Saturday, March 29, 2008

A sunny afternoon in Hyde Park

I like to consider myself a fairly easy going person. There is however one thing that I cannot bear, which some people may consider small stuff, and that is dirt. Dirt makes me think of germs which in turn makes me think of illness and disease. And these things I have a huge problem with - you may even call it a phobia. I think the origin of this may have something to do with me getting a kidney infection some years ago but I'm not entirely sure.

Anyway, to a lesser extent, I also dislike women's locker rooms - I'm not comfortable with strangers taking their clothes off in front of me. I don't do it, and I prefer not to be on the receiving end of it either. So no gym membership for me - at least that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.

OK, so bearing these things in mind, imagine, if you will, the following scenario:

There is a strangely designed (read: badly planned) cafe in Hyde Park, where Elizabeth and I went to meet yesterday afternoon. She had the American twin baby boys that she is currently taking care of with her (lots of 'Oooh they are sooooo cute!' comments from practically everyone that passed us. Also people looking at the twins , and then at me pushing Julia, and then back up at Elizabeth, and then back at me as if to say: 'All three of those children must be hers!'). And yes someone did actually ask me if all three were mine to which I responded, "Are you kidding?!" I mean, one is hard work, but three including a set of twins? I don't even want to imagine it.

OK, so there we were in this cafe with the icy wind gusting in every time someone that was born in a barn came in and didn't shut the door behind them. And Julia, who is normally a relaxed and even-tempered child who never cries on her outings, starts to cry. Not just cry, but howl. It is, as Elizabeth describes, the kind of crying that back in the day prompted mother's to think that the pin fastening their baby's nappy had come undone and was sticking into them.

I checked everything, I mean, everything, and could not figure out what the problem was. It may have been that her sleep had been interrupted and she found herself in a strange place on waking, I'm not sure, but she would not stop. This made me anxious on a number of levels, not only because it was so uncharacteristic and strange, but because I had no idea how to alleviate her discomfort, which made me feel thoroughly helpless. There were also all these people staring at me as if to say, "Why is that baby crying???" like it was something I was intentionally doing to her, or not doing to cause it.

Having checked the nappy which was poo free, and being at my wits end, I decided to take her into the park's public loo for a thorough inspection, minus all the accusatory stares.

Now I never go into public restrooms unless it is absoultely necessary. I mean to the extent that I will hold it in until I get home. Not healthy I know, but if you have a problem with dirt and germs, well, public bathrooms tend to be the stuff that nightmares are made of. Having a child now I realise that is going to need to change, and I'm working on it.

OK, so, what is the best way to describe what I encountered in that restroom? Well, not only was it visibly, and unsurprisingly, dirty, but I was met with the most awful smell of freshly-made shit. The whole bathroom reeked of it. And not just that, but there was a woman, with her trousers down, standing at the basin. And when I came in she didn't even bat and eyelid. Nope, she nonchalantly carried on doing whatever it was that she was doing. I can honestly say I don't know what that was. Perhaps the sight of her bare backside sent me into a shock fugue state, or Julia's crying had me dazed and confused, but either way I simply looked straight ahead and went to find a spot to see to my daughter.

And no, pantless woman was not a homeless person. Aside from having her trousers around her thighs, she looked very much like a member of the establishment with her handbag and permed hair. I think she may in fact have belonged to a table full of tourists in the cafe, if her sensible 'walking shoes' were anything to go by. As a separate note why is it people always purchase hiking boots when visiting London? Perhaps the guidebooks warn of lots of walking, and these people imagine terrible blisters and ankle injuries if they wear anything less that Kilimanjaro-proof footwear.

Anyway, so I picked up Julia to try and comfort her and regain my bearings, and the worst possible thing that could happen to a germ phobe like myself, happened: her dummy fell out of her mouth and onto what I feared was the most urine/faeces/spit/germ/disease infested smorgasbord of a floor ever - right next to no pants lady's hiking boots. The soundtrack from the shower scene in Hitchock's Psycho came to mind, and it was as though someone who really disliked like me had custom designed a perfect picture of hell for my benefit.

I could have kicked myself for forgetting to pack an extra dummy, and at this point Julia was beyond consoling. But there was no way on god's green earth I was going to put that dummy back in her mouth, not even after rinsing it under the tap. So I changed her nappy, which surprise surprise was clean - not a drop, and then carried her out screaming, while trying to push the pram with one hand, past pantless lady and out of the shit-smelling bathroom.

Fortunately the coffee shop provided us with a cup of boiling hot water and I was able to clean the dummy that way, but it killed me to have to put it back in her mouth - the image of that woman, who I'm beginning to think may also have had something to do with that nauseating smell, and indeed the smell itself, lingering in my mind.

We left the cafe not long after, and whatever it was that upset Julia disappeared just as mysteriously as it had appeared. And by the time I got into a taxi for home she was fast asleep. And when we got home it was as though nothing had happened at all - she was back to her happy, relaxed self, and I was feeling extremely grateful for the resilience of small people. Sadly the same cannot be said of her mother, and I think I am well and truly scarred for life by that regrettable park bathroom experience.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The pregnant man

When I worked at Saatchi in London our company pub was called 'The Pregnant Man' - after an ad the agency did with a photo of a depressed-looking guy that was up the duff. The tag line went, 'Would you be more careful if it was you that got pregnant?'

