Letters: 26 weeks

My little Wriggler,

I woke up the other morning with the sudden urge to write to you: I don’t expect you to ever really read this and I imagine that in a few months’ time, I will likely find this a tad embarrassing and delete it anyway.  You and I have been living in quite some uncertainty in recent months and I’m so very mindful that it’s easy to forget the beautiful moments that we have had amongst all of the angst and the worry.

So here’s your daft mother’s attempt to write a few of them down, because soon, you are meant to be here, gracing my day with regular demands for feeds, nappy changes and, I imagine, a new level of (welcome) pandemonium and unpredictability that only a child can bring.

As I type this, I can feel you turning and stretching; we’re sitting in the sunshine on the balcony where we currently live and you’ve recently discovered that you can kick my stomach – yesterday you got me between the ribs when I wasn’t expecting it and you momentarily took my breath away – not for the first time, and I can imagine definitely far from the last.

I know I’ll be getting revenge in about a year with bath time, so feel free to build up your score.  It’ll even out in time, I promise.

Last week you got the hiccups again and I couldn’t help but laugh – I felt a little bad, but I know you’re not feeling any pain.  I wonder what you will sound like when you have them when you’re actually here.  Whilst you were fighting with your diaphragm, your Papa phoned, quite drunk, sounding very chuffed that he had just told a friend of his about you.

He may not always show it very clearly, but I know that you already mean the world to him – unser kleines Wunder.

I can remember the moment I found out I was carrying you like it was yesterday; test in hand and feeling numb in shock and disbelief.  The mind is a very clever and powerful thing; it can conceal things from you, it can convince you of things that aren’t necessarily true; and it can persuade you to overlook facts that are right in front of you.  The one thing it does poorly, however, is hide your true response to a surprise.

To say I was surprised by the news would be an understatement, but I felt joy and excitement in the moments before hundreds of questions and thoughts spilled over into my mind.  The main conundrum facing me being how to tell your Papa.

Should you ever have to share important news with someone, please do not do what I did.  It’s normal to be nervous when you have important news to share, but I choked so many times that evening, I ended up doing the one thing I didn’t want to do:  blurt it out shortly before leaving for the night.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen your father stunned before.  Or the grin he had on his face whilst the news sunk in.  On our more challenging days I relive that moment in my mind and it’s important you know that deep down, he is as excited as I am about you; sometimes these things feel a little scary, but that’s normal.

Did you know that you already react to your Papa’s voice?  You have done so for a number of weeks now, although at the beginning it was mostly when he was getting irate with other drivers when in the car.  More recently you respond to his voice when he’s not shouting obscenities at people (thankfully), and to his touch.  The look on his face each time is priceless.

It’s funny how you move in your sleep – you fidget and my tummy twitches in a really odd way.  Did you know, that tomorrow we’re 90 days to the day before our due date?  Something tells me that you won’t want to wait until then.  I even dreamt about holding you for the first time a few nights ago; I woke up in tears, completely overcome by the mixture of emotions brought to the surface.  It was a most bizarre way to start the day, I have to say.

At the weekend you managed to out-do yourself, you rascal.  I was eating dinner with your Papa and you managed to kick me hard enough in the stomach to make me burp.  I don’t know who was more startled at the abrupt outburst: your father or I.  Fortunately I didn’t have my mouth full, else that could have been quite disastrous.  Can’t take either of you anywhere, it seems.

There are so many of these “little” moments; always so fleeting, but so very important.  One of the many things I would like you to learn is to recognise them and take the time to say to yourself, “isn’t it nice“.  We could live in a big house, you and I, and I could have a job where I work long hours but earn a lot more than I currently do; but then I feel the sun on my face and I watch the ripples as you stretch and wriggle about and I actually feel quite content.

If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

 

 

…But please take your foot out from between my ribs.

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Inane Whittering #Eleventy-Twelve: Kitchens and Bump

Before you begin to read this and find yourself thinking “dear Lord, here we go again with either cats, knitting or whinging”, I’d like to warn you that this entry has been lovingly handcrafted by the spellbinding combination of what I can only describe as pregnancy rage; a healthy dose of frustration and a dollop of cultural perplexity.

First the elephants in the room:

Yes I’m having a baby.  Surprised me too, funnily enough.  Yes I’m doing this on my own.  Little wriggler is due to make his first on-stage appearance in the summer.  So that means a sober birthday in addition to Christmas just gone.  The size of that first gin and tonic will be a whopper, I’m telling you.

Next surprise: I’m back in the land of beer and salami.  Neither of which I’m supposed to consume, given current circumstances.  This time, I’m in the West dealing with corporate types as opposed to the Bildungselite in the East like the last time.

Right, on to the topic that’s driven me to type this afternoon whilst my inhabitant decides to do his afternoon yoga and test whether my organs make for good cushions: Germans and their bizarre kitchen fascination.

As it currently stands, I sub-let a room in a flat share until the end of April; this was agreed from the word go when I originally moved in.  This deadline was always on the horizon; then came the revelation that I will soon have a human kitten and the search for a new place to live in became that little more complex.

