Thursday 14 November 2013


It's been a funny old autumn really. If I had to sum it up in a word that word would most likely be 'shit'.

One Monday morning after a night where my heart was beating so fast and so hard I thought I'd written my last blog post. Of course, I wasn't having a heart attack but the doctors told me I was in the right place. My normally spot-on blood pressure was through the roof and I wasn't hypochondrically dreaming about the palpitations, there were in fact, palpitations. Anyway the root cause of this was a combination of stress and anxiety.

If anyone ever asked me if I was stressed I don't think I'd say I was but that's how it creeps up on you slowly. Commuting, working under pressure, balancing finances, childcare and life's daily traumas slowly tap, tap, tap away at us and if it's not managed, something has to give. None of this is exclusive to me, this is modern life, deal with it. Man up. It's true, but it needed dealing with and I didn't deal with it. The doctor earlier in the year told me I was the sort of soul who needed to proactively seek relaxation and persevere with it; just 'chilling out' wasn't a possibility in his opinion. I did download a hypnotherapy course and went to a hot yoga class (I know!) but alas it wasn't enough.

I spoke to my dad and he said he'd gone through a virtually identical period of time. Late thirties, young, energetic kids, financial pressures, chasing the dream, worrying about the Joneses and suddenly you're shaking like the proverbial defecating dog. Things are improving but it's a day by day process which involves trying, as the sign on my kitchen wall triumphantly advises, not to sweat the small stuff and a Yantra mat - a sort of medieval torture mat containing 8,821 plastic spikes which dig into your back and release the requisite endorphins for a decent kip.

And so at this time of year, we inevitably look towards the next and what it will bring. Firstly it'll arrive without a thirteen and whilst I'm not overly superstitious, I'm definitely placing some of the blame of feeling so rubbish on that number. I will be besting my one month off the booze achievement from this January and lasting until March 9th when I run the inaugural Surrey half marathon - the aim is also lose 20 pounds in an effort to run the 13.1 miles in under 2 hours...a feat I missed by 8 minutes in the Royal Parks half.

So, having indulged me for this long on a blog about my son and not my state of well being, I suppose I ought to mention Jake. All things cleft related seem okay but one of his gromits has fallen out and his hearing has got quite a lot worse. Well that's how it seems, it's amazing what he sometimes chooses to hear and chooses to ignore! Seems to be a hearing epidemic in Surrey as the next available appointment is in December...for a child's hearing? Dreadful from a normally brilliant local service.

He celebrated his fifth birthday on September 8th and the day after he started school. That means two things; firstly my first born seems to have grown up very fast and secondly, this blog is 5 and half years old. Seems mental to think about all the time that has passed since I started writing this at 4 in the morning the day after we had his cleft diagnosed. Along with all the intangible and wonderful a child brings and lives through over 5 years here's a quick list:

  • 2 x cleft repair operations (1 lip, 1 palate)
  • 3 x new jobs (me), 1 x new job (Mrs F)
  • 1 x new kitchen, 1 x loft extension
  • 1 x wall fallen over
  • 3 x cars 
  • 1 x gromit insertion operation
  • 5 x holidays to Spain
  • 1 x second child
  • 1 x holiday to Lanzerote
  • 2 x holidays to Italy
As Ferris so eloquently said 'Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around every now and then, you could miss it'.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Smile Pinki at Wimbledon

This is post is late. However due to the way cross rail ads work, it's still relevant. Sort of.
I work in Wimbledon and each summer I am forced to contend with a few extra commuters on my morning commute. By 'few' I mean thousands and by ''commuters' I mean tennis junkies. Combine a decent British summer with a successful run in the tournament by a Brit and the available air in the train carriage is exponentially decreased.

Andy, the Scot, is no more; Mr Murray firmly established his Britishness by winning Wimbledon a few weeks ago and he did it in straight sets against the world number 1. Fair play, sir (surely?).

Anyway, the point of all this is to say that for two weeks prior to and ever since (around 6 weeks at the time of writing), Wimbledon station has had a Smile Train takeover, in terms of advertising at least. Virtually every adshel, 48 and 96 sheet billboard have featured massive images of Pinki, the girl who inspired Smile Train to make a film which won an oscar (order your free copy).

