Sitting In Daddy's Chair

Here's photographic proof, if any were needed, of who is really in charge of our household these days. G has already taken my chair. Soon CBeebies will be on the telly every day, and the only book I'll be allowed to read will be The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Obviously I'm used to having one female telling me what to do, but I now realise that will increase to two before I know it.

As for the constant puking, it seems to have stopped for the time being after Mrs J started giving G drops along with her feeds. Not before a particularly epic sick-up earlier today though, in which G showed off the latest thing she's learned - projectile vomiting. Another reason why wooden floors are better than carpets.

Baby Vomit

I'm sure there was a time when I didn't constantly reek of baby vomit. But between you and me, I'm struggling to remember exactly when that was. Baby G has been puking up very regularly over the last couple of weeks, which has come as a bit of a surprise because she only rarely did so when she was very young. But she's more than making up for it now.

The picture was taken during our recent stay in Wales, after a particularly bad series of sick-ups caused us to give G an impromptu bath in the sink. Curiously, she doesn't seem at all bothered by all the vomiting. The only clue she's even doing it is a bit of a gulp and, a second or two later, yet another stream of white liquid dribbling out of her mouth and down either myself or Mrs J (if we're unlucky) or onto a muslin cloth (on the rare occasions we're quick enough to anticipate it). The vomit itself kind of resembles salad cream and, I imagine, tastes like it too.

We don't know why G has started being sick so often, although seeing as she's not in any distress it can't be anything too serious. The Internet offers us lots of possible reasons, but it's almost not worth bothering trying to find out exactly what's going on because, let's face it, all babies throw up. It's just what they do.

Although it's usually easy to clean the vomit up, the smell is much harder to shift. Currently we're trying to show off our flat to would-be tenants, an activity that traditionally involves the baking of fresh bread to give off a welcoming aroma. All we can manage is freshly-spewed baby sick. Not quite sure whether an estate agent would be able to put a convincing positive spin on that.

It's Your First Christmas, Baby

G enjoyed her first Christmas. Or at least she seemed to enjoy most of it, the inevitable bits of crying notwithstanding. The crying may have been down to early teething, a lack of sleep brought on by too much noise and excitement, or just sheer disappointment at the outcome of the Christmas chart battle. Yes, G (or, in a more real sense, I) was particularly upset that both this lovely seasonal song by Laura Marling and this very apt one by Boyracer failed to make any impact on the contest between Rage Against The Machine and the guy from X Factor. Ah well, there's always next year.

The photo above shows a bit of daddy-daughter playtime. This is my favourite game, and judging by her usual reaction, G gets a kick out of it too. I like to tell her she's flying and that this is all good training for her future career as an astronaut, but the best I ever get in return is a silly grin. I've been playing this game for her for two months without any problems, but literally seconds after this picture was taken all the excitement got a bit much for G and she was sick on my face. I'll still keep playing the astronaut game with her, although maybe I should start calling it 'vomit roulette' or something.

On Christmas morning Mrs J put G in a seasonal outfit and helped her with her presents. Predictably enough, G had a mountain of pressies that piled together was far bigger than her entire body. Also predictably, the shiny paper and tearing sounds held just as much interest for her as any of her new toys. In fact, as this picture below clearly demonstrates, she was actually more interested in one of the presents her daddy received:

Later on it was time for Christmas dinner, or Christmas lunch if you're a posh southerner (G is neither of these things). If she's awake when people are eating at the table, she usually starts whining until Mrs J picks G up and puts her on her lap so she can see what's going on. This isn't normally much of a problem, but Christmas dinner is a bit tricky to eat with just a fork, so I did my best to distract G with the hat from one of the crackers, to her obvious delight:

Inevitably, shortly after this picture was taken G started making her 'I'm bored down here' noises and I had to cut Mrs J's turkey and roasties into bite-sized pieces for her. But other than that and a bit of her typical evening crying, G was pretty well-behaved throughout Christmas. She even slept happily through the night every night, allowing the rest of us to get on with the serious business of cracking open the Christmas booze, eating too many chocolates and staring in a daze at the telly. Something tells me that G won't be quite so accommodating and easygoing next year. Or any of the dozen years after that.

The Early Stages Of Teething

One of the favourite parlour games of new parents is to look at various illnesses and problems which affect babies, and compare the typical symptoms to whatever your little one is doing that day. We've had a busy time of it recently, with a wedding in Nottingham, a 30th birthday party in rural Shropshire, and now we're back in Mrs J's hometown of Monmouth for Christmas (the picture shows G out in her pram enjoying some of the icy Welsh weather). And during these last few days G has given us plenty of material for this parlour game, with a lot of evening crying, excessive drooling, chewing on anything that goes near her mouth, and a pair of very rosy cheeks. The Internet (and it's a fool who doubts what they read on the Internet) says this is probably the early stages of teething.

It can't be real teething, the bit where the teeth actually start poking through the gums. That's not supposed to start for a while yet. And looking carefully into little G's mouth (as I often do, usually when mopping up her latest post-feed vomit), there certainly aren't any teeth in there. But apparently things do move around inside her gob well ahead of time, so this could be what's causing G to be so difficult.

But to be honest, it doesn't really matter what amateur diagnosis we come up with for G, the solution is always the same. Dose her up with Calpol and hope for the best. See, being a doctor can't be that hard.

We Have Learned To Suck Our Thumb

The title of this post pretty much sums it up. For a while G tried putting most of her fingers in her mouth at the same time, but she's now worked out that a thumb is all she needs. Must remember to wean her off it before her 18th birthday.

