already jaded, but a girl has expectations.

We’ve to watch her on the walks. If she gets a few unsupervised seconds, she’ll fill her pockets with stones. It’s endearingly weird.

One evening, having de-stoned her pockets, she was playing with her crossbow” and I explained the real word was hanger” . What a naff word that is. As pleased as I was by bittersweet, hanger squats there, a desultory description. A teen on work-experience. A hanger.

Nursery is doing the business. Piglet’s got a cold. We’ve been teaching her to share and take turns. She’s still not great with toys, but she’s happily given her germs to me and The Chef. Probably while we co-slept.

Which is a extra kicker because, pre-illness and with the risk of cursing it forever, she looked to have largely cracked sleep. A bad night now is having to go down once to resettle her. I’m nervously hopeful of a return to service.

I signed up a one-week free trial of Marvel Unlimited to save having to spend £30 to get up to date on the Immortal Hulk series. It’s led to me reading a lot of comics this week. Any must reads for the next 3 days before it expires?

When I started writing about what I was bingeing it was to force myself to listen to new music. I figured I’d be too embarrassed to constantly be writing about the Best of Indie 2004. 6 music has been my friend in this and I’ve just discovered Duncan Geere converts their now playing list into a Spotify playlist every week. Score. Highlight of the week is Fana Hues.

25 April 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 028: What do giraffes say in your house?

My legs are sore and hair damp. The Chef was at work this weekend and I spent the day switching between keeping Piglet alive, grouting the bathroom and cooking. My reward was a hot shower while she settled the tiny tyrant.

I’d farmed Piglet out to her grandparents yesterday to free me to crack on with odd jobs; tiling, painting, mowing. Today was completing the loose ends. A textbook middle-aged Dad weekend.

Tiled bath
The panel is back on the bath only 9 months after it first came off.

Getting a few jobs done has been a tonic for general angst. I feel I’m falling behind on work again (I should maybe have done some catch up this weekend) and it’s nagging at me.

I’ve instigated a morning walk round the block without my phone, which is helping start the day right. And this week I had some virtual meetings with folks I’ve not spoken to for a while and it was good to catch up on the attenuated gossip of locked-down lives.

While the weather is playing ball, we’re a free range family in the evening. It started on Tuesday with a trip to Elgy green and Piglet living her best life. And ended up with me meeting the girls in the park after nursery, eating al fresco between sessions on the swings or roundabout.

I got to the park first one time and was sent a picture of them heading over. The lack of knee bend gives toddlers the most bombastic walking style. Even a static photo is dynamic.

In further outdoor life, we were treated to the simple pleasure of a hedgehog in the garden. Is there anything to refill your spirit with childish wonder than a hedgehog rustling round the leaves? (We were only in the garden at night to hang laundry. That should freak the neighbours out.)

We had to hang in the dark because I’d been at class that night and Piglet was truculent with her bedtime. It all started so sweetly with her happily chatting in Chinese to the class on Zoom. Bilingual show-off. I barely manage one.

Reading a tweet from a different family with young kids that, because they didn’t know what noise a giraffe made, it says beep-boop. We had the same panic when teaching Piglet and our giraffes have a high-pitched giggle. (For similar reasons, hips say, BIRD!”) Surely no-one knows what they sound like and has had to improv. What do giraffes say in your house?

Instead of a music binge this week, a lovely mobile game instead. Florence is a narrative game from a few years back that I’d missed. The ending is kind of sad, but the limited gameplay is perfect for the stroytelling. It reminded me a bit of Old Man’s Journey.

18 April 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 027: Where does all the time go?

It should only be another month until I can touch the floor. Toes.jpg

A week bookended by home cooking. We started on Bank Holiday stuffing Lǎolao’s wild garlic dumplings into our faces and finished with Piglet’s first foray into the kitchen.

Through the week, I had a pleasingly empty work calendar. Did I fill it with useful projects and a feeling of fulfillment? I did not. Instead I got bored processing data and frustrated by server outages. Yay?

I did get out on my bike to try a bakery slightly further from home. Too much tasty bread for too little exercise.

