The B Word

I do not like the word ‘bonding’, but I can’t think of a better one, dammit, so it’ll have to do. 

I think it’s obvious to anyone who reads here regularly or follows me on social media or who puts together my online grocery order that I had some trouble bonding properly with Ada. Of course I’ve always loved her intensely, and she wants for nothing at all, but I guess I struggled to feel like we were mother and daughter rather than, say, oddly-matched flatmates or an experimental jazz duo making an epic Twinkle Twinkle concept album. My friend Lise described her love for her baby as feeling like romantic love, but I initially felt it more akin to Stockholm Syndrome; compelled to stay with this tiny crazy person when all sanity would suggest running for the hills at the earliest opportunity.

Now, almost nine months in, we’re best buds and she’s completely mine, as I am hers. We make each other laugh, I teach her stuff, I make decisions for her, she hugs me with her tiny hands; it’s all good. But if, like me, you’re struggling with your new person, here’s the stuff that helped me along the way:

Choose some clothes

Ada got lots of beautiful clothes when she was born, and I was so grateful for all of them. Even now, I love it when she gets something pretty in the mail from Grandma or a bag of cool hand-me-downs from friends – I’m really not complaining, it’s ace.

This did, however, intensify the feeling of her being a little stranger who arrived with her own wardrobe. The first time I bought her clothes other than vests and socks was this Mother’s Day, when Chris gave me Baby Boden vouchers. Once I put her in the little mini-me jeans and jumpers I’d picked, I suddenly thought ‘Oh, she looks like me! She’s dressed like me! Hello, child o’ mine!’ 

Simple! Why didn’t I think of it? Once the adult acne and myopia sets in we’ll be like twins… poor Ada.

Respect the journey

Given that I didn’t conceive easily, didn’t birth easily and didn’t feed easily, it’s no wonder that I took to infant motherhood like a cat to water.

When I stopped comparing myself to blissed-out pals who got pregnant quickly, breastfed like champs and didn’t spend the first two weeks of their children’s lives feverishly hallucinating that the walls in their flat had moved, I felt a lot better about everything.

Be the expert

Like many new parents, I’ve found ‘helpful’ advice to be at best slightly annoying and at worst the terrifying gateway to weeks of tearful self-doubt. 

These days, though, I’m pretty confident that I know Ada better than anyone. I know when she needs to sleep and when she’s frightened or frustrated or hungry. I know that I will always, always go to her when she cries, and that’s not something to apologise for when the 1950s school of ‘It’s Good For Their Lungs’ comes to visit.  

Having your decisions constantly questioned is exhausting, but now I feel bold enough to say ‘It’s okay, I know what she needs right now,’ family visits are a million times easier. I don’t argue or justify, I just say it:

‘It’s okay. I know what she needs right now.’

Be yourself

I hate taking the baby to cafes; it’s a massive logistical hassle and she’s weirdly terrified of the changing tables. I’d rather bring cakes and coffee home and enjoy them while she throws herself around on her playmat.

It’s taken me NINE MONTHS to admit this. I’m forever making excuses to friends who want me to drag the pram into some poky coffee shop, usually at a time that interferes with a nap or an explosive poop.

Now I just say it; I don’t enjoy wrangling the baby in cafes! I don’t want to watch a film at the baby cinema with lots of other whinging babies! I didn’t do yoga before and I’m certainly not going to do it now! IT’S ALL FINE!

It’s a massively liberating and, I’m sure to your mind, completely mad revelation. I don’t have to do the stuff I don’t enjoy. Ada has plenty of fun, none of it involving a stressful battle of wills over whether or not she gets to eat a packet of Splenda. Phew.


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More life coaching with Hugh

DF-07871   Hugh Jackman as Logan in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Imaginary Hugh Jackman has taken time out of his busy schedule of chicken-shredding and tree-felling to help me AND a few of my long-suffering acquaintances with our issues. He’s nice like that.

Dear Hugh,

If I buy biscuits, I eat them. This makes me happy, but fat. If I don’t buy biscuits, I don’t eat them. This makes me sad, but less fat. Solve for x.


Imaginary Hugh says:

Mate, tell me about it. Now, I like a good biscuit as much as the next man, but if I was chowin’ down on the old Tim Tams year-round I’d never be able to do manly stuff like zipwire across Sydney Harbour or save people from riptides – and I’ve done both those things, by the way, you can damn well Google it if you want.

So try this next time you’re craving a cookie:

Put some peanut butter on an apple. Put the apple on a bed of kale. Put the kale on a brown bear and wrestle that mother to the ground. If you survive, have a biscuit.

