A child is born

Well, who’da thunk it?  I’m a dad!  And, much as just about everyone else has said before me, it’s amazing.  To have this tiny life that you as a couple have generated, to love and care for, is a feeling that is indescribable, and like no other.  Awesome.

Amy is a sweet-natured little baby; she doesn’t cry much unless she’s hungry or we’re changing her nappy (you’d think she’d be grateful, but whatever), and she sleeps to beat the band.  A true Cunnane, then.  I’m told that she has my eyes; Fi reckons she’s got her feet.  She’s certainly got my long eyelashes, along with long legs, arms, feet and fingers.  Beautiful dark eyes, although we can’t quite make up our minds as to the colour.  I’m sure it’ll become clear as she grows.  She likes to snooze on my chest as I recline in my chair, which means I get a nice break from my work, he he…

So here it is: I’m a grown-up, and I’m supposed to be responsible.  But all I wanna do is be a rock’n’roll star – the two can’t be mutually exclusive, can they?  Time will tell.

A bit tired, a bit down – winter is coming…

No apologies for the length of time it’s taken to update the website; I’m not even sure anyone reads it anymore! Been a busy time including several weeks of a downer, which I’m happy to say I’m coming out of quite nicely now. So happenins has been the last thing on my mind, frankly. But there have been happenins! Read on…

Last post, I spoke of my Three Peaks adventure, which my sister Kathy joined me on. It was a laugh, but quite tiring as usual – and I had to cry off the Scafell Pike climb due to a recurrence of the old familiar knee problem. But it wasn’t as bad as last year’s, which proves that my gym sessions have had some effect. Must go back to the gym one of these days…

Our hire car for the Peaks wasn’t available on the day, so they upgraded us to a Nissan X-Trail. Much to my horror, but it actually turned out to be a brilliant car! My take on 4x4s has forever been subtly altered. So the driving was pretty good, apart from the twisty bits around the Lake District which threw it slightly out of shape – but again, not as much as anticipated. All good.

Driving up to Ben Nevis, we encountered the prelude to the Scottish weather when we hit downpours the far side of Glasgow and discovered the joys of aquaplaning on a dual carriageway while the windscreen was obscured by a tidal wave thrown up by the wheels. Only for a couple of seconds, but quite scary. Arriving at Fort William, we were a little nonplussed to see that cloud cover was at about 2-300 metres, and all we could do was hope for a better day on the morrow.

Fat chance. The day dawned cloudy and grey, but dry. We set off up the path, and within an hour were engulfed in cloud. Meanwhile, the wind gusted up to 40mph and rain trickled. On the latter part of the climb, what this meant was climbing up the path in one direction with the wind at our backs, then turning for the next section with wind in our faces. Driving stinging rain into them. Nice. We got there in the end, though, and could barely see a thing. So back down, escorting one of our Three Peakers who ended up injuring her knee and limping to the finish in a melancholy state – I firmly advised her not to trek the following day. But Kathy bounced up and down the mountain, and wasn’t at all deterred by the complete and utter lack of scenery – something that bitterly disappointed me. To be honest, I can’t see the point of climbing it if you can’t see what you’re climbing above – unless of course it’s your first time, and that’s where the challenge lies. So fair play to the crew who all made it up and down; you’ve done Nevis!

I sat out Scafell Pike, as I say, and spent the morning in the hostel with a couple of the ladies who were suffering with injuries from Nevis. The crew made it up and down in better conditions than the previous day, although the winds were quite stiff at the top. On we went to Snowdon, and finally – a clear day! This time I went for it and got into my stride, barging to the top before almost everyone else. A quick cuppa at the visitors’ centre at the top, then back down. The skies cleared, and I got some decent photos on the way down – and this time, I didn’t need to resort to the mountain railway. Another victory. So overall, it was a good trip – Kathy did all three mountains and loved it, and I managed two of them. I swore I wouldn’t do the Three Peaks again, but as time goes by and the memories fade, I think maybe, just maybe….

So on to September, and my birthday present from Fiona: a business-class trip to New York, and my first ever trip to the US! I have to say, NY is a cracking city, and I wouldn’t mind going there again – but I think I’ve been spoiled by the business-class side of it. Now I’m not sure if I’ll be able to fly economy for seven hours, having experienced the luxury of the lie-flat seat. We stayed in Manhattan and did the full-on tourist trail, starting with a trip to the top of the Rockefeller Centre to take snaps of the skyline by sunset. Very cool. The following day was the downtown bus tour, narrated by a sardonic tour guide who kept us all entertained as well as educating us on the history and architecture of the city. The uptown tour was the next day after that. We got some shopping in; I bought jeans and trainers (what else!), while Fi stocked up on all her high-fashion items. We dined at Gordon Ramsay’s place, Maze at the London NYC, which was pretty cool. The hotel we stayed in had an executive lounge, which pretty much meant breakfast and lunch were catered for as well as evening drinks before going out – excellent stuff! We were ferried from the airport to the hotel and back again by an excellent chauffeur service, and the whole experience was superb. Needless to say, I took a multitude of photographs, and at some point I’ll upload them to the gallery – promise!

