Toothing

We’d just got to a point of semi-ish peaceful sleep, a time when the mornings were a delightful explosion of smiles, practice chuckles and the days sleepy and calm, even the dreaded evenings were getting progressively quieter; of course there was the odd moan, bleat, sure, but everything was just getting, well, better. This aligned with our having an improved understanding of what was upsetting him, we knew he was pissed cos he hadn’t pooed, we knew what is was, and that was okay. Hungry? We got the hungry cry and acted on it. Yep, look, he’s tired, we know. We know everything…

Having said that, you know why they may be crying most of the time, you can’t be sure all the time, babies get annoyed for other reasons, you may be holding them in a way they don’t approve of, perhaps they’re a little hot/cold or maybe they’re just uncomfortable. Our kid has doubled in weight in 4 months, the very physicality of rapidly expanding flesh and bones has got to hurt, but these are resolvable things that occur in relatively short phases, and anyway, we’re on top of all this shit, well, we were.

A few days ago something else started, this sort-of elongated warble that would regularly rise in pitch and volume until, as of yore, this huge mouth would bust out of his dear little face and eat all that was tranquil and subtle. This time, though, the sound couldn’t be quelled so last week after almost a day of this we came to the awful conclusion that it may be premature but, yes, he was teething

The timing couldn’t have been more desperate as we were about to undertake a five hour-round-trip to see the fam for my niece’s birthday, most of it on a bus. I used to love travelling by bus, especially if I won top nearside seat at the front… But now I was confined to that little space by the doors where all the wheelchairs and old-people seats are, the outskirts of the downstairs backspace where the infirm and feeble gather to mutter and wheeze on their miserable little journeys to the post office or hospital -or to visit some decrepit relative without consequence of its state of living or passing. Did I mention it smells? If I didn’t I did just then.

I don’t want to harp on about this but why would anyone elect to sit in this part of the bus if they didn’t have to? You can’t see anything save lots of traffic and queues of pissed-off looking people. Go upstairs and it’s all bright and lovely, you can see for ages too, and you get a unique perspective on the city -plus you can see all the weird crap people chuck onto the tops of bus shelters. It’s a win, win up there.

Having suffered the bus in that awful little space for well over an hour we arrived at Waterloo. Getting to the platform required us to walk in the opposite direction of the designated platform in order to get a medieval lift down to ground level before walking back through a sea of pushy, shovey arseholes. We scrambled on board the train and located facing double-seats and a clean table within, NetworkSouthEast Nirvana. But of course, the little fellow’s pram doesn’t fit in the fucking aisle does it, so we spend 30 mins stood outside the bog instead watching a succession of rugby men entering to park their Egg McMuffins’ before repairing to their seats post-flush sans the whoosh of the hand-dryer.

Once we’d arrived at our destination we were met by the folks who didn’t notice me having a paddy as I attempted to collapse the pushchair as they were too busy loading the kid into the baby seat amid a sea of grandparental coo’s as I turned the air blue outside. The missus wasn’t impressed; she was even less impressed five hours later (now full of vino collapso following a jolly afternoon with the family) when I attempted to re-construct the pushchair in order to make the miserable journey back to the smoke, I just couldn’t make it lock despite violently struggling with the infernal thing, indeed, it took me so long to get it secured and the boy back in his buggy we missed the train, though this later aspect was aided and abetted by a ludicrous, convoluted journey just to get the correct platform.

It’s not until you’re in charge of a buggy (or a wheelchair for that matter -god help them) that you realise how unfriendly the world is to anything other than spritely, fully functioning humanoids. Having spent time plodding about London with a walking stick due to my fucking spine I always knew this to be the case but that was small beer in comparison to being fully responsible for an egg-fragile baby mercifully sleeping in his pram. Take the journey to the platform, it took no less than three different lifts and half a dozen piss stinking adjoining walkways -each juncture without instruction regarding the appropriate floor/direction- just to get us to the place of departure. It took a lifetime of swearing just to stop me from having a massive heart attack.

Fortunately, the kid slept all the way back home, an identikit version of the one we’d undertaken a few hours earlier but in reverse. Of course, when we got home we were rewarded by hours of screaming, this aspect was made all the more painful on account of some recently administered news from mum. That afternoon, in between drinks and barbequed sausages she informed us in no uncertain terms that the boy wasn’t teething, he was just a bit tired; we’d know all about teething when it happened, she said, believe you me.

Bollocks.

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scissorhand

From the second the boy arrived on the planet in full human form he had nails like razors. Deceptively small, these little digit enhancers had the propensity to draw blood at the merest of gestures. In the early days this was the zone on, or around, the missus’ pardons when his little hand would occasionally open to grab at local unmentionables when feeding. Sometimes he’d cut his face, my hand, an arm (tits) so regular trimming of the offending horns was essential, but this was much easier said than done.

Ideally this task has to be undertaken when he’s asleep, but in reality it’s more of a case of ‘ouch, I need to cut his bloody nails again’ when he is very much awake. In either case you have to prise his little fists open before peeling each finger apart, attaching the blades of the clippers either side of the tiny, miniscule nail, before gingerly snipping… Usually this operation is complicated by his violent resistance to having his hand pinned down, once successfully secured you then have to contend with him wriggling his fingers away from the clippers, though nine times out of ten he’ll throw a fucking fit and you simply have to give up and lock him in his cage under the stairs.

More recently, what with his hands a tad bigger and more of his palms on permanent display, it’s less like keyhole surgery, but he’s also much stronger so unless he’s docile you’re not going to be cutting his nails anytime soon. I have to say practice has helped too, in the early days nail-cutting was so traumatic I needed a stiff drink and rub-down afterwards, I wouldn’t say I was laissez-faire about it now but perhaps a little more care would’ve prevented me from snipping off the end of his finger last week.

