Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hot water

Lady P is not a fussy baby, but she does struggle if her milk is fridge-cold. At home we warm her bottle in a mug TLOML's Aunt made for us, which is the perfect size and shape.
Bottle warming. No-one is getting hurt by this activity.
When we're out and about, enjoying a coffee in one of Saltburn's many nice cafes we ask for some hot water in which to warm her milk. As people do. It's not an unusual request, nor an unreasonable one.

Until recently the request was always met with either a straight 'yes', or a brief discussion about the size and shape of the receptacle we need.

But this past week or so, something has changed. Now, at at least three cafes in town, the staff have clearly been briefed against the bottle warmers. They look at you with suspicion, mutter something about 'checking with the manager' and come back with a defiant 'no'.

'We can't just, like, give you a thing of hot water', said one waitress to me, as if I was a lunatic for suggesting it. 'We have to warm it for you here, where we can see it,' said another.

Why the change of heart? TLOML and I wonder. There are two competing theories.
Either - someone had a bad accident involving hot water and a baby in Saltburn and the word has gone round. Health and safety guidelines are being updated and a zero risk policy being adopted.
Or - people were bringing their own teabags and ordering hot water, ostensibly for the bottle, to steal a free cup of tea.

This being Yorkshire I'm inclined to suspect the latter.

It's no big deal, the bottle still gets warmed. But it's kind of a hassle to leave the bottle with them and then go back and get it. Lady P is going to have to get used to a chillier bottle milk in the mornings.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Moving on again

Since returning to the UK last spring, we've learned a lot. Some of what we've learned has to do with different types of nappies (why so many choices, Pampers?) or how best to get carrot puree into a baby's mouth. We've learned more than we ever wanted to know about visa applications and Border Agency inadequacies. TLOML has learned, sort of, how to do a half-convincing London accent and is working on his Yorkshire.

And we've learned that running a Californian-based business from the UK is not so easy. It turns out it involves some rather family-unfriendly working hours for TLOML, as well as an awful lot of travel. Which sucks for all three of us.

So we're heading back. Back to the land of year-round sunshine, palm trees on the beach, and fantastic, straight, white teeth. TLOML's plans for a European expansion of his business are to be deferred for a few years. As are our hopes of raising a brood of little Londoners, who call a knitted woollen top a 'jumper', and call their mother 'mummy' - and enjoy free healthcare.

It will be a double wrench for me. I love living in Saltburn, with my family so close by and all the charms of small town life. I admit I have occasionally entertained a fantasy about staying here for ever (till TLOML reminds me of my career at Big Corp. I suppose I thought I could just get a job in the bakery or something. Sigh). But we were never going to be here permanently: the plan was always just to enjoy a summer of coastal, low cost, low stress living before returning to London.

That's the second part of the double wrench, then. I was looking forward to going back to the city I consider my home, with old, dear friends close by (even those who've moved to the 'burbs are still in striking distance). Lovely, hilly, leafy North London, with its wonderful pubs and parks and bookshops and galleries.  I used to say they'd have to take me out of London in a coffin. I used to hate to leave even for a weekend, though these days I like the idea of being a weekend-trip-able distance from my family.

We're giving that up. To live a day's travel and several time zones away from friends and family. Lady P will learn to call me 'Mommy' or even worse, 'Mom', and call her knitten woollen tops 'sweaters', and demand cookies and candy, not biscuits and sweets. I could go on. I guess what I'm saying is she'll be an American toddler. And we will be very far from 'home'.

I sound a bit glum about it, don't I? Well, as I said, it'll be a wrench. But we do have some very good friends in LA, so I'll turn to them. And I've found some consolation in the fact that Los Angeles only has 35 days each year where there is any rain at all. I know, I know, you can't live somewhere just for the weather. But then again - little Lady P will probably never wear socks (except on trips back to the UK, natch). She can play outdoors all year round. A trip to the beach need not involve a cagoule and a windbreak.

