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spikegifted.net - Archive Q2 2011

June 2011:
Home: There was nothing that could have compared to my feeling of being a part of a family. Moreover, this was my own family. Having spent many years living away from my parents, I have not had the personal experience of a family. When I visited my friends and their families, it was time to observe how they would function. If I was honest, I was fascinated as my personal experience pretty much stopped progressing the day I came to the UK. It was fascinating in the sense that for my folks and for a small number of my relatives, I was still that thirteen old kid who left home to go aboard. However, as the saying goes, a lot of water has past under the bridge since those rather innocent times. As such, I was constantly watching how my friends interact with their folks, taking what I saw and compare with my own experience with my family. That was then, this was now. I am now a father to two boys, and while I used to imagine how would act and react to my children, being a father is very different from watching my friends and their family. The Ruler_of_spike and I are incredibly lucky to have the boys. We love them in ways that are beyond words... I really did not know why I wrote the above. However, that did not diminish what and how I feel about my family. May be it was the series of news items that had dominated the news. It could have been the fact that Father's Day has just passed. In fact, it could have been a whole host of different things. Frankly, it did not matter. What was important was the fact that I had a family and I would do anything for them.
Work: Our team and our work were placed under continuous scrutiny. That, in itself, was not necessary a bad thing. We were not afraid of responsibilities and certainly not shy from being accountable. After all, providing transparency was something we worked hard towards. Each member of our team knew our clients' progress intimately. By having the spotlight on us, it would have been useful as it would have highlighted our role in bringing about successes under difficult circumstances. On the other hand, having the wrong (you would notice that I used the word 'wrong' instead of the usual 'incorrect', but in this case it was just plain wrong) measurements, it would our team look like a bunch of duds! This was what was happening: we have been interfered by a bunch of management consultants who were narrowly focused, unwilling to listen, incapable to understand and, ultimately, in my opinion, incompetent. Yet, their 'legacy' lived on. We, as a team, were wasting a colossal amount of time fiddling around our pipeline spreadsheet. All eyes were focused on a few 'KPIs' (key performance indicators). Even the language used was offensive - we were being treated like a production line. However, we were anything but a production line. Our team actually produce very little real work. The vast majority was done by the teams that were involved in the on-boarding of the clients - the due diligence team (a compliance-like function), the credit risk teams (and there were many) and the legal teams. If things were going well, there was no reason for us to get involved. However, we got involved when things were not going well as we tried to unblock the blocking points, or to push along high priority files. As such, forcing us to give updates on things that were progressing within the agreed time frames was a waste of resources. On the other hand, rapping us on delays that we were not responsible for, and we were there only to help, was just insane, in my limited opinion. Yet, we heard complaints along the lines that there was insufficient 'throughput' from our team. Clearly, there were people who did not have the foggiest idea the reason of our existence. Or these people just did not want to understand. The result was that our teams had wasted a massive amount of time to produce some numbers that were meaningless and charts that were pretty but contained no useful information. However, the important question was not answered: why. We could not figure that out. Even a limited acknowledgement of how inappropriate these so-called 'performance indicators would be a major victory for us. However, we did not anticipate such acknowledgement as our senior management had to justify the cost of involving these management consultants and it would even more damaging to even admit that nothing was done to halt the insanity these people brought along. So we were being dragged along this madness to the detriment of our work. That was a double tragedy!
Home: London has not had that much rain lately. We have had a couple of really dry months: April was dry and sunny, while May was dry but not much sun either. Our back garden was not a pretty sight - there were large areas of the lawn that were dried up and some of the plants were really struggling. We have gradually used up the collected rain water in the water butt and I even used the sprinkler a few times at dusk to try to keep the plants from getting too dry. Then came June and the heavens opened up. After the first week of the month, it was raining almost every for two weeks. And it was not the usual horrible drizzle that the UK was so 'famous' for. At times, it was downpour (nice)! In the beginning, we welcomed the rain as it was much needed. However, by the beginning of the second week of rain, it was getting a little heavy going. Yes, our lawn was green again and the plants were happy, but it also limited the range of activities the Ruler_of_spike could do with the boys. Moreover, commuting carrying a full-size golf umbrella was not the most convenient thing to do in London, so I tried to avoid carrying the umbrella even though there were times when there was a good chance it would rain. Luckily, I have managed to avoid most of the downpour even when I did not have any form of protection with me. Fortunately, the Ruler_of_spike has reminded me, otherwise I would have ended up soaked through even before I got the train station in more than one occasion! Again, she has been my saviour!
