29 July 2008

What's up

Because this is a weblog and not some book-of-the-week confessional, I instinctively try and keep things in perspective when I’m writing posts; even my short-lived tantrums should emphasize the trifling nature of what I do here.

This is precisely why it’s been so difficult to write about anything online lately. A very good friend of ours has had a family tragedy, and I’m afraid that by continuing to write here without mentioning it, I will somehow trivialise that happening, even if it’s not mine to write about. Suffice to say that we have not been ourselves since this weekend and are thinking a lot about our friend right now.

Our immediate situation is still massively affected by this lingering morning sickness, which is becoming increasingly difficult to just laugh off. I went to see the doctor last week about it, and after examining me, he said, “Yes, I believe this is pregnancy related.” Meaning: Welcome to your wall – please proceed to beat your head against it now.

Although I’ve been trying to branch out with my diet, the things I can eat without tipping the balance from malaise to outright nausea are so limited that I’m beginning to worry that my body will not have the nutrients it needs to recover from such a state.

Why a green leafy salad or two small oranges induces vomit whilst burger and chips stay down is an irony so profound I almost feel like someone is putting me on. If I believed in the concept of God, I’d be trying to work out how many times I put recyclable material in the bin or forgot to clean under my nails this month. It's gotten to the point where I'm scared to leave the house, and have been working from home these last few weeks, much to the chagrin of certain colleagues.

Our first visit with the midwives group was mercifully smooth, on the other hand. She put us at ease about the next few months, and let us listen to the heartbeat of our imminent child, an awe-inspiring pleasure I've experienced twice now. I have another appointment with them in early August and then Bruce and I are leaving this country - where boys and men are stabbed to death and women are assaulted at their own hairdresser’s - for a solid two weeks.

Bruce is concerned that I won’t want to come back with him, given how much I miss home and tend to closely relate internal and external states. But I know which side my bread is buttered on.

Thanks to all of you for your lovely notes, emails, suggestions and well-wishes. I know it’s not the first time on earth a woman has gone through a pregnancy, but it might as well be when you’re going through it for the first time yourself. Such is every life-altering experience I guess - at least if your imagination doesn't extend to housing avacado-sized people in your abdominal area.

19 July 2008

x365: 24 of 365 - Ellen

We (I) wanted details. Your diary: Darren’s a fucking prick (slow-dancing with a camper; thrilling betrayal). I sent you colour-coded mail. We (I) once looked you up. Alone, I’d dial the number.

17 July 2008

None like it

Since my relapse on Monday, I’ve been working from home, which means that apart from a shopping trip Bruce insisted I take with him (I did feel a little more human after the walk) I’ve basically been a recluse for the last three days. This is how I want it to be right now, though. Even the sun, which I usually crave and can’t get enough of, seems mocking under these circumstances.

This evening, I have my first appointment with a midwife, and although it won’t entail any major surprises (blood work, a Q&A), I’m still feeling anxious about the whole thing. My initial visit and scan did nothing to inspire confidence that subsequent trips won’t be equally confusing, scary and humiliating, so my expectations are really low at the moment.

When I feel this way - ill, disoriented, nervous – I always start to miss That Place Formerly Known as Home. Never again will I be scooped up by my dad’s waiting car, transported to my childhood house (now sold) and set up on their king-sized bed for a quiet hour alone while they chat away in the next room with Bruce.

I know my parents and I have had our differences, and visits have always been fraught in some way, but familiarity in itself is a comfort few other instances can afford.

And I can’t believe that given all I do have – independence; a nice place to live; a good job; a lovely husband – I’m being such a child about this. But I’m just plain scared right now, and I want to see my horrible family.

Four more weeks until Canada.

14 July 2008

So soon she spoke

This morning was an unpleasant mixture of denial and vomit – denial over the fact that I was feeling ill again; vomit for obvious reasons.

Having told friends, my family and colleagues that I’m finally over morning sickness, I’m not really sure where to go from here (the toilet, I guess). But I hold out hope that this is just a minor slip – a reminder of what I’m leaving behind rather than an omen of what the next five months could hold.

We have an appointment on Thursday with a midwife, midwifery being a standard practice in this country. From what I understand, they are like professional tour guides of the prenatal and birth-giving journey, accompanying you at every stage to offer support and advice until the big day has come and gone, and even a bit beyond.

They won’t actually deliver the baby, but I’m happy for an experienced obstetrician to do that bit. I know that midwives are licensed to deliver babies in Canada, but qualifications aside, the existence of two very different types of healthcare professionals fulfilling the same role at once seems like an unnecessary and confusing distinction to have to make.

It would be like if homeopaths were suddenly in the business of doing brain surgery. I’ll take the guy (or gal) who went to school specifically to tinker in that area, thanks. I’m sure there’s something inherently prejudiced about this, but I’ll take ignorance and an epidural over that uncertainty any day.

Actually, I’ve decided that until someone can adequately describe what the pain of birth-giving is actually like (my mother said unhelpfully: It’s like someone kicking a football at you. Down there.), I’m going to hold off on the scary, spine-piercing pain management drugs on offer thankyouverymuch.

