Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And a pox on your house sir!

Chicken pox to be precise. Both kids have got it. Lucy's spots appeared about a day ahead of Oliver's but the little man seems more bothered by it and his spots are more prolific. They are both bearing up fairly well though. Oliver has been napping more. Lucy has just been, well, Lucy, but with some added scratching.

Watching them scratch has set me off itching and scratching too, illogical though that may be. I think maximum itchiness will be reached sometime tonight or tomorrow. Perhaps we'll all scratch in the New Year together.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Plumbing update #2

A plumber has now been and fixed the leak.

There is still residual dripping in the kitchen, but hopefully we have turned the corner. The heating is back on and I can almost feel my fingers again. So I reckon there's a good chance the house will be dry enough for the rest of the family to return later today.


Plumbing update

Nearly a day after we discovered our house had decided to try to become a water feature in our absence, we are still awaiting a plumber.

We were fed by friends yesterday evening before having to head back up to my Mum's house for the night. We hadn't bothered to unpack the car since arriving back from there earlier in the day.

I am currently huddled in our spare room with a not-very-effective heater, this PC and the phone.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It never rains...

It never rains, but it does occasionally leak heavily. Today we got home from our short stay at my Mum's house for Christmas and found that our kitchen ceiling was soaked with water that was dripping into a small lake across the kitchen floor.

So lighting in the kitchen is out, using the central heating is out and cooking (which would require night vision goggles) is also out.

The last ETA for the insurance company's emergency plumber of "tomorrow" was not greeted entirely gladly by me, so they have marked our case very urgent and are trying to do better.

Meanwhile Lucy, who has not been her self the last couple of days, is screaming more than usual and as Hayley left our un-heated, semi-lit home a few minutes ago to enjoy the hospitality of friends in warmer dwellings, Oliver decided this was a good moment to have "a little accident".

I am now waiting by the phone, which no doubt won't ring and I'll have to chase the insurance company up again. Things can only get better. I hope.

To tell you the truth, all of this, temporarily stressful though it is, has not spoiled my day quite as much as the fact that I took lots of pictures over Christmas using a superior camera, only to have the SD card reader corrupt the files in transfer today. There was one beautiful shot of Hayley and Oliver in profile, laughing, face to face. Now lost. I'm gutted.

As I say, things can only get better.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nap time


This morning Lucy fell asleep on the bed to the sound of the hair dryer, something Oliver used to do too. So that she couldn't roll off the bed, I went in and lay next to her, but she immediately woke. Still very tired at this premature awakening, she refused to settle until I lay her on my chest.

I then lay there for another half an hour until she woke. Amazingly, I was so tired that I dozed off myself for a while. Hayley captured our less than comfortable dozing position.


It reminded me of the first week of Lucy's life, when she also liked to fall asleep on Mummy or Daddy.

Comfortable on Daddy

Today's lesson is...

Today's lesson is that change can happen in an instant. This is a valuable, sometimes life-changing lesson that several life coaches have propounded in their own particular ways with varying degrees of plausibility. I find Tony Robbins provides a believable and useful take on this idea.

So I was grateful this morning when my children gave me a reminder of this valuable lesson. It was a calm and happy scene. Lucy was helping me to fill Oliver's bowl with Shreddies while Oliver was playing happily in the adjoining room.

Suddenly, I heard Oliver screaming "Help, help". I dashed to his aid. I arrived to find that it was not Oliver who was in peril, but Ronald McDonald who had got his tractor stuck on top of a tower. Relieved, I went straight back to the kitchen, to find Lucy had poured the full contents of the large pack of Shreddies over the kitchen floor.

Yes, change can happen in an instant.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve


As is traditional in our household, this evening we left a carrot for Rudolph while Father Christmas will be treated to a mince pie and a glass of whisky. Today when Oliver went to see Father Christmas (again!) while celebrating his friend's birthday at Brookside Garden Centre, he asked the bearded one whether he wanted water or whisky tonight. To his great credit in these PC times, Father Christmas requested a wee dram. Good on ya Santa!

After taking this photo I attempted to engage Oliver in a discussion of the coming night, but he was more interested in devouring a carrot the size of the one he was leaving for Rudolph.

Insert appropriate swearing here

As you may notice, my beloved blog has a new look. One I didn't want. I tried to do something clever using CommentLuv and it's all gone wrong.

In fact it's not their fault, it's this darn stoopid Blogger Layout tool which I have resisted until now as I suspected it would trash my old template in favour of some pile of mediocrity.... and I was right!

