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.

On The Radio

I was on the radio today talking about G. My friend Sam is covering the lunchtime show on BBC Radio Manchester this week (Andy Crane who usually does the programme is away somewhere, presumably with Edd the Duck), and was doing a phone-in about paternity leave. Apparently lots of new dads are too worried about losing their jobs to even take the two weeks off that they're entitled to. So I talked a bit about deciding to stay at home and suchlike. You can hear it all again here for the next week (I'm on about 21 minutes in).

I took G down to university this afternoon to meet some friends from the MA course I finished last month. They've all begun PhDs so were happy to take the opportunity for a break so they could have a coffee and coo over the little one. I suppose if we hadn't had G, I'd probably be doing the same as them now, spending my days reading journal articles and hanging around the mustier parts of the library. G certainly gave them the impression that my life is easier than theirs, as she snoozed happily the whole time I was there.

I took the picture on the walk back to the flat, as I briefly sheltered from the rain on Sackville Street. It was one of those typically dark and drizzly Manchester days, but G was warm and sleepy under her rain cover. One of my uni friends was impressed by the cocoon-like pram, and reckoned it would be good to have one for adults, complete with a giant person (possibly Brian Blessed) to put you in there and wake you up again later. I think it's brilliant. In fact the only flaw I can see in the plan would be what would happen if the machines rose up and seized power. Being run by an army of 15-foot Brian Blesseds is an alarming thought, to say the least.

Here Comes The Bride, There Goes The Vomit

We spent the weekend in Birmingham for the wedding of two of our friends, Chris and Kathryn. We'd been invited long before G was born and weren't really sure whether it would be a good idea to go. If she'd been born any later, or if there'd been any medical issues after the birth, we might have had to give it a miss. But we reckon things have been going ok, and of course we really wanted to be there, so we decided to give it a go and drove down on Friday afternoon.

Something about the movement means G likes car journeys, and she slept most of the way to Birmingham. It's the same when she's in her pram, and she was again snoozing happily when we got to the church on Saturday. Mrs J and G got lots of compliments from friends and strangers about how well they both looked so soon after the birth. This didn't make me quite as smug as it normally would because I couldn't shake the feeling that we'd forgotten something important amidst all the baby paraphernalia. Sure enough, we'd left the card behind in the hotel room. At least we got it that way round, I don't think anyone would have been impressed if we'd brought the card and lost the baby.

The service itself was lovely, the bride and groom looked wonderful and everyone was obviously having a great time. Mrs J gave G an extra big feed in the hope it would keep her quiet, but she was pretty restless during the reception. She kept looking around at all of the people when she should have been sleeping. Unsurprisingly, G soon got grouchy, so the two of us had to do a relay to make sure we both got to eat some dinner. However, as the picture shows, we did eventually manage to get her to sleep for a while next to the table. This meant G ended up staying at the reception longer than a baby boy a full seven weeks older than her, so it was one-up to her in the baby competition.

As the evening do started, Mrs J took the little one off for a feed in an ante-room. I'd managed to get halfway through my first pint of the day when I got a call from Mrs J telling me G had just thrown up on her dress. When I went to inspect the damage, I have to admit I was surprised by quite how epic the vomit was. It was also accurately aimed, all over the dress and not a drop on the carpet. Not that G seemed particularly bothered as we made our excuses and left. The excitement of the day might have got a bit too much for her, but she hadn't lost her ability to get our attention. She probably won't be quite so pleased with herself when we give her the dry cleaning bill on her 16th birthday.

Eyes Bigger Than Her Stomach

G was very peckish at lunchtime. Mrs J had given her a feed but she still seemed to want a bit more. So Mrs J decided to make up a little bottle of formula to make sure G didn't go hungry. We'd done this a couple of times before and it had gone ok, and sure enough after the top-up G was quickly into a deep sleep. Feeling smug, we took her around town and even stopped off at Common in the Northern Quarter on the way back for a hot chocolate (Mrs J) and a cheeky pint of Marble Manchester Bitter (me).

This smugness lasted until shortly after we got home, when G sicked up everywhere. Then, after a brief interlude during which Mrs J changed her clothes and calmed the little one down, G was sick again. This prompted a bit of low-key whining from G, and a more heartfelt outburst from Mrs J: "I've only got two pairs of trousers that fit, and she's just been sick over both of them!" Still, looking on the bright side, it was baby's first proper vomit. As reasons to celebrate go it's not exactly up there with first words or first tooth, but it's better than nothing I suppose.

