31 October 2008

Shows lack of foresight, initiative and a blatant disregard for the environment

The sun is shining, the ground is dry, and over here in England Halloween feels like a silly personal custom made up by my parents, or your parents, or some other parent who lives on a continent where adults aren’t afraid of children, and you can be sure that ‘Trick or Treat’ is shorthand for ‘Fill my pillowcase with a bounty of store-bought sweets’ and not the imminent sound of shattering glass as someone throws a brick through your window.

That said, there were crates of pumpkins at the grocery store and I’d picked a smallish one with a nice smooth surface for carving, figuring the bit of pumpkin gristle on its top was the remnants of a sickly neighbour. Not so: our pumpkin had a right old gash near its stem, in the very spot that would indicate a soon-to-be-rotting pumpkin, and rot it did, because neither of us could be bothered to go back and exchange it in time.

I briefly considered putting it out anyway, because what’s spookier: an orange grin gently flickering at the window or a moldering, faceless gourd with its head caved in, possibly swarming with fruit flies? I know which one I’d run screaming from, provided it was set aflame and poised to be thrown at me by its headless owner.

But I didn’t – I just wrapped it in a carrier bag and put it straight into the bin outside (at the equally thrilling prospect of being told off by our unfriendly, environmentally friendly neighbours, who would probably compost their own mother if they thought there was a slim chance they could end up in the paper for single-handedly saving the planet). (They are good people.)

Whilst digging the eyes out of some jacket potatoes (bwahahaa), I wondered how easy it would be to turn these into Jack-o-Lanterns instead of boiling them and slathering them with butter, except that they were for our dinner and, realistically, it would have necessitated a seperate trip to the grocery store, where we could just pick up another pumpkin. Sometimes indolence outweighs even the most primordial impulse to follow tradition, however, and nothing was done about our regretful lack-o-Jack in the end.

In the absence of something to carve, then, or even a fruit bowl of individually wrapped chocolate bars to plunder (we are on diets), I asked Bruce what we could do to celebrate Halloween, because I don’t want to lose my traditions, however commercialised and socially defiled by nubile alcoholics dressed as Gogo Yubari they might be. He said he would pick up some face paints after work and we could paint each other’s faces and then post them on Flickr, but then he doesn’t want to hear another word out of me about it.

That’s fair enough, I guess! And once the baby’s here, it will be much easier to sell him on my fervent but vague tribute to this beloved holiday, as what parent doesn’t want to dress their little nipper as a cannon ball to compliment their own pirate-themed costume, hmmm? (Arrrrr?)

I’m thirty weeks along today. Thirty! That means I have ten more weeks to go. I’m partially excited, partially horrified and partially wait-and-see about the whole thing. As I told a friend from back home this week, I am just as much of a procrastinator now as I was in my university days. Some things only get done under pressure, and most things are only done well at the eleventh hour, at least for masochists like me. I will probably start cramming for the newborn exam shortly after my antenatal courses, or possibly on the way to hospital, should this kid decide to show up for Christmas.

30 October 2008

Atheist transport in London

“There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Well Hallelujah.

Technically that bus is agnostic, but it’s not a bad a start.

29 October 2008


I’ve been talking to a good friend from back home and it’s very late now but I can’t sleep because it’s snowing, and the snow is sticking to London, and it all feels magical somehow. Life, I mean, but the snow too.

Last year it finally snowed in April and in some ways it was a greater slight than no snow at all. But here it is - snow in October, just like when I was a kid and hoped very hard that it wouldn’t come until after Halloween, because then I’d have to wear a coat over my costume (some kids wore their jackets underneath, which was worse). It almost always snowed before Halloween when I was growing up.

It took a very long time for me to understand the clemency inherent in winter’s final say - this blanket statement that could take all night, but which unified every city block, tore up every disjointed summer thought and replaced it with an endless expanse of fresh parchment and the open invitation to start over.

Rain can have London, but I will always belong to snow.

