Wednesday, December 31, 2008


We were out at dinner last night for New Year with some friends who have just had their second baby. Much of the conversation turned to how hard it is looking after a new baby. The lack of sleep, the hungry baby who wants to feed every 2 hours, the constant crying. My friend, S, was sure that it had never been this bad with her first child - now an adorable three year old girl.

I reminded her that it had been equally tough and she had just forgotten how bad it was. She was adamant that I was wrong, it had been easier with her first.

Now, looking back on it, I don't remember being it too bad either. So much so that I am even contemplating having another child - something I swore I would never do. Thankfully, however, I have this blog to remind me just how awful it was and, therefore, I am going to wait a year or two more before embarking on the whole exercise again.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Climb every mountain

On our final day in Tokyo we decided to walk up what had been billed as a friend of A's as a "buggy friendly" hill about 1 hour outside Tokyo. We had borrowed a buggy from some friends (long story involving family ineptitude at the airport regarding our baggage) and so set off up the hill, after a derogatory comment towards the cable car station.

800 vertical metres and a 3.8 km hike later, including inclines so steep I had to use my full weight to push the buggy, some unsealed gravel paths with steep drops to one side, and getting utterly lost around a shrine and adding an extra hour to our walk, we were wondering whether our version of "buggy friendly" was a bit different.

It transpires that we should have got the cable car up and then taken the almost flat path around the top. However, we all felt very virtuous and got the most amazing views of Mount Fuji for our trouble.

And got the cable car back down.

Full time mother

My friend A, is only just going back to full time work after almost 8 years looking after her two boys. They are delightful boys - clever, engaged, polite. I look at them and realise that bringing up ones children is a very important and rewarding task. I, therefore, am now revisiting my own situation and wondering whether working full time is really the best thing for Eve. More anon.

Not my religion

As it was her first Christmas, I wanted Eve to go to Church. My friend in Tokyo, A, had found a local English protestant church which was holding a children's carol concert on Christmas Eve. As a newcomer to Tokyo, A had not been before, but it seemed nice enough so along we went. It seemed a little formal when we arrived (the ushers had name badges), but we found some seats at the back and I found the readings in the pew bible so A's elder son could read along. Eve was her merry little self and she and I trundled along at the back while she said hello to people and generally was chatty and smiley.

As I was wandering past the main door during one trundle, one of the ushers came up to me and suggested I take Eve to the nursery. I said that I thought this was a children's service and so her chatting happily and walking around wouldn't be a problem. I was told that it would have to be quiet for the Pastor's sermon and prayers so it may be best if I went to the nursery.

I was utterly shocked. I have been going to church all my life and can think of very few that would ask a child to leave in any situation, let alone from a service billed as one for children. I am proud of Eve and how engaged she is in her surroundings (how much better that than sitting mute), and I am careful that she never makes a nuisance and is always accompanied by me so I can stop her more friendly excesses. She was not causing a problem, was barely audible above the other babies crying, and was merely being friendly.

With hindsight I wish I had some pithy comment and could have quoted him from the many biblical passages that would have made good retorts. However, I could merely mumble and say I had thought it was a children's service and leave.

It upsets me now to think of it. Partly because I didn't get to share a religious Christmas with my daughter, but also because I hold my faith very dear and spend a lot of time defending organised religion. Behaviour like this makes me wonder how other people must see churches.

So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody's having fun

We have just had Eve's first Christmas, and it has been lovely. We spent it with friends, and their two small boys (5 and 7) in Tokyo. I cooked Turkey, we unwrapped lots of presents, the adults got a bit tiddly and played charades (the Boy does a great impression of a bunny - sadly he was trying to mime a train at the time). I missed my family horribly, and it was rather sad to be able to hear Eve's cousins in the background when we called. However, for our little Hong Kong family, we did well.

Eve got tons of presents, of course, and now has more toys than she knows what to do with. True to form, she found the boxes and wrapping paper more interesting than the contents, and she spent the whole week trying to snatch decorations of the Christmas tree. She even ate mushed up Christmas dinner - turkey, potatoes, carrots and cabbage. I declined, on her behalf, the sprouts.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Theology for beginners

One of the presents I have bought for Eve is a little kids book of bible stories. It is very amusing how the quite difficult and often violent stories of the bible have been adapted for children. Adam and Eve, for example, ate from the forbidden tree and God told them off. Noah built an ark with lots of nice animals inside, although no mention is made of the massacre of the human race. Jericho was a nice town that Joshua decided to enter with his nice band of smiling trumpeters. You get the idea.