Home: There was hardly a day went by without the boys doing something new! Almost every day, the Ruler_of_spike had stories of what the boys had been up to while I was at work. And what I was told was just fascinating! For example, Master Cheeky was a cautious little boy. If there was any sudden noise, he would retreat to a safe distance, then made his observation and if he thought it was ok, returned to what he was doing before. Master Chill, however, was all action. Having seen the Ruler_of_spike using the steps to get to the upper reaches of our kitchen cupboards, he followed her example and used a toy (a bus) as a step to get on the coffee table in the living room, in order to lean against the window to look outside. He even managed to pull the ceramic lid (read: heavy) off the cistern! Needless to say, it was smashed when it hit the floor. Not to be outdone, Master Cheeky regularly pushed stools, chairs and other light furniture around. Often they 'worked' together and moved things around to the most unexpected of places. I was sure it was a lot of fun to watch, but there was always a mess to clean up afterwards...
Home: Master Chill has been spending increasing amount of time standing up or in the process of trying. Watching him and his older brother, Master Cheeky, making their own progress was fascinating. We, adults, take standing and walking for granted. We do not need to make any conscious decisions in maintaining ourselves upright. Yet, as we watched the boys, for young children, it was clear that a massive amount of 'processing' were taking place inside their little heads. They have been able to stand holding to something, usually our trouser legs, coffee table or whatever available to them. While doing that, they would appear to be standing just fine, which was correct as their little bodies did not have to be continuously adjusted to remain upright. However, there were times that they were left to stand on their own little feet and we could immediately observe how their bodies were struggling to maintain their upright position, at least to start with. There was the slight swaying which was owed to the different groups of muscles reacting to the changing positions of the bodies. Their little brains were processing massive amount of signals being fed by their sensory systems, resulting in waves after waves of commands going to the various parts of the bodies to maintain whatever positions they were in while allowing them to carry on doing whatever they were doing, like picking up a toy or reaching for something. For me, it was most evident when I observed how Master Chill tried to pick up a full size rugby ball while trying to stand upright. It was a beautiful display of how their little brains were developing, learning, reacting and adapting to their surroundings and new situations. Once they had master the art standing upright on their own, they were learning to improve their mobility while standing - taking a few steps while holding on to something. Each tiny bit of progress was not immediately obvious, but their developments were laid out in front of our eyes. How fast the boys were growing and developing!
Home: It had been a few days since the boys stopped having their coughs and colds and they seemed to be back to their usual happy selves. However, Master Cheeky suddenly showed signs of having bronchitis. We put the boys to be on a Saturday evening and they seem fine. However, at around 11pm, Master Cheeky woke up complaining. I would not say that he was struggling for breath, but his breathing was labored. Based on my personally past experience, the looked like he was suffering from either a chest infection or bronchitis. The Ruler_of_spike and I quickly made the decision for me to take him to the children A&E at the hospital. After the initial examination by the nurse and a subsequent more thorough examination by the paediatric doctor, it was determined that he was suffering from bronchitis. Master Cheeky was first put on a nebulizer, which helped improving his breathing. However, the breathing mask really bothered him, but luckily I managed to keep him calm and he sat through that treatment. He was then given a mild steroid dissolved in Ribena which opened up his airway. Finally, he was given an inhaler with salbutamol, which I had to hold over his nose and mouth to make sure that he inhaled the drug. He hated that one last treatment. The problem was that we were in the hospital and the nurse was looking over us and she wanted observe me to ensure that I was administering the inhaler correctly. Therefore, I did not have the opportunity to play with him and turn the treatment into a game. I got the inhaler treatment out of the way as soon as possible and drove back home with Master Cheeky. By the time I got back, it was nearly three o'clock in the morning. He was put to bed as soon as we got through the door and he fell into a deep sleep without showing any sign of difficulties in breathing. Over the coming week, the Ruler_of_spike had to continue with the inhaler, but at least we had the time to play with him and he took the treatment without making any more fuss. 
