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December 2005
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March 2006

Unhappy and difficult

Nora's had a "non awful" accident which nevertheless is making me extremely distracted and think I really just want to go home to be with her.

Her pushchair toppled down a short flight of stone steps and fell over at the bottom. She's not strapped in at the moment because she sits in a zip up fleecy bag, which is attached to the pushchair - this means she would have been quite loose in it.

So apparently both lips are quite badly cut, and she has bruises and scrapes over her chin and forehead. Mackay's been told to keep her awake during today and for a while this evening, in case of concussion and / or brain unjury. She sounded ok when I spoke to her on the phone - I made sure we only talked about how great swimming had been (they were coming out of the swimming baths apparently).

So... so so so I really want to be jumping on the next train home. But at the moment, they are just having lunch and then McK has to take her to casualty to have a check up. They'll be hours, since she's non-critical. So I'll be leaving early enough such that I'd be home at the normal time to put her to bed, if I was working in London today.

It is in a sense interesting to examine what one's instinctive feelings are, even though they are obviously irrational. There's nothing I could possibly do to make things any better than they actually are, and yet everything in me says I want to be near her as soon as bloody possible.

Makes me realise why it would be that, if she'd had a bad accident, I'd now be on that station concourse, cursing that there wasn't another train for twenty minutes, phoning my boss and telling him I'd left for the day, regardless of anything... anything that I was supposed to be doing.

I've no doubt that time will come at some point. No child escapes childhood without at least one broken bone or hospital visit.

Cinema twice in a week!

Unheard of luxury as my beloved and I went out for a Chinese (which was in my case, unutterably revolting but hey! It was a night out!) then caught the last film in the 8.30-9pm timeslot (8.45 in fact) which was indeed, "Jarhead".

The biggest difficulty I have with it - and it's a perfectly reasonable film, is that I saw an unequivocally wonderful film the same week. So it was more a case of coming out feeling slightly underwhelmed than anything. Fine acting, script fine... everything fine - again, visually, it was a stunning piece of work. The oil on the desert stuff fantastically well handled.

THe boys in the heat weirdly reminded me of Catch 22, and I'm wondering if they wanted to acnhieve that as a subtle hint - in which case, that's a very bad allusion to make. Catch 22 is a near perfect, cracked and fucked up movie - very much of it's time. This is of it's time but... you know... myeh. It's worth seeing.

(He doesn't look as lovely in Jarhead, by the way. Heh)


On Saturday morning.

Nora's still hungry after breakfast. Mackay has demolished the kitchen whilst it is being redecorated.
-Are you still hungry?
-Would you like some toast?
McK: No toast
-A banana?
Nora sings:

Banana, Banana!
It's a lovely day.
Banana, banana!
It's a lovely day!

Ladies and gentlemen: Nora's first song.

I have no doubt I shall repeat that back to her at various embarrassing moments throughout her adolescence.

Films, cinema, tube journeys and everyfink

I went out! Had bog standard curry, went for a walk, took the tube home late and the whole deal!

My friend Andy and I completely blanked for a year after Bill, his lad, was born - and we have both become determined to see each other more often - and indeed for his lovely missus Polly to get in on the socialising where possible, along with Nora and Mackay.

Andy and I do have a history of going to the flicks together, so we did that on Thursday, and went to see the much discussed "Brokeback Mountain" on which, I could in all honesty, ramble on for a good half an hour. It could be a combo of it being a really rather wonderful film as well as it being the first film I can actually remember seeing in the cinema since "The Day After tomorrow" (weirdly, also with Riley, and also starring Jake Gyllenhall - so that must have been well over a year and a half ago = no, I just remembered. I went to see 'Hitchhikers'). So the actuality of a big fat west end screen, sitting in the 2nd row with no one in front of you and a relatively quiet audience was fairly mind blowing.

