Monday, June 25, 2007

Best and Worst

One of the best things about late pregnancy is the toe-curling, absolutely frabjous orgasms. It's supposed to be because of the increased blood flow in the area. Myself, I believe it must also have something to do with the sheer size of the muscles involved. My uterus has got to be just about the biggest organ in my body right now, apart from my skin. I have informed my other half that as a more experienced mother I shall be putting up with no nonsense; he can expect no sex for at least three months post the passage of the (simply enormous - his fault!) baby, so he best get his quota in now.

One of the worst things about being pregnant is that having children stirs up all sorts of stuff one thought was done, dusted and dealt with long ago. It creates new relationships between me and my family, which can be abused and neglected in new and creative ways. It presents novel opportunities for people whom one thought could never hurt one again to stick their boots in hard. It creates new causes of unhappiness.

Within 8 weeks of no 1's birth I had a discussion, with my postnatal class, about not allowing one's own bad relationship with one's father to prevent one's children having a grandfather. Several people in the group had this problem. How to step back, and not get in the way. Lots of people are far better grandparents than they ever were parents. They're so much more relaxed, later in life.

But what does one do when one's father is just not interested?

Jen loves playing with her doll's house. She picked up a figurine of an old, bearded man from somewhere, a wizard, and often makes him knock on the door to be let in. He's Grandpa, which surprised me as the only grandpa she knows she has is my other half's housebound father. Once he's in, she's at a loss. What do grandpas do, exactly? My own father is 30 years younger than the other. He's physically perfectly capable of visiting her. In the last three years I've heard from him twice - an email congratulating me on my pregnancy, and a text message the day after her first birthday. No answering phone calls, no reactions to voicemail, no reactions to emailed photos. This is my father! I lived with him for 20 years! Now they will be two. Two grandchildren he can ignore. Is it so hard, even to send a card at Christmas?

My mother has a theory that he's started a new young family and is too busy with them. I hope that's it. It would be better than him being ill with something undiagnosed, like depression or something. It would be better than finding out he just can't be bothered. I am always delighted to hear from people I knew only briefly, in school for a year or so. The efforts that people go to to stay in touch, the joy when contact is established, are quite phenomenal. Consider Facebook, and Friends Reunited. Surely, it cannot be that I made so small an impact on his life that I can just be dropped and never thought of again.

It feels very odd, that I am so dull a person my own parent has lost interest as the years have gone by. I thought I'd come to terms with it, it stopped bothering me long ago, but with the advent of each child the wound is reopened.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007


We started getting slugs in our kitchen, and the laminate started buckling in the middle of the floor. We thought, well, it's nasty cheap laminate they slapped down to sell the house and it's letting the damp through when we wash the floor. So we bought tiles to put down at some point.

On Monday, the first day of my maternity leave, I got so sick of the slugs I decided to rip up the
laminate flooring. You couldn't walk across the kitchen at night without shoes on, so many slugs were coming up to populate the land. I knew ripping the laminate up wasn't a big job as I'd done it before, a couple of years ago when they came to do some damp proofing, and we could darn well just live with the floorboards till we got round to putting tiles down. This is all a complicated excuse for the nest building instinct hitting, btw.

So I went ahead and pulled up the laminate. Only this time when it came up the underfloor insulation wasn't nice and dry as it had been, it was SOAKING. I had to send Jen to put on her boots. It was so wet, the hard cardboard underneath the insulation which you previously couldn't cut with a knife, was tearing off in shreds. And when I tore off the bit over the bulge in the middle of the floor I heard a hissing. I thought it was gas, and rushed to switch off the tap under the stairs. But it carried on, and didn't smell of gas ...

Suddenly it hit me that it was water! We had a hole in a pipe, and the laminate, far from being cheap nasty stuff, was so beautifully waterproof it had hidden the damp completely, not letting a drop through onto the kitchenfloor. It was palatial accommodation in slug terms. If I were a slug I'd've wanted to live there, and sent out to all my friends and relations to join me. It must've been leaking for over a year. The floorboards and joists are all perished, the washing machine has started to fall through the floor, and Himself put his foot through a floorboard on Tuesday. It was a great comedy moment, but not what one wants on a floor across which someone will shortly be walking holding a newborn.

So we've had terrifying conversations with builders all week. I scoured yellow pages for people who would book us in for a quote within the week - no easy task. You know what builders are, either they take one look and say it's too big a job for them, or else each comes with a new angle, worse than the last.

Yesterday we had a man from a building company which said they were specialised insurance claims managers. They wanted us to sign a piece of paper saying they were our preferred contractors and letting them deal with the insurance company for us. Including talking to the loss adjuster, all for free, they said generously, which nobody else would do for us. Then they'd find contractors to do the job for us, how kind. For some reason what they had to say had me totally confused. I couldn't understand what was in it for them, and being a good Kikuyu I was particularly alarmed about why, having signed this bit of paper, we'd not get to find out what sums of money were involved at all (in a tone to suggest we couldn't possibly want to soil our hands with such details). Himself came in while this was going on, refused to sign anything and sent them packing. Concept Solutions, they were called.

Later I worked out that they, as a company, make money solely from creating a difference between what the insurance company pays them and what it costs them to fix our kitchen. And they get us primed to pay for stuff too - e.g. tiles if they get broken in the removal of the units, because of course, they said, a new row of tiles would look different from the old ones so we'd want them all off and renewed. So having paid insurance premiums every month for years, we were to get ourselves into a situation where someone else could collect money from both sides, us and the insurance company. Oh, and no way it could possibly be done before the baby came!
We were talking at least two or three weeks' work, even after the claim went through! I can't believe there are enough mugs in the world to keep such a company in business, or that it's legal, but it is!

Well, the way I'm planning it the building work starts on the 2nd of July and will be over in a week, thank you very much. How long can one live on takeways and microwaved food, honestly? With a toddler and when nine months pregnant? Thank goodness the slugs are all fled, though! I couldn't believe I'd moved 6,813 kilometres across the world to still have slugs in my kitchen.

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