Wednesday, 29 December 2004

just don't measure the circumference

The midwife appointment went well today, and we even got to see a different midwife as mine was away. She was a very nice lady who made the appropriate sympathetic noises when I whined about my endless heartburn (she informed us that they give Ranitidine to women during labour - never found out why, though) and fatigue. She checked my blood test results and I am borderline anaemic. This means more roast beef dinners and greens for me, woohooooooo! At least this explains why I've been so tired lately and she also told us that babies have growth spurts at around 31 weeks, which would also account for my fatigue. It also explains why I've suddenly developed strong cravings for beef and peanut butter (not at the same time, mind you). She said that women usually find that their energy returns at 34-36 weeks, which would be just in time for my maternity leave. I'm thinking that work may be somewhat of a chore this month. Grand.

I was measured with a measuring tape for the first time (my regular midwife must just be an expert at judging by eye) and I am measuring exactly 32cm; perfect for being 32 weeks pregnant. When she first had a feel, Pip was head down with his back to my side and then he squirmed around a bit and his back was to mine. I didn't realise that he still had quite a bit of room to maneuver, which also explains the mystery of why I feel like there's an octopus in there sometimes. I thought he would be settled into one position, but couldn't figure out why I would feel pokes and prods all over my belly, often times concurrently. They won't really pay much attention to his position until around 36 weeks, so he's still got some time to dance about in there.

I have taken a Zantac and am currently enjoying a heartburn-free evening, even after a delicious supper (made with my husband's fair hands) of beef stroganoff, horseradish mash, and peas. Eight weeks doesn't seem so unbearable now.

no. more. turkey.

Oh what a relief to have finished up work for 2004. Hellish deadlines (which seems to happen every December at every company I've ever worked for as a tech author) but at least we didn't have to worry about hosting the festive feast this year. We drove down to Kent on remarkably quiet roads and motorways on Friday morning and opened our stocking stuffers later that night. I got a Labrador puppies calendar (awwwwwwwww), two cookbooks, and three of the most exciting presents ever: Peanut Butter Cups and Goldfish crackers (Paul managed to find a shop that sells these in Milton Keynes - although for the price, you are better off getting a friend to send them to you from North America and pay for the postage), and a year's subscription to Heat magazine. Being hugely pregnant and then housebound with a newborn won't keep me from my celebrity gossip, no siree.

Christmas Day started off with more present getting and giving, including the armload of pressies from my Mom and Dad shipped to us about a month ago. From the inlaws, I got the new Nigella book (I love that woman - this book includes recipes for Sloppy Joes, Shirley Temples, and chocolate cheesecake), the latest Harry Potter DVD, a handmade clown doll for the baby (yes PaulG, I did make a little eeeek noise when I opened it), a set of Winnie the Pooh books for the baby as well, very comfy slippers, and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown (loved the DaVinci Code). Mom and Dad got me a few Roots maternity tops (who knew they did preggie clothes?), slippers, a beautiful lacquered Japanese bowl, a calendar, and an envelope of cash. Saving the best for last, my husband got me a gorgeous necklace with a little diamond star-shaped pendant, more of my favourite perfume (Ralph Lauren), and a very fancy milk frother. We got addicted to Chai tea lattes in the States (Starbucks must put crack in each cup, I'm sure) and have been trying to reproduce them at home. I managed to find a place that carried the Tazo tea in bags, so I got some for Paul along with...a milk frother. Doh. We are now a two milk frother household. I also got him a DVD rewriter (made a bit less of a surprise when he opened the package of blank DVDs from his Mum and Dad first), a kitchen blow torch (it's a macho kitchen implement - open flames! Man make creme brulee! Arrrrrr!), and a set of fancypants cheese knives.

Christmas lunch was fantastic, but sadly, I could not stuff my face because I haven't the stomach room anymore. Although I tend to love all food British, I don't get bread sauce. Really, I don't understand it. You boil a clove-studded onion, a bay leaf, and peppercorns in milk, strain the milk, and then add fresh breadcrumbs and a bit of butter. It's always served with poultry and I just don't get it. Perhaps you need to be raised on it to have a liking for it, but to me, it's rather odd and tasteless. The uncouth North American in me prefers to drown everything on my plate with gravy, thanks. My mother in law made her famous brandy butter for the Christmas pud, and I made a heavenly chocolate trifle. The leftovers made a reappearance with some yummy hors d'oeuvres on Boxing Day, as more family came over for lunch. Poor Jasper had torn a back claw right in two on his walk on Christmas Day, so he was hobbling around with a bandaged paw feeling very sorry for himself. On Monday, we ventured out to Bluewater shopping centre...which apparently the rest of the free world decided to do that day as well. We discovered that Bluewater now has a Krispy Kreme doughnuts shop (still have yet to try one). Indeed. We returned home on more delightfully quiet roads and motorways, with a tin foil-wrapped bundle of leftover turkey and ham.

Russ and Debs came by yesterday with more gifts for all of us (even Jasper who got the biggest rawhide chew in the world), and I made a very un-Chistmassy lunch of minestrone soup and homemade pizza. Today is a day of rest; just a midwife appointment and a visit to the vet to fix Jasper's poorly paw. Tomorrow we're off to see Gary, Ruth, and little Naomi. New Year's Eve will be spent at home, and I'll undoubtedly fall asleep on the sofa by 9. On Sunday, my brother in law, sister in law, and our two nieces are coming over to begin a month of "let's visit Paul and Lisa before she gets too huge to move" family get togethers. Then it's back to work on the 4th. Ugh. Bleah. Ick.

Please - no more turkey. Oh, but I will finish that box of chocolates.

Tuesday, 28 December 2004

gonna be a long two months

I've entered the phase of pregnancy most commonly referred to as "Okay, I've Had Enough Now". While I still maintain that I love my bump and feeling all the squirms and prods, great discomfort is now my constant companion. Backache, shoulder/neck/rib ache, pulled belly muscles when I sneeze, heartburn (back like a motherfecker), fatigue, shortness of breath, leg cramps, nausea, and endless other aches and pains plague me throughout the day and night. Most of it doesn't bother me too much, but I absolutely hate being this fatigued. It feels like I'm always on the brink of a flu and I have no energy at all. I can do a few tasks, but then I've got to sit and catch my breath. Even in my smoking days, I wasn't this feeble. Thankfully I can manage to get a relatively decent night's sleep (I can go to the loo a few times a night without actually waking up, I think) but I still need to take a nap during the day.

I had a dream the other night in which I had given birth. I remember thinking to myself that it really wasn't all that bad, but the best part is, I now don't have any pregnancy discomforts. Hurrah! Then I suddenly realised that I was at home but didn't have the baby with me, and that I must have left him at the hospital. Oopsie.

Pip got a couple of Christmas presents already, lucky little guy. His Nanna (Paul's Mum) knit him a colourful clown doll, got him a Tweety bird toy, and a collection of Winnie the Pooh books. His Uncle Russell and Auntie Debbie gave him a kit to make a plaster cast of his tiny toes. Lots of our Christmas cards were written out to me, Paul, and Pip. Everyone has advised us to enjoy our last quiet Christmas, but to be honest, I cannot wait until Pip gets old enough to really enjoy it. I am so looking forwards to leaving out snacks for Santa and seeing his face when he tears into his presents on Christmas morning. I know we have at least two more Christmases to go before he gets to that stage, but I'm already eagerly anticipating it.

Eight more weeks to go, give or take. We have another midwife visit tomorrow and our NTC antenatal classes start a week tomorrow. Three and a half more weeks of work when we return in January, then we wait for the big day. Just please don't make me endure eight more weeks of heartburn.

Thursday, 23 December 2004

deck them halls

From Lisa, Paul, Pip, and Jasper, have a fantastic holiday, everyone! Now get outta here and drown yourself in eggnog and Christmas puds. xxx

Tuesday, 21 December 2004

now i've just got to resist the urge to stuff my face

I had a thoroughly mundane day yesterday working from home, eating toast, cheese, a hard boiled egg, chicken soup (x2), more toast, and drinking tea. I made an appointment with a GP to get this heartburn thing settled once and for all because 12 weeks is too long for one girl to suffer. He said I could take Zantac (or any renitidine tablet), which I did with glee that evening. I don't want to take a pill every time the heartburn bothers me, but there are some days when it's very painful and keeps me up at night. After suffering with acid reflux all day yesterday (not to mention the hilarity from the night before) I took a tablet at bedtime and even now, the following afternoon, I feel pretty darn good. Great joy!

I assume that Pip remains oblivious to any discomfort I experience, because he tumbles and kicks away as usual. I love how his movements have changed as the weeks have gone by - from the first little flutters to actually feeling him shift around and squirm when I press on my belly. I think I'm going to try and take an mpeg of my belly moving, just because I find it so very cool. I sit and watch my tummy warp and contort in the evenings (and during meetings), fascinated by all the activity happening. It's partially freaky (especially when I press down and can feel baby bits wriggling around), but it's mostly wonderful. And it makes me feel that much closer to the time when I will be able to feel him outside of my belly. Cannot wait.


It's the last of Ed and Martine's 12 Monkeys for 2004. This month's theme:

"give me a year": What would you do if you had a free year, all to yourself, to dedicate to whatever you wanted? Assume money was not a problem -- you've just received a $60,000 Monkey Grant.

(I'll amend this slightly to £60,000 because $60K Canadian is like a tenner.)

Strangely enough, I do have a year off work starting in February, although it's not exactly a free year to do whatever I want. Still, it's going to be a strange experience and I can only take a guess at what it'll be like. I imagine the first three months will involve a lot of crying and sleepless nights (for all), nappy changing, feeding, and generally being awestruck by this new life in our house. The rest of it is a complete mystery to me. It's going to be a cool but slightly strange trip, I think.

