Once again, sickness has struck the household. It seems right now whenever things start to settle down we get another visited by another malady. Infectious and effective, it certainly put all our plans for the week on hold.

Whilst I would rather we both not be sick, at least this has allowed me to spend more time with my daughter. I really like being around when she is poorly, because it means I feel I get greater opportunity to help comfort her when she needs it. Something I cannot do, obviously, when at work. Also, Melian is now aware when her parents are poorly, and so she also sometimes tries to comfort me.

Fatherhood sometimes has rewards that are truly sublime.


Well, this is going to be a very short post for a very simple reason: I have done virtually no gaming at all this past week. The cold-thingy that I have been afflicted with in one form or another for the last few weeks truly took off the gloves. I last played World of Tanks last Saturday – and not very much then. On Sunday I felt I was coughing too much for an online game (kinda mucks up your aim) and so did a bit of Skyrim. And I haven’t played a game since, and I won’t be playing anything tonight either.

Essentially I have been going to work, doing the best I can (which at times has been admittedly a lot of effort for relatively little result), coming home, seeing my daughter to bed, and then just trying rest and sleep the best I can. Along the way I have developed a nasty, hacking like cough that makes me sound as I have been smoking sixty a day since I was twelve, and I have also lost my voice. The last makes me squeak, which at times is actually quite funny – only laughing sounds me into a another painful paroxysm fit of coughing. Seriously, the last time I felt this ill was when I had a chest infection, which makes me wonder if perhaps I have another. A trip to the doctor is in order unless things seriously start getting better this weekend.

Anyway, that is the chief reason why I have not blogged anything at all this week.

I have actually been slowing working on my WoT Monthly report, which I might get around to doing in the next day or two. Otherwise gaming and posting is going to have to wait until this cough/cold thingy is under better control.

Well, that is the intention, hopefully it will become the reality.

I have been putting off dealing with my weight for a long time. However, I had decided at the end of the summer that after our holiday in Cornwall would have to be the time.

The history of my weight is mixed up heavily with my period of illness. Before I started my descent I was overweight – no doubt about that – but not grossly so. My weight fluctuated up and down a bit as well with the seasons, going up in winter and down in summer. However as my descent began I started to do a lot of comfort eating. Some people feast on chocolate, or sweets, or chips (fries to the yanks), or something similar. My weakness however has always been for crisps. One bag of crisps always comes in a 12-bag multipack, or something similar.

Then I had my period of breakdown, and I stopped leaving the house. I didn’t stop eating – if anything I ate even more, at times furiously. It doesn’t take much imagination to work out the combination of an almost total loss of exercise combined with a massive eating of crisps, bacon sandwiches, and other such things will do to a waistline. Then my medication changed – successfully – at the price of slowing my metabolism and therefore making me more susceptible to weight gain. Over the course of the next year I expanded in physical mass by at least 50%.

While I obviously regret putting on so much weight, I should say I do not view this as entirely negatively. There are many possibilities for substance abuse when one is utterly depressed and with nothing to do (and nothing to hope for). With plentiful alcohol and tobacco (ignoring for the moment illegal thrills) to sample, I choose food, which is probably the most forgiving of all.

Of course, losing weight is easier to say than done. My first attempt was a complete failure. I waited another year, and the second attempt worked. My weight dropped over the course of a year by about 6 stone. Things looked good, but then I got a jolt from the blue which totally overthrew my equilibrium. I fell in love.

My wife and I have both put on quite a bit of weight since we first met. In particular after she moved over here we just proved incapable of keeping up with the rigors of a diet initially. We were so happy at finally being together, each and every day, we just had a very long celebration. Then we were married, and learned we were to become parents, and then started to learn all about being parents … well, to be frank we kept putting it off.

This summer though we have been talking about it more. There will be a cost of all this extra mass, and we both want to have as long and healthy a life as we can manage. After all, we want to see as much of Melian’s life as we can. It didn’t seem entirely wise to start losing weight just before two holidays though, so we put the date as last week.

