Its been a fun week. On Monday we went on a cold walk with some friends along the solar system to Bishopthorpe. We braved dazzling sun and driving sleety rain and so when we got to Bishopthorpe we felt that we deserved a cup of tea at one of the pubs. That quickly turned into lunch (with a very fine pint of Bombardier), and the babies sat contentedly and made faces at all the little old ladies!
On Friday we had coffee with four different sets of babies/toddlers and their parents, and so to celebrate our social whirlwind, we made raisin cakes! Actually, Nathaniel decided to have a 20 minute snooze and I figured that that was just enough time to make cakes and so prioritised cake over washing up. A very sensible decision!
A highlight of the week was Nathaniel deciding to sleep until 5:15am. Thats 9 hours sleep! He can do that again whenever he fancies! Obviously he hasn't repeated it!
This week we experimented with clothes! To be honest, they are not what they are cracked up to be. It takes ages to take off and put on trousers when you are changing nappies, and socks are a total waste of time. At least sleepsuits are warm and their feet don't fall off.
A jolly moment wearing the jumper that Philippa knitted
A potatoey moment in the buggy
It has been a very smiley and grinful week, and Nathaniel has generally found everything rather exciting. He has a particular preference for watching toddlers and and laughing at them, and when we went to the cinema he liked looking at the other babies and frowning at them if they cried! Here are a couple of the least blurred pictures that I took when he was enjoing being tickled. He's not actually smiling, coz its hard to tickle and take photos at the same time, but he looks pretty contented!
Nathaniel is 8 weeks old today! He celebrated by sleeping from 8pm until 2am and then again until 6am. Thats almost civilised! It meant that we could have Chinese with Rosie and Pete after he had gone to bed and still get a good night's sleep! Horray!
Nathaniel has started to get much more interested, and hence interesting! He looks at things for a serious amount of time, and finds them all very interesting. He is still a big fan of his Old Macdonald mobile - he lies in his cot and wiggles his legs and arms and coos at it!
He favourite times of day are first thing in the morning when he has eaten, and 5pm-ish when Ian comes home from work and it is nearly bath time. But he also enjoys singing loudly to himself at convenient times such as in the library and while I am on the phone!
These photos are from first thing in the morning, hence the general lack of light. I'll try and lighten them at some point.....
Nathaniel is really growing! He started off at 50cm, now he is 57cm long. He even has started to fit into some of his clothes. Doesn't change the fact that we are mostly too lazy to bother with clothes when there are babygrows available!
Many moons ago we collected a travel bug from the deep south and had every intention of dropping it off somewhere in Leeds in the hope that a slight;y more ethnically diverse location would aid it in its quest to get to India. And I did try! Several lunch times saw a shifty looking pregnant woman prowling St George's Field with a GPS. But there were always far to many pesky students around for me to actually locate the cache, and so the bug is still with us.
We realised that this wasn't really on, so we made the most of today's glorious autumnal weather to introduce Nathaniel to geocaching. Admittedly, he fell asleep in his buggy minutes after we left the house, but we enjoyed an easy find in a little out of the way graveyard which we knew off but had never been into, and a lovely sunshiny walk.
Nathaniel finds his fist geocache (its rather camoflagued against his buggy)
Actually, he didn't, but we are under strict instructions from Nimmy that we need to post about his every move and put up photos of everything so that she doesn't miss anything. To be honest, theres not much to miss yet - he does a good line in sleeping, eating and having his nappy changed. And not all of those activities are so great for photos! But here are some to start with....
Nathaniel not looking too much like a potato
Slightly more potatoey
Nathaniel, aged 1 week, visits the sailing club and watches a very slow drifting race
Modeling the jumper that Mf knitted him. The colour matches his eyes
Maternity leave has been a bit bizarre. After all, what do you do with the day when you don't have a giant list of stuff to do? Actually, I do have a giant list, but because its not work related, it feels like most of it could be comfortably ignored. I don't think that will last long!
Today, waiting for several deliveries and people to pick up freecycled junk has been greatly enlivened by the turning on of the Large Hadron Collider. I have sat happily on the sofa listening to the coverage on Radio 4 while watching the live broadcast from the control room on BBC News on silent! A part of me kept remembering the pictures of the control room after Arianne blew up - all those discarded, mostly-full bottles of champagne!
