andrew's blog

The no-sleep cry solution

Last night we bit the bullet.

We decided it was time to turf Buffy out of our bed and into her own bed to sleep by herself for the very first time. At two years, one week and one day old.

Gramma had bought her a fantastic Dora the Explorer flip open sofa bed, that was just the right size for Buffy. Equipped with Regan's very own cabbage-patch doll from childhood, Gracie, it looked comfy and welcoming. But could we convince Buffy to sleep in it?

We started preparing early - cheering and clapping whenever Buffy went towards her bed. And rather sneakily, we interrupted her afternoon nap so that she would be more tired at bedtime. [Of course, we then paid the price for it later, as we had two grumpy girls to deal with!]

At bedtime, we let Katie stay up later so that Buffy could try to get to sleep without distractions. Amazingly, it all worked - she fell asleep within about 20 minutes! In her very own bed, with no tears at all! Incredible, really, considering how long she had been used to sleeping with us. We finished reading to Katie and she went to bed at about 8pm.

Then the fun started. There was an almighty thunderstorm, with howling winds, tremendous rain, lightning, loud thunder - the works. But the girls stayed asleep. We had won. Then the thunderstorm passed overhead and Katie woke up, frightened. At a particularly loud clap of thunder, she screamed at the top of her lungs and woke up Buffy.

Regan summoned every ounce of good parenting in her body to control herself. That said, the best she could come up with was "Get-to-bed-now-or-I'll-make-you-stand-outside". Clearly, such an idle threat was never going to work and Katie just stood there wailing. So then she decided that Katie must forfeit one of her 'good behaviour' flowers. That sobered Katie up, enough so she could go back to bed.

Buffy got back to sleep eventually, and was up perhaps three or four times in the night. But that's quite a result, and we know it'll only get easier from here. By the end of the night, I was even able to get her back to sleep.

An added bonus - Regan was able to get her back to sleep without nursing. So we can both look forward to uninterrupted sleep before too long... hooray!

Airport hassle

There seems to be a fad for slagging Heathrow. There has been a rash of articles recently about how horrible flying is and how intolerable the security processes are. For example, Marine Hyde has a good old rant here.

She is completely wrong. Heathrow might be a bit unpleasant, but it always was. However our American friends have taken mean-spirited Jobsworth spitefulness to a whole new level. All in the interests of security, mind.

At Heathrow, at the x-ray machines, we were greeted by a jolly middle-aged man with that ubiquitous mockney accent that everyone seems to have these days. He made sure he entertained the children while we waited in line. And after passport control they were making everyone take their shoes off. But an official saw us and pulled us out of line, bypassing the whole process. It was nice to see someone exercising their discretion.

No such luck at O'Hare at the x-ray machines there. We had to show our passports and boarding cards to a security guard just before the machines. Then we had to strip down almost to underwear so that everything could be scanned.

"Do you have boarding passes?" shrieked this unpleasant, stupid woman from the other side of the x-ray machine.

"I've got them", I told her.

So we went through. Only she wanted us to have the boarding passes in our hands, despite having had them checked not 10 seconds before by another security guard.

"Boarding pass check!" she yelled. "Boarding pass check! They need to show boarding passes!!!"

My bag came through the machine and I retrieved the boarding passes and showed them to her somewhat-more-relaxed colleague.

And we were allowed to proceed.

Quite why the first check wasn't good enough for our wannabe Ms. Stalin, or why a middle-class family with two children should be considered terrorists in the first place is beyond me. You'll get better security by enlisting decent honest travellers on your side, instead of assuming that everyone must be a terrorist until you've humiliated and prodded them into submission.

The guards we saw in the US were stupid, uneducated, unmotivated drones. As has been demonstrated before (after all, they let Richard Reid, the shoebomber, fly and waved through all the 9/11 terrorists) they're just following the script. Al Qaeda doesn't always play by the rules. We need a better quality of guard, able to use discretion, watching for anomalies and using professional judgement to determine who might be a threat to others.

The current system just doesn't cut it.

The Little Mermaid guide to growing up

The girls had been watching The Little Mermaid this morning; it was just finishing when I was drinking a cup of coffee. Ariel was kissing the Prince, and I commented to Katie how sweet it was.

After giving this some thought, Katie said:

"But she's sad to be leaving her daddy."

"It's okay - she's got her prince."

"Yes, and everyone has to leave their parents some time."