I must say it was with some trepidation I got on the scales that first time – with some justification. For those who like old-fashioned money, as it were, I came in at 3lbs and 3cwt – or 24 stone 3 pounds (1 stone = 14 lbs). However, it could have been worse. I am, I think, no heavier at least than I was at my worst in the year or so following my illness – and since I am more active I actually feel much healthier than I did back then.

The first week has gone reasonably well. The scales regarded a very flattering 8 pounds lost, which is real enough but something of a mirage. Every time I have started to lose weight the first week or two has a big drop as my body re-adjusts water content and the like.

The important thing though is that we are really trying hard to avoid the concept of diet. This has to be for the long haul – for a lifetime. This is more lifestyle change than diet. I think in the long run this may mean slower weight loss. Hopefully it will also mean more permanent weight loss. The one exception has to be crisps. Time has proven that I just cannot control having crisps now and then, or one bag at a time. It is all or nothing, so it has to be nothing.

I hope it is not too forward of me, but wish me luck.

Today I did something I have wanted to do for a very long time – my wife and I visited the village of St.Cleer where I grew up. It lies on the southern edge of Bodmin Moor, in Cornwall. It has been over twenty years since I lived there, and almost ten years since my Granny (who continued to live there after we moved) passed away, yet the moment we were on the road the led into the village I felt at home. It is the one place of which I can honestly say “This is where I come from – this place nurtured me and helped me grow, a refuge from the storm of life”.

For all that it has been a while since I was last there, and I must admit to feeling rather curious since. There is a part of me that deeply misses Cornwall, and the act of going back this last week has reminded me just how deep the missing is.

Twenty years, but still the roots are there, deep as the granite that the village rests on.

This evening I lost two games in World of Tanks, pretty poorly, and shut the game down. I spent a few minutes completing a few tasks in a couple of other games, on one Facebook and the other on my smartphone, which took about fifteen minutes at most. Then I pretty much just started at my monitor screen. Occasionally I navigated to a webpage, even more rarely I read a story. This lasted for the best part of an hour.

Depressive episodes like this can be a little bit worrisome – they were very frequent during my descent to being ill. On the other hand episodes like this have always happened with me. Also to be fair a few things are going on right now which would make me a bit morose – the general disruption of routine that I mentioned previously, a continuing intensely busy situation at work, and then also over the weekend my mother had an emergency admission to hospital (back at home now convalescing, everything appears under control). In other words I have ample good reason to feel a bit “spaced”.

Nevertheless, they can be very vampiric, sucking life and light out of the moment. They are not periods of relaxation or restoration. There is no easy way of getting out of a dark mood for me once one has caught hold. It requires effort, work, and frankly half an hour to midnight is not when I generally have the energy to be attempting that.

Today though the mood interrupted by the sound of my daughter waking up, a bit unhappy. I went to her room, and as expected she needed some water. The weather continues quite muggy here, and so Melian needs an extra drink of water once or twice most nights. So in I went, felt around the cot for her (since my eyes do not adjust that quickly to the night-light we have in there), picked her up, gave her a cuddle, enabled her to have her drink, cuddled her some more, gave her a second drink at her request (lack of speech does not mean lack of communication) cuddled her some more again, and eventually put her back down. The entire time in the room, perhaps five minutes at most.

Yet it was exactly what I needed, a cuddle with my daughter to help me finish the day with a smile.

Now, Melian did not know her daddy needed a cuddle and so woke up – it was just a fortunate co-incidence. However, I have noticed since becoming a husband and a father it is amazing just how wonderful such fortunate co-incidences are – and how often they happen if one is aware to them. To be sure none of the reasons that contributed to my dark mood have dispersed – they are all still very much present. On the other hand, I have just had a cuddle with my daughter and helped her go back to sleep. It does not sound like much, but it has changed the entire perspective of the day.

Just one extra reason to love being a father.

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday – an occasion for merriment and joy, but there is a slightly darker undertone to my birthday as it is immediately followed by a somewhat less pleasant anniversary. Six years ago today (20th July 2007) my mental health finally fell apart, and I had a very severe panic attack / fit at work. Today the memories of those first three weeks of a wet July are mostly just unpleasant memories. Fortunately. For that I can thank my wife, my daughter, and also other friends and family.