Yes, on balance, life in LA might not be so terrible after all. And there's always Skype....
On reflection, Southern Calfornia isn't the worst place in the world to live

I mean, if you like beaches and sunshine, you'd like it

Friday, July 26, 2013

An English Country Garden

More gorgeous summer weather here: long, sunny days, bright blue skies with little fluffy clouds in them, and only a very occasional shower. It's the perfect weather for stretching out on a lawn with a glass of Pimms, or perhaps a cup of tea if it's before 11am.

Sadly, we have no lawn. Nor does most of Saltburn. At least not those of us who live in 'the town' ( the suburban streets that stretch out beyond the town centre are a different story). These terraces all have yards, instead. A yard, over here, is not the grassy area with trees and a white picket fence that Americans might be picturing. A yard is a small, paved outdoor area that is more about utility than leisure. It was a space to house your coal, dry your washing, and even house your outdoor loo, back in the day. Now we have the luxury of indoor plumbing, most yards are probably a more balanced mix of business and pleasure.

Ours is probably fairly typical. Yes, it houses our bikes and our bin. And we use it to hang our washing to dry on 'good drying days'. But we have space for a couple of pots of plants, a barbecue, and a place to sit.
It's a little crowded, but it works for us.

And for those who want more outdoor space, Saltburn has plenty of allotments - little patches of land for rent, to grow fruit and veg, flowers, or just have a little grassed area for chilling out in. I'm explaining it for the benefit of American readers, because I think the closest thing you have there are 'Community Gardens' in cities. But here, most cities and towns have allotments, in many cases a relic of World War II, when people were encouraged to 'dig for Britain'.

There are more allotments here than I've ever seen in a town. Walking out of Saltburn through the allotments it feels as if the allotments go on for longer than the town itself.
Allotment City

Neatly kept and well secured
Allotments are a lot of work, and if you don't keep yours up to a decent standard, the council will send you a strictly worded letter. Or, worse, take the allotment off you. So you really have to be out there once or twice a week, keeping up with your weeding and harvesting your crops.

Last year we rented the most cockamamie flat in London because of its garden - which we then admired through the window all summer as sheets of rain came down and turned the patch of lawn into a quagmire, and fat, rain-happy slugs ate all my peas. This year, I'm perfectly happy with our little concrete patch, our pots of herbs, and a place to sit and sip a beer while TLOML fires up the barbecue.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Two drinkers, off to see the world

Followers of this blog will be familiar with my love of a good drink. I do appreciate a quality, hard liquor beverage, perfectly served. Indeed, TLOML and I built our relationship on sharing such pleasures.

So those who know of Saltburn's Quaker past might wonder how we are faring - living in a town which didn't have any pubs at all for over a hundred years. Saltburn in the 1800s had just an old smugglers inn - The Ship - at the bottom of the cliffs. Thanks to the Quaker town planners, the town proper at the top of the cliffs was a model of sobriety. Only the hotels and restaurants could serve alchohol. My dad remembers enjoying a pint at the Queens Hotel while my oldest sister was being born in the nearby maternity hospital. (Those were the halcyon days for expectant dads. TLOML barely had time to pee, never mind go for a pint, when I was in labour).

Times have changed, thank goodness. The Queens is no longer a hotel but its bar remains. The other hotel bar, the Alexandra Vaults, is still running as a pub despite the fact the hotel is now a block of flats. It's known locally as the Back Alex as it's, um, round the back of the Alexandra Hotel.
The old Alexandra Hotel

The Back Alex - nicest pub in Saltburn, despite (or because of?) being up an alleyway

The Victoria, another favourite

Those former hotel bars look rather different to the hotel bars I have previously enjoyed - fancy places like SLS in Beverly Hills, the Pleiades (with the fancy nuts) in New York's Surrey Hotel. They are good honest boozers, rather than glitzy bars with astronomical prices. And they're supplemented by some more good honest boozers, the pubs that were created when Saltburn shook off its Quaker past: The Victoria, and the Marine, replete with sticky carpets, hand pulled bitter, and pub paraphernalia on the walls. Then there's Rapps, a cafe which is all buzzy with drinkers on a Friday night. So there are plenty of options. More options than we have nights out to explore them, frankly.

