Wednesday, March 30, 2005


A couple of weeks ago we got the results of Hayley’s screening test for downs syndrome. Her statistical chance of having an affected child was 1 in 410. This is about average for her age. We read the literature and considered whether a further test was appropriate. But the further test has a 1 in 100 chance of causing a miscarriage. On top of these numbers there are many other figures within the literature to try to clarify the likelihood of the possible outcomes.

We opted to continue without a further test, but I was struck by how confusing the mass of figures can be. I read several booklets and they sometimes gave conflicting figures. Even where they didn’t conflict their context was often vague, e.g. was the figure for all women across all age ranges and if so what was the distribution of ages within that group? I had to read and re-read the information several times before I was sure I had gleaned as much from it as I could. And even then, I was struck by the fact that the odds we were presented with were just that: odds. A measure of our chances in the lottery we’d opted into.

In the end we decided that we should proceed positively and (as Hayley’s GP said to her when she spoke to him about it) enjoy the pregnancy. There are (and will be in future) many possible problems and things that might go wrong. From now on we will have to learn to deal with them as they come along and try not to worry more than is reasonable. Something that I suspect is going to be particularly hard for Hayley, a born worrier!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Baby Mozart

As I type this I am sitting listening to Mozart’s clarinet concerto in A: one of my favourite pieces of music. And judging by the Classic FM “Hall Of Fame” it is the favourite of many other people too as it came in at about number 3.

Apparently babies like Mozart too. It is probably common knowledge by now that listening to Mozart is meant to increase a baby’s IQ by a few points. There are also several CDs of Mozart’s music specifically designed to be played to be babies. Perhaps the bext known of these is "Baby Mozart" from the Baby Einstein company. A visit to Amazon to read reviews of these products reveals parents who swear by them. Stories abound of babies who would normally cry the house down cooing gently as they fall asleep to the sounds of the Viennese genius. This is said to be especially true if they were played the music in the womb, but who knows.

As a bit of a Mozart fan I’ve greatly enjoyed the increased time we’ve had with Mozart playing around the house since his music became a topic of conversation in our house. Last Sunday we spent an idyllic evening lazing on the sofa listening to a CD of Mozart highlights. I don't know whether all 3 of us were listening but it's a nice thought. And I suspect that once our bump becomes our baby such tranquil evenings will fast become a fond memory.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Easter and Hayley's Party Trick

Hayley on route to the Pike

Over Easter we walked up Rivington Pike on Good Friday and went to my Mum’s annual Easter Egg hunt on Easter Sunday. The walk up Rivington on Good Friday is a Lancashire tradition. It is also said to bring good luck if you touch all 4 sides of the pike when you reach the top. (So we did. Well it couldn’t do any harm could it.) Hayley walked up from the highest car park while I rode up the hill from further down, catching up to her near the top.

Hayley reaches the summit

Behind the hill there was an assortment of stalls, mostly selling food and some with coconut shys and other games offering the chance to win cuddly toys. We had several attempt to win a giant Tigger but without success. We then enjoyed a plate of noodles with vegetables before strolling back down in the sunshine.

Hayley enjoying her noodles

There are more pictures from our Good Friday walk here.

The Easter Egg hunt was good fun too. Hayley spent a large part of the afternoon entertaining the 6 - 10 year olds who were in danger doing damage through their keenness to play hide and seek in my Mum’s house. So Hayley pulled off one of her best tricks. She told them she had a game that she thought would be MUCH too hard for them. She then pointed out that two of the kids - the noisiest two – would almost certainly not be able to play it. By this point all the kids were desperate to know what this game was!

“Well”, she said. “When I say ‘Go’, you all have to be completely silent!” At this point I always expect them to suss her out, but they never do. They are allowed to make each other laugh but not to touch each other in the process. They then proceed to silently pull faces at each other. This game can go on for some time and I have to say that in a room full of very rowdy kids Hayley seems like a miracle worker when she gets them to play it for half an hour or so.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Urban Detour Xtreme buggy

Urban Detour Xtreme buggy
Originally uploaded by Steven Townley.
This is the buggy we have chosen. I saw it while out grocery shopping in Somerfield. It looked fantastic and the young baby inside it looked so cosy that when I got home I got straight onto the web to find it.

In one of the reviews I found one father referred to it as "the Porsche of pushchairs". Fortunately it is not priced like a Porsche at Mothercare. It is very adjustable, has pneumatic tyres, turns on a sixpence and looks good to boot!