I should add that personal circumstances are incredibly fluid in nature at the best of times, and things haven’t always been quite this…precarious, as it may come across.  Sometimes you genuinely cannot foresee the things that are thrown at you.

So here I am, looking for a flat (and a midwife, and a hospital, and childcare) in the Frankfurt area, and for those of you vaguely familiar with the city will already be spitting out your tea/coffee/gin as this is quite the mountain to climb.

The rental market here is, quite simply put, ludicrous.  The little that is on the market is priced extortionately, and is snapped up before you can say “bugger me”.  Secondly, the moment you look like you’re expecting and appear to be on your own, be prepared to be rejected – cue baggy jumpers and coats with strategically placed scarves and pray he doesn’t start a yoga routine mid-viewing.

And this is where the kitchens come in.  In the UK, it is quite common to move into an unfurnished flat and to have to provide maybe the fridge, or the cooker and the washing machine.  Dishwasher too, if you’re feeling flush.

The Germans appear to be quite attached to their kitchens, and take the damn things with them when they move out.

All of it.  Cupboards, work surfaces, appliances, sinks, the lot.

So not only do you have to consider the deposit, and the fact that you will have to pay more than the rent advertised as it won’t include bills, you also have to mentally brace yourself for the installation of a darn kitchen should you not have one spare.

Out of fairness, there are the odd instances where tenants quite understandably do the normal sensible thing and leave the kitchen behind in exchange for a price; these offers however are not particularly commonplace, nor do they hang around for long.

I do not have a car here, so need to be close to public transport for work; close enough to a hospital that’ll take me so I can get myself there when my little dude decides he’s ready; and it needs to be affordable with the maternity pay* that’s available: these criteria restrict things somewhat.  Throw in the soon to be not-so-secret baby and the required childcare and you can imagine the fun we’re having with the search.

It’s enough to make you question the logic of staying in a country that technically is foreign to me – even if my employer were accepting and supportive of the development, and Brexit wasn’t on the horizon, this would still be a challenge; I am not about to lie to myself on the challenges of motherhood.

Brexit may seem a weird one to throw in seemingly without reason, but based on current work permit frameworks, these are fairly easy to obtain if you earn over a threshold of ca. 48,000 EUR per annum.  Needless to say I do not meet that threshold.

It’s almost enough to drive you spare.

Sadly I have no immediate solutions to any of this, save for continuing to spam every estate agent and flat advert I can find and going to viewings.

Despite all of this, I would make the same decision again, given the chance.  Whilst he’s currently dancing away and practising his kung fu with his umbilical cord, my tiny dancer and I have already experienced quite a bit.  Little does he know.

Right, time to go munch something before I start getting complaints.  Then it’s on to complete the best dinosaur jacket you’ve ever seen.

Oh, and German obstetricians are an experience and a half.  Mine is an absolute Powerfrau and a diamond.  More on that later.

*I should add here that I am aware that German law is incredibly comprehensive and the support offered to single parents is, based on what I have read, very well thought-out; there are safeguards in place to ensure that one parent does not leave the other without.  However I need to be realistic whilst the paperwork is sorted out and I am absolutely certain that there will be unexpected costs that I will need to be able to cover, thus the worst-case scenario planning.

Returns, dinosaurs and cat flaps.

Tach, Possums!

I shall refrain from writing another apology and yet another promise that I shall post more regularly.  It seems that every time I write such a thing, the exact opposite happens.  I was in Germany for a terrific 9 months and met some of the most fantastic people.  I also had hardly any internet, thus the radio silence.  Until I moved back to the UK nearly 2 months ago.

ANYWAY.  My new excuse is dinosaurs.  A friend of mine is expecting her first child at the end of the year, and naturally I’ve gotten *slightly* carried away knitting for the poor thing.  In addition to a bear and a starry cardigan, I’ve started on a dinosaur.  Because who doesn’t want a brightly coloured dinosaur?  He’s part-way through construction, has been a joy to knit, and will no doubt inspire a few sibling dinosaurs in time.

knitted dinosaur with legs
HE HAS LEGS

In addition to knitting, my furry adopted little sister had a slight disaster, and ended up spending a week at the vet’s.  I think that in pulling through the ordeal, she may well have used up one of her nine lives.  We suspect the cause was an injury acquired in a cat fight, but because it had healed over before any of the symptoms appeared, we can only speculate.  In short, she was lethargic, off her food, withdrawn and short of breath.  It turns out it was a pyrothorax; a build-up of fluid, in this case caused by an infection, in the chest cavity.  The vets drained 350ml of what I can only politely describe as goop, and she was on IV antibiotics for a week.  Last October she weighed 4.1kg, just to give you an idea of the proportion of fluid drained in relation to her weight.  (For the Imperialists among you, that’s nearly a pint of fluid.)