You'll notice that she's wearing blue. I suppose this means she looks like a boy, but seeing as all kinds of people have mistaken her for a boy even when she's been wearing a dress, I don't think it matters all that much what colour clothes she wears. Except I don't like putting her in pink.

I'd decided I wanted to try to keep the amount of pink clothes, toys and other stuff in G's life to a minimum long before she was born. This is partly because I don't want my daughter to look like all the other little girls that seem to spend their entire lives clad head-to-toe in pink, but mostly because I'm worried that if she grows up wearing pink all the time she might end up thinking that she's a girl and can only do 'girl' things.

I've since found out that these people feel so strongly about exactly this issue, they've set up a whole campaign about it. Don't get me wrong, I'd be delighted if G grew up to be a nurse or a teacher or whatever. But secretly I really want her to be an astronaut. And whoever heard of an astronaut with a pink spacesuit?

Cloth Nappies

We're taking it back to the old school. A load of cloth nappies arrived in the post yesterday and from now on we're going to put G in them most of the time, relegating disposables to the bench. We'll still use disposables when it's convenient, such as when we're out with G for an extended period of time or something, but generally it's going to be cloth all the way from here on in.

I'd always assumed the reason people used cloth nappies nowadays was that it's better for the environment, because you're not constantly sending off bagfuls of stuff to the nearest landfill site. Then when we started trying the odd one out a few weeks back, it occurred to me that this can't be the reason. You see, you have to put cloth nappies in the washing machine all the time, which doesn't really strike me as any better for the health of polar bears than using disposables. No, the real reason why we're going to use cloth nappies is that they're cheaper. A lot cheaper. Which leaves us with lots of extra money to spend on more important things, like chocolate (Mrs J) and whisky (me).

We've already discovered one problem though. Cloth nappies are a lot bigger than disposables, so now G looks like a baby Michelin girl. This also means that most of her 0-3 months clothes no longer fit properly, so we're having to switch to bigger sizes. Even from an early age, girls can come up with any excuse to go shopping.


We're going to move soon. Currently we live in a third floor flat on Oldham Street in Manchester's Northern Quarter. Hanging out in the middle of town is fine for the time being, but one day fairly soon little G is going to start toddling and the amount of space we need is suddenly going to increase.

I don't think we're ready to condemn ourselves to cul-de-sac suburbia quite yet, so we've been spending our weekends visiting little towns and villages trying to find somewhere that's still close enough to Manchester for Mrs J to easily commute from, but also bustling enough to make sure I don't go insane when I'm at home every day with G. Other essentials are decent pubs (that's my idea) and a school with a good Ofsted rating (Mrs J insists on this). After applying these stringent criteria, we've pretty much decided we'd like to live somewhere in Saddleworth.

So we went out there today to take a look at a few properties. We're going to keep hold of our flat in Manchester and let it out, so we're trying to find somewhere to rent ourselves. One thing I've realised just from today is how househunting changes once you've got a baby to consider. Those cool-looking stone steps which an estate agent will tell you "adds character" instead start to look like a nuisance. Old houses split over several floors no longer seem like they'll be fun to live in. I suspect finding somewhere that fits all our new requirements will be harder than it first appeared.

Not that we're in any particular rush, though. And if G behaves as beautifully as she did today then we can go househunting every week as far as I'm concerned (it may come to this, perhaps I should be careful what I wish for). I took the photo at the top as we stopped in for some lunch in Uppermill. She seemed fascinated by the little packet of brown sauce, but hasn't yet worked out how to reach out to something with her hands. So she just stared at it. Such simple things won't keep her amused for much longer though, I fear.

Going To Sleep In Her Own Room

Baby G is ten weeks old today. It's already hard to imagine what we actually did with our lives before she turned up. Ten weeks doesn't seem like a lot, but I now understand that when you're a new parent and fitting in all of the new things you have to get done every day, ten weeks feels closer to about ten years. I also now understand that those people who say that time flies by and babies grow up before you even realise it are liars. Liars! I mean look at our baby, she's still a tiny baby! She can't crawl or stand up or explain the offside rule (as a girl, she may never be able to do this) or anything!

Anyhow, I'll grant you that she has grown up a little bit since she was born. Enough in fact for us to decide to put her in her own room at night from now on. G has actually been sleeping through the night reasonably happily for a while, so this measure is possibly more for the benefit of Mrs J, who usually finds herself being woken by G's every gurgle and movement even though the little one is doing it all in her sleep. So, the cot is now in the spare room, and G is currently in it, as the picture above (taken in the dark with a flash) shows.

Our new routine calls for her to be in her room from after her mid-evening bath and feed (about 7ish) onwards. Tonight, during the time between that and her usual late feed at 10:30pm, she kept waking up. This meant both me and Mrs J trooped in and out of the room all evening making increasingly useless attempts to settle her down by cooing at her, turning her mobile on (it's amazing how irritating that tinkly sound becomes after, oh, let's say the second time), putting her dummy back in, or just staring at her blankly in the hope she might stop crying (this was me). However, we didn't give in, and at no time did we remove her from the room. This, apparently, is important, and, also apparently, we will be grateful for it later.

