Monday, 28 May 2012

Blogging Holiday

I know, I disappeared in a rude fashion. It's a bad time for UK teachers - coursework deadlines followed by exam revision and tidying up the end of year, and I haven't really had time for walks and write-ups. I will try and get something out soon... to prove I still exist...

On the plus side, the back-carry is going very well! We've got into it now, and both of us know what we're doing. Although the Chap does have a habit of making a 'clip-clop clip-clop' tongue clicking noise when he gets on my back as if I am a horse. Flattery, thy name is toddlers.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

International Babywearing

On a recent trip to Vietnam, my father got a picture of a Vietnamese back carry. Looks similar to everyone else's back carries, really. It seems crazy, but because sometimes with all the weird looks and the 'ah, that's the way to travel' comments and open staring on the bus, I forget that having your child strapped to you is completely normal for most of the world...
Anyway, if you want to see the picture of brightly coloured Vietnamese babywearing, click here. Or you can read his post and learn about the origin of the word 'bong', which was also an education for me...

Monday, 7 May 2012

College Lake with a Back Carry

In which I do my first walk with the Chap on my back, find a different path to take around College Lake and continue to assuage my nursery-guilt with knitting.

Map: None Used (routes are available at College Lake if you're desperate, but it's very much a case of following signs!)
Distance: 4k

Time: 1 hour

Rating: Easy Walk

This walk was a first for me, because it was the first time I did a walk with the Chap on my back. It's been coming on for a while - I got to the end of Willen Lake and thought "oof, my back", so I've been working up to doing extended walks with the Chap on my back, and this was the first 'proper' walk I've done with him there. It takes a bit of practise to get them up there - I have found it easiest to 'Santa Toss' him over my head rather than scooting him round my side, as he's just got too tall to fit comfortably under my arm. However, I can get him up there without incident now, so long as he isn't wearing anything big like a coat that tend s to get rucked in the back and make the back of the Ergo sit a bit low, but I now know what that feels like, so it can be dealt with.

However, I still wanted to build my confidence, so I went for College Lake. It's an easy walk, it's not a long way or difficult terrain, and it has a visitor centre so nappies and so on can be dealt with.

We started as we start most walks these days - with the two of us walking. We use the reins for this a lot as the Chap can accelerate in an impressive manner - fine of you're in a flat park, but not so good if you're in an area filled with rabbit holes or on a train station or similar.

On leaving the Visitor Centre, turn left and follow the path round. It starts on gravel and then quickly becomes a packed earth path, and the Chap seemed quite happy to toddle along that rather than dashing off into the undergrowth, so I let him off his reins to tootle about in that purposeful manner that toddlers have.

Soon enough, however, he stopped and asked to be carried, so I threw him over my shoulder and into the back carry and we continued forward.

The line of trees soon breaks and you start to get views over the lake. The path splits shortly after this - the orange trail continues on the flat path suitable for prams, but we chose the purple trail bearing right and down a slope. This leads down into a tree-lined dell, and then up again to a narrow path. It's a quieter path and easier if you're wanting to see some birds or other wildlife than the main orange trail.

Also a week of firsts, I have finished my first cardigan for the Chap! I am amazed that it not only looks like a cardigan, but it also appears to be wearable! I put it on him this morning (before I had sewed in all the loose threads) and was also delighted to see that, although a bit big at the moment, it will fit him and appear to be in proportion when he gets big enough for it. I am amazed it actually looks like it's supposed to! It took weeks, however, but I'm really pleased with it. And at least it gave me something to work on while we worked our way through the Lord of The Rings extended box set.

I find knitting terribly comforting. When my sister-in-law asked why I had started knitting, the answer was simple - guilt. I hate putting him in nursery, but I find knitting helps me ignore it.