Ten years ago I was a little concerned about growing older, as I think most people are in their early twenties. I remember twenty-three sounding so very much older than twenty-two, for example, but while it was a concern it was never as big an issue as it genuinely is for many people. These days however the matter is rather turned on its head.

The other way I celebrate my birthday is simple: hooray for still being alive. Having come closer to ending my own life than anyone should ever have to experience now I can celebrate each birthday by being grateful for the simple fact I am still alive to have birthdays. In some respects this is one of the most profound (and I think positive) developments in my worldview to have occurred. Unfortunately I also think it is a worldview that probably only resonates strongly with those who have, for whatever reason, come very close to not being alive – and I would not wish my experiences (or anything similar) on my own worst enemy.

I tentatively suggest however that it is still a worthwhile thought around birthday-time – being alive is generally a great thing. A birthday marks another year of life – not another year older but another year richer, with all the ups and downs; triumphs and failures; challenges and surprises that comprise life. It is a precious thing, worth celebrating.


Two years ago I became a husband. I never thought that I would. Until I proposed to my wife, I had never even had a girlfriend.

However, over the course of several years of playing EVE Online I had gotten to become a friend with a corp-mate, and I travelled to Denmark to meet her. This was hardly the first time I had met someone I had first known online – I have two good friends in the States whom I had also visited that I first met via the Paradox Interactive forums. We exchanged photographs a week or so before so we would have some idea who to look out for in the airport.

We met for the first time in the arrivals area of Kastrup, Copenhagen’s major airport. Before I left to return home I had asked my friend to marry me, and she had said yes. Single to engaged in nine days. Two years ago today we exchanged our vows.

Five years ago this month I started back at work, having been off work for a year as a result of my illness. Five years ago I never expected to be a husband, or a father. I never thought I would be fortunate enough to have those words applied to me.

Today they are – and there is no way that the written or spoken word can convey just what those two simple words mean to me. Today I just want to give thanks that my wife and I did find ourselves, at first in the unlikely place of a noob-corp chat channel in EVE.


As I write this, exactly one year, my wife and I were in the Maternity Unit of our local hospital. Our baby (we did not know if our baby was a boy or a girl) was a few days late. Our midwife had visited us (a planned visit) to check on my wife, and to go over a few details for an induction if our labour had not started by 42 weeks. During the visit however she became concerned that my wife might be entering pre-eclampsia, so she arranged for us to go in that afternoon. Indeed, we were in hospital within an hour of her visit, and the decision was made to induce. The process of induction can take a long time, and the midwife who initiated induction fully expected to the midwife delivering our baby the next morning. Life, however, had other plans and the labour kicked into high gear very rapidly.

Given I have been quite harsh about health visitors, I should say that our experience of the midwives during my wife’s pregnancy, and whenever we were in hospital, was generally exemplary. Our main midwife could be the very example of how to help make a husband/partner feel involved with everything that was going on. She always spoke to me, taking an interest in how I felt about becoming a father. She was also perfect given my mental health. She said from the start “I do not know very much about mental health, so you are going to have to tell me what you need”. It was just so refreshing an attitude. So we talked through various scenarios, and she arranged that I would be able to stay with my wife on the Ward in a separate room (usually they kick fathers out at 10pm, but we were very concerned that in the emotional overload of just being a new father I might have a panic attack if I were told to leave, or have one at home, or otherwise have difficulties). Indeed the entire attitude was just perfect, respectful, open, and wanting to help. During labour itself, and on the post-natal ward the team were also excellent. This was even more so after we were told that my wife and Melian would have to stay on the ward for 48 hours instead of the 12 or so I was expecting – for reasons that they could have communicated to us in a meeting we had with the doctor months before the actual birth. In a tired, overwhelmed state, I basically shut down for several hours. The staff on the ward just accepted my wife’s word that it was nothing they had done, until I was able to come to terms with the situation. They just gave me space, and it was an amazing kindness. I doubt they understood precisely, but they took my wife seriously and accepted her word, and for that and other reasons we later made plain our thanks and admiration.