After the late feed Mrs J went to bed and I tried to get G back off to sleep. Mrs J manages this by cradling her and softly whispering in the classic motherly style. Alas, when I attempt that, G cries and fidgets and tries to grab on to the collar of my t-shirt and, if that's successful, a clump of my exposed chest hair, to surprisingly painful effect. For the last couple of weeks, the only way I've been able to get her to sleep is on my knees, with her facing away from me. I like to call it the Superbaby position. Here's G demonstrating it a short time ago:

There are two things to notice about this photo. The first is that baldness is obviously hereditary. The second is that it doesn't look very comfortable. But G seems to like it, and that's all that matters. Another thing about being a new parent is that getting baby to sleep is of paramount importance, so if baby develops a taste for drifting off in the airing cupboard or tumble dryer (note - don't try this at home) you'd probably let her do it. Right now, the baby monitor gadget in front of me tells me that G is indeed fast asleep. So it's time I got some sleep too.

Christmas Party

We took G to her first Christmas party last night. The three of us went over to Leeds where a couple of our friends were laying on their annual festive feast, which has grown over the years to be so big there were 20 people packed into their living room for a share of this turkey and an array of other treats.

Mrs J went out the night before for a 30th birthday, so we decided that she'd be designated driver yesterday and deal with G if she started playing up. This meant I could get on with the serious business of drinking beer and generally making a prat of myself. We put G in a Christmassy dress but she wasn't in much of a party mood, and managed to ignore the noisy crowd of drinkers and drift off to sleep early in the evening.

After dinner came the party games, and we split into two teams to take part in a variety of activities including electro-shocking tanks (I lost), speed mince-pie eating and Xbox karaoke (Mrs J stormed to victory). The final tiebreaker involved three people from each side trying to down up to three pints of ale out of a comedy horn which had been bought (on the Internet, of course) for the occasion. Despite having to do an extra half pint because of our poor performances in most of the earlier events, my team came within four seconds of winning, although this photo reveals that my technique may need some work.

G was upstairs and (mostly) asleep during all of this, but I'm sure when I tell her about it when she's older she'll be very proud.

Swimming Takes It Right Out Of You

I took G for her second swimming lesson today. She managed better than last week, and barely cried at all, although I think 20 minutes of the half-hour lesson is about her limit before she starts to get fed up. She's only a baby, after all. Mrs J took this photo after we got back this afternoon. It's tiring work being a dad, you know.


G's grandad is staying with us in Manchester this week, and Mrs J is helping him re-do our bathroom. So for the second day in a row I took G out for a few hours to let them get on with it, and to make sure she didn't get too disturbed by all the clattering and banging.

I decided to push her around town for a bit to get her off to sleep, and once she'd drifted off we ended up in the Wong Wong bakery in Chinatown. The picture is of my nutritious lunch, consisting of a deep fried spicy beef doughnut-type thing (interesting), a red bean and banana cake (amazing) and a cup of Hong Kong tea (dodgy). The tea tasted like English tea that had been left out to stew for a couple of hours, before being reheated in the microwave. I texted a friend who has lived in China to ask him about Chinese tea, and he replied that, although there are some good ones, in his opinion it's often pretty rubbish. I'd have thought that with so much tea coming from China, that they'd have a decent idea of how to brew it up. But apparently not. Maybe it's an acquired taste, which I haven't yet acquired.

Last night, Mrs J's dad babysat for us so we could have our first night out together since G was born. We didn't go far, just round the corner to the newly-renovated Band On The Wall to see Thea Gilmore, who's currently plugging her new Christmas album. It was a great show, and the highlight was probably the sight of Mark Radcliffe (yes, that one) shambling onto stage with a pint in his hand for a couple of duets, including a good go at Fairytale of New York. Incredibly, it's the first time I've heard it this year. No doubt I'll hear the original version plenty of times between now and the 25th, whether I like it or not.

Whitworth Art Gallery

Continuing our patronage of the Manchester arts scene, I took G down to the Whitworth Art Gallery today. Shamefully, during the whole year I studied at the university (which is basically next door) I never actually got round to going to the gallery, so thought I'd better put that right. And besides, people kept telling me the café was brilliant, which is enough reason to visit anywhere.

It's been a cold day in Manchester so I wrapped both G and myself up in plenty of layers and set off for the walk down Oxford Road. I'd arranged to meet a friend for lunch and made sure I turned up in plenty of time so I could have a quick walk around the gallery with G. When it comes to museums I usually prefer looking at stuff rather than art, but I enjoyed an interesting exhibition on American prints of the 20th century. There was also an exhibition about art as it relates to trees, and I have to say that lost me a bit. True to form, G was fast asleep throughout.

We both perked up when it was time to go to the café to meet my friend for a coffee and some food (I had a tasty Indian parsnip soup, who knew the Indians liked their parsnips?). Well I say we both perked up, I certainly did, although as you can see, G remained oblivious to everything until I got her out of her pram so my friend could have a hold. Even then G stayed snoozy, and not even the occasional groups of bored-looking students disrupted her. I tried telling my friend that G isn't always so angelic, but I don't think she believed me.

I Love The Smell Of Calpol In The Morning

After a few days of angelic behaviour, with plenty of smiles and gurgles, G has been restless and grouchy all weekend. It's not that she won't go to sleep at all, but she's finding it hard to settle down properly, and is constantly waking up to whine and cry. This is a bit annoying.

What it means is that, after briefly getting to the stage where we were just about going to bed at the same time, Mrs J and me are back on opposite shifts. Mornings for her, nights for me. It's now the early hours of Monday morning, so Mrs J is asleep and I'm up with the little one. I don't actually mind doing it on this night of the week, because there's a live American football game to keep me entertained during the all-too-fleeting occasions when G does manage to drift off (the NFL is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine, along with rhubarb and custard sweets and jangly Scottish guitar band Del Amitri). I've managed to capture one of those snoozy moments in the picture above.