"Ah-ha," she said, in that knowing way that people with psychology degrees have. "So it's a case of 'I'm leaving you, but I've got you this."". I've thought about it, really, and that's not quite right. It's not about leaving him so I got him something. There's a world of plastic dinosaurs and cars that could fulfil that function. It's something about the effort, the activity. It's not really about the fact you get a cardigan at the end of it, although that is in itself satisfying (and surprising!). It's more about the activity; the performance aspect. If I think about it, even though I enjoy being at work (which is something I never thought I'd say, but that's what having a year's maternity leave lead me to conclude), I still feel that by going to work I am doing something unutterably selfish. It doesn't matter that we can't afford for me not to work - I think it's a case of the Terrible Shoulds. I feel I should be at home looking after him, and therefore any other choice is Doing It Wrong.

You will shortly reconnect with the main trail, and we continued along this until we saw the gate leading off to the left through the fence, marked with a 'permissive footpath' white arrow. As this was somewhere I hadn't been before, I decided to go and have a look and see where it took us.

I really enjoyed this part of the route. It feels a lot quieter than the main path, and takes you along the edge of the nature reserve through the trees. It was also completely deserted apart from a photography crew who were taking promotional pictures for the reserve, who grinned as I went past with my load.


In wearing the Chap as I go for walks, I manage to do what I want at the same time as feeling like I'm ticking the 'Proper Parenting' box. It was the same when we went and enjoyed the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum the other day - I enjoyed the dinosaurs before I had a child, but now I'm not just indulging myself. I'm Being A Parent. In knitting, I perform the role of being his mummy, even if what I'm doing is just sitting on the sofa drinking beer and shouting "Oi love 'ee, Mr Frodo!" at various opportune moments at the TV. Now, obviously this doesn't mean I'm not his mother when I'm doing this, but it seems to me that again, this is a self-indulgent act when what I should be doing is watching him sleep and composing odes to his restful slumber or similar. Left brain knows this is tosh. My left brain understands that one can still be someone's mother as you cry "You were robbed of that Oscar, Mr Serkis, robbed, I say!". So, knitting is a salve to the incoherent babbling of my right brain - I am performing the act of being a mother, therefore it's fine. It doesn't matter that I am knitting because I enjoy it, or I like the challenge - if that wasn't the case, I wouldn't do it. I enjoy it, but it also helps on the occasions when he comes home from nursery knackered, goes straight to bed and I hardly see him. It's either knitting or watching little videos we've made of him and crying. I know which option is provides a more conducive household environment...

The path then leads you back onto the main route, giving you good views over the lake. We continued forward, and then took the first right hand turn. This area is definitely not suitable for prams - there are steps and gates and narrow pathways and it would all be very awkward. I like this route, however, because there have some interesting things to look at along this way. This way has information about the history of College Lake, starting with old machinery left over from the days when it was a chalk quarry and going all the way back to the dinosaurs.

We then took the path leading up and off to the left back to the main route. I also wanted to have a look around the second hand book shop that lurks about the Visitor's Centre - I am indeed one of those people who can never resist the lure of a bookshop. I have a particular fondness for women's advice manuals from pre-1960s. None exist in this bookshop, but I did pick up a nice children's book about an elephant who is pen-friends with a penguin.

Children's books acquired, we then continued back to the Visitor's Centre, then home.

Things I Learnt

  • After I changed to the 'santa toss' method of getting the Chap on my back, all my back-carrying problems have been solved!
  • I can knit, it seems. My next plan is for something a bit more proper than a beginner's pattern... something that involves a tension square to start off with...
  • You can get a number of quite varied walks out of College Lake. When I first went, I was pretty sure it was a straight march around a circuit job, but I am glad to find that there's a good amount of choice. It's also good for building up confidence if you're not used to baby wearing for walking.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Secrets of Dating Prove I've Been Doing It All Wrong

I apologise for the lack of a walk for the past 2 Mondays. The walks have been happening, I promise you, but this is a catastrophically bad time of year for the British teacher to do anything but leave work and hyperventilate as the coursework deadlines get ever nearer. What I'm lacking is the time to write them up - I will try for a post on Monday!

In the meantime, however,I have had time to get annoyed by the Internet. How unusual...