But if any of you out there know and could help me out with the analogy, I'd be truly grateful. Comments are now open. (Just kidding, they're always open.)

x365: 23 of 365 - Lindsay

Baby-doll dresses, combat boots, tremulous voice, grabbing my hand – you were thrilling, frightening even. That you attended Sunday church with your parents and had grey pile carpet in your bedroom was perplexing.

13 July 2008

The baking queen

I have been feeling fine – by which I mean no sickness – since I woke up yesterday. I am as wary of this feeling as one who has been held against her will for two months and suddenly, for no discernable reason, finds the prison door ajar.

We tested out this theory by doing things the sickness normally disallows, such as burgers at lunch, a stroll through Muswell Hill’s commercial sector that included stopping in at every charity shop we came across, a film (more on that in a moment) and a brisk walk. Any one of these activities would have seen me bedridden for the rest of the day, but upon arriving home later that afternoon, the feeling of fineness continued, and it did not dissipate.

This morning, I am still feeling fine. Bruce is helping our friend move flats, and I plan to do a bit of grocery shopping (something I haven’t done alone or with Bruce in weeks), try my hand at making these cookies and perhaps take on some light cleaning. The sky’s the limit when you’re feeling well, but this is as high as I’d like to go at the minute. I just want to be very sure the nightmare is actually over before I plunge back into life.

Speaking of plunging, I managed to convince Bruce to take me to see Mamma Mia!, which the trailer made out to be a light-hearted drama infused with Mediterranean glitz and the occasional song and dance. It was much worse than this, though, and after sitting through three or four humiliating scenes of Meryl Streep over-emoting and flinging herself artlessly along the Grecian coast, we wordlessly grabbed our things and left.

I think the worst part about the whole thing was the attempt to fit the storyline to the existing Abba songs, which often involved the characters highlighting pertinent bits of lyrics with a hysterical shriek or bellow as though to say “See? THIS is why the song works in this particular context!” like we couldn’t have worked it out for ourselves.

The Guardian wasn’t overly taken with it either, but I don’t need a review to tell me when something is shit. I like to see for myself, which is why we are still planning to watch The Happening at some point. We did not learn our lesson after Lady in the Water, and probably never will, though this type of innocence is worth preserving in my opinion. Maybe not £20, but, you know.

If you want to see a really good film this weekend, I recommend The Visitor, which we saw at the Phoenix - one of the oldest film theatres in the UK. It inspired us to watch The Station Agent (2003) as well, which was another lovely film.

12 July 2008

Friday films, underexposed

Apparently the New York Times is ahead of its own readership, which for the most part does not see the validity of personal blogging, or the relevance of an article on the subject.

Here, Emily Gould (personal-blogger-turned-columnist) writes about over-sharing and exposure in an age where – in these parts at least - the private and the public have become disquietingly inextricable.

It’s an informative and well-written piece, but I was more intrigued by the reaction it elicited from readers. There was a general sense of outrage that the NYT would publish the self-absorbed ranting of a young girl who seemingly exploited everyone in her life, including herself, in order to gain recognition.

Which, fair enough – if you don’t blog, there’s little reason to care about the misfortunes that can befall those of us who do (well, those of us with more than a few dozen readers anyway).

But strangely, this moral outrage was predicated on the fact that, because there are more important matters at hand, such as war, famine and elections, Emily’s efforts would be better spent fighting in Iraq or maybe chopping firewood for her elderly neighbour. As though good deeds and navel gazing could and should not exist in the same universe (or newspaper).

Ironically, it's the Baby Boomers that took issue with her perceived self-absorption, and expressed the most vitriol of anyone else commenting.

Anyway, have a read and see what you think.

11 July 2008

In a galaxy far, far away

Remember when McSweeney's was a quality site filled with good, funny writing?

10 July 2008

Mr Bouncy Bounce

A colleague’s sister is due around the end of December, and she thinks her morning sickness finally finished last Tuesday. Doing a quick calculation in my head (which skews simple maths equations, but) I should be well on my way to feeling like myself again. It’s stories like this that keep me going from week to week, though I know my optimism can only hold out for so long.

In the meantime, I’m having difficulty sleeping, I’m not interested in much except for Big Brother UK and Walkers salt & vinegar crisps, and there is a temporary designer sat beside me who likes to bounce in his chair and stare at my chest.

Okay, I don’t know what precisely he’s staring at, but it’s somewhere in the vicinity of my self, and there is nothing in front of (or beyond) that self, so it’s a safe assumption that:

Bouncing + staring at women = pervert

That’s one equation I’m fairly confident I’ve worked out properly, at least in this instance. He’s gone in a day or two, but given that every day can feel like a month when you’re not sure if you’re going to be able to keep down breakfast (or lunch, or dinner), that feels like ages.

I promise I didn’t come here to complain though! What I really wanted to say was…

Nothing, I did just come here to complain. Soz.

08 July 2008

Engulfed in flames

I’ve been reading the new David Sedaris book of essays and am sorry to say that I haven’t been enjoying it much at all. There is something vaguely lacklustre about the whole thing, which isn’t what I’ve come to expect from a guy who can write eloquently about his brother’s shit-eating dog or his father’s strange relationship with rotting produce.

