Tuesday 29 December 2009

An excellent Christmas

I had a feeling this one would be good but it exceeded my expectations on several levels. I thought Jake would get a bit more from it but he really seemed to enjoy himself. For all the inevitable 'they're more interested in the paper' cliches, he actually seemed to like his presents. When we gave him his toy NinkiNonk his eyes lit up and started salivating, the same thing happened when we presented his Makka Pakka flannel. Anne Wood who makes up half of the production team of In the Night Garden must have made a fortune from creating a TV show which in the first place is like crack for kids and therefore a winner for parents trying to calm children before bed time and secondly spawns a range of affordable toys which continue to bring smiles to young faces when the show isn't on. And she was behind the Telly Tubbies. When you watch the show you think the writter must have taken a hit of acid before setting pen to paper but she's got a gift of giving toddlers exactly what they want; the noises, colours and characters do something to Jake when he's watching it and just our impression of one of them is enough to stop him wriggling when we're getting him ready for bed. Good luck to her!

Anyway, Jake had the added bonus of all four grandparents present on Christmas day. It was the first time for us too. For the last few years we've alternated Christmas and Boxing day between parents houses and then reverse it the following year. This year, however Clare's folks came to mine as a last minute boiler issue would have seen them eating turkey around an electric heater. So it was lovely, a full house, screaming, excited children, too much food, booze, Gavin and Stacey and my answer of 'giraffe' to the Family Fortunes' question of 'name a long legged bird' topped of the day perfectly.

For ages I've felt knackered in the mornings despite how much sleep I get but for the first time in a long time, I've felt more awake and energetic first thing and I think it's the combination of a few days off and the feeling that 2010 is going to be an exciting year.

Firstly, I can now reveal that Clare and I are off on a short ski break to Austria next week. It was a surprise Christmas present for her that I'd been working on in secret for some time. The bride and groom of the wedding we're going to on New Year's Eve aren't honeymooning officially until March but have a chalet booked and a few of our friends are going with them. Originally I tried to persuade Clare that it would be a good idea to join them and take Jake with us, however this was vetoed almost immediately. We didn't want to be the party poopers or the ones with the child keeping people up at night so I initially shelved the idea and resigned myself to another year without snow. For ten years I'd had a snowboard trip pretty much every year up until 2007 and nearly went in 2008 however Clare told me she was pregnant just after I'd paid the deposit so we never went. Had we not gone this year (2010) there would be the very real possibility that there could be something like a 6 or 7 year gap between winter sports' holidays and that, frankly, is unacceptable. So I realised that the only way to get Clare to agree to a trip was to go behind her back and that's what I've done. Jake will have an extra day in nursery and the mums have, very, very, very kindly agreed to share the looking after of him for the four nights we're away. Thank God for our amazing mothers! Twiglet is booked into the cattery, flights are booked and we go next Monday. We'll have three days skiing and will be back on the Friday....one of our closest friends, Fred is back from Canada, from where he cruelly absconded to 4 years ago and he is coming too so we can't wait and it'll do us, and particularly Clare, the world of good. A few days of fresh air, exercise and time off child care after a relentless (but fun) 15 months will be just what we need.

Also, we have plans submitted to the council for an extension to our downstairs which will give us a much bigger kitchen and an area for Jake to make as much mess as he likes. These will be approved or rejected late Jan / early Feb and then we can start building and that's a very exciting prospect, more exciting than moving in fact.

Lastly, I'm hoping that 2010 will be a good year for our business. I feel that we're due one. We've used the recession as a diagnostic tool, made all the right moves, done a deal and generally put us in a position to make some decent returns. I know you shouldn't cross your fingers in business but luck is involved (even Branson says a lot of his success was due to the right place and time) and if anyone is due some, it's us.

So there you have it. A great Christmas, lots to look forward to and I wish everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year. Especially Ben and Izzy who become Mr and Mrs Ansell at 2pm on Thursday. Can't wait.

Monday 21 December 2009

Odd thoughts

I'm sure other married / partnered people have that conversation where you talk about living a long and loving life and then finally passing away together in each other's arms. Dying together being the ultimate finale to a lifetime's romance. No? Just me then.