Protip: to repell unwanted advances, employing the phrase
"I feel Jar Jar Binks has been unfairly maligned..." can be effective.
So, there I was idly about to google something when a 'Shh! 53 Dating Secrets Girls Don't Want Guys To Know!' article wandered past. I frankly don't feel I need to look at the 'Guys Don't Want Girls To Know' - frankly, having been with ChapDad for about a decade rather feel I'm past that stage (thank God). Plus, I have also found that being able to have a passable conversation about the moral choices of Han shooting first stands one in better stead than reading website advice. However, I am always curious to find what secrets I am keeping according to Ther Intarrwebz, so I had to click.

Once again, ladies and gentleman, I have been doing it all wrong. Isn't it curious? Is it not a wonder how I ever managed to find (nay, net! Secure, even!) a life partner without taking on board a myriad of rules! In short, I bet I'm not the only one who finds this, to use to technical term, wall-to-wall horsebollocks. I've cut some to save time, but here we go:

1. When we get whistled at in the street, we feel uncomfortable and we’ll always tut and roll our eyes. But we’re awesomely flattered and we’d be gutted if it stopped.

Personally, I love a bit of street harassment. Nothing I like better than some sweaty ne'erdowell summing up my entire being on a scale of how much he'd like to do me. It makes all those years in education worth my while. I'm not just flattered - I'm awesomely flattered. It's almost as good as being groped by a stranger, as that really shows how fanciable you are too!

2. We will never grow out of our fascination with pop stars. A guy can be completely ordinary-looking, but we will fancy him if he’s in a band.

Yeah, that's the problem - it's not the fact you're behaving like a total cock, it's the fact that you're not in a band.

3. We are more likely to fancy a guy if his ex-girlfriends are really pretty.

4. We can be put off a guy by finding out that his ex-girlfriends are a bit ugly.

Will we? Really? Indeed, I find myself regularly thanking my husband for his choice of Evil Ex-Fiance by being shorter than me, fatter than me and being universally reviled by his entire family. By the time I came through the door, as long as I didn't set the cat alight I was green-lit all the way by virtue of not being That  Other One.

7. Here’s how to make us fall for you. One day, come on to us so strong that we’re a bit weirded out by it. Then totally fail to ring us. We’ll wonder what we did wrong, and we won’t be able to stop thinking about you.

Mmmm - I love the smell of date rape in the morning.

8. The above strategy isn’t foolproof. We may just lose interest. It depends on how much we liked you in the first place.

That's completely true. There's nothing I like more than being pressurised for sex. Sometimes it really convinces me that I did fancy you after all.

9. We often don’t know how much we liked you in the first place. We may have to wait until you don’t phone us. If we’re disappointed, it proves that we fancy you. If we’re not, it proves that we don’t. It’s like when you toss a coin to help you make a decision.

Because as a woman, God forbid I should know my own mind. We don't, us girls. Leaky and defective, as Plato said, chopping and changing our tiny little minds. We can't really keep one continuous thought in our heads! You manly men, you make decisive actions like tossing coins to make a decision. We just flit about, flighty little flibbertigibbets that we are.

10. Stop trying to understand how our minds work. Even we don’t understand how our minds work.

Men don't understand how their minds work, either. That's why we have psychology. Stop perpetuating this 'mystical irrational woman' tosh.

12. We love getting a missed call from you. It makes us feel in control.

I've been doing this wrong, too. I always thought that it just meant I had to find a time to call you back.

16. We will never discuss this with you because we are constantly scared of putting you off by bringing “us” up in conversation.

If you find yourself having this thought about a partner, my advice would be to pack your bags and leave. After hearing a friend of a friend's tale about how she'd asked her boyfriend to move in with her after five years and he refused in favour of continuing to live at home with his parents because he 'didn't want things I get to serious', I found myself stabbing tables imperiously with my finger and crying "Why the hell is she still with him? If you ask someone to move in with you and they say no, that is a dealbreaker. She should get rid of him and start again!"*

* I may have had an espresso martini by this point.

17. “I’m scared of being hurt” means “I don’t fancy you as much as I thought I did.” You know it, we know it, and that is all that will be said on the matter.

I thought that when I said this to my new boyfriend ten years ago, it was because I really really liked him, and the thought of losing him upset me. Fortunately he didn't take this as a coded message that I didn't particularly fancy him, and thus continued to go out with me, moved to China with me, proposed, married me, liked me enough to decide we wanted children, helped out once the child was here.