From that night I have a number of clear memories. Being worried when labour started, much earlier than anyone expected, when we did not really know what was going on. Helping my wife with the gas thing to help alleviate the pain of contraction. The moment of actual birth. The sense of chaos, but never panic, as Melian entered this world, was whisked of to the special table they have to do all the immediate things that ensure there are so few deaths in child-birth these days. Cuddling Melian on my bare chest for a long while after the MCA took my wife to get washed. That memory in particular is very special – and in a sense all cuddles since are just the next stage in that cuddle that started when she was perhaps two hours old.

Melian has grown a very great deal in the last year of course, but right from the start there was something. A while back I posted a photograph (below the fold) of Melian when she was about seven hours old – awake and curious. The expression she has on her face then, looking out, trying to make sense of things – I see it all the time even now. Back then though she was so small. She wanted nothing more than the snuggle on my wife or myself and sleep. Those first few weeks were very sleep-deprived, but were also full of joy (health visitors and the only incompetent midwife we ever had notwithstanding). I had resigned myself to probably never being a father – of never getting married – and here I was both married and a father – and it was wonderful.

It is still wonderful. When I get home after work, and see Melian smile when I enter the house … or even sometimes when I have just been to a different room, my heart sings. Being a father to Melian is just incredibly natural. I will not always say easy – there are still times when I go to work and the first thing I do is acquire a can of Monster or something similar to help get me through the day, for example. There are also plenty of times when I worry about being a good father, of the examples I am setting from the small (just good personal habits) to the large – and of allowing Melian even now the space she needs to be her own person. After all, Melian is Melian first, and her parents’ daughter second. Even at one year she is still a person, and needs to be allowed a space to choose or her own thing, even if at other times we are more directing.

One of the great things about being Melian’s father is that she has helped me look at the world anew. I have written of her joy in her first visit to an airport, but the truth is that she gets fascinated by just about everything. Her enthusiasm encourages me to take a moment to look at a horse, for example, and just consider for a moment truly how magnificent horses are – or how delicious a sausage is – or the simple joy and passing a ball back and forth. Melian laughs, but she also claps now – especially when she is very excited at having done something. It is a sure sign she is enjoying herself, and she claps often.

She is no longer the little baby I first cuddled, even if in my mind she is still my little baby girl. These days she is starting to get properly mobile – in the last 3-4 days she has just started to crawl forward short distances. It feels like a whole new period of discovery is about to begin, a new chapter in her life, and I am awed, honoured, excited, and a little scared to be able to share it.

So many people remark “enjoy it while it lasts”. Part of my gripes a little at this, though I know there nothing ill intended. It is just a statement of fact that Melian will grow older, will become a toddler, go to school, enter double figures, become a teenager, and in due course enter into adulthood. The entire process is one of change, and change is naturally unsettling. On the other hand part of me thinks there has to be a little bit of false-cynicism in all those comments – given how enthused many parents seem to be about their children even when fully grown, and all the stages inbetween.

However, all that is for the future. Tomorrow my wife and I are going to celebrate the birth of our daughter, and hopefully we have planned something that she will enjoy. I think she will. She is too young to understand birthdays yet, or why she is getting presents, but she is old enough realise the day is special – and it is.

A short while ago Gank wrote a post about, amongst other things, the fact his child was turning one (many congratulations to him) where he expressed a certain dis-satisfaction with all the gender stereotyping that goes on with childrens’ clothing (and baby clothes too). Just recently Jessica at The Velvet Café wrote a post about some gender stereotypes being broken down in current cinema – male stereotypes, and suggested very strongly that if we are serious about equality it means addressing both feminine and masculine stereotypes. It is somewhat serendipitious that I read both articles so close together, as these sort of issues have been much on my mind lately.

