Saturday, 17 December 2011

Every moment

I've been feeling quite reflective recently.
To be honest, things have been slightly bumpy with the sausage in the last few weeks. While I've never come close to wishing I didn't have him, and never stopped liking him, I really faltered in my confidence in my ability to be a good mother to him. He seemed never to be satisfied, and for a couple of weeks he just cried all the time - relentless, insistent, despairing crying that I could at best delay by holding him, but sometimes even that didn't work. I was starting to ask myself what I was doing wrong, particularly after each version of that conversation where someone asks your baby's age, and you tell them, and they say OOOOOO such a lovely age, you can really enjoy them at this age, can't you? And I'd nod and agree, and walk away thinking well, I love him, but I don't seem to be enjoying him that much. It was just firefighting and I was devoting so much attention to making him not-cry that there wasn't much left in the tank for anything more positive.
So it's a joy for me to able to say things have moved on. Whatever was troubling him (or me) seems to have passed for now and for the past week I have really, truly, actively enjoyed pretty much every moment with him. The cries have always made sense to me, and I've known what to do, or when there's not much I can do; I'm understanding his cues for feeding, sleep, or a change of activity; he is engaging so very much with me, so much eye contact and laughing and smiling; he has periods of at least a few minutes where he will sit in his chair while I get on with something, or where I can lean him on me and let him happily play with something. I feel as though we have weathered something significant - we've come out of the other side of a time when we weren't quite synchronised, when there was something he was telling me that I wasn't 'getting', and I'm reaping the rewards now in a baby who seems to like me almost as much as I like him.
Oh, and he's sleeping for the odd stretch longer than 2 hours at night now. Of course this makes a huge difference.

I'm not silly enough, or blindly optimistic enough, to think that I now have it nailed and it will be plain sailing right through to adulthood. The draft post that I've been writing in my head called "attachment parenting fail" may well still get an airing when it's been refined a bit further. I also know that it's not as if we weren't having plenty of nice times during that difficult period - it wasn't weeks and weeks of living hell, or anything close to it. But still, it feels as though a page has turned. Bliss! 

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Home alone

It's day 2 of a week where Isaac and I are alone together, his daddy having gone away to do interesting things in hot places.
My learning points so far:
1. It's a lot harder when you don't have someone to pick up the slack, even if it's only of the "oh god, can you just entertain him for 10 minutes while I slump and stare into space?" variety;
2. Nights, on the other hand, have been easier so far. He's feeding about a million times a night but I don't mind so much when there's no one who's asleep. I appreciate that this is deeply irrational, and that there's no need for my beloved to be awake while I'm feeding, but clearly (from my reaction this week) it's been simmering with me, because really last night I felt quite serene at each feed, even though they were every hour;
3. The thought of the possibility of my getting ill is TERRIFYING. I felt dreadful yesterday, all shivery and achey and cotton-wooly, and went to bed very very early thinking oh god, this is it, I have the flu, how on earth am I going to look after the baby? Luckily I turned out to be fine but still the fear of breaking my legs, or something, pervades;
4. I have a new depth of respect for anyone who does this alone full-time. My baby is (obviously) gorgeous and wonderful and lovely, but he's also hard work and intensive and really, just a few minutes of being able to share his care (and I don't mean a few minutes is all the beloved provides, just that it's the sanity-provider) makes quite a difference to how exhausted you are at the end of the day;
5. I'm so glad that he's old enough that he's still going to know his daddy when he gets back. Again this probably doesn't sound too rational, as it *is* only a week, but I feel so confident that daddy will get the almost hysterically delighted reaction that he always does;
6. We had two awful nights just before this week, where instead of waking for feeds and going straight back to sleep, he woke, howled, refused to feed, howled, howled, howled, needing us to take it in turns to rock and pace. I was terrified this pattern would continue, but it hasn't two nights so far. I think it would actually kill me, doing it alone;
7. I thought that with all the time I would have alone in the evenings I could do lots of sustained reading, without the worry of being antisocial. So far I've not even picked up a book, though I've done some excellent wallying around on the internet, and have managed some studying (study books don't count as books). Still, three more evenings, even if you don't count the rest of this one;
8. I may be coping just fine without him, but I still miss him.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Six months ago...

