Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The other side of the coin

Perhaps, given the somewhat dark and depressing tone of my earlier posting, it would be wise for me to counter that with something more uplifting and less sinister. My aim was simply to share the horrors of long-term sleep deprivation, simply giving the reason behind them in my case. Of course, one could suffer from the issue as a result of stress or illness and the effect could be far greater; indeed, I did stress (and will do so here again) that it is easier to manage when the rest of the time is made glorious by the presence of a cute toddler.

So on that note, let me draw your attention to a short list of incidents of incredible cuteness over the past month…

Waving goodbye and shouting bye on cue
Waking up with a smile and a giggle
Pretending that object theft is innocent and handing it back on being rumbled
Walking like a drunken pirate
Hugging toys on cue
Lobbing toys like darts
Trying to swim in the bath
Climbing up the stairs
Putting on a bib when food/drink is desired…(Pavlovian Conditioning)

Of course, many of these things occur during a blurry haze of tiredness, but at least they occur. To lay weight to my earlier posting, you can survive…

Monday, 17 October 2011

Blackberry and Apple Pie

Disclaimer: I did not think that one up and I do not even find it that amusing – it’s more the case that I’m too lazy to think of an alternative title…

Contrary to some others, I did not feel as if it was the end of the world when my Blackberry crashed last week. The inability to update Facebook and Twitter on the handheld was not exactly a major inconvenience. However, it did get me thinking about my foray and reliance upon technology, brands and operating platforms. There is something almost Betamax vs VHS about this whole Smartphone warfare…

Perhaps I have been too insular in my sense of individualism…it’s great that Blackeberry produce a range of quality devices, all slightly different, all offering cool functions and apps, but if the company is on the slide, its share price having already fallen by 80% these past few years and is facing a dual attach from both Google and Apple (a daunting prospect) then perhaps it’s time to put on a wig, climb into a dress, step gingerly into the nearest lifeboat and pretend that I’m a genuine contender to escape the Titanic…

In six months time my phone is up for renewal and at this stage and despite all my previous doubts, it very much looks like being an iPhone….

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The old English way - sort the forwards out!

The post-mortem is so blindingly oblivious.For once, we’ve actually got quite good backs. Perhaps a new 12 is required and it would seem as if Wilkinson's best days are behind him, otherwise we’re looking good. But you don’t win games if you’re forwards are not on song.

To put it simply, the scrum went backwards, the front row went down, the lineout failed and the aggression was lacking. But the biggest sin was the incompetence at the breakdown…

Sack John Wells and bring in a tup-thumping forwards coach. Simple. And bring in Richard Hill to address the strategy at the breakdown (which has been poor all year now)

Pick a front row on merit and position - that DOESN'T mean Stevens at 1, it means a loose head at 1. Pick a second row that contains Lawes AND an enforcer at 4, thus giving some ballast to the drives. And as for the backrow - make Croft captain, Haskell vice captain and bring in Tom Wood at 7. That will give you 3/4 lineout jumpers and athleticism at the breakdown.

Players for the future? Joe Marler in the front row, Dave Attwood at 4, certainly Owen Farrell at 12 outside Flood (he can also play 10) and possibly Charlie Sharples. But it's more about selection and direction. Not to mention more aggression.

Whatever happened to Lions-esque team talks?

Monday, 10 October 2011

On this day, 650 years ago, Edward the Black Prince was married...

On this day, October 10th 1361, Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales and subsequently known as the Black Prince, married Joan, the 'Fair Maid of Kent'.
The French chronicler Froissart called her "the most beautiful woman in all the realm of England, and the most loving". The Black Prince was already the Flower of Christian Chivalry and an English hero and victor over the French.

That their legacy would be one of failure would not dampen the people of England in their worship of the royal couple. Anyway, you don’t need me to witter on – they got married, you get the idea…

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Parental Insomnia and Teething

Perhaps the time is right for a blog on sleeping patterns incurred as a result of a certain little person entering the Cure household this past year. I am conscious of my lack of updates recently and perhaps if I take a few moments to better explain the predicament, you’ll be able to understand why this blog has been visibly less prolific than you might expect.

To put it simply, I don’t get enough sleep… Subjective, I know.

Mental arithmetic is almost completely pointless. For instance, is you take an average week night to result in 7 hours sleep, with 8 hours at the weekend, I would have previously enjoyed somewhere in the region of 50 hours sleep a week, 200 a month and 2,600 a year. On the basis of the past year, I would suggest a realistic average of 5 hours in the week and 6 at the weekend, leading to 35 per week, 140 a month and 1,820 a year. Thus, I have lost around 780 hours sleep in the past 12 months. However, this is a “flat stat” – devoid of any meaning or feeling. It does not account for the increase in other life demands; it does not account for the systematic removal of other avenues of relaxation; it does not allow for some nights of no sleep, it does not allow for broken sleep – that is to say that 5 hours coming in three or four sub-divided slots ; and it does not allow for the fact that those stolen hours from the night have often been replaced by the continual sound of crying and screaming…

It might be worth retracing some steps and giving a slightly broader picture for a moment. Babies are human beings and are therefore unpredictable. If you ever hear anyone (or yourself) starting a sentence with “the thing is with babies is..” then please take my advice and ignore any subsequent claim. There is no such thing as a normal baby. Some are happy, some are irritable, some are boisterous, some like to sleep, some don’t, some like to eat, and some don’t. Many are a combination of all of these things (and more) at different times and almost all serve their own agenda. This is not a criticism, as I am almost certainly the same.

