Wednesday, September 29, 2004
6-month Maggie Posted by Hello

We finally got around to watching lost in translation this weekend. I had heard people say they thought it was slightly derogatory, bordering on racist, towards the Japanese but we didn't think that. Merely extremely well-observed and accurate and also very affectionate. I have to say I really loved it; it made me feel natsukashi (melancholy, happy nostalgia) for Japan - almost homesick for Japan even though we haven't yet left. The only thing that was wrong was the two-dimension-ness of it: Shibuya crossing is never going to look right on film because when you are there it surrounds you with noise, lights and people on all sides.

Monday, September 27, 2004
Happy half-birthday to you
Maggie, that is. 6 months today! I took some lovely photos to mark the occasion but unfortunately the battery has gone in the camera so I can't upload one for you. Maybe later. I won't get all slushy and emotional - I'll save that for her first birthday or Christmas or something - but will just say that 6-month-old Maggie is more fabulous by the day (and the just-born M was pretty darn great): she sits, balances beautifully on all fours, and is starting, rather grudgingly, to eat food. She bangs her hands and sings and smiles at anyone and everyone who catches her eye. And she was angelic through my yoga class today (sat next to my mat on a blanket and played quietly).
Big stir at Cameron's work as they deducted 401 yen from this month's salary instead of the usual 400 yen - shell club fees (what is the shell club?). But it's ok, they are going to deduct 399 yen instead next month. Phew!

Saturday, September 25, 2004
A big weekend
For little Maggie: not only did she chat up a sumo wrestler, but she had her first haircut (just the fringe where it was hanging in her eyes) and her first taste of food. She found the baby rice very interesting indeed. Sweet potato is on the menu for tomorrow; we'll see if that requires as much concentration.
Sumo was good although we had to leave before the really exciting fights - but we don't know enough about it to know which are really exciting so that was fine. I was Very Cross though as I lugged the heavy bag containing tripod and zoom lens only to discover I had failed to pick up my camera.
I'm wishing I hadn't taken on that manuscript now: it is lurking in the back of my mind and causing me stress. It is all done on paper but do you think I can find a couple of quiet hours to amend the electronic file? I cannot. (The more alert reader will no doubt observe that I have just spent 10 minutes writing this and reading my email; my sister will probably chip in and reveal that I was on msn for an hour earlier. To which I can only say that all of these activities were engaged in whilst getting up and down and up and down and entertaining Maggie and bouncing her on my lap while typing one-handed and feeding her and so on. Which does not lend itself to accuracy in editing but rather to whole lines of text that read ggggggggggghhhhhhhhhh jjj as she loves to bang the keyboard. So there.)

Thursday, September 23, 2004
Bank hol today so, as planned (by me), it's Cameron-looks-after-Maggie day. Hoorah! They got up and went downstairs this morning so I got an extra half-hour lie-in, then they went to baby massage (Cameron is learning the ways of the expat wife) while I sat quietly in starbucks enjoying drinking from a cup that wasn't being chewed by anybody else and eating a biscuit off a plate right in front of me! And editing a manuscript as part of my stealth-back-to-work thing; I've just started taking the odd long-deadline manuscript, which has saved me from actually making a decision about whether to go back or not. I don't do decisions, workwise. I quite enjoyed it, oddly. And hadn't forgotten how (though I do seem to have forgotten why it matters; I hope I remember soon).
A nice lunch out together then home for an afternoon of peeling-steaming-blending-sieving as I prepare to start Maggie on solids. (Organic, naturally!) Maggie and Cameron both went off to sleep; it's an exhausting thing being at home all day. And this evening is my yoga lesson again so Cameron will be doing bath and bed while I go ommmmm and try not to giggle.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Is Baby Mozart Evil? I borrowed it in curiosity from a friend and it has a strange and hypnotic effect on Maggie. Of course I don't approve (telly Bad) but I must admit to rather relishing those 20 silent and mesmerised minutes while I can make and eat a sandwich, or just sit and gaze (sitting and gazing being a much under-rated activity that disappears entirely on childbirth). I don't fully understand why it is so fascinating (mostly film of executive-type toys and train sets) and can only conclude it must be some special subliminal effect of the music: Mozart, recorded and arranged specially for "little ears". Quite irritatingly bingy actually; why not use an orchestra? We suspect budgetary issues dressed up as psychological developmental twaddle. It isn't possible to buy a simple toy for a child these days, everything but everything must be educational. Even if that is just teaching them that there is more than one colour, or similar. (Some of the Lamaze toys are scented! Green apple being the favourite aroma for developing a super-child. Which is, after all, what we all desire.)
A nice lady helped carry the pushchair into a subway station today. I could see her wishing she hadn't offered about 2 steps down, what with my bags of newly purchased Japanese ceramics strung on the back it was rather heavy. And I was harangued in the street by a forceful man concerned that M's head had flopped to one side. (Of course it had flopped, she was asleep. You only have to glance around on a train to realise that sleeping heads flop.) She's fine, thank you I replied politely yet forcibly also three or four times before he wandered off to harrass a middle-aged woman about the saucepan she was examining.
Other news is slim. Cameron sneakily had me sign his pass-out for football last night when I had forgotten about this week's two 'business dinners' (=nights down the boozer). But I will have the last laugh as Thursday is a bank hol and he will have no legs to stand on regarding who is IC childcare that day. Friday, we are going to go to the sumo, it being our last chance (boo). With Sarah and Timo if their baby hasn't turned up - due today but her doctor is very kind and sensible and hasn't mentioned the I-word yet. Cameron's absence has revived my interest in sequential watching of Buffy (series 4!*), which had wained with Maggie's current insistence that daytime sleeping (and nighttime sleeping for that matter) is for poofs and must only be done in cases of dire emergency around the time that mummy needs to prepare dinner so can't sit and relax.
*when did tv serieses become seasons? and why?

