On Pee

One of the many, many differences between Being Pregnant and Not Being Pregnant is pee. The whole cliché about pregnant women dashing to the loo at every available opportunity has become a cliché for a very good reason: it’s completely and utterly true.

Before becoming pregnant I was already adopting my Nan’s policy of never passing up an opportunity for a wee, but I was perfectly happy to wait for these opportunities to present themselves. Now, I seek them out. No, actually, I plan them in advance. “You want to have a wander round town? Great! And where are the loos?” I need to factor in wee opportunities before I can commit.

The big negative to the clichéd nature of this situation is the way non-pregnant people find it all so very amusing. Only women who have previously produced offspring – and their unfortunate partners who once made the mistake of smirking or *gasp* rolling their eyes – ever really sympathise. The rest of the population goes for ‘amusing’, usually followed by ‘endearing’.

It’s not.

Every outing becomes a localised, one-woman drama; performance art at its very worst. And that’s just if your outing is a solo one. Partners, friends, other outing companions must also find the whole scenario irritatingly tedious, but to say so would mean risking certain death (theirs), so I’ve no idea about that. An average trip to the supermarket takes on epic proportions.

“We need some groceries and I fancy a wander round the supermarket. I’ll go!”
Quick wee. (Everything begins with a wee.)
Root through cupboards, fridge, freezer; write shopping list, put boots and coat on, find handbag. Better have a wee before I go. Put down handbag, take coat off again.
Put coat on, pick up handbag, grab car keys. We’re off!
Go back into house to find shopping list. (Forgetfulness is also an issue.) Do I need a wee? Nah, I’ll be all right for now.
Drive five minutes to supermarket, park up. I  really need a wee right now!
Out of car, straight into supermarket loo. Back out to the front for a trolley. Remember to lock car this time.
Browse first couple of aisles, choose veg. Need a wee. Bugger.
Leave trolley with customer service girl, ignore impulse to give her the finger as she smirks knowingly at the bump.
Dash to supermarket loo in a way that might suggest panic, despite not actually breaking into a run. Perhaps dignity intact.
Reclaim trolley, continue shopping. Get as far as meat aisle, possible need-a-wee urge. No, can’t be, getting ridiculous now. Decide to wait till after check out.
Get to bread aisle. Need a wee NOW.
Dash back to customer service desk – big queue. Bugger bugger. Leave trolley with nearby security guard. He looks sideways at me, does not smirk – has clearly suffered the wrath in the past. Run to loo, dignity forgotten.

The whole trip to the supermarket continues in a similar fashion, including a dash back to the loo after loading the car with my legs crossed because I am unwilling to take my paid-for trolley of groceries back up the travelator and back to the smirking customer service girl, or the fearful security guard. I run in, wondering if it might not be easier to buy myself a pack of Huggies pull-ups and hope my bum fits into them.

By the time I reach home, I am so grateful to be within sight of a loo that it’s very easy to contemplate never leaving the house again, work permitting. And God help the first pupil who complains because he can’t go for a wee during my lesson. Boy you have no idea.

Muff

I can’t say the word (foot)’muff’ without the need to force back a snigger. This, I think, is the fundamental issue I’m having with pram shopping. Except it’s not pram shopping, really, because – as I recently discovered – a pram is a very specific method of baby transport; a single species within an entire genus of baby transportation systems. The modern mother-to-be does not simply go pram shopping. No.

We took our unsuspecting selves to a well known department store this weekend, on our first reconnaissance mission into baby equipment territory. It’s a whole new world out there, and a rather intimidating one. I dressed in my best bump-revealing outfit – ill-fitting pre-pregnancy jeans with the button held together by an elastic band. I didn’t want the shop assistants assuming I was a neurotic non-pregnant woman dragging her long-suffering other half around the pram section. There’s that word again.

After some debate, much note-taking (on my part), and a little price-querying (on his), we managed to short list two potential candidates. They were both ‘travel systems’, which – to the uninitiated – means the following: complicated and expensive. I’m also hoping that it will mean we won’t have to buy any other item of baby transport until the child is old enough to drive. I reckon I could buy a small car for the amount we’re spending on this thing.