How did my boy go from this to the great big smiling hulk below?
Six months ago today was when I first met him, and I don't even mind if that sounds a bit naff. He was small and really quite incapable, and now he's huge and healthy. He has two tiny teeth, the fattest wrists you can think of, and is even working on getting some hair. He can sit with just a hand near to him for support, he can grab objects one handed and transfer them efficiently into his mouth, he has a huge range of vocalisations, and the most luminous smile in the world. Describing his physical characteristics and "achievements", if you like, is a hopeless way to explain what he is, but how can you possibly do justice to a baby's personality in words?
There's only an occasional day that passes without me having at least a fleeting moment of OHGODTHISISTOOHARDIWANTMYOLDLIFEBACK but there's also not been a single day when I haven't had a time of a deep sensation of blessedness. I can't get over the good fortune of having this amazing infant growing and developing in front of me. I can't quite get my head around the fact that he's "mine", that I built this thing, I grew him inside, I pushed him out, I've fed him solely off my milk for all this time (if I could do footnotes I'd add one here saying that he has tripled his birthweight, and all from my boobies), and yet he is so distinctly himself, and I can't take credit for that.
I hope the next six months will keep feeling like this, perhaps with not so many of the capitalised moments, but I don't want to take anything for granted. I'd not swap these highs and lows for a lifetime in the middle.
Happy half-birthday, my darling sausage-boy!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The best moment of the day

It's not the moment when he goes to bed, even though that might be a relief.
Instead, it's usually about three hours after that. I've made and eaten dinner, and settled down to some reading or studying or wallying around on the internet, and then I hear a little chirp on the baby monitor.
This is my place to confess that I always bound up the stairs, without waiting to see whether he'll just roll over and go back to sleep, because after three hours I miss him and I want to scoop up his sleepy little body. I want to watch and feel his head roll into me with his eyes still closed, and I want to snuggle him up while he feeds. Last night I found myself reaching to stroke his hair, and at exactly the same time he stretched up and stroked my face, eyes still closed.

Night feeds are a bugger, and he is a right one for them, but the evening feed, oh, the evening feed, I don't want it ever to stop.
(apologies for the worst photo in the world. But, could anyone resist gathering up that little bundle?)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A bit helpless

Of course this is the trouble with vowing to write on your blog more often: you end up with the slightly gloomy bits.
I wouldn't give him up for a million squillion pounds but life with a six month old can be, as I might have mentioned before, hard work. And on days like today, where he's just popped out one tooth and is visibly working on another, and so is one big ball of misery, and your only job is to be his mother, and he's cried all day, you can't help feeling that you haven't done that job too well, and that if it were any other you'd probably have been sacked by now.
(Yes, I know that I'm not making his gums hurt, but I should be able to distract him out of it, or know the best time to drug him out of it, or at least have the saintly patience not to mind the way it saps every ounce of energy from me).
As soon as I have a toothy picture I will post it up and the blog will return to sunniness, as, I hope, will the boy.

Friday, 4 November 2011

A post I am writing in November

Oh, gets easier, gets harder again, gets infinitely more rewarding, gets infinitely more draining...
I would really like to get back into writing this blog because it feels like the sort of record that I want to have, but to do this reliably I'd need to have more evenings where I'm capable of something other than staring blankly at the floor recovering.
- My beloved sausage baby is approaching six months, is still the plumpest baby on the block, and has the most beautiful smile that anyone has ever had.
- He is also what I believe Dr Sears would call a "high needs baby". A really intense involvement in the world demands a high level of input from mummy when you still can't quite support yourself sitting up or reach any of the things you want or stop thinking for long enough to sleep. He has no middle gears, and I adore him for this but it's TIRING.
- Newsflash: new mother finds having a baby tiring.
- I probably don't even count as a new mother any more.
- I have been reading a little, honest, but the reason my last post has only just made it up is that it was all written in draft and somebody closed the tab without saving it so it lost the second half which was a book update, and now I can't guarantee the list would be complete, and I don't know what to do about that.
- I've changed. I don't know what I've changed to, and whether it's all for the good, but I'm definitely not the same person I was pre-bonzo.