Ho hum. Trust me. I will not rest until the old look and feel is returned. Grrrr...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

BBC NEWS | Education | Bad parents 'widen ability gap'

BBC NEWS | Education | Bad parents 'widen ability gap'

BBC NEWS | Education | Violence: Schools seek police aid

BBC NEWS | Education | Violence: Schools seek police aid

Despite the positive spin given by some, it' still not a happy state of affairs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


At the moment Oliver has a real dislike of getting wet. Even a small drop of water on his clothes incurs his displeasure.

Lucy on the other hand loves playing with water. She also loves cleaning. Here she is combining the two by giving one of our chairs a good wash.

Mummy's little helper

Today at HMEC's children's Carol Service, Oliver decided to take responsibility for Lucy.

When Hayley sat on a chair with her childminding child on one knee and Lucy on the other, Oliver said "Put Lucy in my lap Mummy". So Oliver sat on a chair next to his Mummy with his sister on his lap.

Lucy sat then there but inevitably decided to get down after a while, despite Oliver's best efforts to keep hold of her. When she did escape, Oliver called after her, "Lucy, come back here and sit down", before having to go and retrieve her. It's not surprising he couldn't keep her under control, as Lucy's chosen mission today was to steal as many other people's Oreo biscuits as possible.

Tears, Tantrums and Christmas Carols

No blog post for a few days? I'll give you three guesses why.

Sleep. Or rather the lack of it.

For most of this week until last night, Lucy has been waking us for long periods of the night. It's hard to tell with Lucy whether this is because she is ill or because she wants to get up. In recent months she has developed a stock response to all problems: high-pitched, full-volume screaming. It's the same response whether you refuse her demands to be picked up or if she has fallen and genuinely hurt herself.

I've never seen such a temper on a 16 month old. She throws herself on the floor. She then lies there screaming and kicking. When this abates she pushes her self grumpily along the floor until her haad hits a piece of furniture (usually soft, fortunately). Common advice is often to ignore a child throwing a tantrum as long as it's safe. Perhaps then I should convert the playroom into a padded cell. She even sometimes head-butts the floor in anger! It is really quite a frightening and distressing thing to see. (Obviously we intervene if it gets to this stage!)

When approached in recent nights she has thrown a tantrum when we try to put her to bed then thrown another when we try to pick her up to console her. We tried every medication and teething gel but still she cried.

Once we got her in our room with the telly on though there was a marked improvement. Hmmmm. I'm still not sure whether she just wanted to get up or was feeling unwell, but in any case she ended up in our bed with Hayley.

The two nights ago Lucy slept well but Oliver had the worst night's sleep since he was a baby. For the first time in living memory we put him in bed with us. He fell asleep there and I transferred him back to his own bed. He woke every hour from then on, sometimes several times an hour.

The next morning was his Christmas Carol concert. He has been singing carols and doing the actions for us at home that he must have learned at nursery. We have been really excited and looking forward to this concert. All the parents sat down and after a few technical hitches the children entered.

When Oliver came into the room he looked so pale, drawn and tired. Then he saw us and burst into tears. I just wanted to go and grab him and take him home, but he sat on the knee of one of the assistants and he perked up enough to sing the first two carols and do the actions (starting with Here we go up to Bethlehem). But about 20 minutes in, after several yawns and increasing wriggling, he was taken out as he seemed less and less happy.

It turned out he had had a nap already and perked up when we took him out to the car. It was a real shame that he wasn't himself as he loves singing and often will direct Hayley and I in song and dance at bedtime.

Back to his sleeplessnes. He has been complaining in the night of a pain, apparently in his chest, but it's not really clear. The doctor advised that children that young sometimes know they feel unwell and the pinpointing of the pain is beyond them. Anyway he has been on Calpol, Nurofen and as of yesterday Milk of Magnesia.

Last night when he went to bed he complained again that "it hurts" and "I'm poorly". But having given him all we could in medication I sat with him in his room until he went to sleep. In fact, exhausted from lack of sleep and a long day myself, I lay on the floor of his room with my eyes closed and told him we should both close our eyes and go to sleep. To my relief, this worked.

To be honest he seemed overtired (unsurprisingly) more than poorly. He woke a couple of times in the night but at least it was an improvement on the night before. He asks to come into our bed when he says he's poorly and I'm still not 100% sure that he isn't just trying to achieve that objective. Certianly this morning he claimed to feel poorly when asking to get up, but the moment he was up he was happy, full of beans and with all complaints and ailments vanished.

When Oliver was a baby I always looked forward to the day when he could tell me why he was crying, tell me if he felt ill. I feel that way about Lucy now. But these last few nights with Oliver have made me realise it is never going to be quite as straight forward as I imagined.

BBC NEWS | Health | Sleep may cut childhood obesity

BBC NEWS | Health | Sleep may cut childhood obesity

Following on from the previous article, this study seems to suggest that exercise (and hence good sleep) is associated with avoiding childhood obesity. Common sense really.