18. We say “we’re not manipulative” because we’re really good at being manipulative.

19. We only manipulate your feelings because you manipulated our feelings first.

Blah, blah, blah. You said that, so I said that, so you said that, so I said that, whinge whinge whine whine I haven't worked out how to communicate with the opposite sex because I've learnt all my gender politics from the Daily Mail.

20. Snoring costs you sex.
I didn't realise there was a bartering system in operation...

21. Your feet disgust us.

I believe Caitlin Moran on Twitter once announced something to the effect of 'a man with an erection won't notice if you're wearing flippers'. Similarly, unless they are rotting in some way, discoloured or giving off an unnatural stench, I do not care.

22. We shave our toes.

I do?

23. We’ve got a rogue hair that needs regular plucking.

I have?

24. We went through a phase of shaving our moustache.

I did?

25. We leave our legs unshaven on a first date so that we won’t end up in bed with you.

26. We wear big knickers on a first date so that we won’t end up in bed with you.

27. We spend entire first dates fancying the pants off you and worrying that we’ll end up in bed with you, all unshaven legs and big knickers.

I always rather suspected that if you were worth the bonk you wouldn't mind about a slightly rough leg. Or, indeed, even notice.

28. We don’t actually care that much about the loo seat.

Hurrah! 28 points in and I finally find something that applies to me!

29. We suspect that you like our bodies more when we’re carrying a few extra pounds, but we always feel better about ourselves when we lose weight. However we hate that our boobs look deflated, and we’re disgusted by the injustice of it.

I don't even know where to start with this. The whole of this list has been about things we do to 'catch' a man and trying to fit in with what they want, but now they like us with an extra slice of cake we're going to get all sniffy? Come on, ladies...

30. We envy you for being able to eat more than us and not get fat. By “envy” we mean “occasionally hate.”

Or we understand that you are larger than us and thus need more calories to maintain your weight?

31. If a grown-up woman has light blonde hair, she’s bleaching it*. You can tell that a woman is a natural blonde from her mousey eyebrows. (* OK, or she’s Scandinavian.)

Women modify colour of body hair shock! Why did no-one tell use about this before?

33. Yes we’ve got nice eyes, blah blah. Boring. We are desperate for you to compliment our skin and our necks.

I am?

34. We are even more desperate for you to write poems about us.

Unless I was dating an actual poet who was paid for their work, I would be deeply concerned that a gentleman who did this had yet to leave his teenage years behind him.

42. During breakouts we get up at 6am and cover our spots with concealer while you’re sleeping.

Again, I am of the opinion that if I am sleeping with you than you should be able to deal with my unmade up spotty face.

I believe my grandmother gave advice my mother about the morning after her wedding night. I believe she advised getting up early to put make-up on before my father saw her. I would therefore judge this practise... outdated...

43. We don’t want you to stay for breakfast. We want you to leave immediately so that you don’t have time to register how dog-rough we look in the morning.

Again, if you don't like someone enough for them to see you looking dodgy in the morning, you shouldn't be sleeping with them in the first place. Also, if you're there for breakfast, it means I don't have to get my own cup of tea :)

44. We want you to text us from your journey home to say how you can’t stop smiling.

That is nice, and good manners. Continue.

49. We fake orgasms so that you’ll stop and let us go to sleep.

Because we didn't want it really. Probably because we were just 'so awesome flattered' by you 'coming on really strong' as suggested by earlier points.

50. We aren’t always sure when we’re faking it. In orgasms, the line between fact and fiction can be very thin.

What? I'd go and see someone about that, love. You're a grown woman - you should know.

52. We find your dark-coloured bedsheets a total turn-off.

That's what turns me off - bedsheets. Nothing about you being an arsehat, it's your bedsheets, love.

Disgraceful that the whole of this tosh is actually being published by MSN. Not by trolls on the Daily Mail, by actual as if it is gospel. Maybe I'm just showing my age, or maybe I've just never been cool enough in the 'cut-throat world of dating', but it isn't making any sense to me...?