Friday, June 22, 2012


So the Baby Brother has been growing nicely, and then growing some more, and is now as large as he is good natured with a personality as big as his cheeks. At four months I can also confirm the ginger rumours and suspicions that have been bandied about. It seems that my family does, indeed, have a rogue red-head gene that skips generations and then sneaks in and over rides everything in its path.  He is a very amiable little gentleman (I say “little” meaning “young”) who smiles on demand and sleeps through the night, mostly. And I’m sure he will grow into his big flappy feet and need never know that that when the photographer tried to take his ID photo for his British passport it took her at least three attempts to get both ears on (as required by the British Government) because of the size of his cheeks.
Or that his parents affectionately call him The Beast sometimes, come to that.
                So it is June now  and mid-winter, since someone put all the seasons the wrong way up over here, and in Muizenberg that means big empty beaches to air our sickly, snivelling kids on and a roaring fire every night since we have no central heating and whatever Dutch man designed our house 100 years ago did so to keep the heat out. So there is kind of a Christmassy feeling around in our home exacerbated by the fact that I kept our Christmas lights up around the fire place just because I liked them and Santa has an honorary place in our house all year round. It seems I whipped TGP into such a frenzy that I accidentally over-installed the magic of Christmas and now he will not leave it alone, still singing ‘Jingle Bells” to any of his toys that will listen and insisting on Christmas episodes of Peppa Pig and Postman Pat. And besides I literally feel like it was two minutes ago we opened our presents.  When did it become alright for half the year to disappear like that? I had big plans for 2012 and it didn’t even bother to say hello to me.
In reality a lot has happened for The Ginger Prince since Christmas. He went from nappies to potty to toilet and turned three having not one but two parties; one at playgroup and the other at home.  I didn’t know you could get event-anxiety on behalf of someone else but it seems you can. And it may not has been wise to have 16 toddlers round at your house when you have an 8 week old baby to look after, unless of course you enjoy blowing up balloons and putting little bits of nonsense in party bags at 11pm every night for a week. Which we didn’t.  But it was a success, leaving The Ginger Prince a sweaty, happy mess. So mission accomplished there. Now it only remains for me to recover what is left of 2012 and do all the things I said I would. This is what’s wrong with settling yourself annual goals, they just stress you out.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Baby Brother

I will spare you the goriest of gory details as many of you know them already. To nutshell it there was a long labour, a cord around a baby’s neck and a last minute caesarean. Before we had a chance to get acquainted he was whisked off to Intensive Care to ‘get checked over’  and it wasn’t until the next morning that he was wheeled in to be introduced to his Mummy, as I was tucking into a breakfast of sausage, egg and morphine (not a tongue salad in sight). It was only then that I realised what a scary business it had been- had the caesarean been two minutes later he wouldn’t have made it- but whilst I was being kept in the dark the little guy was fighting hard and being very well looked after and he made a full recovery within his first day of his life.
Furthermore there were no ginger suspicions at the time of birth since Baby Brother (BB) has such a lot of dark hair that it can be worn in a number of styles (I know this from experimentation- three days is a long time to be in hospital) and he looks as much like his Daddy as The Ginger Prince looked like me when he was unceremoniously slapped onto my chest three years ago in a very different kind of introduction. The recovery from the caesarean has been better than I imagined and I was up and about the following day and thereafter spent three days in hospital, pottering about in my horrible post-surgery hospital socks (forced to wear 24/7), reading magazines and being waited on hand and foot, whilst BB was wheeled in and out in his large Tupperware container.
                The spark of interest that The Ginger Prince showed in his Baby Brother whilst he was in hospital vanished when we got home and he saw that the little guy was here for good. Questions like “Can I get his blanket for him, Mummy?” were replaced with “Can we take him back?”, “Is he naughty?” and, worse still, “Is he a poo-poo head?”. In between these cheerfully framed questions were magnificent tantrums over bizarre things like being offered the wrong kind of spoon. These were the dark days but fortunately they didn’t last long and over the past six weeks TGP has been through every kind of emotion imaginable and has come out feeling and acting a bit like a big brother, most of the time, which we are all relieved about.
              I, too, have tumbled through a few different feelings but am finally adjusting to having two munchkins, to the fact that TGP now looks enormous and to the fact that it takes me at least an hour and a half to get us all ready to go out. I cannot, however, adjust to dealing with Discovery Healthcare, our insurance company, who tried to refuse to pay for the emergency caesarean because they claimed I planned it secretly in spite of the fact that I went into labour naturally, had a midwife and had letters from the hospital saying it was a life-saving emergency with no alternative (PMB). Two weeks after the birth both me and AA suffered from repeated bouts of Telephone Rage which were unhelpful to everyone. They may have borne the brunt of my disrupted hormones but I think they brought it on themselves. One call was a record two hours of denial and disbelief. You will be pleased to know that they did pay up in the end, but only after we got a consultant involved. We were told from a couple of sources that they try to think of any excuse and hope you give up. If you are on this blog because you typed “Discovery Healthcare” and “Telephone Rage” into google then email me- we can loath them together. Not really, you should simply get over it, just as I so obviously have!
                On a more positive note BB is very, very, very cute and we are lucky to have him. And as you know new mothers are never biased. He may even turn out to have ginger persuasions after all - not of the TGP variety, more of an auburn hue going on around his dark hair, a touch of the Terry Wogans. We shall see.
Either way he fits into our family perfectly, and I think we’re going to keep him.