It's such a beautiful film. Poignant and suffused with an inevitable sadness. The timeless, fantastic colour direction really helps the feeling that it could have been any time. Such huge vistas - hilariously, near the beginning I did catch myself thinking "I wonder how many of those sheep are cgi'd?" A date comes up at the beginning, 1963, as if to taunt the audience with the knowledge that elsewhere in the US, such seismic changes were happening that if these two lads had known, they could have got on a Greyhound and fucked off to a mad, new future together. Instead, their limited horizons mean there can only be one conclusion. There's a great piece of dialogue, where Ennis underlines to Jack just what a complete fucking mess his life has been, as a result of his uncontrollable and alien feelings for him. The paranoia, the living on the edge of his community, his inability to communicate with his children or hold down a job... It's just so sad. All of it. One small piece was so unsubtle it annoyed me, but it's a petty whinge really. After a scene in which Jack finally finds his balls in his dealing with his Father-In-Law, and carves the Christmas turkey, cut to Ennis, uncomfortable and awkward at the table of his now ex-wife, and her new husband the supermarket manager, who chooses to carve their turkey with an electric knife. Like... we don't really need any more evidence that these two are real men. One's a rodeo rider and the other's a taciturn cowboy. As I say though. A fairly petty whinge.

And good God, Jake Gyllenhaal has grown to be an extraordinarily beautiful young man too. Blimey. It must be the long eyelashes and dark eyes that do it. I mean bless Heath Ledger, he did a fantastic job. I mean really, really fantastic. But your eyes tend to be on Gyllenhaal when he's on the screen. Ang Lee must be an extremely empathetic director, to coax those two performances out of them. They're whole and real.

Apparently there are some places in the States that won't show the film, for obvious, crass reasons. It's so sad that there will still be kids in places in that country who struggle with the confusion and upset that falling in love with the kind of person you didn't expect causes. One hopes there'll be a healthy trade of downloads and secreted DVD's out in the sticks.

I came out of it thinking that I can't see a time when this dumb race will ever get to the point where the term "Homosexual" is an irrelevance. What's really great is that although the film deals unflinchingly with the pain that the love affair causes them both, it is at the end of the day, a traditional doomed romance type film. It's filmed as a romance rather than a film "with a message", and as such of course does a damned good job of carrying the message further.

So from, the sublime to the truly astonishing. We watched "Triumph of the Will" last night on DVD. It's the Reifenstahl Nuremberg one from 1934. It was... Well. Astounding, really. We were both left pretty speechless and a bit freaked out. I've only really seen Hitler in short clips before. What was interesting was watching him in comparison to the other speakers at the conference. Hess was average - only Goebbels seem to have any real air of gravitas about him. Meanwhile, and I don't know whether this was a regional accent thing, but Hitler rolled his 'rrrrr's and delivered anything he was saying with a deep, emotive energy. Several short speeches he didn't use notes and seemed to make it up, and only the main speech at the end he looked slightly less at ease, unconsciously clutching his elbows for comfort, and reading from a lecturn. The "Dalek" tendency was there with many of them, but not with him. He wasn't slow or deliberate, but bloody hell - the light of absolute conviction was there in his eyes. He *knew* what he wanted to say, and he knew it was right (you know what I mean. Obviously he was wrong. That's not what I'm saying).

The other fascinating thing being that of course, the film was a massive propaganda exercise to deliver the message: "Hitler represents peace and strength; Hitler is you; Hitler is Germany" 1934 stylee. There was barely any mention - although it did come up, of Aryan superiority. What there was was a hell of alot of "They tried to beat us, but they do not understand us - they think that you are all here through fear of the state. The truth is, is is us who tell the state what to do" (the universal "us" of course, talking to the tens of thousands of parading soldiers and "land" soldiers). A lot of similarities with the Stalinist (even pre-Stalinist, to be honest) USSR message (no class, the working man and woman as hero) and very curiously, occasionally a little bit of reassurance that Hitler isn't doing anything weird, the party is behind him, we should all rally around him. So the stamping out of anything anti-Nazi was well on the way at that point.

An absolutely fascinating document of the road to not just fascism, but what came next. It is no surprise to me, watching it, given that the media by this point was no longer free, and you've got films like this hammering home the messages Hitler's propaganda machine wanted: you are all heroes, our country is magnificent therefore you are all magnificent; we will be the beacon for all Germans throughout the world... I mean if your sons had been killed, you were living in poverty, your country had been thoroughly humiliated by the outcome of the first world war... it doesn't take a genius to see how that situation could be manipulated, and one's base fears, anxieties etc could become entangled in this new world order crap.