Of course he wouldn't - he's a man! It's like that world-class eejit idea of the male pill. I mean come on, you can't even get a guy to change a loo roll or put the seat down (5 years and still trying), never mind get him to take a tablet at the same time every day.

But I digress.

A man is currently making the headlines because he is indeed pregnant. Thomas Beatie, now legally male and married to a woman, was born female and underwent gender reassignment surgery. He is due to give birth to a baby girl in July.

According to Times Online, "He decided to carry a baby for his wife, Nancy, because she had a hysterectomy years ago. He was able to get pregnant because he kept his female organs when he switched genders." Continue reading.

I have questions, like, will he nurse? Or rather, can he nurse? Those boobs don't look like they are up for the job. Will they let him go into labour or take the baby out early, because I guess it's a no brainer that it will be a C-section birth. Also, will he be legally listed as the mother or father of the baby?

I'll be very interested to read more on this story after the fact.

Thanks to Louise for the tip.

Source and photo: Times Online

La Pequeña makes it onto CNN!!!

Hillary Clinton never made more sense

I realise I'm lifting straight from Dlisted on this, but Michael's way ahead of the game in keeping up with the prolific works of La Pequeña. I don't know how he does it.

I love this speech. I think Hillary Clinton could take a page out of La Pequeña's book. It's not only what he says, but they way he says it. Really powerful, passionate stuff, with an articulate delivery that drives his message straight home.

I'd watch out if I was him. I can imagine Clinton headhunting the guy who writes his material. She's the sort to do something like that.

Source: Dlisted

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Face forwards looking straight towards the camera with your mouth closed

Friends of ours are getting married in Italy in June, so we need to get a passport for Julia. In the passport photo guidance leaflet, a series of 'bad' photos (marked with an x to emphasise their unacceptableness) show a bunch of people in unsuitable poses: including an elderly lady with a sexy quaff of hair hiding half her face, a man wearing sunglasses, and what looks like a photo illustrating the advanced stages of myopia. Similarly, there's one of a young Muslim woman smiling. Either you aren't allowed to be a happy Muslim, or showing your teeth is a bad thing.

I'm known in my family as being fiercely private when it comes to getting my kit off. Perhaps not so fiercely private in other circles, but we won't go there. Growing up in a household full of girls it used to drive my mom and sister's crazy that I wasn't as relaxed as they were about having an unlocked door when I was in the bath or shower. Not ideal in the mornings when everyone was getting ready for school or work.

Well things have changed quite a bit since then. Today, much to my distress, I found myself yelling, "OK OK Julia, I'm coming! Mommy's just wiping her bottom!" Forget locked doors, when you have a baby it's doors wide open just in case you need to fly out of their, toilet paper in tow, to attend to some or other pending catastrophe. In this case a misplaced pacifier.

As for the toilet TMI (Too Much Information) situation, I was just following what the baby books suggest about keeping a running commentary on your actions and thoughts to encourage your baby's development of language. Other things Julia's been privy to have included, "God, Mommy really needs to get her roots done because she's looking like a two dollar hooker, I mean, a hard working lady," and "Which insane bastard is calling at this god forsaken hour? I mean, who on earth is ringing the doorbell at this time of the morning?"

I think Julia will be way ahead of the other kids when it comes to her mastery of expletives. I'm already proud in anticipation.

And now the 10pm feed beckons. And as Mommy lifts her vast poundage off of the sofa to go and heat the bottle, she's thinking it may be a good idea to lay off of the takeaways if she ever hopes to attract Daddy's interest again. On second thoughts, Mommy is thinking she may be in possession of a very powerful contraceptive measure.

Hillary Clinton's nose just got bigger

With the birth of the internet and 24-hour news coverage, life for all those hardworking liars, I mean politicians, has become very hard indeed. Yep, old Hillary Clinton tried to pull a fast one and has been caught out big time as this clip shows.

What's funny is her 'campaign aide' trying to dig her out of the hole by saying, "She meant that there was fire in the hillside around the area when we landed, which was the case ."

Really? I thought I heard Clinton say, "There was supposed to be some kind of greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.

I remember landing under sniper fire. There was no greeting ceremony. And we basically were told to run to our cars. Now that is what happened."

Those surrounding hills must have been mighty close indeed if it required her and her posse to stick their heads down and run to their cars. Well, that would have been the case were it the truth, which is clearly wasn't. Or rather, had she not 'misspoken.'

As hard as it is to believe, I think it's going to take a hell of a lot more than La Pequeña's powerful charm offensive to get you out of this one Hillary.

Source: Political Betting

Oooh la laaaaa!

According to the Daily Mail, the first lady of France, namely Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, is mighty pissed that Christie's chose to announce the sale of this nude portrait of her (back in her supermodel days) on the eve of her state visit to England.

The gelatine silver print, by photographer Michel Comte, is expected to fetch up to 2000 British pounds next month. Continue reading.