Dear Hugh,

Ever since watching Prisoners the other week I’ve been having urges to write fan fiction based on your co-star Jake Gyllenhaal’s character. This has never happened to me before. Do I hide my fan fiction leanings?


Imaginary Hugh says:

Hey, you gotta chase your bliss, lady. You know what I like after a long day of wearing a leather romper, frowning moodily and eviscerating military personnel? I like a damn bath. And sure, maybe sometimes there are candles. And what if I want a little soft music for some goddamn atmosphere? And a slimline tonic? Right?

So yeah, you write whatever. Maybe it’s an alternate universe and Jake Gyllenhaal’s being held prisoner by me, Hugh Jackman. Maybe we scuffle a bit. Maybe Jake escapes into the woods and I track him down and we roll around in the mulch. Maybe I’m furious at first, but then it’s complicated and I cry a single angry tear which lands on Jake’s face. Then we find a deserted cabin and I lock the doors and break furniture to start a fire, because we’re kind of wet from the forest floor… I dunno, that’s just an example. Carry on.

Dear Hugh

I am very stressed out about moving house next week, particularly having to make a long car journey with a baby who doesn’t love the car. How can I stay calm in the face of brain-frazzling logistics and a screamy infant?


Imaginary Hugh says:

Right, so first ask yourself if you really need all your furniture and crap or if you could travel light, like me. I’ve found that all you really need is a remote Alaskan cave, a cheap FM radio and a small photo of Famke Janssen. As for the kid; consider dropping her at the side of the highway with a penknife and a flask of Bovril. If she’s resourceful, she’ll find her own way there. Easy.

Thanks Hugh, sound advice indeed.

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Moving diary! Minus 6 days, shit gets done son

Yesterday we had contracts signed and legally witnessed and posted, went to the supermarket, had a viewing at the Bath flat, took Ada for a walk, paid the deposit on our new place and got a crapload of boxes and tape delivered, all while keeping the child alive for another 24 hours. Chris also did some freelance work. It made me realise that I’ve been a feckless layabout on every other day of my life.


Moving always makes me think about the last time I did things and didn’t know it. This is an excellent way to turn your brain inside out.

What was the last mag page I worked on?

What was the last meeting I went to with my work pals?

When did I last sleep in our room alone?

What did I do on my last day as a childless person?

When was the last time I went on a bus without exclaiming ‘OOH BUMPY WHEE!’ out loud?

When will I put her down and not ever pick her up again?

Etc. I can’t recommend going down this mental labyrinth.

Ada has three new teeth, and the only thing that distracts her sometimes is Something Special or Old Jack’s Boat on CBeebies. Which means my bad Scottish rapping now segues painfully into a Bernard Cribbins impersonation when I lose concentration. SORRY GUYS, I’M MARRIED.

Oh, we got the mail redirected and had to include Ada’s name on the list. She gets the best mail; last week she got a toy rabbit in an envelope.

Posted in Bath | 1 Comment

Moving diary! Minus 7 days, no sleep til The Ferry

I arrived in London in 2002 with a large suitcase and a Scottish twenty pound note, which I would later find surprisingly difficult to spend. I intended to stay ‘maybe six months’ to see if I could find work.

Next Monday I’m finally returning to the Motherland, with a husband and a baby and a weird career and some low-level skin complaints. I arrived with a suitcase, but I’m leaving with baggage.

I wanted to write a useful, coherent post about the logistics of moving a long way in a short time with a young baby, but it turns out that would just read ‘Aaaaaaarghwtf BUY BUBBLE WRAP’ and then just loads of gifs of cats somersaulting off kitchen counters, so I’ll just post about what’s happening each day instead. You’re welcome.


Marcus the Moving Man is coming to give us a few boxes for the stuff we want to pack ourselves. He says we can’t pack the baby, even though we have offered to put holes in the top of the box.

We are practising putting Ada in the car at random times so she doesn’t get so freaked out by it. We have made progress in that she no longer actively fights the car seat straps and now just stares mournfully at her lap, hooting.

I got accidentally obsessed with the Broadway musical Hamilton, and now wander around the house doing inaccurate freestyle rapping about the American Revolution, like a really pale and intense ghost. This is not helping anyone.

Oh, we’re moving to Broughty Ferry, by the way. I haven’t actually been there in about fifteen years, but I have good impressionistic memories of chips and sand and icy maritime gusts. Excellent.