I’d just cut his thumb nail when, turning my attention to the forefinger, he jerked his finger just as I squeezed down on the clipper. I knew instantly what I’d done, the little ‘snip’ sound was replaced by silence as the clippers cheerfully freed their grip. I watched in horror as the tip of his finger began to fill with blood and waited for torrent of relentless screaming… But nothing happened, indeed, the only person that was yelling was me -I was going apeshit- he was just carrying on as if nothing was doing as bright red blood appeared on his hands, clothes and face. I freaked out some more until the better half told me to fuck off and calm down. We dressed his little finger in a plaster and then had to ensure he didn’t put his hand in mouth in case the plaster turned out to be a choking hazard, it’s a nightmare.

I like to remind myself he’s not even crawling yet, let alone walking, so we’re not even open on page one in terms of the potential for serious injury. Of course, as I may have mentioned in previous blasts, I’d been busy securing shelves, bookcases, doors etc., since the beginning of the year after I’d decided that it was good to tempt fate -I was worried he wouldn’t actually be born if I did stuff for him in advance -yes, I know. In the cold light of day, however, I can see that I’ve not even scratched the surface, virtually everything in sight has the potential to maim/kill and I’m prowling about the flat day and night with a hammer and a screwdriver stalking unseen danger like I’m unhinged, like those hinges that could actually become unhinged if I don’t pop a grub screw over that plate… He could’ve lifted that cupboard door under the sink off easily and the whole lot would’ve come crashing down on that little duck-egg skull of his before all that bleach and rat poison poured down his throat. OHJESUSCHRISTS!

It’s not just imminent danger, I’ve already envisaged a whole variety of mishaps, misfortunes and disasters for just about every month of every year of his life up until, at least, his mid-seventies. The worst are the ones that are as a direct result of myself, most obviously things relating to motorcycles -though I suppose he could get a brain aneurism head banging to thrash -I’d never even thought of that one until now. That’d be horrific… But motorcycles do bother me, if I’m ironically honest, because I know that they can be a tad on the dangerous side. Now, it’s one thing to deny this to myself and another entirely to do it behalf of someone else, what’s more is that I can’t help myself but to line his bedroom wall with bikes, point at them loudly on the street and insist he watch the MotoGP which is achievable by locking him into my lap and gripping his little head -actually I do nothing of the sort, he’s mesmerised by it already. What have I done?

But all of that is for the future, for now the fact he simply wakes up is enough.

Sc(quit)ters

If you’d asked me a year ago if I’d go for recyclable or landfill-filling disposable nappies in the pub, four lovely pints in, I’d have vehemently declared that any child of mine (should I have one) would have the environmental footprint of his little toe, before waggling my little finger, bringing my fist down on the table and asking who round it is. In the cold reality of another sleepless, screaming-infant night/day the very thought of having to pre-boil a load of soiled towels before stuffing the sods into the washing machine and then having to hang the damp contents on those wobbly plastic-coated wire drier things, over and over again, is enough to solicit actual gagging.

Disposable nappies are the dogs’ bollocks, once you’ve worked out a few things. First and foremost, they’re not hipster jeans, they have to sit as high as grandad’s Woolrich slacks and failure to meet this fundamental requirement will result in all shit/piss outside. Fitting them in the correct position is one thing, ensuring they remain there is down to how tightly you’re prepared to do them up. A few days after birth one is paranoid of injurious consequences of even looking at them in a funny way, needless to say the nappy won’t be nearly tight enough and, look, the shit/piss is outside again. And you must ensure his little lad is pointing down, not up, when fitting the nappy, failure to do this and he’ll simply wee all over his tummy and the fucking nappy you’ve just changed again. Again.

Of course, sooner or later, it’s inevitable that he’ll do his nasty business when you’re in the process of actually changing him. Ironically the shit side of things isn’t as bad as the piss factor for two very good reasons and I’m here to explain why that is right now.

The poo is lump-free and in the grand scheme of things relatively odourless -I’d have it down as a cross between sour milk and, er, shit- and usually pre-announced downstairs by a flapping, quack/bark sort of sound. If you’re fast (and I bloody well am) you can catch the river vile by smashing a kitchen towel into the space between him and your clothes/furniture. The piss is sneaky, there’s no warning with piss, it just becomes a reality and because it’s unadulterated it’s Alpine clear to the point of invisibility -at the very best it can catch the light and look like a rogue hair. In fact, every time he’s pissed on me I’ve been in the process of changing him and gone ‘there’s a hair there, I’ll just get that away, oh no, it’s piss’. The rest of the the time you simply realise he’s just sitting in a puddle of it without so much as care in the world.

And the other reason? A couple of weeks ago one of the nurses noticed that the little fella was tongue-tied (when the stringy bit of skin (lingual frenulum) between the underside of the tongue and the floor of the mouth is too short) and informed, if left untreated, could cause speech impediments later in life; we were also assured it was effecting the quality of his feeding so a simple operation was arranged and executed shortly after. Instantly his diet changed.

For the past few days all I’ve seen is either the back of his head or a wide-open screaming mouth. He’s like a possessed man; he hits the tit like he’s not eaten since birth then yells himself half to death when he’s full, the bloody idiot. The problem, we soon discovered, is that whilst a vast quantity of matter was going in, not much, if anything, was coming out. For one miserable 24-hour period he didn’t squeeze out so much as a wisp of a fart, when he finally, well, exploded, I’ve never been so happy to see a big pile of shit in my life. As I write this its nappy feast or famine, we celebrate the shit up his back, laugh at the muck down his legs, pass the wet wipes, dear! O frabjous day! Etc. But when there is nothing we mourn like dark age black death, waiting in agony with his screams, praying for just the merest, tiniest wind-of-a fart. Please, god, please god fart… They don’t tell you stuff like that at the antenatal classes.