BBC NEWS | Health | Obesity 'set before age of five'

BBC NEWS | Health | Obesity 'set before age of five'

With kids in general being faddy eaters, this sort of headline won't make welcome reading for any parent. Our two are OK when it comes to eating some fruit and veg, but complacency is not an option.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Yes! (Or rather, No!)

I'd been meaning to post about the referendum on a Congestion Charge for Manchester. (Or more accurately, a congestion charge for Greater Manchester as the proposed zone includes 13 metropolitan boroughs.)

This morning as I lay in bed, knowing the result was decided as yesterdays ballot return deadline passed, I reprimanded myself for not posting about it before. Heck, I could have even set up a whole new site about it! What if the result was the wrong one when if it weren't for my laziness I could have swung the few vital votes?

I needn't have worried. The result was a resounding "No".

When I first heard of the proposed congestion charge I was entirely open to the idea. But as time went on and I saw what improvements were on offer as a result of the charge, it became clear to me that it wasn't a good deal.

Let me give you some illustrations.

The charge is designed to ease congestion caused by commuter traffic heading in and out of Manchester. To do this, an outer and inner zone were defined. Traffic passing into those zones in the morning "rush hour" would be charged, as would traffic passing out in the evening "rush hour".

So if, like our family, you live half a mile inside the outer boundary (mostly defined by the M60 motorway), you would be charged for taking your child to nursery half a mile outside the boundary as you return from dropping him off. It's only a short local journey but it is charged the same as if we've commuted 40 miles in a company car. Thankfully Oliver's nursery is now on this side of the boundary, but his old one wasn't so it's a real example.

Many years ago I moved to Stockport so that I wasn't commuting 80 miles a day to and from work. Ever since I have used my bike quite often to commute the much reduced 6 mile round trip to/from the office. (I did today as it happens.) I kept a record for a while and found that in recent years my best efforts saw me commuting by bike between 30% and 50% of the time over the year.

But we still have two cars as the demands of combining work and family life make it feel almost a necessity. We've discussed before the possibility of getting rid of one of the cars. It would need me to increase the number of times I commute by bike and let Hayley give me a lift much of the rest of the time. It's far from ideal but perhaps just about feasible.

But the congestions charge would have made that an impossibility. I work half a mile outside the outer boundary so on returning from dropping me at work Hayley would be charged.

"What about public transport", I hear you ask? Well, the cost of the journey to work is about 11 times the cost in petrol. Having to use two buses, it would also take at least 3 times as long. Quicker to walk in fact.

"What about the promised improvements in exchange for the charge?" Well, the Metrolink (tram) system wouldn't be extended to Stockport. (it was promised and then cut several years ago.) There would be no new bus routes, only more frequent services on some routes. Oh and they would refurbish the bus station. Whoop-ee-doo!

The final nail in the charge's coffin for me was the totally one-sided reporting of it - pulled up by the regulator at least once - and the patronising premise that the proposal was the only option and the only chance of getting some money to improve public transport. Poppycock!

The sad truth is that the two-ring scheme is far too clumsy an instrument with which to fairly levy a travel tax on those doing the most damage. Having made a green decision nearly two decades ago to reduce my carbon footprint, to live and work in the same community, to think global and act local, I'm not exactly jumping at the chance to pay the same as someone who drives 100 miles a day from their country pile.

It's an opportunity missed, without doubt. I hope that in years to come a fairer system can be devised. I mean we already live in a world where every other car has Sat Nav, its driver almost certainly has a mobile phone and the roads are watched by an army of cameras. Can it really be that hard to figure something out?

You can read about the congestion charge voting here (where there are also links to other relevant sites).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wrapped around his finger

After smooth talking his Daddy the other night, tonight it was Mummy's turn to be wrapped around the little man's finger. With Lucy in bed, Hayley joined us on the sofa in his room for a bedtime story. As she sat down he told her "you're my most wonderful friend in the whole world". It brought a tear to Mummy's eye.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It's Father Christmas!

Ho ho ho!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Soppy Daddy

As I put Oliver to bed tonight, quite unprompted he said "I love you Daddy".
"I love you too little man, more than anything in the whole world".
"Are we best friends?" he asked.
"Yes Oliver and we always will be."

If you need me I'll be unashamedly on that cloud over to the left, just next to the perfect sunset.

BBC NEWS | Health | Cold sores 'an Alzheimer's risk'

BBC NEWS | Health | Cold sores 'an Alzheimer's risk'

Both Hayley and I are prone to cold sores when run down. But at least this points to a potential cure in years to come.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Oliver and Tigger

DSC01578, originally uploaded by Steven Townley.

Beanie - £1.50 (Tesco).
Coat - £5 (Decathlon).
Tigger - 50p (a raffle).
Oliver's happy little face - priceless!