So I have some targets that I can start pursuing as soon as he tips over six months. Definitely not in order of importance:
1. Get back into writing the blog more regularly, including updating what I've been reading, which might even encourage me to read a bit more again;
2. Work out what I'm going to do about him and work. It's clear to me that I can't possibly go back at the end of January as I'd planned, but the most I could get from my current job is up to the end of April. Maybe I could go back there part time, but I need to do some serious soul searching about this. Working 3 days a week would perhaps, at a stretch, just about pay the bills, but I don't want someone else to have my baby 3 days a week. I know he'll be a lot older then, so I need to start thinking about future-Isaac not current-Isaac, but he'll still not be big enough to tell me if he doesn't like it, or to understand why I keep leaving him. But, we need to get some income from somewhere, and if I plan ever to go back to work then I probably need not to stop completely now (I could get rusty quite fast), and there is just the tiniest bit of me that thinks a bit of adult company occasionally would be quite nice;
3. Get thin and beautiful like all the other mummies. Ha!
4. Start a super healthy eating programme so that as our baby led weaning progresses he is only eating the purest and best food, but also very economically.
5. Flap wings. Fly to moon.
6. Make sure I have my sense of perspective right. I don't know if I'm spending too much time thinking/worrying about the baby; I don't know if I'm becoming a boring person about him; I don't even know whether it's good for him to have me so attached. And I have no idea how to find out.
7. Keep up with the OU stuff so that I get my degree finished in the summer. Easy...

A post I wrote in September that never made it up

Take a deep breath, and whisper it.....I think it's getting easier. I read in a few places that at 3 months a switch just flicks, and I think it has. Suddenly he goes to sleep for the night at somewhere between 7pm and 9pm, and although he is waking up all the time for feeds, he goes straight back to sleep. So I have evenings again, and even more spectacularly I've learned that the best way to get him to sleep in the mornings is to pop him in the pram and go to the park. There, it seems necessary to imitate something of the morning routine of my other life, my long-distant, seems-like-a-hazy-memory life, and get out the coffee and book. Bliss!!
What's most relieving and rewarding for me is that it's not really about the physical improvements, the fact that we're getting there with the breastfeeding, and that his sleeping is getting more predictable. It's that I'm adjusting to the whole thing emotionally and developing both flexibility and resilience in quantities I didn't know I had. On the way to the park on Monday morning, a jogger passed me, and I had a moment of envy. But so, so quickly I found myself thinking well, I have the remnants of a mummy tummy unlike her lovely flat one, my hair has been finger-brushed only unlike her sleek lovely ponytail, I am wearing jeans which I think are now held together by various baby fluids, but I really, honestly, don't care, and wouldn't swap it. My new kind of freedom is about spending time with my baby; my new exercise is lumping him around; I've found a way to get in a window of time for reading on a bench - and I wouldn't swap any of this for being younger and thinner and less surrounded by obligations. Of course I do plan to be gorgeous one day, but given the choice now between a pound off me and a pound on my baby, there's no competition at all.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Dealing with a surplus

Carrying on with posting relevant to world breastfeeding week (and I promise I'll be back to books and knitting shortly) I'm delighted just to have signed up to donate spare breastmilk through
Despite all the troubles we've had with feeding so far, I've always seemed to be blessed with plenty of milk, and with the sausage's latest feeding frenzy my body seems to have shouted "WOO-HOO! TWINS!!" and ramped up production even further.
I could work on a freezer stash, and I will definitely be doing this a little, but once I read that 1floz of milk will feed a preemie for a day and a half, I just couldn't see a reason not to. I'm just so lucky to have a thriving, happy, even fat, baby and can't even begin to imagine what it's like to have one stuck in a box with tubes, come too early for you to be able to feed it yourself. The thought breaks my heart, and while I know that determination can do a lot (which is how I'm still feeding the sausage), for mothers in these circumstances who just can't provide their own milk, I am warmed inside by the idea that a bit of trouble and admin for me will make such a difference to them and their brand new babies.
And I suppose it makes up for the fact I can't donate blood at the moment, and am not feeling able to give money to charity - here I'm just giving of what I have, and that feels great.