While I was cycling, Piglet was round Lǎolao’s being scared by leaves. She’s not great with unexpected animus. When the wind stirred the pile she was playing with, she fled to the consolation of hugs indoors. Leaves studiously avoided from then.

Slightly braver was her performance on returning to nursery. While we got the anticipated tears on first drop-off in 4 months, a slice of toast was enough to placate her. The Chef had a half-day to pick her up early. The intention was for a peaceful pram nap while walking home, which instead involved following a racing toddler around fields.

Friday was less tearful and she stayed for the full day. Charmed everyone with her stream of consciousness and requests for stories. We’ll see how long it lasts.

With the reintroduction of strangers, we planned for nothing exciting this weekend. Saturday; two park trips. Picnic and swings in the morning. Looking for newts in the afternoon, but the nature reserve trashed. Lockdown has baked the teenagers and drunks and they took it out on the ponds. Aggravating. We taught Piglet her first lesson of civic pride and she helped steer a long stick to fish out empties.

(Speaking of newts, this video took me back 20 years to developmental biology lectures.)

Steak.jpg Saturday night

April snow was flurrying on Sunday and we made no plans to leave the house. Grandma is feeling the hurt of losing a day to nursery and bullied Grandad into helping repair the bath so she could play with Piglet. Repairs took him all of 5 minutes so he didn’t miss out on too much playtime. When they’d cleared out, Piglet was free to make the aforementioned chocolate cornflake cakes for us.

Rather than a full album, just a track this week. Little Frogs is a lovely ditty with a heart-warming video. (via Lucy Bellwood).

This might be the last post here on woohooctopus. I’m moving to ink.blot.im. I can publish straight from Dropbox. Who knows, I might get more punctual. I might even do styling.

11 April 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 026: Eggs come from chickens

Let’s not bury the lede this week. Piglet had her first sleep out. F■■■ yes!

She spent the night at Lǎolao and Lǎoyé’s and we were filled with the spirit of teenage rebellion. Takeaway arrived during what would be bath-time. We watched a movie with the sound up. We went to bed late without fear of interruption. We left knives, glasses and TV remote lying about when we went to bed. We stomped on the stairs. We unplugged the monitor. You know, the usual old-person teenage stuff.

Earlier in the week I knocked off work early to light our first BBQ of the year. With the guideline relaxations, we could have my parents round. Piglet did her best to kill Grandad with non-stop running. Like the spring day around us, we could see the first shoots of post-pandemic life. My folks repaid in kind with a Sunday Roast for Easter Day.

We snuck out to South Shields beach on Good Friday. It was warmer than when we last met our friends there. They’d brought mini eggs with them. Piglet, on hearing the word chocolate, switched from playing to sidling. She nudged The Chef, coyly curious, to remind us she was still there with a hopeful half-smile.

About par for her new cheekiness. I came downstairs on my lie-in day to find her sat at the table eating blood orange, drinking tea and pointing out the Blue tits over there”. She’s not two yet.

The sleep streak is over. Teething again. One night while singing 宝宝贝 (Bǎo bǎobèi to the tune of Brahm’s Lullaby) she bolted up to say kitty cat” and then started singing 猫猫喵 (Māomāo miāo / kitty cat meow) to the same tune. Which is pretty impressive ad libbing from someone I thought was already asleep.

The morning after that refusal to sleep, Twirlywoos went on while I topped up on coffee. The Twirlywoos were being their usual exasperating selves and taking things too far till the ship, having had enough of their s■■■, blew its horn and stopped the nonsense. I love that ship. It me.

That said, when I do grump at her she’ll start crying and saying everything, everything.” I don’t think it means what she thinks. At one point she got so stressed she backed away and said 爸爸上班班 (Bàba shàngbān bān / Daddy, go to work) until I left the room.

Better rested we’ll read The Lion and the Bird together. There’s a bittersweet bit which set me off trying to think of other oxymoronic compounds like bittersweet. It’s common in beginner’s Chinese, but I struggled in English before I cheated. There are only three good words on that list, so I’ll stick with my initial conclusion that it’s not common in English. And I’m left wondering why.