One reason why G may be asleep for the time being is that I've dosed her up on some of the good stuff, Calpol. I don't want you to think I've just given her some drugs because I can't think of anything else to do that will get her to sleep. Oh no, that is absolutely not the reason. The thing is, I've had a bit of a sore throat all day, and was wondering whether G might have one too, which could be the thing keeping her from settling down. So basically I had no choice but to give her some Calpol. That's it. That's the only reason.

Actually giving her the stuff took me back years. To be precise, it took me back to when I was four, and I spent three months at home with a shocking case of whooping cough that kept me and my long-suffering mum up for night after night. I'd forgotten all about that sickly sweet smell that wafts out when you open the bottle. I'm sure I'll get plenty of chances to reacquaint myself with it before long.

The Back Room Of The Castle

We took G to the pub this afternoon. A friend of ours is up from London for the weekend and he was meeting people in The Castle, just round the corner from our flat. So for the first time since Mrs J was heavily pregnant, we decided to pop down there. As you can see from the picture, we installed G in her pram in the back room, next to the old piano, and got a round in. The one on the right was G's (we brought it with us).

As it turned out, she remained asleep the whole time we were there, although we didn't chance our luck by staying too long. Besides, you never know when someone from social services is going to turn up. Apparently they take a dim view of this sort of thing.

In At The Shallow End

Here's G and Mrs J earlier today, about to head out for G's first swimming lesson. We were warned that there wouldn't be much space at the pool for prams, so decided to wrap the little one up in her snowsuit and put her in the sling. G slept all the way there even though it was another cold, damp day in Manchester.

Babies can't regulate their temperatures like you or me, so the lesson was in a specially heated small pool. I was going to be in the water with G, but while I waited for all of the mums and babies to get ready, I found myself alone at the side of the pool with another dad. Aware of the fact I was only wearing my shorts (he was fully clothed), I tried to strike up a conversation to ease this potentially awkward situation. I'm now able to reproduce that conversation in full:

Me: "Are you here for the baby swimming class?"
Him (smiling): "Mmm"
Me (putting my hand into the nearby jacuzzi): "This one's a bit warm for the babies!"
Him: "..." (he didn't say anything, then started texting someone on his phone)

At this point I gave up and chuntered to myself about how rude this person was, but I was happy that I'd at least done the decent thing and tried to be sociable. Then this man's wife came out with their baby, and they started using sign language with each other. Yes, they were deaf! Hardly surprising that he hadn't said much to me, as I tried to talk to him while looking in the other direction. Not for the first time in my life, the Curb Your Enthusiasm music began playing in my head. I cringed, inwardly.

The lesson itself started off well. There were six babies in all, G was one of two girls, and clearly the youngest there. But she enjoyed herself, and there were some big smiles when I pulled her along the surface. She didn't appreciate the underwater dunking quite as much, but she'd already started crying (for a feed, as it turned out) so maybe that wasn't so surprising. There are another nine lessons to go, and we've got some things to practice in the bath in between times. I don't think they let you cry during the Olympics, so we've obviously got some work to do.


So here it is, the long-awaited photo of G smiling. We've been getting smiles off her for a few weeks already, but they've usually been too fleeting to catch on film. And besides, who wants to start scrabbling around for a camera when your daughter's smiling at you? If the smile follows minutes or even hours of crying, it's better to savour it than worry about trying to capture a Hallmark moment. However, she smiled so much during this week's trip to see my mum, uncle and aunt in Washington (that's this Washington, not that one) that we couldn't fail to get a few smiley pictures.

We drove up on Monday, just after she'd had another couple of injections. We'd been warned that she might not take the jabs too well, so we both went down to the surgery expecting to spend the whole journey north doling out Calpol and trying to soothe a grouchy G. But happily for both her and us, the injections didn't seem to bother her, and she slept more or less the whole way.

Her good mood continued during the two days we were in Washington. There was hardly any crying, and lots of smiling, gurgling and (possibly best of all) sleeping. I've heard lots of people say that they wished their babies could have stayed at a particular age forever, and never grown up. I always thought that sounded ridiculous, but G's been on such adorable form this week I now see what they mean. I still want her to grow up though. I need to be able to embarrass her with the contents of this blog.

Naked Baby Photos

Mrs J went out with one of her friends yesterday lunchtime for a meal of some of the things she wasn't allowed to have while she was pregnant. She had a starter with some poached eggs in it, then a medium-rare steak and finally some chocolate fondant pudding, along with a big glass of wine. I didn't feel too left out though because I stayed in with G and watched some of the rugby union, and it was just as well I did (I was younger than G the last time we beat them).

Later on, I went out and left Mrs J and her friend alone with G and a camera. When I came back I found they'd carried out a whole photo shoot with the poor girl. I've decided to post up the naked baby photos partly because going in the bath already seems to be G's favourite time of the day, but mostly because I'm already looking forward to embarrassing her with them at her 16th birthday.

A Little Adventure In Manchester And Salford

Today was daddy-daughter day. Or, to put it another way, it was can-you-take-the-baby-out-I-need-to-get-some-stuff-done day. So, while Mrs J began work on this year's Christmas cakes, I put G into her pram and pushed her out into Manchester, without much idea of where I was going to take her.

The weather was ok so I decided to go to the Christmas market in Albert Square. I've got no idea why these Christmas markets are always 'German' markets (unless it's got something to do with Prince Albert, that is). Whatever the reason, whenever I've been in previous years I've been hard-pressed to find any German people at all, amidst all the local stallholders saying things like "mug o' Gloo-vine is it love?" in thick Manchester accents. To my surprise, the girl who served me the mug of mulled wine in the picture above did appear to actually be German, although I'm no good with accents so she might just as easily have been from Bury.