We went to Mothercare to see it in the flesh and to try pushing it around in the shop. Hayley was as impressed as I was with it and we decided to buy it.

My Mum then kindly offered to buy it for us. We can pay for it now and its warranty won't start until the baby is born. (In case you are wondering what happened to the buggy from Hayley's Dad, he cancelled it as we weren't able to get down to view it.)

I have to admit I've found myself getting as excited about shopping for this buggy as I would previously have been about mountain bikes or musical instruments. But that's not to say that I don't still have my eye one or two of those too. I just might have to share them in future.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Sunday Lunch

It's funny how after more than two years together we are still discovering things about each other.

Today I discovered that suggesting we go out for Sunday lunch is akin to announcing that there'll be an extra Christmas this year just for Hayley. Her eyes lit up and grew to the size of saucers. Then she actually rubbed her hands together completely involuntarily in anticipation like a little girl. "Ooooo roasties! I'm going to have Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings!" And she hadn't yet got out of bed. After this display I felt rather ashamed that I hadn't suggested this simple pleasure before. We are regulars at our local Indian Restaurant but country pubs usually only see us in cycling gear sneaking into the toilet before leaving without buying a drink, let alone lunch. (OK, we do sometimes stretch to a drink if we have time.)

For the record, the Hare and Hounds at Werneth Low had a mix of smoking and non-smoking rooms and a menu that was both extensive and appetizing. We had 5 courses: an appetizer, starter, main, dessert and coffee.

The rest of the afternoon was spent immobile, slumbering in front of the TV. This evening's meal? A bowl of breakfast cereal each.

This weekend's co-incidences

We just settled on our favoured boy's names (first and middle). Having done so I opened up a pregnancy website on Friday to see its "Baby Of The Month" with exactly the same name.

This morning, completely without explanation, Hayley kept on singing "America" from "West Side Story" (much to her own frustration). This afternoon as we slumped on the sofa we flicked over to FilmFour to find the very same film playing the very same song. Maria if it's a girl then! (Or maybe not.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Old wives' tales

To lighten the mood this evening (c.f. previous entry) we filled in an online questionnaire that promised to tell us whether we are expecting a boy or a girl. This diagnosis was to be based on the authority of a collection of old wives' tales. Here are the less-than-scientific results taken straight from the website.

"You have a 47% chance of having a boy.
And you have a 52% chance of having a girl.
And Here's Why...
You are carrying the extra weight out front, so it's a boy.
The hair on your legs is not growing any faster during your preganacy, so it's a girl.
Girls are carried high. You are going to have a girl.
Sleeping in a bed with your pillow to the north indicates that you will be having a boy.
Your feet are not colder than they were before pregnancy. You are having a girl.
You prefer the heel of a loaf of bread. You are having a boy.
Dad-to-be is gaining weight right along with Mom-to-be, which means that you'll have a boy.
The maternal grandmother has gray hair, so a boy will be born.
You didn't have morning sickness early in pregnancy, so it will be a boy.
You are not looking particularly good during pregnancy. Therefore, it must be a girl, because girls steal their mother's looks.
Your chest development has been quite dramatic during pregnancy. You should expect a girl.
Since the sum of the mother's age at conception and the number of the month of conception is even, it will be a boy.
A needle on a thread held over your belly moves in circles, so you will have a boy.
Your urine is a dull yellow color, so you will have a girl.
You have a craving for salty or sour foods, which means that it is a boy.
Your nose hasn't changed during pregnancy, which indicates a girl.
You have been craving fruits, so it is a girl.
Your baby's heart rate is 140 or more beats per minute, so it's a girl.
You must have orange juice every day, so it's a girl.
You are having headaches, so it's a boy.
Your belly looks like a watermelon, so it's a girl.
You show them the palm of your hand, so it's a girl.
You use the handle, so it's a boy."

Tough day at the office

The names of the people who are "at risk" of redundancy were announced today and I wasn't one of them. "At risk" is basically HR-speak for saying that you will be made redundant in a month.

But that doesn't mean it was a good day. Far from it. I have watched several colleagues receive the dreaded phone call and then have to make the walk out of the office to go down to HR and receive their written notification from our boss. Most of them came back only briefly as they were offered the rest of the day off.

