It cant just be the crazy ‘new baby’ hormones that make me think: yes. Yes it is. Nice work, Toys R US.
Also: ouch. Ouch-c-section-scar. Ouch-breastfeeding. Anyone got any ideas for making either of them less… ouch?
We apologise for the interruption to normal services… This isn’t about kids, really, or anything I’d usually blog about here. It’s about my friend Kieron.
Kieron is a journalist. A really fine, principled, journalist. When I went back to work for a big newspaper after Johnny was born, I fell into the habit of trying to cover every news story I could with him. Not just because he was so good at his job that he made me look good too, but because - in a very male, often competitive environment – he was kind and thoughtful too. He’s the sort of man who always stops to think about everyone involved in a story – from the people in power at the top to the people reaping the consequences at the very bottom. For him, decisions weren’t made just according to what we could get away with, legally, but also according to what was right, ethically.
He went freelance at the same at me, the same I started this blog. About a month ago, he accepted an assignment covering a Greenpeace protest in the Arctic. We saw him for supper a couple of nights before he left and he was excited. We knew not to expect any news of him for a good few weeks. What we didn’t expect was that the next we’d hear of him would be on the BBC News, in a report stating that the ship he’d been on had been seized by the Russians, towed at gunpoint to the northern city of Murmansk and that 30 people on board had been charged with piracy. Kieron was among them, even though he’s not even an activist, just a journalist covering a story.
Last week he was denied bail. He doesn’t look well in the photo that accompanied the news stories. He’s currently spending 23 hours a day in a cell with no hot water and one Russian inmate for company. They can’t speak each other’s language, he has lost his glasses, and Foreign Office staff who managed to gain access to him described him as “emotionally drained and confused.”
Kieron is not a pirate. To most British people, he’s a journalist. To readers of this blog who’ve been around for a while, he’s the guy who made this film of Johnny:
To me and Tom, he’s a brilliant friend. And to our baby - the one arriving in a few weeks now – he’s her godfather. We didn’t expect to have to ask him via an email that will delivered to his cell by a Russian lawyer, but we’re very proud all the same. And we want him home to meet her when she’s born. So PLEASE, sign this petition to get Kieron, and the Greenpeace team he was documenting, released.
So on Friday I did something almost as terrifying as that time I was nearly sick on Australian breakfast TV. I didn’t tell anyone about it beforehand, in case I actually was sick this time.
I was in a live debate on Woman’s Hour. I don’t think I was sick, though since I’ve been too cowardly to listen back to it on iPlayer, there’s every chance that I was and have simply wiped it from my memory as a self-preservation mechanism.
If you want to find out, I’m right at the end here (can’t tell you the exact time code since, as I said, I haven’t listened to it). Please don’t tell me if I was. Because in my own, warped memory, it was actually really fun – Broadcasting House; a professional studio with headphones and a soundboard; Jenni Murray… And radio. Who doesn’t love radio? You can be communicating with an audience live, yet still be in your pyjamas with three-day-unbrushed-hair. Bliss.
… with a little understanding. Actually, we’ve required a lot of understand from the very start, when J was six months old for example, with reflux, and screaming morning, noon and night…
When you’re budgetting, though, you suddenly find it’s even more important. J’s two and a half now and we’ve never, once, paid for a babysitter. It’s partly down to our routines, I guess. Being a bit broke means we don’t go out to restaurants, we go to friends’ houses for supper instead, driving there with J and slinging him into their bed till we’re ready to lift him out and drive him home. But at around once a fortnight we go Out-Out: to the pub for a drink or, gasp, to the cinema perhaps. And that’s when we call on the services our amazing, baby-sitting co-operative.
It’s an incredibly sophisticated and complicated system and it works like this: around five local families with kids pool together and regularly sit for each other for free. So one night, I’ll go round to the Millings, who live a couple of roads away, while Tom stays here with Johnny. The parents-Milling go out, I sit on their sofa, enjoying their tea and biscuits and nice clean house, till they get home. A couple of weeks later, one of them come round here – to our slightly grubbier house and lower-grade biscuits – and tom and I paint the town red (or, at least, pale pink).
Since we’ve been trying to live more ‘freely’, the system’s expanded enormously. The pool’s got wider, we’ve made lots of new friends and the swapping’s extended from babysitting services to include toys, clothes and play dates when the numerous freelance mums in our neighbourhood need to grab an hour for a meeting in the middle of the day.