I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!

You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.

(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The post I would like to write...

...and which, at some point, I definitely will be writing, will be the one called "my breastfeeding journey". It will document how flippin hard breastfeeding is, our initial early struggles with jaundice, the whole tongue tie saga, the ridiculousness of being trapped only able to do the rugby hold on one side (which, if you're not all over this, means you need a big stack of cushions and therefore really can't pull it off discreetly in starbucks), the traumas and self-doubt of evening cluster feeding, and then a line or two at the end that says "...but now, after nn weeks, we're still nursing and both loving it".
If you're a caring concerned reader of this blog, please can you send my way any positive vibes you have available to make that "nn" above be around, I don't know, 9-10 weeks? I am still gracelessly, wilfully, painfully determined that my perfect, gorgeous, thriving, worth-more-than-gold sausage is going to get the best food for him for at least six months, but I can't say I'm loving it yet: I'm loving the effects, and I'm loving the fact we're managing it, but the process? The process still hurts, still makes me question my adequacy and my resources and reserves, and I'm still working at going with the flow on how much it immobilises me, and I do wish it was easier.
(Of course, I'd been planning to write this post for a couple of days, and the reason that, exceptionally, I have time to do so this evening is that he had a really really good long feed oo, a couple of hours ago, and has been absolutely fast asleep ever since. So, hardly a long traumatic evening of cluster feeding, and what's more, the really good long feed, on both sides, didn't even hurt. One of the wisest pieces of advice I had from one of the squillion experts I've talked to on this, though, was to take it one feed at a time. She said it was a mistake to think "right, we've now cracked this" just as it was to think "this proves it's terrible", and that in fact it was likely to get better gradually. This and "never give up on a bad day" are keeping me going).
(Included in the "my breastfeeding journey" post will be discussions of two more books, 36 The womanly art of breastfeeding (La Leche League) and 37 Ina May's guide to breastfeeding. You can never accuse me of not reading up around a subject - I might even also tell you all about 38 Understanding your crying baby (Kitzinger) which is a laughable reading choice for mother of possibly the sunniest baby that's ever been made)



I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!

You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.

(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)

Sunday, 19 June 2011


My sausage baby is 5 weeks old today and occasionally I find a moment to think about the whole thing.

For anyone interested, the birth was a fantastic experience. I think that all the preparation I'd done mentally with reading the Ina May book, listening to the natal hypnotherapy cd, etc, really paid off in the sense that I was expecting it to go well and was sure it could - as well as being absolutely confident that my body could do it. (Disclaimer: I know that for plenty of people things go horribly wrong, and I'm not saying that this is their fault for not having prepared enough. It's just that I'd got myself into a good position so that because there were no complications, I could take advantage of this and have a great time of it).
Of course, there was a point some 24 hours after contractions started when my nerve wobbled a bit and I was seeking out the opiates - but fortunately I'd written quite a categorical birth plan saying I'd much prefer not to have drugs, and a shift change at the crucial moment meant that supermidwife arrived and provided me with a bit of tough love. We talked about drugs, I asked her "would diamorphine stop it hurting?" and she asked if I wanted the good news or the bad news. The good news, I said, and she said yes, it will stop it hurting; the bad news is that this stopping hurting will only happen once the baby's out.
Anyway, she persuaded me to use gas and air properly, and my beloved acted as a flawless coach, watching the monitor for my contractions, providing drinks and cooling spray, and putting up with my squiffiness - and finally, after some far-too-long period but only half an hour of pushing, Isaac came out at 2.30 on the Sunday morning.
I don't think any experience will ever rival being handed my new baby between my legs - writing this now, I still dissolve at the thought of it. It has to be the biggest thing you can do, and I did it! Afterwards supermidwife told me that he was the wrong way round, what they call "back to back" meaning that his head, instead of facing my back and therefore tucking down nicely to make a small cross section, was facing the other way up and presented a much larger obstacle. Back to back labours are notoriously slow in the latent phase, and painful, and "usually" (according to my GP's website) result in assisted delivery or a caesarian. So it was pretty miraculous that he came out naturally, with no drugs, and no damage to me.
I'll be writing a lot more about the wonders of life with a new baby, including lots of analysis of attachment parenting, raving about how my Moby wrap is the best invention ever, gurgling about every single beautiful thing he does, and perhaps a bit of ranting about WHY DOES NO ONE WARN YOU HOW HARD BREASTFEEDING IS?? but of course, it's now fitting around his slightly capricious sleep/wake times so please forgive any erraticness (and made-up words).
Briefly, books I'd read before and just not written down, or ones I've started since,
30 The Betrayal (Helen Dunmore)
31 Whatever you love (Louise Doughty)
32 Attachment parenting (William Sears)
33 Last night in twisted river (John Irving) (still in progress)
34 Big House (Nicole Krauss) (still in progress)
35 The underachieving school (John Holt) (still in progress).

