The Marrakesh Express

The boys were six months old this weekend. If I’m honest, when we left hospital with so many confusing messages running round our heads, and so many things to learn, I did worry we’d be able to keep them alive this long. But we have and every day is wonderful. Except Tuesday. On Tuesday numerous dickheads on the M6 decided they couldn’t drive in a straight line and drove into each other at various intervals along the motorway. My already long commute turned into a two and a half hour hell. I didn’t see my boys awake on Tuesday. I expect and mentally prepare myself for this when I work away, but when it is a normal day, it upsets me greatly if I don’t get to spend any waking time with the boys.

The weaning seems to be going well. More and more foods are being introduced. When we were buying random things for the boys when Mrs Aitchworld was pregnant, not knowing what we really needed, I insisted that we bought a set of spoons in the shape of aeroplanes. I am on the verge of breaking these out! I’m just brushing up on my whooshing jet noises.

I’m not the best when it comes to food. Apparently as a baby, Mother Aitchworld tells me, I was brilliant and would eat anything that was put in front of me. They couldn’t get the grapes off the stalks quickly enough to get them in my mouth. My first word was “more”. Probably. However, as I got older my palate got less adventurous. Picky, one could say. There are some foods that I would rather shit in my hands and clap than eat, most of them prime ingredients in a lot of purpose-made baby foods, but apparently I can’t show this weakness in front of the twins. It doesn’t help that the food we are feeding them has to be tested for temperature by trying it, so I am quite often forced to eat food that I really do not like.

The other thing I have to think about now is my dietary choices. I travel around the country a fair bit with my job. I’m no junk food addict, but I am partial to the odd McDonalds* while I am out and about (*other burger joints are available). I particularly enjoy a breakfast there. And a Big Mac on the occasional lunchtime. And when I am in Huddersfield I do like my chicken and chips from Marstons. In fact chicken and chips is my favourite meal. Or it was until Aldi started selling Marrakesh Ostrich steaks and now that with chips is my favourite meal. Individual meals aside though, I have to think about the long term and if I continue to frequent these places, it will do me no good.

Throughout the IVF process, we were both asked if there were family histories of various illnesses. I’m adopted, so I have no idea what lurks in my family genes. Interestingly, my adoptive parents, who for all intents and purposes are my real parents as they are the only ones I have ever known (or want to know) have elevated cholesterol levels and at my recent “you’ve hit 40 so you must have a health check” health check, my levels were somewhat raised as well. They, whoever “they” are, say dogs begin to look like their owners, so maybe there is something in his after all.

I’ve cut out crisps and Haribo as a start and hopefully this will be enough to bring my levels down, but it’s hard to get into the mind-set that what I do now might lead to an Elvis moment further down the line, dying on the toilet pulling a face like Arthur does when he is filling his nappy, leaving my boys as orphans. But something about this whole scenario hit me so hard the other day that I deleted the postcode for Marstons in Huddersfield from my favourites list in my satnav. Time to get the bike out and get some exercise, I think!

There is much talk that oil reserves are running low in the world. Crude oil, that is, not cooking oil due to my diet. I think I know the reason for this (other than I waste a lot of it as my car crawls along in traffic jams because of knobs crashing into each other on the M6) – it has been used to make the myriad brightly coloured pieces of plastic that liberally litter our living room in the form of toys. If anyone ever works out how to reverse the process and convert plastic back into oil, give me a shout – there is enough in our living room to keep you going for decades. We could single handedly save the oil reserves.

I’ve mentioned them before, but seemingly every few days a new piece of plastic tat turns up to add to the collection. This week I was despatched to the deepest West Midlands to collect the latest eBay acquisition… Actually I’m being disingenuous here – my office is based in the West Midlands so I popped out in my lunch hour to pick it up, but that doesn’t sound quite as dramatic. Anyway, this latest primary coloured plastic behemoth is a Step ‘n’ Play, so called because underneath the sling in which the baby sits, a seating arrangement much the same as can be found on a Jumparoo, there is a keyboard, which your baby will play with its feet, as it steps along them. There are other shakers, maracas, rattlers and rollers and a few buttons that can be pressed by hand to play tunes. Before I had children I was worried sister Aitchworld would exact a revenge on me – when my nieces and nephews were babies and toddlers, my birthday and Christmas presents to them were all ones that would generate maximum amount of noise for minimal investment. I had assumed that we would have this particular favour returned to us but we have managed to do it all by ourselves, to ourselves. Everything we have makes a noise.