The coverage wasn't too bad. All the presenters made a pretty good job of staying "interested" until the beam had got all the way around, and eventually even John Humphries stopped burbling about the end of the world. They all seemed to conveniently forget that the end of the world won't come until they actually collide the beams!
What made me turn off in the end was the BBC deciding to read text messages from the general public. Then I really did have to restrain myself from throwing things at the radio. Lots of comments about what a waste of money it was when there were starving orphans in Africa (obviously from people who don't use the internet!!), and others objecting to scientists trying to prove there was no God (must be from creationists!).
The most useful part of the morning was the discussion on Woman's Hour about why there are so few women physicists. By that time I was starting to miss actually being in physics, and pondering all the what ifs. But one of the women on the programme was the same age as me and talking about the difficulties of short contract post docs, antisocial hours, and the fact that as a scientist you need to be your most attractive to employers (eg through loads of publications and long hours in strange places) at exactly this point. The point when you really want to be getting on with the whole procreation thing.
Good point, well made. Actually I don't want to be a kick-ass physicist that much.
I think the parents felt a little guilty for helping us destroy the hall, as it has become apparent that pigs will fly before we manage to get it redecorated! So this weekend they came to help us sort it out. Except we hadn't managed to get it to a stage where it could be sorted out in a weekend!
But we did manage lots of really useful things! Mf made us wonderful curtains for Picard's room, and we all helped hem them - you wouldn't think it was a four person job....
Everyone has to help with curtain measuring!
Ian and FF did an amazing job on the ceiling of the hall and now at least there is no wallpaper left at all.
But most importantly, we bought a very complicated 10-position ladder which impersonates a stick insect before folding down to something eminently storable, and allows us to get into the loft properly!
Ian (blurry!) in the loft for the first time!
We put in some proper boards and suddenly, there was room to store all the boxes of rubbish that have been inhabiting the study for the last three years. Now we can put them up there, forget all about them, and only realise what a lot of junk we keep when either we move house or the loft is full! The only downside (or maybe an upside) of this new game, is that my very pregnant stomach won't fit through the rather narrow loft hatch!
Aparently, the board game was confiscated becuase it contained a balaclava which "could be used to conceal someone's identity or could be used in the course of a criminal act". Yes, a very dangerous piece of equipment.
But when you start to look at the game, it is really rather good! Its a satire of Bush's War on Terror, based on a Risk format, but with all sorts of extra features which allow you, in addition to declaring war and conquering neighbouring countries, to train terrorist cells, launch strikes, and generally do all things terrorist. You can also bankrupt other conpetitors by playing the "Kyoto protocol" card, and at any time abandon the pursuit of of liberty and oil in favour of becoming a terror state . There is an "Axis of Evil spinner" intended to parody international diplomacy by randomly deciding which player is designated a terrorist state. That person then has to wear a balaclava (included in the box set) with the word "Evil" stitched on to it.
Its really most amusing. And the FAQs on the game's website are worth reading (http://www.waronterrortheboardgame.com/thegame/faq.php). In response to the question, "Isn't it a bit tasteless?", the creators' simple answer is "That depends on your taste. Personally, we think the actual "War on Terror" is in pretty bad taste. This is just a board game". Can't argue with that!
So, having read the articles about the game in most major newspapers, Vicki decided that we needed to play the game and promptly ordered it. So that's what we did ALL Saturday night:
We discovered some useful things. Terrorism has many different cards to play, the distinction between a good move and a bad move is sometimes difficult to ascertain, and most importantly, the World Bank always wins.
It has become clear why it takes so long for me and Ian to buy anything – we have to comparison shop everything! We need to get a changing bag for Picard, and although the Mothercare catalogue has plenty in, I was kind of intrigued by the fancy Skip Hop bags which were not only rather fancy looking (fun materials and elegant shapes), but had some clever system for hooking properly onto the buggy handle rather than just draping over like most people do. I was rather shocked at the idea of spending £55 on a bag, and so have been scouring ebay for these bags and realising that they get snapped up for quite a lot! So we thought that, as I was getting cabin fever from being in York (work doesn’t count), we’d take a trip to Harrogate, try and have tea with Rosie and Pete and look at said bag in the wonderfully overpriced JoJo Maman Bebe.