I gave G a bottle (of milk, not mulled wine) while we were at the market then walked her around town for a bit. I thought about taking her back home then but she'd dozed off and. as I looked up and saw Victoria Station in front of me, I thought it might be fun to take G for her first trip back to her home city of Salford since she was born. And so, her first-ever train journey was Victoria to Salford Crescent. Not exactly the Trans-Siberian Railway, but long enough for me because it was hot on the train and that made her restless. I managed to settle her back down though and after a short walk through the Salford University campus we reached here.

Peel Park is the oldest park in the world. Or at least it might be. There's some doubt about it as well as a variety of other contenders, but frankly it sounds better to just gloss over all that and let Salford have its bit of glory. It was opened in 1846, after various civic leaders became concerned about all the pollution and disease in industrial Salford and Manchester. If Central Park is the 'lungs' of New York then I suppose Peel Park was intended to be exactly that for Salford. Slowly ambling through all the fallen leaves (which crackled satisfyingly under the wheels of the pram) I came across this.

That mark is 8'6'' above the ground. What's even more remarkable about it is that, looking around, I couldn't actually see where the River Irwell was, which proves it must have been an incredible flood. Amazingly, only three people died. Obviously at this point I had to go and find the river, which didn't take all that long. I pushed G across a green bridge but, as you can see, she remained impassive.

I knew that for part of its route the Irwell serves as the boundary between Manchester and Salford, just like the Tyne separates Newcastle and Gateshead. So I briefly wondered whether I was already back in Manchester. But the wheelie bins outside the nearby houses all had Salford City Council printed on them, so I was a bit confused. Then I spotted another bridge, and pushed G across that one too.

This bridge was a little bit grander than the other one. Presumably Alderman S Rudman JP (he obviously thought it was cool to tell people he was a magistrate) made sure that if it was going to have a plaque with his name on it, it had better look good. Anyway, this bridge was also over the Irwell, which left me even more confused because I'd only gone over the Irwell about half a mile previously and hadn't changed direction. I definitely still wasn't in Manchester though, as this sign suggested.

Seeing as I was obviously getting closer and couldn't remember exactly where the station was I thought I may as well just walk back home, and headed off in the general direction of Manchester. On the way we crossed the Irwell for the third time, at the point I was already familiar with, near the top of Deansgate and close to Victoria Station. That's the bit of the Irwell which separates Manchester and Salford, but it only acts as the border for a relatively short distance. It turns out that the Irwell doubles back on itself not once but twice as it flows through Salford, which explains all of those bridges. If I'm going to educate G all about her home city when she grows up, I think I'd better brush up on the geography myself first.

First Injection

G had the first of her injections today. We'd been warned that babies often don't take too kindly to jabs so both of us took G to the clinic for her shot, just in case it all ended in floods of unbearable tears. G was getting the BCG injection, which protects against tuberculosis. It's actually only 80% effective and lasts just 15 years or so (you may remember getting a booster shot while a teenager, apparently they don't bother with this anymore), but I suppose it's better than actually getting TB. It's only actually given to babies in certain high-risk parts of the country, of which central Manchester is one, although I'm not sure whether this makes G lucky to get the extra protection or unlucky to live in a disease-ridden hellhole.

She was fast asleep when we went into the nurse's room, and I had to wake her up and hold her very steady while the needle went in. There was a bit of screaming, but she dropped back off to sleep in the car on the way home. Next week G gets the full set of baby injections, and apparently it's likely to be a lot more traumatic, so I'll have to remember to stock up on Calpol (note - other child medicines are available, but Calpol's the only one anybody has heard of).

The clinic was in Beswick, right next to where the Manchester Super Casino isn't going to be built. I made sure G was proudly representing her home city of Salford though, as you can see from the photo. The other thing to notice about the photo is that I reckon G looks a lot like me in it. People have been saying that she looks like me for weeks, but I haven't really seen it until now. Obviously she's soon going to have more hair than me, but other than that there's no doubt she's her daddy's little girl.

The Other Side Of The Pennines

We took G for her first trip over the Pennines today. I'd softened our little Lancastrian girl up for this culture shock by baking some Yorkshire parkin last night, and she didn't show any anxiety during the drive on the M62. Admittedly, this probably had nothing to do with the gingery smell of traditional Yorkshire baked goods and everything to do with the fact she always sleeps during car journeys, but whatever.

We were visiting some friends in Leeds who are about to leave for France to run a chalet business for the winter season. They're going to be doing the catering and, having tried some of their food this lunchtime, I can say it'll be worth staying there for that alone, never mind the skiing.

Typically, G chose the middle of lunch to present us with her latest epic nappy. She'd seemed a bit unsettled and, as it was almost feeding time, I took her into our friends' bathroom for what I hoped would be a quick change. Imagine my delight on discovering that she'd managed to overflow her nappy again, even though it was a size bigger than the one she destroyed last week. This led to lots of wailing, screaming and wriggling, as I tried to get her dirty clothes off, clean everything up and then get some new clothes on. G hasn't yet realised that the more thrashing about she does in these situations, the longer the whole unpleasant business takes. I'm hoping it's a lesson she'll learn soon.

Eventually I managed to make her presentable again and after she'd been fed she calmed right down again. Calm enough in fact to get passed around everyone without crying, as the photo at the top shows. But then she's usually a little angel whenever she knows that anyone else is watching. It's the rest of the time we need to sort out.