Work: There has been a lot changes at work. For around three months, we have had both internal and external management consultants looking at our team and how we function. While we were all too busy to take too much notice at their work, these consultants showed even less enthusiasm in finding out what we did. It was not an exaggeration to say that they spent less than an hour with us to 'understand' our work. What was even more amazing was that when they spent time with us (or the one single person in our team), we were not working as we tried to explain to the consultant the details. The consultants made no attempt to obtain our true workload nor did they demonstrate any appetite in engaging with us. What transpired, ultimately, was that they treated our team as another production line. They treated us no different from a car assembly line in Detroit or a widget maker in SE Asia. They, as far as we could tell, took no consideration on the fact that our work was highly contextual. Furthermore, they discounted on the varying level of complexity in the workload. Instead, they homed in on our weekly meetings (an inefficient platform for information sharing) and report production (a massively time consuming exercise), and made the meetings even less efficient and the reporting even more time consuming. Their report to our senior management was treated as the gospel. Our management constantly talked about the legacy of the project, which was fine as long as project produced positive outcomes. However, the project basically reinvented the wheel, increased inefficiencies and made management concentrated on some comparatively useless statistics. In my opinion, the worst part of it was their suggestion was to align our team to that of one the team that provide services to us. Instead of looking at how the people who we serviced, they looked that the wrong end of the pipe. We had high hopes for the project consultants at the beginning of the process. Instead the left us in total disappointment and a feeling that our work has been reduced down to some meaningless numbers on a chart.
Home: The boys had good appetite! Looking at what they were eating now, it brought back memory of the time when we were just moving them to solids last November. When the Ruler_of_spike first started cooking for them, we invested in a neat little steamer-blender which as the name suggested, cooked the food by steaming and could be used to blend the food once it was cooked. It was easy to use and it served it purpose well. When the boys had just started on solids, the amount of food they consumed was small, so we could freeze the remainder. It worked well to start with. However, as the boys' appetite improved, there was little benefit in freezing the food - by the time it was frozen, it was time to defrost it. Not long after that, the Ruler_of_spike had to cook double the amount in one go so that she did not have to cook too often. That did not last long either. From March onwards, she was cooking nearly every other day as the amount of food would only last for three meals (breakfast consisted of baby muesli). Finally in the past couple of weeks, she was cooking every day! As the food prepared in one session would only last for just over two meals. It was fantastic to the boys eating more and more, but it was hard work for the Ruler_of_spike. The cooker-blender was just not designed to handle the appetite of two hungry babies.
May 2011:
Home: Rush, the Canadian rock trio, came to the UK for their latest world tour. A few months back, my friend informed me of the date of their London gig and we went ahead and got our tickets. Owing to the going on at home and at work, I have nearly forgotten about the concert. It was the Ruler_of_spike who reminded me of the outing - she has a better idea of my social life than I do. The concert was in the O2, embarrassing known as the 'Millennium Dome'. It was been labeled the 'premier music venue of Europe'. I have to admit that I have not set foot in place before. The seats we had were high up the third seating layer. They were high up from the floor of the arena. I was told that there was a warning at the time of booking that there was a warning not to book the seats if you suffer from vertigo! As per usual Rush performances, there were no warm up acts, so when the music started, they got down to the night's entertainment right away. One of the reasons for my love for this band was that while their ideas were serious, they certainly did not take themselves seriously. After a quick intro video, the trio appeared on stage and they were rocking straight away. They went through old and new songs with their usual energy and precision. But then I was wondering why the marketers of the venue and others called it the 'premier music venue of Europe' for the acoustics of the place was horrible. Had I been looking for musical fidelity, I would have been bitterly disappointed. Fortunately, I wasn't. The three members of the band were performing with such energy that would many younger folks to shame. These were three guys approaching their sixties, yet they performed like bands with members half or even a third of their age. With total dedication to perform as faithfully as possible to the original sounds produced in their studio albums, it was demonstration of musicianship at the highest level. With over 35 years of material to chose from, they had no problem filling a full three-hour show. We left the arena with our ears ringing, but totally satisfied.