I’m glad we did. I was right – spending £55 on something that keeps reminding you how chic and stylish it is is always a mistake. Yes, they were bags, but not bags that you’d want to use in the rain (no proper fastening at the top), and not bags that you could get much in. The second you stuffed them with a waterproof or two, the poppers wouldn’t do up and then the rain really would pour in. That would have been a serious waste of money.
So we had a wander around Harrogate and played in the park a bit, failed to see Pete and Rosie because they were going on holiday, and had a quick look at the rather pathetic offerings of Mothercare.
But we did need a changing bag, so we went home via Mama and Papas in York (I do detest the fact that they insist on having their stores in out of town shopping centres), and took apart all of their bags. There were a good many that again had no proper fastening (do chic mothers just not leave the house when it rains?), and a few that were pretty and really just a bag, but in the end we settled on one which has suitable numbers of pockets, a sensibly sized changing mat, wipe clean insides, expanded exponentially and still does up and looks about as waterproof as you are likely to get. I won’t say how much it cost, coz I was quite shocked (and the evil Mamas and Papas had put up their prices but not on the labels – got rather irritated with the shop assistant about that), but at least we have a sensible bag. Our thought is that the simpler it is to take Picard out of the house, the better.
The rest of the weekend was taken up with trying to sort out the study. I sorted some stuff and moved books around ineffectually, while Ian did a sterling job painting the last remaining wall and plastering bits of the hallway. Now all we have to do is work out how we are going to safely rig up the ladder so that the cracks near the ceiling at the top of the stairs can be reached.
I guess taking and uploading lots of pictures when you have just started an adventure that is going to last a year is probably not the most exciting use of time. Especially if you don't like being a tourist and constantly taking photos. So it is just as well that Nimmy has friends who will take photos of her!
So here is what it looks like Nimmy is doing:
Drinking wine with other VIFers Getting a shiny new car Going to see the Greensboro Grasshoppers (I think they are a baseball team)
This weekend Nimmy left the UK for sunny (literally) Greensboro, so we went down to Oxford to see her off. We spent most of Saturday packing and repacking and putting suitcases on the bathroom scales, and then had dinner with the Matthewseses. Mf put her new camera to good use and practised using the ridiculous zoom.
On Sunday we took Nim to Gloucester Green to catch the 7am bus and then didn't really know what to do with ourselves. So we did the usual - the Greenough Standard Walk A by the river followed by paying our respects to Waitrose!
I'm not sure that I don't just look fat rather than pregnant....
What was I saying about trying to do too much.....?
This weekend, I spent Friday in London, Ian had a gig in Leeds and we went to Ullswater for a weekend with the sailing club! In the efforts of not overdoing it (!), we decided not to try and drive to the lakes on Friday night after the gig, but take it a bit more leisurely and appear at some point on Saturday. A very good plan.
We managed to arrive in the sun and spent a very happy afternoon on and by the lake. Ian and Hugh took out Hugh's boat and proceeded to fail to fly a spinaker and wear themselves out (it was pretty windy). I sat very contentedly at the end of a jetty and read Henry James with a flask of tea.
The evening was spent with the traditional barbeques - far too much food and a little huddling under the gazebo to avoid a couple of short showers. Frisbee went on until pretty much everyone had sustained at least one injury due to a flying disc hurtling at them through the twilight, one frisbee had been into a barbeque, and one had been almost irretrievably lost in the dark woods!
Hugh, Steve, Paul, Ian and I got up at 5:30am for the traditional early morning sail. Or drift as the case may be. But it is always worth it.
There was a little bit of wind.....
The sky was blue, the sun was hot, and the lake was beautifully millpond-like. We ate jaffa cakes and drank tea while making the most of 5 minutes of wind, and then drifted merrily in the sun. The only downside was that I discovered that I really am too fat now to spend much time hunched up in a boat!
After bacon and eggs for breakfast, we headed back to the boats. Some sailing, some reading of the paper, some chatting, some watching the swans - who could ask more from a Sunday?
The idea was that after a May and June of teaching sailing courses, running novice racing and darting around the country visiting friends, July would be a quiet time when we would get around to actually spending time with our friends in York, get to grips with all the baby-related stuff that we were no doubt supposed to have bought/thought about, and maybe even relax a bit. So far I wouldn't say we were totally achieving that aim!