My point being that there are many who blame the whole German people for the war. I never have and this film hasn't changed that opinion. Yes, there are many subjective stories of how racist Germans can be, even these days, but then so can the white british, that's not my point. Many people bought in to something, and didn't realise they were buying in to the wrong thing, because they were so far away from Berlin (it was a rural country, don't forget) and yet more people were probably so scared of losing their homes and more importantly, their kids if they were seen to be dissenting that they simply either went along with it, or documented cases, tried to help where they could. That's not to say there weren't many idiots who fell for the whole schtick, hook line and sinker, and then once in, tried to justify the unbelievable madness of it by bolstering their own opinions - and of course, a good war gives the real psychopaths the perfect excuse to kill with impunity. and there were plenty of those knocking about.

It is a fascinating film to watch. Propaganda, as well as being part newsreel. An incredible document, during which I kept thinking of how George Lucas must have used it to engage quite a bit of Star Wars imagery (tens of thousands of rows of "Storm Troopers" - a phrase Hitler uses - all ready for action).

Luckily my comments are up the spout at present (sorry about that) so I've no doubt that the many norks who will have read that and somehow decided that that must mean I'm sympathetic to the Nazi project won't be able to post up their ill informed idiocy. Phew.

Oh yes! and Uncle Stephen's babysitting tonight, so that means Mackay and I are going out too! 3 films in 3 days. I don't know how I'm going to cope. We might go and see Jarhead, if only so I can look at Jake Gyllenhaal again. It comes as a terrible blow to remind oneself that that lad is about ten years younger than I am. .

you know, it's not often you're going to get those two films discussed in the same post - and there's absolutely no way to link the two.

3rd trimester a go go

"They" say you forget the trials; that it's nature's way of making you have more kids. I thought I had managed to remember the whole strange experience but no! My lack of reviewing the later months of last time has left me suddenly slapped around the face by what's in front of me.

But only 9 weeks to go! 9 weeks!

Meanwhile, I was given a rude awakening of my memory the other night by not only waking 4 times during the night, but being attacked by such an unstoppable force of heartburn, forcing me to try and doze in a upright a position as possible. Then, a coughing fit (heavy duty heartburn always makes me cough, plus getting over a mini-virus from last week) suddenly reminding me of weakened muscules and insides - erk!

So mild dozing, miserably tired during the day and a feeling of dragging this gigantic carcass around a thread - up up up the bloody stairs at Farringdon, my God that staircase is endless. By the time I'd got to the top I was exhausted.

This is the next 9 weeks. But soon, eight! Seven, six... roll on, the awful extremes of human experience that inevitably will come at week... nought.

Nora update

Running, jumping bouncing. I'm told her vocabulary extends itself daily, but it's difficult to notice when you're in the thick of it. Grandparents who haven't seen her for a couple of weeks tend to point out changes.

Yesterday, she used "Because" for the first time.

-Why don't you want any tea?
-Nora, can you tell me why you don't want your pasta? You usually love it
-.... Because I had a bad dream!

Ahuh. I get a feeling that, just like when you ask her "What did you dream about?" the answer is invariably "Sheeps! - "Because I had a bad dream" may well be the answer to life, the universe and everything for a couple of weeks.

She's still playing with nonsense words and rhyming, to make us laugh, and today, she initiated the patented 'sitting in the chair at the dining table dancing' (waving arms in the air and gyrating, and making us do it too) to the sounds of the Kronos Quartet doing a cover version of an old tune by Esquivel (I thought that Esquivel had done a cover version of something else, so I imagined them doing a cover of Esquivel, doing a cover of some song or other - a trifle up the arse of meta!). Which reminds me, my Mum got me this CD on spec for xmas: "Nuevo". The first song has been deliberately produced to make it sound like it's on an old gramaphone in a baking hot cafe, whilst a few locals listen and eat salty olives and dry, sharp hot-sun spirits. It's a great album. Purchase it, if you can.