Take the aforementioned Jumparoo, for instance. We have one of course and Henry adores it. His little face lights up the minute he is put in it and he jumps as though his little life depends on the music the movement generates. There are two settings; constant music/noise, or noise only when the child within it jumps. We put it on to the latter, thinking there would be some silent periods, but there aren’t any when Henry is involved. And on top of any noise the toy makes, it is drowned out by the squeals of delight he makes.

What you don’t read about in the instruction manual (I am making an assumption here; we haven’t actually got an instruction manual and even if we did, I’m a man and we are genetically predisposed not to read manuals) are Jumparoo Poos. I know, I keep saying I am getting away from this subject, but seriously, no one ever warned me about all of this so I am starting to see it as my civic duty to warn all parents to be, and some comradeship to other parents who must be wondering if they are the only ones similarly afflicted. Now imagine if you or I were to jump aboard a horse and while we were riding it around, decided to shit ourselves, and not in a good way. Picture a scenario in which you continued to ride that horse for a good ten minutes after defecation and critical mass had occurred. Hopefully you have a good enough imagination to visualise this, but in case you don’t, the end result is a poo pancake.

Back to the subject of the noise they make, we need to start turning off all these machines. As we have cats they will quite often crash into things in the middle of the night as they chase each other around the house. When they bump into the Jumparoo during the early hours it gives a celebratory fanfare and some monkey noises. When they run over the Step ‘n’ Play they play a little tune on the piano keys within the base of it. And when they bump into and knock over the large basket of percussion implements we have in the lounge, they sound like Roger Taylor performing a drum solo.

One thing I can’t blame them for is the Colin the Cow malfunction. I think Arthur got a little too animated last time he bounced on it and he dribbled. A lot. And he wasn’t wearing a dribble bib to catch it all. If we could sell dribble we would be raking it in at times. Colin’s electronic unit that generates his trotting and neighing horse sounds is located between the horns, right where Arthur rests his chin, the same chin that all the dribble ran down. Filled with saliva, somewhere inside, long after we had gone to bed, something short circuited within Colin’s horse-noise-generating unit. Awaking from a deep slumber, I heard some sort of commotion going on in the living room and was convinced Aitchworld Towers was being burgled. Remembering the advice from someone I know in the police about assaulting burglars and being much more likely not to face prosecution if you used general household items rather than things like baseball bats hidden under beds, I picked up a can of deodorant and, despite stopping smoking several years ago, found a lighter to use as a makeshift, improvised flame thrower. When I realised what had happened though, and it was just Colin off on a charge, I disarmed myself. Colin came out of the experience unsinged. I remain, following the experience, unhinged.

One thing that isn’t making noise all through the night is the new microwave. Installing it wasn’t without its issues, or further expense, though and the saga continues. Sure it slotted in its allotted place in the kitchen and plugged in and works fine, although I haven’t worked out how to use the grill function yet. The manual is somewhere but I don’t know how to read it. The spare Avent steriliser we had however didn’t fit into it. It wouldn’t even fit through the door. Both the old and the new microwave were 20 litres, so I don’t understand why, because they both fitted the old one. Upon retrieving the now molten Tommee Tippee steriliser from the bin and testing it, it seems it would fit in the new microwave. Fortunately Boots just up the road had a half-price offer on these and had one left on the shelf, so off I went on another trip to the shops to secure it. It still cost a fair old whack though, even at half price.

Anyway, the old one would beep when it finished cooking and then continue to beep afterwards unless you intervened. The new one though, well I could kiss it, because when it stops, it stops! The Microwave is dead. Long live the Microwave.


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