First Birthday

G was one year old yesterday. The whole day was a lot more civilised than the same day 12 months ago, which I seem to recall involved a lot of waiting around (me), pushing (Mrs J) and screaming (Mrs J again, and then G once she finally arrived).

Mrs J had the day off so in the morning we sat with G and helped her with her cards and presents. The fact that she got way more of both than either me or Mrs J did on our own birthdays this year wasn't exactly a surprise.

I suppose I should really write something about the sense of pride and achievement I feel at having brought a baby up to be one year old, especially one as happy, fun-loving and easygoing as G. But that would be tempting fate. So I'll just leave you with this picture of G enjoying her new trike, and say no more about it.

Besides, although G doesn't know it yet, I'm taking her for her 12-month injections this afternoon. That'll soon take the smile off her face.

Thinking About Walking

G is one year old later this week. She certainly looks a lot more like a toddler than a baby now. The only thing is, she doesn't actually toddle anywhere, at least not without me holding on to one or both of her hands.
This picture shows a typical scene. She's steady enough on her feet, and is barely holding on to the sofa. But try to edge her away and she'll just plop straight down and start crawling. She's been crawling for so long, and is able to go so quickly, I don't think she really sees the point of toddling yet. No doubt once she starts I'll curse the day she ever learned. But then parenthood is full of these little contradictions.
G's singing group has started up again on Fridays, and last week as I looked around the room I realised G was just about the biggest baby there (toddlers go at a different time). This gave G a significant advantage, and she crawled around stealing toys from the other babies, even making off with one poor boy's sock. In fact, I thought she fitted rather too well into the role of playground bully. Hopefully she'll start walking soon, so she'll be the smallest one in the class again.

A Walk Around Castleshaw Roman Fort

Having been a bit lazy since we got back from our holiday in the Lakes, I decided to take G for a walk this morning. Ever since we moved to Saddleworth I've known there are the remains of a Roman Fort somewhere near Castleshaw, itself an old hamlet now nothing more than a few scattered farms and houses between Delph and the pass at Standedge. So I packed the back carrier, OS map and some nappies, and headed off to find it.

The Castleshaw Valley has a couple of reservoirs in it these days, and I parked up next to one of them. G is now well used to her back carrier, and she didn't mind me getting her into her waterproofs and strapping her in. As I started off up a not-particularly-steep incline in the general direction of the fort, I instantly remembered why our walk up a hill in Cumbria last week was such hard work. Carrying an almost-one-year-old is hard going, especially if the child is rubbing it in by gurgling and laughing as she bobs along on your back.

This being England, you have to look for proper public footpaths if you want to go anywhere in the country. Being Scottish, I still don't understand why this is, as all it seems to do is turn ramblers, normally the most placid of folk, into militant merchants of rage, angrily pointing at ancient rights of way on old maps as they insist on striding through someone's back garden. Thankfully for me, I was spared any confrontations with equally furious landowners, as I found a signposted footpath soon enough, and headed on into a field.

The view back down the valley towards Delph looked lovely. A few years ago there were plans to turn the area into a big windfarm. Even though I like those modern windmills, all stark and sleek and futuristic-looking, I'm not sure they would have really fitted in here.

My OS map was pretty vague about the actual location of the fort, but after wandering around for a few minutes I came across this sign. That's supposed to be a Roman helmet below the arrow. Clearly every expense has been spared in advertising this monument to would-be visitors.

However, once I'd walked uphill a bit further, I came to a load of lumps and bumps in the ground, and a couple of interesting if tatty-looking information boards. It turns out Castleshaw was only occupied by the Romans for 10 or 15 years during their attempts to conquer northern England and Scotland, and it was a stop on the main road from Chester to York. Then as now people used Standedge to get across the Pennines, making Castleshaw something of a Roman military service station. Apparently one of the groups of soldiers garrisoned there may have been from the Yugoslavia area, although I can't imagine the warm-blooded Croatians and Serbs enjoyed swapping the Adriatic for miserable old Saddleworth too much.
This board ambitiously describes Castleshaw as "Frontier of Imperial Rome" which sounds a bit grand to me, when it's basically just some mounds of earth covered with sheep. When Emperors looked at the maps of their domain prepared for them back in Rome, was Castleshaw really marked proudly on them as the furthest outpost? I'd like to think so, but somehow I doubt it.

As for the sheep, well there were plenty of them roaming around the fort. I snapped this one standing on the inner ramparts, chewing away on the grass. G, having shown little interest in my lectures to her about the finer points of Roman military strategy, paid much closer attention to the sheep. She laughed, gurgled, pointed, drooled. All the things baby girls do when they get excited about something.