No2 has been kicking the living hell out of my insides all day, as he is now. I don't think he ever really sleeps for long. I am praying several things:

-This is stage-developmental, and he will grow out of it by the time he is born

-You must join me in this fervent prayer. Please Cait, after he is born, do not eat something dodgy like nuts, without thinking. Do not eat a spicy meal for 100 days. Eat only mash potato, white fish and overcooked cabbage. Please, please small person: No2, I will love you anyway but if you can possibly help it, please do not get colic. I promise to take you to the osteo within a week or so of you being born to get all that "having been born" crap out of your system. I promise to drink fennel tea until it's pouring from every available orifice, just please, please don't get colic. I know I will live through it and so will you, but the real problem is that I know what it's like. A tidal wave of first three month confusion, crying and general agh is about to descend.

It's all like that right now*. 42 hour labours. I know what they're like. Now it's 2 months away. 9 weeks. 9 weeks!!! Oh my GOD. Colic, round the clock breastfeeding; both of us dribbling with exhaustion... and this time with added Nora. Oh. My. God. There are certain things that I really don't know how the hell to cope with - how do you breastfeed one kid whilst getting the other one up for nursery? How do you put 2 kids to bed when 1 can't even hold his head up, let alone run around the house naked refusing to get in the bath?

Maybe this sense of "Argh!" is not helping with my chronically screwed sleeping patterms. 18 minutes past 12 now. Goodnight!

*this is obviously complete crap. It's "all like that" in the small moments of my day when I muse a little too hard.

Sylvia and general murble around the subject

I just watched the Gwyneth Paltrow movie about Sylvia Plath, whilst I sat there sewing my maternity trousers (hideously expensive for me, and yet part of the key component, the elastic adjustable waistband, inexplicably unravelled. So I'm attempting to sew it back together. Very fernickity).

Of course, I had tears coursing down my cheeks several times toward the end. She did a pretty good job of looking.... well. Looking bad, frankly, from the inside out, later on in the film. I can't begin to tell you how much of the characterisation was total fiction, but it was a decent enough portayal of depression.

I did the classic thing with Plath - read her in a big burst in my depressive teenage years (along with the Russians, et al). Watching a women torn up obviously by a chemical imbalance which would today be treated with Prozac, but also by the choices available to her, that she made, and that her very 1950's, unreconstructed husband made, I don't know what occurred to me really - or more to the point, what didn't. Thinking about that teenage Cait. There was a creative urge in me in those days. As there is in many wilful teenagers. I wrote absolutely terrible poetry, *read* more poetry, but the creative daggers tipped with imaginative poison, that urge you forward, and drip their wares in to your skull, to write, write, write the stories that flow from your fingers - they all left me.

And as they left me, I became, ironically, less depressed. Which you would have thought a paradox. I certainly miss them. There's a hole in my life and it's been there for years. I seem to choose friends whose intelligence outshines my own by visible measures, and in creating comfortable bubbles of insecurity, I give myself yet more excuses not to write. Not to return to those daggers. What in hell's name happened to the damned things? I forgot them, you see. The birth of intelligence is in language and memory. This much I am learning from my daughter. You can get by with one, but you need both to achieve truly marvellous intellectual feats. My memory is so shot full of holes, it's like a pheasant's carcass. Huge grey areas, and fog, from which only occasionally do images flicker in the murk.

I can't begin to tell you the damage that has done to my life. the reason I can't is because I only half realise it myself. I was told once, by a counsellor, whose job it was (of course) to make me happier, that my memory had been affected by the traumas of my youth. That whereas if I'd had a serious accident, my brain would have blotted out parts of that, and left them blank. It didn't really know which bits to blank out from a 6 year period, so instead it got the nub end of the pencil and blurred things indiscriminately. I have no idea whether that was simply placatory bullshit, or whether it had some psychological truth. It sounds plausible.

It makes me so angry. But, luckily for me, it doesn't debilitate me. So I carry on living the life with the hole in it, reasonably happily.