I missed two days of stretches and I have a bad back. There was no disclaimer that I’d have to do this every day for the rest of my life. Unless the disclaimer is that I’m old.

After a few weeks of disco-adjacent binge listening, a new Nick Cave album will always monopolise. I like the new sound that he and Warren have found for themselves. This morning is amazing and so are you.

5 April 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 025: Hello tuppence

  • The Chef got her second vaccine. Fortunately the same week as she had some use-em-or-lose-em holidays to fill with naps.
  • I had a shorter week too and we spent Monday playing on the beach. First coast trip of the year with all the March classics; Fish and chips, ice cream, cool dude” glasses, five layers, giving the Stella drinkers a wide berth, sandcastles, splodging.
  • Everyone in the immediate family is vaccinated (bar me). We’re on for a less worrisome return to nursery after Easter. Even when she licks another child, she shouldn’t kill her grandparents.
  • Piglet is ready for it. She’s started treating her toys as friends, saying hello”, I love you” and asking to hold their hands.
  • That’s the sweet side of her development. Less sugary is the birth of the tantrum. Puce-faced, tears streaming and riots of, No no no no no no” at the suggestion that she put clothes on before she goes out.
  • In between those poles, she’s a victim to rhythm. If a song comes on that she digs during a meal it’s a straight, Bib off. Dancing”
  • I gave up working from the kitchen cabinet and switched the office and library round. Now we’ve a big enough office to avoid neck strain and a small enough library to call a reading nook. We’ve no chair or shelves, so it looks like a haunted bookshop with a beanbag nestled amidst the piles of literature of dubious quality.
  • Celebrated the switch by taking Friday off too. We went for a very, very cold walk around the Rising Sun. Despite the polar temperatures, we figured ice cream was still in order. There was no ice cream. Then a horse nibbled Piglet. It was time to come home and have pizza instead.
  • I’ve noticed Piglet’s bilingualism has led to more persistent patience than a typical toddler. If she feels she’s not getting attention, she’ll switch language and try again.
  • We went to A Different Park today. It was almost like going on holiday. They even had a trampoline built into the ground. And I got my ice cream.
28 March 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 024: How do you want to do tonight?

I guess everyone in my RSS had a quiet Sunday at the same point last week. Weeknotes.jpg

  • We started the week going round the houses dropping off homemade Mother’s day cards to the grandmothers before eating till regret. We texted later to explain what Piglet had drawn.

  • Grandma got so excited to hear of Lǎolao’s finger injury that she mandolined the tip of her finger off in homage.

  • After a year in the attic, I figured it would look better with a monitor riser and the laptop shovelled underneath. This kicked off a couple of hours worth of office tarting. The decade-and-a-bit old printer and speakers headed to the recycling. Then I got it into my head that it’d be a better use of space if I was against a different wall and I spent the week working from an Ikea kitchen cabinet to try it out. I’m moderately confident I don’t have ADHD.

  • The third time someone mentioned they were trying to touch their toes, I cracked and started too. I’ve made alright progress for 1 week and I’ll make a GIF when I touchdown. You’ll all get to see my pyjama bottoms. There’s something to look forward to in a few weeks.

  • We’re the kind of people who have a butter.

  • Piglet has stopped crawling up the stairs and started walking up like a normal human: one step at a time, holding nothing and muttering strong” under her breath. Just like Dad. Which is terrifying given my past.

  • She dropped her first C-bomb this week. But then she started wearing her potty as a hat and slept through for 5 nights, so she’s forgiven. She also spent a day saying thank you to everyone and everything for anything.

  • When I go into the nursery in the mornings, I get a brain dump as a greeting. I’ve been told Giants are really, really big” and asked Breakfast? Would you like… toast? How about banana?”

  • Unless she’s supervised with an apple, she’ll eat the lot. Core. Seeds. The lot. It’s kind of impressive.