There was nobody else there. And nobody else in sight in the whole valley either, apart from the odd car going by on the main road up above. So I had to take this picture of G myself, pointing the camera over my right shoulder. As the photo suggests, it was quite blowy. No wonder they wanted to put a windfarm there.

On the way back out of the fort, I spotted this sign. I think this is another way of saying: 'we haven't got any money to do anything with this fort, and to be honest there isn't much there anyway, so we're just going to leave some sheep there so at least the grass stays short.' Hopefully someone will spend a few quid on some new information boards and better signs for Castleshaw Roman Fort though. It's good for Saddleworth folk to know as much as possible about the people who were living here a couple of thousand years ago. Even if they were from Yugoslavia.

Going Uphill

Another thing we did on our holiday in Cumbria was climb a mountain. Or at least a moderately steep hill. Whatever, it was certainly hard work hauling G up in the back carrier. I think I was trying to raise a smile in this photo, but all I could manage was a semi-exhausted half-smile, half-grimace.

Having a baby in a back carrier is a bit like putting a heavy backpack on. The important difference is that if the backpack is getting uncomfortable and you need to stop to rearrange it, you can just chuck it on the ground and sort it out. You can't really do that when it's your firstborn, so I ended up struggling on at various points when I'd really much rather have had a nice sit down and a rest.
Admittedly, having a nice sit down and a rest is usually pretty near the top of my preferred activities wherever I am. But it seemed a lot more appealing than normal as I trudged up the slope trying to keep my balance, as gusts of wind kept on catching the carrier, causing me to totter about and look like an idiot.
When we finally got back down to the road I felt I'd earned my pint in the Kirkstone Pass Inn, which is either the third or fourth highest pub in Britain, depending on which source you consult. As pretty as the Lakes are, I'd rather see them through the bottom of a glass any day.

Way Down In The Hole

The three of us are just back from a week's holiday, sharing a big mansion with a load of friends in Cumbria. In past years this has often been an excuse for drinking lots of booze, eating lots of food and not doing much else. This time, G's presence and our general advancing years helped make it all a lot more civilised. Well, a bit.

One day we went to some nearby caves. They were all right as caves go, even if the guide sounded as if she'd done the tour once too often. I suppose there are only so many times you can explain the difference between stalagmites and stalactites. In fact, doing it once might be once too often.
Mrs J carried G all the way using a sling rather than a back carrier, in case G cracked her head (unlike the rest of us, she didn't get a hard hat). I thought G might get frightened or bored, especially as the tour was billed as the longest of its kind in Britain. As it was she just stared at everything in a slightly baffled sort of way, and made the odd echoing gurgle.
Because we had to double back on ourselves to get out, we actually only got to see half a mile of caves twice, instead of the "one mile" which apparently made the tour the "longest" in the country. But I suppose once you've seen half a mile of dank, dripping rock formations, there's not much left in that whole arena that can really excite you. Next time I forget which are stalagmites and which are stalactites, I'll just look on Wikipedia and save us all the bother.

New Dress

Here's G proudly showing off her new dress. Mrs J produced it last night, after disappearing off into the attic for a couple of hours with a load of fabric and the sewing machine. I don't mind admitting I was quite impressed, from what I remember of home economics at school (not much), I'd probably spend a similar amount of time just getting the thread into a needle.

The weather this month is going to be 'unsettled' according to the forecasters, and 'pretty rubbish' according to the rest of us. Mrs J, who has asked for a fancy new sewing machine for her birthday in a couple of weeks, is keen to run up lots more dresses for G. "This winter is going to be all about dresses and leggings," she said earlier, in the sort of way which made me unsure as to whether she was asking me what I thought or telling me what was going to happen. I'm guessing it was probably the second of those, though.

Since G was little she's often been mistaken for a boy as she regularly wears jeans, partly because we've acquired a lot of second-hand unisex clothes from various places, and mostly because I find jeans a lot easier to deal with than tights, leggings or anything else, having not had much training in handling the latter.

I couldn't care less if people think G is a boy. In fact, I get a sort of perverse pleasure from telling people she's actually a girl, even if I occasionally hear the odd bit of under-the-breath muttering about why little girls shouldn't wear blue tops or jeans. But Mrs J doesn't like it much, and she'd far rather people recognised her little girl as being, well, a girl. Even if it means struggling with dresses and tights when my daughter is squirming and needs a nappy change, it looks as if I'm going to have to take this one for the team. Admittedly, the dresses do make her look pretty, so I suppose it'll be worth it.