Wondering where all the bike stuff is these days? Well, to tell the truth, while I remain as committed and as passionate about bikes as ever before, I’m done with writing about it on a regular basis. This hasn’t anything to do with the baby either, it’s a little more complicated and ultimately depressing than that.

I began writing about bikes, largely MotoGP, on a semi-pro basis (i.e. I was getting paid) in 2010. By the end of 2014 that gig stopped but almost seamlessly got asked to write an article for Motor Cycle Monthly, the UK’s most read bike paper (largely because it’s free, I’m not going to overdo this). Anyway, I submitted the article ‘the history of knee-down riding’ in January 2015, got paid and told it was due for publication in the April issue, but the nice editor that commissioned the article got taken off MCM before it was published and moved to a different motorcycle publication.

In July of that year, the publishers of MCM and bunch of other really cool bike mags called me in for an interview at their offices in Peterborough. It went very well, one of the guys I spoke to had edited all of the top biking mags and papers and had even employed my favourite bike writer –and there was my article sat right in front of him. He told me I had a solid future as a feature writer and I left their offices on clouds of nines. And I’ve heard fuck-all since.

I’m still on good terms with the original editor but last month he gave me permission to publish the what-is-now-their article on here, so it won’t get published independently anymore and having still not heard anything from his publishers I’ve stopped hoping for some good news. It might be hard to imagine how that feels, to get so close and then be left with nothing, it sucks hairy golf balls through shit-filled hosepipes and, hopefully, explains why I’ve effectively quit.

On the plus side it’s nice to watch a race without having to take notes, the most recent offing at Assen -one of the best-ever GP races I’ve seen since I began writing about it- watched in its entirety without having to look away once to find my bloody pen.

Lastly, I’m still not sure if I want to publish the article on here (there are three or four more ready to go as well) so in the meantime, I’m going to forget about it and focus on lovely shit-filled nappies.

the knack

I had a few days off last week, first break since paternity leave which was just shattering (I hope you saw what I did there). What with the little fella settling into more of a routine -feed until brimming, burp, sleep, change, repeat- we’ve worked out that if you really go for the feed at about four pm you get an hour or so in the pub early in the evening… I’m making this sound easier than it actually is.

We’re fortunate in that the nearest hostelry is located about five minutes from the flat, it also helps that I’m pals with some of the staff and the boozer in question is spacious and sufficiently child friendly. Spending quality time in said pub is a little more complicated, you have to plan ahead, this means one is suited, booted (keys, wallets/bags all secured) and good to step out the door the instant his little eyes start to roll in their sockets.

Prior to this, post feed/burp, the boy wonder himself will have already been suitably attired, weather dependent, and locked into his pram, this aspect alone requires the dexterity of a card sharp and is without question the hardest part of the entire operation. The issue here is that the kid is secured into position by a three-point harness; two straps either side of his waist clipping onto a third that rides up between his legs. Getting him to lie down without being busted is one thing, trying to surreptitiously drag the third belt between his podgy and usually entwined little legs, and then clip-on the two adjacent straps (which by now have disappeared behind his neck/back/arse) is like trying to diffuse a steaming UXB. If he’s sated and you’re patient to the point of pedantry you can get away with it, if not it’s back to square one, albeit a considerably (and progressively) frantic one. Once out the door he may well stir but if you hold your nerve four times out of five you’ll arrive at the pub with sleeping child. Of course that means that one time in five you won’t but, in fairness, you’re normally back home fighting back tears undoing all of your hard work before you’re anywhere near that shining bar anyway.

Assuming you’ve made it, you need to work fast. First you have to run the gauntlet of cooing locals and find seating that will accommodate two adults and a pram away from other, possibly less hygienic, punters. The location of the pram is particularly important; it needs to be clear of gangways and you have to be able to see the contents of it without inviting the attention of the curious. This is best dealt with by clipping a muslin over the hood and leaving a viewing crack at one side, it also doubles as a rudimentary ‘germ’ screen, see last week’s post for details.

All that done, drinks in and you’ve an hour, if lucky, before the kid kicks off. The first pint will slip down easy but the second is more fraught, on occasion you’ll have to down it quick-smart and leave in a fug of screaming infant. Even if this doesn’t happen the pressure of it doing so is ever-present, it’s just the same at home when it comes to food (though timing dinner to arrive at the moment you suspect that the kid will be flat out is a little more complex) and it’s one thing to find oneself cramming a hastily concocted pile of stir-fried veg and wotnot into your maw before the kraken awakes at home, another entirely to be sat in an eatery, in public, next to a hair-trigger. Last week we had our first meal out with the little fella asleep in the pram, getting to that stage alone was like the pub-prep times ten but the sheer pressure to eat everything before he woke was something I’d never considered, despite having a watered down experience of it in the local.

It’s not just a question of manhandling a pram into an eatery and riding the largely hostile vibes from the other diners -who wants a pram parked next to you when you’re trying to eat? Especially now that our boy is prone to adult-level farts without the adult consequences of following though- it’s more to do with what happens after its been parked-up with every minute increasing the likelihood that the contents are going to kick off. The upshot is that one finds oneself getting overly anxious waiting for food to arrive, and when it does the pleasure of eating your carefully selected dish in an eatery of choice is offset by the potential of it being ruined by a baby, so you wind up stuffing the grub into your maw at an ever increasing rate. The well posh cheeseburger I ordered was virtually inhaled, at one point I was literally choking on it, and I may as well have just poured the beer straight into the urinal. Of course he didn’t stir throughout the whole experience which somehow made it even worse.

