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.