                                            Baby Brother's foot- cute

                                           My hospital socks- not so cute!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The mole and the countdown

The other day I found myself stuffing a mole into a paper bag and taking it home, for which I’m going to blame pregnancy hormones. I was at the local playground with The Ginger Prince when I spotted a mole wandering about on the grass looking both unhealthy and confused. Although never having seen a mole before I’m not sure what a healthy one looks like. Not being a fan of animal distress I followed him about and then proceeded to try to catch and ‘save’ him in TGP’s sun hat causing TGP to say repeatedly “No Mummy, no mummy that’s my hat” whilst the creature showed me his big teeth. A passer-by had helped me put him in a paper bag and it wasn’t until I was walking home with TGP behind me asking for carry (which wasn’t going to happen on account of my being nine months pregnant and holding a bag full of mole) that it began to dawn on me that what I was doing made no sense at all. By the time I arrived home the idea that, being a biologist, AA would instinctively know what to do was fading and when I unveiled the beast AA announced first that it should be taken back to exactly where I found it, sick or not, and secondly that it was a mole-rat. The word ‘rat’ in the title altered my attitude towards the creature, I’ll admit, and I was happy to let AA take him back to the playground to “help him find his Mummy and Daddy”.
So this (human) baby has to hurry up and be born before I lose my mind further. It is a strange thing to be counting down the days to something that you a) don’t know the actual date of and b) you are sort ofdreading so I have resisted for as long possible, but have now succumbed and just want to get it over with. We have 13 days until the doctor’s predicted date and one week if you want to go with the date suggested by the gay psychic at the gym.
Last time around I packed an eager little first-time-mum hospital bag that sat at the end of my bed for a month looking ever more forlorn and depressing and so this time I have been a bit more deliberately casual about readiness. Last Saturday night, however, I felt completely sure that I was starting labour, lay awake worrying about the many things I hadn’t sorted out yet (relating to The Ginger Prince, health insurance documents and most importantly snacks to eat in the hospital) and then instructed AA we would both go to sleep for a couple of hours as we would need energy later. Of course when we woke up in the morning feeling a bit silly (me) and relieved (AA and me) the very first thing I did was to go and buy a range of hospital snacks of which only a few Haribo still remain alive. The chocolate covered raisins and Jumping Jack cheese and onion popcorn didn’t survive a day, bless them, so if I have another labour as long as the first one then I’ll be very hungry by the time they offer me a tongue salad (which is, by the way, the actual item they served on the maternity ward in the Edinburgh hospital where I had TGP). Even if there was a time when one might want tongue salad (which there isn’t) it really is not after just having a baby and in my drug-addled state I thought it was an actual joke and AA was in that queue to McDonalds before the staff had finished explaining to my drug-addled brain that this really was lunch. Let’s see what Vincent Pallotti private hospital can rustle up to dine on whilst I recline in what I hope and pray will be a private room.  But since I have gone for a ‘natural birth’, which seems to be a hippy option here, it is not impossible that they will offer to Braai my own placenta.  We shall see.
A mole-rat. Similar to the one in question, although not the actual beast. Slightly scarier and less mangey looking. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Christmas in Africa