Home: Having shaken off their colds and coughs, the boys were 'back in business'! The Ruler_of_spike kept the boys indoors just to make sure they did not pick up anything too soon and the boys had their adventures in the house... They were nearly fourteen months old and have gotten very mobile on their hands and knees. Moreover, they were standing up either holding on to things as well as on their own. You cannot imagine my surprise when I saw Master Chill tried to stand up on his own while picking up a full size rugby ball at the same time. Almost nothing in the house was out of their range. I could see the evidence all over the house as there were numerous hand prints on the French windows, glass of the kitchen door, trash cans, oven door, etc... When I returned home after work, the Ruler_of_spike would fill me in on the happenings of the day. They worked so well together. For me, one of the funniest examples was they managed to lift the lid and the toilet seat of the downstairs toilet and then get their hands into the water and had a splash around. Of course, they left the wet hand prints all over the floor of the kitchen and utility room. Not to mention that their clothes were wet. And then they went back to their toys and proceeded to pick up various items and put them in their mouths. Awesome. I just the way that they were totally fearless. obviously, there were things that scared them a little, usually because they were not familiar with the noise like the toilet flush or the dishwasher. However, they just moved on and continue the exploration elsewhere. Needless to say, being inquisitive and adventurous as they were, it did not take them long to find something else to do in the house. Anything was fair game to them: their toys, pots and pans in the cupboards, furniture, and pretty much everything that they could get their little hands on. For the Ruler_of_spike, the days were a long series of tidying up after them and watching out for them so they would not do anything that would harm themselves or would cause too much damage. Who said looking after kids was a piece of cake?!
Home: There must be something in the air... I felt a dry throat in mornings and had a runny nose for a while. It then developed into a cough and a cold. Although unpleasant, it was not really a big deal. This something in the affected the boys also. As usual, it was Master Cheeky who picked it up first. It started with a runny nose, which went on on its own for several days. Then he began to cough as well. And it was a proper cough - literally thick and chunky! By then, Master Chill had picked up the same thing. Not many things could stop Master Chill from having fun and a cough and a cold was not one of them. By contrast, Master Cheeky has perfected the 'man flu'. He was doing his usual complaining, without the spoken word. He was driving the Ruler_of_spike to distraction. There was nothing we could do to stop his cold except letting it run it course. Hence, there was nothing we could do about his complaining. Oh dear... His complaining was persistent. The Ruler_of_spike and Master Chill had to listen to that for days. Eventually, and thankfully, his cold passed and he was better, and he stopped complaining. Master Chill has also shaken off his cold a couple of days later and the boys were cruising again.
Home: One of my cousins came to visit us in London. While I have many cousins, living all over the world, they have primarily settled in Australia and North America. So it was rather unusual that this particular cousin lived in Finland, and doubly so as he spent most of his time working in southern Africa. You could not find two more contrasting places even if you try. Anyway, he has been trying to hook up with us a couple of times already, for one reason or another the timing was never right. So when he came to our house, it was almost four and half years since he last set foot there. It was great to catch up and listen to his adventures in southern Africa - a place that was full of mystique and dangers - and his work has often led him off the beaten track. It took skill, bravery and a large dose of self confidence to work in a place like that. A couple years back, he had invested in a professional grade digital SLR camera and he had it with him. In the boys, he has found couple of willing subjects. He took a great many photos of them and us. Compare to our aging compact digital camera, his SLR camera was just lightning fast. The boys loved all the attention and they were behaving like little champions. Sometime during this long and exhausting day for my cousin, we managed to squeeze in a meal. I tried and successfully burnt the sausages on the BBQ. Somehow, he consumed it all, but probably owed to hunger than choice. Even after such a long and grueling day, he managed to process a few of the photos on his laptop and sent them over on e-mail.