Saturday, September 18, 2004
The trouble with a private yoga class, just you and the teacher, is it is rather hard to skive off and spend half the class resting in child's pose. I enjoyed it actually, even if we did spend a good 15 minutes going ommmmmm at the beginning, which left me feeling oddly disembodied. I'm not usually very keen on the ommm-type teachers, but Hikaru was rather nice. Some fairly gentle stretches which I had to hold for far longer than was comfy and that was the hour up, but I felt good for it! Home just in time to see Maggie putting on her jimjams and help get her into bed. Hoorah.
Playgroup yesterday morning...rang my chum Sarah on the way home because I was passing her house and thought we could meet for a cuppa, and managed to wangle myself an invite to a lunch she was hosting for all her baby friends (hers is due next week). Yum.
And now it's a bank holiday weekend! In the spirit of which, Maggie's highchair has arrived all flat-packed so we have to play at DIY later.

Thursday, September 16, 2004
I really must stop looking in panic at an empty diary then spending my weeks dashing about frantically in compensation. An hour off here and there would really be a Good Thing. Today, for example, we left the house at 9.30 (in itself no mean feat with a baby who has woken up every 2-3 hours for the past 3 nights), whizzed around the supermarket as quickly as I could to allow a 15-minute starbucks break. Note to the miserable old man sitting next to us: no matter how important an international executive you are, if a baby throws her rattle on the floor within an inch of your toe it would be kind to pick it up rather than looking on disdainfully as said baby's mother tries to retrieve it without groping you or smacking her baby's head off the table. Sigh. Off to baby massage; not terribly relaxing due to a number of screamy babies (not Maggie of course!). The lady next to me had a 1-month-old; I'd forgotten how tiny and helpless they are. Sweet.
From baby massage we went to Sue's house for lunch (how nice to be fed) before going to the doctor for Maggie's next set of vaccinations. Home after 4 and at 7.30 I have to dash down the road again for a yoga lesson. Cameron is putting Maggie to bed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004
We got our local residents' association newsletter, complete with the latest crime figures. Of ten burglaries, one was a sneak thief, eight were creeping in and one was other. (Armed robbery, perhaps?)

Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Hooray! For getting off my bum and to a yoga class. Yogamoms, in fact. Kind of chaotic, babies everywhere, but nice to stretch for the first time this year. Thought I wasn't going to make it as I cleverly left the map to the studio sitting on my printer at home, but Cameron googled it and talked me in. Basically a very gentle yoga-stretching class that you could drop out of as your baby required. Apart from one lady who left her baby to cry on the floor for 45 minutes while she stretched, oblivious to the grinding teeth from the rest of the that wasn't terribly relaxing. But hey ho, I feel better for doing something and on Thursday night Cameron is doing Maggie's bedtime while I go to a private lesson nearby.
Otherwise I can't say we've done much. Made the epic journey to babies-r-backwards yesterday (an hour each way) to stock up on feeding paraphernalia; hopefully I will not now have to go to another baby shop this year (though I'm bound to have forgotten something important). Starting to make lists of things to get rid of before we leave Japan...some of the things on my list I haven't even bought yet!

Saturday, September 11, 2004
OK here's the first few - hover for details as usual...