-- pause --

"Except me. I'm going to live with you when I'm grown up."

"You're welcome to... but will you help us do the cooking, cleaning, tidying up, shopping, paying the bills...?"

"No! That's not fair!" Followed by a major sulk.

Then Mommie asked Katie how much help we got from Katie towards the cooking, cleaning and bills at the moment.

"None."

"That's not fair!" Followed by a major (pretend) sulk.

Katie was still grumpy for a moment, then realised she was being teased and started laughing.

Gordon, you're killing the poor

Last night I caught an episode of Honey, we're killing the kids. This is one of those lifestyle programmes where they convince some feckless parent(s) to turn their life around. The hook in HWKTK is some clever computer-generated wizardry where mean-spirited CGI artists first make an ugly contorted aged picture of their children and then, when they've been scared into submission, a nice, healthy attractive aged picture. It's emotional blackmail, but it's rarely anything other than fascinating.

Last night's issue featured Sarah, a 38-year old "rock chick" and, er, "white witch", who had three kids who lived on a diet of chocolate, sweets, Playstation games and no exercise. She, for her part, smoked 50 cigs and drank 1.5l of wine every day. By the end, she had got rid of the sweets and Playstation, was cooking healthier meals, had quit smoking and drinking and had improved her life massively. Good luck to her.

But the savage truth of this story is how rubbish the Government was in this whole situation. The Government was quite happy to continue to fund her absurd lifestyle for as long as she was able to survive on it. And that funding necessarily comes out of our taxes. In effect, she was smoking and drinking taxpayers' money into an early grave. As one of those taxpayers, I am very unhappy to see my money being wasted in this way. Conversely, if she had been turning her life around with our money, that would have been money well spent.

But Government just throws cash in a bag at poor people and lets them fail. The genius of HWKTK is that it demonstrates that money isn't the problem. Sarah's problem was that she had no confidence in herself. Once her confidence was restored, through a few helpful hints on how to deal with her kids, and some singing classes, she blossomed. Government should be funding programmes and advice like that, not doling out money to people who it knows are incapable of spending it properly.

Secondly, because it's taxpayers' money, there should always be strings attached. Want to smoke and/or drink? Earn enough to be able to fund those purchases out of your own pocket. Want to sit at home being useless? Not on taxpayers' money you don't, no matter how many kids you have. Our mollycoddling of the poor would be just about acceptable if it were producing results, but it's now just being harmful. Gordon, you're killing the poor, not helping them. It's time to try a new way.

And, as a postscript, it's worth pointing out that the money she spent annually on her cig/drink habit would pay for most of a year's school fees at an independent day school.

Brown nixes the supercasino

So Gordon Brown finally does something right. He has killed off plans for a supercasino, suggesting that it would be better to put the money into regeneration itself rather than seeking regeneration as a by-product to a giant casino. This means we don't have to worry about those slot machines corrupting fragile northern working-class minds; nor will we have to pay for them wasting money they don't have and wrecking families in the process.

This is undoubtedly the right decision, and it's a position I have argued for all along. However, it's clear that a big part of Brown's decision will have been his willingness to prove his own moral backbone, in the face of this week's very effective and well-received policy announcement on families from the Conservatives.

Also there are a couple of questions:

  • Given that Brown now opposes the supercasino, why did he vote in favour of the original supercasino proposals? Is he likely to become a serial flip-flopper on other issues?
  • Greenwich Council and other local authorities expended a great deal of money trying to win the supercasino. It is now clear that this money was always going to be wasted, because the project was going to be canned. Some papers have reported the amounts as up to £200,000 per local authority. Will Brown now give us our money back?

The clunking fist in action

From Mary Mills's latest e-mail:

Bad – bad – bad – the notice has come through from the Department of the Environment Inspector that they have allowed the amusement arcade in Trafalgar Road against the council’s refusal of planning consent. I am so angry and
upset about this I can hardly write this. More comment when I have calmed down.

So in Greenwich, we have dutifully gone to vote for Councillors to decide local issues. These Councillors have formed committees, one of which met to decide whether to give planning consent for an amusement arcade on Trafalgar Road.

Having considered the application and taken representations from local residents likely to be affected by the arcade, the committee decided against consent.

And now a national government executive (i.e. unelected) department has overruled that decision.

What is the sodding point in participating in local issues if they're only going to be decided by a faceless Government moron trying to meet arbitrarily decided central targets?

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