So it turns out that what with hot weather, no turkey and general lack of festive fuss Christmas does not feel so Christmassy in Africa. The few half-hearted decorations on the beach front in Muizenberg were hidden by the swarms of people who descend there over the holidays to eat picnic lunches and play in the waves and there is little interest in the dejected looking Santas roasting in their suits in the Shopping Centre Grottos. In the privacy of our own home, however, I seem to have worked The Ginger Prince into a UK style Christmas frenzy. Each morning preceding the big day there was an advent calendar palaver as he tried to climb up the kitchen units often at least partially naked (because it’s getting so damn hot) shouting “Christmas Treat! Christmas Treat!” putting one in mind of Gollum and with the chocolate securely in his hand he scampered off into another room to nurse this treat until it melted.  
                My sister and her boyfriend have come, whizzed around Cape Town and surrounding areas, pruned our garden, sorted out our BBQ area and dining room, entertained TGP and are now sadly gone. They did leave the guest suite ready, however, for our two new guests, friends from Scotland, who arrived four days later, on Christmas Day itself, just slightly behind Santa’s sleigh and also bearing gifts. We had Braai and treats in the garden on for Christmas whilst TGP splashed about in his new paddling pool and then a week later yet more Braai and treats in the garden on New Year’s Eve. This time thrown into the mix was a New Year ceremony that we adapted from all the dippy hippie things we have ever done and which included a Tibetan Prayer flag hung in the garden, the symbolic ringing of a bell to signify bad things departing and good things arriving and the planting of a Pomegranate tree underneath which are buried all our hopes and dreams written on little pieces of paper. As a final touch the earth around the tree was watered with water gathered from two oceans (Indian and Atlantic) whilst on the way to Cape Point a couple of days before.  These are the types of things you do when having a sober New Year, or at least you do if you’re me. AA made a truly admirable effort to ignore these goings on and concentrate only on the spatchcock chicken he was BBQing until all the weirdness had stopped and he felt he could safely drink fizz and join in a painful rendition of Auld Lang Syne sung along to You tube cheered all the while by the lie in I had agreed to giving him, since I would have no hangover to nurse anyway, whilst I took TGP to the huge and empty Noordhoek beach on New Year’s Day.
I am now a scary seven weeks away from another (hopefully better) childbirth followed by the reality of having two kids, neither of which seems to have sunk in yet. A week or so ago I went to the gym, for the first time in probably about six weeks, and whilst in the middle of my lazy pregnancy work out, which principally involves watching sky news whilst ambling on the cross country ski machine, I was approached by a big, camp, shiny face who asked me if I was having a boy or a girl and when it was due. Upon being told I was having a boy in February he said that he had ‘sensed’ I was having a boy as he does psychic readings and that when I walked in he had watched the whole birth play out. He went on to tell me that if I thought the baby was coming on its due date I was in for a ‘big surprise’. Of course I loved all this and, having been re-assured that the birth was fine, I asked him if he had any tips for names since I was totally stuck. Once again he said that he could have told me that we hadn’t decided and that yes, he knew the right name but wouldn’t tell me because I needed to get there on my own. I was generally delighted with this psychic gay premonition but my sister pointed out that predicting that someone who is seven months pregnant is going to have a baby is proof of nothing. No pleasing some people.  
                                          Muizenberg Beach on Christmas Day