For the first three months of their lives, babies effectively cannot cope with anything. The reason they are born after nine months is purely down to physiological factors, as a better gestation period would be somewhere near the twelve month mark and would allow for greater physical and mental development. Sleep comes in 2 – 3 hours intervals, but is somewhat offset by the fact that they can sleep for up to 18 hours per day. Coping with broken sleep is incredibly difficult, but in the first few weeks adrenaline and general inertia assists in making this just about possible. What then follows is a gradual battle between sense, logic and the powers of practical baby advice, and the ever-changing challenge presented by the onset of growth and development. Sleep may increase to 4-5 hours chunks, but then the first cold arrives (children cannot blow their nose until they are 3 or 4 years old and are therefore unable to breathe with any form of cold), followed by teething, followed by a growth spurt, followed by the cognitive appraisal of being able to crawl or stand, followed by more teething, followed by an injection, followed by hot nights and light mornings, followed by another cold, and so on, and so on and so on…

This pattern of total random challenges can be non-existent, or it can be relentless. For us, it has been the latter, but the biggest and most daunting of all of these demons has been the full satanic monster of early teething…and let me warn you, teething can be the most appalling thing you’ll have to deal with.

I should just point out at this stage, before I launch into a full scale hyperbolic assault on teething, that I am not in any way criticising my daughter or any one of the countless babies presenting their parents with a similar challenge. I understand only too well that the very idea of a hard, blunt tooth forcing its way through a soft gum to the point where it draws blood must be agony, even for an adult who understands what is going on in their mouth. In the cold light of day my sympathy is unquestioned and my helplessness open and raw. However, there is something about the night that plays upon one’s basic ability to cope with even the most basic challenges – walking, talking, thinking…it is no coincidence that we choose this time to sleep and yet for that very reason, the pressures exerted by the outbreak of teething almost too much to bear.

To give this some perspective, Emilia cut her first tooth at around 3-4 months old. By the age of one, she had 16 out of 20 teeth (the final four molars tending not to arrive until the age of 2). This is ridiculously early as most babies have only 4-5 teeth max by this stage. The advantages are that she has got the teething out of the way. The disadvantage being that she had to cope with the pain early, and in one intensified go. The horrors we have been through…

Often, the first signs that a night would be devoid of sleep would materialise at bedtime – she would take longer to put down and struggle for up to an hour before sleeping. Then the calm before the storm – two to three hours of uninterrupted sleep whilst we had tea, cleared up, did some work and perhaps watched a few minutes of television. Then the cries would start – a dull, cry to warn that she has woken, followed by an incessant longing to be held and for her dummy. This might be abated by a quick pit stop to the nursery, but in most cases would involve Calpol and comforting for up to an hour before further sleep ensued. The next phase could be thirty minutes or an hour, but would almost certainly lead to a second wake – this time followed by screaming, a long, piercing scream of the pitch and ferocity to summon the dead from the gates of the Underworld. To hold her, you would think red hot pincers gripped her skin, for her body would contort and writhe in the most extraordinary manner, pushing out of an adult's grip with ease. The screaming would continue, until exhaustion saw her back into the arms of sleep. A quick check to be sure that her eyes are closed and then a dart out of the room, across the landing and into the soft comfort of the mattress. For several seconds, the stress of the moment would linger, before the calm tranquillity of silence descends, allowing tired eyes to relax. Then, just as the arms of sleep elope, the cries ring out once more. Depending on the effectiveness of Calpol, the type of tooth involved and other more detailed factors, there can be more than a dozen wakes between 10pm and 6am, each one more desperate and intense that the one before. The only respite, cold and harsh, comes in the form of dawn and the start of another long day of driving and working.

This process would typically be repeated for three nights, before calming slightly, only to continue several days later, time stretching for weeks and months in a continual descend towards madness. Tinnitus has set in and means that I am often unable to distinguish any noise other than a residual ringing. I frequently wake from nightmares, often composing of horrific images and demonic entities, leaving me drenched in sweat and feeling sick. My eyes always hurt with the burden of sleep deprivation and the toil of the daily grind. I have stood awake at night, either holding her and listening to her being held, swaying in the night air, my eyes closing to the sound of sleep and yet my body not allowing a respite in its icy grip of insomnia and depression. On some of these occasions, I have opened my eyes to all manner of visual horrors as hallucinations have materialised, transcending the ever-murky gap between sleep and actual; between what is real and what is not. Of late, I have struggled to tell the difference. In moments of despair, during the approaching dawn or the fourth straight hour of screaming, I have sparred with madness and almost completely parted company with my sanity. I have wandered off down the street, found myself in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs, and have even broken my hand punching the door in frustration and anguish. There is something frustrating in the human condition when one cannot find a solution to a problem, To not find it every night for a year in the face of complete nocturnal misery is almost too much to bear. When the person suffering is one’s own daughter (and I should add in wife, lest I abandon her plight here), it is intolerable. Some things have to give…

You might (if of course you have been brave enough to read through this incessant self-pity) wonder why I have bared my soul in such a despondent manner. Is there no joy to the nurturing and parenting of young children? Are you simply going to throw yourself off the top of the nearest cliff? Should we all follow? The answer is that is it immensely pleasurable, rewarding and (moreover) and privilege to raise children. For the most part, it is a tiring, fun pursuit that rewards, enriches and entertains and this is probably what makes the nightime more difficult to bear. There are basic human needs that cannot simply be removed indefinitely without causing severe damage and if anybody else who has suffered similarly or is still suffering with the ravages of teething chooses to read this and take from the blackened lines something of comfort in that they are not alone, then I have at least fulfilled my purpose.

Don’t break your hand on the door. It hurts.

You cannot write.