It’s all part and parcel of it I guess. What gets me is finding oneself in circumstances you’d never have envisaged in a dozen lifetimes and how the phrase ‘all-encompassing’ has transmogrified into absurd understatement. A good example of both is that he likes it when I softly go ‘grrr, grrr’ behind his ear. Doing the same thing alone in the queue at Tesco doesn’t go down so well.

Yamablah

Evidence of Hackney’s gentrification is well-documented, in the seven years I’ve lived here, a relatively short time, I’ve seen my fair share of changes. However, wander around Hackney after 9am and before 5pm on any weekday you might just see a few things bucking the assumed trend. Go behind St John’s Church, for example, and you’ll see a very different side of those typically ironic conversations undertaken at the weekend in plummy accents accents over a flat white outside one of the numerous ‘craft’ coffee shops discussing ‘how Hackney was better before.’

In the couple of weeks’ paternity leave -during which time I found myself (literally) dodging running law enforcers and/or the serially messed up, seriously arseholed, occupants of Narrow Way, with a pram and a one-week old baby sleeping in it- I’d  contest that the ‘better before’ Hackney to which ‘they’ refer is very much in existence; just because the pop-up shops/restaurants, Broadway Market, cock bars they frequent isn’t populated by toothless howlers clutching blue bags full of clear cider, it doesn’t mean that Hackney’s streets are instantly paved with collectible vinyl. However, they’re littered with homeless people day and night, so either these social commentators just visit the nice bits of Hackney at the weekend or there are so many people begging for change they just seem to fade into the background and disappear from sight. Whatever it is, and with regard to Hackney’s good fortune in recent years, a mandatory TB injection for the wee one would suggest it’s not quite the Utopian Neverland the likes of the Guardian would have us believe.

Aside from lunchtime visits to the gym, I’ve learned more about Hackney through the eyes of a baby than the entire time I’ve been a regular member of its populace. From the early ante-natal visits to Homerton Hospital, the actual birth, and now the post-natal care we’re receiving it’s very clear that those that hark on about how amazing it is to live here don’t work in public services, they’ve more on their plate than ‘ah gad, a lohd off blardy hipstars hiv moved ahn nixt dah, Aramintah’ for example.

Of course, you could argue that I’m as much of the problem being a white, educated and predominantly middle class homeowner who works via a Mac. We bought this one bed flat just before the property market went a bit silly five years ago, but it was of equal value and size to the property I sold in South London, also purchased before another property boom for a third of the price of this one when deposits were only 5%, so I’m hardly some trustafarian treading on the heads of others to fatten my fucking portfolio. The reality is that we couldn’t afford to buy here now, sooner or later we’ll be forced out to get a bigger place because we have a child that needs space, so no, I’m not part of any problem. Hackney to me is much more than London Fields in the summer and Columbia Road on a Sunday, it’s my real actual home where I live, work and play, my boy was born here and he needs to have a TB injection because it’s not as gentrified as the broadsheet commentators would have you believe.

Speaking of the baby, as I did just then, if the insides of his little nappy are anything to go by, you’d have thought his diet was saffron infused with Chrome yellow. My hands are raw from bleach, should this oddly-odourless toxic-waste come into contact with anything that can’t be saved by submersing it in Ajax the jaws of the pedal-bin await. Having said that it probably contains traces of the better half’s toenails, I mean the kid never stops eating, and it’s not as if he’s delicately nibbling away either, he’s at it like a whore on a crack pipe.

On a brighter note he’s just started to smile, not those gassy derived gurns that we’ve been seeing on occasion, these are big breezy (albeit, fleeting) grins that derive from ‘fun’ stuff such as waving a cow-headed blanket in his face and going ‘wooo’ or rocking his car seat fast and going ‘wooo’ some more. He certainly wasn’t smiling (this is seamless) when Rossi’s M1 Yamaha blew-up midway during the race (not any old race either, Mugello is the highlight of the season for me) and until that point, Rossi, second, was clearly practising passing strategies on his teammate, Lorenzo, who’d led from the off and, for once, not clearing off into the ether.

Why the Yam blew is, to date, unknown but Lorenzo’s Yam had done the same thing earlier which is almost unheard of, either way, as the race came to close we were left watching a solitary Yamaha with young MM on the Honda reeling him in; a few laps toward the end the long gap between them became a sliver and all of a sudden we had a proper race on our hands.

Check out this last lap, even if you think motorcycle racing is appalling its worth watching. Lorenzo’s blue and MM is red. I have to go, the boy’s just thrown up on my arm.

Hang on in there Ryan Farquar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTe3YSqu4TE

Sleep, for god’s sake SLEEP

On Saturday evening at 7.45 the better half slipped out of the door leaving my bro and I in charge of the baby. For the first time in over ten months the missus was off out without the baby in any incarnation of ante or post natal shenanigans, and we were in charge.

If this sounds like the start of some ‘what could possibly go wrong!! LOL!’ scenario (starring Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, or something) then you’re going to be very disappointed. What actually happened was inevitable; less than a minute after she’d shut the door the Kraken awoke, first to a mewl progressing to a full-on fucking scream.

The evening, planned a week or two in advance, was touch and go from the off. As far as my bro and I were concerned the evening had been billed, hopefully, as our very first ‘boys’ night in’ with nephew/son child. I’d made some pizza base and stocked up on fresh chicken and the idea was to cook off some tucker and watch a horror-based movie whilst stuffing our gobs and getting very gently pissed (note ‘very gently’, I’m not a complete wanker).

The missus, in readiness for her short night on the tiles, had spent the previous couple of days hooked up to the tit pump like a lovely Shorthorn cow in order to supply a necessary range of milks should his Lordships require an additional evening meal. So, if the baby wasn’t throwing a fit at the designated time of his mother’s departure, we’d all be set. And so it came to pass (save the timing of the fit).