  • We might be raising her as the fun police. On the roundabout when another kid waved to their grandparent, she told her, Two hands. Hold on tight.” It was not well-received. Later, when an older kid hopped on the infant swings before her, she calmly walked round, crossed her arms and gave her best fuck-off-now stare. Yes, the swearing is in the look. Worked too. She’s always smug on the swings, but that one was extra.

  • My usual weeknotes process is to remember a load of stuff after publishing and add that to ideas list. On Monday I’ll think of something new. Tuesday to Friday get ignored (as they should). But this Tuesday was our 3 year moving in-niversary. Tradition dictates KFC.

  • Is there anything more comforting than when your kid nestles right in when you’re reading stories together?

  • Hearing Grant Howitt wax lyrical about Parisian Dream, this week’s new” album is Laura Veirs’ 2005 Year of Meteors

22 March 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 023: Whispered stories


  • I’m prepared to admit dry lent is over.
  • While prepping Sunday dinner last week, we were interrupted by a phonecall to tell us Lǎolao was dying. Turns out she’d cut her fingertip and Lǎoyé was being a flounce.
  • Post-dinner was spent discussing moving Piglet to her Big Girl Room, which was a conversation I don’t think I was ready for.
  • Piglet has a routine towards the end of the bath where she’ll say goodbye to the water, look up grinning and whisper stories.” She’s upped her game by whispering the actual stories to herself in the wee hours. It peaked during a week of teething when The chef, having thought that she’d escaped the nursery, was stranded on the landing listening to Cock-a-doodle-do! Sun come up” and the dread understanding that she’d have to turn back.
  • Still pleased in the uptick of the quality in Piglet’s stories since we bought a tranche. Four lines of Julia Donaldson is enough to know you’re in the hands of a master. And I’m blaming sleep deprivation for how rheumy-eyed I was the first time I read The Little Gardener.
  • We remembered that iPlayer doesn’t always have to be In the Night Garden and we’re now 30 episodes into Twirlywoos.
  • I’ve already wished lockdown a happy birthday, so I’ll not repeat it hear.
  • Finished The Maker of Swans, hunted out the author Paraic O’Donnell and ended up here. Heartbreaking but beautiful.
  • On Wednesday I procrastinated on procrastinating and did a job for someone in the same day. It made all the difference. There remains a hovering angst trying to find purchase, but it’s held off with action.
  • Following on with my album of the week recommendations I’ve gone full 6Music and binged Flock by Jane Weaver.
14 March 2021 weeknotes

Weeknotes 022: Ransom

  • Folks, wild garlic season has started.


  • In case the neighbours were wondering what kind of children they live beside, we’ve painted the front gate bright yellow.

  • While I dribbled paint on the drive, The Chef attacked our neglected garden. With Piglet settled into a daily 2-hour lunch nap, there’s going to be a lot of this over the spring.

  • Had a bit of wobbly work productivity, which as I’ve co-slept every night while the girls stave off (non-Covid) colds is OK. I mean, it’s always OK. But especially when feeling like a Walking Dead extra.

  • The extra mucus in Piglet proved immiscible with her pear juice. One round of carpet cleaner and one of mopping later and she’s still asking for more.

  • Google Photos’ creepy but useful face-match feature misidentifies Piglet as me or The Chef reasonably frequently. I guess that means she looks like both of us?

  • Having Piglet around means meeting lots of local doggos. As introverts who like to stroke strange dogs, this is an unforeseen benefit of parenthood.

  • We’ve gone mad with delight at the prospect of lockdown ending. We’re booked in for an outdoor meal for two at Cook House in April. We’re meeting up with friends at Träkol in June. We’re whittling down campsites for July. AirBnB is booked for the boys away day in August. People are going to get hugged. Maybe even licked. Weeknotes might have #content!

  • This week’s new on repeat album has been Magic Mirror by Pearl Charles, courtesy of Lauren Laverne loving it when I do the drop off. Piglet grooves away in her car seat to Only for tonight.

  • Finished the Foundation Trilogy and the idea of the intergalactic future of humanity being 1950s America—but in Space!—hasn’t aged well.

7 March 2021 weeknotes