Friday, September 10, 2004
Well, I've gone from no yoga class to a choice of many. Should I go back to my old class, where the teacher has kindly agreed to let me put Maggie at the back and hope she stays quiet; to the official 'mums and babies' class across town; to the private teacher who lives nearby; or should I look for a Tuesday-morning class because the nice lady who feeds our cats when we go away has Tuesday mornings free and is looking for a babysitting job? Perhaps I'll do them all and become super-fit and serene.
Heh heh heh. It seems supporting Rangers is bad for you.

Thursday, September 09, 2004
Even though we are years removed, September still feels like back to school. Expat Tokyo shuts down for the summer. Everybody was back for playgroup today (with their newly large, needing-entertaining babies; it was like bedlam) and baby massage, rather than being a private class for one or two as it was all summer, had eight mummies and babies squeezed into a tiny room. Maggie loved it! I feel exhausted.
Went to an art exhibition on Tuesday, Masterpieces from the Guggenheim. Some of it was lovely, some very interesting - and some reminded me that I really must do that art-appreciation class one day. I know you can do wine appreciation at our local college in Warrington; must investigate when we get back whether art is available also (or perhaps wine might be more fun). I just don't understand pop art and failed to comprehend why some of the other things were considered masterpieces. One chap painted nothing but squares for 25 years! OK he got jolly good at them - straight edges, 90-degree corners and all - but why does that make him an artist not, say, a painter-decorator? (They were quite large squares.) And most of the really abstract stuff, to me, looks like it belongs in the lobby of a large corporation. Ah well, I never claimed to be anything but ignorant.
I had been looking forward immensely to starting a yoga class tomorrow but the girl who's teaching it told me today that I can't bring Maggie, so that's off. Which is a real shame. I'll just have to get off my bum and drag us across town to the one class where I know babies are allowed. Seriously lacking motivation though.
Ftp problem with photo host is not fixed (and may not get fixed) but we've worked out a way round it - ftping by hand. Laborious, but I'll get some snaps up very soon.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004
And she's off!
Something seems to have fused in Maggie's brain overnight and she has woken this morning able not only to roll from front to back, a skill she has been practising exclusively in bed for a week, but also to put this together with her well-developed back-to-front roll and some wiggles and work herself from A to B (where A = the playmat and B mostly = Jura). I, along I imagine with every mother ever, am thrilled and delighted with each new skill but also saddened by the speed at which she is growing up. We really do have to remember to cherish each day. Having said that, her sitting-up skills have regressed again - yesterday afternoon she managed a good 10 minutes while today she has toppled flat on her face after just 2 or 3.
I am also feeling grateful that I haven't had to go back to work although I must admit to a small, bitter huh when, on King of the Hill last night, Peggy was told that a PhD would gretly increase her earning power. Cameron tells me I could go out and earn lots of money if I so desired: think he is motivated more by a desire to make me feel better than by any true grasp of reality.
No typhoon yet.
Oh, and I've put the next bit of Maggie's birth (in which she is born!) over at baby blue for those who are interested.

Monday, September 06, 2004
Batten down the hatches
There's another typhoon on its way - though perhaps it won't reach Tokyo this time. Neither of us noticed the first, large quake yesterday (at that time Cameron was washing dishes and I was reading Meg and Mog to Maggie); we both felt the second though it went on for ages so we rightly assumed it was far away. 20 inches sounds like a wee cute tsunami but must contain a lot of water and presumably could cause a lot of damage. Glad we live on a hill. We had a horrendous thunderstorm for several hours on Saturday night; rain like I have not seen since Vietnam but no wind so presumably it was a storm not a typhoon. Poor Jura was outside in it but came home dry so she must have found shelter. I might go and buy some wellies (for me, not Jura).
I am still waiting to show you some lovely photos of our trip photo server won't let me in for some reason so I am waiting to be remembered. Tum te tum.
Otherwise, just very very tired. Maggie hasn't slept without waking for more than 2 hours since we got back (thus, neither have I). I sincerely hope it is jetlag and will go away soon; it is like the early days all over again only then, nobody expected me to do anything but look after her. Managing to make a cup of tea, get dressed, etc, was all seen as doing terribly well indeed but I fear those days have gone. Yawn.
Fiona Watt has the best job ever. She writes the Usborne cloth books: we have Snail and Hen (snail is much better than hen if you are considering a purchase). Now, bear in mind that these books are for babies so don't exactly have a complex plot (Stan the snail follows the trail...past the flowers...along the path...etc, until he ends up peeping behind a bucket and finding his friend Sam; Penny the hen follows the seeds until she finds her chicks in the henhouse. You get the idea) but she doesn't even illustrate them, just writes the words. I want that job.