This weekend only had a choir concert and a gig, but somehow it all became rather busy! Saturday was spent sleeping, rehearsing, buying supplies for the choir social and attending the concert. It was actually one of the best concerts that we have sung for a while - shame that the Press wasn't there. It was a summery one, full of jolly music about laying garlands on coffins, flowers and dubious relationships with monks. But the notes weren't too hard, so the Micklegate Singers actaully showed off that we can really sing music! We did a good bit of childrens-choir-esque Chilcot (I had to restrain myself from adding jazz hands to the last chord), and some superb Whitacre which I felt that we sung really well. Full programme is here.
The rest of the choir seemed to enjoy it too, so the socialising afterwards went on for a while, and we were still collecting up empty bottles of wine after 11pm!
On Sunday, Maybe She's a Clone played the Junction in York. It was a very wet evening, and the audience was correspondingly damp, but it was a really good gig. It sounded good, and despite the band insisting that they had spooned all sorts of things, very little of this was obvious to the audience. We hung around like the polite sort of audience that we are to hear the second band which was a sort of electro-metal band. Not terribly promising, but they had sequenced all their lights and brought along a few extras (fun lasers), so it was a really good show. I was very impressed with the carefully choreographed facial expressions (I'm not joking!!).
So it was a very fine weekend, but still rather tiring! Now we just need a weekend to recover!
Ages ago, Nimmy came up with the great idea of going to Ocean Fest in Croyde and watching some bands and some surfing. And it turned out to be a truly superlative idea!
On Saturday we watched the total lack of surf and the dualathalon (with commentary by Pam), got amazed at mountain biking, ate yummy food and saw bands. We've all seen good mountain bikers, so I think we were all surprised at how impressed we were the the bikers doing bunny hops over bars at 1.10m (handle bar height!) and back flips in tiny spaces.
Mountain bikers being impressive
The bands on Saturday evening were great. We really enjoyed the Rupert Oxlade band who were really upbeat and fun to dance to. Then Donavan Frakenreiter came on and totally blew everyone away. He did some really chilled out stuff with another guitarist and then got he Rupert Oxlade Band on with him and blasted out a couple of brilliant numbers. The whole crowd was dancing around, and Donavan walked through the mosh all the way back to where we were! It was so cool - if we had been at reading of some other giant festival a) he would never have got there and b) if he had, he would have had his mike (and no doubt half of his clothes) nicked off him! As it was, people were just hugging him and he was offering the mike to people to sing along! It was so great and apparently Ian and I were on the big screens, only we weren't looking at them - we were watching the singer hugging the audience two feet away from us! We were still on such a high when we got back to our (rather refined) caravan!
The wind got up on Sunday and although the sun was shining, the wind was so strong that it kept everything chilly, made the surf ridiculous and rendered the main stage unusable. But despite the lack of bands (some were in the beer tent, but it was a bit squashed to say the least), or surfing to watch, we had fund playing on the beach, eating more yummy food and generally chilling out. It was the most relaxing weekend for ages!
Nimmy, Ian and Rob seeing who could make the wettest splash
The problem with living in the north is that people keep insisting on moving to the south! What an error! First of all it means that they have to live with crazy motorists, and then it means that we don't get to see them all that much!
So this weekend we made the trek to Dunstable to see Neil and Emma via Sue in Fenstanton. The weather was uncharacteristically pleasant for June(!) and so after a day sat in the garden polishing off a box of wine (except me), we decided to spend Sunday at Whipsnade.
Its only just down the road from Emma and Neil, so they have a season ticket, and I bet that that means that Ethan is more familiar with hippos than I am! We saw rhinos and lions and cheetas and sea lions and red pandas and otters and elephants and bears and bison and zebras and lots of wallabees and maras and other things. Most of them were sensibly snoozing in whatever shade there was in their enclosure.
But the best bit was seeing the giraffes! I have never seen a giraffe in real life before and they were so cool! Their skin looked much tougher and leathery than I was expecting, and the grown ups had saggy bits of skin just like rhinos and hippos. They managed to look so totally aloof and superior - I was most impressed. I got really obsessed with their bendy necks which always bend in odd directions - I could have watched them for days! As it was we came back a second time and I took far too many pictures!