Back to the UK, and the depression that had been gathering over the previous couple of weeks dropped onto me. Added to which I acquired a dose of some kind of cold/virus/man-flu that laid me low for a couple of weeks. So I wasn’t a happy bunny throughout September; meeting up with my good pal Julien, he diagnosed me as clinically depressed. Which didn’t exactly cheer me up, but somehow put a focus onto it and pointed me in the direction of the exit. So I’m in much better shape now, and can only attribute the downer to a modicum of pre-natal stress. Which guys get too, you know – honest!

Meanwhile, I’ve been introduced to the trauma that is the weekly NCT class. This is where men are dragged in various states of unwillingness by their partners, to learn in excruciating detail what childbirth and the final stages of pregnancy are all about. In fairness, I’m reasonably well-educated in all of this, but occasionally I’ll learn something interesting that keeps me awake. So it must be worth it. Only three weeks of it to go now – I’m counting the minutes.

Last weekend we went to our friends Vikki and Jon’s post-wedding party in Norwich – they got married in Las Vegas, so they decided to have a ‘wedding lite’ in the UK. And a good night was had, with a hog roast laid on and casino tables around the room to recreate the Vegas vibe. I actually managed not to get totally plastered (I must be growing up!), so a good night as well as a good morning after were had. I see my future, and it’s largely sober…

So we’re into the last 8-9 weeks of expecting, after which it’ll be actual and ongoing. I’m looking forward to meeting the little mite that’s been kicking seven shades of sh** out of her mother’s insides for the past month or so, and no doubt I’ll be getting my fair share then. Our neighbour across the street, Louise, popped in last week with her baby boy Callum, and I had a chance to practice delicately holding him (only 5 weeks, at this stage!). As with all these things, initially scary – but then he fell asleep on my shoulder, so that’s all good then. If the same trick works with our version, I can see that shoulder being much in demand!

So enough chatting; there’s work to be done and I’ve got to do it. Chat to y’all soon, no doubt.

We apologise for the delay…

Bit of a long lay-off there – last post was after the Samos holiday! Phew… Well, there have been happenins since then, so don’t worry – I’m still alive!

So what’s been happenin’ with me? Well, July was a quietish month, with highlights at both ends. The beginning of the month marked my first ever visit to Wimbledon for the quarter finals, to watch Andy Murray and Roger Federer do their stuff. Given that I lived in Wimbledon years ago, it seems a tad bizarre that I never visited the tennis, but then I wasn’t especially interested. Not that I’m an avid fan now, but the attraction of Centre Court debenture tickets (courtesy of Fi’s boss, who has a batch of them every year) was too much to resist. And I learned a bit about tennis, and enjoyed myself immensely. Although the sun was shining directly onto our side of the court and the heat was intense – we had to extricate ourselves and go back to the bar to dry out in between matches!

The rest of the month was a mass of baby-related stuff, which I guess is practice for the experience of parenthood proper – i.e. no personal time or space whatsoever. That said, I’m very much looking forward to the wee mite’s arrival – and I guess (s)he is too, given the amount of break-dancing going on in Fi’s tummy over the past couple of weeks! When I heard about the phenomenon before, I thought it was the occasional ‘kick’ – but this one is getting on down, spinning around and generally boogying the night away. Very excitable – no doubt we’ll have plenty of sleepless nights from December onwards… 🙂

All this prospective parental stuff is sometimes a little overwhelming, to be honest. I suspect I’m finding myself in the same boat as any expectant father – certainly in the current day and age, where it’s no longer just the mother’s job to raise and look after the kids. Now, Dad has to be just as involved. And that raises questions: am I responsible enough? There are many more, but that one looms large. I guess this is the only way to find out; once the ball is set rolling, les jeux sont fait, as the roulette croupiers would say in the movies. And then I’ll find out what I’m made of. I hope I’m up to it!