Sleeping In The Spare Room

Here's G having her evening nap in the little activity chair Mrs J's sister got for her. Our attempts to implement a routine are continuing, so currently after her last feed of the day at about 10:30pm I've been settling G to sleep in the living room. Once she's properly dropped off (this sometimes takes a few goes) I take her to her cot, which is in our bedroom. Having her in our bedroom at night makes it easier for Mrs J to sort G out when she wakes up for her night-time feed (she's sleeping longer most nights now, so often this isn't until about 5am).

That's all well and good in theory, but things might have to change. G is a noisy sleeper. She snores, she sniffles, she fusses, often for hours at a time without actually waking up. I don't notice because I'm usually too tired from staying up late with her for any of this to disturb me. But Mrs J has a mum's sensitive hearing and can't help waking up with a start every time G so much as gurgles. In fact, if Mrs J's ears weren't firmly fixed to the side of her head, I reckon they'd probably revolve like a cat's, always alert for the slightest sound.

The upshot of all this is that we're probably going to move G and her little cot into the spare room this week, and try our luck with the baby monitor. It's nothing personal, she's just a bit too loud. I'm sure she'll understand.

It Was The Dirtiest Nappy I've Ever Seen

This was probably the best of the photos from our trip to see Mrs J's relatives in south Wales. It was taken during the day, so G was probably ignoring either Jeremy Kyle or yet another repeat of Top Gear on Dave. Can't really blame her.

G made a particular impression during an evening at the home of her great aunt and great uncle. She was being restless during dinner so at one stage I picked her up and started walking around the room. G's grandma noticed a stain spreading down her (inevitably white) tights. As I took her out (everyone was eating, after all), I thought I must have put her nappy on wrongly during the last change, which had only been an hour or two before.

Mrs J joined me, which was just as well, because it quickly became clear this was going to be a two-person job. It turned out I had put her nappy on properly, it was just that G had managed to fill it so that it overflowed in spectacular style. As we got to work getting her cleaned up and into some new clothes, G lay on her back gurgling happily, looking and sounding suspiciously pleased with herself. I suppose it's the sort of thing babies enjoy doing. It's also nature's way of telling you that you need to start buying nappies in a bigger size.

Dressing Up

Mrs J has taken G down to her regular Monday afternoon mums-and-babies group at Manchester Town Hall. There isn't much in the way of organised activities on offer for parents who live in the city centre, in fact this is just about all there is, so Mrs J has been trying to make it down every week. When she first went down G was just in one of her ordinary sleepsuits (after all, G was asleep, as she usually is when a pram journey is involved), but it turned out all of the other mums had dressed their babies up in proper clothes. Clearly turning up with our daughter in pyjamas just wasn't going to cut it, so we would have to start copying everyone else, if only to avoid the mums-and-babies group equivalent of gossiping at the school gates.

Being only six weeks old, G has about as much interest in clothes as I do. She's a girl, so no doubt that'll change when she's grown up a bit, but for now any attempt to get her out of her comfy sleepsuits and into something resembling real clothes meets with fierce resistance. The picture above shows Mrs J battling with just this problem earlier on. But even though it's possible after a bit of a struggle to get G into her clothes, the real difficulties begin when it's time to get her out of them again.

Sleepsuits are basically just pieces of cotton with lots of strategically placed poppers on them, which means it's easy to get them on and off when it's time for a nappy change. And it's still easy to get them on and off when it's time for another nappy change 45 seconds after the last one (this happens quite a lot). Maybe it's just because I'm male and have no experience of putting on tights like the ones G is wearing in the photo, but when I have to try to take G's on and off it usually ends up taking several minutes, during which time the fidgeting turns to crying then to all-out screaming. If I'm ever allowed to shop for baby clothes, I'm definitely going for some dungarees.

In Praise Of Urbis

Mrs J has gone away to a hen party, which makes today my first full day home alone with G. So I decided to take her out to another of Manchester's museums. A friend is up from London and wanted to see the new exhibitions on UK hip hop and the history of TV in the north-west currently on at Urbis, so all three of us went along. Both of the exhibitions were particularly good, with lots of interesting archive stuff to see. I was particularly taken with all of the vintage Granada programmes being shown in the TV exhibition, although amidst all the eulogising about the wonder of Manchester's TV history there was sadly no mention of Granada Men and Motors and the short-lived show presented by Vanilla Ice and Jordan. Can't think why.

G wasn't quite so impressed, in fact she slept the whole time, which at least meant we could take in everything at our leisure. As you can see, the photo above shows G completely ignoring a collection of hip hop magazine covers. Don't let her verdict put you off though, both of the exhibitions are on until the spring and I'd recommend each of them if you get the chance to go. In fact there are plenty of good reasons to visit Urbis anytime, including the beautiful building itself, the family-friendly cafe, and the fact that it is free, which you don't have to be Scottish to approve of. After a controversial start to its existence back in 2002, Urbis has now become of the best things about Manchester.

However, it looks like things are going to change. The trustees of the National Football Museum in Preston want to move it to Urbis, and they will probably get their wish. Basically not enough people visit the museum at its current location, so it loses money. The people who run it reckon they could get four times as many folk through the doors if it were housed at Urbis. No doubt they're right, and if there's going to be a football museum anywhere it may as well be in Manchester. But if Urbis fills up with balls and caps and scarves, there won't be much space left for the sort of exhibitions I went to see today. More's the pity.

Boss Of Me

We're back from G's longest road trip yet, all the way from Manchester to my hometown of Aberdeen and back again. The first thing to say is that people who go on about how having a baby makes everything take longer are on to something. On a good day, with no traffic and some boy racer driving, I've done the journey in five hours. But in wet weather with some roadworks, a couple of long feeding stops for G and plenty of sensible daddy driving, it took nearer eight hours each way. The motion of the car kept G asleep just about all the way there and back though, so it could've been a lot worse than it was.

