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September 2005
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November 2005

Tom, Tom & “a”

It is worth noting a curious developmental grammatical point that Nora has, which is the use of “a” (pronounced as in the French à - which in itself is also interesting from a linguistics perspective) to replace many pronouns and the like. With, to, and, etc all become “a”.

Sensibly, I packed the nursery rhyme book with us as one of the few books we could take, and Nora creatively decided to ask for replacements instead of the word “pig” in “Tom, Tom the piper’s son”. These were requested in the way that she does when she can feel a sentence trying to get out but can’t get it out in the right way or fast enough, with breaths in the middle and very urgently (and with the word “Son” pronounced similarly to “Tom”) as in:

“Tom Tom a piper’s son a fish!”

Other substitutions included: cars, houses, sheep, man, lady, Daddy, cow.. and so on. Mostly with enormous grins, laughs and so on. When the tale of Tom got s bit boring, that rhyme could easily be replaced by “Ding dong bell”. This asked for as “Ding dong bell pussy in a well a car!”. IF you’ve ever read “Ding dong bell” you’ll know how weird and boring it is. However, if it stops tears of frustration on a car journey then *any* rhyme instantly becomes a best friend.


Ah well you see. A holiday is a wonderful thing, provided that your infant does not have a streaming cold, is not teething molars, and the two of you do not come down with 24 hour flu.

Thank God we were staying with my Dad, that’s all I can say. Meanwhile, in between the coughing herself awake in the middle of the night, crying at the slightest toddler-esque moment (Mummy’s doing the washing up, darling, you can’t play in the sink right now” – cue bawling) and refusal to eat anything for the first three days, Nora had a really good time with Grandad John. And the tortoises. And the ABC puzzle. And making Mummy draw dinosaurs (Minmi is the current favourite, a, old English Sheepdog sized, well armoured vegetarian of the late Cretaceous period).

I must explain – shortly before leaving we picked up a quite astoundingly good Dinosaur encyclopaedia from Woolworths for £2.50. It has timelines, an A-Z, an excellent 3D extrapolation of periods with fossil remains / time of existence (and so, we have discovered as many 6 year olds must have done before, that all the large buggers with long necks seemed to group along the edge of the Triassic and suddenly disappear – presumably helping to identify the end of one era and the beginning of the next). Nora has yet to get to the point of reading the extensive Descriptions and supporting material, but she has identified various dinosaurs that receive the Nora seal of approval. One other funny info graphic they do is the figure of a running man next to that of the dinosaur itself – giving the impression of a man going “Shit! It’s a fucking DINOSAUR!” and running away somewhat quickly. I’m currently wondering whether to go and invest a further £2.50 in a second encyclopaedia given that the first may well bite the dust before she has a chance to read all the interesting stuff.

The dinosaur obsession of course helped to increase her interest in “La vallée des tortues”, a privately run haven for rescued and otherwise tortoises, in the Happy Valley – a suitably sun soaked and beautiful spot. Big, big tortoises; teeny-weeny tortoises, and an unsurprisingly still model of a Komodo Dragon (“Dinosaur!”).

Given the general level of health related negatives, apart from the odd visit to a local donkey, and a trip to paddle one’s toes in the sea at Collioure that was about it on the excursions front. No Cerét market, no Nidolères (it was closed anyway) but a general sense of relaxation and calmness despite all the puking.

Away for a week

Visiting Grandad John in the Roussillon Valley.

Thank God.

No posting. Please don't swamp me with spam horror.

Tales of Noodle messing about and you never know, learning a few French words, to come. I'm counting on at least "Bonjour".

Fascinating pair of Guardian articles

I picked this up, about the beating of a pro-democracy activist in rural China, thanks to Quinn, who linked to it recently. Since she linked to it, a curious and rather serious looking note had appeared at the top:

" In the report below, we said that Lu Banglie was so injured in the beating that "his eye [lay] out of its socket" and "the ligaments in his neck were broken". Subsequent reports have made it clear that Mr Lu's injuries were not as serious as had been stated. In particular, a report headed Chinese activist vows to continue, despite beating, printed on October 12, stated, after an interview with Mr Lu, "Although he was in pain from his neck, it was not broken and his eye did not come out of its socket." The readers' editor will write about this in his column on October 17"

This is the second article, a column by the Reader's Editor.

