Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Olympics live

I have written before about me wanting V to experience the Olympics - or the "Lympix" as they are known in our house - and last weekend was her big chance as we had tickets for the football at the Ricoh Stadium in Coventry.

I have been to hundreds of footie matches over the years, so knew on basic terms what to expect for myself, but I had never been with a toddler before so this would be a whole new ball game, if you will pardon the pun!

I am pleased to report that it was both fun and relatively painless, and to be honest, it was only the Olympic element that caused any problems at all, such as they were, as watching the match itself was fine.

Being an Olympic event just made it a bit harder to plan as the list of rules and prohibited items made it all seem a bit daunting. A normal match it would have been easier to prepare for.

Mei tei

For starters, I would never have taken a buggy to the game anyway, but can normally work out a place to park where walking to the game wouldn't be too much of a trek for a 2.5 year old.

In this case though, while the designated car parks weren't far, it would have taken an age for V to walk, especially if we had to stop and look at every leaf and stone along the way, as you do!

The answer was a mei tei sling which Mr A wore to carry her on his back which worked well. We hadn't used one before and after getting over her initial confusion at what the hell she was expected to do - V thought it was a huge game! "Giddy up" - she kept saying, much to her father's annoyance! 

Once at the stadium, it was the security checks that were a little time consuming but as it was all for the best, I wasn't too bothered.

At the bag check, they took everything out, and placed it all in a see through plastic bag which was sealed until you got into the venue.

Pared down

I was pleased that I had pared my bag down to the bare bones and had removed half the rubbish I seem to think is necessary to have in a changing bag like the pile of forgotten, and therefore stale, wrapped baby biscuits which must have lined the base for months.

It's unnerving having some stranger analysing all your possessions so I narrowed things down to basically nappies and a change of clothes, a drink for V and the "small snack" we were allowed, according to the rules.

The guy checking, who honestly looked about 12, looked at my high factor suncream with suspicion and made me put some on. He did the same with the sudocrem so I smelt delightful for the rest of the afternoon.

Reading the prohibited items list beforehand, I was a bit worried by the liquid allowance of 100ml. I knew you could buy bottled water inside but I didn't think you could give mineral water to young children and I didn't want her getting too much of a taste for the other sugary juice drinks on sale inside.

I put 150ml of water in V's sippy cup to see if I could get away with a bit more but of course, I couldn't! I had to drink it down to 100ml. I put the cup down and stared at him as if to say, "look, I haven't keeled over, it's just WATER!" but my steely glare was lost on him.

He allowed the banana through without question - a far more dangerous weapon in my opinion!

Going in through the turnstiles, another eagle eyed security bloke spotted the offending pink sippy cup and stopped us again because HE had been told that you could only take baby milk in. NO other liquids at all.

There followed a few minutes of us remonstrating - our main argument being that "the other bloke said it was alright!" until he called in yet another man who confirmed that our precious 100 ml of water was legal!

Once inside I bought a juice drink to top it up, the sugar content of which probably added top V's already heightened excitement!

Pooey nappy

One thing I hadn't realised about football matches from my previous visits was that the baby changing facilities, even at the new modern stadia such as the Ricoh are non-existent.

We ended up in a cubicle in the ladies, changing a pooey nappy with us both standing up! It was a trifle fiddly and I'm sure we probably left stray poo somewhere, but it is only the home of Coventry City so frankly I wasn't bothered!

During the game itself V was as well behaved as we could expect of a little one of her age. She was fascinated by the Mexican wave and the green, white and red wigs and commented loudly on both, and joined in with the cheering and clapping with a massive smile on her face.

Yes, she got restless at times, but sitting her between us and folding the seat up gave her a little place to play and dance about to Take That and the Scissor Sisters on the tannoy. And when all else failed, games on the iphone stepped in.

Her commentary on the game - "daddy, that man kicked the ball too far", entertained the crowds around us and luckily the friendly atmosphere was quite unique in that I didn't hear a single swear word - a big relief as my daughter is a sponge and I didn't want her singing any version of The Liquidator or other tunes with some choice lyrics.