Sunday, September 05, 2004
Maggie has really become interested in the cats this weekend. She was aware of them previously but in a kind of 'black furry thing that occasionally moves through my field of vision/tries to share my bed/can be batted by a flailing arm way': now she is absolutely fascinated by them, watches them incessantly, twisting around to see them, and tries to grab them whenever they come within about a foot or so. Not being stupid, they tend to stay about an inch further away than she can grab. She is also this close to sitting up well enough to be left without being surrounded by cushions.
I had something else to tell you but I can't for the life of me remember. Tum te tum. No, it's gone.
Oh, and happy anniversary to us today.

Friday, September 03, 2004
I'm a celebrity again. And there I was, thinking I'd lost my touch. Quite miffed at home to be able to walk down the street without being stopped by old ladies and, oddly, construction workers overwhelmed by Maggie's extraordinary qualities. Glad today to be smiled at by all and sundry.
Speaking of celebrity, Cameron features in this month's Racing On, a high-quality glossy magazine that unfortunately doesn't appear to have a website (but there's a picture of its front cover here). He had a press conference while we were away, because of Ferrari winning the formula one doodah, and his interview is printed along with his picture (posing with a can of oil) and a little profile.

Thursday, September 02, 2004
Dazed and confused
What day is it? Is it really September? Am I back in Tokyo?
Maggie seems almost entirely unaffected by jetlag, just a little sleepy, so hooray for that but pity her poor mother who doesn't know where or when she is. Only that it is hot.
Had a fabulous time at home (apart from Cameron not being there of course). Maggie was a star and didn't even seem to notice the time difference, but smiled happily at the steady progression of new faces, while collecting a fine range of new clothes and toys. Thank you everybody and sorry to those I couldn't fit in - we should be home for Christmas so I hope to see everybody we missed then.
Scotland was freezing (13 degrees is not any more civilised in August than Tokyo's 30-something); I had to borrow a cardy from my mother-in-law. Maggie got to sleep in her daddy's old cot, which was sweet, and bathed in the kitchen sink. My favourite encounter whilst there was a neighbour of Cameron's dad's cousin Sadie: an old lady who told me that Maggie was a dreadful name and why didn't we call her Margaret. No beating about the bush there.
And Surrey was lovely lovely lovely too, I got to shop (Mothercare, woohoo! Clothes in my size, woohoo! Tescos, woohoo! Books, woohoo! Had to bring an extra bag back - and have left a pile for mum and dad to bring in November) and Maggie attended her first barbecue (British, thus we sat in the house while Duncan braved the rain to cook burgers). We also had a two-tier picnic: my parents are now grandparents so get to sit on nice folding chairs and eat from proper picnic plates while the rest of us slummed it on the floor.
Best of all was meeting my beautiful niece Mia. So gorgeous to see the babies together. Not that they took a huge amount of notice of each other: Maggie did manage to grab and hold Mia's bib in a strangling attempt and Mia bashed Maggie over the head a few times and showed off with her clever rolling-about and eating-food abilities and high-quality toys. I have some sweet photos to follow; best of all is them asleep side-by-side in a Mothercare double trolley seat.
I'm being terribly gushy I know but I must just say once again how fabulous Virgin Atlantic are. They couldn't have been more helpful, even sending somebody on the plane to meet me and help with my vast amounts of luggage (3 bags and a carseat checked, 3 pieces of handluggage and a buggy on board. Plus a baby, a jacket, a baby sling and some spare toys. And a toblerone for Cameron.) The new upper-class suite was fitted on the home journey, which made for the comfiest flight ever, and Richard Branson himself told Maggie she was a lovely baby! He and some contestants were filming some gameshow: he also patted me on the shoulder and asked how I was doing when he walked past. Unfortunately I had my gob full of bacon sandwich so could only nod and grunt in reply.
British Midland on the other hand...sigh. I hope my kindly fellow passenger who helped me with my luggage despite travelling with two small children himself managed to reclaim his buggy and carseat in time to catch his connection to China. He had just 30 minutes to collect it all and change terminals when I left. 40 minutes on the tarmac while they tried to close the door, having bashed it when taking the boarding stairy thing away; 40 minutes waiting by the carousel for our luggage to appear. And I know it might make me sound spoilt but if you are paying extra for a business class service including priority unloading of luggage, especially when travelling with a littl'un, it is a bit annoying when all the non-priority luggage comes off first. I might write a letter. (Or I might just whinge about it to anyone who will listen.)
Anyway. Good to be home. Photos to follow shortly.