So anyway, The Road Test. You’ve got to have a play with these things before any final decisions are to be made. Incidentally, baby carriages all seem to have ridiculous names that you feel silly saying to begin with (like the footmuff thing), but it’s surprising how quickly you get into the swing of things. Earlier in the day we’d had an animated discussion about the relative merits of a Babystyle Oyster versus a Cybex Somethingorother without a flicker of humour.

We settled on a straightforward Krypton Factor challenge between the Bugaboo (henceforth the Buggeroff) and the not-at-all-Mac-like iCandy Cherry, the fruit name seeming only marginally less ridiculous than the Buggeroff, (what is a ‘bugaboo’ anyway?)

Unfortunately for our inexperienced selves, the Buggeroff is apparently something special. It seemed to warrant pride of place in the show room – colourful backdrop, individual little stage, everything. It didn’t have to share floor space with lesser models such as the Cherry. It was really, really visible, and so were we. Even more unfortunately, we didn’t fully understand a fundamental truth that more experienced baby equipment-purchasers would, I’m sure, be aware of: ‘two-handed collapse mechanism’ is code for ’embarrassingly difficult’. We had four hands between us and that did us absolutely no good at all. After some minutes spent sweating, giggling and generally drawing a lot of attention to ourselves, we realised that 1. every customer in the baby department was assessing our potential parenting abilities and the conclusions were not in our favour, and 2. the Buggeroff was now in several bewildering pieces all over the floor.

Taking something apart is like finding your way home: even if you don’t know the route, you can usually manage it eventually. Finding your way somewhere new is very much like putting something back together again: you could really do with instructions. I must admit, after the hilarity of folding the chair part in half to get it back onto the chassis (see, they even sound like cars…) I was quite happy to stash the remaining pieces in the hood and let the next poor sucker deal with it. I’m fairly certain that being folded double is not the most comfortable experience for a newborn, but what do I know?

In an effort to prove ourselves better parents-to-be than our performance up to this point had suggested, we moved onto the Cherry, with its promise of one-hand folding. One! Well that was a lie too, but we did at least manage to get the thing apart without crushing any imaginary babies in the seat area.

In the end the Cherry won, partly due to cost and simplicity, and partly, if I’m honest, due to our technical ineptitude. They tell me it’s only called a ‘travel system’ (not a pram) if we buy a compatible car seat, and the footmuff costs extra too.

Let me tell you I am better acquainted with you for a long absence

I might be blogging again but I haven’t decided yet. I appear to be blogging today, so that’s a start. I haven’t even looked at the blog for many months, for fear I would find it full of crap I can’t bear to read. Taking a glance around this morning, I was surprised to find it interesting to read about my year-ago world. How things change.

Things have changed immensely in the past year and the changes have increased rapidly in the past few months. In years to come I think it will be interesting (for only me, perhaps!) to read about my changing world. It might be unrecognisable in another year. In many ways it already is.

Some changes.

We sold a house and bought a house. You think it’s going to take months – and the preparation process really does – but the actual selling, then buying, happens in a day. A morning, actually. A series of phone calls on a snowy morning and you no longer own the house you stand in. Instead, a bigger, emptier and, it transpired, dirtier house belongs to you.

Moving day itself was beset with problems and drama – three moving lorries full of our stuff became one moving lorry skidding in the snow – but I didn’t hate it like I thought I would. At the end of the day, the body-building moving men rebuilt our furniture while singing Lady Gaga songs and chatting about going home to their wives, rather than the visiting the pub. I sat among the boxes in our new kitchen and fell in love with our new home.

The next day we set about the endless process of unpacking, which somehow seemed more annoying than the packing had been, (and, incidentally, still isn’t finished…) We discovered that our efforts to leave behind a clean and spotless old-home had not been mirrored by the departing owners of our new home. It was a sty. A sty that hadn’t been cleaned for some time, possibly ever. Two bottles of bleach and an entire cannister of Oven Pride later, we called in an industrial cleaner for the cooker and a demolition team for the bathroom. I’m not even kidding.

We would have done neither if we’d known that two months later a burst pipe would flood the entire lower floor of the house, rendering our new furniture scrap and turning every room into a building site.