It's a somewhat less sophisticated drinking scene than TLOML and I have been used to in our previous, posher, postcodes. Gin and tonic is rarely served with a slice of lime (still less, cucumber - they'd probably hound you out of town for asking for that). And there's nowhere we can stop into at midnight on our way home for a range of single malts, or a Perfect Manhattan. The hipster speakeasies of lower Manhattan, the beach bars of Malibu, and those fancy hotel bars I just mentioned, seem very far away.

But for a pint of bitter shandy, served without pretension, you can't beat Saltburn. And these days, a pint of bitter shandy is about all we get out for anyway. So I'd say we have the perfect drinking scene here on our doorstep.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Keep on running

I have waxed lyrical more than once on this blog about how small Saltburn is, and how lovely life in a small town can be.

But there is a down side. Having everything on hand and close by means it takes no effort at all to get anywhere. Which means the classic new mum exercise of walking to the shops is just completely rubbish. Walking to the shops takes less than five minutes. That just is not going to get me back into those pre-Lady P skinnies.

So I turned, again, to running. I'm not a natural runner. I hated it at school, when I was always at the back of the pack, being shouted at ('with those long legs, Isadora Watts, you should be at the front!'), feeling hot and tired and humiliated. But I took it up when we were in Malibu: living with TLOML and eating like Kings every night had taken its toll, and there was this beautiful running track up by TLOML's swim club with a great view over the bluffs to the sea. I'd go along and jog a very short distance, quite slowly, and enjoy the view. I figured it was better than nothing. I kept it up in New York, running off all those steaks and burgers, and actually managed to cover a bit more ground after a while. B by the time we got back to London I was pretty well hooked.

Running really is the perfect exercise. It's free - once you've invested in a decent pair of shoes. You can do it anytime and anywhere. If I only have half an hour, I can still get out for a quick jog. And it works. I am back in those skinnies. Albeit unable to sit down and eat a large meal in them. Still. And for that, I have my Saltburn running routine - not all those walks to the shops - to thank.

Saltburn is so small that actually even making a run worthwhile you have to be a little bit creative. The natural 'loop' from our house, down through the Valley Gardens and back up the cliffside steps, is only 2.8 miles. I have to put a little extra lap in round the posh houses near us to make it up 3 miles. To get up to five miles I'll probably have to head right to the edge of town. Or do two laps I suppose. Which is why I greeted the news that there is going to be a Saltburn Marathon this year with some scepticism. On checking the route it made sense - they're starting in Saltburn, doing a 22 mile + loop out onto the moors and back into Saltburn.

I think I'll pass on the marathon. But maybe I'll do a couple of laps of town next time I put my running shoes on.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sleeping in shifts

Babies demolish sleep. Which is strange as they sleep for at least two thirds of the time. Lady P is brilliant at sleeping. She's particularly good at sleeping during her daytime naps, but also not half bad at sleeping overnight too. And yet... and yet TLOML and I are seriously sleep deprived. So we've taken to sleeping in shifts.

When I say she's 'not bad' at sleeping overnight, I mean that she's a lot better than she was when she used to wake four or five times between midnight at 7am. Some babies do that for months. The fact that she sleeps from 6pm till 6amish and only wakes once or twice, is pretty good. She has even slept for a solid 12 hours on one tantalising occasion. Still, most nights when teething, rolling over, pooing or existential angst prevent her sleeping peacefully and require some shushing and soothing from us. Getting up at 6 or 6.30am, on top of the middle of the night shenanigans - and months of broken sleep - is getting really tiring.
Cranking out some quality ZZZZZs
I'm used to early mornings. When I worked in LA I frequently got up for 6am calls with colleagues on the East Coast. And when we moved to New York I often got up at the crack of dawn for calls with colleagues in the UK. So I can cope okay with the early morning. I just might not be terribly chatty. And by noon I'm looking for a stiff drink, a strong coffee, or a soft bed.

TLOML, by contrast, is used to starting his working day at around 9am Pacific Standard Time. Wherever he lives. This translated into a nice lie in for him in New York. In the UK it's almost like working a night shift. Embarrassment at what our neighbours would think if the curtains remained drawn after 10am is the only thing that gets him out of bed in the morning.