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Life coaching with Hugh


During the Very Bad Times, I watched a lot of Hugh Jackman films. Nothing bad can happen to you when you watch a Hugh Jackman film, except The Prestige, which may cause your brain to unravel and is a massive outlier on the Jackmanograph.

Anyway, I always wanted to send a postcard to Hugh’s management company to see if I could get some Real World Motivational Words direct from the very man, but never got round to it due to lack of appropriate postcards. So now I just use Imaginary Hugh as my agony-aunt-slash-life-coach. He’s very good, you should try him.

Dear Hugh,

Since the birth of my infant, I’ve become a legit sugar-addict, and spend most weekdays gnawing on oversized bars of Dairy Milk or double-fisting Kellogg’s Krave straight from the box. What can I do?


Imaginary Hugh says:

Mate, look at me. Look at my hulking frame and lustrous but manly hair. D’you think I eat Dairy Milk or Kellogg’s Krave or that new kind of KitKat with a double layer of chocolate on the outside? No way; and if you want to be awesome like me, you need to ditch the sugar and PROTEIN UP.

Fancy a biscuit? Grab a handful of cashews. Feel like sugary cereal? Cook some damn eggs and hoover them right up outta the pan. And if you need a snack on the go? Charge into the nearest leafy undergrowth, stalk and kill a small deer or other woodland mammal, then rip it in half and chow down as the scent of blood and raw fear soaks into your clothes and skin. Nice one.

Dear Hugh,

I thought I was pretty cool going along to the local baby and toddler group and mingling with unknown posh Bath ladies and their scary children. But when I got home I realised that my uncombed hair looked mad, I was sweating weirdly and the baby was in footie pyjamas at midday. Do you think I’ve made a poor first impression? Can I go back?


Imaginary Hugh says:

Hey, get over yourself, lady. D’you think anyone cares what your kid is wearing? Or if they’d notice if your hair was combed or shaved off or straight-up on fire? Nah, those women have got their own troubles, not least their crazy-named kids. No one with their shit together is hanging out in a church basement on a Monday afternoon.

I’m an X-Man and a song ‘n’ dance man with a foxy older wife,  persistent boring rumours about my sexuality and my own line of ethical coffee. Do I give a crap what anyone thinks? Do I hell. Now shut up and have a skinless chicken breast. Yeah, I said ‘breast’, get over it.

Dear Hugh,

Sometimes, through lack of sleep, hormonal maelstrom and excessive Krave consumption, I find myself uncontrollably enraged by everyday life. I am often infuriated by dirty dishes, random cold callers, and Radio 4’s afternoon play.

Do you have any tips to help me manage my fury?

Imaginary Hugh says:

Sure, we all see the red mist now and then, I personally have been known to run naked through a secret military compound, impaling terrified soldiers with my mighty claws before slashing a hole in the wall and escaping with a roar, teeth ablaze and veins popping in the night air. You know how it is.

Have you tried riding a motorcycle dangerously yet sexily? Or cutting down a tree? Or cavorting in the surf as a paparazzo takes your photo from behind a koala? Or clutching an injured mutant and shouting ‘NOOOOOOO’ as your chest hair escapes your shirt? You just need to find your thing.

Good luck!

Thanks Hugh! You’ve been very helpful.

Posted in Movies | 2 Comments

Ribbledoot investigates: What is my baby laughing at?


Mystery: Ada finds this corner of our living room hilarious. She cranes to look at it and, if allowed, will stare at it and squeal with laughter for up to 20 minutes. I don’t want to label our child at this early stage in life, but I think it’s fair to say she’s a massive oddball. Or a baby genius.

Investigation: I show her each object in turn and note reactions. I also note that I don’t really know what some of the objects are.

Mystery 1–7

1 Lamp

Reaction: Free jazz

I’m hopeful as we approach the lamp – she reaches out enthusiastically with one hand. But then spends three minutes just hitting it arrhythmically with her palm. Not even a hint of a smile. Hm.

2 Printer:

Reaction: Mild alarm

The inactive printer garners no reaction at all. Switched on, Ada emits a panicky ‘HOO!’ and leans so far backwards in my arms that I in no way overbalance and almost drop her. No sir.

3 Weird webcam thing

Reaction: Blank stare

Chris spies on us with this when he goes to London on Fridays. This means that he can backseat-parent from afar, texting me things like ‘Try giving Calpol’ when she’s biting lumps out of my teething-gel-covered fingers. Thanks, daddy.

4 Comedy giant sharpener

Reaction: Angry squeal

Perhaps she is not a fan of oversized stationery objects. Perhaps she is unamused by the fact that the pencil stored in the giant sharpener is, in fact, blunt. We may never know.