So let's say we weren't expecting a baby and we were taking a year off, full stop. I would travel, as boring as that sounds. I only started travelling a few years ago, so I've got a lot of ground still to cover. Maybe we would do that self build we've been dreaming about, which would likely be easier if we're not working and could live elsewhere during the construction. I would lock myself away in a cottage in the Lake District or the Highlands and write one of the many books I keep threatening to put together. I'd take a class in painting, because it's been far too long since I've done any art. I would go back home for a couple of weeks. I'd stay at a spa and get pampered for at least a long weekend - and take all my girl friends with me. I'd learn another language; I'm leaning towards Italian. I would dust off my bicycle and go on long rides. I'd try to get a job as a travel writer or food critic. Or both.

A year? I think I need a decade.

Monday, 20 December 2004

i'm finally in fashion

According to this article on the BBC web site, more women are waiting until after 35 to have children. That's right, us old broads are squeezing out puppies at an increased rate than you young things these days. It's been nice knowing friends having baby #1 at 30 or later; it takes the edge off those days when I think about things like how I'll be almost 57 when our son celebrates his 21st birthday. At least I'm not going to be the only parent over 40 when we attend Pip's first Christmas pageant.

It's all circumstantial, really. I didn't exactly make a conscious choice to wait until after 35 to get pregnant, things just worked out that way. When I was in my 20s, I was with someone who didn't want kids and I certainly wasn't ready to be a Mum anyway. I hadn't the money nor the job stability, or the maturity for that matter. It wasn't until I got together with Paul that I realised the time had come - I was ready for motherhood and wanted it baaaaad. So here we are. Older and wiser and hot damn, am I ready for maternity leave.

fun while it lasted

So much for my heave-free pregnancy record. At 1.30 this morning, after a couple of hours attempting to get to sleep and trying to find a comfortable position, I finally succumbed to the Vom Monster. It's unlikely to be food poisoning or a stomach bug (thankfully) because it didn't last all night, so Paul and I think it's simply down to overeating that evening. Paul made one of his famous roast dinners, which I scarfed down greedily. Being a bit too enthusiastic about my recently acquired ability to get more food in my stomach, I had that fateful second helping. Paul did remind me that when I ate a full plate last Sunday of his roast lamb dinner, I wasn't feeling too stellar afterwards, but I was certain I'd be fine now that the bump seems to have dropped a bit and I'd been feeling much hungrier lately. That's the last time I listen to my stomach, I tell you.

So this is the second time I've scared myself and Paul at 1.30 in the morning, which leads me to believe that I'll probably go into labour at 1.30 in the morning. Although I realise that getting sick to your stomach is nothing to get alarmed about, it was the fact that I suddenly disappeared and Paul heard strange noises coming from the loo. I was worried because the horrible cramps and general feeling of ickyness before I got sick had me partially convinced that I was going into labour. I know, I know - I never claimed to be sane at 1.30 in the morning. I wonder if all pregnant women go through this phase in the last trimester? Am I going to keep thinking that I'm going into labour for the next 9 weeks? It doesn't help that I bought things for my maternity bag yesterday, so the superstitious side of me thinks that will induce labour. Oh and maternity bag, my arse. Who can fit everything they and the baby will need into a bag? I'll need a suitcase just for the nappies, maternity pads, cotton wool, and Pip's sleepsuits.

Anyway, so here I sit with my mug of tea and dry toast. We came to the conclusion that small meals often is the way to go, which means goodbye gigantic Christmas lunch, hello grazing over the course of a day. Moo.

Friday, 17 December 2004

ding dong merrily on high

It's Christmas Day one week from tomorrow! Whee! I'd do a jaunty little dance, but I'm sure nobody wants to see that. Last night, our doorbell rang and as Paul opened the door, I could hear Christmas music blaring from tinny speakers. Some people from something called the round table (Paul assures me they are like a Rotary Club, and not some weird cult) were collecting for charity, while a truck pulled a festively lit sleigh slowly down our street containing a rather slimline Santa. Our neighbours stood in their driveways, bemusedly watching Santa's driver try to negotiate the end of our cul de sac, while Santa waved at us and wished us a happy Christmas. He stopped and spent a bit of extra time chatting with the little blonde girl from across the road (she the adorable kid who came to our house a day early this Halloween), and Jasper ran around in circles wagging like a lunatic. It was really quite nice and I hope they do this again next year - although I suppose our son will be too young to know what's going on, it'll still be fun for me.

The neighbourhood and the village down the road are well into the Christmas spirit this year, in terms of decorations. We spotted a giant inflatable Homer Simpson dressed up as Santa over the porch of one house, but he's mysteriously gone missing. I did notice that he was looking a little bit deflated the other day (and to be honest, it was rather unsettling to see him gradually slump down the side of the wall), so maybe he had to be taken down for repairs. There are houses in one neighbouring village that look like they were decorated by some crazed designer from Vegas. On crack. The entire village's lights must dim when these people switch on their Christmas lights; I really must remember to get a picture.

One more week! One more week! Yippie!

i didn't drop him, honest

Before I get on with today's post, I must get this off my chest. YOU ATE ONE RUM BALL. GET OVER IT. YOU DIDN'T HURT YOUR UNBORN CHILD AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO RESPONDED BY SAYING EVEN MINISCULE AMOUNTS OF ALCOHOL IN COOKED FOOD WILL CAUSE BIRTH DEFECTS, SHADDUP. This rant has been brought to you by another post from the pregnancy Web boards. Thank you.

Anyway, back to today's post. I think Pip has shifted down slightly over the past couple of days. I can actually eat full meals again, and (please, please, please don't let me jinx myself) I had absolutely no heartburn yesterday. I'll hold back on the full celebration because I had a bit of heartburn today, but it's certainly nice to be able to eat without feeling stuffed to the gills. I have one pair of maternity jeans that have a large panel of cotton/jersey that goes over the bump (mmm sexy), and the denim bit used to sit under my bump comfortably. Now, the denim portion is cutting into my belly slightly so I think my bump is migrating south. I know that it's far too early for the baby's head to be engaged, but I wonder if babies drop a bit as we head into the final weeks? Curious.

I'm also dying to know how Pip is positioned because I can't, for the life of me, figure it out by his movements. I envision him facing outwards because I constantly feel little limbs moving about quite low down in my tummy. It seems that if he was facing my back, I wouldn't feel as much movement. I guess I'll find out when I see the midwife at the end of this month. Really, I would love to know what he gets up to in there all day long.

Thursday, 16 December 2004

in my thirties

Good lord, I've just passed the 30 week mark. Woohoo! Although the first months seemed to last forever, the last remaining weeks are flying by - which is a good thing. While cuddling a workmate's wee baby earlier this week (he's now almost four months old) I really wanted to be able to hold our baby in my arms. On the other hand, I'll really miss my bump. I've truly enjoyed being pregnant and I love feeling Pip bounce around inside me. It's a remarkable, special experience.

I'm not even that freaked out about giving birth anymore. Despite the horror stories that people have conveyed in great detail to me over the months, I have come up with a few ideas that I find comforting. First, I think that the more you work yourself up about the pain, the worse it'll be. On a very small scale, think of it like when you got shots as a kid and you'd scream "OW!!" before the needle was within 6 inches of your skin - and it really did seem to hurt at that point. If I know something is going to hurt (or while something hurts), I try to divert my attention and focus on something else because the more I think about how awful it is, the worse I feel. Second, I keep reading how water births can be more relaxing and a bit less painful than giving birth lying down, especially if you've been induced (apparently that makes the contractions much stronger and more painful). Although I'm not kidding myself and thinking that I will definitely have a water birth (I only know of one friend who's been able to do so), I take comfort in the idea that our child might be born in the water. That seems like a much calmer, nicer way to come into the world. Third, it's all going to be worth it in the end. That's what's most important.

Don't get me wrong, I am scared about it all. Not just labour and birth, but being a parent. Nothing prepares you for either, and there's no way to know how it'll all go. Luckily, I married a sane man who is excited about being a father and who is much calmer and rational than me. Knowing that he will be there through everything is enormously comforting.

Of course ask me about all of this in another 6-8 weeks, and I'll probably be back to freaking out again.

i didn't see poutine on this list

Last night, BBC 2 had a programme on called "50 Things to Eat Before You Die". A few things struck me about this list: 1) some of these foods seemed a bit "tame" (come on, sandwiches?) and 2) for all the "oh, aren't those Americans such horrible awful people who eat like cretins" sentiments I hear so often, a lot of American food items made it to this list. To save you from having to click on the link above to see the list, I've included it here:

1. Fresh fish

2. Lobster

3. Steak

4. Thai food

5. Chinese food

6. Ice cream

7. Pizza

8. Crab

9. Curry

10. Prawns

11. Moreton Bay Bugs

12. Clam chowder

13. Barbecues

14. Pancakes

15. Pasta

16. Mussels

17. Cheesecake

18. Lamb

19. Cream tea

20. Alligator

21. Oysters

22. Kangaroo

23. Chocolate

24. Sandwiches

25. Greek food

26. Burgers

27. Mexican food

28. Squid

29. American diner breakfast

30. Salmon

31. Venison

32. Guinea pig

33. Shark

34. Sushi

35. Paella

36. Barramundi

37. Reindeer

38. Kebab

39. Scallops

40. Australian meat pie

41. Mango

42. Durian fruit

43. Octopus

44. Ribs

45. Roast beef

46. Tapas

47. Jerk chicken/pork

48. Haggis

49. Caviar

50. Cornish pasty

I did find myself nodding in agreement with most of these choices, but some of them surprised me. I had the impression that a "must have" food would either be something truly adventurous or exotic, or special; something you wouldn't normally eat. Pasta? Pizza? Chinese food? Would this be your choice of a last meal? (Okay, I admit, pasta might be mine.) I liked the American choices, probably because they are familiar to me. Every time I go back to North America, I make it a point to get a big breakfast, real cheesecake, and a decent burger. Not all in the same meal, mind you.

