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.

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.

Hair

Having long hair isn’t a decision I made, it just is. It’s as much a part of me as clouds in the sky or leaves on a tree. I know I’m fortunate that the gods of bald haven’t waged war on my follicles, so as long as they stay well away from my bonce and focus their attentions elsewhere I shall remain cranially hirsute. But last week I began to question the very essence of my self after concluding that short hair would make my life considerably easier.

It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been at these unfortunate crossroads. After some twenty years of long hair (from teens to thirties) I found myself in a barber’s chair after accidentally setting fire to one side of it trying to light a chillum with a Zippo. I could’ve easily just had it trimmed back, it would’ve been back down to my intergluteal cleft in less than a year, but the temptation to see what it looked like a bit shorter (then unintentionally shorter still after barber number one made me look like Charlie Chuck) was too much for my then fried brain to dismiss without enquiry. I regretted my decision instantly.

With a large aspect of my alternative self literally cut-off I was reliant on my strength of character to maintain its identity, possible yes, but a large part of me felt as if its cover had been blown, and in more ways than one. In a public space, for example, long hair allowed me to cut the world out by simply nodding forward, now I felt horribly visible and exposed, like in one of those dreams when you go to school without your trousers

With the little fella at almost 14 months old my long hair has taken on a new role. It exists as a toy, an alarm clock, a place to deposit crushed foodstuffs and, on one occasion, some shit (his not mine). Quite obviously none of these things are positive, even if one can’t help smiling at his shrieks of delight as he pulls out another handful of my hair. Until recently these negatives haven’t sufficiently aligned to form a cohesive pathway to a hairdresser, but I have found myself wondering what sort of haircut would still allow me some essence of my metal incarnation without having the actual hair to back it up, as it were. Quite obviously a grown man -a grown, married, middle-aged dad- shouldn’t be having these sort of dilemmas and I’ve little doubt the less imaginative would simple cast it all off as some sort of midlife crisis but that’s absurd, I had that when I was in my twenties, it started suddenly at 21 when I learnt that Arthur Rimbaud never wrote a word after the age of 21 and ended abruptly when Kurt Cobain committed suicide. I stand by my opening sentence, it just is.

That said, it’s one thing for me to have this hair-thing going on and another entirely to impose it on to the boy. Last week I was required to cut a little hair from his fringe because it was rapidly approaching his eyes; the better half said that he should have it all cut back because it makes the hair stronger in later life. I was horrified, he’s got actual golden little curls that fall over his collar and tumble around his ears, his hair is soft and beautiful and, well, only a monster would dream of cutting it. Then I noticed it was full of yoghurt, little bits of apple and biscuit and that his hair was actually glued together in places from food.

I guess this is the parental paradox, changes happen at two completely contradictory speeds, slow enough for you not to notice, for example changes in weight, height or, in this instance, hair, or lightning fast when you suddenly realise that something is extraordinarily different, and probably has been for a while. ‘His longer-than-I-anticipated hair is matted with foodstuffs! Again?’ That sort of thing.

Anyway, enough is enough. I need to man-up and straighten all this out. It’s with a heavy yet practical heart I’ve come to a decision, we’re both going to visit the barbers. I mean, it’s not as if he can go on his own and I’m guessing the barber is the best place to take him for a haircut.

Horse

I’m not at my best when it comes to dealing with sick children. Let me put that into some sort of perspective because it gives the impression that I’m handing the responsibility to the missus and carrying on as if all is tickety-boo. Actually it’s the reverse, I can’t focus on anything else to the point that things fall out of context and my bloody mind wanders into worse-case-scenario-world before being casually barraged from all sides by any manner of horror. At some point rationale will jump in to defend the poor psyche from itself, only for paranoia to remind the consciousness that, yes, it could really actually happen thus kick-starting another cycle of woe, and all of this while I try to make parmigiana.

This latest round of panic has been slowly accumulating as the boy’s barking cough entered into a fourth week. On the very day I thought that it was getting a bit better we went to a party, during which one of our friends noticed that he’d got rather hot. A thermometer revealed that he was one degree away from a trip to A&E so we gathered him up and brought him home. We monitored his fever throughout the night, he responded by coughing up his toenails and crying himself hoarse, to the point that the following morning he’d totally lost his voice.