While TLOML's strange hours mean his work intrudes on our evenings, the pay off is that he doesn't mind getting up in the middle of the night to turn Lady P back onto her back for the millionth time. Or change a nappy. Or to solve any of those other myriad problems that prevent her from 'sleeping through'. This is where the sleeping in shifts comes in. He is now officially in charge of the night shift for Lady P. Since I have to get up at the crack of dawn to tend to her, I can sleep through all those middle-of-the-night disturbances guilt free. TLOML then has a good lie in to catch up.

It's a good system. In theory we both still get a decent-ish night's sleep. And yet we're both still shattered. When she takes her 12-2 nap, it's not unusual for us both to crawl back into bed for a nap of our own.

I can't imagine doing this and managing a full day's work, or handling this without a husband who can help out, or with a toddler to entertain while the baby sleeps. When talk turns to Baby #2, mention of a night nurse is never far behind.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer as it is supposed to be

Last Spring TLOML and I moved into that sweet little garden flat, and anticipated a glorious English summer. I remember sitting on the Heath in t-shirts during a freakishly warm spell in March, salivating at the thought of the months ahead, to be spent in sunny London, replete with picnics in the park, barbecues in the garden, and afternoons spent sipping bitter shandy in beer gardens. That, for me, is what the quintessential London summer involves. Plus we were getting married, the Olympics were coming to town, it was a Jubilee year generous with bank holidays - all signs were good.

In the event, it was a bit of a washout. Not the bit where we got married. That was perfect (despite the rain most of the day). And yes, the Olympics were brilliant - but somewhat anomalous. My main memory of them now is of how continually surprised we all were that London hadn't ground to a halt after all, and the volunteers were really surprisingly nice. But most importantly of all, it rained all summer long. It was the wettest summer in 100 years. Not such an auspicious start to our new life in London, and not a great encouragement to my sun-loving husband.

This summer by contrast is shaping up to be everything an English summer should be. Blue skies and bright sunshine every day for the past couple of weeks - we've had more sunny days in the last fortnight than all of 2012, it seems to me. Long, light evenings where it's actually warm enough to sit outside and eat. Again, we've eaten dinner in our yard more times in July than we managed all summer long in Fox Corner last year. And it's a north facing yard, half a mile from the chilly North sea, at that. What's more, 2013 is an Ashes summer.  Five weeks of wall-to-wall cricket, to be listened to on the radio sitting on a rug in a park, or on the beach, with a backdrop of kids playing their own 2, or 3, or 5-a-side version of the game.

Maybe I look back with rose tinted glasses. Perhaps my four summers in the US coloured my homesick view an even deeper rose. (Actually I was only in the US for two summers, but I'm going to count the two Winters in Malibu as summers too). But this is what I remember English summers to be like. All strawberries and cricket and sandals. And days like these:
Blue skies and green fields

Another sunny day at the seaside

Sadly I've already established you can't live somewhere just for the weather. Otherwise I think I could make a case for staying here forever.

Friday, July 12, 2013

More on life in a small town

At the last census, Saltburn had a population of 5,900. Since then we have swelled the numbers by three, but it's still on the small side of a small town. It's geographically small too. Malibu has a population of around 12,000 but stretches for 27 miles along the coast, and straggles up to the Santa Monica mountains. Saltburn by contrast is a compact little place.

I like this about it. Everything is right on hand. My sister lives ten doors down the street - so close that I get continuous wifi coverage when I walk from her house to mine. My old school friend (and current land lady) lives 3 streets away. My yoga class, personal trainer and doctor are all about a three minute walk from home. Three or four coffee places can be reached within five minutes - or if I want to really stretch my legs, I can get down to the beach and Surf's Up in ten minutes. Sainsbury's, Boots, the butcher and the baker are all less than a five minute walk away.
The whole town would fit neatly into Chelsea, our old neighbourhood in Manhattan
Mind you, it always takes much longer to get to any of those places. That's because we always end up bumping into someone we know, and having a lovely chat. Such is the nature of the small town. I've posted about this before - and it remains a source of fascination to me. Everyone knows everyone, or at least is connected in some way. Or so it seems to me.