And given the choices open to that powerful, creative woman - the script several times left her crumbling and saying "I'm so exhausted". Her model for life was all wrapped up in her post-war idea of what a wife should be. Two kids, a homemaker - she was never supposed to be those damned things! *I* get exhausted (well, I certainly do at the moment) and yet I have a partner - a husband who spent half of today looking after Nora because I have a cold and was too exhausted, coughing and croaking this morning, to even get up efficiently - and who then spent the evening cooking, because tomorrow he will be painting the kitchen ceiling, so cooking is officially "out".

And now it's 23.40, and I must go to bed. I suppose it's inevitable to get all introspective after watching a film like that. I don't enjoy such naked personal pondering, so you have my apologies. I think Plath has a special place in the lives of anyone who picked her up as a depressed teenager. I remember writing pieces about how strange everything looked - doing an analysis of my hand, that looked like it was made of clay - then reading Sartre, and "The Bell Jar" and feeling the links of understanding across the gulf of time and experience (believe me, in experiential terms, things got a lot closer than simply understanding the meaning behind the bell jar metaphor).

I'm wrong in fact. I started to become less depressed when I made close friends for the first time in my life. When I was around 22 or 23. And whereas now I know that the route Plath took is alien to me, before that time, it was familiar as an old cardigan. At the moment I'm trying to reconstruct several old friendships that I have let drift, as well as work out the choreography of a life where I'm not relying on a cosy shell of well meaning but not deep relationships, mostly held electronically. I'm hoping that I won't simply get scared and rejoin those in the shell. It's a false comfort, and leaves me somewhat lonely in my life.

So. Excuse the interruption. Tomorrow: freaky, funny two year olds! Aches and pains and other great life experiences! Here's Tom with the weather...

The naughty corner

We had to institute "The Naughty corner" for the very first time around the beginning of November, last year.

Just to put this in to context, it has been used a grand total of 3 times. This is good, for several reasons: she's just not very naughty; it keeps it meaningful; er... that's it.

On one occasion, Nora absolutely would not say "Thank you" to our lovely cleaner, Alex for something Alex had done for her. Refused. Now given that she loves Alex, this was a bit weird, and a wrong thing, generally speaking, so we talked about the Naughty Corner and she got all excited. The reality of the naughty corner though was slightly different. Once she realised I was upset with her, she was standing looking at a blank wall, and she wasn't allowed to turn around, I think it took about 20 seconds for her to apologise profusely and start to cry (that's the bit I really don't like - because she's a really nice person, you see. I don't think she'd be actively malicious if you gave her presents to do it, so putting her in a position where she realises she's upset someone *really* upsets her). So we went down to see Alex and she said "Thank you" nicely.

I can't remember the other one, I think it was a refusing to help clear up a load of mess she'd made, but the last one was her throwing things on the floor in her bedroom, refusing to stop when I asked and refusing to help clear it all up. I was quite stern. "Nora is going to the Naughty Corner", etc - and again, it was a matter of moments before extreme sadness and "Sorry" came along. So a big hug, and we went and cleared up the mess together.

This stuff does freak me out a little. We actually give Nora incredible leeway to be herself, because she is such a really good kid - I mean when she bit me the other day, she just got over-excited. There would have been very little point in doing a big production number given that she burst in to tears and was desperately anxious because she'd hurt me. If she bit me *again* meanwhile, we'd have to do something like that but honestly? I think the likelihood is about zero. As you can imagine, the freak out comes from me deliberately going out of my way to create a situation where I know Nora will be very upset. The only way I can do it is by repeatedly giving her the opportunity to resolve the situation, and stating that the "Naughty Corner" is going to occur. She knows what it is (occasionally she talks about it - does she have to go in it? Which of course ellicits massive hugs, smiles and "Of course not! Have you been naughty? No! Hooray!"

So 3 times in total since - in fact it was probably well before the beginning of November now I think about it. That's not too bad. It still feels somehow like medieval torture. Put her in the stocks!

John Lewis cookery porn shopping

On Saturday McK and I indulged in something far more enjoyable for me that it was for him.

We went shopping.

On our own.

With £660 of John Lewis vouchers, a big list, and a calculator, in order to get Good Things for the kitchen. I'm not going to go in to tedious detail on them all because that would be frankly rather dull. The point was that these were the vouchers given to us on our wedding day by lovely relatives. So it was shopping efficiently, but buying well and not having to worry about the bill! At all!