It’s stating the bloody obvious that a child’s cry is indicative of how, even what, they’re feeling but I couldn’t have imagined how hard it is to, like, ‘parent’ without this crucial aspect of communication. You’ve no option but to just watch them, quite literally, all the time. The baby, in turn, is now reliant on being watched; all the usual distractions of toys, food and randomly-placed dangers are exchanged for monitoring the parental gaze, ensuring that they are visually accessible now that the audio has shut-down. This means that if you turn your back for a second, to prepare their food or have a little cry, you can guarantee you’ll look around to find a wide-open mouth occupying a little face that epitomises the agony of our modern world, accompanied by a tiny, whispering yell that seems louder than any of the (deafening) bands I’ve seen this year.

Mercifully all this snot and nonsense had cleared before we set off for Italy to see family and friends. Once we’re there we can relax and, ostensibly, eat and drink out until the wee hours with the little fella in tow. One evening, for example, we were sat in a restaurant until 4 am with half a dozen friends, one of them happened to be the owner of the joint and another was his wine merchant, both were keen for us to sample their fare. When the boy woke up he’d be fed, passed around, spoilt, and when he got tired we’d pop him in the pram and he’d sleep as we carried on pushing stuff into our faces.

This makes for a refreshing change, in London -or anywhere in the UK for that matter- most kids aren’t allowed in pubs/bars after, on average, 8 pm. I don’t take issue with this, for fairly obvious reasons booze/parents/babies don’t still well together and even if some parents can maintain a certain level of responsibility after a pint or two it doesn’t necessarily follow that all of them can. And that’s not factoring in the dangers presented by shitfaced revellers who shouldn’t have to be expected to play tippy-toe with a bunch of yelling kids. However, when there are children around in the evening the whole dynamic changes. People, knowingly or not, act differently and the atmosphere is much more congenial, calmer, friendlier and older generations are far more likely to be drawn into the mix adding to the convivial spirit of things.

Why this works in Italy and not the UK is because in Italy drinking isn’t confined to the singular act of ‘drinking’. For the most part it’s something to accompany lunch or dinner with colleagues, friends and family. In fact, it’s actually quite hard to just drink for the sake of itself, nine times out of ten it’ll be accompanied with some sort of complimentary foodstuff whether you asked for it or not, the most obvious example being that of Aperitivo. There are plenty of places in Italy where the accompanying hors d’oeuvres are so abundant you can skip both lunch and dinner in one fell swoop, and some of these little bites are properly delicious. Mind you, if you’re unlucky it’ll just be a dish of ready salted crisps, but even that helps deal with the nascent effects of the booze. Factor in a lack of specific licensing hours which single-handed kills the get-‘em-in-before-closing mentality and you’re far less likely to see inebriated people on the streets of Italy than in the UK. This may explain why liver disease in Italy is down by a third when compared to the UK. Having said all that British pub culture is unique and I wouldn’t have it any other way -not that I’ve a choice in the matter.

For all the joys of being able to holiday hard with a little boy there is the payoff when it comes to the travel. For the most part this particular journey was relatively straightforward; having done this a few times we’re getting the hang of best practice when it comes to travelling with a him. There is no particular formula outside of sating any concerns the boy has at any given moment, with hunger, thirst and/or fatigue being the primary suspects -all relatively easy to deal with. The bastard aspect is sleep-interruption because it’s in control of everything. Allow me to put this into some sort of context by using the return journey as an example.

