Sunday, June 19, 2005


The UK has experienced a mini heatwave this weekend. It only got up to 27 degrees up here in the north of England but even so it was very muggy and humid.

This afternoon the heat was finally (though briefly) relieved by a thunderstorm and a downpour. This brought Hayley running out of the house. The neighbours were then treated to something of a display as she delightedly sang and danced her way around the front garden in her shorts and a vest top.

Even now in the evening, when I feel that the heat has abated, she is having to take cooling showers. We've got 2 floor-standing fans - one in the bedroom (which we have been using on and off since last year) and one downstairs that we just bought. But I took the plunge on Friday and ordered a portable air conditioner from It contains a pollen filter. Here's hoping it relieves Hayley's symptoms.

My main concern is to ease her exhaustion from continuous sneezing and to avoid the chance of her going into labour in that state. I don't know whether the heat could cause early labour (though some have said it can), but all this sneezing on top of the general tiredness brought on by pregnancy can't be a good thing.

The new bed

The new bed
Originally uploaded by Steven Townley.
The new bed is now in place in our bedroom. It's rather early to be judging its effectiveness but after 3 nights Hayley's lower back pain has gone. I slept so soundly the first night that I slept through my alarm.

It's a King size and the difference compared to our old double bed is noticable. (Those extra few inches really count when you are sharing the bed with a pregnant woman!) Hayley keeps asking for the GPS to find her way out of bed on weekday mornings. Any excuse... :-)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hayley test driving beds

Hayley test driving beds
Originally uploaded by Steven Townley.
We must have tried out 30 or more beds in our search for a good night's sleep.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

"Sweet dreams are made of this..."

Last night I had a vivid dream of holding our baby for the first time. It was a girl. I remember being aware of the importance of holding the baby near to your skin in the moments after it is born, though in the dream the baby was already in a romper suit (well, dreams never make complete sense do they).

My dream may well have been caused by disrupted sleep. Hayley increasingly gets back-ache and tosses and turns through the night trying to get comfortable. I often massage her back in a semi-slumbering state in the early hours. Actually, the most sore muscle is probably the top of the glutus maximus. I'll avoid the obvious jokes about being a pain in the.... night.

"Bump" seems to be most active in the night. No sooner have we gone to bed than (s)he starts to move and kick. Annoyingly these movements nearly always seem to stop when I put my hand on Hayley's tummy to feel them. She reckons this is a sign of things to come. I will come home to tales of how he/she has been naughty all day, only to find a placid and well-behaved child. And I won't complain if that's the case! I've read the Mothering In America blog of a new mother in the USA who was finding that their new daughter was at her most unsettled during the evening: the very time she would have loved some time to talk to her husband.

To ease our sleepless nights we've been hunting a replacement for our rather clapped out double divan. We've discovered that bed technology has moved on apace. The latest innovation is "Memory Foam" which was originally invented by NASA for space missions and adapts to the shape of your body. (Why do you need a firm mattress when you are weightless?) You can get mattresses that are entirely foam-based and which feel very strange when you are used to springs. We must have laid on more than 30 beds today in two shops. By the end we were ready to go home and lie down (on anything). We have opted for (but not yet ordered) a bed with springs and a top layer of Nasa's fab foam. Here's hoping it feels as good after 5 hours as it did after 5 minutes lying in a showroom.

The other thing that is keeping Hayley awake is hay fever. She suffers from it very, very badly and the doctor has prescribed her medication that contains steroids (which surprised me given she is pregnant but apprently it's no problem - maybe we'll get an 11lb shot-putting baby). We are thinking of buying a portable air conditioner recommended by the AllergyMatters website. This would also be useful when the baby arrives if August turns out to be as hot as the forecasters are claiming. I never met anyone who suffers with allergies as much as Hayley. If she has contact with cats her face swells up and she sneezes for England. It's similar with hay fever. The sneezing is exhausting, particularly when she is already tired from the pregnancy. At home she can close the windows and cover her face with a damp cloth, clearly not options at work. She was intending to start her maternity leave only 2 weeks before the due date but she may well bring that forward now.

Where's my screwdriver gone...

The furniture arrived. Now the real fun of assembling it starts.

Simple pleasures

Tonight we played cricket. Not the kind that Darren Gough excels at, but a game of darts in our garage. A fine end to the day. It helped the Cartmel Village Shop Sticky Toffee pudding go down.

Toddler tearways targeted - Sunday Times - Times Online

Toddler tearways targeted - Sunday Times - Times Online

Another alleged government initiative in the Sunday papers (reproduced below).

Toddler tearaways targeted

A CONFIDENTIAL Home Office report recommends that children should be targeted as potential criminals from the age of three. It says they can be singled out by their bullying behaviour in nursery school or by a history of criminality in their immediate family.

It proposes parenting classes and, in the worst cases, putting more children who are not “under control” into intensive foster care instead of care homes. Nursery staff would be trained to spot children at risk of growing up to be criminals.

The 250-page report, entitled Crime Reduction Review, was drawn up on the instructions of Tony Blair, who wanted to identify the most effective ways of cutting crime by 2008.

Its leak coincides with an expected announcement tomorrow by Ruth Kelly, the education secretary, of a £430m package to provide out-of-hours clubs at schools for children aged four to 14.

The Home Office strategy unit, which spent five months compiling the report, concluded that “from the simple perspective of reducing crime . . . the arguments for focusing resources on the children most at risk are ‘overwhelming’”.