One mammoth insurance claim, lots of insurance company-induced faffing, and one lost summer later, and we’re finally back to the point we’d got to in April. The ground floor is mostly fabulous; upstairs is not. Our bedroom is still hot pink and has half a sheet of wallpaper Sellotaped to the wall. But, you’ll be surprised to know, this is not our decorating priority. I went back to work in September, after the long, frustrating summer, and in October I discovered that Husband and I would soon be expanding our little family by one – in about eight months time.

It’s hard to describe the way you feel when you see the second line appear on a pregnancy test – lots of you have been there, you already know. Even if you’ve been planning and wanting it for a long time, that elusive little line is monumentally overwhelming. I thought I was going to throw up.

Then two weeks later the morning sickness arrived and I really did feel like I was going to throw up. We happened to be on holiday at the time. In Monte Carlo. Walking the entire length of the Monaco Grand Prix circuit while six weeks pregnant. I’m not going to go on and on about it here, just this: travel sickness bands – like actual magic.

We’re now seventeen weeks along this slightly terrifying and yet magical road, and everything has changed. I’ve never cared a jot about travel systems and cotbeds before. I didn’t even know how much maternity leave teachers were entitled to, (not very much, it turns out.) And I certainly didn’t know that a woman’s body could perform feats of complex bio-engineering without any input whatsoever from the driver. This is fascinating and frightening every day.

So that’s where we are about now. You’re all up to date. The photos will come back again, I’m sure, even if the blogging doesn’t fully recover. I can’t promise not to become a baby-bore, but my wonderful amigo friends haven’t rolled their eyes once, not yet anyway.

What’s the opposite of hoarding?

Almost Brave

If you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ll already know that our house move is imminent: twelve days imminent, actually. Panicking? A bit, but I’m sure there’s time for plenty of that yet.

We’ve started packing our many many belongings into boxes and the whole thing is beginning to happen. In spite of this, I know I’m dragging my heels a little because part of my heart doesn’t want to leave this house. I’m not yet in love with our new house but I know I will be, soon enough. This house was never our forever home but it has been home for eleven years and I’ll miss it hugely.

I packed my books today, some of them. There are six more shelves of books left to pack but most of them are hardbacks so they await sturdier containers than cardboard boxes. There’s a strange sense of melancholy associated with packing much-loved books. But I’m finding gloom in everything at the moment, so perhaps it’s packing related and not a book thing at all.

Always Simple

My 365 is a daily joy that I’ve grown to love and look forward to. Today’s picture was taken last night during the wolf moon. It was freezing out and snow was falling in flurries, but Husband and I stood in our little courtyard garden and looked at the moon. My camera captured more colour halos than my eyes saw, which was unexpected.

Which one is your favourite so far?

Habit Forming

Grown Up

The year is a little over three weeks old, which means that my 365 project is developing swiftly. I don’t know why I didn’t do this sooner, actually. Perhaps my skills weren’t up to the job earlier than this. I’m definitely learning a huge amount this month.

I used to think that taking interesting photos meant going somewhere interesting – my Flickr is filled with pictures of beautiful places around the country – but this project is making me think about it differently. It’s not about going somewhere, it’s about getting off your arse and creating an image right now, wherever you are. I’d read somewhere, before beginning, that these sorts of activities encourage you to see the world in a different way, and that’s turning out to be true, but it’s also making me see my photography in a different way.

I’m starting to feel more like I’m creating art, rather than simply snapping whatever’s in front of me, which only made me feel lucky, not creative.

Somedays aren't yours at all

It’s easy to take beautiful photos of beautiful views, but this project is making me work harder to get something worth uploading each day. At the moment fifteen of the twenty-four photos in the set were taken in or around my house. I’m having to plan in advance and give proper consideration to what will make a decent photo with a semblance of artistic merit, as opposed to crossing my fingers that I get lucky with the light when I’m in front of something interesting. Some days it comes easily and the first picture I take is worth keeping; other days it is more of a challenge, especially with it being dark when I get home from work. I’ve pulled muscles! Some days I cheat and take tomorrow’s picture today, while I’ve already got the light how I want it and two ideas in my head. Sometimes I really cheat and use a picture I’ve had for ages and have never put on Flickr. But most days you’re getting something new, freshly created, just for this project. I’m enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would.

