Saturday, June 26, 2010

A born Gashead

Well, the first five days with Olivia have gone rushing by and I think I've slept about six hours in that time. What with all the feeding - not that I have much to do with that - the nappy changing (which unfortunately I now seem to be responsible for, and paints daddy as the ogre in this picture of family bliss) and cooking, washing and looking after my convalescing wife it has been pretty busy to say the least.
We have had some lovely moments with our new baby daughter, but others have been a bit traumatic. She managed to headbut me on the chin while changing her - not a pleasant experience for either of us - and there was also the great water disaster, where I managed to whip the nappy off just in time for her to empty the contents of her bladder. Ah, such is life.
The worst episode came last night, however. It has been extremely hot and little Livvy doesn't take much to the heat. Like most of us she because a bit hot and bothered.
By about 9pm she had worked herself into a right tiz, and rather than watch the remaining minutes of the Spain v Chile World Cup group qualifier I was given the duty of calming her down.
Well, I've found the car seat is an excellent invention, even when it's not in the car. She likes the security of being strapped in, I believe, but on this occasion even that didn't work.
Time for a nice drive then to put her in a better state of mind. I drove about three miles but the screaming failed to abait. Time, then, for a song. And being a Gashead it seemed only right that Goodnight Irene deserved an airing.
I started singing it with gusto, but changed the words to Goodnight Livvy, and made up a couple of verses, too. Lo and behold, somehow she settled down.
Unfortunately there comes a time when you have to whip her out of the car and back into the house. How to do it?
Well, I continued singing for 20 minutes in the stationery car, then gently removed the seat belt and lifted the car seat out. Then, no doubt to the consternation of my neighbours, I continued to sing outside in the driveway for another good 20 minutes while she found a calm equilibrium.
Getting her back in the house, she was as peaceful as a lamb.
All of this is leading up to a sincere apology to my beautiful daughter. Sorry, love, but even at this tender age you are destined for a lifetime of misery, disappointments and failure. Livvy, once you're a gashead, you're always a gashead.

She is a bit of an outdoor girl, that's for sure. One of the things that can turn her from screaming banshee to serene beauty is putting her in the seat and taking her outside the back door by the allotments. She can hear the traffic roaring down nearby Blackberry Hill and the birds singing away. At that time she seems totally at peace.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Baby food

AS I write this I can barely type, hardly speak and have just finished my first proper meal for about 36 hours. P*ssed again? Not a bit of it.
I've just spent the longest day of the year experiencing one of the most wonderful moments of my life... being at the birth of my daughter Olivia.
Many of you may have been aware that although we didn't know what the sex of our new child was going to be, I had been pretty convinced we would have a boy to carry on the Rippers dynasty. To that end, I have been talking all manner of boy things to the baby bump, like England's pathetic show so far in the World Cup, how my unborn child was destined to spend their life wallowing in the misery that comes with being a gashead and that should a posting come up with the Barmy Army they should sign up straight away.
Today, though, was the moment for home truths. Mrs Rippers and I left the house at 7am for the relatively short drive to Southmead Hospital, found the perfect parking place and checked in at the delivery suite.
As readers of this blog are no doubt aware, stubborn baby Rippers was steadfastly refusing to turn around and therefore was lying with head against poor mum's ribcage and bum facing in the direction the head should be. Hence, a week ahead of schedule we had been booked in for a c-section.
Mrs R wasn't too happy about it, feeling she would miss out on the extra chance to "bond" with baby during labour. I hesitated to mention she would also miss out on hours of agonising pain, and the feeling of having to squeeze a basketball through the eye of a needle.
The Southmead staff were absolutely first class. They warned us that things may take a little while to happen - particularly if an emergency caesarian came along - and at one stage we were half expecting to come back the next day with two people having gone in and no sign of anyone coming to fetch us.
Then, just before 12.30, our mouths dropped through the floor and our stomachs started to churn. It was our turn!
Well, when I say our turn, all I had to do was wheel the cases along to a storage room, then sit holding Mrs Rippers hand as they tore away her modesty, stripping her down, attaching various drips to her, painting her body like some Glastonbury hippy and giving her a short back and sides in a place where most hairdressers would fear to venture.
Finally, as she started to lose all feeling in her lower half, the surgeons entered and a curtain was erected in front of us so we couldn't see all the gory goings on.
I continued to talk quietly to Mrs R and the anaethetist while all manner of surgical operations were going on at the other end of the bed.
Then, in quicker time than either myself or my lovely wife could envisage, suddenly a little, wrinkly, beautiful, minature human being was shown to us over the curtain. A bit purple, I grant you, and protesting about such a rude awakening, but the baby was definitely here, clocking in at 1.55pm.
Then came the words that took me back only slightly. "It's a girl!"
Oh no! Many more years of being outvoted and ganged up against in my own home. How soon would she want an I-Phone, car insurance and, god forbid, a boyfriend? After all, I know what those boys are like. I used to be one.
Mrs Rippers and I had to quickly ditch the chosen name Cody for one more suited for the sex of our new-born. And looking into her eyes for the first time we both agreed - Olivia Jasmine.
After that we were transfered to a kind of holding room where Mrs R learnt how to feed the baby and I then dressed her for the first time in all her new clothes.
Eventually we were moved to the ward and, when the midwives departed to attend to more needy cases, we were suddenly left with this cute little bundle, totally dependant on us.
Twice, I'll have you know, I even instigated nappy changes while Mrs Rippers carried out the kind of tasks I was ill equipped for - despite the size of my man boobs.
And I admit it was only when I left the two of them to bond at 8pm that night I realised the enormity of what had taken place.
Holy Moly, I'm a dad again!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Getting ahead in advertising...