I would add dim sum to this list. Sometimes I think food should be an experience, and to me, there's nothing better than sampling a vast array of dishes at one meal. Tapas, dim sum, sushi (especially the kind that trundles by you on a conveyor belt), and similar types of cuisine are really good fun.

I'll pass on the guinea pig, thanks.

Monday, 13 December 2004

it's beginning to taste a lot like christmas

This weekend, I did a ton of Christmas baking. I made millionaire bars (shortbread base, ooey gooey caramel layer, topped with melted chocolate), Nanaimo bars, and gingerbread cake. Good news: if you work at my office, I will be bringing in said Christmas goodies later this week or early next week. Bad news: they are currently sitting in my fridge and I have been scoffing them down every time I visit the kitchen - I may have to lock some away to ensure I've got some to share at a later date. Next weekend, I will be making peanut butter cookies (not very Christmassy, but my father in law loves them) and something called "snickerdoodles", which Nigella assures me taste like baked cinnamon doughnuts in cookie form.

I usually overindulge in Christmas treats every holiday season. Sadly, this year, I physically cannot stuff myself because the baby is using all of my stomach real estate. I am hungry - eating for two is a delightful concept - but I cannot eat more than an average plateful of not terribly rich food. Gone are the days of dunking Christmas pudding in my egg nog, whilst shoving turkey legs in my mouth (and chucking the bones over one shoulder). No more teetering mountains of tin foil balls from the 305 chocolate santas I've ingested in front of the TV. Candy canes go undunked in my hot chocolate, second helpings go to my husband, and all you can eat buffets are wasted on me unless I bring Tupperware to take food home with me. I might have a glass of port on Christmas Day, wacky gal that I am.

Not only do I lack the stomach room, I seem to be developing t-rex arms as the weeks go by. Last night during our roast lamb dinner (half a leg, it was marvellous, plus we have leftovers), I pulled my chair up to the table as far as I could. Sitting a good two feet away from my plate, I tried to get slices of gravy-covered lamb into my mouth without dribbling on myself. My short arms couldn't compensate for the belly bump, and even though I was leaning as far forward as I could, gravy spilled down the front of my shirt. There's just no graceful way to recover from something like that, especially when the dog takes an interest in cleaning your shirt for you.

It'll still be like other Christmas holidays, come to think of it. I'll be falling asleep on the sofa shortly after lunch with my trousers unbuttoned. I just won't wake up with a hideous hangover this time.

Friday, 10 December 2004

on the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

...three ladies gestating...

...two ladies working ('cos one just went on maternity leave),

and sleep deprivation arriving in the new yeaaaaaar!

That's me, Tosha, and Conchita in our office three bumps photo. Must be the water cooler on our floor!

storytime would be nice, too

I was just thinking about small children and their aversion to both eating and sleeping. Ever tried getting a toddler to sit and eat their meal or take a nap? Impossible. Now think about this in the context of the present, at whatever age you're at. Someone says to you, "Come and eat this meal I made for you. Not only is it your favourite, I've already cut everything up for you to save you any extra manual labour." I would never, in a million years, respond by saying "Nah, I'd rather run around in circles screaming and perhaps later shoving some Lego up my nose to see what happens." But that's kids for you. Same goes for nap time, I couldn't possibly imagine not wanting to take a short rest during the day.

So really, nap time and having food custom made for you should be a privilege we enjoy as adults. Children obviously don't appreciate it; this luxury is wasted on them. Let them shove Play Dough in the DVD player, draw pictures on the walls in condiments, and empty the contents of the pantry on the living room carpet. I'll take their snacks and naps any day.

lisa needs a little lamb

I decided that I would really enjoy a roast lamb dinner for our Sunday roast this weekend. I can do that sort of thing because no sane man would argue with me at this time in my life, and I can get away with being demanding for the time being. So anyway, roast lamb. We've never done a roast lamb before and although I'm sure it's not that difficult to prepare, I think it's a bit of a problem when you're cooking for only 2 (and a half) people. A leg of lamb will surely be too big. What's the alternative? Can you get a small leg of lamb?

Thursday, 9 December 2004

maybe we should call him "pat"

Ever since we found out that we're having a boy, part of me is slightly sceptical that the woman doing the scan got it right. Although she very confidently pointed out his boy bits, neither one of us could see them and we both said to her, "Okay, if you say so!" Even looking at the scan several times at home on DVD (ah, bless Fetal Fotos and the low American dollar), I still can't discern the gender. I read a post from a woman who was devastated because Fetal Fotos told her she was having a girl, but a hospital scan a few weeks later confirmed that it's a boy. Our hospital won't tell us the gender unless we pay for a specific gender scan, and really, I am not worried about it and wouldn't bother with another scan at this point.

Still, part of my brain is preparing itself to greet a new daughter in February. The clothes we have are generally gender neutral and I decided to go with a nursery colour scheme that's also gender neutral, so it wouldn't be a problem if Pip ends up being a girl. I never had a preference anyway, and as an added bonus, we have a girl name at the ready.

It reminds me of The Simpsons:

Homer: "It's a boy! And WHAT A BOY!"

Dr. Hibbert: "That's the umbilical cord. It's a girl."

Homer: "WOOHOO!"

"i've come to fix the fridge"

Nigella Lawson's cookery programmes are known for their softcore porn-like quality: soft focus, close ups of Nigella licking a spoon, lots of "mmmmmmmmm" noises, that sort of thing. What I never noticed is that Nigel Slater's "Real Food" programme is remarkably similar. He actually described melted chocolate as "soft and sexy" while jazzy instrumental music played in the background. While it's all fine and good when Nigella does this (in my opinion, she's attractive and sultry in her own domestic goddess kind of way), it's largely unsettling when Nigel attempts to smoulder on the TV screen. Nigel Slater, it must be said, looks a bit like a diminutive person who has recently been sent on a quest to destroy a very naughty ring. I always imagine that just below the camera's view, you can see him standing on a small footstool.

On the other hand, I understand how people can get passionate about food. Cynics claim that spoon-licking in food programmes is merely to get ratings, but I think there is a sincerity to some people's deep love of food. Mine tends to be more of the Homer variety rather than 9 1/2 Weeks. When I'm eating something I'm enjoying immensely and my tablemate tries to converse with me, my instinct is to bury my head deeper into my plate and say "Can't talk. Eating."

Jasper represents my inner food child remarkably well. When it's suppertime, without the aid of a clock (or the ability to tell time), he sits and stares at us, jumping every time we make a move that might be related to retrieving his food. All I need to say is, "Jasper - are you hungry?" and all you will see is a cloud of fur accompanied by the sound of doggy toenails skittering across the laminate floor as he dashes madly into the kitchen. While I'm filling his food bowl, he jumps up and down on the spot, making the occasional "rrrrowr" noise. Once the bowl hits the floor, he dives into it, not emerging until the very last speck of food is gone. Even then, he will go back to his bowl seconds later to see if it has magically refilled. If I wasn't conscious of appearing socially adept (or sane), this is exactly how I would eat my meals.

This is why I think that it's a load of bullocks when people claim that we eat too much because we have "emotional issues". I eat too much because I enjoy good food, which is actually a happy event in my life. Although you won't find me standing in the kitchen caressing cutlery with my tongue, it is highly likely that you'll find me standing at the fridge eating something directly out of its container. Rrrrrrrowr.

Wednesday, 8 December 2004


I will not moan about the maternity benefits we receive here ever again. Coming from Canada, you tend to assume that the Americans have it better when it comes to things like benefits and holidays. At the last company I worked for in Montreal, you had a year off for maternity leave, for which you got paid (something like 80% of your pay at first, sliding down to 40-50% over the following months). Here, I get 6 weeks at 90% pay, then 6 months at statutory maternity pay (just over £100/week), then 6 months unpaid. I ranted and raved, and made noise about how unfair that was and how on earth do single mothers/low income families do it?

Then I learned what the Americans get.

On one of the pregnancy boards I read, someone asked about maternity leave in the States. Most women get around 2-4 weeks paid, take some time off using their yearly vacation (which is generally 2-3 weeks) and that's about it. Some got paid a little bit longer, some were not paid but their jobs were held for them for at least a couple of months. A manager at our office in Ft. Lauderdale is due in late March and she is returning to work at the beginning of July.

It's mind-boggling. I'll shut up now and just appreciate what I've got.

break out the dreidl

In honour of my lovely Jewish friends, here's a festive Hanukah song courtesy of Adam Sandler. (and I'm not just doing this 'cos I want cheesecake) Everybody sing!

Put on your yalmulkah,

here comes Hanukah,

so much fun-ukah to celebrate Hanukah,

Hanukah is the feastival of lights,

instead of one day of presents we have eight crazy nights!

When you feel like the only kid in town,

without a Christmas tree,

Here's a list of people who are Jewish,

just like you and me!

David Lee Roth,

lights the Menorrah,

so do James Caan, Kirk Dougalas, and the late Diana Shore-ah,

Guess who eats together at the Carnagie Deli,

Bowser from Sha-na-na and Arthur Fonzerelli!

Paul Newman's half Jewish,

Goldie Hawn's half too,

put them together - what a FINE lookin' Jew!

You don't need Deck the Halls or The Jingle Bell Rock,

cause you can spin a dreidl with Captian Kirk and Mr. Spock!

(both Jewish!)

Put on you yalmulka,

it's time for Hanukah,

the owners of the Seattle Supersonic-ahs,

celebrate Hanukah!

OJ Simpson,

not a Jew!

But guess who is?

Hall of Famer Rod Carew (he converted!)

We got Ann Landers and her sister Dear Abby,

Harrison Ford's a quarter Jewish,

Not too shabby!