She saw two goals, the first of which gave her a bit of a shock as she had never before heard the collective cheers of a 28,000 odd crowd live, but by the second she was clapping and cheering with the best of them!

Back outside, we were fleeced at the merchandise stall but it had to be done, then on the way back to the car the heavens opened and V refused to keep her head down and her hood up, preferrring instead to turn her head to the skies and open her mouth wide to catch the rain water!

Soaked, tired, but strangely exhilarated we got back to the car and got home with relative ease!

On the whole, the event was well organised and buoyed up by this success we are now preparing for sailing on Saturday. A whole different kettle of fish awaits there but I will report back!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A Blessing of the Expectant Mother

I recently came across a whole load of notes that I wrote whilst pregnant. It's a good job I just wrote them for my own personal record as I was a right moany old crow and my complaints about how sick I felt would have rubbed many people up the wrong way.

Particularly those who might have been trying for a child for a while, while I was in the incredibly fortunate position to have beaten the stats and be pregnant over 40. What an ungrateful cow I sounded!

However, there were some more interesting pieces, things that with everything that happened since - i.e. giving birth and concentrating on raising a child - I had all but forgotten about!

I've decided to rehash a few in a kind of retrospective, in a more sensitive way knowing what I know now, to show myself how I have changed and maybe, as part of the process, some other people might be interested too.

Massive change

One of the first pieces I came across was a very special evening that may seem a bit "whacky" to some, but to me at the time seemed exactly the right thing to do.

In times of crisis I always turn to religion, and although being pregnant could not be termed a crisis, it was certainly a massive change to my life. It was something I needed to get my head around for sure. It took a good few weeks for it to sink in and this particular event really helped.

As the saying goes, “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic” and the first thing I thought of to do when I found out about my situation, other than telling my parents, was to pray. Although I have long been a sausage on the devil's barbecue, I do still go to church, although not every week, but I do have a faith and I still pray.

I did actually want to go to church immediately but I was feeling too sick and didn't want rivers of puke rolling down the aisles, so I did what I always do and that was to offer up words asking for spiritual help and guidance and the mere act of calling on a higher authority for help is definitely a comfort.

If you’ve been brought up with it, then religion is something that never leaves you – no matter what you might think.

Belt and braces

So when my mum suggested me having the “Blessing of the Expectant Mother” I wasn’t averse to the idea. It’s a kind of belt and braces thing – what harm could it do? I wasn’t even aware that such a thing existed but she had had it done when pregnant with both me and my brother, and things worked out OK so why not?!

So, at nine weeks exactly, my parents arranged for the newly ordained and absolutely lovely Father Alan to go round to their house for the event and she made blueberry muffins and bought special chocolate biscuits. These are essential items for a religious occasion it seems!

Sadly Mr A couldn’t make it as an important work deadline kept him in London. He was very upset but as both me and Father Alan pointed out, it was just as important for this child that he keep his job.

So there we were. The priest, my mum, dad, me and the muffins in their living room as a simple service was performed. I was blessed and a safe delivery was prayed for (something I had been doing since I found out I was pregnant anyway – but having a priest do it too somehow gave it more kudos!)

The blessing also recalled the role of Mary and being likened to her predicament made me, for one fleeting moment, think that I was carrying the Son of God! Alan also read out a beautiful Celtic blessing and the whole thing was wonderful. It was calm and relaxing and gave me a tremendous sense of peace.

Afterwards we chatted and ate the muffins and generally had a lovely evening.

Physically I didn't feel much better, but mentally and spiritually I definitely felt stronger. So, whatever you believe, surely whatever helps has to be a good thing?!

Thankfully I got the safe delivery I had prayed for and, when V was nearly five months old, Father Alan baptised her.It was a fitting way to welcome her into the church as he had kind of been involved from the beginning.

Father Alan has now left our parish but returns occasionally and always asks after V. Our family will never forget his role at the very start of her life and if in the future V wants to get married and would like a Catholic service then I will most certainly be tracking him down!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Flaming 'eck!