I’m not sure how I’d have coped if it wasn’t for the patience of my bro, who seemed quite happy attempting to soothe a screaming basking shark. I, on the other hand, sort of turned all houswifey and went about cleaning pots and preparing the dough and toppings for the promised pizza as if all was jolly and whatnot. ‘Whatshallwewatchbro?’ I cried cheerfully across the room, it was like trying to order cake in a tearoom with Napalm Death. We got as far as the menu of Netflix and that was it. My limited methods of (newly) tried/tested methods of ‘calming down a baby’ were coming to an end, to make matters worse the little sod had managed to actually piss himself off and had entered into a never ending cycle of ‘whose making that noise?’ Factor in his lack of sleep and you’ve the worst possible recipe for any form of peace.

As his crying took on a more agonised hue, I seriously considered ringing the missus on her electronic mobile telephone -enjoying a gothic concert if you please- as she’d be the one to calm him down. My bro, still quietly comforting The Somme, suggested otherwise, ‘dontcallheryoudaftcunt’, he proffered over the din. But what to do? The kid was on the last bottle of milk after suddenly yelling down the previous one, the single can of beer that I’d been consuming was by now warm, things were getting desperately serious… Then all of a sudden, silence. He lay stretched out, half asleep, in his uncles arms lazily sucking away on that goddamn bottle as if his life didn’t depend on it. Merciful peace and tranquillity, and I could have a fresh beer… And now he’s completely fallen asleep! The missus walked into the room about thirty seconds later, into a completely artificial state of calm. ‘Aaah, he slept,’ she said, just before I rammed a fork through the other testicle.

I don’t normally post pictures, let alone movies, on MH (the words should tell the story, yeah) but something so weird happened at the French MotoGP only actual footage does it justice. Rossi started third on the grid but after some astonishing riding caught up with pole-sitter and teamtwat Lorenzo. For a while, after passing both Dovizioso and MM, Rossi was under pressure from the pair of them, until this happened. I’m still not sure how and why. Lorenzo, predictably, went on to win, Rossi finished second. Good job, Doc.

Shame you can’t hear the roar of the crowd…

Round 4: Baby

The contractions began in earnest Wednesday evening, none of those Braxton Bill things, actual ‘ooh, these hurt’ ones. Luckily I was pissed so it wasn’t until the following lunchtime the gravity of what might actually be happening began to sink into my psyche. It still didn’t seem real, so I did my best to sort-of put it away. That Thursday evening I spared myself too many glasses of the shitty vino from Tesco just in case… On Friday morning at 5.30am I woke up in an empty bed with the better half mechanically getting dressed, ‘we need to go to the hospital, now,’ she said with disturbing calm. ‘Really? Oh’. My head suddenly emptied like a skillet of hot vomit.

The hours and hours (and bloody hours) that followed the short 6am ride to the actual maternity wing are recalled as one might the few days following a disjointed trip -sort of cosy but with something in the back of the mind that might not be nice. I tried to read ‘In Plain sight’ (that book about Jimmy Savile) and for the most part succeeded, but disruption from materteral midwives and my poor missus groaning in agony wasn’t helping. For the most part, however, we were left alone; I didn’t have to go out the room to take a leak and there was a Costa/WH Smiths the floor below if I needed an excuse to stretch my legs/freak out.

At 4pm we were transferred to another room (just as spacious, albeit a little more austere) in order for the missus to receive an epidural. Here on in she’d be confined to bed and both her and the unborn monitored closely. Time continued to move at it’s own soporific pace, day turned to dusk to night, Savile abused another few more underage girls and I began to get worried. Round midnight, or something, we were informed that the contractions had begun to slow, not increase as is the norm, and the whole aspect of the situation took on a sinister hew -mutterings of an induction (or something) another drip. The activity in our room intensified along with our serious concerns, at 1.30am a doctor and one, two or even three midwives began to fuss about my recumbent missus. ‘We need to deliver this baby now,’ said the doctor. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be sick, I decided that I shouldn’t as it might be seen as counter-productive, what with all that was happening, and so forth.

On strict instructions I remained away from the business-end of things, I turned my back on all that stuff downstairs and faced the better-half as she tried to push, being full of narcotics she couldn’t actually feel anything so was reliant on muscle memory: the doctor was very encouraging so she continued to push away as I forced my gaze away from the strange splishy noises southwards, though there was a fuck of a lot of red in the corner of my eye.

I wasn’t sure if I was in a position to comment on how things were going when the doctor asked if it was okay if they helped things along. Agreed, just no forceps… Push! Are we going to have a C-section? PUSH! Would you like the baby on your tummy? FUCKINGHELLABABYISTHERE! The baby was crying and lost my shit for a moment, I cut his cord with remote viewing which spurted blood all over the blood that was covered in more blood. The room looked like a cow had been hit with a mortar round, the missus looked like she was radiating ethereal light, I looked at everything, I saw the two-foot long forceps just out of reach of the smiling doctor. It was properly weird; it was 2am.

I really can’t remember what happened immediately after this, we wound up on a ward by the window and the lovely big black lady who’d been looking after us kissed my wife goodbye and went on her way. People came and went, checking in on us and the baby who was sleeping in a little see-through cot. At some point later that afternoon, over 34 hours later, we were given the all-clear and I called us a cab to go home. Easy.

Valentino Rossi won the race at Jerez, I tried to watch it with the baby but he was looking everywhere but the screen, then he fell asleep. I know, though, that my boy was fully responsible for Valentino’s victory, it’s one of those cause and effect things, planet/universe shit, so if Mr. Rossi could send over some cash so I never have to work again -so I can spend all time just being a dad- that’d be a kindness. Thank you Valentino, thank.

Round three, probably

Some friends kindly gave us their buggybee pram thing over Christmas. Until recently it’s been shoved in the corner, in denial, in various bits. Last week I decided to assemble it after imagining that the unborn child might like to see some outside shit.