My own opinion on gender issues has been greatly influenced by several years I spend working as a medical secretary in the local hospital. It is a fairly large hospital, and I believe I was the only male medical secretary in the entire hospital. It exposed me to a great deal of unthinking, and a certain amount of quite deliberate sexism. I was told quite categorically I would not be considered for a particular job because I was a man. In other contexts I was often assumed to be a doctor because no one could comprehend that a man would be a secretary. In yet other cases I was told flat “I want to speak to a real secretary”. The prejudice ran (and I believe still runs) very deep. As an aside the experience also makes me react quite negatively to the certain sort of feminism that believes women are somehow inherently better than men, or that other sort of feminism that is blind to the sort of situation I just described above. On the other hand it has also made me very much a proponent of equality, though I do not think many people understand really what equality means.

Equality means that a bloke can dye their hair, or wish to be the parent who stays at home, or does knitting, or indeed works as a nurse, midwife, or secretary. If it does not then all the advances about women becoming doctors, directors, and company executives is just empty. The fact is though that women entering more prestigious positions is sort of glamorous and notable. A man with a penchant for embroidery is most likely to be assumed to be homosexual (another silly prejudice), and a man working as a secretary is likely just going to be though of as a pathetic. Equality also, just for the record, means a woman can choose to be a stay-at-home wife, or a man a builder. It is no good if we break down one lot of prejudices if we just create a new set of barriers.

In the last year I have encountered a part of the healthcare system so deeply rooted in prejudice however that at times it has left me in tears, and other times in fury. I speak of course of that scourge for new parents – the health visitor. Now, I am quite prepared to accept there are many decent, hardworking health visitors in this country who are a great help to those they meet. My own experience is limited to relatively few individuals in one small part of the country.

From a gender perspective this first really hit home the first time a health visitor visited us after Melian was born. The health visitor essentially ignored me the entire visit, only at the very end even turning her head to look at me. I was cuddling Melian the entire time (she was asleep). Indeed, the health visitor spoke more to min sverinde (Danish sister-in-law) than me. It made me feel so small and unwanted that after she left I cried gently, rocking Melian, saying quietly “Du har en far, du har en far” (which means “You have a father”) over and over again. Not for the first time.

There is a lot of ink spilled about bad fathers in this country. Personally I think the health and social establishment needs to take a long hard look at itself, because from the start it is made quite plain that fathers are not valued by the establishment. This happens in the official documentation. When the midwife first meets the new mother-to-be there is a question, that is mandated by law, asking if they are a victim of domestic abuse. This has to be asked when the father is not present. While this makes me angry I could understand it … except the obvious reverse question is not asked. Domestic abuse against men is one of the least reported, least understood crimes in modern society. It is reinforced in part by this sort of prejudice, where according the officialdom only men can commit domestic abuse. In our case I was not present for this question being asked, being at work, but our midwife was very apologetic to my wife knowing, I think, that the way this is handled is likely to offend.

Later on, on the visit we had from the health visitor before Melian was born she asked for my wife’s medical history, but not mine. Indeed, the form she was following did not have a place for it. Apparently, according to officialdom, fathers have no genetic influence on their children.

There were other incidents, little things mostly, little expressions that irked me. Sometimes I cried, other times I became very angry. Some times I became fearful. After all, these are also the people who can initiate the process to have our child taken away from you. That is their implicit threat: do things our way or else! Fortunately as Melian has gotten older their role in our lives has reduced.

There is one incident, however, that I think further illustrates just how unthinking the health visitor service is. A few months ago I had taken a few days off work to look after Melian while my wife attended a course. This was actually really enjoyable – three solid day-times looking after my daughter all by myself. I felt so proud of myself! Also, Melian and I had lots of fun together. Do not get wrong, I prefer time when my wife, Melian, and myself are all together – but given that is not always possible Daddy-time with Melian is very good too. Anyway, so on one of these days I took Melian to the local Childrens’ Centre to get her officially weighed and looked at. This is something they like you to do every so often, and on the merits it is a good idea. Apart from anything else they have properly accurate scales.