A curious mix of criticism and support of the young writer, and apology for the general issue of the legitimacy of The Guardian's reporting in China.

...and on the content of the story itself, it sounds like as usual, there is a hell of alot of heavy duty stuff going on in China that it blithely ignored in the west for economic reasons, regardless of eyesockets.

Pregnancy update no.XXX

I read in some context or other a quote by, of all people, Fern Britten the other day (she is the current Queen of daytime TV in the UK). She has 4 kids and is a tad overweight. Her point was (approximately) "I have four kids, where do you think my priority comes? Last. Therefore dso not tell me to go on a diet, or do anythngi fancy to look after myself, because I won't have time to think, never mind do whatever".

I empathise entirely. Last time round, I would smear apparently wonderful vitamin e cream to help my stretch parks (excuse me while I die laughing at the irony of that) and anti-varicose veins legs treatment on twice a day, every day. Now I'm lucky if I manage to do either, once a week at best.

Total exhaustion has an amusing way of restricting one's ability to be personally selfish. As a result, I won't actually describe to you the full on varicose horrors of my right leg. It's the kind of thing that makes me shudder with the grossness of it. It's so bad in places it hurts, so I have to, somehow find time to whack the old Aesculus gel on, before I end up with a permanent, long and winding road wiggling it's way behind my knee and up my calf.

In other news I seem to be absolutely enormous, which is slightly distressing. I'm sure the complete lack of exercise (apart from when I'm around Nora of course) doesn't help. Again, last time around I would stroll every day through the delightful Dickensian spendour of backstreet Clerkenwell and Smithfield to get on the train at Blackfriars, two stops down, giving me a good stretch every day. These days, it's belt home to pick her up from nursery or put her to bed, then collapse in a yawning heap.

I have begun to enter that zone of extreme dreaming, which many pregnant women have, and is as a result of sleep deprivation (I am yawning now as we speak). In the last three days I have: been amorous with John Snow (who was also Pete Docherty's step-father); been suffering from narcolepsy (and going to sleep wearing a giant sized version of Nora's sleeping bag) whilst staying with my friends D&Q who were living on a new-age internet-oriented hippy farm (and were obsessed with a game called "Entity"); and been invited to create the most awe inspiringly bad mime whilst my longstanding musical heroes The Divine Comedy played on a stage to a half empty back room of a pub.

All this, whilst waking up with tedious regularity to turn over and make myself more comfortable since yet again, my inner spirit level has elbowed me to say "You're lying on your back again, mate".

But. But. Well. I'm sure that many would say "all this as as nought because" at this point, but it's not quite the case. However, No.2 - you'll be pleased to know that at about 12.10 this morning, you fluttered for the first time. I say the first time, but you obviously flutter nearly all the time. That was the first time I have felt you. Quite deep down and near the front, a distinctly "two limbs scrabbling" fluttery feeling, just for a second, before you disappeared in to the sweet, juicy murk again.

It is pointless asking you to please restrict those flutters to daylight hours and preferably before 10.30, because I know that from here on in, it's only a matter of time before your night time acrobatics reach epic, skin-testing, and sleep removing proportions.

A message received from my Mother

Who was looking after Nora on Monday.

"So there we were having lunch and Noo took a large bite out of an onion,
chewed it thoughfully for a mo' and said "It's a bit strong." So we took
it away and she had a nice, white, middle bit which, she pronounced, was
better. Then when she was having supper she suddenly puffed her cheeks
out and I said "What's that for?". "A puffer fish" she said."

Sunny Sunday afternoon

Or indeed, Waterloo er, not sunset.

Anyway. we went trolling off to the South Bank on Sunday in the hope of bearing witness to the fact that our friends Stephen and Becca do in fact exist. Unfortunately they failed to show, yet again confirming the conspiracy theory that they are in fact merely constructions on the end of a phone line.