So bog standard things were that we now (well, when it's all delivered) have a full set of plates, sideplates & bowls as well as decent knives and forks, so all our "student special" stuff (ie: a load of higgledy piggledy god knows what) can be either taken to Oxfam (cutlery) or relegated to "bottom of the pile, use only in emergencies".

I'm so bloody boring, I insisted in plain white, given that it's then easier to replace when it breaks (inevitable). But you know.. meh.. food looks nicer on white anyway.

I also got a whole bunch of bakewear this and that, including some silicon baking "trays" for muffins, a loaf and a flan / tart which just rock. Unfortunately, they are branded "Jamie Oliver" those being the only ones they had but if it's effectively free, one takes what one can get.

But the real joy, and the stuff that was agonised over the most, was saucepans. We only actually bought two, but bought 2 glorious, lifelong kitchen helpers which will age beautifully and look stunning. One large sized saucepan with an enclosed copper bottom to replace the crappy aluminium one with a wooden wobbly handle and the real "I could no more imagine buying this in real life than I could imagine orering a penthouse suite at the Hilton" - a 28cm saute pan, lidded of course, with an aluminium base encased in copper for super conductivity. Forget the slightly winceworthy "Marco Pierre White" branding, this thing is so fucking heavy, the quality built in to it's construction is the most impressive thing (and oh my God, the whole range was exceptional but hilariously expensive). This thing will last a lifetime, as is deep as hell - it'll be an absolute joy to cook with over the years. I'm just imagining a really delicious dauphinoise potatoes cooked in this thing and shoved under the grill for the final toasting off... or the whole thing filled with spitting garlic and onions prior to a ratatouille... it's the kind of equipment you see in 'posho-chefs cooking at home' type programmes.

So that's Mackay's hoorah hoorah, and I think probably the bakeware is mine. The important thing bakeware wise is that I really remember my Mum baking at home when I was young. not all the time, but you know, she did, and it's cheap. Not only that, but most importantly you get to join in. Which is perfect, if you want your kids to know about cooking and food.

And what did Nora get from this extravaganza? A lovely wooden table and chair set, for sitting at and drawing, etc. I think the chair has a lion's face. It's difficult to remember now, given that it's all being delivered on the 23rd or something!

You see, that's what happens to rich people. They purchase expensive things for quite obscene amounts of money - and then they just pootle home, safe in the knowledge that it will arrive, a few days later, delivered by men in monogrammed jackets.

Oh, yes. When we were getting the table and chair, we saw the range of quite wide ranging (but all expensive) pushchairs and so on, and they had one of those posho prams (the type used by royalty and Gwyneth Paltrow, type of thing). Hand made, amazing, beautiful suspension...

Only £700! A snip!

(The Hurley version of "how to acquire a puschair": Get given a travel system by a friend, which includes a newborn type carseat, and buy a super-light but somewhat breakable one for holiday travelling, for £5, from someone my Mum knows.) Ha -not so for the double buggy. Unfortunately we had to turn one down because we don't have a car. Side-by-siders are only any use if you *never in your life* have to go on public transport. So more cashola has to leave the bank. Ulp.


Nora got over exciting the other day and bit my arm. When a child with newish teeth bites your arm, you really know about it.

Luckily, she didn't mean it, and is also one of the nicest people you're likely to meet, so when I strongly said to her "No, Nora you do NOT bite Mummy, or anyone else. That HURT Mummy" and showed her the tiny but painful bruise, she immediately burst in to tears and sobbed "Sorry" of her own accord.

One thinks quickly in a situation like that, and what I didn't want to do is say "That's alright, have a hug", because that might have been perceived as a signal that everything was in fact A-OK, when of course it wasn't. Luckily, she was bitten on the finger about 6 weeks ago by someone at nursery, so I was able to say "Remember when Nabile bit your finger? It really hurt didn't it? Biting *really hurts* and it's the kind of thing a nasty person would do", at which point a big hug and "...and Nora's not a nasty person at all, are you" (etc).

She was very upset, poor love. But bloody hell, it hurt like you wouldn't believe!