Home: Typically, on an average week, it was highly unlikely that I would finish work early enough to get back home before the boys went to bed. So I would most likely spend time with the boys at weekends. Then, there was one weekend when the Ruler_of_spike had to go into London for most of the day. So I got to spend time on my own with boys. The last time that happened, I was hoping to watch some rugby with the them but, of course, that did not happen. This time round, I did not make any specific plans. I figured that I would be busy just keeping them entertained. They were such great fun to be with. At this point in time, one of their favorite thing was to go to the cupboard in the kitchen and emptied all the pots, pans, lids, colanders, etc. onto the kitchen floor. While I removed most of the items as soon as the emerged from the cupboard, I left the lids to the boys. And what great time they had with them, not to mention the amount of noise! I am not a talent-spotter, so I am have no authority to comment on whether they have any talent, but I knew they were enjoying themselves! They enthusiasm was infectious! I even tried to teach them how to bang two lids together. We also had a great time with the rugby balls, wooden bricks, mini buggy... But, wow! This was hard work. In between feeding them, playing with them, putting them to rest and tidying up after them, there was little time to do anything else. That was why I was so grateful of the Ruler_of_spike. She handled all of this and more every day for months on end, with break and with no help. Somehow she managed it... Now, that was dedication! Thank you!!
Home: A day crossing with a pair of active twins was no laughing matter. Unlike a night crossing, the boys were in no mood to rest, even they should have taken their morning and afternoon naps. All they wanted to do was to play and to explore the cabin. The drive back to London was uneventful. As soon as walked through the front door of our house, we could feel the difference in the atmosphere between the house in London and the one in France. Being a Victorian semi, the house in was sectioned into 'functional' areas: living room, dining room, kitchen, etc. This was a complete opposite of the arrangement in France where it was very much open planned. The contrast in the way the boys behaved was marked. In an open-planned space, we could be doing things in the kitchen and the boys could see and hear us, even though they were in the opposite end of the house, they felt reassure and did not feel the need to come over to seek our attention all the time. On the other hand, with walls and doors in the way, while the boys might hear us, they tended to follow us around more.
Home: About the down side of traveling by ferry was the return trip. The ferry left St. Malo at around half past ten in the morning, which meant we had to left the house in no later than six in the morning. That was fine for there was the two of us. However, now that we had the two Masters, it was tough going in the morning. We had to wake them, feed them, change them, pack the car and clear the house. Basically, it was a lot of stress. This time round, we were invited by one of the Ruler_of_spike's friends, who lived near St. Malo to stay overnight immediately prior to our return trip on the ferry. It was an incredible show of friendship as they made space for the four of us in a house that usually accommodated their family of five. The whole family was involved - they cooked for the boys, helped feeding them, entertained them, looked after them, played with them, moved out of their rooms to make way for us, took us our for a long walk. We felt so welcomed and felt right at home. After a good night sleep when we did not have to worry about all the activities we had to complete before setting off at the crack of dawn, we got up pretty much at the normal time in the morning and after feeding and dressing the boys, we set off for the short drive to the ferry port. It was the easiest drive to the port. They even took time to drive in front of us to guide us through St. Malo. What amazing family they were.
April 2011:
Home: Being in Brittany, with good weather, it would have been a shame not to go to have walks on the nearly beaches! The boys loved the beaches. There were so many things which were new to them - the sand, the seaweed, the shells, the little stones... Everything was new and unusual for them. Being curious and full mobile, they were fully engaged in their exploration of the beach. Of course, they were intrigued by the sea. They even went right up to the water edge. Comparing the first time we took them to the beach last August, these visits were vastly different experience for them and for us. Last year they were barely about to stay on their chests, while this time round they were crawling all over. We now looked forward to more visits in the summer!
Home: While I did not particularly craved for it, we had nice weather while I was in France. In fact the weather has been great for the whole of April. As I found out on my return, there was great weather in the UK also. However, the good weather was very useful for us as we could take the boys out. Additionally, owing to the layout of the house in Brittany, the boys could move out of and back into the house with very little difficulties, the good weather simply increased their range. And they loved it. Having not seen them for nearly three weeks, it was easy to observe how their mobility had improved during that time. They were cruising around the ground floor of the house, searching all the cupboards that they could reach, and generally did a great job of exploring the surroundings. They were having great fun! I was amazed by how fast they moved. I could only imaging how difficult it had been for the Ruler_of_spike to run around after them. It seemed like the boys were having a great time, though.
