Category Archives: Dadblogging

The wrong turn, the right result

One of the things we’ve missed out in recent busy months is the random wandering across the countryside that you do in the interest of Sunday adventuring. Pick a place that sounds pretty, drive out, and have a walk! Such was the plan this Sunday, and, minor bits of Internet research complete, we headed out…

Of course, as Amanda knows the area pretty well, SatNav was kept in his box and we struck out confidently in roughly the right direction… and ended up turning off slightly too early on our route to scenic Kingsclere (our original destination), ending up in a tiny but beautiful village called Hannington. Discovering a map of local walks in the Lych-gate of the village church, we struck out on a cold and misty morning and had a lovely (short, and cold) walk, miles off the beaten path, meeting no-one other than two local villagers and their dogs out for the morning tramp around.

The pub, the Vine, is possibly one of the nicest country pubs I’ve been to in the area and the food was amazing – Emily even thought so, eating her way through a portion of pasta big enough for a 7-year-old. Wonderful.

Here’s to more countryside adventuring in the weeks to come…

The London Aquarium

Another fun Dad-centric experience this weekend was a tri-generational trip to the London Aquarium. Having been to the KL one with my Dad when Em was around 5 months old, it was exciting to repeat the trip to the London aquarium with a significantly more toddly toddler.

Emily *loved* it – huge excitement at seeing all sorts of creatures, from the immobile crocodile to the fast-swimming sharks. Glass was just a challenge for her, and she’d stand in the windows of all the exhibits tapping away to get their attention.

The London Aquarium hasn’t had as much recent investment as the KL aquarium but was still very well set up. You go through temperate zones through to more extreme ones, climate controlled to make the fish and animals happy. Em loved all of them, and particularly enjoyed sticking her fingers in the wall of ice in the arctic zones and patting the glass by the main big shark tank.

Few tips for getting the most out of the London aquarium:

  1. Pay the £3 premium for the priority ticket, and book online. We zipped past a queue of maybe 200 people to get to pole position in minutes, else would have been there for at least an hour before we got to the front desk.
  2. Dress light if you can – it’s mostly too warm in there, so we ended up trundling around armloads of coats AND Emily, which was a bit fiddly, even with the push-chair for support
  3. Expect crowds – whilst it wasn’t claustrophobically packed in there, it was cosy
  4. Expect photography to be hard – it’s quite dark the whole way through and flash photos aren’t permitted, so use whatever tricks you have to get those pics if you want them!
  5. Bring a brother-in-law if you’re travelling without your partner! Uncle James was a great help in looking after Em, alongside my parents, as well as getting the pram, loads of coats, and all of us through the exhibit.

We walked through quite quickly – and got through most of the exhibits (including the slightly disappointing Thames Path exhibit – ironically indoors five minutes from the real Thames Path) in around an hour. But you could easily spend twice that in there, if your toddler has the patience for it!

It was expensive though – £20 per adult – although the little ones are free until they’re three, so that’s a good thing!

The soft play experience

playworld_thumb[1]We went to Jake’s Playworld this weekend. It’s a whole industry I didn’t really know existed before Emily was about six or seven months old when Amanda and Em introduced me to Gymtots in Basingstoke. These large, warehouse like constructs are filled with ball-pools, padded scaffolding, slides and hundreds of kids having all the fun in the world – and they are a fantastic innovation. Of course, parents have to supervise children, and so invariably end up having as much if not more fun making use of the slides etc.!

I don’t have much of a head for investments but I suspect that these sorts of set-ups, if run by people that know what they’re doing, are a good place to put money regardless of the macro-economic environment. On a Sunday afternoon, parents were handing over a fiver per child to let them have a go on the toys, AND paying a premium for sub-average but amusingly child-oriented portions of food.

Em had a wonderful time. As did we – that’s one heck of a slide!

Next time – we go to the bigger one with attached petting zoo!!

Preparing for questions

vitruvian man leonardo da VinciEmily is on the cusp of full-blown speech. Her words, such as they are, aren’t yet fully formed, and tend to be restricted to the essentials (“more”, “blue-berry” (pronounced in the Danish fashion, Blaubaer), “Yes” (vigorous head nodding), “No” (vigorous head shaking), “bouncy bouncy” (ba ba ba whilst… you guessed it, bouncing) etc), but both Amanda and I sense a frustration that she can’t talk more and that she’s itching for conversation.

This has had me thinking – well, how will I respond to her first questions? And her follow up questions? And the follow-ups to the follow-ups? Basically preparing for the endless recursion of ‘but why, Daddy…?’ questions.

Now, my folks were always very good at taking the time to explain things to us but I’m sure I remember an occasion or two where the answer was “because I say so.” My parents, brilliant and accomplished as they both are, are neither of them natural scientists, and Google wasn’t even a glimmer in Sergei Brin and Larry Page’s collective eyes at that time.

Unfortunately for Emily, that part of my education lies ready for activation whenever anything triggers my curiosity. So I’ve been starting to think about some of the questions I might get from a rampaging toddler and mentally preparing answers, or at least the Google search strings I’ll need to type in to find out the answers! Questions such as…

  1. Why do some babies have so little hair?
  2. Why do I have to go to bed so early?
  3. Why do I need to eat vegetables?
  4. Why can’t I have more toys?
  5. Why do I have to share?

Etc., etc. The theory is that a detailed and accurate answer stemmed in the fact or philosophy of the thing will stymie further questions and hopefully stimulate some good thought. I’m sure I’ll have ‘because I say so’ moments, but I can’t deny that I’m massively, massively looking forward to this stage (even if I’m not wishing away a moment of the infinitely cute ‘ba ba ba’ stage!).

