Tuesday, 24 July 2012

"EVery second of life is a gift"






I've been pondering a lot recently on the nature of life, as one is wont to do after the birth of a child. SOmething that has been keeping me awake is that I really don't know who would look after the McBaby should anything happen to me.

In the last few years, all of my friends have moved onwards and upwards. In the last few months, our social life has been reduced to outings to the park and to rhyme time at the library. MrM and I moved back to Newbury which is a difficult place to make friends and we have a few acquaintances, but no-one close, and no-one that has offered to look after the McBaby for an hour, let alone until he's 18!

So I've had some strange thoughts floating around my head of late, and when I saw the story about the horrific shooting of 12 people in a cinema in the STates, I was appalled. One of the dead is a beautiful, vibrant young lady called Jessica Ghawi, who, unbelieveably, survived a shooting in Toronto a few months ago.

Much like Hungerford, when you look around the peaceful streets, it's hard to imagine such an atrocity taking place in Toronto. But what struck me was how well she put into words what I've been feeling recently.

"I was shown how fragile life was...I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on earth will end...

"I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. SO often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings."

Monday, 23 July 2012

Is anyone listening?

Now the sunshine is here, everything seems much better. The McBaby and I had a fabulous day at the local Waterways festival and with all the work the organisers had put into it, it was wonderful to see the sun shine for them.

So, everything seems rosy. Or it will do once I get this rant out of my head!

On Thursday, when it was still raining, I had a call from someone arranging an appointment for a health condition I've contracted since I became a mother.

Me: "Can I bring my son?"
Woman: "Why does he want to come?"
Me: "He doesn't want to, it's just that I have no childcare".
Woman: Big SIGH. "I'll find out."


Calls back.

Woman: "You can, but it's really not ideal"
Me: "Oh that's great, thank you. No, I know it's not ideal, but I have no choice."
Woman: "It says here you're married. Can't your husband look after him?"

Me, thinking that if he could, I wouldn't have asked if I could bring my son.
"No, he can't, sorry."

Woman: More sighing. "Well, you can bring him, but it's really not convenient."
Me: "OK, I understand, I think it would be best to cancel then."
Woman: "I just said you could bring him"
Me: "Yes, you did, but you said it wasn't convenient which will make me stressed if he starts crying."
Woman: "OK". Hangs up.

I call back. "Hello! Just got cut off and not sure if my appointment is cancelled or if I need to do it in writing?"

I glance at letter telling me how hideously inconvenient it is when people don't turn up. I have never let anyone down or missed an appointment in my life.

Woman: "Look. Just bring him ok. Lots of single mums do."

Hmmm, do they get the guilt trip too?

Me: "Ok, I will thank you."

WOman: "You will turn up?"

Me: "Of course!"

WOman: "DOn't let me down!"

Me: "Uh?"

Woman: "DO you want a letter to confirm the appointment?"

Me: "No thanks, I have written it all down. I think you've wasted enough time on me, so don't use more resources sending me a letter!"

WOman: "OK, I won't. See you then."

This morning, a letter confirming my appointment landed on the doorstep.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Thanks for babysitting, dad

I think everything is in place for tomorrow:

A year's supply of teabags - check

Three packets of biscuits - check

A homemade cake; made from chocolate and the bananas that a mother let her child stand on at Rhyme Time yesterday - check





Thank you dad xxx

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Sunday confessional

I didn't make it to church this week (or for the past 112 weeks for that matter), but thought I should confess to some terrible things I've done since I became a parent six months ago.

1. I left my son with a total stranger on Friday night. It's the first time I've left him with anyone other than my mum, but I thought one of us would go mad if we didn't have some time apart. She was the first person who has ever followed through on their offer to babysit and was great with him. It seems they had a lovely time together and when I returned two hours later, he was asleep with his arms wrapped tightly around her.



2. After a month of struggling to lift the McBaby and his pushchair up and down and up and down and up and down flights and flights of stairs. After being barged and pushed and occasionally left watching as a load of perfectly able people would rush into the lift (hence my taking of this pic), I was less than gracious when someone grabbed the pushchair when I was halfway up a flight of stairs. I did say thank you, but should have been a lot nicer about it. It's just that, if you are going to help, then please tell me so that I don't suddenly find that the McBaby is being propelled head downwards! (But genuinely, thank you for helping)



3. In 38 degree heat, I gave the McBaby pineapple which he LOVED. And then reacted to so that he looked a bit like Richard Branson with a red goatee beard. When the health visitor mentioned the foods that a baby shouldn't eat she said, "seafood, nuts and honey". She did not mention citrus fruit. My mum thought it was funny to dress him in these trousers the next day.