For example, the butcher - who we spend a lot of time talking to about meat and other matters - sends his daughter to the same childminder as Lady P goes to. My sister's twins go there too, so they all play together. His wife goes to the same personal trainer as I've been working out with. That personal trainer was recommended to me by my sister's husband's friend. He's an old friend of the guy I was at school with who runs the best place to eat in Saltburn, and a couple of posh food shops too. That guy I was at school with used to train with my trainer too. The lady at Surf's Up who always gives the twins a biscuit is knitting something for Lady P, since she sees us all the time.

I could go on. It's all just quite circular. In a really nice 'How's your sister, I haven't seen her for a while?', 'I hear you're looking for a personal trainer, let me recommend Harry', 'I'm popping to the supermarket, do you need anything?' kind of a way.

After the anonymity of New York, and - to a lesser extent, but still - of London, it's really rather nice. Of course, if you had secrets it would be your worst nightmare. But for us, living here temporarily and with no skeletons in our closet or dark behaviours to hide, it's rather nice. It's a ready made, tightly knitted community and we weaved ourselves right on in there.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Slow down, Lady P

TLOML and I are both fairly laidback, patient people. We take our time, and we take life as it comes. So it's rather strange to me that our offspring would be in such a hurry all the time.

Lady P hoodwinked me into providing her with solid food a good month before the health visitor said she ought to be ready. She has been rolling over clumsily for weeks now, and by week 18 had developed a smooth, efficient and frighteningly rapid back-to-front roll. According to the milestone charts that's pretty early.

Those same milestone charts suggest it's about now that Lady P will be able to bring her hands together - but she's been doing that for ages. And bat at objects, again, a skill she seemed to acquire early. And I know this sounds ridiculous for a baby who's not even five months old but I swear she's trying to crawl. Without success, of course, but still. She's an ambitious little girl, and apparently very eager to get moving.
Strong head control at 4 weeks
Athletic pursuits
Being proud parents we applaud her every time she sprints past one of these milestones. And we encourage her to do more and more. TLOML applies everything he learnt when training our obese cat - oh, and his years of serious swimming - in some pretty intense playmat sessions. We're egging her on in this race to get moving, start standing, crawling, walking and I guess ultimately rolling her eyes at our jokes, leaving home and paying for our nursing home bills.

Ooops. I got ahead of myself a bit there. It's hard not to when you have a child like speedy little Lady P. And as I said, we're proud of her physical prowess. But it does feel as if her babyhood is whizzing by. As much as I love her gurgles, chuckles and squeals, I am already nostalgic for that weedy, wailing newborn who could only mewl and sob.
I miss this little wild creature
Gosh. It sounds like I'm getting broody again. Which is bonkers considering we're only a few months into her life - and only a few weeks into a manageable sleep schedule. But yes, I want to do it all again. Only next time we'll take it slow. I'll baby the heck out of the second one, I promise myself.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bamboozled off the boob

Very little about parenthood has been as I expected, and my baby is a constant source of surprise to me. I didn't realise babies pooed quite so very much. I had no idea how useful that rocking cradle would be. I could never have imagined how precious the extra ten minutes sleep I buy each day by throwing a toy into the cot would be. And I totally underestimated the value of sock harnesses.

I was wrong about feeding too. I expected that I'd breastfeed exclusively for six months imagining it would be fairly straightforward once I got going. How naive. For something so natural it is surprisingly difficult. I'll spare you the details and just say I did not have an easy ride. Still, I persevered.

But from the day Lady P started turning her nose up at my lacklustre 6pm offering, and we gave her a bottle of that strange and mysterious substance called formula, we were on a path. That path lead, far more rapidly than I would have expected, to her living on formula. Unless you count the tiny breastfeed I give her for breakfast, a sort of token gesture to my former, idealistic self.

What's more, we've weaned her early too. At the point at which she was off the scale of milk consumption for babies her age, we figured she may need a little more to eat. But I had read enough about weaning to be prepared for a few failures at first.

