Wednesday, 1st January
Nobody ever said having kids was easy.
This time last year I was in an alcohol-induced coma, wondering if my bodily functions were present or if I had indeed sold them to ‘Cannibal_2905’ on eBay, as my mind was trying to convince me. This year I woke up bleary-eyed, with a killer headache and the stench of excrement in my face.
”Happy New Year honey! Your turn to change the baby.”
In retrospect, I’m not sure which is preferable – waking up with veins full of pure alcohol and a headache of mammoth proportions, or being woken up by your loving partner throwing a used nappy in your face and giggling uncontrollably. Probably the hangover.
Fortunately for Wendy, my less than enthusiastic response was drowned out by the vicious clanging of the church bells next door. How is it that the slightest sound managed to wake Max, our three day-old baby boy last night, but he sleeps through the deafening bells? Wendy changed Max and he fell asleep again, whilst his live-in milk dispenser curled up next to me. For the moment he’s sleeping in my (I’m still trying to get used to calling it ‘our’) bedroom so we can keep an eye on him. Well, when I say he’s “sleeping” I mean he’s lying there trying to deafen half of Chester and occasionally smiling and closing his eyes for a few minutes.
The first thing you realise when having a baby is that anyone who says “I slept like a baby last night” has either never seen a baby or suffers from a brutal combination of epilepsy, insomnia and burst haemorrhoids. At first we weren’t sure if Max was just hungry or whether we should call a priest and arrange an exorcism, but once Wendy opened the milk bar his head stopped spinning, his eyes returned to their normal position and he beamed an enormous smile and started guzzling. Well, at least I know he’s mine…..
It was probably the fireworks and subsequent ambulance sirens which kept Max awake last night, as he’s been otherwise fairly peaceful so far since arriving here from the hospital. He in turn kept us awake but tired as I may be, at least my stomach doesn’t feel like I’ve swallowed five cans of live fishing bait, as it did twelve months ago.
Last year’s New Year’s resolutions turned out to be about as pointless as a supermodel at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet, so this year I’ve just decided to try and get through the year without too much agony. That may seem rather lame, but I have an amazing ability to turn most harmless events into major disasters, so it would indeed be an achievement for me. Besides, I don’t know anyone who has ever managed to keep a single resolution all year…..or for that matter, past the first week of January. The busiest time of the year at the gym where Wendy works is the first week of the year, as people (and I include myself in this, as demonstrated last year) set out to get fit. The numbers then collapse as fast as drunken teenage girls at a Robbie Williams concert and the equilibrium returns for another 51 weeks.
Mark, my best friend came round this afternoon – a not unimpressive achievement after his traditional New Year party. Ok, so he looked like he’d slept in a ditch but at least he was alive. It had been another long night for him but it seemed more sedate than last year’s drinkathon. The usual suspects had been there and Mark’s vicious home-made cocktails had also made their annual appearance. The majority of these were created by the two of us several years ago, back in the days when our livers still functioned. It all began when Mark found a cocktail shaker in Woolworths and fancied himself as a bit of a professional. It all ended when he found out that juggling bottles is harder than it looks on TV. From then on, it was down to serious business – simple trial and error resulted in various bouts of retching and finally Mark and Dylan’s Book of Suspicious Substances (obviously that was just the working title – the resulting manual became ‘Mark and Dylan’s Book of Rather Tasty but Probably Poisonous Cocktails’).
The party seems to have been a great success – it was the first time in a decade that we’d not seen the New Year in together, but with Max appearing on the scene it was understandable. Mark’s on-off (but currently on) girlfriend Kim also came along this afternoon and the girls cooed at the baby whilst we talked about the party. The lack of scandals last night has worried Mark and this, combined with the fact that he was even awake suggested one thing – age is rapidly catching us up. Not only that, but we are seriously in danger of becoming our parents.
Talking of parents, mine called today. I know it was them as they hung up every time I answered (they haven’t yet grasped the concept of Caller ID), but when Wendy picked up they chatted as though they’d known her for years. I guess they still haven’t forgiven me for forgetting to tell them about Wendy, and indeed the fact that she was pregnant. It should be interesting now that they have invited themselves over soon to ogle at Max and presumably strike me from their inheritance. I decided to call them back to try and patch things up (Wendy’s idea – she’s not as stubborn as me), but despite my father answering by name, as soon as he heard my voice he put on the most unconvincing German accent ever and pretended I had the wrong number. Needless to say I can hardly wait for their visit…..