Until now, I hadn’t been able to pinpoint the nature of what it is I’ve taken issue with. But I think it has to do with the fact that, for whatever reason, Sedaris has chosen to forego his literary flair in favour of pared-down character sketches, which he confusingly renders in wooden prose.

The reason I typically enjoy his essays isn’t because I believe Sedaris has lead a more interesting life than the average person, or because I want to discover about various human eccentricities. I mean: these things help if you’re going to weave a good yarn out of personal experience, certainly.

But the facts are not in themselves enough to make a reader believe in the story: it’s how a writer selectively isolates certain aspects of experience, repurposing them in a way that reaffirms what we know about him/her, or even challenging our very notions of that authority, and revealing yet another facet of a protagonist we've come to love and trust (or despise and revile, as is sometimes the case).

Nobody wants a regurgitation of the facts, because facts exist all around us, and to a nauseating degree. What we crave is for someone to animate these – a storyteller who can revive the dried up old clay of trivia in order to illustrate their worldview, thereby putting us back in touch with our own sleepy subjectives.

It seems like Sedaris either forgot how to be himself, or is simply too afraid of offending the people he writes about, opting instead for the safe bet of telling it like he thinks we think it is; perhaps even adding another layer of varnish to the hardened abortions of memory before tossing them back into the kiln.

That sounds a bit harsh, actually. But I just wanted to love this book and am so disappointed.

07 July 2008

Another bun in the oven

Last week Erqsome posted a recipe for cinnamon rolls, and though I often drool over her various homely successes (be they of the baking, cooking or knitting variety), this is the one and only time I felt I could not pass up the opportunity to try one out for myself. It was either that or beg her to Fed Ex me a batch, which seemed a bit drastic.

Not nearly as drastic was the impetus to spend almost £80 on baking tools and ingredients heretofore unfamiliar with our kitchen, but I reasoned that if they turned out, I could be persuaded to make stuff from scratch more often.

By late Sunday evening, I was in a bind. I did not feel like embarking on a solo baking adventure that (as Bruce predicted earlier) would likely end in tears – bitter tears of disappointment at having allowed myself to think for one solitary moment that I wouldn’t cock it up.

Because following a recipe from beginning to end, from mixing bowl to oven – especially one that involves kneading and proofing – goes against my very nature. It’s why the bakery section in grocery stores was invented: to save people like myself from feeling like failures every time we fancy a bit of lard and allspice.

But actually, once I got the scary bit over and done with (i.e. the dough), the rest was relatively simple. And by 23.00 hrs, I opened my oven and was greeted by the luscious, heady smell of cinnamon rolls:

Cinnamon buns

Elegant they are not, but tasty? Oh yes.

I won’t tell you how I blundered my way through the recipe, as Erqsome has written some perfectly good directives. But I do encourage anyone who is a bit oven-shy to try and make something they’ve never made before, as I’m convinced I haven’t been this proud of myself since I graduated university six years ago.

And Bruce is officially too full up to eat his words.

06 July 2008


I’ve been shooting my mouth off all weekend about how I’m going to bake cinnamon buns. And now I actually have to do it.

02 July 2008

No pictures, please

I got an email from a fellow pregnant colleague who was quite enthusiastic about first scans. She’d only just had hers, and the experience was tear-inspiring for both her and her partner. I’m not really the tearing sort (I reserve that for anger and anxiety), so I wasn’t exactly expecting a punch-in-the-gut reaction to seeing my little alien on the small screen.

And a good thing too, because the nurses who herded us through that process were some of the most downtrodden, unenthusiastic and unintelligible people I have ever had the displeasure of being manhandled by. A less ironic pair of first-time parents-to-be could have been very disappointed, especially if they were under any illusions about healthcare in the UK.

The NHS system might offer people free healthcare, but if caring is what you’re after, well, that’s going to cost you.

Minutes after I arrived, in a dingy backroom at the Victorian hospital, the ultrasound gel unceremoniously plopped onto my stomach by the impassive Ms Muffin, Bruce and I were gruffly confronted with the first sighting of what will one day (biology willing) be our child.

Amidst the noncommittal grunts of our reluctant technician, we chattered quietly in awe and disbelief that right here, in the hidden cave of my being, lies something that looks very much like a tiny person. Not even the barely suppressed irritation of Ms Muffin could rob us of that very strange and intimate moment.

Afterwards, we were pinged between various departments in the antenatal unit until someone could riddle us what the hell we were supposed to do next. There was a new appointment to be made, a mystery appointment to make sense of, and the ever looming question of how one secures a midwife – none of which had easy answers. Not until we visited the midwives office - a bustling, cheerful hive of activity and – dare I say – caring.

Somewhere along the way, we lost our free first scan (next time you pay two pounds, and you need to bring change, muttered Ms Muffin on repeat – the closest she’d ever come to enthusiasm) but I don’t care: we saw it waving about, alive and well, and that image is indelibly burned into my mind now. Next time we’ll bring our two pounds and cross our fingers that Ms Muffin is on blood-letting duties.