The funniest one, however, is the story of Daniel in the lions den. The picture accompanying the story is of Daniel playing with a few rather cute looking lion cubs in a cave. I can't help but feel the purpose of the story has got a bit lost!

Merry Christmas everyone

I always have very fond memories of Christmas from my childhood. Lots of family traditions evolved as we grew up.

For example, each year a huge box full of the various decorations that we had accumulated over the years would come out of the loft and my sister and I would be allowed to run loose and decorate the house. The whole house was subject to our creativity and tinsel would hang over every picture, glass balls hang from the mirrors, and the tree would be erected (we had a very good and expensive fake one, my mother being allergic to real pine needles) and we would cover it. Only when I hit my mid teens did the concept of taste and colour coordination kick in, but by that time my Dad had acquired a set of singing Christmas lights for the dining room and all hope was lost.

Mum and Dad invite the children from their church or neighbours to decorate the house now, and the result is similarly haphazard.

We also had a lovely habit of getting presents that were designated as "Christmas tree presents". These were lots of little presents that would be given out after Christmas lunch. They were usually small things that Mum had picked up over the course of the year (Mum, quite unbelievably would start her next year's Christmas shopping at the January sales). My Aunt C was especially good at this as she had lots of local end-of-line shops stocked by the surrounding factories where she lived and we would end up with bags of silly things.

It had nothing to do with the quality of the gift, but the fun in opening it and laughing at what was inside.

This is something I am bringing to my little family this year and in addition to a big present for Eve, I have spent the past couple of weeks picking up lots of little gifts for her to open over the course of the day. They range from a colour book I picked up for under a pound (in HK dollar terms) to a cute little push along car that beeps. Just like my Mum, I am opportunistic in my purchasing and the Boy is starting to wonder what will appear next.

Therefore, I will be bringing an old tradition to my new family this Christmas.

Postscript for my family: I tried, and failed, to find a Lego santa and his sleigh

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I think I'm turning Japanese

No sooner are we back from one holiday than we are off on another, this time to Tokyo for Christmas. I rather romantically want to show Eve snow and a very close friend and her two boys moved there from HK this year and Christmas is nothing if not about the kids (said with a Smashy and Nicey drawl).

I been to Tokyo many, many times for work and for pleasure but it dawned on me today that I have absolutely no idea what to do with a baby, she not being very into sushi or karaoke. So I emailed some Japanese friends to ask them and one suggested this place

It is a measure of how much my life, and trips to cool cities like Tokyo, has changed that I find myself thinking this looks rather fun!


4 hours in the world's smallest departure lounge delayed in a storm, missing our connection and spending the night in a cheap airport hotel which smelt, followed by a 3am start.

Eve took this all a lot better than myself and her father did and was remarkably good humoured throughout.

Summer holiday

We have survived, and mainly loved, our first holiday as parents. However, nothing had quite prepared me for how different it would be to holidays gone by.

Firstly, the sheer amount of stuff that one has to take with a baby. I seemed to pack 3 bikinis and a toothbrush, the other 35kg of luggage were for Eve. Aside from the stockpile of nappies, tins of formula, spare jars of food just in case, sterilising tablets for the bottles, changes upon changes of clothes, and Calpol, I also had an entire bag (shaped like a penguin with a squeaky beak) of toys and amusements taken with me. If only I had known that an empty coke bottle filled with pebbles stolen from the nice water feature at the pool would have been so popular I wouldn't have bothered. Anyway, we took more luggage than when we used to go diving and took all our diving gear.

Secondly, your evening ends at 7.30. We stayed in places with terraces so we could put Eve to bed and then sit happily and listen to the lapping of the waves and read a good book while supping a nice bottle of something. All this is lovely, but as you hear the youngsters partying in the next bay one does feel rather old.

Finally, you don't do anything just as a couple. We both went diving, but because someone had to look after Eve we went diving separately at different times. Whenever Eve was awake we were a trio, and a fun trio it was too.

However, I think this was one of my most enjoyable holidays ever (excluding the couple of days when Eve and I were rather ill). I discovered the joys of chasing crabs in the surf, will always remember Eve's grin when she saw a starfish for the first time, danced around an empty dance floor like a loon with my daughter, and discovered that Eve likes to eat sand.

We also invented an entirely new game involving a pool table, balls, cues and a crawling baby. It is imaginatively named Baby Pool and the frison of excitement is enhanced by not only whether your carefully potted balls will be taken out again but also whether the baby is chewing on the cue ball when it comes to your turn. She is rather adept at shoving the number 8 in a pocket when she gets bored, thereby ending the game.