Smile Train had been selected as the charity to perform the coin toss before the final and Pinki was the natural choice of coin tosser! She looks incredible; to think of the transformation from just a short few years ago where she'd endured six years of an unrepaired cleft lip and all that goes along with it. Since the repair, she's been all around the world helping Smile Train show to potential doners the immediate and sustained effect just a few quid a month can do.

I blogged previously about how I went to the 10 year anniversary where they told of the half a million cleft operations which had been performed for free in some of the poorest countries on earth...that was 4 years ago and they're currently up to 906,138 operations. The magic million is literally only months away.

Sunday 30 June 2013

Now you see it, now you don't

I've written a few times about when Jake's scar is more visible than others. It's normally when you see it in reverse like in the mirror or a selfie taken of him and me in a mirror. But then we all look different in reverse! 

I'm sure you can see some small difference in his lip if you don't know him but this is a photo that you almost certainly wouldn't look twice at from a cleft point if view. 

Just got back from a lovely trip back to Spain; ten days of shouting, swimming, sand castles and ice creams. Pretty much what any kid wants from their holiday. 

Since first having Jake, each time we go away we have the conversation about when we get 'our holidays back'. Clare and I used holidays before children for lying on a lounger and reading books. The only effort or exertion was the competition to see who could get the best tan and who could read the most books. Whilst we're not as brown as we used to be and we didn't read as much, holidays are definitely getting easier. 

Freddie is becoming more robust so can just about splash in the tide without drowning and Jake learnt to swim which is obviously a priority in being more able to relax on holiday. Of course it'll never be the same but really I don't want it to be the same, I want these trips to be the ones the boys remember and try to recreate when they are in our position as life inexorably cycles on. 

God bless Apple, by the way; genuinely the single best thing about an iPad is the effect it has on children on long journeys. Before kids we would judge lazy parenting by the amount of gadgets they used to give their children. Now we get it! Without wishing to be horrendously patronising, the best behaved kids are the ones belonging to non-parents!

So it was lovely but I'm also quite looking forward to going back to work. Another strange phenomenon about holidaying as a dad of two mental children!



Sunday 10 March 2013


Jake and I went for lunch with a few of my friends yesterday. And just because I recently realised that he's the age of the boys whose photos I couldn't really relate to when we first got 'the news', I thought I'd post a couple of pics and reassure anyone else who has recently also had a cleft diagnosed that a) the next 4-5 years of your life will go by in a flash and b) a cleft lip really isn't a big deal. I'd also like to apologise for the length of that sentence.  

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Bullying. Sort of. OK not really.

A week or so ago I asked Jake about what he'd done that day and he described having bumped into his friend during a visit to Wisley. He went on to tell me all about his friend and why he liked him. Which was nice. He then said on his way home he went to the park and saw someone else from his school;

"I don't like him because he hits me"


I immediately went into over protective and over the top dad mode. Initially asking questions to ascertain the authenticity of the claim - Jake can be prone to the odd embellishment - and then into solution mode.

I really don't want to turn him into a thug but for reasons including, but not limited to, the scar on his lip, I want him to stand up for himself from day one. There was a guy at my school who was an arsehole to everyone including me and it definitely affected me then and probably my confidence ever since, at least where confrontation is concerned. So I'm keen Jake understands 'reasonable force' as the police refer to it.

It turns out Jake was being a tad dramatic and the boy who 'hits' him, hit him once during a hitting-everyone frenzy and hasn't since hit anyone and was summarily told off. But regardless, I had a session of telling Jake exactly what to do. It starts with getting a bit closer, staring the offender down the barrels and saying 'no, you do NOT hit me', followed by, if getting no joy from the situation,  a meaningful push to the chest whilst still glaring them in the eye. Most bullies crumble when confronted and I hope if he ever comes across one that he has the cojones to stand up for himself.

I don't remember having had the conversation about these things with my dad, probably because he never had it with his dad and these things you just worked out for yourself, but it's something I'll be involved in as it is important and how we deal with things as a kid will have an impact on how we deal similar situations as adults.