Up at 7am Sunday, quick feed but no problem, the fifteen-minute walk to the bus station sends him off to sleep again -at this point I should explain that we usually get a pain-relieving lift to the airport but everyone was bollocked from the previous night, and unless you’re a banker taxis are out of the question. We wake him as we try not to wake him getting from the pram (which has to be collapsed and stowed away with all the luggage) to the bus. This goes down like a cup of cold sick, but after 30 minutes of feed/play on the bus journey he’s asleep, only to be woken at the airport as we attempt to lower him into his freshly assembled pram. The throngs of passengers and activity amuse him so we’re spared yells. Once we’ve dropped of the behemoth wheelie/suitcase thing -after having removed half of the contents because its overweight, again- we waddle to security with two seam-creaking rucksacks and a pram containing a freshly sleeping baby. This isn’t an issue because at Stanstead earlier, when he was asleep, they said it was fine to pass through, ‘no need to wake a sleeping baby’ said one officer with unaccustomed cheer… What? Oh shit, at Bergamo-Milan the pram has to be scanned separately so we have to wake him again, waahhhh etc.

By now it’s 10.30, the flight’s at 1-ish. We take a table near an eatery that serves prosecco and deliberate the latter. A couple of hours later after having eaten a sandwich and taken on the odd glass, we’re on our way to the gate. The little fella has been great, entertaining fellow passengers and generally being all smiles and squeaks, now he’s asleep we have to wake him to board the bloody plane, of course. And he doesn’t want to be on a plane at all. Nor do I for that matter.

Despite this (and a panic attack by the author) the flight back is relatively painless because we have three seats to ourselves. He wakes of his own accord just as we land, we disembark, load him into the pram that’s patiently waiting for him on the runway and take the 60’s vision-of-the-future that is the driverless rail link to the main terminal. He’s awake through customs and right onto the National Express coach because the Stanstead Express to Liverpool street isn’t working.

On the coach, its 1 pm, we’ve gained an hour in theory, he’s not just awake but really on it having taken a psychotic liking to the tray on the back of the adjacent seat. It makes a really loud ‘snap’ sound just as it opens and closes which the little fella thinks is better than anything else in the world. Of course, he’s not best pleased when we attempt to keep him clear from his new toy, ape and shit have seen each other and they’re up for it. We chuck snacks at him until he’s placated but it’s a hard hour-long journey. When we finally arrive at Stratford he is, of course, asleep and, of course, wakes when he’s re-placed in the pram after I’ve re-assembled it for the umpteenth, sodding time. We grab the rest of the luggage, nearly there, just the Overland to go and we’ll be home in less-than twenty minutes… But it’s Sunday, there is no fucking Overland.

The teeth-rattling Central Line train from Stratford requires no less than four lifts to get us onto the platform. Ten minutes later we’re in Liverpool Street with all our luggage and pram. And no step-free access. The better half takes care of the Wheelie Behemoth as I jam the two front wheels of the pram into the escalator stairs, lift up the back so its level, and up we go -it’s fine. At the top there is load of unplanned manual stairs, Jesus. As soon as I stop to contemplate our next move at least five people off their assistance, quite a shock when these things happen to a cynic. My wife takes the boy and I take the pram and we go back down for the WB which is inspiring suspicious glances.

2.30 pm, on the platform and straight on the train for the last leg home. Only ten minutes and the flight of stairs, WB, pram, and [arseholes] a sleeping baby at the other end to contend with. If we can just get him down the stairs without him waking up, we can get him right into our flat without a single step and, by our reckoning, should get at least an hour’s peace and calm… No chance.

We’re home.

Transmogrification

In the past fortnight the resident boy has been experimenting with standing. Watching him exchange the lows of the horizontal to the lofty highs of the vertical signifies a marked change in all of our lives, and already I’ve got reservations about this new direction. In fact, I’m thinking I preferred it when he just lay there being all small and chubby.

Every waking hour, when he’s not eating or being changed (we’ll touch on that shortly) he’s either attempting self-elevation, in the process of it or stood up, wobbling. The upshot of this is that he requires constant supervision, very much to the detriment of work, writing and Unchartered 4, and its sort-of getting on my tits. It’s not as if he’s the wherewithal to stand in places where he’s not going to hurt himself either. I’ve done a bloody good job at sorting out this flat, to make it safe for the little bloke to move about as he pleases in certain places, but this standing lark has undone most of that. Now a whole new world of potentially lethal disasters has dawned and quite frankly he’s not helping by choosing to practice his standing next to objects that were once safe, and now aren’t… Yes, I’d already secured bookshelves, bought those squishy things for the corner of tables, but there are no such things for the edges of said table, its actual legs, nor are there any protective devices for the lip of a bookshelf or the rim of a chair, all the objects he uses to hoist himself upright. And once he’s there, precariously positioned with beaming grin on his yoghurt smeared face, there is always the wooden floor (laminate, quite cheap) ready to deliver the final blow.