Worse than witnessing all this, one the engineers who has worked for me for the last 4 years rang me while on holiday to find out whether he was safe. I didn't know but promised to call him as soon as I heard anything. An hour or so later he rang back saying there was no need: our boss had just reached him to tell him he is "at risk".

And on top of all that I have one more thing that leaves me feeling rather sick. There has been a carefully executed assessment process that required all staff in areas that were at risk to be assessed against strict criteria. I was selected to act as one of the board of assessors for a number of staff in our department. I have no doubt that I was as fair as I could possibly be in my assessments whilst at the same time trying to bring out every good quality of the staff I assessed. (God knows I was up 'til the small hours perfecting their assessment forms.) And my input was far from the final word. But at the end of the day I can't help feeling bad that regardless of whether I condemned someone or saved someone (meaning someone else would be condemned), I was still part of the machine that wielded the axe.

Under the circumstances I can't feel sorry for myself, but all in all it's been a horrible day. I've already contacted one former colleague to try to get one person a new job. But as silver linings go that's pretty thin.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

New beats, Nu Nus and Nannies

Another day, another mindblowing moment. This time it was at Hayley's 16-week appointment with the midwife when she unexpectedly placed an amplified stethoscope on Hayley's tummy and we heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time.

There can be few things more symbolic of life itself than a heart-beat. The very sound of it was evocative, perhaps even more so than the ultrasound scan. The moment we heard that sound the baby was as real and present in the room as it would have been had it walked through the door (which admittedly was unlikely, although I have just heard Elvis on the radio talking to Steve Wright... I digress.)

The rest of the appointment went well. The student midwife struggled to find a vein in Hayley's arm. Hayley mercilessly teased her and joked around. She was so funny! Really on form. Fortunately I was standing behind the midwives so they didn't see me laughing.

After the appointment we went to Nu Nus nursery near my work. We had a 1 hour tour of the nursery. It was quite impressive. We were alarmed by one thing though. They showed us an example of the daily report that is filled out for each child. The one she showed us was for that day saying how child had had a lovely day. The trouble was it was only 10am and the child had only been there an hour. When Hayley pointed this out the girl blushed and flustered slightly before waffling about re-writing it later if anything changed.

It made me realise that the number one thing you are looking for in a nursery is trust. You are leaving your child with them for hours at a time, several days a week. If you can't trust them you aren't going to do that. So although we've heard good things about Nu Nus we'll be looking around some more.

Oh and it's £693 a month. Strewth! I'm still trying to get my head around that. It has prompted Hayley to consider starting up a child-minding business. It's something she has had an interest in doing for some time. It would allow her to look after our child and still earn some money. But for that we'd need a bigger house. With a potential nursery bill the size of a mortgage my next job is to work out whether we can afford to move at all.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Top T-Shirt!

Great T-Shirt!
Originally uploaded by Steven Townley.

We found this great T-shirt at Blooming Marvellous. It really made us laugh. (You may need to click for a larger image to read the words.)

Of course, we're laughing now...

Monday, March 07, 2005


When I created this blog it was with a very clear audience in mind: me.

More precisely I had in mind me, Hayley and our future child. I pictured the three of us in about 20 years time when I start struggling to remember which drawer my socks are in, let alone what I felt about the variety of buggies available back in 2005.

But I also realized there might be a further interested audience: friends near and far who would like to read what we've been up to and respond via email, letter and telephone. I've been delighted to find that that audience not only exists but responds too. I really appreciate that.

But of course, as this is the world wide web, there is a further constituency of the audience: lurkers!

This is the unseen, unheard audience of an uncertain size that exists in cyber-space. It's a motley crew who find themselves on our patch for diverse reasons. They've stumbled across us by chance or perhaps were washed up on our shore courtesy of a shared interest and a search engine.

For some perhaps this blog is a brief distraction. For others maybe even a form of entertainment. I know I regularly re-visit certain blogs. They interest me. They entertain me. They give me a window into the lives of people I will probably never know. I may not even bother to send a single comment on what they write. But after a few months I feel I start to know them.

Of course, I don't.

Watching a soap opera character on TV, you may start to feel you know them, but they are a facade. And you certainly don't know the actor behind the facade, whose life is rich in reality in a way that his fictional persona will never be. And so it is with blogs and bloggers.

Don't get me wrong, everything in this blog is true. But it's a 2-D sketch of a 3-D life. There's no substitute for interaction. I can say more in person than I ever can in a blog.