Wendy is understandably still quite tired from a combination of giving birth and Max screaming last night, so she fell asleep in front of the TV the moment Mark and Kim left. Fortunately she woke up when Max cried and demanded a feed and a change. I may have put a bit of weight on recently but I’m sure Max still prefers women’s breasts to mine as a source of nutrition. As for the nappy-changing, I’m not quite there yet either. I’ve watched Wendy do it on several occasions (and had one thrown in my face) but so far I haven’t dared to attempt it. No, that is one of the many pleasures I can look forward to. And I’m sure that’s just the beginning. I thought I was terrified when I found out Wendy was pregnant, but at least she wasn’t screaming and covered in faeces. This is much, much worse. I can see my attempts at following the learning curve will be like a hamster attempting to climb Everest……carrying a large rucksack.
Nobody ever said having kids was easy.
Thursday, 2nd January
No rest for the wicked. Well, except for yesterday. Oh, and the day before. Come to think of it I’ve done pretty much no work for the last week. Or two. The local newspaper offices have been closed over the Christmas period so there hasn’t been too much work for a freelance journalist like myself. I guess that’s just as well, as it’s not been the quietest time ever at Chateau Dylan.
The Editor asked me to come up with a few ideas to replace the “Our Guests in the North West” column, in which a local with foreign roots was interviewed, usually by me, in an attempt to create peace and harmony throughout the land – or, more realistically to bore readers into oblivion. After repeatedly being missed off the Nobel Prize winners list, the Editor seems to have had a complete change of heart and is killing the section off. Her Majesty’s incomprehensible decision not to knight him in the New Year’s Honours list appears to have been the final straw.
So what could possibly be a worthy replacement for such a thrilling article, tucked away somewhere amongst adverts for stolen DVD players and erotic chat lines? Well, anything to be honest. A 52 part series on the history of telephone books in Tajikistan would probably be much more exciting, but I guess I’ll have to come up with something more local.
Max spent most of the day asleep, as did Wendy, so I had a bit of time to do some serious brainstorming. Obviously I had to check my e-mails first, then mess around on Facebook for an hour and a half, download a couple of CDs, play Solitaire, etc, which left me with, well, not much time at all. Still, as they say, work smarter, not harder. I just Googled other local papers on the internet and thieved (sorry, I mean “took inspiration from”) their ideas instead. To be honest though, they were all pretty dull. Mind you, the ones I came up with may not be too well received either:
“The Heat Is On” – This section documents the transformation of a freshly stolen car into a fiery inferno, courtesy of local yobs. Points are given for style, flame height and the amount of Westlife CDs destroyed in the blaze.
“What’s That Shotgun?” – Stills from genuine CCTV footage of local (yes, I have to do my bit to promote the city) armed robberies are printed and the readers are asked to identify the type of weapon used in each instance.
“Complete The Sentence” – Details of upcoming local court cases are printed and readers are invited to guess what sentence will be handed down by the judge.
“Save the Children” – this section discloses the full names, addresses and photos of any local people on the Sex Offenders register and a complete review of their criminal histories.
Ok, they may not be everyone’s cup of tea but then again, nor were the articles about Bolivian refuse collectors or Nepalese shop assistants. For some reason Wendy seemed to think my latest ideas were slightly inappropriate and showed the area in a bad light. After all, Chester is very popular with tourists. Back to the drawing board. At least people would have bothered to read them.
I decided to e-mail my suggestions to the Editor at the paper anyway, along with a suggestion of a regular feature called “The Good Pub Guide” (now this may seem obvious, but the article would feature a different pub in and around Chester and I would rate it for various features such as wheelchair access, cleanliness, likelihood of being stabbed by a dysfunctional “hoodie”, price and quality of food and drink, etc.). I can’t see him going for it but it’s worth a try, and would certainly make my job a lot more exciting. Mind you, there isn’t much that could make it less exciting. That’s the problem with local journalism – the others are out there reporting on wars, hijackings and natural disasters, whilst I’m sitting in my flat, being deafened by church bells and writing about campaigns to save the local dog’s boarding kennels from being taken over by a 45-year-old woman from Manchester because she “once owned a cat”. And yes, just in case you’re keen to know the outcome of that fascinating case, the woman dropped her offer, the kennels closed and all dogs died a sad and lonely death of starvation. Ok, that’s a lie, but you see what I mean? Nobody cares about what happens unless there’s real-life crime involved (hence my suggestions above). The TV these days is filled with real-life police videos, unsolved murders, America’s most evil serial killers (as you can imagine, there’s a lot of competition in the serial killer world – they all seem to want the title of “most evil”. It’s a status thing – think of it as the Oscars of the murdering world) and shows too sick to be on TV, like that one where talentless people sing on stage before being ridiculed by an equally talentless jury and running off in tears.