Home: After picking up my ticket from the ticket office, I found the platform and my train was waiting for departure. However, it did not move. Unusually, the train was delayed. I was beginning to be concerned as any further delays would have affected my connection at Redon. The train finally left, but it was over fifteen minutes late. We did not make up any lost time during the journey and it was little doubt in my mind that I had missed my train. However, as it had turned out, my connection was also late. As such, we were actually waiting around for it. You could not contemplate how long was my sigh of relieve. In my travels around in France, I have never really experienced a really busy TGV train. However, on this occasion, the train was busy - every seat was taken and there were lots of people resting in the spaces between the carriages. So it was fortunate that I booked a seat, which was vacated by someone who left the train at Redon. I did not have to long to wait in the train as no soon had I settled down, it was approaching my stop. A lot people alighted the train, which was a surprise to me. The Ruler_of_spike had arranged a taxi to pick me up from the station and I shared it with a small group of elderly folks. As a result my fare was almost halved. With almost every part of the trip working to perfection, I arrived at the house just under ten hours after I left the office. Frankly, I did not care for the long trip - I was reunited with my family again!
Home: After spending two and half weeks on my own in London, at last I was on my way back to France to rejoin my family. I said 'at last' because it has not been an easy time. All that talk about being 'single again' is, in my opinion, a load of rubbish. I had been miserable without my family. Anyway, I was off! I spent the morning in the office and left with plenty of time for the trip to the airport. After all, I was taking public transport in London and no-one could predict what kind of surprises it had for us from time to time. Luckily, there were no major delays. When I got to the airport, I was relieve to see that the flight was on time. Budget airlines worked on a very tight schedule and any delays amplified themselves as the day went on as take-off slots once missed were difficult to regain. I bought some sandwiches to ensure that I was suitably 'fueled up' before the trip. Passport control, airport security, waiting lounges and the actual flight was relatively uneventful. Frankly, I was so focused on getting to Brittany, I did not care about much else. When I touched down, I was met by one of Ruler_of_spike's old friends who lived in the area. She has very kindly agreed to come to the airport to drive me to the train station. There was a very small window of time to get there. While there were alternatives, they were not particularly appealing - the bus was slow and I ran a real risk of missing the train (the last one heading towards where I wanted to go), and taking a taxi would have been expensive and there was a risk that there was no taxis.. So being driven by the Ruler_of_spike's friend cut out a lot of stress and saved the taxi fare. Thanks to her help, I got the train station with plenty of time to spare.
Home: Being on my own in London, it was a very lonely existence. Coupled with the pressure from work, it was a depressing experience. I was grateful that I could talk regularly with the Ruler_of_spike. It was great to talk to her as I got to find out from her what she and boys had been up to. I was glad to hear that they were having a great time in France and the boys were developing nicely. I was told that Master Cheeky had two more little teeth emerging and Master Chill was getting very close to being able to walk. While the Ruler_of_spike was talking away, I was hanging to her every word. Years ago, it would have been easy for me to deal with being on my own. However having spent over ten years living with the Ruler_of_spike and a year with the boys, I was not dealing very well with being in such a situation. While previously I would say things like "I appreciate and value family", now I was living it. Oh, how I missed my family!  
Work: There was a 'business process' review in our department. It was an interesting exercise, as our department could be split into two very distinct sections. By far the bigger of the two sections was primarily process driven with some degree of contextual work. A new joiner of this area with little or no prior experience could be trained to the job based on a written manual. By contrast, our little area was the opposite way round - while we had a process, the work was highly contextual. A new joiner without sufficient experience would have struggled with the many different aspects of our role. However, it should be understood that the review attempted to breakdown our work into measurable 'performance metrics', which, in my self-centered opinion, was not the most appropriate way to evaluate our efficiency, owing to the differing levels of complexity and volume involved. It was time-consuming but it was not showing much result. Then an even more fundamental question arose: Why did we exist at all? This question came up because while we might have been a global department, different regions had different way to implement the model. In some centers, the equivalent of our area did not exist. So the obvious question that followed was: If some regions managed to do without our equivalent, why bother to have us at all? In truth, it was not the easiest questions to address. Obviously the promoters of the different models thought theirs was the better model. So it was left to our little team to demonstrate and justify our existence, along some very narrow 'performance metrics'. In short, we were fighting for our area's survival. It was not going to be easy.