In the meantime, Nora had a lovely day, eating parma ham bruschetta in a restaurant and sipping sparkling water through a straw. When one of the waiters, who had kids, came up with the pepper, he said to her "What's your name" and she very stoutly replied "Nora Mackay!". At which I wanted to kiss her immediately.

She's been insanely adorably brilliant of late. highlights recently include:
-Going to the older kids room at nursery (whooo - already having interesting knack on effects. She's a bit more willing to understand what a potty is for, f'rexample)
-Constantly wanting very lovely hugs, which don't seem to be associated with shyness thank goodness
-Becoming *obsessed* with Dr Suess. We were in the library the other day, and she grabbed "The Cat In The Hat" and demanded reading through it, even though it is too long, too texty and she does get bored by 2/3rds of the way through. The "ABC" book is accelerating hwer understanding of phonetics like you wouldn't believe, it's fantastic. She recognises letters... it's just magnificent.

And she's generally continuing in her quest to remain daft, which is lovely.

We also tootled along to the Tate Modern to see Rachel Whiteread's sugar lump mountains - I mean "insides of boxes", which are obviously placed very'artfully'.
At the beginning of the bit with it in, a notice said "Dangerous for climbing, do not touch".
Well. Well. I actually didn't think it was pointless, the art that is. It was ok, you know. Not her best. But it was evocative. But I did think how can you possibly build something like this and then not build in elements that are safe for kids? Nora loved running around in it, hiding round corners and the larger edifices were apparently fantastic. "Big tower!".

It was already looking scuffed at the bottom and I say Good. Screw a piece of art which is so dynamically, obviously childlike and yet doesn't support or promote chidrens participation.
The best art I saw at the Tate Modern (apart from the Bill Viola triptiche, which I sincerely doubt I could watch again without taking in a box of tissues) once a long time ago was a slideshow with voiceover about a photographer, in a lugubrious deep american accent, explaining the weirdness of being a crash photographer and one who takes shots of interiors for magazines. At first everyone was dutifully watching, but they then realised it was actually supposed to be, allowed to be... "funny". the little room suddenly became really relaxed, and people started enjoying the art much, much more. I really like An Englishman in Moscow for the same reason. Art can be funny! Why not? Is it not insane to treat art as some sort of po-faced thing to be endured, nodded and "Hmmmm'd" at as if it is eliciting no reaction in the viewer at all? I don't count 'irony' humour in this sort of category. I quite like Gavin Turk's stuff but you know, his stuff you're supposed to look at, then look at each other knowingly, nodding with a wry smile on your face. The very essence of post-modernism, don't you think. Hmmmmm.

Why couldn't the sugar lumps be... you know. For kids?

What they want to do to my Cystic hygroma

I went to the Chelsea and Westminster hospital today, to see a lad who told me all about a new(ish) Cystic Hygroma treatment which apparently reduced the number of operations done on kids enormously.

Which is fantastic. Fantastic.

Here's an explanation via a handy infographic ripped in Powerpoint in approx 10 minutes. The colouring is relatively accurate. Cystic Hygromas are a lurid yellow.

1) A nice bright yellow bubbly cystic hygroma, which is a malformation of the lymph glands,usually happening within the womb.
2) They remove all the liquid in it (presumably with a local anaesthetic)
3) They then inject a strong, nasty irritant in to the lining
4) ...which helps the whole thing collapse & shrink to a miniscule dense bunch of cells which presumably gradually erode away over time.

The guy who saw me expressed great surprise that my hygroma grew at puberty. According to him, it's now thought that the cavity where the hygroma growth starts malforms when the foetus is extremely teeny and is in more of a state where it is in folds (in the kidney bean stage) rater thna with any limb buds etc. So it's nothing to do with genes, congenital defects or otherwise.


Oh arse.

I've been feeling faint for a few days. Supeer faint when I move my head. Expecially so when overtired and / or hot. Since I haave also been feeling very, very hot that has ben a bit of a problem.

So went to St Georges this morning. They couldn't find anything directly wrong but ae calling me if I'm anaemic.
I reckon it's over tiredness.

It's all a bit crap. Hmph.