'She might not like it,' I told TLOML. 'And her tongue might instinctively push the food out of her mouth. Even if she doesn't do that, she'll probably just move it around her mouth and spit it out. We'll be lucky if she swallows any.'
'Stop taking my photo and put the damn food in my mouth'
Again, how wrong I was. She wolfed it down, with comic enthusiasm. Couldn't get that rice in her fast enough. A couple of weeks into the weaning programme and she is now grabbing at the spoon, taking down significant amounts of carrot, parsnip and rice, and as happy as a clam. To assuage my discomfort about how early this is all happening, I'm assiduously steaming and pureeing organic vegetables. So I suppose at least she's moving onto less processed food than her all-Aptamil diet.

Personally I feel a bit cheated out of my amazing, bonding, healthgiving and life affirming six months of exclusive breastfeeding. In theory, I'm in charge of this process. I made the choices that have lead us here: a formula fed baby who's weaned at 20 weeks. And yet, I see the hand of Lady P behind all of this. She has bamboozled me into it, I swear.

Given how much TLOML and I love our food, I suppose none of this should be so surprising. She'll be on steak and sushi before long I'll warrant.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

One year of smug marriedness, many more to come

I'm rushing to post this so TLOML, Lady P and I can go and loll about in country hotel splendour. We're celebrating our first wedding anniversary with a night at the lovely Feversham Arms, including a tasting menu dinner in their excellent restaurant. The room is apparently close enough to the restaurant to be monitorable and rush-back-able, so we can bring Lady P with us. Which is nice seeing as she was, in a foetal way, at our wedding.

TLOML, me and Lady P on our wedding day
It's hard to believe it's only a year. And I don't mean that in a bad way, as in, it feels like forever. It's just that we've packed a heck of a lot in. According to the Holmes & Rahe stress scale, some of the most stressful life events include getting married, pregnancy and a 'change in living conditions', 'change of residence' and 'change of social activities'. We ticked all those boxes in our first year. And yet we couldn't be happier.
...and one year later

It bodes well for the next fifty years, I'd say.

My goodness this is a smug post. What can I tell ya? He really is The Love of My Life. Happy anniversary, TLOML.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Independence Day 2013

Belated Happy Fourth!

We decided not to let the fact we live in breezy North Yorkshire deter us from celebrating America's national day.

I made my personal tribute to freedom and independence by abandoning Lady P to the care of her father for the morning, so I could go to get my hair done. As a side note I put this in our collective diary as 'Artemis Yarm' (the name of the salon, and the town it is in). TLOML, not really knowing what it meant, thinks it would be an excellent name for our next child. No comment.

A thoughtful Lady P considers what Independence Day means

Anyway, in the evening we roped in some willing Saltburnsiders to celebrate all things American with us. Because my first couple of July 4ths were spent in California, I think this means margaritas, chips, salsa and guacamole. TLOML has pointed out to me that this is not a Mexican holiday. So to bring things back north of the Rio Grande TLOML made outstanding burgers and I baked a cherry pie. Another side note: never make a cherry pie in a town where cherry pie filling is not available. Stoning a pound and a half of cherries is no joke.
Forty minutes and about 25% of the way through the great cherry stoning of 2013

The weather was, unusually and fittingly, glorious. So much so that we were able to eat outside - a first for us in Saltburn and something which boosted our holiday spirits considerably. Plus made the little sparklers TLOML had bought rather safer to use.

Margaritas, sunshine, burgers and tiny fireworks - short of actually being the US I think we were about as American as we could be on July 4th.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Date night differences

Given my moaning about the Saltburn restaurant scene, what do TLOML and I do with all that freedom we bought ourselves?

Last weekend we drove to Whitby, 25 minutes away, for the kind of seafood we can't find in Saltburn. Whitby is a true fishing town, and a tourist destination too, with dozens of seafood places to prove it. We went to Greens, one of the better known restaurants. I will admit to being a bit disappointed that the menu was so heavy on predictable seafood staples: fish and chips, fish pie, crispy squid and of course, moules mariniere. But that's a bit churlish - like complaining that all you can get in Newport, ME, is clam chowder and cherry stones and oysters on the half shell. These seafaring, touristy towns know their audience and they cook the kind of food people travel there to eat.
A two-a-penny menu (but the food IS good)
We had a lovely dinner, started with a cocktail - I even wore a smear of lipstick, so you know it was a big night out. And enjoyed some excellent seafood. Squid, oysters, mariniere and turbot, since you ask.