Imagining ones unborn as a newborn is hard. You get snatches of it but nothing seems to settle in. However, your mind is quite happy to vividly picture a gurgling toddler falling over balconies, drinking bleach or being run over by the car you’ve reluctantly had to buy in order to ferry the little bastard about.

After sorting out the basic components of the buggy, frame/wheels, bed, poss a hood? And what was actually a car seat and nothing to do with the former parts, I got to work. An hour later and I’d managed to locate the mounting pegs for the top part and how to raise and lower the handlebars, whatever they’re called, but that was it. I mean, it defied logic. Later that day I found myself in the park staring intently at kids’ prams in order to try and decipher the code of assemblage before concluding that checking this sort of thing on youtube carried a far lower risk of arrest. The youtube videos proved to be useless, some very suspect looking ‘dads’ from off of America extolling their own self worth via the medium of how to fit a raincover as portentously as possible was as unhelpful as it was infuriating. Eventually the better half (I’m not taking all the blame for this) and I realised we’d been deceived by how obvious it was from the off and the new, complete, buggy was re-shoved in the corner of the corridor to await god-knows-what.

This has been one of a list of hypothetical dad-things I’ve had to do as of late. New room aside, I’ve had to assemble drawers, cots, and shelves, fill gaps, drill holes, paint stuff, and secure a load of doors (cupboards and otherwise) so by the time the kid is actually the imaginary toddler I occasionally fret about he won’t have access to dangerous potentials while he and his mother are in the pub.

I still feel a bit weird about doing all these things, too. There is a very dark side of myself that feels that I’m somehow tempting fate… That (sort-of) aside, the hardest thing now is the bloody wait. The kid is already five days late so we’re sort of nervously fidgeting about; it’s like waiting endlessly for take-off on a really shitty flight to somewhere you suspect will be quite nice.

His new room, essentially, two stud walls and a door on one aspect of the lounge, is big enough to fit a double bed with a little bit of space to walk round two sides, and that’s about it. However, it’s superbly bright, airy, and has loads of space for pictures of motorbikes, skulls and Slayer. Obviously the better half had an opinion on this too, so only one wall has bikes on it (Barry Sheen, Carl Fogarty (signed, Carl and I, way back) and rather dubious ‘vintage’ metal plate featuring a café racer undertaking a fictitious run to Brighton at some haste) but I have managed to sneak in a skull/bones clock above the shelf and Joey Ramone illuminates when you turn the wall light on –I’m particularly chuffed with this act of defiant OCD-ness.

Speaking of bikes, Valentino Rossi started third and crashed out, the less said about the results below the better, frankly.

Right, I’m off to his room to wait some more…

MotoGP-Austin, USA. Results. 10.04.16

(Ducati test rider Michele Pirro replaced the injured Danilo Petrucci. Iannone had a three-place grid penalty from Argentina. Jack Miller withdrew due to a foot injury before the race started, and Cal and Smith fell at the same turn. Both rejoined and finished… Oh)

1. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 43m 57.945s
2. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 44m 4.052s
3. Andrea Iannone ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP) 44m 8.892s
4. Maverick Viñales ESP Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 44m 16.367s
5. Aleix Espargaro ESP Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 44m 18.656s
6. Scott Redding GBR Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP15) 44m 26.906s
7. Pol Espargaro ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 44m 30.057s
8. Michele Pirro ITA Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP15) 44m 30.702s
9. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) 44m 32.537s
10. Stefan Bradl GER Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 44m 38.156s
11. Alvaro Bautista ESP Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 44m 43.368s
12. Eugene Laverty IRL Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP14.2) 44m 45.072s
13. Tito Rabat ESP Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V)* 44m 45.371s
14. Yonny Hernandez COL Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP14.2) 44m 49.135s
15. Loris Baz FRA Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) 45m 10.874s
16. Cal Crutchlow GBR LCR Honda (RC213V) 45m 17.197s
17. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 45m 25.981s
Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) DNF -He took out…
Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP) DNF and apologised later.
Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) DNF AAARRRGGHHH

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t cry for me Marge and Tina

The race at Argentina topped the tip of a tip-top weekend, albeit a very strange one. I suppose it’s abundantly clear that I gauge a ‘good race’ by a combination of close, raw action, and where Valentino Rossi winds up. It would appear I’m not alone, the crowd drowned out the sound of two dozen fully-prepped race bikes when Rossi so much as looked at another rider. Frustrating, then, that every rider was forced to change bikes at the twelve lap mark due to race direction, as follows.

“The race distance is changed to 20 laps.

IN THE CASE OF THE RACE STARTING IN DRY CONDITIONS

Riders must change bikes at the end of their ninth, tenth or 11th Lap. For the avoidance of misunderstanding the rider can enter the pits after they have actually started the ninth lap and must do so before they start their 12th lap.

If rain starts and Race Direction consider the situation to be dangerous the red flag will be shown and all riders should enter pit lane. If 13 laps have been completed by all active riders then the race will be declared finished and full points will be awarded.

If the race is interrupted before 13 laps have been completed then teams will be given a minimum of 15 minutes between the display of the red flag and opening of pit lane to make adjustments to the machines. The pit lane will be open for five minutes as normal and riders may make more than one sighting lap.

The second part of the race will be for the number of laps required to complete the original number of 20 laps but, due to tyre constraints, with a maximum of 10 laps.

Grid positions will be based on the result of the first part, providing more than three laps were completed, and the race will be declared a wet race.

IN THE CASE OF THE RACE STARTING IN WET CONDITIONS

Riders may enter the pits to change machines only from the end of their ninth lap. For the avoidance of misunderstanding the rider can enter the pits after they have actually started his ninth lap. (There is no obligation to change machines).