Yes, yes, yes. I have three books on there "in progress", two of which I started before the sausage was born. And Anna Karenina, which I think I've already given a number to, only I've so nearly finished that.
And yes, I've not said anything about them, just listed them, and that's wimping out. But understand, if you will, that this is a grasping at a strand of me that's getting a little squeezed at the moment, and that while there is nothing I'd rather be doing than attending to my baby, nothing's going to stop me reading, even if it does slow me down mightily.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Been a bit busy

Look what I made!!

So, I'll be doing my best to get back up to speed on the reading front, particularly as I'd only just begun my Orange prize shortlist challenge when this happened - but for now, bear with me.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Is it wrong to wish I was Marilynne Robinson?

The day before yesterday I read 29 Housekeeping, which was her first novel (you may recall my raving about Home and Gilead last year) and it actually induced in me a semi-drugged state of bliss and peace. How can anyone possibly write so accurately about everything, and in such a way that absolutely exactly you know what she means and you're right there with her?

I could just write out the whole book (and wish I had) but to give you a tiny sample, the narrator talking about her older sister's dislike for "fanciful" clothes and accessories:

"She was of the common persuasion. Time that had not come yet - an anomaly in itself - had the fiercest reality for her. It was a hard wind in her face; if she had made the world, every tree would be bent, every stone weathered, every bough stripped by that steady and contrary wind. Lucille saw in everything its potential for invidious change. She wanted worsted mittens, brown oxfords, red rubber boots. Ruffles wilted, sequins fell, satin was impossible to clean."
That's nearly half way through the book and you can tell already no good is going to happen.

As for my gestation project, I'll meekly take advice about reading. I've reason to believe the goblin's planning to inviegle his way to an early entrance one way or another, so am going for not being too ambitious (though finishing AK and   swimming through a whole Irving might keep me quiet for a while).

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Still no pictures, but...

..I am now a free-er woman than I have been for a while and will be for longer.

At 37 weeks today the goblin is officially cooked but now has a five week window to make an appearance. Since my maternity leave has also started this weekend, it's become very clear to me that I could turn myself into a proper madperson by thinking it could be any day now, so instead I'm seeking a five-week project, one that's going to take plenty of effort and concentration and that I'll be wanting to complete enough that I'll barely think at all about when B-day might happen.
Perhaps, I thought, I'll just try to read a book a day for five weeks, thus making up in advance for any deficit in my reading time over the next few months. This isn't quite ruled out, but at the same time it's not really projecty enough. I could try and write the rest of my own novel - that's a good goal, but a bit too ambitious? Maybe a short story a week (but this doesn't sound big enough, not that I'm saying they're easy to write or write well, but there's not enough structure to it, not when most of the fibres of me are howling to pop, and demanding that I just concentrate on trying to discern signs that I might).
There's still knitting to do, though again this doesn't on its own consume enough attention. I will, of course, get entirely on top of all of my life-admin, and will be emailing all the people I don't email enough, and writing on my blog with a bit more commitment, and so on, but still they're not quite demanding enough. Do we think it's possible that I've not sufficiently bought into the idea that it's honestly going to be weeks and weeks more, and so am holding off just in case it's tomorrow?