27 October 2008

Just untangling

I’m beginning to settle into my sequestered life now, in spite of the fact that our midwife looks at me sometimes like I should be committed. She oscillates between telling me that everything I feel is completely normal, and (conversely) that if I continue to feel the way I do, I’d better tell her straight away.

“The way I do…”

“You know what I mean,” she says in a ‘no-nonsense’ tone which makes me feel that we both know I’m trying to pull a fast one on her, even though I legitimately don’t know what she’s talking about.

After our last appointment, Bruce said, “I don’t know if she can see straight through you or if she’s just getting the wrong impression.” When I told him I didn’t know either, he laughed and said, “I was hoping you’d tell me which it was.”

The last few months have been rife with such contradictions, and between not being able to get a handle on any of it and gaining a zillion pounds in less than three weeks, I guess it’s no surprise that I prefer to keep a muzzle on the outside world and hide out in bed with a good book whenever I get the chance.

I’m still working from home, even though it’s becoming increasingly difficult to manage - both in terms of keeping my stress levels down and finding the energy to keep up with tasks that are no less demanding than they were before the pregnancy. It’s not just the commute that takes it out of me, I’ve discovered, but the very act of sitting at a desk for 8 hours, however close that desk is to my bed.

The economy here is in real trouble, and companies are folding left, right and centre. Mainly we’re talking financial sectors, but everyone is feeling the pinch, and businesses are less inclined to waffle about redundancies. Nearly every week we get an email from one of our directors, who tells us which colleague or product or job function is now off the menu, making the rest of us feel very vulnerable indeed.

One friend from work tells me I picked a good time to be pregnant, though I’m not too sure. There’s a clause in my contract stating that if my role is made redundant before I return to work and they’re not able to re-house me, I’ll owe them back every penny of their terrific maternity package. Even though Bruce says we will always manage, the idea that I might have to look for work in this climate, and well before I’ve had a chance to help our little guy settle in, is still worrisome.

And this brings me to the next major rotation of the wheel occupied by my frantic hamster brain, which is that I can’t in good conscience go running to my parents for financial aid. Aside from the fact that they are both retired, there are also far too many strings attached to that scenario – strings that would knot themselves into one massive tangle of familial neuroses I’m not prepared to take on.

I suppose there’s still a chance that I could develop a convenient amnesia about the reality of our relationship between then and now. It was only last week that I was mentally drafting a break-up letter to my mother because I could see no other option. Bruce came up with a better solution though, and through the power of Skype, I’ll never have to be alone in a conversation with her again. In fact, she’s always on her best behavior around others, so I can’t see any reason not to keep up the happy family ruse on my end, if she can keep it up on hers. I don’t know, it might come in handy one day.

Anywhatever, I’m 29 weeks along and everything else is progressing exactly as it should.

17 October 2008

Bob Loblaw

I just thought it was about time for an update, so here I am, updating you on stuff, as I sometimes do.

Bruce was away for three days this week, and for the full three days I did nothing but work, watch television and sleep - all of which I accomplished in pyjamas. I’ve been working from home these last few weeks, you see, due to an extremely painful collision involving a baby and my groin, so every day is dress-down day if I so choose (and I do).

They don’t tell you that having pain in your nether regions is possible long before you have to squeeze out something the size of a Thanksgiving turkey, but there are many fun facts about pregnancy nobody bothers to tell you, like that they make panty liners for your boobs. For your boobs! For when they start to leak milk! It’s just one more happy event I have to look forward to.

It makes me want to throw oversized maternity bras at the heads of those other glowing, serene mothers-to-be who prattle on about butterflies and happy hormones and how in love they are with their unborn babies. You’d think they were growing a sparkling pink unicorn in an icing-sugar palace instead of stretching themselves to unthinkable proportions to accommodate something that will one day steal money from their purse to buy cigarettes.

Never mind butterflies - the foetal movement of this kid feels more like a trapped wood pigeon trying frantically to escape, my belly jumping and jerking around like something straight out of Aliens. I am not feeling serene or glowing or hormonally happy at all. I feel tired and listless, unwell and useless, and some days I don’t even want to get out of bed. I count myself lucky to have so far escaped the horrors of skin discolouration, stretch marks, varicose veins and cracked nipples, but never say never!

That said, I’m so grateful that the pregnancy itself has so far gone off without a hitch, and by that I mean no scary bleeding, scary blood results and scary painful other things that indicate that not all is well in wombland. We lost an early pregnancy at the beginning of the year, which happens to something like one in five women (some of whom never realise it because it’s like having a heavy period), and it is as though my body remembers and is now doubly resolved to do things properly.

I’m lucky in other ways as well: I have a loving and supportive husband who I know will make the best dad in the universe, a close-knit British family that cares very much for us both and an understanding line manager who has been flexible about how and where I work. I really am in the best possible position to have a child, credit crunch be damned, and in spite of these temporary discomforts, I do feel rather blessed.

10 October 2008

Pet shop...and grille?

Self-dipping chicken nuggets - now why didn't I think of that?

I'm glad Banksy is branching out a bit finally. Graffiti is great and all, but it doesn't pay the bills. A little bear urine and a desecrated Looney Toons character, on the other hand...

09 October 2008

Some would call it good sense

I know this is meant to be absurd, but I totally get where they're coming from.

It sure beats letting your freeloading ex take the lion's share because you can't afford legal fees.

08 October 2008

Self-portrait in spotty mirror

Thought it was about time I showed off the bump (click to enlarge), though this mirror is slimming and I didn't want to hike up my shirt. Though I'm sure that will happen on its own soon enough.

02 October 2008

Split hairs and dangerous cocktails

A bit distracted these days – we’re very concerned about a friend of ours and hope that she gets in touch with us soon.

Yesterday I woke with a hangover – minus the benefits of an actual drink and maybe some regretful memories involving a greased pole and The Rapture, but hey, once this kid finally breaks out, life itself will turn into one big long party. A poopy party of sleep-deprivation and breast milk, oh yeah.

I hadn’t had anything to eat since midnight and was about to skip breakfast too. I figured I would have a steaming mug of pure liquid sugar a bit later on, and then maybe spend the next few hours sitting around doing nothing. See how that went down with the little guy.

Would you believe that this is something doctors actually encourage pregnant women to do?

It’s called a Glucose Tolerance Test, and it’s a shitty way for them to determine if I’m predisposed to diabetes, as apparently one in five women are at risk of contracting a mild form of the disease during pregnancy. And hey: it’s no wonder! Maybe if they stopped dispensing with the death-defying, blood-sugar-level-plunging tipples, those numbers would dwindle somewhat.

Unsurprisingly, my body was in complete disagreement with this new nutritional development and proceeded to try and purge the stuff not fifteen minutes later. At which point I was told to try and hold off on that, as it would have ruined the whole experiment and we'd have to start all over again on some other day. So I didn’t; I swallowed mouthfuls of whatever liquid your glands excrete moments before you vomit while Bruce and Nurse Sugarplum struggled to fix the broken plastic fan, as though the fan would somehow magically obliterate the discomfort of having ingested the liquid equivalent of 100 Mars Bars.

Two blood tests later and it was onto another appointment with the midwife, who first said the baby was measuring a bit small and then, on second thought, that it was measuring just fine. You have to trust what they say, I guess!

She said ‘So, you’re 26 weeks along’ and I said ‘Not until Friday’ and she said ‘Well, we won’t split hairs.’ And I didn’t point out that a week is only made up of 7 days, so there weren’t that many hairs to split in the first place. She then congratulated me on being over halfway through the pregnancy, though actually I’m more like two-thirds of the way through, except that in keeping with the avoidance of hair-splittage, I had to let that one go.

These days I am feeling overweight and unattractive, lethargic and ungainly, and for good reason (I am). But these things do happen, and it’s all very normal: a phrase I am well accustomed to hearing by now. I will not even be surprised when a green goblin comes bursting from my mouth to spit in my cereal tomorrow morning, because chances are, when you’re pregnant, these things happen and it’s all very normal.