                                          Our Tibetan Prayer Flag

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Grinch and the New House

We moved into our new house last Tuesday which was made all the more exciting for The Ginger Prince by it being an actual building site complete with at least eight workmen at any one time (to whom he kept shouting “Men working!”), multiple open paint cans and two ladders to cause mischief on. Oh, and no furniture. It turns out we needed to construct a wall in the garden, fix the electrics and plumbing, re-plaster and paint the walls, mend and polish the floor boards, install a gate and alarm system and (most satisfying of all) remove all the 1970s tiles that had been glued onto the ceiling throughout in order to paint and restore the tongue and groove wood underneath. Not much then. When I say ‘we’ did it, I mean in the sense that we contracted it all out. DIY is not really the South African way, it would seem, and if you ask about prices to hire a floor sander people look at you as though you are criminally insane, so when in Rome and all that. I am sure, however, that AA would like it to be known that the de-construction of the filthy aviary in the garden cost him two of his very own weekends. All that is left there now is a bare wooden structure that may one day house a swing or slide, the occasional mouse in a trap and bare earth soaked with AA’s own blood, sweat and tears.
 Who knew bossing people about would be so stressful and time consuming? For around a month I have been meeting with tradespeople, arranging quotes and driving to Builder’s Warehouse almost daily, since our team of workmen come without transport. Hard to believe that a month ago I didn’t know my bags of cement from my tile grout and now I am a regular in the ‘contractors’ isle of Builder’s Warehouse and often have a tape measure in my hand bag for no specific reason, just in case.
In the week we have been living here the workmen have dwindled to one hard working Malawian without much English who TGP thinks lives here, in the attic (?), and follows around all day in spite of being ignored, or perhaps because of it. Our furniture has steadily grown from nothing to what can almost be described as too much and, after an unsuccessful attempt to make a stir fry with a plastic fork, we have finally unpacked the essentials; kitchen things, Lego,  and lots of toy animals.  Our original projected budget for the work on the house was an actual joke (that we keep on the fridge for amusement) and we have overspent by so much that we left ourselves with almost nothing for furniture. In the absence of Ikea, or any other decent budget furniture store, we have been trawling the murky depths of Gumtree and thereby routing through garages and living rooms of everyone on this peninsula from emotional ex-pats returning home to a Christian who tried to convert me and then sold me a bracelet for 20 Rand (£2) which I was too embarrassed not to take, along with a huge dining table (which was an absolute bargain). I am most proud of my mismatched dining chairs but the best Gumtree bargain of all is a King Size solid brass bed which was only 1,000 Rand (£100).
Three things I have learned from my Gumtree experience; 1) that Gumtree is addictive as well as hard work 2) that not everyone is going to be totally normal but most people are quite honest and 3) that taking a toddler to a stranger’s house is almost always a bad move for everyone, but very particularly for that stranger’s pets.
                Toddlers greet change with suspicion and in the weeks leading up to the move TGP would slide suspiciously over to where I might be packing a box and all but accuse me of maliciously hiding his toys. Sometimes he would use trick questions and mind games like asking me where his toy dinosaur’s Mummy is, when he knows I know we never had a Mummy dinosaur or asking today, in a throw away fashion, if all his choo-choo trains were still at the old house . He clamoured to be taken round to the new house when it was being renovated, since that is where his Daddy spent many weekends and evenings, and when he got here he would run around in excited circles, but now that we live here he seems deeply confused.
To be fair there has been a lot going on lately. TGP’s playmate for a fortnight, The Ginger Princess (my great niece and TGP’s second cousin), arrived amid the glamour of the airport, chewed on a few favourite choo-choo trains, splashed about in the sea as though she had been doing it her whole life and is now gone but not forgotten. TGP still discusses what she might be doing and whether or not she wants her milk. I would like to say he shared all his toys with her willingly but the best I can really say for him is that he got better about it over the fortnight.
 I would also like to say that I’m sure it will all calm down now but once a two year old starts on a chocolate advent calendar there are probably no moments of calm in sight. Christmas is not quite the fuss out here as it is at home but TGP still sings jingle bells to himself at least five times a day (both in English and in a made-up language of his own) and anxiously confirms regularly that Father Christmas has presents in his bag. His Mum, meanwhile, has just today started on her Christmas shopping and is finding moving, last trimester pregnancy and very hot afternoons greatly impede festive cheer. But I’m sure our next guests will cheer me out of my Grinch mood so roll on holiday season, all I need to do now is find us a tree to go with our previously enjoyed furniture.  

New dining room, complete with mismatched chairs and uninvited house guest.

Old dining room...

Horrible old 1970's ceiling tiles

New ceilings!