As you can see from the picture, Mrs J has forgiven G. We all eat too much every now and again after all. But we're going to Birmingham tomorrow for a friend's wedding on Saturday, and if G throws up all over Mrs J's dress during the reception, I don't think she'll be quite so forgiving.

Baby Hates Shoegaze

Mrs J had an appointment to get her hair done this lunchtime, so we decided to go on a little outing around the Northern Quarter. Putting G in the local hipster uniform of American Apparel hoodie and Converse (yes, basically dressing your child up as yourself is a bit weird, but when else will we get to do this?), we took her to the salon so the hairdresser could coo over her. Then, leaving Mrs J there, I pushed G round the corner to Oklahoma so I could get a birthday card for a friend and sit down with a coffee.

This was the first time I'd been out with G on our own, and Mrs J had expressed some milk into a bottle in case she got peckish. But although she woke up and squirmed a bit, as you can see from the picture she was ok once I took her out of the pram. At one stage a mum with a slightly older baby girl came in and sat down at a nearby table. I secretly hoped G would react to this cuteness rival by taking an instant dislike to her, rather like the baby with one eyebrow from The Simpsons, but she didn't even seem to notice she was there.

G likes riding in her pram and had dozed off again by the time I got near the flat, so I stopped in at Vinyl Exchange. Of the many record shops near where I live it's probably my favourite, and there's always a smattering of students and slightly older hipsters in there, intensely searching the shelves and never making eye contact with anyone. But as I parked the pram next to the counter, I did notice a few people couldn't resist stealing quizzical glances at G. However, I couldn't tell whether this was because I was the first person ever to take a baby in there, or because I was the first person ever to take a girl in there.

In the end, as I was flicking through a stack of shoegaze records, G started crying. She was obviously trying to tell me something, so I took her home. Clearly you can dress babies up like their parents, but you can't teach them to like all the same stuff.

Dirty Protest

All of those infernal parenting books hardly agree on anything. Book one tells us to always go to a crying baby, book two suggests leaving a baby to cry, while book three swears by soundproofing your airing cupboard and keeping baby in there for 23 and a half hours a day with only a pay-as-you-go mobile and a list of nearby Chinese takeaways (I may have made that last one up).

However, if there's one thing all the approaches more or less support, it's the importance of getting baby into some kind of routine. What this routine should actually be is anyone's guess. But we're at least trying to do a few of the same things in the same order at about the same time every day, in the hope G will sleep a bit more regularly and our currently chaotic lives will become a bit more predictable. One of these is, when Mrs J is getting ready to feed her, I'll take G to the nappy-change station (as shown in the picture) and quickly sort her out with a new one.

I did this when G woke up and started squirming at about 3 o'clock this morning. Her nappy was wet but otherwise clean. Typically, it wasn't until after I'd put the new one on and done her clothes back up that I heard the dreaded baby-filling-nappy sound. It's a bit like that feeling you get in cricket, when a batsman hears his stumps being knocked over behind him. Only squelchier, obviously.

Later on in the morning it was feed time again, and so it was nappy change time again. Once more G was damp yet clean. But this time I didn't even get the chance to do the new nappy up before I heard that familiar noise again. Sure enough, a torrent of yellowy stuff came firing out all over the new nappy, the changing mat and most of my right arm. It's no trouble to clean it all up again, even if you've not had much sleep and you've got a screaming baby to contend with. But next time I have a ham sandwich, I think I'll give the mustard a miss.

Eyes Open

G has started opening her eyes a lot more. She's also now spending time awake between feeding and sleeping. Apparently babies aren't really able to see much at this age, although when I look straight at her it seems as though she's trying to focus on me. As you can see in the picture, the look of concentration she gets on her face when this is happening is pretty funny. She goes a bit cross-eyed and frowns, as if she's consumed by some unspeakable inner rage. What could be going on in her tiny mind? "Stop looking at me you idiot" is a possibility. Personally, I like to imagine she's harbouring murderous thoughts, like Stewie from Family Guy.

Real Ale

We all got plenty of sleep, and after the midwife had visited this morning we decided to go for a trip around town. Mrs J put G in the hoodie that she dyed for her (she bought a load of cheap baby clothes in white and coloured them, every little helps you know). However, it's a bit on the big side, so far from making G look like a newborn yob ready to threaten pensioners and get an ASBO, she more closely resembled Little Red Riding Hood's younger sister. A sort of Even Littler Red Riding Hood.