SOME of the most creative minds in advertising gather together to come up with a concept for a TV campaign for one of their big-name brands.
Each of those gathered around the table take home in the region of £500k a year with the opportunity to make massive bonuses if the company in question gives their innovative campaign the nod.
The guru at the head of the table throws the floor open.
"I've got an idea," says concept genius No 1. "I'm just throwing it up in the air, seeing which way the wind blows, wondering whether it will fly..."
"Go ahead, No 1. You've come up with some brilliant ideas in the past... pot noodle, mashed potato, car insurance... how on earth can you top that?"
"Well," explains concept genius No 1. "I thought maybe we could make it topical. I am thinking: What's going to be going on over the next month, what will get hours of TV time, what is one of the most popular sports in the world? I know it's a bit of blue sky thinking but... why don't we link it to the football World Cup?"
The faces around the table begin to light up as they consider such a novel idea.
"Brilliant!" says one concept genius.
"Outstanding!" says another.
"No one else will think of that. I can really pick the ball up and run with that one," says a third.
"Ok No 3," says the boss. "how can you actually visualise this working?"
"Well," says concept guy No 3. "We are trying to advertise cars. And we are trying to link it with the World Cup so... what about we get some cars, paint them in the colours of football teams, and get them playing football?"
"Wow! Brilliant. Tremendous. An absolutely mind-bending concept. Why don't we all give ourselves £1m bonuses and run with it."
The heads around the table nod vigorously.
"Right, that's one sorted. Now, there is this website advertising for people to sell them cars. Apparently they will buy anything. Any thoughts on this one?"
Concept guru No 2, feeling left out of the earlier discussion, chimes in... "Why don't we get a girl sat behind a desk as if she is reading the news. Then some catchy little jingle starts up with the words 'We buy any car' and suddenly... a football bounces across, she grabs it and then, along with six or seven dancers, she plays an impromptu game of keepy uppy, before sitting back down at the desk again."
"Superb!" says the boss. "That's a £1m bonus to you too, No 2."
The amount of advertising with tenuous links to the world's greatest sporting event is enough to make me rant at the screen. It has to be said that some of them are pretty clever - the Carlsberg England team talk and the ad which was updated with the boys in the middle of the desert asking about the World Cup scores are pretty inventive.
But when EVERY advert somehow manages to contain a football, or reference to the event in South Africa, you really start to despair. I wonder how that chocolate bar, famous for being deep fried in Scottish chip shops, is selling north of the border after pinning itself totally to the England cause. It is no wonder our footballers seem to move twice as slowly as some of the other teams in this competition if they have been indulging in sweet treats during the build up.
By all means advertise food high in protein or carbohydrate, but not the kind of stuff that, when eaten with gay abandon, makes you feel so bloated and cumbersome that it makes it a major feat to touch your toes. Perhaps England's goalkeeper Rob Green had been indulging a bit too much on free supplies of chocs from the England team sponsor before his glaring boo boo cost them the match in the 1-1 draw with the USA on Saturday.

There is a week to go before the big one - no, not England-Slovenia but the day little Rippers is brought into the world. Tense stuff.
Mrs Rippers and I are trying to relax as much as we can before the big event - and fortunately for me this means resting in front of the TV watching every match I possibly can.
I am already starting to wonder, though, whether this might classify as one of the more boring World Cups. There have been some decent stories but none of the football thus far - bar those blasted Germans - has really set the World alight. Mind you, we still have Brazil and Spain to come.