Best Gumtree bargain! (100 pounds)

Lounge (complete with rocking-zebra, every home needs one)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bonteboks and Boys

I will finally have to accept that I have no sixth sense about gender and shelve my list of girl’s names (again) since a scan last week showed a healthy boy.  The Ginger Prince’s latest comment on the whole business was “I don’t want a brother” so it’s good to know he’s not sitting on the fence.
                 It is clearly whale season in more ways than one this October. At 22 weeks I look and feel as I did at seven months with TGP so have an affinity with the huge humpback whales still regularly spotted near our coast. These beasts have, however, recently received second billing to their more toothsome cousins the Great White Sharks who have been putting an ominous fin up in False Bay lately following a notorious incident about three weeks ago when a British ex-pat lost part of both legs after ignoring a warning to stay out of the water. This has been (very) bad for him, bad for Muizenberg surf-tourism and bad for the morale of all our forth-coming visitors who have united in vowing not to even look at the water whilst they are here.

           In the weeks since I have stopped being sick we have managed to tick off a few major items on our ‘to do’ list. I am no longer a patient of Dr Sinister and have met with a midwife who will see me through the rest of the pregnancy. Should anything untoward happen at delivery I have a back-up doctor who describes himself as ‘pro-natural birth’ rather than ‘pro-caesarean’ as seems to be the norm in private medicine here, bringing the caesarean rate up to 70%. Seems everyone is pro-something here and at least he seems better than the last.

          We have also bought an old Dutch house in Muizenberg village one street away from where we are currently living. Having been rented for around twenty years it has been the recent home to some thirty budgies in a giant ramshackle aviary, a dog that has claimed total rights to the garden and a man who has the worst personal habits imaginable, so it is in need of some love, paint and a whole lot of cleaning. After the predictable delays and complications we are hoping to get the keys on Monday and once the fumigators have been I think we will be happy there. I am hugely excited about living in a house with a proper garden for the first time since I was ten and it will be nice for TGP to have accessible insects to pester, mud to jump in and a bigger house to make a mess of. Perhaps it will even compensate for a little brother.
                To make the most of the good weather, the second trimester and the last opportunity before being swamped in muslin squares and sterilisers we are making an effort to do more activities in and around Cape Town. We took a boat trip to Seal Island from Simon’s Town, went to a fancy restaurant in de Waterkant specialising in dumplings as a birthday surprise for me  and had our first foray into local theatre at Kalk Bay Theatre a tiny converted church with an intimate audience of about twenty. We also took TGP camping in the Cederberg Mountains where we stayed in a picturesque campsite with a huge panorama of blue-green mountains and a big spider that kept glaring at me from the back of the toilet door. My days of therma-rests and pot noodles being well and truly over we packed the car up with a blow up mattress and a travel cot for James and worked our way through the food we had brought, until a huge male baboon ran away with TGP’s breakfast whilst he was getting changed in the tent.
More recently we went with AA’s parents, the first of our summer guests, to Wilderness the first major stop on the garden route, where we stayed in a log cabin in the National Park. It was beautiful, especially canoeing through the indigenous forest, but a very long way so our stop offs included  Bontebok National Park named after its friendly antelopes that come snooping amongst the chalets in the morning, and Albertina for lunch on the way back. Albertina is a one-horse town the charm of which wore off during the hour and a half we waited for our toasted sandwiches. By standing still and looking both ways down the dusty main drag you feel you’ve really seen it all and the best thing I can say about it is that if you ever visit it will make you appreciate wherever you live.
So keep your fingers crossed for us on Monday as I hope to get the keys to our new house, have my first pregnancy appointment since July and somehow fashion TGP into a ginger Dracula for a Muizenberg Halloween parade. Apart from a house move November is due to bring us hotter weather and some specially delivered company for The Ginger Prince in the form of The Ginger Princess, his second cousin, winging her way over from Manchester. There will be two of them. Watch out Cape Town.

Halloween Update...

