Thursday, July 27, 2006

Trip to London, Passport Application

Today I had to go into London. One of my doctoral students had gone into meltdown (threatening to quit, to sue UCL, lodge formal complaints - not against me, I should add - etc. etc.). In the end, I felt I just had to go in to try and sort/calm things out: a crisis management/damage limitation exercise. However, I was equally determined to avoid the hot, sweaty, sauna-like-Silverlink commuter trains, with Amelia, and also to spend the least possible time in London, being as hot as has been. We caught the 9:47 Virgin (air-conditioned) train into London, in ample time for a 10:45 meeting. Amelia was very happy/interested on the way in; she even had a little nap.

Let me briefly backtrack in time. While I was rushing to get Amelia ready this morning, she was lying on her changing mat (on top of her chest of drawers), when Barnaby came into her bedroom. He started grabbing clothes out of the laundry basket and so I was momentarily distracted. My worst fear happened - while I was attending to Barnaby, Amelia fell off (from a height of about 1.5m)! Head first. Oh, how bad did I feel? Recently she has become fascinated by the shiny brass doorknob of her bedroom door and I think she must have been reaching forward for it, and just toppled over. I didn't even notice. Bad mother, bad mother, bad mother! I applied a cold pack and kisses and breastfed her for a bit and more kisses - but oh did I feel bad and wrong and guilty. (I did try hard, and think that I suceeded, to not take it out on Barnaby though; It really wasn't his fault.)

We had the meeting: I don't know if I've solved any of my student's problems. Sheep, heroically, took charge of Amelia during my meeting; he whisked her off to show her off to a few people in the department and then onto an early lunch, where I subsequently caught up with them. Then she and I were back on the 13:40 train (also airconditioned - heaven) Amelia slept all the way home (oh wonderful reclining pushchair).

When we arrived at Milton Keynes railway station, the skies were darkening and there were some ominous rumbles of thunder in the distance. I set off homeward at a cracking pace, rapidly quickening to a brisk walk verging on a jog. About halfway home some unfeasibly fat raindrops began to fall and I started jogging (well, tried to anyway, intermittent jogging would be more accurate. Loping perhaps?). Stupidly, I had not got a raincover for her pushchair. Actually, I do have one, but as it's her new pushchair, I've not needed to fit it on yet, in this heatwave. As luck would have it, we just managed to get home before the deluge began. And what a storm! At one stage it was raining down hail the size of small marbles! However, as soon as the rain stopped it was so, so hot again, you could actually see the steam rising from the paving slabs.

In the afternoon, I thought I'd better get some more UCL work done so I called a research colleague of mine at the University of Freiburg, with whom I am organising a conference in September. I'd been vacillating about attending (it's in Bremen) and was calling to confess my cold feat. (He'd also wanted me to give the introductory/welcoming speech/session so I felt really bad about this confession). One of my primary concerns was that Amelia would be in the early stages of getting used to nursery and that it would be too disruptive to take her out of nursery for the week, just after she had started. In the end, he persuaded me that we should just come for the weekend. I'd forgotten that our workshop is taking place on the Sunday before the week-long conference which starts on the Monday. He was quite right - there was nothing stopping us just coming in for the weekend! So, I got online and checked out the flights. It turns out that the only direct flights to Bremen (from Luton) are extremely late in the evening. And the last time I took Barnaby on a business flight (to Freiburg) it was an evening flight as was indescribably awful. Really, really awful.

So what to do? The problem is, is that this flight would be just after Barnaby's bedtime. Rather than falling asleep, he would get over excited and then become really difficult (on the Freiburg flight he wouldn't sit in his seat or put on his seatbelt or cooperate with anyone about anything). So, Sheep and I made a surprising decision. We're going to leave Barnaby behind and just take Amelia with us. EEEEEEEEEEEEEK! This will be a first for us. We've never both left Barnaby behind before. We called Leif (Barnaby's former nanny) and asked if he would come and stay for the weekend and look after Barnaby for 24 hours. Leif immediately said yes (we had given him some heads-up about this) and we booked the flights before we could change our minds.

We will fly to Bremen on Saturday evening, so Leif will have to give Barnaby his tea and get him to bed, and we will land at 22:10 at Luton on Sunday, so we should be home by midnight on Sunday night - ready to take Barnaby and Amelia to nursery on Monday morning! Leif will have sole charge of Barnaby all Sunday too - which is the day of our conference workshop. I think this is the right decision, as Barnaby would be quite bored at the conference, whereas Amelia will be too young to care and should sleep on the plane. However, I can see Barnaby being none too pleased with the arrangements when he sees us departing with Amelia! However, he is sure to have much more fun with Leif than with us (although we do feel a bit guilty about denying him the flight experience!). If the flights had only been during the day, it would have been a completely different matter - but they are at such unsociable hours of the day and there is only one flight a day (and Sheep is presenting a paper and I am kicking off the whole caboodle, so it's difficult for just one of us to go). But our first night away from Barnaby...

As soon as I'd booked the flights and hotel (so as not to back out again - I am such a wimp about travelling with one or both of them) I suddenly thought - aash, Amelia's passport... She hasn't got one. So I logged onto the Passport Agency's website and had a quick check and discovered that you can now apply online. So I did! You simply fill in all the details on an online form and then they send a hard copy of the form to you to check: you sign it and return it with a cheque (£35) and all accompanying documents. So - Amelia's first passport, eh? For the record, her application number is 147818312X. We'll have to do photos next!

Pet update. Bertie, the guest-hamster, is still alive and his visit has been extended. Barnaby actually plucked up the courage to hold him this evening. It's taken him a few days to get this far, Barnaby not Bertie, that is. We're probably going to keep Bertie for about a month now as his owners are now in the process of moving from Cambridge to Manchester (we may even keep him a bit longer, but this evening we committed ourselves to looking after him for at least the next month). On his way upstairs, to his bath, I asked Barnaby what he would call a hamster were he to have one of his own and he said, without hesitation "Inter-mono". How deliciously outre. (Of course, I was expecting him to say "Swimming Pond" so it serves me right trying to second-guess him.)

Final note on Amelia. Her cold appears to have disappeared. This evening, over dinner, while she was seated in her Bumbo, Sheep asked her if she was sated. In reply, she let out the loudest, most adult-timbre belch imaginable! We all burst out laughing: her comic timing was impeccable.

Final note on Sheep. He heard today that he's been shortlisted for a job at UCL. His interview is Tuesday. Oh, and can he prepare a ten-minute presentation please? They don't give you much warning do they?

Final, final comment, It's 00:47 and Amelia is straining to do a poo in her sleep. It sounds like a really painful one. I wish I could do it for her. Looks like I'll be changing a nappy in a minute or two. So begins my Friday.


At 3:39 pm, Anonymous Dad said...

I felt for you again, for Amelia's drop when you were distracted! OOOHHH!

Just or info, the southern tip of your thunderstorm reached to Santander, and there were hail stones the size of marbles. It rained so much in a short time that the garage in Isla flooded up to 700/800 mm wetting the interiors of the Rolls and Bentley and soaking several big cardboard boxes of books that I had stored in the garage! Luckily I had given the key to our neighbor there allowing him to park his car in return for keeping an eye on things, and he has all our stuff out in the sun today. Grooo.

At 10:53 pm, Blogger Arcy_Dee said...

Thanks for the sympathy. Mum rang me; she was highly sympathetic towards Amelia and less so towards me. I feel bad enough as it is, so it's nice that one of my parents isn't blaming me.

At 7:13 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The interiors of the Rolls and Blentley never were wetting.


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