My wife warned me about something however. When you turn up you are asked to complete a small form. Really it is a kind of register, so the health visitors know which children have come to the centre that day (it being a drop-in thing). They then call them out in order of arrival. This form had on it the question, which I reproduce exactly: “Have you breast-fed your baby today?”. The unsubtle assumption is that they do not expect a father ever to bring their child to the centre un-accompanied. Just another way to make you feel worthless.

It was good I was forewarned. Forewarned is fore-armed, and I was able to joke with the two volunteers who help staff the centre about that. I spoke a little to a couple of the other mums that were there (I was the only man) and the group was welcoming enough. The health visitor who called Melian and I was less welcoming. Firstly it was quite plain she did not quite know how to deal with the fact I was an unaccompanied man, but she did her best to hide it. We spoke a little, I undressed Melian so she could get weighted, and lifted her up. The health visitor made a joke about daddy being brave, the implication that Melian might go to the toilet on me. The thing is – that is just what parents do. They pick up their children, and when they do their natural reaction is to hug. Frankly I couldn’t care less if Melian did her business on my shirt. She was less than a year old – it is what babies do! What did she think I would do, hold her out at a distance like some sort of yucky insect? To my great amusement, after she was weighed, Melian did wee on their scales.

I have other issues with health visitors, to do with how they seem more intent with ticking boxes and treating my daughter as a number rather than a human being, but those complaints are for another time. On the issue at hand, no matter how aggravating or annoying I have found the health visitors I know that none of this is actually malicious. Like many perpetrators of prejudice what can be so difficult is that they themselves are ignorant of the hurt they cause. Literally, they know no better, and there is nothing in their environment or professional situation to help them come to see what it is like from the other side.

This places a very high burden on the victims of such prejudice. One must become an educator, not an agitator. Agitators may gain notoriety, but usually they harm the cause they seek to help – usually by committing the very errors they are railing against. I am not saying I am perfect, because frankly I am not. Never the less, this is the ideal to which I aspire. To try to gently demonstrate to them why what they do is hurtful. I am expecting to face bucket-loads of this sort of prejudice as Melian starts school, and just from the teachers, so I should have plenty of opportunities to try and teach.

Meanwhile I hope to help raise Melian to understand equality, and so that she knows deep in her bones that there is a whole wide world of possibilities out there for her. To give her such confidence that when the world says to her “a girl cannot / should not do that” she gives the world a polite two-fingured salute and does it anyway.

Back in February the oven in our cooker stopped working. Actually we had a week where the oven gave up the ghost, the Foreman Grill surrendered to entropy, the central heating packed in, and the gas fire lost its spark – the last two on the same day just before three really quite cold weeks! Anyway, since then our cooking has been limited to what we could do on the cooker hobs, and subsequently on a replacement Foreman, and a microwave, toaster, and kettle. Now, one can cook a range of meals on all that, without resorting to supermarket ready meals. Never the less, after several weeks, you start to get cravings …

A joint of pork (or lamb, or beef) with crunchy roast potatoes, roast parsnips, and stuffing, and some carrots, all smothered in a rich gravy …

Anyway, last week the new cooker was installed, and we gave it full power trials with the above – and it was glorious.

However, the best thing about this Sunday dinner was not the good food (which was very good indeed, if I say so myself, as the totally unbiased cook), but was the fact Melian, my wife, and I all sat down and had Sunday dinner together. The same Sunday dinner, together. It is not quite the first time we have had a meal together as a family, but is the first “traditional” meal we have all had together where Melian at just what we ate. Well, we also mashed up some potatoes in case she did not like the roasties, but otherwise it was all the same.

A few posts back I was talking about the Danish concept of hygge, and this was a good example of a hygge moment. We all sitting at the same table (albeit Melian in her high-chair) eating together, and all enjoying ourselves.

Melian especially. She has a particular set of vocalisations she tends to use when she eats, signifying great approval. This is a little lady who really enjoys her food. The pork went down a treat, but best of all were the roast potatoes – and once we had dipped them in the gravy they became even better! Watching Melian is often a good way to remind oneself of just how enjoyable simple pleasures can be, and roast potatoes in gravy is probably one of those pleasures we should celebrate more.