5 Peace lily:

Reaction: Drooly lunges

Ada wants to eat the plant. I won’t let her eat the plant. Replace ‘plant’ with ‘everything in our house’, and you have an accurate description of life with a six month old.

No laughter, though.

6 …Drobo?

Reaction: Wants to play in Jumperoo

Neither of us are sure what this is or what it’s for. It’s embarrassing how often this happens to me in my own home.

7 Speaker

Reaction: Yawn

Perks up a little bit when the Wheeler Dealers theme comes on – who doesn’t? – but no proper laughter. 

Conclusion: IT’S THE WALL. 

Guys, she is laughing at the chipboarded wall. It is kind of funny, I guess. 

So that’s a period of time I’ll never get back. Thanks, Ada, you tiny lovely weirdo.

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FLASH! Ah-ah, he’ll save every one of us! Or how my child ruined all music for me, except Queen

One of the most unexpectedly upsetting consequences of having a baby is that I can no longer listen to music without bursting into tears. I was relieved to find Stuart Heritage documenting the phenomenon in The Guardian, otherwise I’d have to assume it was just me (again) being mad (again). Certainly, parents I know in real life are always telling me how their baby loves The White Stripes or Kraftwerk or whatever, so I suppose it doesn’t happen to everyone.

But yeah. Ballads, obviously, but even stuff like Shake It Off and All The Single Ladies and literally every song ever included in a Disney movie. Worse, Ben Folds Five makes me cry AND vomit due to a strange Pavlovian commuting/morning sickness scenario. Awful.

So I was sadly resigned to a music-free existence until Chris started playing those cute Rockabye albums on Spotify and suddenly I found that QUEEN was fine – hardly any tears. HOORAY! Thank you Freddie and Brian and the other two! Ooh, you make me live! Etc!

I don’t know why Queen doesn’t make me cry (much). I learned all the words as a weird 90s teenager, so maybe they’ve lost all power. Maybe the mental image of Freddie Mercury doing the Hoovering in a wig is enough to short-circuit my brain. Maybe the alternating of poignant stuff with Fat Bottomed Girls and Flash is emotionally confusing. But I don’t care!

Here’s a guide to the best Queen tunes for fragile parents and the ones you shouldn’t listen to unless your contact lens is stuck on your eyeball.

5 Queen tunes you can (probably) listen to in public (Spotify)

Under Pressure

I listen to this when I’m having a bad day because I like how matter-of-factly David Bowie observes ‘This is ourselves… undah presh-ah.’ Yes, it is, David, and we are all handling it very well. Let’s have a coffee and five KitKats. BONUS: If you feel emotional, you can think of Vanilla Ice.

Somebody To Love

Somebody to love – she’s right there! On the changing table, weeing all over my jeans and trying to shove cotton wool down her gullet! Useful if you’re momentarily wondering why you had children, or if you ‘Take a look at yourself in the mirror/And cry’ most weekday evenings.

You’re My Best Friend

Okay, this one is borderline. Maybe listen to this when you’re safely on a train and can discreetly wipe away mascara rather than, say, in the Post Office queue or buying your husband’s martini vodka in a Tesco Extra close to your former workplace.


BARCELONA! What were you doing in 1992? I was enjoying a lovely Highland summer – Eldorado, culottes and this song at the start of every Olympic broadcast. Ahh, happy days. LIKE A JEWEL IN THE SUN! Etc. Will make you wonder if it’s too late to get into opera.

NOTE: Pedants may point out that this is a Freddie song rather than a Queen song. To those people I would say you care less about these things when you have an unknown number of stitches in your hoo-ha.

Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy

Yes there is a bit of a rent boy vibe, but you can still sing along and enjoy the innocent pleasure of daydreaming about a glamorous, diaper-free evening out. ‘You pay the bill/I’ll taste the wine’ indeed.

And three you really mustn’t listen to until your child is at least five (Spotify)

Play The Game

Excuse me madam, may I clutch you and weep uncontrollably while we wait for the bus? No? Okay.

These Are The Days of Our Lives

Did you know that the final lines of the video were Freddie Mercury’s last spoken words on camera? Are you going to cry now too? Are you? Did you know he’s wearing his favourite waistcoat with cats on it especially? Oh god stop, I’m sorry.

Save Me

Save me/I’m naked and I’m far from home/Each night I cry…You know this is the camp pop rock anthem of newborns everywhere. I’ll save you, baby! Sob.

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