Since I'm going to be good about keeping the blog up to date, I can supply it now with just a list of books, knowing that in due course I'll say a bit more about them.
21 Fat is a feminist issue (Orbach) - what a book. I don't know how I got to this stage of life without having read it.
22 Nurtureshock (Po Bronson) - quite a disappointment after how very much I loved his books about work and family. This was cobbled together science, with nowhere near enough added.
23 Toast (Nigel Slater) - I've been meaning to read it for a long time and was fairly sure I'd enjoy it. I did, though not like I enjoy reading his actual cookbooks.
24 Effective birth preparation (Maggie Howell) - like hypnobirthing, only a hundred times more convincing (to me) - this and the CD are regularly sending me into a zenlike state, now all I need to do is maintain it for the birth
25 Childbirth without fear (Grantly Dick-Read) - this is the classic of its genre and was originally written in the sixties, I think - in places it's horribly dated but in many others so very sensible and convincing that it's easy to overlook its faults. Both of these two would be books I'd recommend to anyone, though of course I'll tell you afterwards whether they turned out to be right.
26 Whatever you love (Louise Doughty) - I've been wanting to read something by her for a long time because I own, and mean to implement, her A novel in a year and was drawn to something about how she wrote in that. It may be enough to say that I got this from the library in the middle of today and finished it a couple of hours ago - I mean, not a classic of literature but such a read, and so believable. I'll be seeking to read more of her.
27 (in progress) Untold stories (Alan Bennett) - I'll say more about this when I'm done with it, though as it's my bedside book and regularly gets bumped by whatever else is interesting me, it may be a while.
28 (also in progress) Anna Karenina. This may suggest to you (rightly) that I finished War and Peace, which will get a post of its own in due course; what you can't tell from my simply listing its name is that I am enjoying it perhaps even more than I enjoyed W&P. I'm about half way through so might even finish it this year...

There are three more pieces of modern fiction in my library bag, all of which I was truly delighted to find on my trip today; I'm also keeping an eye out at thebookpeople to see if they do an Orange shortlist collection again this year since I'd actually have time to try it.

What's that I hear being suggested from the crowd? Perhaps that with all this reading I may not really need a project at all...?

Friday, 25 March 2011

It's not a race

Again, I'm only telling you about reading, but I swear I will compensate soon with information about the quarter-hoody and the cat.
15 was Carl Honoré, and I'm honestly ashamed to say I already can't recall the name of the book, and it's already gone back to the library. It was essentially In praise of slow rewritten to be about parenting, and didn't seem to add much. Entertaining in a Gladwell-lite sort of way, but not exactly thought-provoking.
The next fruit of my last library visit was 16 Legend of a suicide, a bit of fiction by David Vann which I'd picked up because the dovegreyreader had raved about it. I did enjoy it though it's gone straight into my modern fiction mental category, meaning that I can't imagine wanting to reread it, and I suspect in another month or two I'll not be able to tell you what it was about (except - except - it does have some of the survival stuff that I love, not like chewing your own leg off to get out of a trap, but struggling to subsist, like in Cold Mountain and The Siege and lots of others that I can't readily recall).
Number 17 was the last from the library and of course I love it, it's Hilary Mantel and for me she can do little wrong. This is a shortish memoir she wrote a few years back, Giving up the ghost and it just reads like she wrote it, which is enough for me.
On the bench I've been rereading The now habit but it doesn't get a number on the list because I've only been picking out the bits I wanted to revise, so won't be reading all of it, and I am a scrupulous person who doesn't claim numerical credit that she hasn't earned. On trains, I am progressing with War and peace still, nearly there, and it made me cry again this morning when Natasha crept out to see the injured Andrew in the night and he, still delirious, looked at her and reached out his hand and smiled. I'm turning to mush!
For can't-do-anything-else, how-do-you-expect-me-to-read-proper-books-when-I'm-seven-months-pregnant evenings, Morse still never fails me - I don't think that I confessed earlier in the year to The jewel that was ours, but that was a little while back, and at the moment I'm in the midst of The daughters of Cain so I suppose those are 18 and 19. (And I've just realised! I forgot to give Studs Terkel a number, so he's 20, and I swear to tell you all about him (morally I think he should count as two books because it was so long, but it doesn't work that way (she says to herself, sternly))).

With several in-progress items on there I am almost ahead, which might clear me space to write interesting fun chatty posts about things other than what I'm reading. They may even have photos, like a proper blog does.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Things I haven't even mentioned

10 Ina May's guide to childbirth (Ina May Gaskin); 11 Misconceptions (Naomi Wolf); 12  Hypnobirthing (Marie Mongan), you can see a theme here and really, unless this is the sort of thing you find interesting, you're not going to find it interesting (makes me think of Brod in Everything is Illuminated, who wouldn't want a boy to think she was pretty unless he was the kind of boy who thought she was pretty); 13 (in progress) more Penelope Leach, Childcare Today, and there must be more that I've already forgotten. This is the thing about not keeping up to date, things slip away so fast, and the whole point of keeping records is to fight against this, but it doesn't work if you don't do it.
And I even started this a week ago and didn't finish, so now I can add that I finished Hypnobirthing, and am nearly through a light little Honoré, and I forgot all about 14 The visual display of quantitative information (Tufte), which might not be the sort of thing you imagine reading for pleasure, but really you should try it.

I may get round to telling more about the books on this list, or I may just see it as a catchup to make sure my records are up to date even if unsubstantiated, and a kick to get back to writing this without the  overwhelmed fear of behindness. It just seems like I'm spending increasing amounts of time sitting around Being Pregnant, regardless of how much I swore I wouldn't, and I'm not sure how interesting it is to read about. But then, on the two mornings a week that I make it to the Aldwych, I still have a captivated 20 minutes on a bench with a polystyrene coffee and Studs Terkel, and it still always always works to help me with my perspective, to give me something wider to think about than just the kicks in my belly (though, let's be honest, they're winning).

Monday, 31 January 2011

Have nothing in your house...

...that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

What Morris forgot to mention was the category of things that you made yourself, which may be slightly funny-shaped, and a bit too elfin-sized to be practical (shown on my hand for scale), but that you'd happily fill the house with given the chance.

Also, it's the last day of January and I haven't written all about book 7 A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore on glorious funny sad form as always, or 8 Baby and child, a seventies classic by Penelope Leach. It's sort of one that if you've read it you'll know whether or not you love it, and if you haven't then it may well be because the life-course hasn't taken you that way. For the record, I loved it.
I'm also preparing to go on and on about Studs Terkel, but with only two days on the bench every week now, progress is slow.
And, if my magnum opus gets proofread tonight, I might manage to finish my latest Mantel-fix, 9 Fludd, but I'll not say more until I have (I wanted to finish it in January. I wanted the year to have got off to a balanced reading start and as always, I don't feel I'm doing enough of it, nor getting enough time to appreciate it and write about it. But already I am delighted to have my records from 2010, so even if I only name them, it's something I'll look back on and be pleased).

Sunday, 16 January 2011

It's been Tony Parker week

And it seems he's converging on a point, really the thing he cares about, being crime and particularly how people end up in situations where it seems to them that the only realistic options are criminal ones. So book 4 was The Frying Pan: a prison and its prisoners, about a "psychiatric prison" somewhere in the midlands, which was a the time of writing (early seventies) very modern and experimental. As usual, the book is virtually all transcribed interviews with little commentary. While there are a few "hard nuts" in there, most of the interest (for me) lies in the people who are more on the fringes, who seem to have fallen into repeated petty offences without being able to see a way to change what they do.
This is taken forward in number 5 The unknown citizen, which looks at just one person, his life so far and the efforts of a few altruistic others to help him. It's a short, sad book and it's hard not to come away wondering what on earth there is left to be done for Charlie. He had a hard childhood, but so did both his brother and his sister, and it's indisputable that every time he leaves prison he does something else wrong.  Parker argues, though, that he's incapable of any other kind of behaviour, and that punishing him for it rather than adapting our society to find ways to help him has as much logic as punishing a man without legs for being unable to walk.

I'm all out of Parker at the moment, so the bench book I start tomorrow morning is going to be some Studs Terkel. In fiction, I'm intermittently enjoying book 6, the english translation of I promessi sposi: I'm  reading and listening to a very abridged version in Italian but felt I should look at the full one. It reads as you might expect something to read that was written in the early nineteenth century and then translated without too much thought for readability. If we could cut out some of the Milanese politics I think I'd find it easier going - at least it's helping me appreciate how much Italian I now understand since the abridged version is seeming like a breeze.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Staying indoors

There's just no appeal to it out there. It's grey and it's cold and the rain is spitting in faces, and it doesn't even feel fresh, just spent.
So far in January I have read three books, I think.
1. Lighthouse, Tony Parker talking to lighthouse keepers, gave me plenty of lovely imaginings and suggested it might be a lifestyle I could get used to (apart from the boat travel and all that brass-cleaning)
2. What mothers do, Naomi Stadlen, a lovely little book which is really all just about the relationship between a mother and her new baby, and how much meaningful work is done in the first few months as the mother learns to read her child. It made me want Denzil to get a move on.
3. Annie's coming out (Crossley and McDonald), a fascinating Pelican about a teenager with cerebral palsy which gave her such physical difficulties that it was assumed (by the institution she'd been in since the age of three) that she was mentally incapable. Rosie, employed as an assistant in the institution, discovered that Annie had highly developed mental functionings and worked on building up ways that she could communicate these with the world, culminating in a court case where Annie demanded her right to be allowed to leave the institution. Fascinating and disturbing and the sort of thing you hope doesn't still happen.

I'm still moving on with War and Peace, which is regularly staggering me into silence. When you read Tolstoy's accounts of how a war was not down to big decisions of the leaders but individual actions motivated by human weakness, it first makes you look sadly at the world and second leads you to ask what the point is in ever trying to write anything if you can't write like that.

This weekend there will be some more reading, and a proper launch of Project Clothe The Baby, just as soon as I've decided on some patterns. 

Saturday, 1 January 2011

2010, 2011

This will either be a short one or a long one.
I was going to spend some time yesterday thinking over 2010, what I'd learned, and so on, but it turns out I don't have enough patience for all that reviewing. I could say well, the momentous event was getting married (which it was) although really, I think that deciding to get married might have been even more so. And I did some interesting work stuff, and some interesting study stuff, and welcomed into my home the loveliest cat in the world (would it be ok to buy her an anniversary present?).
But already I'm all over planning for 2011. Mainly I'll be having a baby, though that doesn't seem to need much intervention from me at the moment, and is proceeding along nicely without me. But I'm also going to be enthusiastic and brave and curious and open-minded and kind and generous, and I'm going to have a sense of perspective, and I'm going to remember that other people have off days too. These all fail the resolution tests, because they're not specific or measurable, but what's wrong with just deciding on some ways you would like your mindset to be?
Haven't quite decided what to do about books this year, in particular about numbering for ones I started in 2010 but finish this year. I think I'll take them off the 2010 total and add them into 2011, not there are many though of course War & Peace is lingering. Perhaps as the year progresses it will be harder to find time for reading, though a newborn can't take up that much time, can it?

(I nearly didn't write this post at all after reading what The Heartful Blogger had to say about resolutions. But since I'm going nowhere near the idea of size 8 skinny jeans, I reckon it's just about acceptable...)