Some people think,

Ebeneezer Scrooge is,

well he's not but guess who is?

All three Stooges!!!

So many Jews are in show biz,

Tom Cruise isn't,

but I heard his agent is!

Tell your friend Veronica,

its time you celebrate Hanukah!,

I hope I get a harmonica,

on this lovely, lovely Hanukah!

So drink your gin and tonic-ah,

and smoke your marajuanica,

if you really really wanna-kah,

have a happy happy happy,


Tuesday, 7 December 2004

yay, Libby!

Congratulations to Libby and Dan on the birth of their gorgeous little boy yesterday! We'll just have to make another trip to San Francisco one day to say hello and introduce our boys. Much happiness (and sleep!) to you all.

Friday, 3 December 2004

i've got 12 more weeks of THIS?

I woke up in the middle of the night with a sore back, which isn't unusual. I often lie in one position for too long and I wake up with an aching lower back that usually subsides when I roll over to the other side. I rolled over, and the pain got worse. I stood up, thinking that maybe stretching my back out would help. I felt my lower back muscles seize up, cramping and hurting like hell. I put both hands on the bed and bent over, crying and saying "ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!!" trying to figure out why I was in so much pain. Am I in labour?

Paul jumped out of bed and rubbed my back, and my fantastic, loving, very worried husband did everything he could think of while both of us had no idea of what to do. A cold compress made it hurt worse. I couldn't describe the pain to him - it wasn't sharp, so all I could say was "It HURTS!!" A hot water bottle finally did the trick and the pain subsided. I felt Pip tumble around so I knew he was fine (and probably oblivious to the whole thing except for that rush of adrenaline which might have woken him up), and I attempted to go back to sleep. Paranoid that I would wake up in great pain again, I kept waking up and rolling over as soon as I started to feel uncomfortable...which was every 15 minutes or so. Even now, my back is very sore and as an added bonus, my shoulders and neck are in pain as well. Well, this is good fun.

I don't know if it was a pinched nerve or something to do with the sciatic nerve (the pain started on the right hand side of my lower back and went down to the top of my thigh), but I certainly hope this isn't going to be a nightly ritual. My fort of pillows and our gigantic bed should be enough to keep me comfy; I'm not sure what else I can do. Hire a home massage therapist and acupuncturist, maybe?

Thursday, 2 December 2004

i need a womb cam

As I am sitting here attempting to do some work, I can feel what can only be described as intermittent rumbling or intense vibration. Really, I'm at a loss to figure out what Pip could possibly be doing in there. Is he putting his hands against the uterine wall and giving it a good shake? Does he possess a very soft jackhammer? Is he strumming his umbilical cord against my abdomen like a giant guitar string? The mind boggles. It must also boggle the mind of our midwife because she looked at me like I was slightly insane (pot/kettle, lady) when I asked her about it. I explained to her that one night, I woke up because it felt like my entire stomach was vibrating. It wasn't just the little flutters I used to feel weeks ago, this was enough belly shaking to wake me up.

Perhaps the enormous mugs of chai latte tea and hot chocolate I'm consuming at night is making my son a tad jittery.

home stretch

Yesterday marked yet another milestone - I am now in the third trimester. Whee! Of course, depending on which book you read, this may have started 1-2 weeks ago but I'll go with 28 weeks marking this point. It's still quite a long way to go until B-Day, but it's nice to have reached these final weeks. I can divide my pregnancy up into the following stages:

-the first few weeks: still not quite believing that I'm pregnant. Very nervous, super aware of every twinge and ache, and bursting to tell the world.

-after you spill the beans: worried that I've jinxed it. Feel slightly panicky until the first scan date, which takes flippin' forever.

-after the first scan: on cloud nine, still not entirely convinced that there's a baby in there, and feeling less panicky. Wait until the next scan, which takes flippin' forever.

-after the second scan: big relief, and joy at knowing the gender and letting the shopping commence. Once the baby's movements get stronger and I get an impressive bump, it's all so much more real. My brain finally gets round the concept that a little baby will be in our house in a few months. Cannot stop thinking about it, and have not stopped thinking about it since day one. Super duper mega excited.

-waiting for the delivery: in progress. So far, it's a relief to get to this point and have just started to read about labour and birth without cringing. Will let you know how the rest of this stage goes.

Had a midwife appointment yesterday, and all is well. Pip co-operated this time and we got to hear his little heart go thuda thuda thuda thuda, much to our delight. He is lying with his head pointing downwards, which is good but he's still got room to move around and change positions before the birth. I requested some sort of powerful magical pill that will make my heartburn go away. The midwife said they usually prescribe liquid Gaviscon, at which point I said pshaw, that stuff does nothing for me. I pick up my prescription today, so we'll see how that goes. Otherwise, I'm doing well and everything is going normally. Amazingly, even my blood pressure is normal - given my work deadlines at the moment, I thought it would be through the roof.

I have discovered nose strips, little plaster-like things you stick to the bridge of your nose that help you breathe. They're actually quite good if, like me, you're prone to a lot of snuffling and sniffling throughout the night. Have also discovered that they are painful to remove if you decide to rip them off quickly in one go.

Mmm nose waxing.

Wednesday, 1 December 2004


I have a cold. If you need me, I'll be hiding under my desk, holding my head, and sobbing uncontrollably. This not being able to take cold medication malarky is a bucket of poo.

Tuesday, 30 November 2004

i'm going to start selling common sense on eBay

On the most part, pregnancy Web boards make you feel incredibly sane and reasonable in comparison. When I first started frequenting various pregnancy boards, I would smile and sometimes chuckle at the occasional post about pregnancy worries. Some of them I could relate to, and some you know are down to the understandable worry that comes with being pregnant. In recent weeks, it seems like the pregnant world has gone mad. I saw a post from a woman who was terrified because she had a stick of gum containing Aspratame (I wish I was exaggerating, but the post was literally about one stick of gum), that was only heightened by countless replies from other women insisting that any artificial sweetener in any dose will cause terrible harm. Not only that, you shouldn't even go near the stuff when you're not pregnant. Another woman said she was "beating myself up" for having eaten a tuna steak. Another was panicking about a green potato she ate - one month ago. I saw a post warning us of the perils of drinking herbal tea, even the Celestial Seasonings variety, and how we should avoid herbs like rosemary and basil because they'll cause miscarriages (this was a slight misunderstanding about the harm of using these herbs as essential oils, rather than ingesting them in cooking quantities). There was panic in California because a woman ate a piece of rum cake, drama in Colorado when a woman ate a piece of smoked salmon, and peril in Ohio from the inadvertent ingestion of cottage cheese (a bit of confusion over the whole avoid soft cheese thing, I would guess). My good lord, it's amazing babies ever make it to nine months without sprouting extra heads, what with all this bad mothering going on.

I don't know what this all comes down to. Maybe it's just a lack of common sense during pregnancy and we panic about everything. That's feasible, because a lot of other things go out the window during pregnancy like hand/eye co-ordination, short term memory, and the ability to stop ourselves from slapping annoying people. I also think it's due to a phenomenon called Too Much Information. Books contradict each other, even doctors differ in opinions about what's safe. We rely on the Internet to diagnose our ailments and provide answers. We don't trust our own instincts anymore because "studies" keep proving that the things we thought were harmless are actually lethal. We follow these factoids blindly and rely on the advice of others - no matter how irrational it is.

I will admit that I have worried about things that make me laugh now (e.g. just before my first scan, I suddenly had the thought that maybe there was no baby in there and I was experiencing some sort of phantom pregnancy). What saddens me is this constant stream of women who are devastated because they may have harmed their babies, when in fact, they've not. I'm always banging on about the myriad of ways we're made to feel like Bad Mothers, but I think it's even worse when we do it to ourselves.

have a holly

My ex-neighbour man Mark brought up an interesting point about Christmas and how to refer to it if you're not Christian. I'm sure I'm going about the whole thing all wrong from both ends of the spectrum - not only am I not a follower of any particular faith (Christian or otherwise), I also don't find Christmas to be an over-commercialised atrocity. So, I suppose that puts me somewhere in the middle.

I've always loved Christmas, and I'll admit, I never considered the religious aspect of it. Maybe it sounds ridiculous considering the origin of the holiday, but the 25th of December didn't make me think about mangers, wise men, and swaddling clothes. As a child, I only thought about being well behaved for Santa Claus, opening presents, and going to my Grandparent's house for our big turkey dinner. The first Christmas ad on television was an exciting milestone, and I eagerly anticipated the onslaught of animated TV specials. I would wake up at 3am, desperately willing the time away until a more reasonable hour, usually bounding down the stairs before 6. I would check to see what Santa had eaten (my Dad always just took a few bites out of the peanut butter sandwiches and cookies I'd leave out, so that Santa could leave his "mark"), and if the reindeer had nibbled on the carrots and sipped from the basin of water I'd left out as well. If we were living in a house that had no chimney at the time, my Dad would make a point of leaving the patio doors unlocked for Santa. It was the best day of the year, even better than my birthday.

As an adult, I still get excited when the first Christmas ad comes on (although they seem to start up earlier each year, and yes, that's annoying) and I absolutely adore the holidays. I love putting up the tree, the house filling with the smell of fresh pine that didn't come from a bottle of floor cleaner. I cannot help but ooh and aaah when the outdoor lights go up and get switched on for the first time. I like buying boxes of Christmas cards; I even like writing them. I love the feeling of finding a good gift for someone, and I'm more interested in watching others open their gifts than what's under the tree for me. I look forward to getting together with friends, plying them with baked goods and having a cuddle with their kids. I cannot wait until next year when our son will experience his first Christmas, and later years when we can leave out snacks for Santa and the reindeer together. Christmas has a distinct feel to me, that can only be described as a general feeling of excitement that's only just slightly less extreme than the excitement I felt as a kid. Very slightly.

So at the risk of offending the Christians and the people who feel that Dec. 25th is an over-hyped abomination, I will stand up and say that I am agnostic, and I love Christmas. It's supposed to be a celebration, a spirit of giving and appreciation. Religious or not, it has always been a significant holiday to me and I think that's the whole point. Christmas is whatever you want it to be, whether it involves prayer and hymns, or dressing the dog up in reindeer antlers and consuming mass quantities of brandy butter.

'Tis the season.

Monday, 29 November 2004

it's a sign

First we had the Virgin Mary on toast (sold on eBay for an astounding $28k), and as Ed pointed out on his blog, now we've got Christ on a fish stick. I've been checking my food items for signs of divine intervention, but sadly, the best I could come up with was two peanut rice crackers that had stuck together and sort of looked like buttocks.

These mysterious images on cooked foods stories reminded me of a friend of mine who got hold of a Goofy toast imprinter and thoroughly confused his father with it. He found a plastic implement that when pressed into a slice of bread, left an indentation of Goofy's face on it. It wasn't entirely visible when the bread was untoasted, which is how he managed to stamp an entire loaf of bread and put it back in the breadbox without his father noticing. Every morning when his Dad made toast, the image of Goofy would appear on each slice. He was convinced that Disney must be running some sort of promotion, and found it irritating that they had infringed on his usual commercial-free breakfasts.

So keep an eye peeled for any unusual patterns in your baked goods, images on patterns of mould growing on leftovers, and oddly-shaped vegetables. It could be your key to financial independence!

night owl

Pip has been extremely kicky and tumbly for the past few days, so it was a bit worrying when he being very quiet yesterday. He tends to follow the same pattern: kick Mummy at 9am and continue periodically throughout the morning, have a quick rest for lunch, start prodding Mummy again in the middle of the afternoon, have another rest during dinner, make popcorn in Mummy's tummy for the duration of the evening, and give her a few jabs just before bed. Yesterday, I didn't feel anything when I woke up, and nothing after breakfast. I wiggled my belly (while Jasper looked on with great curiosity) and got a light kick, and that was it until lunchtime. During lunch, I got one more kick, and that was it until the evening when I got a few more pokes.

I know that there's no point in doing those inane "kick counts" recommended by some (mostly American) books and resources because every baby has periods of rest. For those of you not in the know, books like "What to Expect When You're Expecting" claim that you should start counting kicks after 28 weeks. You should be able to count ten movements (kicks, swishes, etc.) in ten minutes, and if not, you should call your doctor immediately. No really, I'm not making this up.

I wasn't panicking, but it was unusual for Pip to be this quiet. I finished reading my book (Patricia Cornwell's "The Last Precinct", if you're curious - a very good read), switched off the light, and settled into my fort of pillows to sleep.

Then Pip woke up.

Kick kick kick kick kick kick flutter kick poke prod tumble kick kick kick kick flutter swoosh kick. Repeat for the entire night, into the morning, and up until the very moment that I'm typing this. Oh please let this not be his waking pattern after he's born. Please.

Thursday, 25 November 2004

oh, THERE you are!

Speaking of milestones, yet another exciting one occurred last night - Paul felt Pip squirm and kick for the very first time! Yay! Pip was being particularly active yesterday evening (I think I've got my kid addicted to chai tea) and was giving me enthusiastic kicks. It reminded me of Jiffy Pop; it was like watching popcorn pop underneath the tin foil surface on the stove top. Paul put his hand on my tummy, and even though Pip did his usual "Ooh there's Daddy, I'm going to hide now" trick for a few seconds, he couldn't resist giving us a good wriggle that Paul could actually feel. He described it as feeling like muscle twitches, which is exactly how it felt to me at the time. I'm sure he'll feel the big kicks soon and will catch a glimpse of my tummy making popcorn.

A round of applause for you, my kicky boy.

i don't think i want fries with that

We were watching an American home makeover type program the other day, and the host was extolling the virtues of a particular smoker/BBQ. In addition to the fact that it was the size of a Mini Cooper, apparently it could deep fry two turkeys at a time.

Deep fried turkeys?

Paul was on a telephone conference yesterday with our Ft. Lauderdale office, and someone mentioned that he was planning on deep frying a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner tonight. When did this trend start, and does a deep fried turkey actually taste good? Do you coat it in a crispy batter with seven secret herbs and spices? How on earth do you deep fry a 20 lb. turkey at home without the aid of an industrial fryer?

Truly, I'm perplexed by this concept. Someone please explain.

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

but on the other hand...

Okay, I know that I've been moaning/whining a lot lately about pregnancy. To be totally honest, I do love being pregnant. I mean, how cool is it to feel a little baby wriggling around inside of you, knowing that you provide its lifeline? I've been fascinated by my growing belly, and not a day goes by that I don't notice something new (good or bad). I suppose some find the idea of having no control over your own body to be rather terrifying, I find it incredibly interesting. It's rather exciting to not know what'll happen next. Each little milestone is a great event; I cannot wait for the next one.

I do admit that I am very eager for the baby to be born. I am so curious to see what he will look like and more importantly, I cannot wait to hold him in my own two hands. I am an extremely tactile person (as my poor overcuddled dog will attest to), and rubbing my belly isn't really comparable to the kind of contact we will have in a few months.

Heather very kindly gave us two huge bagfuls of clothes, little shoes, dummies, a baby bath, and a toy for the car seat/buggy. I couldn't suppress the involuntary "awwwwwwww" noise that came out of me as I folded up each item and put it in the cupboard. It's hard to believe that these little tiny clothes will contain a real baby in three months. At the moment, my perception of him is the blurry skeletal figure we've seen in scans, that wriggles around inside of me and gives me a good kick every now and then. How I wish we could take another peek inside with a surgical camera or something similar - if only to figure out what on earth he's doing when it feels like there's an earthquake going on in there.

kiwis can fly

My favourite Kiwis Jack and Heather are planning on moving back home next October. Part of me is very sad about this. They are the first friends I made in Cambridge, and I will miss them terribly. Part of me is quite pleased about this. Now we really have a great excuse to visit New Zealand and woohoo free B&B accommodation! (Or at least they can recommend a good place to stay.)

Over the past four years I've discovered that us ex-pat Commonwealthers have a lot in common. The English think we pronounce things funny, we cannot understand why people carpet their bathrooms and kitchens here, we can sympathise with each other's pathetic dollar, we are often confused with another nationality starting with "A", and we love the fact that we can vote and there's squat all the British can do about it. It's been great to not only have these things in common, but to be friends with someone here who knows and loves Montreal. Plus, there's nothing funnier than hearing a Kiwi bloke yell out "tabarnacle!!" at the office.

Through the miracle of modern technology, I know that we'll keep in touch. Still, I've never had close friends live that far away from me before, and that's going to be a bit weird. The next 11 months are going to be busy for all of us, but here's hoping we make the most of it. Oh, and we expect a large BBQ of some sort before you go - you guys are really good at grilling things.

Tuesday, 23 November 2004

i need to hibernate

I have been feeling positively icky lately. I'm tired, achey, nauseous, and my arse goes numb if I don't get up and move every hour. Heartburn continues to plague me, and enjoys waking me up late at night, forcing me to fumble around in the dark for a Tums. I cannot get comfortable, no matter where I am. I want to go home and wrap myself in my duvet, and sip hot chocolate with my dog by my side.

Shame about this chaotic work deadline and the fact that my maternity leave doesn't start for over two months. Help.

travelling vicariously through others

I never used to enjoy hearing about other people's travels or looking at their photos after a holiday. I'd nod and smile, and think to myself why on earth would you want to get on a plane for 10 hours and end up somewhere you don't speak the language and the drinking water is dodgy? When I started travelling myself, I finally understood what people meant by "being bitten by the travel bug". I started reading travel guides and books by Bill Bryson, and was actually interested in hearing about other people's holidays (on the most part - stories about two weeks in Ibizia aren't quite as fascinating to me). So when unique travel programmes pop up on television, I get hooked. Recently added to my viewing list is "Long Way Round" and "Billy Connolly's World Tour of New Zealand" (sadly, Michael Palin's "Himalayas" series has just ended).

"Long Way Round" follows Ewan McGregor (eeee!!) and his mate Charlie as they make their way east from England to New York on motorcycles. It's not really one of those shows that makes you want to head to the shop, buy a bike, and head out yourself; it's nail-biting and fascinating and makes you think "better them than me, and oooh isn't this sofa comfy?" The Billy Connolly programme follows the same format as his other world tour series; it's a travelogue interspersed with clips from his live shows. This programme really makes me want to spend an ungodly amount of time on an airplane to visit New Zealand, rather that let Billy enjoy it for us. Plus, I bet the drinking water in New Zealand isn't dodgy.

If I could go anywhere in the world (no expense spared and let's pretend that I'm not semi-heavy with child), I would go to Japan. It's partly a getting back to my roots thing, an interest cultivated by the brief glimpses into the culture via my family. Where would you go?

Monday, 22 November 2004

this n' that

Clothes that I pushed to the "pfffft, I can only wear this when I'm 9 months pregnant" section of my closet actually fit me. Clothes that were in my "this ought to fit me right up until the birth" section now don't fit me very well. I figure by February, I'll be wearing a duvet cover. Don't even get me started about the twelve different bra sizes I've got in my underwear drawer.

If I ever get any free time, I'm going to write a book entitled "A Guide to Pregnancy That Isn't Full of Cack". Chapters will include: "Yes, that's normal: Why your pregnancy isn't exactly like What to Expect When You're Expecting tells you it should be", "Not having morning sickness is a blessing, not a bad omen", "That one cup of coffee/sip of wine/slice of smoked salmon will not kill you or your unborn child", and "You're pregnant. You'll gain weight. Get over it." Of course, it's probably a better idea to write a book like this when I'm not irritable and easily annoyed.

I've just been enlightened about the concept of attachment parenting; I'd never heard of it before. As I understand it, this involves wearing the baby in a sling whenever possible, "co-sleeping" with the baby, avoiding frequent separations from your child, and letting the child decide when it's time to wean from breastfeeding. I don't get it. Is this another way to make working mothers and those who cannot/do not want to breastfeed feel like Bad Mothers? Although I'm all for bonding with your baby and believe that physical contact is very important, I cannot imagine having the baby tethered to me at all times and would be terrified of rolling over and crushing him if he was in bed with us. Truly, I do not get this concept at all.

And finally, my laugh of the day (from a pregnancy magazine): "By week 27, you may have gained up to 2kg by now!" I think I gained 2kg approximately 10 minutes after finding out I was pregnant, thanks.

what a bunch of turkeys

Do all Americans get two days off work for Thanksgiving, or is it up to the company you work for? I got an email last week stating that our Ft. Lauderdale office will be closed on Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving. Two days off! A four day weekend! Why, when I was a child, we only got one day off for Canadian Thanksgiving. After we walked 23 miles through the snow in our bare feet, fighting off polar bears and irate baby seals (and you can't blame them for being annoyed, really), we'd get the Monday off to eat our frozen turkey dinner. The next day, we'd be back in the snow again, throwing leftovers at the polar bears and running as fast as we could to school where we'd be forced to learn French and play ice hockey. You Americans have it so good, you have no idea.

Friday, 19 November 2004

hello in there!

Pip tends to get quite active when I'm stuck in meetings, and today was no exception. He was rolling around and kicking about, having a grand old time (I assume). I looked down at my belly during one of his more acrobatic moments, and I saw a kick from the outside! For the very first time, I saw a little protrusion that lasted only a second. It was amazing. And a bit strange, to be honest. You go months without really knowing that there's a baby in there (except when it's confirmed by scans and midwife appointments), then you start feeling movements and it becomes a lot more real, and then you can make out limbs poking your abdomen from the inside. Okay, there's definitely someone in there! I cannot stop looking down at my belly, hoping to catch another visible kick.

I keep reading about baby hiccups (I get a few "your baby this week" updates from various sites), but I'm not sure if I've felt this yet. I did feel a rhythmic "twinge" at one point today, that felt a bit like a muscle twitching for a few minutes. Maybe that was hiccups. Or gas.

My poor old esophagus is still being plagued by heartburn/acid reflux, which I have now accepted as normal for at least the next 14 weeks of my life. At least it's nice knowing that I get it no matter what I eat, so I can go ahead and eat my spicy food favourites with the same consequences. Ooh and chocolate too.

Damn, hungry now.

honey, i blew up the toaster

It was like Guy Fawkes all over again in the kitchen this morning. I put my bagel into the toaster and after a couple of minutes, sparks started flying. Flaming embers burst out of the top of the toaster (oooooh! aaaaah!), a loud "BANG" followed, and then the smell of burning electrical goods. The kettle socket on the other side of the kitchen went out in sympathy. Gathering my smouldering bagel, I crept over to Tosha's desk and asked her to let the office know about the exploding toaster, and headed downstairs to use the other kitchen. So for those of you who were inconvenienced by the whole affair this morning, I do apologise.

Hmm. My bagel tastes a bit funny.

Thursday, 18 November 2004


I have discovered that it's really difficult to conduct an interview when you've got a baby clog dancing inside you and you have the worst heartburn ever*. Concentration was impossible and the poor guy probably thought I needed to pee because I couldn't sit in one position for more than two minutes. Luckily, most of our interviewing will take place in the next few weeks. Interviews in January might have been a bit challenging, especially if my water broke in the middle of it, for example. There's just no graceful way to get around that, really.

*(I knew that Mexican meal would come back to haunt me, but it was worth it. And I'd do it again.)

Tuesday, 16 November 2004

bore the world

So at 8:00 this morning, my clock radio goes off and I wake up to the opening notes of the new version of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" on Radio One. Maybe it's because I had only just woken up. Maybe it's because I'm old enough to remember the original from 20 years ago. Maybe it's because I'm a cranky broad. I just didn't like it.

I think it pales in comparison for a couple of reasons: it lacks the big name factor that the original had (Will Young vs. Spandau Ballet, for example), you can't really tell who's singing each line, and oh my good god, the rap in the middle of the song. Words fail me. The 1984 version was so exciting because wow, it was Duran Duran, Boy George, Sting, Bananarama, and a bunch of other people we all knew singing together on one track! (Okay, I admit I had no idea who Status Quo were until I moved here and didn't realise they were the two old geezers in the video until I watched a documentary about it a few weeks ago.) It was Christmassy, catchy, and it was a unique concept. I think a lot of us old timers expected that same jolly feeling we got listening to the chorus of "feeeeed the worrrrrld!", but instead got a couple of overmixed refrains with a wailing electric guitar in the foreground. And does anyone outside of the UK know who the Sugababes are? Or Busted?

Yes, it's nice to see celebs raise money for a worthy cause, especially if they're not doing it to revive flagging careers. It's better they put together something like this rather than take part in cringeworthy television antics such as "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" or "Celebrity Big Brother" (Jack Dee excepted). Does it provide an excuse to put out a mediocre bordering on dire song?

Well, at least Mr. Blobby probably won't get the Christmas number one again this year.

Monday, 15 November 2004

i've always wanted tight abs, but this is ridiculous

All weekend long, I felt as if my non-existent abdominal muscles kept flexing. It's not exactly painful, just uncomfortable. I have no idea if these are the "practice" Braxton Hicks contractions I've read about, but I think I'll chalk it up to doing too much hoovering and laundry.

I think that in a small way, the nesting instinct has kicked in early. I haven't got to the stage where I've decided to alphabetise our pantry or hose down the loft with Pine Sol, but my tolerance for mess seems to be lowering daily. I found myself wiping down surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes yesterday, thinking that I should rid the patio doors of unhygienic doggy nose-prints because they're not good for the baby. The baby that's not due for over three months, that is. Yerrrs.

I also have the urge to bake. Not sure what this has to do with having a baby, but it does make me pretty damn happy. The eating more than the baking, mind you.

happiness is...

...having leftover roast beef from last night's dinner for today's lunchtime sandwiches. Extra super duper happiness is having a husband who made the roast beef dinner for you. Mega extra ultra happiness is having leftover gravy (that your husband also made) for tonight's sausage and mash dinner. Indescribable happiness is knowing that there are homemade brownies in the fridge waiting for dessert.

I am a simple gal. Forget diamonds, bring me roasties.

Sunday, 14 November 2004

oh, how i love one stop shopping

We went to Kiddicare in Peterborough yesterday, and oh my, but it was good. Talk about a shop that has (almost) everything! I am very pleased to say that our little Pip now has: a travel system (which was much cheaper in the shop than listed on the site, because it's last season's colours), a nappy wrapper that seals up dirty nappies like a sausage, a Baby Bjorn Active carrier, a cot, and a changing mat. I am now the proud owner of: a baby bag, a breast pump, a nursing pillow, and a microwave steriliser. Paul's credit card is still fizzling and smoldering away in his wallet.

It's a huge relief and it's really exciting to see the nursery filling up with baby things. We still need quite a few bits and bobs (nappies, most importantly) but all of the big stuff has now been taken care of. I thought it would be much better to get it all done now while I still have the energy and inclination to shop, rather than fight through the Christmas crowds next month or wait until January when I'll be the size of a large sea mammal. Plus, it's been fun to get all giddy and say to each other "We're having a baby!" whilst playing with our new purchases.

We have booked our Parentcraft half day class and hospital tour for late January. I figured the later the better - if I try to absorb information about labour and delivery now, it'll all be gone by next month. We start our NCT classes on January 5th. It's not that long to go, really. Erk.

At least Pip doesn't have to sleep in a drawer, though.

another reason to go visit Scotland

Smoking is going to be banned in enclosed public places in Scotland, which I think is going a bit overboard (places that are only used for the consumption of drinks don't need a smoking ban, in my opinion) but definitely a step in the right direction. So that leaves the English and the Welsh with a decision to make, and hopefully it'll result in a ban in restaurant smoking here at the very least. Now again, let me stress (for you new readers or those of you who Googled for something totally unrelated and ended up here - hello, by the way) that I am not a rabid anti-smoker. I smoked with great joy for over 15 years and only quit because it was affecting my health; not because I didn't enjoy it. What I never agreed with, even when I was a smoker, was inconsiderate smoking - something I posted about a couple of weeks ago.

On Friday night, we went to our favourite curry house which is supposedly entirely non-smoking. What we didn't realise is that while the restaurant itself is non-smoking, the bar area where people sit and wait for their takeaways isn't. Guess where our table was located? Yes, it's me again, the smoke magnet. Shortly after our waiter took our order, I wondered aloud why I could smell smoke. Paul pointed out that someone was having a cig whilst waiting for his takeaway, and we noticed the ashtrays sitting on the bar, about ten feet from our table. Well that's a bit silly, we remarked, and got back to another conversation. The smell got a lot stronger, I looked over and spotted two men sitting by the bar smoking and waiting for their food. After they finished their cigarettes, in unison, they both lit another. Now the restaurant was filling up with smoke, to the point that it lingered in my hair and clothing the next day. Getting a headache and trying to enjoy (and taste) our starters, they finally got their food and left - only to be replaced by another smoker waiting for his takeaway. What is the point of having a non-smoking restaurant if you allow people to puff away to their heart's content right next to the tables? This is what I mean by inconsiderate smoking, or the lack of considerate smoking rules. I know for a fact that it's a hell of a lot easier to go without a smoke for a meal or go outside a couple of times to sneak a cig, rather than sit through an entire meal breathing in someone else's smoke. Get smoking out of restaurants. Full stop.

If you elect me for Prime Minister, I promise smoke-free restaurants and chocolate for all. I thank you.

Friday, 12 November 2004

how to use pregnancy to your advantage

This week, I've had three different people on three different occasions ask if I'm going to go into labour. How is this an advantage, you might ask? For all three situations, it was said in fear. For example, "You're not about to go into labour, are you?" after presenting a slightly stressful dilemma to me. I have decided that whenever a situation may get a bit harrowing or I am about to have more work dumped on me, I will clutch my belly and start making "hoo hoo hoo hoo!" breathing noises until my colleagues flee in terror. I am also going to try this in long queues and see if it gets me to the front more quickly. Will keep you all posted.

Thursday, 11 November 2004

heave ho

I think Pip's gained about 20 lbs. and he's filled my belly with cement. Everything aches and I feel like I'm carrying five bowling balls around with me, and I'm not just referring to the alarmingly large breasts I seem to be developing all of a sudden. When I sit down, I can feel whatever I've just eaten sitting in my stomach, which is now located approximately an inch below the bottom of my bra. I'm not sure if my belly is growing up, or my chest is sinking lower. I suspect a bit of both.

I think that babies must go through growth spurts, because it always feels like I get bombarded by various ills and woes all at once after days of feeling pretty darn good. Then one day I wake up and I can't roll over in bed without making an old lady noise. Actually, I can't move at all without making some sort of noise, and it's really disconcerting. I stand up from sitting down and it's "oooooof!", I sit down after standing up and it's "aaaaach", and I cannot get in and out of the car without making a huffy puffy breathy noise. And yes, I know I've got 15 more weeks to go and it'll just get a lot noisier.

On the plus side, I love that I can feel Pip all the time now and his kicks and jabs are getting stronger. Paul still hasn't been able to experience this for himself yet (Pip does have a knack for going quiet as soon as Paul gets within a foot of me), but I'm sure it'll be soon. Oh and big shopping this weekend - we're off to Kiddicare to get lots of stuff. Woooooooo!

better now, thank you

I'm not quite as tetchy today, and I owe it all to owning a pet. Seriously, you cannot be miserable when you have a pet at home who will love you no matter what kind of stinky mood you're in. There is nothing more therapeutic than giving your pet a hug (except if you happen to own a tropical fish or tarantula, perhaps) and watching how incredibly goofy they can be. Take Jasper, for example. You can give that dog a rolled up envelope from a piece of junk mail, and he will march around the house wagging his little doggy ass off as if you've just given him a million bucks. What lesson can we learn from this? Take joy in the little things and incidentally, junk mail envelopes are pretty tasty.

It's also hard to stay in a bad mood when you've got an overexcited developer standing next to you, shifting back and forth excitedly remarking, "I'm being annoying, aren't I?" Yes you are, but bless you, you're just so cute I don't actually feel like beating you with my stapler. I am sure this is some sort of chemical reaction to impending motherhood; small, irritating people* are somehow much more tolerable and even slightly endearing.

And it's Friday tomorrow. The week is looking up.

*(Disclaimer: the particular developer I was referring to isn't actually irritating. Don't get all huffy.)

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

especially for you

Sharon Osbourne once said that she put dog poo in Tiffany boxes and posted them to people she wasn't particularly fond of. Given the annoying situations I've had to deal with at work lately, I am very tempted to follow Jasper around with a little plastic bag and create some gifts for those who irk me. Tiffany boxes probably won't interest people who work in IT, so I think I may have to use alternative packaging such as XBox game cases and boxes from or

No court would convict me. It's the hormones, you see.

Tuesday, 9 November 2004


Of all the pregnancy weirdness I've read about, I've not come across this one: has anyone heard of allergies suddenly getting much worse or suddenly developing an allergy to something new? We went to visit our friends Russ and Debs this weekend, and they have a lovely little cocker spaniel called Jake. Jake's been to our house and vice versa numerous times over the past 2 1/2 years, and I've spent plenty of time with him. As far as I know, I've never been allergic to dogs - proven by the fact that Jasper has never bothered my allergies. My worst allergy is to cats, which not only makes me sneeze like a lunatic and rub my eyes out, I cannot breathe properly and my chest tightens to the point I start wheezing. So for no apparent reason, my allergies went ballistic this weekend. Unless Jake has been replaced by a cat donning a cocker spaniel suit, I am at a loss to explain this sudden reaction. We thought I might have been reacting to Deb's lovely bouquet of lilies she had on her windowsill, but then I noticed that the patch on my arm Jake had been lovingly slurping turned red and bumpy. When we left the house, I was fine after a few minutes. As soon as we returned, angry allergies came back.

I spent the night sitting up and coughing, trying to catch my breath (and cursing the fact that I can't take any allergy tablets). I'm fine now, and Jasper hasn't even made my nose itch so I assume I haven't suddenly developed a dog allergy. Strange.

clear as mud

Most of the time, I love my job. No really, I do. Then there are days like today when a CPR (an internal request to fix a problem) arrives in my inbox to the effect of, "I don't like the words in this dialogue box. Change them." Right. So I email this guy and ask him to please be more specific, and the response I get amounts to "I dunno, it's just yucky." Oh, alrighty then.

Let me elaborate on this further by pointing out that the person who raised this CPR is a test engineer* - it's his job to test the software and provide useful, detailed information when he finds something wrong. I like test engineers; I married one. I don't like people who can't be bothered to do their jobs properly. It vexes me greatly.

And here I am with no chocolate within reach.

*(not from our office, don't get all huffy.)

Thursday, 4 November 2004

i'm eating for two (large truck drivers)

Had a lovely fun lunch with the Pregnant Ladies Club today, wherein I almost completely devoured a very large plate of fish and chips. The frightening thing is that right now, I'm still kind of hungry. Seeing as there is supposed to be less room as the baby grows, I'm not entirely sure where the fish and chips went. Perhaps I've grown a second stomach to accommodate the extra food intake.

Today's lunchtime discussion made me realise that we have lots of shopping left to do. So far, Pip has a jaunty outfit, a half dozen sleeping gowns, muslins (or rather, heavier duty cloths from Gerber we found in the States), two Snoopy dummies, a Snoopy pillow, two stuffed dogs, and a baby monitor. If he were to arrive today, he'd have to sleep in a drawer. Or in one of Jasper's beds. Hmmm. Not good. I know that there are several things that we don't need to get right away like a crib/cot (we're borrowing a moses basket from Gary and Ruth for the first few months), and anything related to solid food feeding, but we really do need to sort out a car seat and some sort of buggy/pram/travel system type thing...and nappies, wipes, bath/cleaning things, breastfeeding things, and items for my hospital bag. And a bag, for that matter. I felt like we have tons of time left but then talk about delivering early made me think that we might have less time than we think. Still, we have at least three months to get organised and we only really need to worry about the things that might have to be backordered like travel systems.

Oh yeah, and at some point, we've got to do some Christmas shopping. Gah.

i do get there eventually

Honeymoon pictures can now be seen here. Sorry that the pictures are a bit small; I'm running out of disk space and I had to reduce the images.

Trip diary coming soon...ish.

Wednesday, 3 November 2004

mind the bump

I keep forgetting to take pictures of my bump, so I threw the camera at Paul this morning (hence my wet head) and asked him to snap a pic for me. Here I am at 24 weeks today:

And now you can see why shaving my legs and painting my toes are no longer an easy feat. Last night while watching "Little Angels" on BBC3 (better to learn all about raising children now, you see), Pip gave me an almighty kick that I could most definitely feel from the outside. I rushed over next to Paul and placed his hand on my belly, waiting for the next kick. For the next several minutes, I could feel a few flutters and could feel him shifting around a bit, but nothing powerful enough for Paul to feel. Paul said not to worry because it won't be long now before he'll be able to feel the kicks for himself. Although I've enjoyed this secret method of communication between Pip and myself for the past couple of months, I am really eager for Paul to get in on it now too.

Tuesday, 2 November 2004

the sun salutation might be a bit challenging

I have my first antenatal yoga class tomorrow evening, and I'm all agog. I absolutely love yoga but haven't done it in ages; I cannot wait to get back into it. I imagine that yoga for pregnancy involves a lot of deep breathing, gentle stretching, and something to do with the pelvic floor. What I always loved best about yoga was the meditation and relaxation aspects of it. Seeing as I've got this newfound tranquility happening lately, along with the yoga, I should slip nicely into deep relaxation. Or I'll fall asleep after the first 20 minutes, which is entirely possible these days.

Paul sorted through our finances and worked out how much we need to shell out to other people every month. I was really pleased and relieved to hear that we could live on one salary for as long as we need to. This is great news - up until this point, I just assumed that I could only afford to take six months off at the most. While I can't imagine never working again, I also can't imagine handing our baby over to someone 5 days a week. At least this way, I can choose to return to work later (i.e. after one year), return part time, become a contractor, or not return to work at all. That last option has a lot of appeal at the moment, I can tell you. This takes a huge load off my mind and I will be eternally grateful that I have a husband who is much, much better with money than I am. It's going to be very strange living off of someone else's salary. I've never done it before and I find the whole concept odd, but I suppose it's going to be a necessity. Paul said that I will still be working full time (and then some), just not at my desk at the office. So in this respect, I'm still earning a living, really.

It's funny, it's hard to think outside of the stereotypes sometimes. For example, while I was saying to Paul that I would hate to have our son in daycare during the months when he'll be changing the most and that I wouldn't want to miss out on anything, he rightly pointed out that only one of us won't be missing out. He'll be at work while I'll be at home for all of the "firsts", which I completely took for granted. Of course there's nothing saying that Pip won't take his first step in the evening or on the weekend when Paul's around, but I never really thought about how most fathers miss out on the important stuff. I think that's going to be hard on him.