If the wet race is red flagged for other reasons when more than 13 laps have been completed then the result will stand and there will be no restart.”

I wonder how long it took them to come up with that? What’s wrong with ‘if it’s wet you can change bikes’? Don’t write in.

The bottom line is that Rossi was looking like he might pass MM until they came in to change bikes, a thrilling prospect under the circumstances, which we were denied. Rossi clearly wasn’t happy with his second bike and if it wasn’t for the rather unfortunate incident between the Ducati’s in the closing stages of the race, he would’ve come in fourth.

The race didn’t start until eight pm and by then I was rather pissed. This isn’t ideal as I may be called on, at any second, to dad-up. So, in between sips of beer, I was making sure the better half was at least contraction-free. I knew that as soon as they started I’d only have a minimum of four or five hours to get really fucked up.

The previous evening was taking it’s toll too, the band that let me sing/shout for them had just had their second show. We have been together for almost a year now, our keyboard player is a pro with a resume that’ll close down unwanted advice like a Venetian blind, and the rest of the guys have been playing competently since their schooldays. I was invited to sing for them last spring by my mate who’s the guitarist, following an impromptu audition at our rehearsal studios in Holloway I got the gig, as it were.

The show in question was our first in front of Joe public (our debut was as a party piece in front of friends) and we’d added some new songs to our repertoire -I say ‘new songs,’ we’re a covers band with a dark, possibly offensive, twist.

I was typically nervous before the start, especially as I’d not quite got to grips with the lyrics of a couple of new numbers and my panicking was making stuff I’d leant hard to retain. I’d find myself mentally testing a random song only to have my memory gulping at it like a dying goldfish, then songs I knew back-to-front began to evaporate as well. The fact we’d got to the venue (George Tavern, Whitechapel http://savethegeorgetavern.com/) at five thirty for the soundcheck with four and half hours to spare didn’t do much to help my self-imposed policy of pre-show (partial) abstinence. By the time we sat down for a band curry at seven (also not a particularly clever move) I was on my third pint.

By the time we hit the stage at nine I was only sober on account of nervous energy, as soon as the band started playing the opening to the first tune another me sort of arrived and started doing the business. Hearing one’s voice in such circumstances is rather odd, I think I sound fucking awful (though I’m assured I’m more than adequate) but the quality, the sheer power, of my band lifted me through it all. Not being able to see the audience helps too, dark wrap-a-rounds and a hat turns moist heat into steam/condensation and you can almost imagine you’re alone. Yes, I forgot a few words here and there but it didn’t matter, the crowd were enjoying it, so were we, and all the while I could just make out my missus, due today as it goes, beaming away.

A forty-five-minute set, one encore and much applause signified the end of what had been a splendid evening, after a few more drinks of course. To have a gig so close to the due day of the baby meant that it was always touch and go, as a subsequence we didn’t make too much of a big deal out of it; in hindsight I wished we had. More to gigs to come, anyway.

It’s not like we’d just played the O2 but there is a still a bit of post-gig winding down that takes place. Most of it happens in the few hours after but I woke on Sunday still feeling rather chipper, albeit hungover. On account of my wife’s ‘condition’ our Sunday afternoon motorcycle rides have been off the cards for a good while and while I can ride I feel less inclined to be too far away from home, in case she floods the kitchen or something. On Saturday, for example, I got my Triumph T140v going and spent an hour blasting about on him in the sunshine without exceeding five miles, at any given point, from home.

Also on the decline are the Sunday afternoon strolls, no longer can we take off for four-hour long rambles over the beardy hills of Hackney and Shoreditch, now it’s an hour with luck and a bus home. Via the pub as it happened. Then Tesco for some more beer. So by the time the race began I was feeling rather chuffed with myself.

Lorenzo fell off early on, he’d failed to capitalise on his front row start which had knocked his rhythm out. His crash was accompanied by an almighty roar of approval from the crowd, all the evidence you need regarding the outcome of 2015. After the switchover around lap twelve Rossi was off-pace as MM cleared off, the pair of Ducati’s in third and fourth, piloted by Iannone and Dovizioso, were catching Rossi and passed by without incident. The same can’t be said for the pair of Ducati’s. With a few turns remaining a rather ambitious Iannone attempted to undertake Dovi, the front end folded and down he went, collecting his unfortunate teammate in the process. Fucking whoopsadaisy. With both bikes off the podium (though a livid Dovi pushed his bike over the line to get thirteenth) and a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Austin, plus a penalty point, for Iannone, I think its fair to assume that Ducati would rather forget the whole bloody weekend.

1. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 34m 13.628s
2. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 34m 21.307s
3. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 34m 41.728s
4. Eugene Laverty IRL Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP14.2) 34m 50.170s
5. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) 34m 50.339s
6. Pol Espargaro ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 34m 50.873s
7. Stefan Bradl GER Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 34m 54.981s
8. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 35m 4.337s
9. Tito Rabat ESP Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V)* 35m 4.611s
10. Alvaro Bautista ESP Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 35m 15.016s
11. Aleix Espargaro ESP Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 35m 22.496s
12. Michele Pirro ITA Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP15) 35m 32.615s
13. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP) 35m 47.047s
Andrea Iannone ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP) DNF
Cal Crutchlow GBR LCR Honda (RC213V) DNF
Maverick Viñales ESP Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) DNF
Scott Redding GBR Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP15) DNF
Loris Baz FRA Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) DNF
Jorge Lorenzo ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) DNF
Jack Miller AUS Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) DNF
Yonny Hernandez COL Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP14.2) DNF
(Ducati test rider Michele Pirro was replacing the injured Danilo Petrucci)

Loads of DNF due to the wet/dry track conditions which included Cal and Scott. Arse. Still, Rossi is now second in the championships (behind MM) thanks to the Ducati’s so small mercies and all that.