RIght, so now that we have a partially shaved feline back home, we decided that perhaps we ought to install a microchip-activated cat flap.  I take my hat off to the people who wrote this manual.  Sureflap, kudos to you.  You clearly know what it’s like to be a feline’s chosen human.

The first thing that struck me about the manual was the helpful information for cats on how to use the cat flap:

Not suitable for fancy dress.
Not suitable for fancy dress.  Keep away from kittens.

Now, for those of you wondering why one would splash out on the kind of cat flap that has diagrams of use for your cats in its manual, then you probably don’t have cats at home.  For those interested in the rationalisation, here’s an excerpt:

“This cat flap has been designed […] allowing access to your pet whilst keeping out animal intruders.”

Oops.

But this isn’t just any cat flap, oh no.  This cat flap learns.  But a word to aspiring crazy cat people (it’s not always us women): you can only register 32 cats.  I find this a shame.  Any fool knows that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42 and for us cat-crazed individuals, cats are that meaning in life, ergo one should be able to have 42 cats, register them all, have one’s cake and be able to eat it, cat fur and all.

But the highlight of the manual for me has to be the advice aimed at the human side of this human-feline partnership under the section on how to get the cat flap to register your cat’s microchip. This point is of such importance, that it even has an exclamation mark in a warning triangle next to it:

“In order to learn a cat’s microchip number, a sensor located in the tunnel must detect a cat’s presence to trigger the microchip reader.  Therefore it is important to ensure that your cat either puts its head into the tunnel or passes through the flap.  No amount of waving your cat in front of the flap will have an effect.”

Whoever wrote that last line clearly has a wealth of experience either dealing with scratched, disgruntled customers phoning customer support, or of having personally tried “waving” a cat in front of anything.

I also suspect that there were a few felines who managed to get their paws on the manual, as in the troubleshooting section on how to get your cat acclimatised to the new cat flap, the author notes that “strategic positioning of food inside/outside the house can also help encourage the initial use of the flap.”

All I can say is that our resident feline would never allow herself to be waved in front of anything, and aside from presently snoring softly on a bean bag whilst I write this, the cat treats have so far been successfully retrieved without the cat flap successfully learning her chip.  This one has cunning.

Damn straight.
Damn straight.

SIGNS OF LIFE

No, it’s not the crater mass experiment, it’s me re-discovering my long-lost blog from that time I terrorised Munich for a few months and called it my year abroad.

Last year I was caught up in undergraduate stuff attempting to finish my Bachelors and then working out what form my new work-avoidance tactic would take.

I’m pleased to say that the Mile End Insitution for the Clinically Weird refused bail and I’m currently in the process of writing my Master’s Dissertation.  Not about bread, this time.  This time I’ve decided to succumb to the British tendency to obsess on World Wars and research radio propaganda during World War II.  I shall explain all when I’ve finally submitted it and have a result back.  Otherwise it could be a tad awkward if I blither on about how fascinating it all is and my markers turn around and look suitably disgusted.  However I can say that I managed to write an essay on the translation of nonsense and got away with calling it “Bandersnatches, Boojums and Bald Twit Lions:  The Translatability of Nonsense”.  It got a good mark, too.

Oh, and I somehow miraculously passed my Bachelor’s degree with flying colours and even got a gold star for my magic speaky-speaky skills.

The main reason, however, for me taking this back up again is to a) force me to read more interesting things so I have something vaguely intelligent to write about, and b) as of September this year I will be working on the language assistantship programme run by the British Council and will be based in Gotha.  I intend to write about my experiences in my usual bizarre style of travel writing.

Not that I intend to repeat the leggings incident, mind.  This time I’m responsible for helping teach English language and culture.  No doubt Herr and Frau Streipze will accompany me on my travels.

In the meantime, have a look at some of the best socks ever.  Admittedly they’re battery socks and not of the pedigree kind, but I assure you that they are fully integrated into my free-range flock.

 

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Inane Whittering #21

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So… I HAS A HAT.

More to the point, I knitted it myself. It’s my first ever hat, so please forgive the slight over-excitement. But it’s big, it’s slouchy and it’s oh so warm. Which in this weather, is exactly what I need. Oh, and the pattern’s reversable, so it doesn’t matter if I accidentally end up wearing it inside-out. SCORE.

Anywho, here’s a bit of early afternoon madness:

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In other news, I’m still working on the script for Herr and Frau Streipze’s debut, but it has to be finished this week, so you should see it soon. Oh, and here’s a glimpse of one of the many Christmas presents I’ve been working on:

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I have to say I’m very slightly jealous of the recipient, purely because I love these colours waaay too much.

Inane Whittering #20 Introducing…

…Mr. and Mrs. Stripes. Or Herr und Frau Streipze, as they’re known in German. This is a still taken on set whilst filming for their upcoming debut.

Filming’s nearly done – got 2 more scenes to go tomorrow before editing can begin and then it’s basically finished. The first version has to be in German, but I’ll make sure to do an English version too!

I’ll bung it up on youtube and link it back here when it’s ready, I just thought I’d give you guys a taster…