We got our keys to the new place today and our Halloween treats were that the house was bigger than we remembered, with the potential to be lovely. Our Halloween tricks, however, included;

1 x dead rat (in the old aviary in which the many budgies used to live)
Lots x live mice (also in the old aviary)
1 x tenant (+ great big bear-like dog of tenant) still in the process of moving out as we arrived to take possession of the house (hopefully leaving even as I write this)
Lots x pieces of broken furnature and filthy dirty pots and pans left here

So Happy Halloween everyone!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Scans and broken legs

We returned to South Africa two days ago to be greeted by a humpback whale in Muizenberg bay and a selection of curious baboons whilst walking in Tokai.  Our three week tour of the UK took in Edinburgh, Manchester, London and Oxfordshire where we visited cousins, aunts, friends, parents and new babies. Busy, but good.
 No sooner had we come blinking and red eyed into Heathrow after a sleepless night-flight than the rioters spread their unseemly way through the majority of the cities we planned to visit. But neither the looting nor the rain detracted from how good it feels to be home after a long time, to see friends and family, and to have that mixture of familiarity and novelty at once again seeing swans and green parks and tasting the tepid meat of a Gregg’s pasty. The novelty part, however, was short lived and after about a day it felt like we had never left.  
TGP was delighted to be fussed and petted from all sides and squealed at cows and sheep as we drove through the countryside, having presumably forgotten such things existed.   Around six weeks ago he broke his leg by standing on an innocent looking toy car in our front room that zipped away from under him, and he had to all but learn to walk again during our UK visit, happily limping from house to house and soaking up attention as he went. I must say though that considering how many different places we stayed he behaved very well, which is fortunate for me as I have discovered that it is hard to discipline a child who is limping without looking and feeling entirely evil. For three weeks TGP wore an immobilising full-leg cast, which was horrific for all. After much red tape our medical insurance company (Discovery Healthcare) decided not to pay for the treatment as they said that the Emergency Room in a hospital is not part of the hospital itself.  Be thankful that you have not had to listen to the full version of that rant as many times as TGP or AA, but also please be thankful for free healthcare.
Starting with Edinburgh, in the full soggy throws of the festival, we worked our way down to London and back up again. The further South we got the younger the children TGP met, and therefore the gentler he was instructed to be. There were cousins between the ages of three months and nineteen years, second and first, ginger and otherwise, new and otherwise, finally culminating with a boxer dog on the way up through Manchester again. With relief TGP curled up on the rug next to the (jowly and unimpressed) boxer dog whilst he kept a safe distance from the smaller of the babies muttering ‘’Gentle, gentle” to himself under his breath, as a personal reminder. One night I even heard him telling himself to be gentle in his sleep. All good practice since, as some of you already know, he is to become a big brother next year.
So I can now reveal that whilst TGP was bum-sliding across the floor in his cast his Mummy was puking. And then puking some more. Many of you have already heard in vivid detail about how bad the puking has been this time around and those even less fortunate have actually seen it (Strangers have also seen it; the revellers of the Edinburgh festival, the residents of Muizenberg). So if you haven’t heard from me for a while it is because TGP was immobile, I was medicating my way through almost three months of self-pity and AA was in denial about the whole thing. Ordinarily it is harder for fathers to be in denial the second time around but AA seems to be pulling it off. To be fair TGP and I cannot have been the greatest company lately.
Tempting as it is I won’t say “that’s the hard part done” (because all the mothers reading this will snigger) but at 16 weeks I can tentatively say that the puking seems to have stopped, just as the bump is beginning to show, and things are looking a whole lot rosier. As I ease into the second trimester, and bigger clothes, AA can emerge from denial and we can all start to feel properly excited about the little mite due to be born on the 22nd of Feb next year, a leap year incidentally. In the meantime we still need to find somewhere for us all to live when we leave this place in December and hopefully find a replacement for Dr Sinister, my current Gyny/Obstetrician, who I foolishly opted for without a recommendation. He ‘up-sells’ scans (sometimes as little as two weeks apart) and tells me horrific stories about his other patients.
We will also be finding out if it is to be a boy or girl at 20 weeks this time around, an option that wasn’t available with my first pregnancy.  In spite of my 100% failure rate at gender guessing (having been fairly sure that TGP was to be female) I have a feeling that this time I am carrying a girl. If I’m right  I have all the left over girls names from the first time around, and if I’m wrong I have all the left over clothes, so either way it’s all good.