My little Clio Ramsey was supposed to be named after the famous Scottish chef by virtue of the fact he was a wee bit temperamental.
Now I realise that Gordon actually spells his surname with two a's. Sir Alf - manager of that England World Cup winning side of 66, does spell his name with an e, however. An omen?
God, I am starting to sound like all those people around me who know b**ger all about football but don England shirts, fly the cross of St George and endlessly talk themselves into believing we can win the damn thing when all the evidence says otherwise.
These bouts of "false" jingoism, no doubt inspired by marketing men and advertisers conning them out of their hard earned cash, really get on my t*ts.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Chile reception

Having a drink in the Batman on Thursday (the Batman being the new nickname for the "Cape" Horner in Wapping - can't think why) and it got around to quiz time.
One of our number warned us first that there were three answers and we had to get all three before hitting the imaginery "buzzer" and giving our reply. A race against time, then.
With the World Cup about to start in South Africa, all conversation has turned to football and our betting guru, Lethal, was convinced he could catch us out.
"Which three teams at the World Cup," he asked in his best Magnus Magnusson voice, "have the same letter at the beginning of their name as the end of it?"
Good question and there were fevered brows all around. I must admit that I could only think of one at first, then the second one came to me and I knew I was leading the race.
Then from nowhere Spurs fanatic Barry the Page-Builder buzz interrupted my train of thoughts. "Got it," he said with complete certainty. "Chile..."
All heads turned to him, with baffled expressions. "Oh no! That could only happen if it was Chile FC!" he gasped, as reality dawned.
To avoid spoiling it for everyone, answers on a postcard please... you'll get the correct line up in the next blog entry.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

2 for 1 cocktail madness

MET up with some of the old WoS crew on Monday for a few pre-baby beers (it may be my last chance for some time). Good to see the Fugitive and Danny Boy (the poipes, the poipes) though it must be said the day deteriorated somewhat after a leisurely few beers and a terrific lunch in Mimosas at Cardiff Bay.
I opted for the steak and although it came cut up, as if prepared for an infant, and sat on top of a square of chips that somewhat resembled a game of Jenga, it was beautifully cooked - though I do somewhat quibble at the price - £16. I guess you pay for the presentation.
Where it all deteriorated was when we returned to the city centre and, after a quick bevvy in the old new O'Neil's where we were joined by Wathanovski, the Fugitive suddenly had it in his mind that it would be a good idea to pop into Pica Pica because there was a 2 for 1 cocktail offer.
Now, I am all for 2 for 1 cocktails on a Friday or Saturday night from about 8pm, but on a quiet Monday at around 6.30? Still, there was no holding the Welsh rugby fanatic back and pretty soon we were chugging back Mojitos and some dangerous looking red drink. I have no idea what it was or what it contained.
By 8.30 or so I had wobbled back to the Sandringham Hotel where I was staying and the next thing I knew I was waking at 5.30am, lights blazing and tv blaring.
I do miss Cardiff.

The hotel itself was more than adequate and value for money at £36. It is located right in the middle of St Mary's Street and though it has seen better days it still had everything you could require as a crash pad after a boozy night out, including a full English breakfast that was all part of the overall price.

Mrs Rippers was distraught at the weekend. It appeared her internet had packed in, preventing her from single-handedly keeping in business. She rang Virgin Media's IT support without luck, cursing the "useless" person on the end of the phone who tried to advise her.
Eventually, three days later, a new wireless router turned up on the doorstep.
I tried to set it up but it kept telling me that it couldn't find the computer I was using - that was until I found the little switch on the side which enables you to access the internet and pushed it forward.
"Oh," said Mrs R, looking a little bit perplexed. "I wonder if that is the reason I couldn't access the net?"
A possibility, I reckon, but nice to get a brand new router into the bargain.

For someone who absolutely hates setting things up, I have found myself in my own personal hell over the last few weeks. First there was the Argos flatpack which, after much cussing, finally turned itself into a child's chest of drawers, and on Wednesday it was a large canvas covered wardrobe.
Mrs Rippers, in the advanced stages of pregnancy, sat on the big round ball she had obtained from Mothercare and acted as foreman for the afternoon while I battled with various sized planks of wood, screws and an Alun key.
I have to say the raw materials I was given to work with must have been put together by a mentally challenged chimpanzee which made the job even harder than it appeared to be in the first place. I found myself using words which, quite honestly, have never really been part of my vocabulary - phrases like "This joint isn't flush."
I guess if the job opportunities ever dry up I could find myself working for B&Q with that kind of language.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Car seat hell!

