I’ve never seen The Empire Strikes Back

It’s half past one. The alarm clock I didn’t set goes off and there’s no option to press snooze. The subconscious ability to ignore such nocturnal animations is, according to the gentle shake on my right arm, no longer a relevant life skill. Up we get, one eye squinting and the other still shut. Try not to walk into the wardrobe. It’s like a hangover but without the regret.

He settles back down and resurfaces at a more reasonable time. It’s still dark but at least Radio 4 has started up for the day. A feed and a change and Karthi Gnanasegaram’s first sports desk are a recipe for our first nap. We wake up, a shade before eight o’clock, to both a call from the Sky installer and a house bereft of its mother. We’re on our own but, hey, at least we’ll have Sky Sports before lunchtime. As it is, the Sky man’s in and out before Karthi’s final bulletin (“I hope the rest of the day is this easy, it’s too cold to be putting dishes up outside”). But where there’s yin there’s invariably yang; the BT Openreach man later spends three hours up a ladder trying to install our new phone line. I start moving our network devices over to the new connectivity during his afternoon nap. The boy’s, not the BT Openreach man’s. I don’t think people at BT get to have afternoon naps. Not since privatisation.

An important aspect of looking after an infant is, according to those who have done it, to get out of the house every day. It was nice to visit Lynne (good chat) and Ari (I now know how soon babies can negotiate a flight of stairs and turn on all the bathroom taps) and spend the walk back discussing the relative merits of a particular brand of high chair with my mother. The relative merit is, in this case, that my mum’s willing to buy one for us. We just have to pick a colour. Good job there’s only thirteen of them to chose from.

Bedtime passes without incident. But that unexpected alarm goes off again before long and yesterday’s shake of the arm has become a gentle prod in the ribs. We go through the motions (note double entendre) and go back to bed. No time for Karthi this morning, though, because there’s a Test match to watch. Despite it being the first opportunity to watch cricket at home in nearly four years, I have absolutely no idea what happened or what I did instead of paying attention to it. Some laundry got done, much to everyone’s surprise, and we visited some of the North Circular’s most popular family destinations (Mothercare, Costco, Sainsbury’s petrol station). Alex’s good behaviour was rewarded with a new pair of faster teats, mine with a crate of Peroni.

The evening was unremarkable and passed without incident. He slept, Claire went out for a pal’s birthday, I ordered a Papa John’s and watched Star Wars for the first time. I go to bed wondering what I’m going to use as an unusual fact about myself at the next team-building away day.

“I’ve never seen The Empire Strikes Back.” Job done.


Nine weeks, you say?

I’m dad to Alexander (that’s still weird to write)  and have been since the beginning of last August. At some point in last year’s mild autumn, Alex’s mum and I decided that it would be good for me to take decent chunk of time off work and, instead, hang out with the little man. The benefits are many: I get to spend a chunk of time really getting to know and look after our son; my partner gets to launch herself back into the career she loves without the added anxiety of wondering how the boy’s getting on at nursery; he’ll get to try some new experiences, like solid food and going to the swimming pool; you’ll get to read about how we get on, if you want.

I’m also looking forward to having some time away from work and, perhaps, developing a bit more perspective from that. I’ve always, at 32, been employed or in full-time education; no gap year, no career break, only a fortnight on JSA between jobs in March 2006. Not that it has been deliberate, and definitely not the result of a particularly strong work ethic or careerist tendency, it’s just that I’ve got on with things and this is how it’s ended up. Claire found one of the challenges of maternity leave was not having the mental stimulation afforded by regular work; meanwhile, a company iPhone has allowed my work to become an ever-present blancmange, the beneficiary of which I am yet to encounter.

Claire has been helping me to draw up a list of things to do. There’s a couple of sessions left in the current season of baby massage class. Martin doesn’t work Mondays, Lynne’s around on a Thursday. Alice says I’m always welcome to go to baby cinema. The NCT mums are going to set up a new WhatsApp group. The health visitors run a weigh-in on a Wednesday lunchtime. The flat could always be cleaner. My thoughts, meanwhile, are focused on how to engineer nap time so he sleeps during live play and wakes to save me from Bob Willis’ apathetic and bewildering approach to analysis.

But assuming we’ll be knocked out of the Twenty20 early on, I’ve had some other ideas. We could crack on with some of the remaining Hundred Things, or get around to shimmying back up The Orbit thanks to my annual ticket. There are routes from the local bus station which end up in all manner of alluring places: Chingford Hatch, Barkingside, Yardley Lane Estate. At least one of those has to be worth a punt. There’s the monthly E17 Baby Social, where a gin and tonic is £2, and there are all manner of opinions to express on the Walthamstow Parents Facebook page. My mum will almost certainly make it down for a few day trips.

Last weekend’s test flight was pretty successful. There are a couple of warm-up days later this week, followed by a week in which to reflect, hand over all my work projects, go for a goodbye beer with the team, make sure there’s a series link set for Diagnosis Murder, and watch as the Post-War Architecture of Walthamstow calendar flips over to February and shit gets real. And probably hits the fan, goes all up his back, etc. etc.

Nine weeks. That’s how long for.