4. I let him roll off the bed. I can't even bring myself to write anymore about it as it was so traumatic.

5. Short of cash, I SOLD HIS PUSHCHAIR. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the winning bidder said she didn't want it as it was pink and she had a boy. (Er so do I, and I only mentioned the pink THREE times in the listing). The second bidder said she'd collect and then told me she'd bought another one, so perhaps this is to teach me a lesson about selling my son's stuff.


6. I had to return an item I'd borrowed to someone called Ivan. (I never found out what his surname was but I am hopeful that it is "Ho"). WHile we were in his shop I didn't exactly leap in rapidly when I saw the McBaby exploring a sandwich toaster and then eating the plastic piece of toast inside....






How many spaces shall I leave for all the other stupid things that I haven't done yet but will. What do you feel bad about after having children?


















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Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Oh dear Ikea

I came across this sign when I was in the giant yellow and blue shop, trying to buy a cot for the boy.




Ikea, if you can't spell "drawer", then you shouldn't be selling them.....



The Olympic Torch comes to Newbury!

Not sure if you're allowed to use the word "Olympic" owing to trademark restrictions, but I took the McBaby to see it this morning. Sandwiched between various floats advertising companies that I would not associate with sport, we saw a baton handover but sadly missed the McBaby's friend's mum's leg, although we saw her in her tracksuit on the bus!

The McBaby was getting increasingly more and more excited as the torch approached, flapping his legs and waving his arms and making that giggling noise but then started yawning as it went past.




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Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Honkers again

I think the horrible, horrible, wet weather is making me Honkers-sick. Who doesn't have wanderlust when it's been raining for 56 days on the trot?

Anyway, it reminded me of a couple of conversations I had on the same day that made me laugh.

The first was in Karen Millen where the McBaby flirted outrageously with the two staff.

One of them asked me this:

"Are you his mum?"

"Yes"

"Definitely?"

"Definitely"

"But he's so cute!"

"Definitely."

"But he's got lovely skin. DId you drink a lot of milk when you were pregnant?"



And then trying to explain to a friend that I'd had a home birth (after she told me not to order spaghetti in a restaurant. "Surely you can make it yourself! Have the steak! OMG! You're not a VEGETARIAN, are you?"

"A home birth? Did you not get to hospital in time?"

"A planned home birth?!

WHY?

Is it legal in the UK?

How did you afford a private doctor?

You didn't have a doctor? Just a midwife? WHY? Who cleaned up? OK, that's enough info about that..I AM EATING"....







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Caring and sharing

Fortunately the McBaby takes after his father in a lot of ways. Apart from looking like a smaller version of his dad, he also shares his kind and caring nature. I have known this since he was born, but he showed this side of his character last week while visiting my mum's friend in a way that made me blub.





When she was a student nurse, my mum was taken under the wing of an older couple who both worked at the same hospital. Mr T was a capable, fit man who ran down to the sea to swim every morning before work and Mrs was a nurse who made a lot of money by clever investment. An extremely intelligent and progressive woman, she used a lot of this money to set up a charity in MOngolia which helps to educate children, and visits regularly to hand over scholarships to these schoolchildren. That was until two years ago when she had a stroke.

Left bed bound and unable to move or communicate, she's been having physio to the point where she can now sit up in a wheelchair, but that's about it. My mum goes to see them every week and asked the McBaby and I if we'd like to visit. WHile I thought it was a good idea, I hesitated at the thought of standing there in the way, not knowing what to say (much like how I do every day of the week).

We arrived at the flat and pressed the bell. The couple's son opened the door and let us in. I turned around to ask him how he was and realised he'd run out of the door as we came in.

Not perturbed, I saw MrsT in her chair and bid her a cheery hello. There was nothing in her eyes at all. Her husband welcomed me in and asked how old the McBaby was.

"Six months", I said.
"WHat? He's so tall, I thought he was about a year old!" Here he switched to English and simply exclaimed: "Unexpected!"

My mum held the McBaby and took him to MrsT. She didn't move, but he reached out and put his hand very gently on her cheek and smiled at her. Her eyes went red and a tear rolled down her face.