So if you want the real picture (and the real dirt), it's good to talk.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

How to be nice

How very middle England of me. After staying up late last night browsing the Primary School league tables that I've so often derided, this morning I was up early to go to the supermarket for fresh rolls and a copy of The Sunday Telegraph. As a life-long reader of the Observer and latterly the Independent, this left me feeling vaguely as if I should have been driving home in a Land Rover with a golden retriever and a Countryside Alliance sticker in the window.

The reason I bought the Telegraph was that it contained an article on schools teaching classes in "how to be nice". The government feels that the breakdown of traditional workplace-centred communities, extended families and millions of marriages has led to a generation of children who can't rely solely on their parents to give them the social skills needed to interact in a socially acceptable manner. So they are going to teach them how to do it.

It is - to peddle a cliche - a sad indictment of society that it has come to this, but I think it's to be praised that somebody has finally dared to say so and do something about it. I have no doubt there will be cries of "nanny state", but frankly when the child is running wild it's time for the nanny to do something. Something more than tut tut. It remains to be seen how effective nanny is.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Great day

Today we had what the Americans would probably call "a real fun day". It was a day filled with laughter, possibilities and hope. And even if some of that positivity comes to nothing - which I hope will not be the case - we still had a great day.

First we went to see friends of ours in Bramhall this morning. Their daughter is just over two. We spent the morning discussing furniture for childrens' rooms, prams, decor, schools, food... their little daughter even gave us a tour of her room. It fired our imaginations as far as our own house and our soon-to-arrive child's room is concerned. Then they took us on a quick tour of the area as we're thinking of trying to buy a house round there. It was really helpful. Moving up there would be a stretch but we're going to look seriously at it.

After we left, Hayley and I went into the centre of Bramhall. We bought flowers for Mothers Day tomorrow and a bottle of whisky for me as a treat (Bowmore 15 years old). Then we had lunch in the little cafe at the back of "the house shop". Hayley just kept saying "I like it round here" and smiling a lot. She pointed out that people seemed more friendly. I must admit more people smiled at us. Maybe our happiness was infectious. Maybe it's easier to smile when you are rich!

Tonight we ate veggi chili, watched a soppy romcom (Two Weeks Notice) and curled up on the sofa. A great day.

(It's just a pity United threw away our title hopes by drawing at Crystal Palace.)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Super Size Me!

This morning Hayley "confessed" to a trip to McDonald's earlier this week for a breakfast of egg and sausage McMuffin. So apparently the cravings are still kicking in. I thought they might have passed by now but she assures me her friend Kerry (who is 20 weeks pregnant) is still "having to eat chocolate every day". Hmmmm... call me a cynic but this is starting to sound like something cooked up by the Mothers-to-be Union.

But as the Egg McMuffin incident was on Monday morning and we watched "Super Size Me" on Tuesday evening, I can't see her rushing out to eat one again soon. I haven't eaten at McDonalds for years - not difficult as I haven't eaten meat for years - and this film did nothing to boost my desire for a Big Mac. That's one craving I'm hoping this family can continue to avoid.

You've bought us what?!

Last night Hayley's Dad rang. (For the full effect you have to imagine his fabulous County Antrim accent.)

"Would you mind if we paid for your pram?"
"Dad, that's very kind of you. Thank you. We've seen..."
"Ah that's great. You'll love it. It's maroon."
[The sound of jaws dropping.]

Now we don't want to seem ungrateful. But maybe we are. Because frankly we'd like to choose the pram/buggy we are going to have to push around and deal with every day.

We've already been window shopping for one. Well, Microsoft Windows shopping. (This is the 21st century after all.) Hayley's admired the practicality, price and colour scheme. I've wondered how I can improve the design by retrofitting my spare mountain bike suspension forks to it. All the natural parental reactions, you know.

So is the answer a baby wish list?

I've seen one at who host the baby ticker at the top of this page. They have tickers for the nine months of pregnancy, for the first week of life, for the first month, first year, five years... they even have a ticker for Trying To Conceive, which frankly I think is taking it a bit far. (Decide for yourself here.)

It seems a little clinical to just put up a list of items that we need. So I think we'll stick to the personal touch. Also known as polite begging. And like some bizarre baby video game, we'll try to negotiate maroon buggies as we go.

Sentencing delayed

Today it was announced that the employees to be made redundant will be announced on Tuesday 15th February.