To make matters worse, he’s now access to those precious, fetishised objects that were, until recently, literally out of reach. Remote controls, i-phones, spectacles and, in one heart-stopping incident, the handle of boiling hot mug of tea that he was slowing pulling towards himself after managing to circumnavigate a not-so strategically placed chair. Take the mornings, they used to be a time of relative peace and calm, in the past his mother or I would gather him from his cot and feed him in bed until he’d fall asleep. Now he’s up and about, stamping all over the bed, hanging off curtains and lampstands and egging himself on with screeches of delight. Er, hello, I’m trying to listen to Today.

This increased activity has also had an effect on his appetite. He’s now wolfing down grub like Man V’s Food, and when he’s not doing that -or snacking between meals- he’s evacuating his premises. I’m not going into details, not because I don’t want to upset anyone with descriptions of what I, we, have to deal with on a regular basis, I’m just sparing myself from resurrecting memories best left dead and buried, well sort of. It’d be remiss of me if I didn’t at least hint at the horrific consequences of one distinguished occurrence when, during the circumspect removal of his overflowing nappy, he decided to suddenly roll over and attempt to stand via the wall and my hair.

The incident doesn’t bode well for when he’s walking, which seems like it’ll be no more than additional potential for serious injury coupled with an improved way of distributing shit. I for one can wait.

One

The boy is one already. I say ‘already’ because even though it feels like a year has passed since he was born, I’ve yet to recover from the shock of his actually being born a year ago.

In the days leading up to his birthday the missus and I did the ‘this time last year’ thing as we followed the varying stations to his arrival; the contractions, the taxi, labour, the wait, the epidural, the panic and finally his being born. So on his actual birthday I found myself staring at him as if he’d just arrived again, but obviously not in the same way. This weirdness (which is obscure enough to demand a page of its own, but I can’t be arsed) is compounded by his suddenly not looking like a ‘a baby’ anymore. He’s got teeth, loads of hair and he’s aware of things that, until very recently, were just undiscovered lexicons, and to a certain extent that includes me.

It’s well known that the role of ‘dad’ (or ‘papa’ as I’m referred to by my wife, which makes me sound like a feeble old pizza chef with a massive white ‘tash) is pretty much a supportive one in the early stages of [his] life, and even then you’ll always play second fiddle to her. To be honest I got used to this very early on, so when I do get a grin or even something resembling a freely-given cuddle it means loads. Recently these have increased in frequency as it become more apparent that his little neurons and synapses are beginning to form cohesive structures. I’m no longer some tit-less entity who is just there on a daily basis, I now have a function of sorts, though he’s no idea what that is. And I’m not so sure either, though there are a few that definitively come with the job, mainly revolving around his mouth and bottom…

…And there we were three years ago in Amsterdam at Easter, after having biked there in black leather from London, sat in a coffee-bar smoking a joint. That day I’d had to buy a pair of 15 quid jeans from some Dutch equivalent of Primark after having left mine at home. These jeans weren’t quite the stop gap I’d anticipated, I’d bought them in less than five minutes, but they fitted so well I just wore them all the time. Two years later, almost to the day, I wore them when my son was born. That may not seem particularly profound or weird but those 15 quid trousers are witness to a change in both life and lifestyle. Last week, with my trousers covered in animal-shaped pasta and ricotta vomit, I took a moment to ruminate. And as I threw my beloved jeans into the bath to soak, once again, I considered the choices we make in life and the effect it has on the future, not just mine or his, but everyone’s, even yours. What if in twenty-year’s time he comes around to your house when you’re on holiday, nicks all your electrical goods and takes a dump on your Axminster on the way out? You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Happy birthday, son.