We stopped by Mrs J's work so all of her colleagues could coo over her. Conveniently, this took us close to Albert Square, so I persuaded Mrs J to let me stop in to the real ale festival tent for a drink and a snack. She needed to get some cash so told me to go in while she went to a machine. As I pushed the pram towards the crowd of drinkers, I realised that I was about to very publicly walk up to a bar and get a pint of foaming local beer with a ten-day old child solely in my care. It's the sort of behaviour that gets you onto the front page of the Daily Mail underneath screaming headlines featuring words like "disgrace," "shame" and "the unacceptable face of Britain." So I waited for Mrs J to come back and we went in together.

Just as well, because once we'd sat down I spotted this rather ominous sign. It's as if they knew I was coming.

In The Middle Of The Night

I've landed myself with the night shift. After we had tea earlier, Mrs J took G off to the bedroom with the idea they'd both get some decent sleep. But, when after a few hours had passed and I heard the already too-familiar sound of G squirming and whining and went in to check on them, Mrs J said she'd only managed to drift off about 20 minutes before. Even in the half-light I could make out the sort of thousand-yard stare common only to new mums telling you they haven't had any sleep, and deranged Vietnam veterans telling you about the time they led the assault on Gobbler's Ridge. So I took G for a nappy change and have managed to get her back to sleep in the living room, in the hope Mrs J can pile up some Zs. As you can see from the picture, we're now well into the wee small hours.

It's not as easy as it seems for the dad to help out in the early days of a newborn's life. G's only main interest besides sleeping is feeding, and until Mrs J can start expressing milk in a week or two feeding remains firmly her department. I can try to calm G down when she wakes up and starts crying, but although it sometimes works for a while, there's really only one thing (or, if we're being honest about it, two things) she actually wants. Which means the long-suffering Mrs J has to be pressed into service again.

I suppose this leaves me feeling a bit left out. But even if I could do it, I think male breastfeeding is a gender equality step too far. It's the sort of thing you don't see outside such classic Hollywood movies as the 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger comedy Junior (actually, I'm only guessing as to whether the movie features male lactation; I haven't watched it and, it seems, neither has anyone else). There's a whole Wikipedia page about the idea, but then there's also a Wikipedia page about series 11 of Last of the Summer Wine (check out the one-line plot summary for the third episode), so I don't think we should read too much into that. In fact, the chances of male lactation catching on are probably about the same as the star of Junior doing something outrageous like, say, going into politics and being elected the governor of somewhere. As if that would happen.

Dirty Old Town

I went to register G's birth today. You have to do it in the district in which the birth took place, which meant a short drive back to Salford to the town hall on Chorley Road. When I told the registrar the name, she said: "Well, we don't get many names like that in Salford." Apparently this morning she'd had to register a Kaylum. Kaylum? It sounds to me like a cross between Kayleigh and Callum. I should have asked whether the unfortunate child was a girl or a boy, but I didn't, so that's going to have to remain a mystery. Maybe Kaylum is actually an incredibly post-modern name, like an anagram of something significant. I doubt it though.

So, even though she's got no other connection to the place, G is now officially a Salfordian. And I want to make sure she grows up with at least some sense of the city where she was born, and the other people who have come from there. Whether she'll be at all bothered is another story, but I'll be happy if she at least knows a bit about her hometown, and that it means more to her than just a word in the back of her passport.

I was thinking about one of those famous Salfordians earlier as I was driving through what was a typical Manchester day, all dark skies and rain. Like G, Ewan MacColl was born in Salford to a Scottish father, and he's best remembered for writing Dirty Old Town about the place. These days people tend to assume the song is about Dublin, probably because of this cover version by The Pogues. No doubt Salford Council would prefer that the misconception remains, so people don't automatically think of the city as 'dirty' or, probably even worse in their eyes, a 'town.'

I know it's probably pushing it a bit to hope that G will grow up to be a leading playwright and songwriter like Ewan MacColl. But there are plenty of other notable Salfordians she can try to emulate. Admittedly, one of them is ex-snooker player John Virgo. Although even if she develops a talent for doing trick shots and takes to wearing dodgy waistcoats, I'm sure I'll still be proud of her.

Angel In The Morning

This is G asleep on my lap a little while ago. She managed more than two hours of snoozing on me on the sofa this morning, and I dozed off for a bit too, although this may have had more to do with the political podcast I was trying to listen to in one ear. Maybe it's the sleeplessness, but the outside world doesn't seem quite as interesting as it did a week ago.