Home: With the Ruler_of_spike and boys away in France, it was time to take care of some unfinished business. Yes, it was time do some DIY again. Whether we were genuinely super-busy at weekends or we were just lazy (we, in this case, meant I), some stuff were just never finished. As I had the house to myself, it offered an ideal opportunity to get the work done. However, as explained before, there was simply no time during weekdays to do even the simplest task, so it was all down to the weekends, all of two of them. Owing to my difficulties in going to sleep, my weekends started late. There was a lot work - finishing work that had started a long time ago and new ones that had been added to the list. However, I did what I could and hope to find other opportunities to get more done.
Home/Work: I was back at work three and half working days after I left, but I left a world of difference. I had trouble sleeping and I was totally tired on my first day back. All the work that I had been missing as piled up. With the business process review and all the work, it was very stressful. I soldiered on through the week, though I could hardly sleep at night. I missed the regularity of being around my family. Although we chatted regularly, almost daily, I really missed my daily chat with the Ruler_of_spike. Chatting on the phone was not the same as having a face-to-face chat. We were merely catching up, but the little silly things that we laughed so much was not there - it took time for these silly things to come about. It was depressing. I missed the boys too. They did not care if I had a bad day at work and frankly it should not concern them. I tried my best to cope, but I was not dealing with it. It showed in the most simple of ways - I was struggling to sleep. By nature, I was a 'night owl' - I did not go to bed until late. The fact that I was not sufficiently chilled out really did not help. I might have been physically in bed, but I was not doing much sleeping. When I did sleep, it was restless. Many mornings I found pillows, most of the duvet and clothes all down the side of the bed. I wondered how I did not ended on the floor. Work was the usual high intensity, but frankly, I was just making through the day. To compound the problem, as the Ruler_of_spike and the boys were not at home, I did not feel the pressure to leave at the usual time. As a result, I got home late, ate my dinner late and struggled to sleep... And the whole cycle repeated itself the next day and again. With the house devoid of life and other activities, it felt like a hotel - I got back, ate dinner, caught whatever sleep I managed, got up, washed and left for work again. It was depressing!
Home: All too soon, all the celebrations were finished and I faced the grime prospect of going back to London by myself. Given that the Ruler_of_spike and the boys were already in France and Easter was less than a month away, it made total sense to keep the boys there and enjoy the family and friends around them. The last time I had to leave them behind in France was back in late summer last year. The boys were merely four and half months old. Now they were a year old and we have grown a lot more attached to them - watched them grew bigger and stronger, developed their little personalities, saw the bond between them flourish. It was heart breaking to leave the Ruler_of_spike and them behind while I headed back to the UK to make a living. The journey back to was painful and long. While there were no delays or unforeseen activities, I really was not paying much attention - I was on autopilot. When I walked through the front door of our house in London, I had the same empty feeling as last summer. Yes, it was our house, but my family was not there. I was not greeted by my wife and I did not have two little things crawling towards me with their little smiles. There was no life in the house. I was miserable... It was merely hours since I left them, but I already missed them terribly.
Home: It had been a stressful week for the boys. Their normal week in the UK had been comparative quiet. Of course the Ruler_of_spike has been taking great care to ensure they had their share of activities, but the fact was that our families were not based in the UK. As such, when we visit France, we were visited by the family and friends of the Ruler_of_spike, something that was missing in the UK. However, that was not the stressful part. The traveling (car-ferry-car), getting use to another house, being dragged around supermarkets (in a buggy), the constant attention from all the people, etc, must take some time to adjust to. Yet, they were behaving impeccably. They did not moan or complain. They ate their meals, had their rests and played their toys. I am saying this not because they are my children, but they are the perfect babies. The Ruler_of_spike and I are so lucky!!