End of July was our visit to France; what has become an annual ‘road trip’ event. This one was a little more stressful than last year’s, partly because it didn’t have the novelty value. And also partly because I opted to follow our Garmin sat-nav blindly via Paris. I realised the error of my ways as we were sitting in traffic on the north bank of the Seine, heading for La Défense – ‘something’s gone wrong here’, I thought. So some extra time got knocked on to our trip as a result. Still, we arrived in Plaisance to a warm welcome, sunny weather and a fine meal. All worthwhile. The following day we stocked up on wine and goodies to bring home with us, then settled in to a routine of lazing by (and dipping into) the pool. I love visiting there; the welcome is always wonderful, the neighbours friendly, the wine fine and the weather (mostly) excellent. Saturday night saw something like a month’s rainfall, which diluted the fun slightly, but such is life. Returning to the Eurotunnel, we went the far less taxing route through Dreux, Evreux and Rouen – and arrived an hour and a half before our train was scheduled. So we caught an early train, and got home in time to catch Waitrose for some essentials – winners all round…

But the exhaustion of a trip like that had me sleeping like a stone on Monday night. I don’t think we’ll be doing that trip for another year, he he. But this weekend sees another visit happening – this time to Westport in the west of Ireland, to visit my brother, his girlfriend and whatever members of my family will be able to make the trip. Then next weekend I’ve got the Three Peaks event again – up at the crack of dawn Friday to drive to Fort William, only returning Monday evening after doing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon – knackered again! I’ll be travelling sans femme, unhappily – Fi’s chilling and enjoying her space here. But my sis Kathy is coming over from Ireland to join me for it, which should be a lot of fun. We’re looking at a posse of 25 or more this year, so should be a good crowd. Here’s hoping my knees hold up this time!

My mate Ben and his lovely wife Brooke are over from Australia visiting just now; hopefully I’ll get to meet them before they go back. They fly out on the Friday I head for Fort William, so time is limited. Fingers crossed we get something sorted; it’s a little rough only catching up with him for a few hours each year, but worse again not to catch up at all! We’ll get something sorted. Tentative plans are afoot to head to Australia with youngster in tow, probably in 2011 – we’ll see how that pans out.

Right now, Synthetix-wise, I’m working hard on our new product offering: an intelligent FAQ system which should find the answer you’re looking for on a website WITHOUT having to trawl through a never-ending list of them. Hopefully we’ll have something to roll out in the coming months; watch this space.

And for now, I’ll sign off. Happenins out.

Tanned and relaxed – then back to work

Well, Samos was a delightful time. Great people, great weather, great food, great pace of life – always a pleasure. We didn’t actually get up to much, eschewing the usual ‘hire a car and see the sights’ model in favour of a ‘lie by the pool and take the occasional dip’ philosophy. And it seemed to work quite nicely – I’m not sure I’ll be able to do an active holiday again! Nah, just kidding… 🙂

Back home, we’re plunged into home repair chaos. Tiling the kitchen didn’t work out, as the floor underneath just won’t support tiles – so a new timber floor is in order. And at the time of writing, the entire downstairs of the house is being refloored – hope it’s worth it. And I hope it doesn’t take too long; I’ve been displaced from my office and right now I’m working on a laptop in the spare bedroom. Not the most comfy working environment….

Last post, I mentioned “other happenins” – well, I think I can put you out of your misery and reveal what’s been going on here. I’m going to be a dad! Yes, me. Despite my pal Julien’s protestations that I’m banned by law from procreating, somehow this little one slipped through the net. Fi is almost at 17 weeks, and in excellent health. And in a few weeks’ time we’ll find out if it’s a boy or a girl. So we’ll have lots of fun adjusting the spare room for baby habitation – not to mention the oodles of space children seem to require! But we’re very much looking forward to it – it’ll be a whole new experience. And I’m getting used to the dire predictions of some people who are already parents, regarding loss of any kind of spare time and personal space… 🙂

Meanwhile, the first impact is that I won’t be having a big old 40th birthday celebration as planned; with it being less than a fortnight before baby’s projected arrival, I’ll have to postpone it – maybe have a big ol’ 41st. Or something. If I come up with any ideas, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

Well, not a lot else to report; hoping to break out the barbecque once the dust has settled here, and looking forward to a long hot summer. And especially when we do our road trip to France in July. Mmmmmm, sun & wine…

No offence, but…

It occurred to me some time ago, that offence is far more often taken than given. It’s a strange phenomenon, where normally rational people will react to an innocuous remark with “what are you trying to say?”. Probably just what was said, but never mind. And in recent times, a new phenomenon has grown up in the politically-correct arena, where people will take offence on behalf of other people or groups of people, even if it’s not relevant to them personally. Quite bizarre…

But that has nothing to do with anything happening to me – it’s just a thought. Right now, there’s a huge row going on about parliamentary expense accounts, and since it shows no sign of abating, no doubt a few sacrificial heads will roll. And all because “the people” are offended. I suspect that whatever measures are taken as the MPs retreat to their well-appointed bunkers, everyone’s still going to be very angry. And this will all be shown in a nationwide protest vote at the local and EU elections next month. I suspect a revival in fortunes for the Monster Raving Loony Party, if they have any candidates left. Otherwise, ‘None of the Above’ has my vote.

