Monday, September 25, 2006

Amelia's First Academic Conference

Well, the long and the short of it was that it was OK; my worst fears did not materialise and on the whole it was far better than I could have hoped.

Leif arrived much later on Saturday than planned so there was a less of a hand-over, with Barnaby, than I'd have liked, but it was all ok. (Barnaby loved the tool box). Amelia, sadly, cried all the way to the airport. Things seemed like they were going downhill rapidly when we had to check in one of our bags, originally intended as hand luggage, into the hold, as toothpaste is now banned in the cabin (and who doesn't travel with toothpaste?). But we were told that we could take baby food for Amelia if we placed it in a clear plastic bag (which the check-in desk provided). After frisking Amelia at the x-ray security stage (c'est la vie, Barnaby was frisked each and every trip in/out of America), all of her baby food was chucked in the bin by the over zealous x-ray machine operators. They at least had the courtesy to debate it (one wanted it thrown, the other didn't, "It's baby food: a baby needs food!") and they did make us the offer to sit by the x-ray machine and force feed her as much as we could - how generous - but in the end, it was all binned. The waste irritates me profoundly. At this point, I was rapidly regretting the whole plan.

However, that was the nadir of our trip; it rapidly got better. The plane left on time and we were allowed through early: there was no riotous stampede, as was the case when we took Barnaby to Freiburg, and Amelia slept like an angel on the flight. Once at the hotel (about 9:00 GMT and hence 'Amelia-time') I quickly got her ready for bed, fed her and she was settled and asleep in half an hour. Sheep offered to stay with her, babysitting, as he wanted some quiet time to go through his talk once more; I went downstairs to meet with the other organisers in order to make last minute arrangements. I sent dinner up to Sheep via room service and I must say, Sheep got by far the better deal, food-wise! The hotel was lovely: they provided us with a cot and a rubber duck for the bath (unused). I realise that this was Amelia's first night away from home!

In the morning, I had another organisational meeting over breakfast (6:45 'Amelia-time'), which Amelia attended but didn't eat anything as it was probably a bit early for her (I tried valiantly). Sheep had a lie-in. Then onto the conference.

It went extremely well and Amelia was a big hit. I was sitting at the front (as organiser, as panelist, as session chair...) and Amelia crawled around merrily on the podium, behind our chairs but hidden by the 'vanity screen'. Note the baby rattle and 'bead/wire' toy.

It was a good location for her to practice her crawling and she seemed to find the A/C floor ducts particularly fascinating.

And here is Amelia schmoozing with the keynote speaker, Professor Hillier...

I performed nappy changes on the stage (hidden by the screen), breastfed her sitting on the podium, bounced her, rocked her etc. etc. I actually don't think anyone noticed the breastfeeding! Everyone remarked on how good she was, what a nice atmosphere it created and she was photographed frequently. I believe the comments were all genuine and no one seemed irritated to have her there.

She also raised a laugh when I gave my paper (Sheep was holding her in his arms while I talked) and then my paper was immediately followed by Sheep's so we walked across the podium and exchanged Amelia en route as Sheep stepped up to the lectern (cue laughs). She only whimpered a few times during the day and between us we managed to ensure that neither of us missed too much, if one or other of us had to leave the room with her.

All in all, the day went as well (and from a professional perspective better) than I could possibly have foreseen.

However, on the way home, things were a little less than ideal. Our flight was delayed leaving Bremen by half an hour (but compare this to 90 minutes when we flew with Barnaby to Freiburg...) and our luggage was very slow to be released into the baggage claim area at the other end. Amelia, who had once again slept peacefully through the flight (thank you, thank you, thank you), awoke while we were waiting by the carousel. Here is a picture of her looking groggy and somewhat disorientated (and Sheep looking very tired too).

By the time we made it back to the car, Amelia's patience had reached its end and she wailed piteously all the way home in the car (which at least made for an extremely symmetrical journey). This was particularly difficult for us as we were both tired as well and we didn't get home until after midnight. What an utterly exhausting day. Leif was there to greet us and seems to have had a good day with Barnaby.

Amelia slept until 9:00 this morning at which point I had to rush out as it was the start of term at UCL today ('meet and greet' the students) so Sheep and Leif took her and Barnaby to nursery. I think she had a lovely calming day at nursery today though, as there were only two babies in the baby room, so she had lots of cuddles and one to one attention. She ate loads, slept for a whopping 2 hours and 20 minutes at midday (why am I not surprised?) but still drank next to no milk...

When Barnaby awoke this morning, he rushed in to see us (as he was obviously asleep when we all crawled in) and I invited him into bed for a cuddle. When I asked him if he'd had a good time with Leif, he said 'Yes' without any hesitation. Then when I asked him what they had done together he replied, "We ate carrots!".


At 7:07 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amelia looks very like BArnaby at the carousel! Not suprising. Glad you had a good trip, all things considered,

Yer ol man.

At 4:21 pm, Blogger Arcy_Dee said...

Actually, I juist realised that it wasn't Amelia's first night from home as that took place during our mini holiday on the Isle of Wight! It was, of course, her first flight and first trip out of the country and first time away from Barnaby...


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