One of the reasons for going such a long way with G still just a few weeks old was to introduce her to my granny and grandad, her great-grandparents. As you'd expect they were delighted to see her. I was reminded of how my granny, who's 92, was born during a First World War Zeppelin raid, which put G's own troublesome birth into some perspective. As we all sat round and cooed over G, who was at her angelic best, my granny said: "No doubt she's the boss of your household now." There's no fooling her.

As you might be able to tell from the photo, we'd put G into a pink dress for the occasion, but that didn't stop some people at the old folks' home congratulating us on our beautiful little boy. Lots of people with baby girls say they dress them in pink purely so people can tell straight away which sex the little one is. If that's what happens when we put G in pink, maybe we should start stocking up on blue baby clothes.

Either My Baby Has Colic, Or She Is Merely Consumed By Some Unspeakable Rage

For the second night running, Mrs J left the flat and within minutes I was confronted with a suddenly very angry baby. Last night G ended up crying for several hours. I knew she wasn't hungry, and it wasn't her nappy either. I suppose she might have been too tired, but every time she appeared ready to drift off to sleep she woke up again, expressing what can pleasantly be described as considerable displeasure at whatever it was that was ailing her.

Apparently the big question facing parents in this situation is: does my baby have colic? I'd always assumed that colic was some kind of common baby illness, like measles or chicken pox or scurvy, until I finally got round to reading about it. Well, it's certainly common, and it definitely affects babies, making them cry a lot for no apparent reason. But that's just about all anybody seems able to agree on.

The traditional explanation was that colic was something to do with babies struggling to digest properly, although nobody really knew what exactly. That's still a popular theory, although there are a few others around, including the baby's environment, how the pregnancy went, and that there's not actually anything wrong with the baby at all. Not that any of this academic arguing is of much interest to the parent of such a child, because the hours of crying are real enough. But unsurprisingly, medical professionals have wildly differing views on what to do about the problem, ranging from nothing (because, well, crying is what babies do) to pumping a variety of narcotics with long names into your little one, which may or may not help hold back the baby rage.

The thing is, nobody can really be sure about anything, because babies can't tell you what's wrong with them. The scream for 'Ow! I have terrible pain in my stomach because of a build-up of gas!" is much the same as the scream for "I'm really bored of you daddy and your ridiculous tongue sticking-out game, what time does mummy get home?"

We're going for the narcotics option, in the form of some drops to give G before feeding to help her digest her milk, in case she's lactose intolerant like her mum. The good news about this is that it's a plausible theory for why our little girl is crying, and is easily treatable. The bad news is that it would put me into a minority of proper milk drinkers in our family. I don't much fancy a lifetime of trying to find new ways to cook meals involving goat's cheese, which is not even close to featuring in my personal list of top ten cheeses. But if G really hates ordinary milk as much as the picture above suggests, I don't suppose I've got any choice.

Weekend Off

I had my first weekend away from Mrs J and G since the little one was born. I was actually only away for one night, and I merely went to Leeds, but even so I wasn't at home. Unsurprisingly, the world didn't stop turning just because I wasn't there. Equally unsurprisingly, when I made it back on Sunday evening and picked G up to say hello, she started crying. I'd like to believe this was just her way of expressing how much she'd missed me, but even I have to admit that's more than just a bit unlikely.

She was a bit fidgety during the night but, as you can see from the picture, I managed to get her to sleep this morning in the Superman position on my legs. She seems to like it, because she enjoys lying on her front and having a bit of space between my legs means she can breathe a bit more easily too. The photo also shows that I haven't yet fully recovered from my friend's stag night on Saturday, and am still both unshaven and tired. Admittedly, being unshaven and tired is pretty standard for when you've got a newborn baby, so it's not like I'm out of practice. Here's another photo of me taken at some point late on Saturday night. It shows me not really behaving with the maturity of a new father.

Baby Gym

Here's G playing in her baby gym. I know it's a baby gym because Mrs J told me that's what it was. To me it just looks like a mat on the floor with some toys suspended above it, but what do I know? I'd have thought that to qualify to be a gym there'd at least have to be a rowing machine or something. I've half a mind to complain to somebody under the Trade Descriptions Act, but the other half of my mind can't be bothered. And besides, I have no idea who I would complain to, especially seeing as we got it as a hand-me-down from Mrs J's boss.

I suppose the moral of the story is that giving baby things names that make them sound like adult things makes us more likely to buy them. Those evil geniuses who run companies selling you stuff for your baby that you don't actually need really don't miss a trick.

Too Young

I managed to get out for a couple of hours last night to go to a gig down at the uni. It was Phoenix, with support by Chairlift. It was a shame Mrs J had to stay in with G, because as a former bass player she would have appreciated the fact the bass parts for both bands were really high in the sound mix. Overall, Chairlift were a bit ropey but Phoenix sounded amazing. They're so good they almost make me want to be French. Almost.

I got home to find Mrs J had been getting some photos she'd taken of G recently off her posh camera (the pictures on this site are generally ones I've taken on a little point and shoot camera, this being all my limited technical knowledge can realistically stretch to). I like the one above the best. Not sure what she's celebrating though, perhaps the fact that daddy was still in bed asleep when it was taken. She certainly doesn't look particularly happy to be hanging out with me in the one below. Maybe she's trying to tell me something.