Home: When we were planning the boys' celebration, we decided to try something different - to serve a small bit Chinese dim sum (dumplings) as party food. The idea, as with all good ideas, was the Ruler_of_spike's. Her aim was to introduce a relevant variation to the usual party food. We went to a Chinese supermarket for some ready-made frozen dumplings prior to leaving the UK and we invested in a cool box to bring them over. However, during the eighteen hour trip, some of them partially melted, which resulted in some of them being stuck together when they were re-frozen. While the dumplings were still fresh, as we found out later, heating them in the original way we envisaged was going to be a problem as they needed to be separated individually. Luckily, I had help from our guests. Chinese dumplings, being highly versatile, could be heated up by boiling and they could be separated. However, that meant it took a lot longer to prepare them than otherwise. Fortunately, the guests have been well fed and watered to this point, and they appeared to be having a good time, so the short wait did not appear to bother them. When they eventually arrived, some of the pastry of the dumplings were a little broken (not all of them separated voluntarily), the guests loved them. I prepared a very simple sauce by mixing sesame oil with soya sauce and the whole lot disappeared in a flash.
Home: Then, it was time to feed the two masters. As they were the stars of the show, they were being fed in the middle of the large room - focus of all the attention! I was really worried that they would be distracted with all these people around, yet they both polished up their solids and sweets without fuss. What real stars they were. We left the boys to our friends and family, and we made their milk. Again, they were calm as ever. They seemed undisturbed by all the attention and actually seemed to have enjoyed themselves. After their milk and a little more play time (on this occasion, it meant crawling around all the guests), it would normally mean time for their afternoon nap. However, there was one very important thing left to do - blowing the candles out! That's right. We were gathering not only for their christening, but also for their first birthday. Of course they were a little too young to do the job themselves (may be next year), so the Ruler_of_spike and I picked up the boys and we blew out the candles on their behalf. After all that excitement, we put the boys to bed and continued with the party.
Home: After the service, the whole party, including the priest returned to the house for a cocktail party. In the small house we were in, accommodating all the people indoors would have been very difficult. Thankfully, the weather was very agreeable, the guests who wanted to be outside could spend as much of their time outside as they wanted. And many of them did. The caterer had delivered the food before the service, so we were ready to go as soon as we got back. As far as we knew, Master Chill had a present waiting for us (with all of his moving around, we could not miss the smell) but it was safe to assume that Master Cheeky had also prepared one also. So I dived to serving the aperitif and the drinks - with the suit jacket and tie off, I was certain that I looked like a waiter. Luckily, the guests were all friends and family, so they made themselves at home and did not mind serving themselves. After both boys were changed with fresh nappies, the Ruler_of_spike returned with the boys and moved on to the bigger nibbles. It was good to see all those people together, enjoying themselves. Although we were the host, we had some help also, after all we were all friends and family.
Home: All the preparation by the Ruler_of_spike, all the running around after we arrived in Brittany, and all the stress, were all tied to the christening of the boys and ensuing party celebration. The boys must have sensed something was afoot as they were not their usual exuberant selves. We and those guests who stayed with us walked over to the church (where the Ruler_of_spike and I got married six-and-half years ago!) and were met by the rest of the family, before entering the church. The priest who conducted the christening was the same one who married us. The Ruler_of_spike was carrying Master Cheeky and I was carrying Master Chill. Not more than five minutes into the services, I noticed that there was a smell coming from Master Chill - he had emptied his bowels. Hmmm... The timing of the christening was not ideal for the boys. At that kind of time in the morning, normally they would be having their pre-lunch naps. However, as we were standing there in front of the priest, they could not rest as they would wish. One year old babies who are not sleeping tend to be moving or wiggling or whatever that was not staying still. So, Master Chill was fanning out the smell even more by all of his movements. Other than that little bit of inconvenience, the service went very smoothly. The boys were surprisingly quiet. May be the occasion, or the church, or even the priest, had an influence on them and they were absorbed by the spirituality of the whole service.
Home: Happy 1st Birthdays, our little Masters!!