I don't know what she's so pissed about. If I had a body like that I'd be handing out signed copies from the window of my motorcade limousine.

Some women huh? Never happy.

Source and photo c/o: Daily Mail

Holy Crap!

Someone needs to get Renee some Clinique Double Matte face powder pronto! Renee shone, quite literally, at the premiere of her new film Leatherheads in Maysville, Kentucky yesterday.

I can excuse these celebs a lot of things, but not a shiny T-zone - never!

Image source: PA c/o Daily Mail

La Pequeña strikes again

This time as Hillary Clinton! After watching this moving tribute to America's iron lady, I'm seriously thinking of switching allegiance from Obama. Clinton definitely has a secret weapon in La Pequeña.

Source: Dlisted

Friday, March 21, 2008

Talking cats

All together now: "Ahhhhhhhh"

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Notes from the trenches: Shopping, shots, & shifts

Shopping for babies and children's clothes has always been one of my pleasures. They make the most adorable things - little items you can imagine mommy and daddy wearing, but in the miniature. Worryingly, they also make things for girls of the 'hoochie mamma' variety. The sort of thing if mom were indeed wearing the larger version thereof, she'd most likely be doing so while selling her wares on dimly lit corners to slow moving cars. Indeed there are some clothes out there that are definitely not suited for little girls. And as scary as that thought is, the fact that they continue to make them means there clearly is a market. It reminds me of that recent Woolworths marketing blunder - the 'Lolita' girls bedroom furniture range.

Since moving to London, and after my sisters and various friends had babies, I've bought a fair amount of children's clothes. After having my own child however, it's given me a whole new insight into how to go about the business. It's a simple rule really: Forget fashion, cuteness, or dressing your daughter like a little doll. Each time I contemplate purchasing an item, I imagine how easy it would be to remove and put back on at 2am when dealing with a number 2 situation without waking her. As a result her wardrobe resembles the institutional apparel Hannibal Lecter was forced to wear in the Silence of the Lambs.

Julia, who is three months old, had her second round of shots today. Whenever you show concern for the pain your child is about to endure while being stabbed by a sharp needle in the thigh, pumping her small body full of nasty viruses, the doctors give you their best condescending look and say the same thing: "If you think this is bad, you should see what a baby with measles/chicken pox/rubella/whooping cough/meningitis looks like."

Yes, yes, I know one needs to vaccinate, but it doesn't mean I have to like it when my daughter is screaming in pain and looking at me as if to say, "How? How could you stand there and let someone hurt me like this?" I believe this is one of the first instances of parental guilt and it's a long and busy road from here onwards.

This waking up at 2am and 6am business is beginning to take its toll, and has resulted in a competitive element between Roberto and I. The night before last, a night I actually had off while he took over, he told me I hadn't in fact slept as soundly as I'd boasted. Instead I was sitting up in bed like a mad person talking and laughing away in my sleep - keeping him awake during those precious couple of hours he needed to be sleeping between feeds. He attempted to say this matter of factly, but I could tell he was seething with resentment at my carefree happy go-lucky REM activity. God forbid either of us get some sleep while the other has to slave away at ungodly hours, let alone enjoy the fact.

And if one of us dares complain about being tired after this late/early morning shift, the other will inevitably say something to the effect of, "You think you're tired??? When I last did it, she didn't go to sleep for a full hour after the 2am feed, AND I had to change a number 2 nappy, TWICE!" Yes, romantic times.

And on that note, Roberto, who is on duty again tonight, tells me I need to stop blogging and switch off the light so he can make the most out of the 2 hours and 22 minutes he has left to sleep before having to prepare the next bottle. And it wasn't a request.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wednesday roundup

Dennis Quaid at 53

Yep, 53.

Source: Dlisted

Monday, March 10, 2008

La Pequeña does Amy Winehouse

This is a chap called La Pequeña doing an Amy Winehouse 'Rehab' impersonation. Extremely funny in a bizarre miniature drag queen on crack kinda way. La Pequeña is better known for his unforgettable version of Flash - La Prohibida. His enthusiastic portrayal of the blond Spanish songstress is inspired. In fact I think he far outdoes the original in terms of the energy and mystery he brings to that performance.

Source: Dlisted

Talking heads

Last night I dreamt that a man, or rather, the head of a man, was pursuing me through a subway station. I had walked past him, or to be more precise, I had walked past his head that was sat on a sort of cart contraption, and as I did so he made a pass at me. I carried on walking and he shouted out something to the effect of, "What you got to be like that for? Is it because I've only got a head?" To which I stopped and responded that it was nothing of the sort. I explained that although I was very flattered, I was also very happily married with a child. He wasn't buying it and began chasing me all over the station. While running for my life I remember thinking how remarkable it was that someone without limbs or indeed a torso could move that fast.

Note to self: Must get out the house more.

On the subject of severed heads, I (coincidentally) came across this macarbre but very interesting article this morning about a real-life Dr. Frankenstein - a Soviet scientist by the name of Sergei S. Bryukhonenko. Not recommended reading while eating.

And elsewhere in the world: