Chitty Chat

Lately, I have to stop myself from talking to the boy when walking down the street, and when I say ‘talking’ I mean indulging in voluminous and spontaneous one-sided conversation to the back of a pram. It’s not as if I mean to do it, even when my filter tells me to button-it the other part of my brain will take momentary heed before continuing to denounce spitting in public or twist ‘n’ go transport. The latter has become somewhat of a hot topic in my head because the little fella has now started to excitedly point at motorcycles which he’ll very occasionally confuse with some perfunctory git facilitator with the power of a hair-dryer and all the charm of colitis.

At seventeen months his development appears to have entered a new phase. Things change on a daily rather than weekly or even monthly basis, to the point that now you can even have some sort of rudimentary conversation with him. Fundamental questions, such as water? more? kiss? Will be answered, even if he’s not always on the money when it comes to the vigorous shaking of the head which can mean ‘yes’ as much as ‘no’. If he wants to go out he’ll bring over his coat, if he’s hungry he’ll walk to his high chair, little arms raised until lifted into position, and if he’s tired he’ll even lead you to his room after gesturing at the milk cooling in the kitchen. He also talks to himself like his dad (though I’m not as we’ve established), endless streams of excited chatter sustained by a remarkably varied vocal range from shrieking soprano to actual death grunts.

When not talking he’ll make impersonations of things around him, disregarding the learned animal ones (though he does do a good lion) it’s more the things he’s picked up on his own. He’s good at nonspecific engines noises when punting about on his ride-on toy car but it’s the drone of the microwave or the whoosh of the coffee machine that really indicate the seismic changes that are taking place. He even copies the Radio 4 pips because that’s all we listen to; I can’t do music radio, the so-called ‘rock’ stations are punctuated every five minutes by pyscho-inducing adverts leaving us with BBC Radio 6 which is so impossibly eclectic that after ten minutes my arse and elbow start to fuse.

So we’ve established that talking to the boy in the street, or oneself depending on how it might be perceived, could be seen as problematic to the casual observer, however, it’s an entirely different story at home. In the safety of these four walls, I’m at liberty to chat at my son to my heart’s content. But I don’t just chat, I gesture, cavort, and gambol with such abandonment I almost forget myself. Then I realise that I can be seen from the adjacent flats so I’ll excitedly lift my son up to the window so any curious neighbours won’t think I’ve gone insane.

I’ve not been sleeping at all well lately.

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Pro-waiting

The boy is sixteen months old. We’ve settled into a definite routine which revolves around my flexible work schedule, the better half’s nine-to-five one, two days at nursery plus the contribution of the parents’ who have him for one night a week. Including the composite day on account of my parents’ that give me three solid workdays, if I’m overloaded I’ve early mornings, late nights and the weekend at my disposal too, so it’s all good. But if someone is ill, for example, the whole shebang falls down on its arsehole and being ill is nine tenths of being a parent.

Initially, I was resistant to the idea of my parents’ having the boy for one night a week, as much as I was anti the whole nursery thing. I suppose this was because that for the first nine months of his life we spent every waking hour together and, without realising it, had stepped into a self-perpetuating bubble of Fam. In hindsight it’s a very peculiar environment as everything is dictated by this new entity and one’s inability to deal with it confidently; everything is a learning exercise consisting of an indefinite, unspecified menu of challenges and rewards. This makes it almost impossible to be anything but introspective, aided and abetted by friends and family who’ll accept this new state of being unconditionally and do things like visit when you want them to, with wine.

I’d have remained in this bubble indefinitely if it wasn’t for the issue of money. Nine months after he was born the better half returned to work part-time and three months later she was back to the N to F. Now the parents/nursery role became essential factors in our schedule, so when the nursery closes for a training day or the parents can’t make it I suddenly find myself playing daddy day care to the point of saturation (don’t get me wrong here, spending time with my little boy is just about the best thing, like, evah, but I’ve got shit to do as well, like take an actual shit without having to keep a toddler at bay with a bog brush) as was the case when he was fifteen months old when I was responsible for my son for nine weekdays out of ten because the nursery shut for some training thing and the folks took it in turns to get sick.

It’s pretty obvious that everything you do when you’re in charge of a baby is baby-related, so if you’re not feeding, changing or weakly trying to make ‘em watch CBeebies so you can sit down for a couple of seconds, you’re preparing food, cleaning-up or taking another trip to the shops in the hope they might fall asleep. After four solid days of this, I realised that it wasn’t just the doing-of-stuff that was killing me, it was all the waiting-for-stuff in between the doing-of-stuff.

Waiting is insidious because it exists on so many levels it hides in plain sight and it’s one of the fundamental reasons that parents of young children are permanently shattered. You’re either waiting for them to get hungry, sleep or shit, or for them to stop eating, wake-up or shit again, and all the while you’re doing actual stuff effectively draining the parental battery at both ends.

Then of course there’s the waiting for the missus to come home, the folks to drop by, the nursery to start and finish and within that all the aforementioned elements of the sleeping and eating and so on so forth (and that’s before we’ve even touched on the waiting around inherent with freelance writing) coagulating into a continual never-ending bollock of horror. Nothing is achieved by waiting, it lurks in the background waiting to catch your eye and has the uncanny effect of making the doing-stuff pointless because as you’re doing it you’re waiting for the next thing to do… But there is a pleasant caveat.

Waiting is the mother of procrastination, a catalyst that fuels a creative spark, without waiting until bored the mind would never have a chance to wander into profundity or stumble onto unknown shores. It’s not just a useful device to inspire, solve or reconcile a bit of copy or a design, it’s great for inventing practical stuff too. Virtually all the safety devices around the house, things to stop stuff falling over or out onto a toddler, have come about after identifying an issue and the brain just resolving the matter while waiting for the washing machine to stop or the Naproxen to kick in. In most instances, I’ve been able to actually carry out the work with no more than a drill, a couple of brackets and an old bit of floorboard

I’ve become so efficient in using my waiting moments to procrastinate that nowadays I only have to feed a quandary into my mind box and, as sure as eggs is eggs, rewarded with a solution in a matter of hours, even minutes. Which is why I’m just about to attach a bass guitar to the wall of his bedroom with a length of shoelace.

Disc Go

I first rode a motorbike at Dave Taylor’s Trial Park over 40 years ago and haven’t looked back, though obviously I did just then, and while I’m here make a note of ‘back’ as well.

Dave, who for the most part has been consigned to history, was a prominent figure in the 70’s. He was a vociferous road safety campaigner having become famous for, ironically, pulling huge fuck-off wheelies; the dude even rode the whole of the TT course (37.73 miles) on his back wheel. My hero, though, was Barry Sheene. In the 70’s he was mega famous, and for most kids growing up in that decade part of the cultural landscape along with strikes, flares and Spangles. He was vivacious, charismatic and cool, he shone through the brown and grey of the decade and made other sports and their protagonists look prosaic and banal.

The 70’s was also the decade when the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers started to make serious headway into the UK market. As the British motorcycle industry dwindled to virtually nothing, streets and TV’s rung out with the scream of high-revving two strokes. In comparison to the British stuff, the Japanese bikes were faster, lighter and oil-tight. If the British bikes were Black Sabbath then the Japanese upstarts were the Sex Pistols and I loved both. My fate with all things motorbike was sealed.

By the time I was 10 I was doing motocross at a place near Slough. Dad got hold of a burnt out caravan that he converted into a trailer, onto which was loaded my stolen-recovered YB 100cc Yam [that my dad had] converted for off road use. It wasn’t really up to the job but I couldn’t have cared less, I lived for Saturday afternoons. Age 12, when my parents realised this bike-thing wasn’t a fad, and after dad convinced mum that I was learning important skills for when I was on the road, because I would be (he was right on both accounts, I could provide actual examples but this isn’t all about me) I got my first proper MotoX bike, a Yamaha YZ100e. The bike was pretty old by the time I got hold of it, they came with some stinking second-hand leathers that were so baggy around the arse that you could’ve fitted Hazell Dean’s chin in there, but as far as I was concerned I was living the dream, even when I broke my ankle on a post and wrecked all the tendons in my wrist after I hit the deck and a bloke on a CCM stalled and then started his bike on my arm.

For five, occasionally painful, years, I couldn’t have been happier than when I was riding my bike, until that day I was hit in mid-air by another bike, it knocked my front wheel south west so when I landed I was catapulted over the bar. I vividly recall hitting the ground and thinking ‘where’s my bike gone’ before it came crashing down onto my lower back. I don’t remember much after that save the hospital.

A month later I was back on the bike, as far as I was concerned I’d dodged serious injury and made a full recovery, but something had changed. Because the accident hadn’t been my fault I started to become wary, then paranoid, of other riders. I couldn’t ride with impunity as I was too busy checking to make sure someone wasn’t about to smack into me. One afternoon, after an hours riding, I rode into the paddock and told dad that I was done. Six months later the bike was gone. It was dreadful.

A quarter of a century passed, one totally normal day I was walking across the road with my bro when, all of a sudden, I went down like a sack of the stuff (I mean shit) and my bro had to scoop me up and carry me to the pavement before I was hit by an Iveco lorry. I was diagnosed with a perforated disk and required to hobble about with a stick for a while until a combination of the NHS, a chiropractor and some good old fashioned exercise sorted me out.

Until recently this was just fine, I had the measure of the condition and despite seizing up after Slayer at Sonisphere five years ago (my two dear friends had to drag me all the way out of the venue to get a cab, right in the middle of Metallica’s headline set) I’ve been pretty much okay.

But not all was well in lower-back land. The perforated disc was having an adverse effect on the disc below; having been charged with undertaking the additional task of managing a colleague’s injury it was somewhat inevitable that it would file a complaint. Sciatica isn’t as agonisingly painful as the perforated seizure (which would make a great name for a black metal band) but the constant pain running up and down the leg like a cow in heels wears thin after a while. I mean it never bloody stops and nothing over-the-counter relieves it apart from Co-codamol. The prescribed Naproxen merely manages the injury but it does cause agonising stomach cramps that the prescribed Omeprazole, designed to suppress the agonising stomach cramps caused by the Naproxen, fails to curb and all of this amounts to even less sleep than we weren’t having before the Sciatica kicked-in.

I ruminated on all of this lying awake one morning at 3.30 with my left shin and buttock on fire waiting for the umpteenth cody to kick in… Actually, this is bloody Dave Taylor and Barry Sheene’s fault, bastards, my innovative dad should’ve listen to my told-you-so mum and I should’ve stuck with Judo. Even if Brian Jacks was a monumental arsehole with the personality of a bread board.

Then I remembered, the only other time I wasn’t in pain, and this was true of both the perforated disc and the more recent Sciatica, was when I was riding my bike. Sure, I may have had an issue getting on and off but once there, the pain was gone. I guessed it must have something to do with the way the body is positioned on a sportsbike, you lean forward so the spine is relaxed, all the weight is taken by the limbs, bingo.

So there you go, another excellent reason to ride a motorbike.

Hey, I’m walkin’ here

The homunculus walks.

A new phase begins in three unaided steps; we will ever be the same again?

My mind is polarised with this development. On the one hand I’m delighted, it means things are all moving in the right direction, he’s fit, healthy, blah, blah, blah and whilst I know I shouldn’t take this for granted (believe me, I don’t) it’s not as if this advancement has come out of the blue, or it’s a huge surprise, his walking has been on the cards for a couple of months. But being the cup half-full kinda guy I am I’m feeling a bit weird about the whole ‘baby’ part. It seems to have shot by in a millisecond, which may well counter something I wrote previously about how time seems to have slowed right down. I dunno, I was probably tired as I am now so I who knows. Perception is as perception does so it’s allowed.

It’s not accurate to assume that I’m missing his baby phase in a way that tips the scales of any preference, it’s just that this morning he stood-up, leant against the side of his baby bay and kicked out his leg as if fending off an aggressive beggar. The baby that barely occupied half of the baby bay on which the boy now stood was no more than memories, it hit me so hard that if I wasn’t already actually lying in bed when I made this realisation I’d have to have had a lie-down.

In order to make some sort of sense of all this and, I suppose, as a way of acknowledging that the ‘baby’ seat is now owned by that of a toddler, I need some sort of totem, a fetish if you will, to allow my brain safe passage into the unknown. In one sense compiling a list of seven things a parent needs in the first fifteen months of life could be seen as both patronising and unnecessary. On the other, it’s not. It’s just a list of things you need have to have, in no particular order, before your kid walks.

Microwave. For sterilising stuff and re-heating half-drunk cups of tea and meals you’ve had to abandon because something has kicked off.

Digital Radio. Radio 4 will become one of your best friends, but occasionally a play or programme will infuriate you so much you’ll want to rip out your toenails. Relax, Absolute Classic Rock is one button away.

A lobby dustpan and brush. Note the ‘lobby’ bit. You can clean up dry and wet food (and actual shit if necessary) off hard floors without having to bend down or worry too much about spilling the contents whilst in the process of cleaning or en-route to the bin or bog.

Vileda mop, bucket and wringer. The most expensive you can get. The amount of post-food mopping you’ll have to do is unimaginable, don’t bother with cheap or you’ll regret it.

Curved or concave changing mat. Kids wriggle, this will help prevent them from wriggling into thin air.

Ikea high chair. Don’t bother with anything else, they don’t work properly

Baby Bay. I don’t know how we’d have coped without one of these, the fact he’s not used it in six months and I’m still in love with it must count for something.

There is one other, penultimate, consideration that didn’t make the list as it’s not quite as simple as just saying ‘baby-related Pharmaceuticals’ because there are other factors to consider outside of cotton balls and Calpol, though while I’m here, Tesco nappies are half the cost of Pampers and just as good. Top tip: Tesco deliver for free if your bill is over 40 quid so, if you buy in bulk, you don’t even have to carry the bastards back from the shop.

‘Baby-related’ pharmaceuticals apply to the parent as well. Since the little fella was born, and certainly since he was in the nursery, I’ve never been so ill. Diarrhoea, vomiting, cramps, lethargy, not to mention a knackered back and sprained wrists, require a well-stocked medical cabinet, and by well-stocked I mean it’s worth spending a few quid on some specific stuff. Get an electronic thermometer, you’re all gonna need it, most importantly, get loads of drugs starting with top quality painkillers. Co-codamol is the strongest over-the-counter ‘killer but paracetamol and ibuprofen are of equal importance, that doesn’t mean you can bypass cold and flu remedies (don’t bother with Lemsip, scotch, honey and lemon in hot water can cure cancer) and you’ll need all manner of stomach-related cures from Imodium to Buscopan, Ranitidine to Dioralyte.

Contracting a bug off a kid isn’t like getting something from that arsehole at the office who wears the same t-shirt every day. These illnesses come on faster than a line of celebratory sniff and before you know it you’re out of it so this stuff has to be at your disposal 24/7.

Finally, drinking.

Drinking.

That is all.

Beered

The little fellow’s nursery has a simple policy when it comes to sick children: if they’re unwell, don’t bring them in. I suspect that many parents don’t adhere to the guidelines because, lately, we’ve found ourselves on the wrong side of the bog on numerous occasions after contracting some plague or other from the boy.

Obviously when a child is seriously ill you’d never dream of palming them off to a bunch of relative strangers (unless you’re a shitty parent, of course) but when they have a cough/cold/splats and you figure you can slip them in, you’re going to try. The reason for this is twofold, the kid is in the nursery because the parents have to work but if the kid isn’t in said nursery the parent, whilst still having to pay for the nursery, may also be losing additional money by having to take a day out to look after some sick kid. It’s also worth noting that most nurseries charge for bank holiday’s when they’re shut which is bullshit.

To say the system is unfair on parents with full times jobs is tantamount to asking if a fart smells and if I wasn’t working on a freelance basis, and my parents weren’t driving across London twice a week to help out, one of us would be forced to quit work and take care of the little fellow full time.

The reason that this has been on my mind of late is because the better half in now in the office five days a week meaning that I have to juggle my work on the two days he’s in the nursery (for all intents and purposes that’s 10am to 5pm of actual free time) plus the one free morning and spare afternoon courtesy of my parents. Obviously the nature of my work means that weekends and evenings are all fair game for graft so it’s not an issue that on Monday’s I’m 100% off work, looking after my son, with or without my beard.

It was to be my debut, the first whole day I’d spend with my little boy, just he and I, maybe his uncle for a swift half late in the afternoon. The weekend that proceeded it had been heavy, said uncle and I had attended an all-day punk festival in North London which had ended in the small hours following heroic quantities of liver-crippling booze. The following afternoon the hair of the dog that bit me was administered with a little too much zeal so the decision to trim my beard by my bon-viveur-self later that evening was very badly judged, especially as I know only too well to never ever interfere with facial hair after a few pints.

I was doomed from the off, the clippers were on the ‘close’ settling and I went in at the wrong angle. Attempts to rectify this by going for different diminishing styles, Grohl, Edmonds, Fawkes, Hitler, was a loss leader. In ten minutes I went from hairy biker to bald potato. I was devastated, though the missus found the whole thing hilarious which didn’t help.

The following morning, I woke to find the little bloke was already in our bed, asleep. The missus was getting ready for work so I lay there for a while listening to Today and, as usual, getting infuriated. My son woke with a whine, he looked over at me and froze. For a good twenty seconds he stared at me, wondering who the hell this person was in mummy’s bed before completely breaking down. It took ten minutes of ‘it’s daddy!’ pitched in a variety of cadences and a single rendition of ‘I was born under a wondering’ star’ that contained a completely made up verse about testicles to put me back in the game.

Looking after a small child is a war of attrition. You have a few weapons at your disposal, each designed to bring on the onslaught of sleep. They are, in order for ease of reference, feeding, changing and playing. These three key munitions are used to direct the child calmly into the pram offering the parent some sort of physical freedom whilst simultaneously soothing the little one off to sleep for an hour of peace and quiet, or as it’s known, cleaning-up. If you get it right you can have up to two hours of cleaning-up a day.

Timing the pram and sleep aspect is an act of art, the fulcrum on which rests failure and success. I’m very proud of my little bloke so I want him to be awake in the pram so that all may gaze upon his beauty as I perambulate the streets of Hackney in order to purchase more wine boxes. However, if he falls asleep too soon, I’m losing out on cleaning-up time at home and that’s unacceptable.

As soon as he awakes the cycle can begin again, though this time one might like to start seriously thinking about visiting a pub. Ideally you want them to be fed, changed, entertained and in the pram by 4pm. By the time you meet his uncle at the boozer at 5pm he’ll be sound asleep. The missus will pass by said establishment at 6-ish, which is about the time he wakes up, and she’ll be only too happy to take over -but only after you’ve allowed her to get a round in for self-esteem purposes.

Once home the better half will feel obliged to take over the complicated evening ritual of baby bed-prep leaving dad plenty of time to drink in front of Police Interceptors on Dave. The adverts allow a window of loud self-congratulation as dad extrapolates on how massively well the day went with overplayed highlights. In the meantime, ones’ knackered wife will have fed, bathed and soothed the little fella to sleep only to return to find dad crashed out in front of Shed and Buried in his pants.

Well done, dad.

Chill out, baby

When Ray Mears was asked if he’d rather be too hot or too cold he took another bite of his Cornish pasty and stared into space. ‘Too cold,’ he said with a mouth full of macerated beef and potato, ‘…because if you’re too cold you can always get warm (swallow) but if you’re too hot you can’t always cool down.’

With the weather approaching temperatures that require dedicated air conditioning units, I pondered Ray’s opinion as I picked up my one-year-old son -one again suffering from both a cold and a temperature wrapped in some sort of ironic paradox- and found myself in the familiar position of sort-of knowing what to do, thinking it through and then realising that I don’t actually know what to do at all. Again.

In this instance, the issue revolved around keeping him cool on the hottest day of the year. I figured he needed cooling down with water, but then should I close the window in case the breeze blasting the moisture on his skin turn him into some sort of pneumonia-contracting fridge? Of course, I could be being completely paranoid so I fluctuated uncomfortably between two schools of ignorance as the all the temperatures rose exponentially. Then he threw up.

We’re sort of getting used to him doing this now but he doesn’t usually do so much, and in front of horrified friends that we’d had over for a spot of tea and a chinwag on a Saturday afternoon. Actually, when I say we’re getting used to it I mean we’re not getting used to it at all, it still retains the power to shock, what I mean is that we’ve seen him throw up before and we have knowledge of how awful it is, just like when you or I throw up. Similarly, one mentally thinks back over the past few days, or hours, and tries and work out the source of emesis.

In this case, the suspects, in order of notion, were initially related to temperature/teething but this was partially countered by his planting a small hand into a large pile of green birdshit earlier that day in the park. I didn’t see this particular event but my wife and our friends/witnesses saw the excrement on his hand and no one could guarantee he’d not checked out this new phenomenon orally. And there was always the ongoing possibility he’d ‘picked up something’ at the nursery the previous day, either way, whatever it was, had disagreed with him all over the floor.

That night, as per usual when he’s not feeling well, he slept with us. I like it when he sleeps with us, even if he somehow seems to occupy all of the bed and the likelihood of my being booted in the face and, as he gets bigger, nuts, increases sevenfold. When we woke on Sunday it was apparent that whatever had upset him was long gone. I, on the other hand, woke with my back in knots. When I was a kid I sustained a motorcycle injury that perforated a disc in my spine. I manage the injury by short visits to the gym and ensuring I sleep on my side with a pillow between my knees. That week, on account of a bunch of deadlines, the gym doors stayed sealed shut and it would seem that my young charge had forced me out of my preferred sleeping position the previous evening.

As I lay about groaning in front of Sunday Brunch I barely noticed the missus complaints that, ‘she didn’t feel so good.’

‘Try a bloody slipped disc!’ I countered, inwardly.

By lunchtime, the back nor the missus felt any better. By teatime, the better-half was better but my spine was still wrecked and, worryingly, I’d begun to feel a little nauseous.

By early evening my guts were groaning, I’d begun to pay regular visits to the bathroom in order to empty my knackered back then, at about 9 pm, it began.

I was already lying down in denial of what was coming, that awful place when you know you’re going to be physically sick at some point, it’s just a question of when… Though you assure yourself the nausea will pass and you’ll return to the bosom of normality unscathed. I’m sure that happened once. Maybe when I was a child? Not today, Buster.

I hobbled into the bathroom, I knew I had to perform on all fours as it was essential I kept my spine straight or it might actually break in half. I spent a while with my head lowered into the bowl gulping in fetid odours with a view to getting things going -the use of fingers was out of the question as they needed to be firmly planted on the floor to keep my back straight. The first wave erupted into my chest almost breaking my sternum, then another muscle that only exists for the purposes of puking forced a lump of matter out of my wide-open gaping mouth and down the length of my now inordinately long tongue. I’d eaten very little since breakfast aside from some twig ‘n’ gravel granary bread from Tesco which had been drier than Moses’ swimming trunks, still, I was genuinely surprised at the effort involved in pushing the stuff out. My other end, on the other hand, seemed only too willing to relieve itself of its contents.

The nausea subsided, then those ten precious seconds of euphoric wonder when you feel sensational and you’re thinking, ‘can it be true? Will this be the time I just do one and that’s it? Could it be…?!’

No.

Each time I paused between these horrific sessions, during that lovely feeling of exultation (Hosanna in the Highest! Etc.) I could hear the little fella chuckling next door playing his plastic keyboard safe in the knowledge his mum was there to take care of him. I thought of single parents. How do they cope when this sort of thing strikes their household?

I tried to lie down, I was coated in a cooling haze of sweat which suddenly became clammy. Another hot wave rose up, bloody Ray Mears, I wobbled back to the land of the tiles and resumed barking obscenities at Armitage Shanks. I guessed that they’d just have to bring their little ones in to witness this disturbing spectacle, reassuring them all was well as they continued to be the opposite of anything that indicated it.

After half an hour I was done, five kilos lighter with my disc hanging out like a flashers dick, yet feeling oddly grateful I could simply shirk all parental responsibility and just go to bed to recuperate… I lay in bed, drained, imagining if I had no-one. I wouldn’t be able to loll about, I’d have to be up to change his nappy, make him tea or breakfast, clean up all of those pasty crumbs that Ray Mears’ left all over my bloody rug.

Highway

I still recall that day, about an hour after we brought him home for the first time, when we were staring into his crib wondering what the hell to do next. The hackneyed phrase ‘there isn’t an instruction manual!’ rings far away in the background as reality dawns. Seriously, what the fucking hell do we actually do?

We’re only a year and a bit into this gig so it’d be ludicrous to proffer a definitive answer but taking into consideration he was born fit and healthy, and that the missus and I are functioning (for now at least) with all our faculties, I’d like to tentatively suggest a solution to the immediate question of what one actually does when finding oneself in a room with one’s brand-new charge. The answer? Nothing. You do nothing at all.

That doesn’t mean you just stand there literally doing nothing, of course. That’d be horrific. What I mean is that neither you or the baby have begun the process of communication, so until that code starts writing itself you’ll just have to wait. Chances are it’ll begin with the baby crying and your responding with food (tits, not mine) cuddles, nappies etc., and this crude vocabulary will gradually develop and drive things forward until one day, out of the blue, you’ll suddenly be aware you know stuff you didn’t know you knew. This has begun already, like hassle-free bottle-feeding, wriggle-controlled bath-times, best practice nappy-changing (I could write a chapter on this aspect alone) plus a myriad of other baby-related minutiae that you know you’ve nailed, for now at least.

Of course, these are shifting sands. Take the nappy changing aspect, and I think I will, when he was very small his discharge was liquid, relatively odourless and easy to deal with. Now he’s on solid foods we’re having to deal with a range of squashed adult-style turds that require a combination of skills: dexterity, precision, circular breathing etc. The point here is that it’s nature way for you and the baby to learn and grow together, and I don’t mean that to come out as some sort vacuous ‘hippy’ platitude. When they’re tiny they move less, eat less and shit less, and as these elements develop you can be as sure as eggs is eggs you will too; unless you’re a moron.

I’d even argue that reading too much on ‘parenting’ before your baby is born is detrimental to parenting because you’ll have completely random and irrelevant expectations of things that don’t yet exist. This is my opinion to date, I could be wrong, it could be that by taking an intuitive rather than an academic approach to parenting my son will wind up enjoying Electronic Dance Music -I’d hate that so much, only acting out my hatred in mime would get close to conveying how much I’d hate that.

For all intents and purposes parenting is a natural talent, books and advice have their uses but they’re of no use at all if, for example, you read about the ‘cry it out’ method a week before birth and now you’re getting less than three hours sleep a night because you’re adamant mumsnet is right over and above your instincts to find out why it’s crying: a bad dream, a weird noise, a stranger in the room without any trousers on.

Besides, it’s much more fun to explore all this stuff together. I’d heartily argue that common-sense trial and error brings everyone closer together, and when you get those ‘man, I’ve so got this’ moments the world is a much happier place, so much more than the boring, contrived lands of ‘do it this way.’

I have spoken.