The next race is in a few days, still no idea if we’ll still be waiting for the baby, will have had the baby, or will be having the baby.

Toodle pip.

Sort-of Qatar

It seems that the end of last season really has done some harm. The inaugural race in the oil-rich country of Qatar (where flogging and stoning are legal) is even more sinister than usual. MotoGP has lost its innocence; the shady-goings-on inside the semi-dark venue seem appropriate. Before we’d even started racing it appeared that Lorenzo had deliberately upset Rossi’s qualifying chances by pulling out of pit-lane on his flying lap, and the pre-race press conference was icy, charmless and lacking in conviviality. For the first time in the five years I’ve been blogging (occasionally for cash-money) I decided to do away with notes for the actual race. Expect a different sort of Motohed.

The race itself was watched with suspicion following a long lunch at a preferred French Restaurant in Islington. I, full of Filet Mignon and a quantity of good, red wine, was perched on my balcony with the Mac as dusk crept in from the East. I can’t say I was unmoved by the start (despite the above) the bottom-line is that I love motorbike racing (it also makes the above harder to swallow) and the first race of the season is always more than the sum of its parts. It’s the start of the spring, stuff is starting to grow, blossom and shit. And this year, maybe even this week, it’s also the beginning of my sojourn into parenthood.

Last July the missus and I were sat in the park with a bottle of Leffe, ruminating on the cricket match yonder; well I was, trying to explain the difference between a spin and fast bowler (I don’t care either) when I suddenly felt compelled to question her on matters of a personal nature regarding a specific aspect of female biology that may, or may not, occur cyclically. Right there I learnt she might be up the duff. Obviously it was just as possible that this wasn’t the case, but the way in which I was informed, perhaps the way she was brandishing the now empty bottle of Leffe, suggested we should get this checked out as soon as we could.

A couple of days later, on hearing the news it was real we sort-of tried to ignore it, but the lifestyle change was instantaneous. From here on in, I would have to get arseholed alone.

In the early stages of pregnancy that was about the only difference those rapidly-dividing cells made to us. There was no morning sickness or weird cravings, she was fine as well, so until we actually heard its heartbeat, saw a little blob on a monitor, we still weren’t 100% in the zone. And even after it all felt a bit odd. Bizarrely it was through the act of telling people that it sort of gelled that we were. Going. To. Be. Parents, or rather, we were already parents. Or something like that anyway. It was confusing. Fuck she’s got a bump.

And we live in a one-bedroom flat, we’ll have to move, no. Think. God. Let’s do it after Christmas, we’ll still have four months. Pint? No you can’t can you… Soda water? Alright! It’s not my fault… Well it is. No ice, right. Fuck. Lime? Only cordial… No thanks, just the soda water, then. Fuck. Pint?

With the birth date set for early April we decided to, basically, not do anything baby-wise until after Christmas with aim of having it all done (whatever that was) by Easter. This took some pressure off, we went to Italy a couple of times and I took full advantage of the missus’ abstinence by allowing her to drive the hire cars whilst I sat beside her in the passenger seat either hungover or drunk -and all the stages in-between- offering helpful advice on her driving. Christmas came and went, by the end of January the flat was unchanged until, one cold morning, I suddenly I smashed up our behemoth leather sofa.

This bloody sofa had been winched into the flat by the previous owner, I say ‘winched’ because it wouldn’t fit through any normal-sized door and had to be craned to the third floor and stuffed in through the ‘French’ windows over the balcony. We tried to sell it, then give it away on on the proviso the new owner paid for the crane… With nothing doing the only option was to break it up and take it downstairs in small chunks. A day’s work later, a busted back and a massive lump on my head, the old sofa was out and the smaller two-seater sat in its place, the desk dismantled (from now on, I work in the bedroom) and the breakfast-bar-thing shifted into the place where the two-seater used to sit meant we now we had enough space to build a small but serviceable child’s room within the open-plan lounge/desk area/s. Fuck the planning permission, ‘my mate Jon will have this sorted in a week’ I said and, a week later after much hard work, the room was built, painted and good to go. It looks as if it’s always been there now, it’s very strange. There is even a cot in there and toys, a buggy, some drawers with nappies and baby clothes… And a freaking man, usually about five times an hour.

Even when I was watching the race I was regularly turning around to make sure the room hadn’t blown away, or collapsed, or suddenly become occupied by a screaming infant. Back to the race (briefly) which already looked like the last couple of seasons despite what had seemed to be a more level playing field at the start, I thought about the sport through the eyes of my unborn son. Rossi will have long retired before he reaches the sort of age where he’ll have the sort of Descartian logic required to ‘like’ something subjectively. That’s assuming he even fancies bike-racing, he might prefer golf or curling. I’m sure this is the very least of my problems but as a coping strategy it’s working very well at the moment.

1. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 42m 28.452s
2. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP16) 42m 30.471s
3. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 42m 30.739s
4. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 42m 30.839s
5. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 42m 42.535s
6. Maverick Viñales ESP Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 42m 43.875s
7. Pol Espargaro ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 42m 47.081s
8. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 42m 47.104s
9. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) 42m 49.612s
10. Scott Redding GBR Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP15) 42m 52.887s
11. Aleix Espargaro ESP Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 43m 4.299s
12. Eugene Laverty IRL Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP14.2) 43m 10.208s
13. Alvaro Bautista ESP Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 43m 10.384s
14. Jack Miller AUS Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) 43m 10.434s
15. Tito Rabat ESP Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V)* 43m 23.405s
Stefan Bradl GER Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) DNF
Loris Baz FRA Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) DNF
Cal Crutchlow GBR LCR Honda (RC213V) DNF
Andrea Iannone ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP16) DNF
Yonny Hernandez COL Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP14.2) DNF