Sunday, 4 December 2016

Happy anniversary

I’m back. And I’m sorry. I’m sorry as I know there has been a bit of gap between this and the last post. I apologise as I know that remarkably there are a handful of people who actively – and genuinely – enjoy reading this blog and even look forward to reading the next instalment. Weirdos.

No, no, wait! To those people, I say thank you. I started writing this blog without any expectations and purely as a way to tell the story of this 30-something buffoon’s ridiculous belief that he might be capable of looking after twins. It still surprises me that anyone beyond my mum reads it (hi Mum!).

The reason for the delay? Well, in the past couple of months I’ve actively taken steps back into the world of work by doing a little bit of freelance writing and this has taken up some of my free time. It’s not been much, but it has been nice to contribute in my own small way to the family finances and at least have change for coffee, soft play (YES!) and other stuff. Hell, I even talked myself into buying Star Trek Beyond on DVD last week (it’s great).

Although I always had freelancing in mind as an option before I left my job – and also had a brief stint in January doing some stuff - it has taken a long time to get to the point where I felt it was something I could regularly fit in around looking after the beloved cherubs.

For many months, naptimes and evenings were for rest and relaxation after long days running around, carrying the kids out and about, cleaning up, doing the washing etc etc etc. Well, apart from the naptimes and evenings when I had to run upstairs, sooth disturbed sleepers, walk up and down hallways with a baby in my arms, lie on the bed with one of them etc etc etc. Basically, the only way to relax was to grab any moment of peace and hold on incredibly tightly.

As a result, it could be quite difficult to rationalise why the hell I would want to give up that precious time to work. Or take the gamble that the kids will stay asleep so I could at least get the laptop on to consider it.

However, my outlook had to change for the greater good. I did have some savings when I left work which acted as my original pocket money, but sadly these things don’t last forever. As such, after the unbridled joy of our six weeks of summer holiday as a family, it became clear that I’d have to start thinking about chipping in.

So, in September, I started to dip my toe into the cooling, crystal clear Caribbean waters of freelance writing and – as these things tend to without you quite realising how – a few more bits and pieces have come my way since. It’s positive stuff but sadly means that sitting down to write a blog post – or, perhaps more shockingly, to play FIFA – has had to take a backseat. Bad (but also, in a boring grown-up way, good) times.


While I’ve been struggling for time to sit and type up this bad boy, this week is a pretty pertinent time to do so. Why, I hear you ask? Well, following my little handover week, November 30th 2015 was when I formally began my foray into the world of stay-at-home fatherhood. It is the first anniversary. I’ve been doing this for a year. Where the hell did that go?

I realise I write a lot about my general disbelief of most things I’ve been through in the past two years, but it is undoubtedly crazy to think it has now been 12 months. What a year. A year of challenges and triumphs. Any regular reader may have now grasped that I’m not one for talking (too much) in clich├ęs, but it has genuinely been a moment of immense personal growth. I feel like a happier and more satisfied – although slightly more coffee-dependent and forgetful – human being for doing it.

Oscar and Isabel hug to celebrate the 1st anniversary of them looking after Dad.
To mark the occasion, I thought I’d share some of the nuggets I’ve seen, done and heard over the past 12 months. Just a few achievements, anecdotes and other stuff which hopefully give an insight into the year.

After getting through the great majority of my life generally unscathed, I’ve also been to A&E twice in the past 12 months. The first time was after I slipped down the stairs. You might laugh, but Oscar happened to be in my arms at the time. While the trip to hospital was primarily to ensure he was OK (he was), I also needed my right arm and thumb checking out after it all ended up in an awkward position. God bless the receptionist who said that in order to be seen, I’d actually have to go to a different area to Oscar. As I was alone with him, I pointed out the clear logistical issue that was raised. As a result, she admitted me as a 31-year-old child so I could go to paediatrics.

A&E visit number two was all about me. Oscar was up at 4 or 5am on a weekend crying so I took him downstairs and thought he might fancy a snooze on the sofa. While I laid down, he was tossing and turning to get comfortable. In the midst of this, he unintentionally brought his right hand crashing down into my right eye. It hurt like hell and wouldn’t stop weeping, but I was convinced it would be fine given time. After going out for the morning to a park, it was clear things weren’t getting better so I went to A&E where I was informed that he’d scratched a layer off my eyeball. SCRATCHED MY EYEBALL. My vision was screwed for a good few days afterwards, but thankfully all is fine now which iz wy I wrete zo wel.

I discovered that nothing tests a relationship quite like watching a new episode of Game Of Thrones without your wife. I took the newest episodes being available first thing on a Monday – and the fact the kids were still having morning naps – as a clear perk of my job. Ana did not look upon it in the same way.

I’m not a man who has ever embraced DIY. A look of horror crossed my face when I got a toolbox for Christmas a few years ago. Isn’t this stuff what my Dad is for? However, this year has seen me erect (no laughing back there) stairgates and shelves, fix blind cords, saw blinds, paint a hallway and build shoe storage. I even figured out how to re-erect (is that a word?) stairgates when our plasterboard walls proved to be a little too crumbly. Tell me any of this two years ago and I would have laughed my head off, right directly in front of your face. Ha ha ha.

I’ve found that shouting “Isabel! Your ricecakes!” across a play area in order to get your child’s attention calls your gritty, working class, northern roots into question. 

You would think being a twin family who live not particularly on the doorstep of relatives would be a hard enough gig, but the gods of fate thought they’d throw a spanner in the works big style earlier this year. Our hallway was flooded and the flooring ruined as a result of a water leak which was – after a huge amount of investigation – discovered to be coming into the property from a pipe underneath our garden. Not only did this mean we needed new flooring (and took the opportunity to give the hallway a facelift in general), but the garden was also dug up so the troublesome trickle could be rectified.

However, just when we thought everything was sorted, the garden sank slightly and it emerged that a drain had been collapsed during the course of the work. This affected more than us, as several properties close to us basically weren’t able to flush their loos. Nightmare.

Being at home meant that a lot of the sorting out around this – whether it was writing emails of complaint, sitting on the phone to workmen or a host of other jobs – fell to me. And now it dawns on me why I didn’t have time earlier in the year to do some work!

One of the less pleasing things to happen to me this year has been my distinct inability to un-hear Justin Fletcher’s Eurodance version of Bowie’s Starman. Of all of the shitshows that 2016 has thrown up, it’s got to be up there.

I’ve also found that there’s no half measures when it comes to providing advice to friends on local attractions. This became apparent when I was told off by a very sweaty friend for not properly advising on just how tropical the local Leeds attraction called Tropical World would be. Despite wearing shorts and T-shirt, he was soaking.

Figuring out how to spend the aforementioned precious downtime has always been an issue. However, one of the clear successes has been finally watching Parks and Recreation. An astute choice as the 20-25 minute episodes make it ideal for fitting in around sorting unsettled crying children – and it has meant the sheer joy of watching Ron Swanson regularly. If you don’t know who he is, I’ll just leave you with this.