Until recently, I never really believed the adage about a picture being worth more than words – being an English graduate and all. Mostly the pictures speak for themselves, but I think the words help.

It’s satisfying to see the hit counter creep up on each photo every day – makes it worthwhile. Some of them are getting a lot of repeat visitors, like the two here. A lot of people are going back for a second look; I’d love to know what makes you look again. My favourite is always my newest one because it usually matches my mood. Follow me on Twitter to receive a link to each day’s new photo.

They say that a habit is formed after doing it twenty-one times. Thank you for taking part.

Here is the dream

I think there are two reasons for cinema-going: you want to see a long-awaited film as soon as humanly possible: Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince, New Moon… perhaps; or the scale of film itself demands the dimensions of a big screen: The Dark Knight, Watchmen, Avatar. There are many many films falling outside these categories for which a trip to a cinema is a waste of time, unless you’re on a date and it doesn’t really matter what you see. I’m far beyond dating so there aren’t many films that motivate me to drive the ten-or-so miles to our nearest big screen.

We saw Avatar today.

RT says:

It might be more impressive on a technical level than as a piece of storytelling, but Avatar reaffirms James Cameron’s singular gift for imaginative, absorbing filmmaking.

Which pretty much sums up everything I was turning over in my head on the way home. Avatar is huge: cinematography on a massive scale. ‘Pandora’ is not simply a made-up world – it’s an eco-system on a global scale: the environment gives the impression of being fully realised, which is a monumental achievement for a film, monumental budget notwithstanding. Somehow Cameron has created a world, a culture, a language that one can believe exists. (As an aside, the language does exist…) The creatures seem evolutionarily plausible, even though the dominant species is blue and a lot of the dog-like creatures have extra sets of legs. Have you played Spore?

The obvious subtexts dealing with the assumed superiority of occupying forces and the destruction of the natural world aren’t preachy enough to mar ones enjoyment of the film. Neither is the flimsy plot, which begins middles and ends exactly as you already know it will. This film has nothing new to show us in terms of its narrative or its characters, rather its appeal is in its imaginative context and the overwhelming, all-absorbing spectacle of the thing.

I’ve seen 3D films before, and films with 3D sequences, but none of them even come close to Avatar. Cameron’s use of computer generated imaging is flawless; the 60%/40% divide between live action and CGI is seamless; the 3D format is an enhancement not a sneaky distraction. But this is a film you need to see big, because it is big (if not clever), and it has definitely opened up a universe of possibilities for film-makers begging for funding for 3D format cameras.

It’s not a perfect film, in spite of my excitable review. Some of the editing seems a little heavy-handed and there is a quick zoom technique used repeatedly just before each fight sequence that is distracting, but none of these things detract from the iconic nature of this film. See it big before it’s over, you’ll be glad you did.

365: start at the beginning and go on from there

365 projects are ambitious: they’re the sort of commitment you make on the first of January and give up a fortnight later. Most of the 365 projects I’ve encountered have involved self portraits, but I’ve never been one for taking pictures of myself. I’ve needed a new av for about a year but I keep ‘forgetting’; the thought of taking three hundred and sixty five different photographs of myself feels rather like a blight on 2010, which is not really the right way to begin a shiny new year.

My 365 project is going to have different rules. Rules make it fun, eh?

  • A new photo every day, sometimes two, occasionally more;
  • I’m not necessarily going to take a new photo every day, but I am going to show you a picture you’ve never seen before every day, for 365 days;
  • I’ll put them on Flickr and tweet them – so you’ll need to be following me on Twitter – and periodically I’ll blog about my favourites. Let me know if you see a photo you’d like to hear more about.

Please don’t expect great works of art, (not every day anyway… hehe.) A lot of these photos will be snapshots or homework tasks; some will come from my phone or be taken on the fly. I’m hoping the project will support my photography learning curve, which remains as steep as ever. I hope it will give you an insight into my year: the first of a decade. I’m expecting great things.

365: 1

Early one winter morning in Hyde Park

365: 2

Just the beginning