So, G sleeps like an angel in the morning. It's just a shame about the night. She couldn't settle during the early hours and so for the second time in three nights Mrs J didn't get any sleep either as she tried to get the little one down for a decent spell. The highlight of the night probably came at about 6am, when I took G for a nappy change. I've abridged the conversation for your benefit, but it generally went something like this:

G (squirming): WAAAH! WAAAH! WAAAH!
Me (soothingly): Hush now, little one
Me (running out of patience): Stop squirming now, let daddy get this sorted
Me (really getting quite irritated): Oh for crying out loud, the more you squirm the longer this is going to take

If there is such a thing as baby whispering, I think it's fair to say I haven't yet mastered it.

I've been wondering whether the neighbours can hear all this, and are just too polite to say anything. The girl upstairs sent Mrs J a text yesterday asking whether the baby had arrived, saying she thought she'd heard the "cute sounds" of a little one coming from our flat, but couldn't be sure. Either this is a massive lie, or we've got better soundproofing than we thought. I'm sure we'll find out which soon enough.

Cool As

G had her first trip out of the flat today. And it was the start of our efforts to make her the coolest baby in Manchester. The three of us went round the corner to the Ruby Lounge for Mr and Mrs Boon's tea party, which is a sort of family-friendly gig mixed with afternoon tea run by Clint and Charlie Boon. By the time we got there the queue was already out the door, but having a tiny baby meant we were allowed to go straight in. Who knew it could be such an advantage? Not sure if it'll work in actual nightclubs though.

Clint plays keyboards in Inspiral Carpets and I know him a bit from reading the news on his show on Xfm Manchester. He was one of lots of friends who congratulated us on the little one's arrival, and as you might expect I thoroughly enjoyed showing her off to everyone. Some of them couldn't believe Mrs J was up and about and looking so well after just four days, or that G was sleeping through all the noise and excitement (the place was packed, with loads of kids running around). When the band came on things got a bit loud and we decided not to push our luck and so we made an early exit before she woke up.

G's beautiful behaviour was all a bit of an illusion, because she'd actually worn herself out screaming most of the night. She carried on during the morning, until I turned on the Grand Prix qualifying I'd recorded, whereupon she went straight off to sleep. Even from an early age, girls obviously find motor racing dull.


Both Mrs J and G came home today. The little one had already been asleep for a few hours before we were allowed to leave the hospital, and she amazingly managed to carry on sleeping right through the ridiculous 3-point turn (it was more like 30) that I had to perform to get out of the car park while avoiding other babies, ambulances and large items of construction equipment. Although she's got some feeding done since, as you can see she's sleeping again now.

It's a strange feeling having her in the flat. It's strange because the flat looks exactly the same as it did before, only there's a baby in here now. It's as if she's just appeared out of nowhere. I can't quite believe all those important-looking medical professionals have let us have this tiny child all to ourselves after just two days. I mean, what if I drop her? Or put her down somewhere, forget where, and then can't find her? That's what I usually do with stuff in the flat, which is why our remote controls are in such a terrible state. I keep looking the other way for a while, but when I look back she's still there, sleeping and occasionally fidgeting a bit. I really didn't imagine it all. I'm still not very sure what I'm supposed to be doing with her, but I'm sure we'll work it out between the three of us.

I Worked 11 Hours And Bought The Girl Some Flowers

Actually, I haven't done any work at all, but after Mrs J put in a tough 18-hour shift the other day I decided to surprise her with some flowers. I popped round the corner to Northern Flower on Tib Street, and there was another new father in there who was doing the same thing. His baby girl is nine days old, and he complained about how she'd only just managed to sleep for four hours at a time. At this point my inner proud dad, bursting to get out, tried to make me say "oh well our little girl is only two days old and she's been asleep for the last five hours straight, so ner" but thankfully polite dad took over and I just nodded and made what I hoped were sympathetic new father-type noises.

When I was paying for the flowers I put my bank card in the machine, then realised I'd forgotten the new PIN number. So I had to pay on the joint card, which means Mrs J will be able to see what I spent on her, and therefore the exact monetary value I put on her marathon effort the other day. Might have to chuck out the statement before she sees it.

The title of this post comes from Up The Junction by Squeeze. There aren't many great songs about having children, but that's definitely one of them. Here they are performing it on Top of the Pops in 1979. You should be warned that the clip features both Dave Lee Travis and Mike Read. There's also Jools Holland pretending to play guitar, which at least means he's not doing boogie-woogie piano.