Children who were not “under control” by the age of three were four times as likely to be convicted of a violent offence, it warned. It adds: “Getting schools to tackle bullying, exclusions and truancy effectively is key to diverting more adolescents from crime”.

The report was conducted against a bleak assessment by the Home Office that, without new measures, the crime rate would rise 8.5% by 2008.

Last July the government used the review’s findings on what worked and what didn’t to underpin a formal
commitment to reduce crime by 15% by 2008.

Measures such as CCTV, increased street lighting and longer custodial sentences were judged in the report to have been expensive failures, with only a few exceptions.

Instead, it maintained that if potential offenders were spotted young enough, “soft” measures — such as improving their reading, language and social skills — could be enough to change their direction.

Kelly’s £430m is intended to provide breakfast clubs and after-hours sports and arts; some children could be at school from 8am to 6pm. The sessions will be run by private sector and voluntary groups, rather than by the schools’ regular staff.

Research in the report found that 85% of inmates in young offenders’ institutions had been bullies at school, while 43% of male prisoners had children with a criminal record. In a verdict likely to anger leftwingers, the report suggests that bullies should be treated as aggressors rather than victims of their social background.

It states that bullies, who can start from a very young age, do not suffer from low self-esteem but act as gang leaders who “recruit” others to commit crime. As they graduate to being juvenile offenders, aged 8 to 15, they act as magnets by drawing in followers one or two years younger than themselves.

Those who by the age of 18 reach this stage, it states, are best dealt with in young offenders’ institutions with “boot camp” regimes.

They are woken at 6am each day and made to undergo drug rehabilitation courses, education and social training before going to bed at 10pm.

Results from Thorn Cross young offenders’ institution in Warrington show its reconviction rate is 12% lower than similar prisons, which do not use “high intensity” methods.

The 250-page report, marked “restricted”, betrays Home Office anger at wt it regards as blocking tactics by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and the schools system, thwarting efforts to tackle the causes of crime.

“There is perhaps too much concern about the potential negative impacts of targeting on children and their families,” the report says.

It adds: “Most of the levers for intervention rest within the overall control of the DfES.” A senior Home Office source said that during discussion of the review, a DfES civil servant accused his counterpart of trying “to criminalise our children”. The DfES was, in turn, accused of “sticking its head in the sand”.

Michele Elliott, director of Kidscape, the anti-bullying charity, confirmed the schism between the two departments. “The DfES appear to favour the ‘no blame’ approach to bullying which we think is dangerous. The bullies think they’ve got away with it and grow up to be bigger bullies,” she said.

Other more radical ideas floated in the report — which was completed in May 2004 but not published — include a recommendation for the government to consider prescribing heroin to cut drug related crime by 12.5%.

It also advocates that the drinks industry should replace glasses and bottles with safety glass and states that “binge drinking does not cause crime”.

It argues that while a hard core of 20% of heavy drinkers have four or more convictions for violence, alcohol abuse is not the original cause of their violence, although it may trigger specific incidents.

The report recommends that the large number of violent people who drink to excess should be dealt with by year-long bans from all licensed premises.

This weekend a Home Office spokesman said: “We are not prepared to comment on a leaked document. It was one of a number of contributions of the thinking on crime reduction.”

Thursday, June 09, 2005

BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | India's five-year-old policeman

BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | India's five-year-old policeman

This has to be the most bizarre story of child labour I have ever heard. Not sure whether to believe it.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

BBC NEWS | Education | Warning over 'bullying by mobile'

BBC NEWS | Education | Warning over 'bullying by mobile'

I find this quite horrific. It makes bullying so pervasive and seemingly inescapable.

Having grown up in an era when our home phone number had only 3 digits, this seems like another world. It makes me wonder what new problems will present themselves in the years to come thanks to the unstoppable tide of "progress".

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Nursery with new carpet

Nursery with new carpet
Originally uploaded by Steven Townley.
The nursery took a step towards readiness when we had new carpet fitted last Friday.

Also in shot are the Moses Basket, Nappy Pail and a baby gym. The latter is the first toy we've bought for the baby (although a few have been donated by family and friends too). So far we have resisted the temptation to test drive it.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Godfather

We've spoken to the Godfather and we have his approval.

But don't worry, there was never any danger of waking up to find a horse's head in our bed. We simply asked Dave and Susan Biddle to be Godparents to "Bump". To our delight they accepted straight away.

We just had a super weekend staying with them up in the Lakes. We won a few quid at Cartmel Races and had a trip to Morecambe, a resort whose faded grandeur from the start of the 20th century is sadly matched by its tackiness in the 21st.

Between those two spectacles Dave and I went biking around Grizedale Forest. I need the training for the upcoming Mountain Mayhem.

Furniture Farce: Act III

After Acts I and II of the saga we were no nearer receiving our furniture a mere 6 weeks after ordering it.

Act III: Tonight I rang Index again and was told that not all the parcels in the delivery reached the carrier and so they returned them all to Index. Our purchase therefore has to be refunded again.

After a fairly terse conversation with a very unhelpful Index employee we decided to abandon Index and buy from a company that seems more interested in completing a sale. So we logged into Argos and found what is almost certainly the same suite of furniture. It will cost £30 more but the service can't be any worse than what we've received from Index (I hope!). No wonder they are going out of business.