It’s a simple fact - people like to watch or read about crime, as long as it’s not them who are being chased down the street by a maniac with a home-made samurai sword. Actually, that has given me another good idea…..
Friday, 3rd January
Am I being paranoid? I woke up four times during the night in a state of panic, as I couldn’t hear Max. I always thought that babies were supposed to cry non-stop for days, but with the exception of New Year’s Eve he has been virtually silent and has spent more time asleep than the average first-year university student. Wendy assures me this is completely normal, after having consulted her “Beginner’s Guide to Baby-Farming” but I’m still a bit concerned. At least after the other night we, and several thousand others are now aware that his lungs do indeed work….to perfection.
Wendy’s parents called this morning, immediately after stepping off the plane from Auckland, where they had spent the last month. They had booked the flights before they knew about the pregnancy so were on the other side of the world when Max took his first breath of air. Despite having never met, they were friendly towards me – friendlier than my parents anyway, who now consider me to be the reincarnation of Satan. It looks like it’ll be a full house here soon, as they announced their intention of visiting us as soon as they’ve recovered from their travels. With both sets of parents wanting to visit this month I am now even more paranoid. Wendy’s Dad spent twenty years in the army and is built like a tank. I can just see him now, dangling me out of the window by my testicles asking “so, you think you’re clever, getting my daughter pregnant do you?” whilst her mum cries “Dave, don’t kill him – he may be a complete waste of space but every child should have a father”.
“They’ll love you”, said Wendy, reading my mind. “I’ve told them so much about you”. Ok, I am officially a dead man. After all, my record of meeting girlfriend’s parents is about as successful as Team GB at the Winter Olympics – i.e. turn up, be humiliated, go home. In my time, I have managed to run over a family pet, spill red wine over a light-coloured carpet, trip over and destroy a precious vase and mistake an ex-girlfriend’s beloved grandmother for a male tramp. In my defence, if she’d wanted to avoid looking like a man she could have shaved her moustache off. So in summary (those are but a few highlights, I’m ashamed to say), they are probably going to despise me from the moment we meet, take Wendy and Max away and arrange restraining orders against me. At least if they come here there won’t be many of their possessions for me to accidentally destroy.
An e-mail from the Editor at the local paper arrived this afternoon, a polite “no thanks” to my wonderful suggestions yesterday. Strangely enough though he quite liked the Good Pub Guide theme, so I may still be onto a winner. Does this really mean that I will be paid to wander aimlessly around local pubs and sample their merchandise? If I inform the pub in advance they’ll be bending over backwards to make my visit as pleasant as possible. Forget what I said the other day about my job being dull – this is the reason I became a journalist. Well, actually, a distinct lack of cash and a complete inability to think of anything else to do is the real reason, but this shows that the job may finally be presenting me with a few perks. Mark instantly offered to assist in evaluating the aforementioned establishments when I called him and even offered to quit his job in insurance to assist me full-time. However much he hates his office job, I sincerely doubt that there’s enough money in sponsored pub crawls for two people to sustain a decent standard of living, especially when one is shacked-up with an attractive woman and a baby which already goes through nappies faster than a fat kid chasing an ice cream van.
On the subject of alcohol I’ve just realised how little of the stuff I’ve been drinking recently. My parents always blamed me for their drinking, saying they needed to drink to stay sane with me and my brother around, yet strangely since Max has been born I’ve virtually not touched a drop. I guess the combination of living with Wendy, keeping a constant eye out for Max and Mark being with Kim all the time is having a worryingly good effect on my liver. Now I’m not saying I want my best friend and Kim to split up and Wendy to leave me and take Max with her, but I could really do with a beer right now……