I am now getting a teensy-weensy bit worried about how my calm, mild-mannered personality is going to cope with a teeny weeny baby.
This occured to me at some time, mid rage, on Wednesday afternoon.
Having visited the hospital to find out a little more about the impending birth, Mrs Rippers and I returned home.
First we opted to complete the set of Argos drawers we had bought for the new arrival and, after a little bit of counting up to 10, we managed it - result. Then we decided it might be an idea to try to fit the super-dooper, all-singing, all-dancing car seat we had purchased into our motor vehicles.
At first, it seemed a simple task. It took me no time at all to get the seat into Mrs R's Micra Millie and I felt quite proud of myself. I even managed it with our stroppy teddy bear Fenway strapped into the seat. A rather big baby, I have to admit, but perhaps a bit more pliable than the real thing.
Then it came to my Clio Ramsey, and it was an entirely different story. I strained this way, pulled that way, swapped seats, swapped belts, everything. And none of it worked. Only one thing to do. Stomp up and down and express the opinion that "obviously they didn't have car seats when this car was built". Umm, 1998, actually. Thinking about it, that is probably a bit of a mad declaration.
Anyway, following my moto - if in doubt, give up - I stomped off back into the house, flinging the instruction book onto the table and declaring that I would need to get a new set of safety belts.
Fortunately my wife is a bit of a cooler character, and far more up with new tech. She went onto you-tube and found out exactly how the car seat should be fitted.
After coming down off the ceiling, I watched the video and was shocked to see how easily the task could be performed. Trying it out in Ramsey, the seat fitted... no problem. Which makes me ask: Why bother with such a ludicrously complicated, over long, instruction manual when a video does the job in half the time?

Meanwhile, the Fat Kid has lived up to my nickname for her. I call her the goldfish because, no matter what happens to her, she will go through exactly the same thing a few weeks later as if she has never encountered the problem before.
She is now going back out with ex boyfriend Scott. This was ex boyfriend Scott she moaned about excessively, who treated her worse than dirt etc.
A month later, though, and one more trip around the goldfish bowl...

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The name's Rippers...

I had a Daniel Craig moment in the swimming baths this morning. Ok, so Daniel Craig is tall, has rippling pecs, hair and has millions in the bank. I, on the other hand, can boast none of these attributes.
But as I climbed up the steps from the water I couldn't help notice that all eyes were turned on me. It was as if the blokes all wanted to be me and the women, ok they were all probably short-sighted and not one of them was below 50, all wanted to be with me. I walked cockily back to the dressing rooms, the sunlight glistening on my admirable torso, and hopped into the shower, feeling quite chuffed.
Then I spotted the rip that extended from the bottom to the top of one of the legs of my bermuda shorts. In fact, there was more resemblance to a cheap Hollywood hooker than the latest 007, star of the James Bond movies, who has become a pin-up for many frustrated housewives up and down the land.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised, really. The trunks have certainly had a lot of use since I bought them, what, at least 15 years ago I would think. Time to invest in a new pair, I reckon.

Mrs Rippers and I are trying to persuade young Rippers to turn around. With just under four weeks left until our lives change forever and the little mite pops out, he, or she, has decided to lie the wrong way around in a very strange position where the two little feet have somehow found themselves next to the head. Looks a bit uncomfortable and we are informed that this is the breach position. To correct this there has been plenty of advice, one piece being that Mrs Rippers should do the opposite to the baby and lie with arse in the air and head on the floor. Not exactly the most flattering pose and I can't see it catching on.
There is time yet, though, but if the little one doesn't feel like moving we aren't going to try to persuade it otherwise - it may well mean Mrs R has to have a c-section but we will wait and see what the doc says tomorrow.

Last night I made a rather tasty spicy Italian Lamb casserole.
What you need:
3 tablespoons olive oil
Lamb (I used two lamb steaks cut into cubes)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup red wine
3/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon of crushed juniper berries (I didn't have these so threw in five red seedless grapes)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
1 sprig of rosemary
12 small onions
2 potatoes, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

Pre-heat over to 350 degrees/gas mark 4
Heat the oil in a large casserole
Add the lamb in batches, season with salt and pepper, and brown over a high heat
Remove when browned.
Add the onion, celery and garlic to the remaining oil, reduce the heat and cook for 4-5 mins until softened
Return lamb to casserole and pour on marsala. Cook over high heat until dark brown and reduced by half.
Add chilli flakes, juniper berries (or grapes) and cook, stirring, for 10-15 secs.
Add tomato paste, chicken stock, rosemary and 1 cup of water, just enough to cover the ingredients.
Cover with lid and bake in oven for 45 minutes.
Add the small onions and potato and cook for a further 45 minutes.
Stir in the parsley, then serve.