Greater Manchester Police Museum

You can live somewhere for years and never bother seeing things that are right beside you. I must have walked past the Greater Manchester Police Museum on Newton Street hundreds of times since we moved to the Northern Quarter, but I'd never been in, even though I do have a sneaky interest in old crimes and suchlike. One reason why I'd never been is that the museum's only open on Tuesdays, but with Mrs J meeting a friend for lunch and today being Tuesday, I decided I'd pop round and see what was in there.

As you can see, a lunchtime feed and a short ride in the pram was enough to send G off to sleep, so I was able to push her around the museum without any trouble. I remember hating being forced to go around museums when I was a young child, and constantly complaining about it whenever my mum wanted to visit one. No doubt G will be the same, so it's probably not a bad idea to take advantage of the fact she's not yet old enough to understand what's going on. My museum-hating lasted well into my teens, so there's likely to be a long period ahead when I don't get to see much interesting historical stuff without a soundtrack of whingeing and, if G gets a little brother or sister, bickering.

As it was G slept right through my hour or so inside the small museum, which is in an old police station that closed for the last time in 1978. Among the interesting things to see are a variety of uniforms, including an amazing one from the 1840s which featured a very fetching top hat. The old cells are all still there along with a collection of 19th century mugshots, in which lots of the suspects deliberately tried to pull a gurning face so they couldn't be recognised, something that I must remember to try next time I'm arrested. For fans of more recent history there's also a smashed in prison door and some homemade weapons used in the Strangeways Riot. All very interesting and also free, so well worth checking out if you're ever in the area.

I've realised that most of the pictures of G on this blog are of her sleeping because, well, that's when she looks at her angelic best and those are the only times I actually remember to find the camera and take a picture. But she's quickly developing a much wider range of expressions when she's awake, and is even threatening to give us the odd smile. Haven't managed to catch one of those in a photo yet, but here's one of her from last night, resolutely refusing to go to sleep.

On Her Best Behaviour

We've been trying to give each other some regular time away from G so we don't end up going completely insane. Yesterday was my turn for a few hours off duty, so I went over to Halifax to see some friends and to watch their FA Cup fourth qualifying round match with Wrexham. Since you ask, they lost 1-0 to an injury time goal, and there wasn't much sign of the magic of the cup.

Although it was good to be away for a while, by the end of the game I was already looking forward to getting back. Mrs J had taken G round the shops in Manchester, and said she'd been restless all afternoon. We had some friends coming over for dinner so when I got home I tried to settle G down. She likes being held a bit too much and has developed an annoying habit of waking back up as soon as you put her down to sleep. But at the third time of asking she properly drifted off, just as tea was ready. Our friends were suitably impressed as G slept soundly for the rest of the evening.

Inevitably, it didn't last. Almost as soon as our friends had gone G was back to being grouchy, and I was up until almost 2 o'clock looking after her. Then Mrs J was up with her for another three hours after that. We've clearly been living in Manchester for a while now, because Mrs J later sleepily told me G had been "mithering" the whole time. Rather than an extra hour in bed, we ended up with about three hours fewer.

Today, our friends came over again, but true to form by this time G was back to her angelic best behaviour. Everyone that meets her must think we have such an easy life. As you can see from the picture, she's still asleep. But because Mrs J has gone for a nap and I'm now on my own with her, I know I'm probably about 38 seconds away from some more crying.

Manchester Blog Awards

I went to the Manchester Blog Awards last night. My other blog The Asparagus was nominated for best political blog two years ago, but they don't have that category anymore. This is either because my blog was just so good it was embarrassing for everyone else, or because there aren't really enough Manchester political blogs to justify it, I'm not really sure which. Anyhow, although I wasn't nominated this time I was looking forward to the event so I could catch up with some other local bloggers, and so I could see inside the newly reopened Band On The Wall where it was taking place.

To make up for going out at night I took G out in her pram during the day so Mrs J could get some power napping in, and also so I could proudly show off a bit. Walking down Tib Street I bumped into Emily, who writes My Shitty Twenties, and was coming out of Rags to Bitches where she'd picked up some glad rags for the ceremony. She leaned over the pram and cooed over the snoozing G. Then, the florist from Northern Flower next door came outside and did the same.

Even though I've met her a few times and know her well enough to say hello when I see her, I really can't remember what the florist's name is. That's if I even knew it in the first place. This meant I couldn't introduce her to Emily, and I quickly became worried that I was being extremely rude to both of them. But although I was concerned about this, I still couldn't quite bring myself to just say straight out that I'd forgotten her name and could she tell me it again. Obviously the social embarrassment of admitting my ignorance slightly outweighs the social embarrassment of quietly hoping the awkwardness will be over soon. So I just stood there, with the Curb Your Enthusiasm music going over in my head. I got away with it, but because I didn't find out her name this time, I'm going to have the same awkward situation next time I run into the florist. Basically I'm just a social coward.

As for the awards, the venue looked great and a good time was had by all. A big thank you to Kate Feld for organising the whole thing. There were some worthy winners, not least Emily who won best personal blog and best writing on a blog. Another excellent site, Lost in Manchester, won the overall prize for blog of the year as well as best city or neighbourhood blog. There's a full list of winners and other nominees, and links to them all, here. I can particularly recommend The Manchester Zedders, Cynical Ben and I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car.

I left early and spent a few hours with an annoyingly wide awake G. Trying to get her to sleep I even resorted to pushing the pram around the block at almost 1 o'clock in the morning. It was cold, G had the hiccups, and unlike during the day, it didn't have the desired effect. I can now confirm that pushing a baby around the Northern Quarter in the middle of the night is not nearly as much fun as it is during the afternoon.