What other questions should I plan for, lovely parent-friends?

Postscript: Hrm, Randall at XKCD seems to be having parallel thoughts to me today (albeit with different conclusions!):

Cycling with baby on board

Cycling rural pathI cycled Emily home on Saturday after we’d been out for a family cycle around the village. I usually cycle alongside Amanda and her so can watch a she looks around at the world, gripping onto the handles of the bike seat and wearing her little flowery cycle helmet.

It was unnerving cycling with her behind me. I kept checking with Amanda that she was alright – the sensory input of looking around the place on the back of a bike must be pretty overwhelming as she tends to go from extreme chattiness to quiet, observational introspection when in her bike seat.

I think next time I might have to stick a mirror on Amanda’s bike, if she’ll let me!!


We were at a lovely wedding a couple of weekends ago  – the one wedding we’ve been able to get to this year – of a pair of close friends of mine from University. We took the opportunity to catch up with many friends across our friendship group. People lamented that we hadn’t managed to schedule visits for a number of them and – in all honesty, this is principally our bad and Amanda and I are going to sort it.

There is, however, a busy-ness that comes with the early days of parenthood (who knows if it ever fades? I don’t think it will for a few years) that people without children don’t always seem to fully understand – or at least, sympathise with. The obligations (and indeed, desire for) time with close family, the developmental activities you schedule for the little one, and the sheer, relentless routine of feeding, playing and tidying up the aforementioned play and feeding entails. We’ve been good about making sure that we’re the kind of parents that are happy to take Emily out of the house – and even travel to an extent- but we do try to apply consideration to how disruptive one thing or another is to her.

This notwithstanding; diary inspection begins and we’ll start plotting out some fun visits for the weeks and months ahead. Currently booking in dates in late September…!!

Lord Eddard Stark’s parenting qualities

Eddard-StarkLast night Amanda was away and I was feeling slightly ill – so an evening of extreme vegetation was called for – recorded / downloaded episodes of Chuck and Smallville. A proper veg-out.

Was amused by Chuck’s late season-4 line: "Come on, Eddard, that’s a crazy idea. You can’t let your sons keep direwolves!"

It was a piece of uniquely poor parenting, come to think of it. Eddard, for all his lordly gravitas and honour, caring fatherly looks and love, made a number of poor parenting decisions. Em is never getting a direwolf – maybe a puppy, but that’s where I draw the line!

Here are a few of his parenting highlights:

  • letting all his children, age 4-17, keep direwolves, giant man eating wolves
  • letting his eldest (bastard) son make a permanent, unalterable life choice at the age of 17
  • bringing his two daughters into the most dangerous city in the world

Anyone else pick out any other particularly poor parenting decisions by Lord Stark?

Also, this 16 bit RPG summary of season one of Game of Thrones is brilliant:

Copy and repeat

FS0712 elephant hand puppet

Emily got a new friend on the Isle of Wight – George the elephant hand puppet. He’s a jovial chap.

Because her dad can’t make elephant trumpeting noises, a ‘brrrrrrrrrrb’ style raspberry has been introduced to Em as the sound that George makes.

And amazingly, reaching new heights of cuteness, Em’s been repeating the noise, blowing a raspberry right back at me. I know this is probably a perfectly normal stage of development, but her progress into a little person is moving so quickly now its absolutely gobsmacking. It’s cool being a dad.

Reading to Emily

sddMy folks used to read to us a lot. Especially my Dad. I remember enjoying it; my father’s flexible vocal range giving silly life to the characters in the books we were reading and diverting off track to recapture our attention if it drifted.

Emily’s been a bit small for stories to be read to her and hold her attention, but we’ve taken her through a few board books here and there. One of my client’s recently mentioned that their HR director has a philosophy based on a children’s book, "Some Dogs Do," so, sufficiently intrigued, I bought it as a gift for Emily on her return from Denmark.

After supper one night, with her attention locked in by virtue of being in her high-chair with nowhere to scamper off to, I read her the book to peals of giggles and laughter. Again, at nine months, I’m not sure how much she’s taking in but perhaps I manage to hit on some of the vocal magic my Dad used on us when we were kids to entertain and delight.

Either way, it’s a special pleasure for me and I look forward to more storytime fun in the future.

The imaginative landscape of children

Transfomers Optimus Prime (Toys R' Us Exclusive)Watching Em play reminds me of the games I used to play, with my siblings and cousins, when I was growing up. Staring fascinated at the ball, or grabbing for Rigby (the bear) or one of her puzzle toys and waving stuff around with utter, magnificent glee is an absolutely wonderful thing to behold.

My own memories don’t date back quite as far as fascination with balls, but I have distinct memories of creating narratives around matchbox cars and my Transformers collection. The toys would be unearthed from the cupboard and arrayed for magnificent battle, heroic Autobots always triumphant over the evil Decepticons. Overnight stays with my cousin Reyhan would inevitably see us engage in one of these combat scenarios, although Rey – a year older than me – was always magnanimous about letting me be the good guys. I still remember the absolute pleasure I had when I managed to trade an Optimus Prime toy with Rey for some Decepticon toys. I’m sure he got the better deal in absolute value, but I had Optimus. Transform, Mr Prime, and roll-out.

I wonder what games Em will play once she gets past the ‘oooh, shiny’ stage (which arguably I’ve reverted to with my gadget-love).