And on that topic, my postal vote form has just arrived! In the local elections, candidates for Liberal Democrats, Labour, Conservatives, BNP (yuk!) and English Democrats (“Putting England first”) – oh joy. And no ‘None of the Above’ option – hmmmmm, a spoiled vote? Not sure that’s a good way to go. The cast for the European elections is far greater, and I’m sure this is due in part to the handsome expenses and perks MEPs enjoy. Cynical? Moi? The Jury Team looks interesting, though – a political ‘party’ made up by grouping together independent candidates with the same ideas. Kinda makes sense. The full list goes BNP, Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship”, Conservative, English Democrats, Jury Team, Liberal Democrats, No2EU, Libertas, Socialist Labour Party (!), Green Party, Labour, Peace Party, Roman Party (but what have they ever done for us?!), UK First, UKIP. Frankly, it’s not a promising menu, is it?

For my money, The UK Libertarian Party might be worth a punt – they’ve got some interesting ideas. Except they’re not fielding any candidates just now, preferring to wait for the big one (currently hotly tipped for October 2009 – we’ll see).

Meanwhile, far from the madding politicians life continues apace. I’m alternately looking forward to a chillin’ week dangling my toes in the Aegean – and shuddering in anticipation of Thomson’s inevitable cock-up with the arrangements. Fingers crossed it’ll be OK; at least it won’t be as bad as the shambolic return flight from Cape Verde, where the plane was too small to store the supplies required to cater for a 5-hour flight, and had too few toilets for the number of passengers. Complaints got us nowhere, mind you. Gits.

Since last post (11th of March – shocking!) we’ve been home to visit my family, which was cool. We bucked the prevailing trend by all being in the same spot at once – that’s twice in the space of 12 months (counting the wedding, of course)! We really should see each other more often… 🙂

And now it’s on with the work. Various happenings here and there, but I’ll talk about those next time. Maybe.

You’ll just have to pop back and see. If you’re still there, that is.


Fun on the slopes; a long lurgy

Not long back from my latest trip to the slopes for snowboarding fun: Andorra once again, and it was a blast, my horribly persistent lurgy notwithstanding. The trip was characterised mostly by being my nephew Caelum’s first outing on the slopes, and all indications are that he’s hooked – already talking about next year’s trip (maybe…?). Another snowboarder on the slopes – I fear skiers everywhere are groaning in disgust!

But back to my lurgy, briefly. About a week before the ski trip, I developed a tickly cough, which was troublesome as it kept me awake that night. By the following day it had developed into a sore throat. Uh-oh, I thought, I think I know where this is going – having suffered enormously from chest infections in the past, this progression was horribly familiar. Sure enough, the following day it had shifted down to my upper chest, and I feared the worst. So a trip to the doctor it was, in anticipation of an antibiotic prescription and a moratorium on any alcoholic enjoyment for the holiday.

However, the GP checked my temperature, listened to my lungs and pronounced all normal and airways clear. His prescription? A combination of high-strength paracetamol and ibuprofen, for as long as it took to fix me. Fair enough – I don’t like taking antibiotics anyway. He told me it was probably some kind of virus: “there’s a lot of it about” he said, without a hint of irony…

A great holiday in Andorra ensued, with Caelum having a shaky start and finishing the week going lickety-spit down the slopes – certainly better developed than I was on my first week. But he has the advantage of youth, I console myself. Not that I’m a rickety OAP myself, just a little less flexible and a lot less fearless than my 13 year-old nephew. Such is life.

My brother Paul, for his part was a quick study on the skis – another relatively fearless individual. By the end of the week, he was improvising parallel turns and almost nailing it – respect! So best beginning skier award went to Paul. I think I was still a contender for the “best wipeout” award, despite my nephews’ attempts to fashion some good tumbles. At one point, I had to limp to the bottom and get a coffee, just for an excuse not to go out and have those horrible slopes attack me again… 🙂

As to the virus, I managed to get horrendous earache on the descent into Toulouse, and on the transfer up into the mountains went half deaf from sinus issues. And so it was for the week, with streaming nose, frequent sneezes and coughs – and the usual bruises (but a lot fewer of those this year!). Of course, I was feeling a little better halfway into the week, so was less diligent about taking my medicine – and paid for it by the end of the holiday. On returning home, I was almost as bad as when I’d left. And now, 10 days after returning, I’m feeling that the virus has run its course. More fresh fruit for me, I think!

So back to work, and it’s a refreshing mix of mainly good news – we’ll be in business for the foreseeable, by the looks of things. The economy limps on, with the list of casualties mounting daily. And the government busies itself trying to distract the electorate with stories such as Fred Goodwin’s pension (the issue du jour) – now they’re talking about acts of parliament to claw the pension back from him. For my part, I think it’s a slippery slope and I hope they don’t pull it off. Things are bad enough without such a precedent.

Anyway, enough political whingeing; go check out the ski pics in the gallery, if you’re interested. And if not, pop back in a few more months, when I might have posted something new!