Anyway Clare and I have had that conversation, just frivolous pillow talk I guess but it would be the way to go wouldn't it? Not having to go on alone with nothing but memories. Except now it's different, we have Jake and someone needs to look after and out for him. When you open a bank account these days one of the features is often a free will writing service but I'm sure less than 1% take them up on it. Especially as we'd have nine tenths of sod all to pass on but a will is more than that. It expresses our wishes in terms of who we see will be best to take care of Jake and his well being as well as what he'll actually get.

Brittney Murphy died yesterday and whilst the inevitable tabloid rumours point to drug excesses, by all accounts she had a heart attack. She was 32. Stephen Gately was 33 and he died this year as well. Again, his death was subject to rumour but in the end it was put down to a tragic natural accident. The point is that people do start to die in the thirties even if it is a small percentage. This will sound awful but I've always thought I might as well....maybe the naturally pesimistic side comes into play here and of course I hope I live forever, but you feel what you feel. That's why I'm using the end of the decade as a wake up call to look after myself better. I've always done plenty of exercise but a life long devotion to beer and fags has left me less healthy than I'd like. We're going to our great friends' wedding on New Year Eve and any excesses will be left at the marguee door when I leave.

Of course resolutions are there to be broken but there are good intentions behind all of this. I remember my friend's dad dying when we were 16 and I guess his dad would have been 50 odd. At the time 50 was as old as anyone could be, now it's only 17 years away, just longer than the proverbial blink of an eye. We have a responsibility to our children more than to ourselves to get and stay fit plus it's a quality of life thing; I don't want to be wheezing around the garden while Jake is scoring goals against me, I want to beat him!

Anyway I'd like to apologise for writing about death during the happiest week of the year, just had the thought and put them down before we start a fortnight of drinking!

Merry Christmas everyone.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Jake's cleft and 2009 - in context

It's so weird to think how much of a big deal it all was when we were told that Jake would be born with a cleft. Understandable still, it was huge news after all, but it's funny how time levels everything out. Time and obviously the operations have helped put it all into context.

Finding out that something's not going to be quite right before the birth of your first baby will always (and rightly so) be difficult news to hear. I remember talking to a friend of a friend who was then pretty much where we are now in terms of the initial process. He said everything would be o.k and of course it is, but when you're the other side it doesn't necessarily feel like it will be. Experiences like these have to be experienced, empathy is impossible without experience. You can sympathise and try to know what people are going through but unless you've dealt with it first hand, you'll never get close.

I would say both Clare and I are different people. There would be differences anyway given it's been 18 months since we had the 5 month scan and we've become new parents but there are other changes probably directly attributable to the cleft thing. I think we're calmer (granted, not always behind the wheel) and smaller stuff bothers us less. We used to waste a lot of time worrying about what other people think, trying not to bruise egos, treading on egg shells. It's not like we go out of way to put noses out of joint but we have more of a feeling that it is what it is, let's just crack on.

I feel older certainly and I think a consistent lack of solid sleep will do that to anyone. People can stay looking young into their thirties but I think it's that decade that puts most years on and the link between parenting during that time has to be paid attention to. I find myself tutting at sections of society and then letting it all go in one fluid movement. I still get irritated at people but I also think that it's not worth worrying about because it's out of our hands. All that matters is your family, your friends and your wellbeing, be in health, finance or mindset.

Jake is growing up and I'm there for him. I want to protect him from the cynicism I have running through my veins. I guess it's only recently that I've started to accept that I'm not going to be a billionaire and that, in all likeliness we'll be living in a two bed semi (albeit, a very nice one) for the foreseeable future. I've mentioned on here before that Clare and I are always looking forward to the next thing, a holiday, the (bloody) extension, a new job, more money and so on, but I find I'm doing that less now. Which is good. Learn to enjoy now, chill. Life happens 24 hours a day and it happens now, not next week, month, decade.

I'm very much looking forward to Christmas. This year the physical break in the work calendar feels more welcome than ever. Since the disposal of the media division of the business I have been lugging desks around, chucking almost ten year's worth of collected cabling, client folders, out of favour secret santa presents and god knows what else and cleaning parts of the building never before cleaned and in short, I'm knackered. No matter how much five a side or squash I play, I still feel shattered most mornings and a few days off but that don't involve an airport or foreign travel, ought to do me the world of good.

The end of this year and decade is a real watershed for the company and it'll be nice to come back into work with a sense of opportunity and a new start and then perhaps I'll be able to make a billion or two.