I realised this week that I was exactly the same age as V - almost to the day - when Neil Armstrong became the first man on the moon.

I can still remember being in the living room watching it on a small black and white telly. I don't know whether I was watching it live or whether it was on the news but I remember everybody making a big deal of it.

I didn't know why. I just knew people were on the moon. I didn't realise that was an unusual thing to do, I expected to go there myself one day! But I knew there was something special about it for some reason. And now I'm glad I was allowed to watch as it turned out that it was a big thing - because no one has done it since.

The fact I can remember that is why I am very aware that it is highly likely that V will remember 2012. Her twin cousins being born, the Jubilee and of course the Olympics.

I am making sure I explain exactly what each event is, picking up souvenirs and taking her to what I can, so I felt that it was important that we go and see the Olympic Torch as it made its way through our city.

Mixed feelings

Now this was a big concession on my part. I have mixed feelings about it as in my job it has become the bain of my life. Over the past year, I have had hundreds of emails about it, ranging from where you should put the capital letters when writing about it to who is responsible for recording its every move at any one time.

It has even been hard telling V what the Olympic Torch is, because normally when I talk about it every other word is a profanity.

Part of me wanted to ignore it was happening but the stubborn part, which is most of me, thought I'd be damned if I was going to miss it after all the effort I'd put in to telling the world about it!

Plus, I had no wish for her to accuse me in the future of not taking her to see it so I needed photographic evidence.

Quite peeved

I had always chided my own mum for not taking up the offer of tickets to the 1966 World Cup final when she was about two months pregnant with me - so I hadn't even been BORN!

I remember feeling quite peeved when I found out because I wanted to be able to have said that I was there, sort of, even if only the size of a coffee bean, when England won it. Mind you, this was nothing to how my dad felt when he found out, some 20 years later! He didn’t speak to her for about three days!

I only let her off when I got pregnant and realised how ill she must have been feeling. At two months pregnant I couldn’t have gone to Wembley, or anywhere where you are trapped with lots of people and no easy access to a toilet!

But I had no such excuse not to see the Olympic flame, added to that, it was practically going past the end of our road, so it wasn't actually too much effort and frankly a bit churlish not to turn out!

So, in spite of myself, I was actually quite excited about it by the time I burst into the living room, announcing, rather over enthusiastically, "V, shall we go and see the Olympic Torch?"

"No thanks," she said.

"I want to go to Thomasland."

"Tough," I thought, but out loud I said, "Now, come on V, it will be FUN!"

She didn't look convinced but as she is two and I am - older - she didn't have a choice! So, the three of us went to my parents and walked from there with my mum to find a good spot on the route.

'Kissing point'

Thankfully I had actually READ many of the hundreds of emails I had received so I knew that if I saw a group of people standing in a taped enclosure, they were likely to be the friends and family of a torchbearer so that spot would be a "kissing point" of the torch and so a good place to wait.

I was right, so luckily after a 40 minute wait, when V was just starting to get antsy, she did actually have something to see! She had got bored of waving the little flag she was given, and bored of waving ALL the flags that we were given as well. She was even bored of ripping them up!

She was literally just about to kick off when the advance entourage started to come past and as this was lots of people in colourful clothes, singing, dancing and shouting, she was transfixed. Those are her three most favourite things to do!

She stared intently as the flame arrived and as it happened right in front of us, she studied the "kiss", the transference of the flame, hard. "Can you see the fire?" I said. She must have wondered what the HELL was going on. Why are people running in the street with fire - and then passing it to someone else? What was the point of that? You may well ask the same question.

She said nothing. Until she was back in her buggy. Suddenly, out of nowhere, she said, "Mummy. That was fantastic!"

So, job done. Not only had we all witnessed an historic moment, but V loved it. And she ate all her tea to boot. Olympic Torch - if you give my daughter an appetite, you can come past whenever you want!

I have to do it all again tomorrow albeit in a work capacity and without a toddler in tow. But come 2pm, when the flame crosses the border into Oxfordshire and out of my remit - I will be deleting a very large number of emails!