Since dates outside of our house are still relatively rare, I'd like to say we rediscovered the art of flirting and romance, and talked like we haven't talked in months.

Instead we discussed the same topics that we chew over continuously, endlessly. There are two:
1. Transatlantica - we're always on about the differences between the US and the UK. Especially as the possibility of moving back is always out there.
2. Lady P - if we're not holding her, gazing at her or talking to her, we like to be looking at pictures of her and talking about her.

You'd think we'd get bored, wouldn't you? But there's always something new to say.

For example, on transatlantic differences. This usually involves TLOML pointing out how much more slick service is in the US - and me pointing out something thoughtful and brilliant about Britain. Green's offered me this brilliant piece of evidence.
 A small but functional finger bowl
In the US even if you order a messy lobster, in a posh restaurant, you are given poxy little lemon scented wipes. In all the many fine seafood restaurants (not to mention the not so fine) I ate in I never saw a finger bowl. They're missing a trick.

We also often cover the old 'everything in the UK is so small', as regular readers will know. Imagine my delight on finding a shellfish that proves this wrong!
One of the biggest oysters I've ever seen. Kumamoto this aint.
On Lady P, by contrast we had nothing new to say. She's still pretty amazing but I won't bore you with the details.

They say date nights are never the same again after a baby. I'd say ours bear a reassuringly strong resemblance to all the other date nights over the years.

Monday, July 1, 2013


Before Lady P came along TLOML and I talked a lot about how important it was for us still to go out for dinner together, and to enjoy time together as a couple. We had heard on the grapevine - from a couple of embittered parents - that having a baby completely destroys your social life. We made a pact, to make sure that would not be true for us.

From early on, Lady P obliged by being pretty good at sleeping from bedtime at around 6pm, till 11pm or midnight or so. (We won't talk about her behaviour between midnight and 6am. It's just too painful to comtemplate). So we managed to retain our habit of cooking fairly elaborate dinners and enjoying them at a nice, expansive, relaxed pace - at least a few nights each week.

And Lady P's good behaviour meant we felt confident to ask, say, my sister, to babysit so we could eat out. But booking family is kind of cheating. It's also not a long term solution, for what happens when family aren't around? Plus I wanted to be able to leave her in the daytime, just once a week, so I could have a couple of baby-free hours.

It sounds odd, but essentially we were determined to palm Lady P off to a stranger as soon as we could stand it.
Please look after me! I'm no trouble, honest.

We had a very soft landing in the form of my sister's childminder. She's looked after my nephews since they were small, and lives just two streets away. Lady P and I bump into her all the time when we run our errands in Saltburn - or if I go to pick my nephews up once in a while. So she and Lady P were already on speaking terms. And she's a lovely woman, who loves babies and I think has taken a shine to our Lady P. Easy. Leaving Lady P with her for two hours hurt for about the first five minutes - but I haven't looked back since. Lady P has a fun two hours and I use my babyfree time to have a good workout, and a long shower during which I don't need to keep turning off the water to listen for her crying. Marvelous.

The babysitter was a tougher role to fill. But a friend of my sister's has a sitter she's used since her boys were small babies. She's young, but sensible. We booked her to look after Lady P on a Monday night while TLOML goes swimming and I go for a run and a yoga session. Thinking it would make sense for her to get to know Lady P just in case she needs to tend to her at night, I also booked her for an hour on a Friday - I go out for about 40 minutes for a run. Finally, we ask her to sit for us every couple of weeks so we can go out for dinner. The first time she did we were too scared to drive far, but now we're a bit bolder we actually go on some nice culinary adventures.

So yes, Lady P has bashed up the edges of our social life. And bored a hole right through the middle of it too. But still, a semblance of our former life remains. Strange though: fully 60% of the freedom we have bought is used for exercise. Either our priorities have changed, or we've really grown to prefer home cooking above anything else.