I really admire my friend Tony who has begun working from home now that his wife has gone back to teaching (their son is now around 16 months old). How many Dads do that? How many Dads can do that? I think it's very cool. This isn't really an option for Paul because he's a manager and needs to be onsite at least part of the week, but I know he would take the opportunity if he could. So hurray to Tony who I know is thoroughly enjoying this special time with his son.

oh, pluck it

"Is that a grey hair?" Paul asked as he looked at the back of my head. "A what?!" "I think you have a grey hair." "Pull it out! Pull it out!!" And with one tug, Paul laid the colourless strand of hair in my hand as I stared at it in disbelief. I've never had a grey hair before. Ever. When I go to the hairdresser's, they often ask if I dye my hair (it's very dark) and I proudly tell them that it is all natural. I have no need to dye my hair, for no grey hairs have I. Hah! I laugh at you, Miss Clairol! But what will become of me now that I've sprouted this old lady strand of hair? Is this a sign of things to come? Or can we chalk it up to pregnancy weirdness? Let's opt for the latter.

To be honest, I've never really cared that much about aging. When I was 25, a friend's girlfriend used to warn me of the perils of becoming her age - the ripe old age of 30. "When you get to be my age," she'd always warn, then she'd go on about having to slather yourself with lotion and sit under large floppy hats when you're out in the sun. So 30 came and went, and really, it wasn't terribly eventful. My face didn't fall off, my skin didn't turn to scales, and in fact, life got a hell of a lot better. I never understood people who described themselves as "approaching" a certain age, with a distinct tone of dread. When you're 35, I don't think you can really say that you're approaching 40. Even a 5 year old is approaching 40; they'll get there one day. To me, approaching an age means you're about to celebrate that particular birthday in the coming year. So, I'm approaching 36 and I'm not that bothered about it.

Except if that grey hair comes back with more of its friends, then I'll be annoyed.

Monday, 1 November 2004


I've noticed something quite pleasant in the last couple of weeks - a sense of calmness. During quiet moments when I have time to think about how I feel, I've been surprised at how remarkably serene I've felt. Considering I'm in the midst of a big deadline at work (that will continue right up until I go on maternity leave), I'm amazed at how calm I am. Maybe this is the "glowing" part of pregnancy, and I'll feel at one with the world. Until I throw myself into a panic when I go into labour.

After a few days of thinking that Pip had gone very quiet on me, he's now back in full force. I feel kicks, prods, and tumbles from the time I wake up until I lie in bed reading at night. I cannot tell if he can be felt from the outside because whenever I put my hand on my tummy to check, he stops moving. Paul had his hand on my tummy for ages in bed last night, and as soon as he took his hand away, Pip started line dancing again. Little trickster.

As we inch our way towards kitting out the nursery, we bought a baby monitor on Saturday. Now we just need to buy a crib, car seat, buggy, nappy-related things, bedding, feeding-related things, nappies, and a bazillion other things. What was I saying about feeling calm and tranquil?

it'll catch on, one day

We got around 6 or 8 trick or treaters last year, so I thought I'd pick up some miniature chocolate bars just in case we got some again this year. As I was sampling a few on Saturday, Paul pointed out that they are supposed to be for the kids. I pointed out that this was our son's first Halloween and he has dressed up as a football, and ate five more chunky miniature Kit Kats. I attempted to carve a more intricate pumpkin this year with a Finding Nemo theme, however my clumsy hands and inferior carving equipment led to the untimely collapse of poor Nemo's face. "We can stick a candle on the windowsill instead," Paul suggested.

So on Saturday, the doorbell rang. "Trick or treat!" shouted the little blonde girl who lives across the road and her two friends. "Um. You do realise that Halloween is tomorrow night?" I was answered by perplexed smiles and hopeful hands holding plastic bags. I threw a large handful of chocolate in each bag and said they could come back again on Sunday night if they liked. They shouted their thanks and scampered away.

On Halloween night, our first trick or treaters rang the bell at around 5pm. A father pushing a stroller stood there with two small children, as they held out bags and mumbled "trick or treat". "You're my very first trick or treaters of the night!" I told them with great enthusiasm. Blank looks, father continues to stand there saying nothing. "Erm. Here you go then," I said as I handed them some candy. One kid said something to me, but I couldn't understand a word through his oversized mask - which didn't seem to matter as the father was already halfway down our driveway trying to escape the crazy foreign lady who dares to speak to strangers. "How odd", I said to Paul. "The father didn't even say hello or smile. You'd think he would have been a bit friendly to someone giving his kids free chocolate". "We're English", Paul explained. Which really did sum it up.

I think I mentioned this last year, but it seems like most of the kids who come round aren't actually enjoying themselves. Trick or treating is a relatively new concept to the British, and as it's not a tradition yet, I think that children are rather confused about the whole thing. They know if they go to enough houses they might get some candy, but they're not entirely sure why - or if it should be fun. It's a great shame; I feel like they're missing out on the excitement of Halloween. Some might argue that going door to door and demanding candy is all part of that American "give us something for nothing" mentality, but to me, the candy was secondary to the fun of trick or treating. I remember some parents would make us do something like tell a joke or sing a song before we'd get our candy, some would put up elaborate decorations with spooky sound effects and jump out of their bushes at kids as they approached the house. We'd dress up at school for the day and have costume contests and stuff ourselves with candy apples. It really wasn't just a matter of ringing bells and getting little packets of squashed crisps, it was an entire day and evening of excitement.

We got around a dozen kids this year (compare that to the 133 kids my Mom and Dad got last night in Toronto), all of them actually dressed up this time, and no surly teens rang the bell at 9pm demanding candy without bothering to put on a costume. I think it's getting better, but as I said to our friends Micky and Susan last night, I might have Halloween parties and invite kids over when our son is old enough to get into it, rather than take him out trick or treating. At least that way, it might actually be fun for him.

Before I forget, I must have a question answered that's been bothering me for years. What do Francophone children say in Quebec when they go trick or treating? No one ever could tell me what the French (Canadian - I realise they don't do Halloween in France) equivalent of "trick or treat" was. Someone please enlighten me.

Wednesday, 27 October 2004

you, get back here

We had midwife appointment number two this afternoon. I can hear all of you people living in more attentive regions of the country gasp - yes, this was only our second meeting and I'm 23 weeks along. What can I say, they like to leave you to your own devices around these parts. My blood pressure is fine, I don't have diabetes or a water infection, and I'm measuring right on schedule. The only tricky bit was trying to hear Pip's heartbeat; the little imp wasn't co-operating today! I could feel him galloping around and we could hear him moving on the doppler, but we could only hear the blood coursing through his cord and not his little heartbeat. The midwife assured us that this was fine (you can't have cord noises without a heartbeat) and she wasn't worried about this in the least, it's just that the baby wasn't keeping still enough for her to hear his heart. Little scamp.

Heartburn update: still doing well although I won't venture into Curryland or Mexican Fiesta World quite yet.

Tuesday, 26 October 2004


At long last, wedding photos can now be seen here. Honeymoon photos and travel diary coming soon. Honest.

Monday, 25 October 2004

so that's why they call london the big smoke

I am a smoke magnet. No matter where I go, no matter how many people are around me, the person closest to me will light up a cigarette. Take, for example, our evening in London yesterday. We went out for dinner to a bar/restaurant we'd been to before we saw The Fast Show Live, as we had remembered it as being a funky, quieter place with pretty decent food. They had shut the bottom level off for "staff training", which I assume must normally be the smoking section - I honestly don't remember anyone smoking on the ground floor level last time we were there. Almost every single table was full of smokers. We had smokers sitting on either side of us and as an added bonus, we were sitting next to the bar where standing smokers surrounded us. Surprisingly, it didn't bother me that much and we managed to eat despite the fact that we inhaled the equivalent to 1/2 pack of cigs each. So on we went to see Billy Connolly at the Hammersmith Appollo, where we had to push our way through not one, but two lobbies full of wall-to-wall smokers to get to our seats. After the show, we had to walk down several sets of stairs to get to the ground floor. It was absolutely packed and the crowd was moving extremely slowly down the stuffy, enclosed stairwell - what better situation than to light up a cigarette, right? Three people directly in front of us lit up at the same time, because apparently it was too much to wait ten minutes until they got outside. The final straw came as we stood in a queue waiting to pay for our parking, and both the guy in front of us and the guy behind us lit their cigs in unison. Does everyone in London smoke?!

Now don't get me wrong; I am not one of those militant ex-smokers who'll show you pictures of diseased lungs and throw coffin nails at you whenever you light up. I used to really enjoy smoking and there are some days when I would still sell my own mother for a cigarette. If you want to smoke, grand. I won't stop you. Just please, I'm begging you, try to be a courteous smoker. When I used to smoke, I never smoked in queues simply because it was rude to blow smoke over people who may not go for that sort of thing. I never smoked in cars, around children, when people were eating, or in people's houses who were non-smokers (even if they insisted that it was okay). See? Courteous. Smoking and blowing your smoke in the direction of a table of people eating, particularly if that table happens to contain a visibly pregnant woman, is not courteous. Ditto for smoking within 2 feet of someone who is not smoking themselves. Move away, or wait 5 minutes until you can smoke elsewhere. Trust me, going 5 minutes without a cig won't kill you. Going three days without a cig when you're visiting your parents, now that's another story. 5 minutes, sorry, I have no sympathy.

My biggest beef is with restaurants that don't have designated smoking sections (or divide the non-smoking from the smoking tables with a small potted plant). Pubs and bars, fair enough - I expect to come home smelling like an old ashtray - but when I go out to eat, I don't want to taste someone's Marlboroughs in between bites.

So please, if you smoke, be polite about it. If you do, I promise to return the favour by not talking about pregnancy symptoms and midwife visits in great detail while you're trying to eat your dinner. Okay? Okay.

Oh and Billy Connolly was a hoot - excellent show.