She then reached out and grabbed his foot with a powerful grip and seemed to try to say something. There was a stunned silence. SHe tried again. It seemed she was asking his name.

MrT said she'd not tried to speak before, so I asked if I could look at the view. (Read: Escape so I could stop myself crying).

Harbour views in Hong Kong are rare and if you have one, you never know how long it will be there before land reclamation and extensive building work sees a block of flats appear in front of your window. Instead of a sea view, you're soon looking at a guy eating noodles in his pants. However, Mr and Mrs T have a great view. In front of them is a hotel which has been constructed with a hole in the middle to allow the "chi" (energy) to flow through it for positive "feng shui". I mentioned this to MrT. "We don't believe in such a thing", he said, the first time I've ever heard a Chinese person say this!

We left not long after that. I'd like to think that MrsT will get better, but what I've learned is that though someone might not be communicative, there's still plenty of activity going on, so it's important to talk to them, care for them and perhaps wave a baby's foot near them....










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Friday, 6 July 2012

Dragon boat races

Just found a bit of film that I'd forgotten I'd taken of the Dragon Boat racing in Hong Kong. The Dragon Boat race marks the annual Tuen Ng festival and there were races in various locations; Stanley, Shatin, Tuen Mun, Discovery Bay in Lantau, Sai Kung, Tai Po and Cheung Chau, but we watched from Aberdeen which was a good choice as there was a good atmosphere but it wasn't ridiculously busy.

It's a very visual spectacle which commemorates the poet Qu Yuan who threw himself into the Miluo River when the Emperor refused to listen to his concerns about the way the country was being run. The people at the time tried to save him, while beating drums and dropping rice balls into the river to stop fish from eating his body.


www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7tBlp3dKW8

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Chinese proverb - "Wealth does not pass three generations"

The McBaby, ma mere and I spent a lovely afternoon at the Picasso exhibition in Shatin, viewing the key masterpieces such as Portrait of a man and the Barefoot Girl. The little man has shown a keen interest in art and usually spends longer taking in a painting than I do!





In addition to appraising Picasso's work, he still found time to do a bit more flirting with a group of women. This time the average age of this group was 90 so a very touching experience watching these amazing elderly ladies taking the time to play with the little man in return for his coos and smiles.




We had a quick Japanese meal before heading home on the bus. Hong Kong's subway, known as the MTR, is the best I've ever experienced. While we were here, people were protesting about a price hike, but even taking into account the cost of living and the price rise, I feel that the subway is exceptional value for money. It's clean, efficient and quiet, and makes London's Underground look tired, dangerous and shabby. Having said that, we decided to take the bus home so that we could have a good look out of the window at Hong Kong which literally changes day-to-day. It was while we were looking out of the window that my mum made an astonishing throwaway comment.

Hong Kong is well known for being progressive, almost to the point of sacrilege. You rarely see old buildings, and heritage is forsaken for everything new. Just look at the harbour which used to be the most beautiful in the world. Land reclamation has meant that it's narrowed considerably and it's now choppy and ugly. So from the bus, I pointed out an old building which looked incongruous in Hong Kong's modern setting.

"Ah yes," said ma mere. "That was built by my great grandfather who was quite big in the construction industry. I think it's one of the last remaining buildings that he built that hasn't been torn down to be replaced by a block of flats.".

I did know that my great, great grandfather was extremely wealthy. In a true rags-to-riches story, when his father died, he was forced to find work in order to feed himself and his mother. As a small-built 10-year-old, he'd tout for work with a bucket, offering to clean the funnels of visiting ships as he was just about the right size to climb inside. Work increased to the point where, aged 16, he was the head of a multi-million dollar operation and majorly wealthy. Before you think that our family retains any of this impressive wealth, I'll explain what happened next. In the time it took me to type that sentence, one relative snaffled the money that was meant to be split equally and decided to invest it in Brazil. Not in Rio or Sao Paolo, but a worthless piece of rainforest that no-one can find!

"No, not him!" said my mum. "I'm talking about my OTHER great grandfather." Apparently, and unbelievably, her other great grandfather also made a fortune from nothing. He started a construction firm just as Hong Kong became a massive trading port. He even owned a substantial proportion of Hong Kong's famous waterside properties. Similarly when he died, the money was not split equally, but ended up in the hands of one relative who blew the lot one night in what must have been the world's most interesting card game.

As the Chinese say, and as we say: "From clogs to clogs in three generations".