Home, Archive, Stuff, Random thoughts, London, My Rigs, Pictures, Dreams, Links, About, Contact, Search

spikegifted.net - Archive Q3 2011

September 2011: 
Home: Summers in the UK for the past few years have been strange affairs. We have had hot, sunny weather in April or May, or even June, but the comparatively cool and damp July and August. This year, the weather followed this same odd pattern. While July and August have not been as poor as previous years, it never benefited from the warm flow from southern Europe. In the last week of September, however, we had an Indian summer. The weather was just beautiful! For a whole week, there was clear blue sky with not a single cloud in sight. I was chatting to my neighbor and mention that we seemed to 'summers' before and after the real summer, with the 'real' thing being rather disappointing. I thought he had a point there...
Home: Master Chill was lecturing us. That's right. He picked up certain gestures from my father-in-law during the summer and he was putting it into practice. Of course, we did not understand a single 'word' of what he was saying, but it was the gestures and delivery that were the most striking. He would raise he hand with his index finger extended and simultaneously making a series of sounds which sounded like an order. His brother, Master Cheeky, if he was close by, would stop and stare, seemingly stunned by the 'statement'. Master Chill would be looking straight the Ruler_of_spike or myself, expecting some kind of reaction. We, adults, obviously could not understand his 'statement', so sometimes he would repeat the gesture and 'statement'. If we still failed to 'get it', as we invariably would, he would make further sounds and would break into one of his glorious smiles. Of course, Master Chill did more than 'lecturing' us. The boys would also have their private conversation. They would sit side by side on the step going up to the porch and Master Chill would make his gestures and a bunch of sounds and Master Cheeky would respond with his sounds. This would go on for up to thirty minutes. They could clearly understand each other as they often laughed and other times one would get up to do something after the other made a 'statement'. They were quite happily 'talking' away without any inference from us. I often wondered what drove children to learn to speak, and my conclusion was that we were too dumb to figure out what they had to say, so they performed a huge favor for us by learning our language.
Home: Welcome back to the UK! Just as a reminder to what the boys have been missing, they picked up colds just over a week after being back from France. Master Cheeky was the first to the symptoms - sneezing and runny noise. Then Master Chill picked it up from his brother a couple of days later. By which time, Master Cheeky has developed a cough. The boys were running around the house with their runny noses and we were running after with tissues to try to clean them up. It was like a game for them. There were a few things we have learnt from past experience. To try to clear their blocked nose, as they did not know how to blow their noses, we used saline water. Not only did it loosen up the blockages, the salt also acted as an disinfectant. We also used the salbutamol inhaler to open up their airways. While the boys were not feeling the best for a few days, particular Master Cheeky as he was very good at having 'man flu', they did not ended up in hospital with chest infection or bronchiolitis. That was a vast improvement. The only down side was that the Ruler_of_spike could not take the boys out to expand some of their energy, so they spent their days experimenting new ways to explore the house.
Home: The Ruler_of_spike was always thinking up new ways to entertain and engage the boys. She went to our local public library to pick up some new reading material for herself and managed to find some very basic books that was suitable for the boys. Amongst them was a little story by Beatrice Potter with some beautiful illustrations. There were not that many pages in the book, but on each page, there was an illustration by the author. Master Cheeky just could not put it down, and thankfully Master Chill was not entirely attracted to this particular book, so the boys were not fighting over it once Master Chill figured out there were other things he could mess around with. Master Cheeky was turning from to page to page. However, what really caught his eyes were illustrations which had one of the characters in it - a dog. He was making the noise he had been making as he would do when he saw a dog in real life and pointing his little finger at it. He has made the connection between a real-life object, in this case a dog, with a drawing of it.
Home: We have been buying the same brand of eggs for several years now. They were free range and appeared to be very fresh. A couple of years ago, there was a story that a boy removed one from the batch and left it in a warm cupboard and it hatched. We fancied some eggs for lunch over the weekend and so I bought a batch from the supermarket. The Ruler_of_spike has taught long ago to check each egg in the batch to ensure that they were not damaged and when I checked, there were a couple of eggs that seemed to larger than the others. That was not unusual for this brand as the producer did not sort the eggs into different sizes to market them separate. What you would get inside the box was down to luck. When it was time to prepare our lunch, I cracked the first egg in the pan and it was just an ordinary egg, but when I cracked open the second one it was a double yolk. You can just imagine our surprise! Double yolks were rare thing. We were having two eggs each, so after the first two were cooked, I cracked two more eggs in the pan and again, the second was another double yolk!! Wow! To have one was unusual, but have two double yolks in a single batch was just out of this world...
Home: Our house in London had a totally differently layout to the house where the boys had spent the summer, so we made the assumption that they would take a little while to get use the house again. However, that was not the case. They seemed to have forgotten some of the 'fun' things they used to do, for example, playing with the halogen lamp, switching on and off the TV, etc. However, the Ruler_of_spike has been very careful so that the boys would not witness her switching on these appliances. On the other hand, she could not prevent the boys from 'working' on other things. Master Chill was obsessed by the vacuum cleaner. That was the first thing he went to as soon as he was brought downstairs. He would play with hose, ride the body of the machine and drag the thing around the house like it was a toy. Master Cheeky had the habit of flinging the toys from their boxes. Once he started, he would be join by his brother and they would simply empty all the contents on the floor. They laughed; they screamed; they shouted; they 'talked' to each other, giving each other toys and generally they had a good time. Occasionally, they would have little 'fights'. One of Master Cheeky's latest past-time was to tackle his brother. That came as such a shock. Physically, Master Chill was stronger than his older brother, and he had the habit of taking toys from him. Up until recently, Master Cheeky would use this habit against in a round about way to get to what he wanted. However, one week after returning from France, we noticed that he was quite willing to tackle his brother, literally. After Master Chill got something from him, instead just move on to something different, he would chase him down. Once he caught up with his brother, he would drag him down by the collar and then pinned him to the floor. Master Chill, often the one who used his brute strength to get what he wanted, was in shock and did not fight back. The boys tended to ended up laughing and giggling. So, while the space and locations were different, the boys continued to have a good time.
Home: I was in conversation with some of my family and they, as usual, were paying strong interest on the development of the boys. I loved that. These enquiries reinforced the fact that our little family was not alone, but we were surrounded by a vast family network that stretched across the world. One of the questions which came up regularly in the past few months was: "Are they walking yet?". Now that I could tell them that they were indeed walking, the next obvious question was: "Are they talking now?" It was tempting to say "no", but that would not be true, far from it. The two Masters were making a lot of noise together. They would make some noise, then there would laughs, or one of them will do something for or with the other one, followed by more laughs. And if you could ignore the 'noise', but concentrated on the variations in the tones and the ways the series of noises were delivery, you could almost imagine they were having a conversation, or giving each other instructions, or even asking each other questions. That, or all intent and purposes, was 'talking'. While we, adults, could not figure out what they were 'talking' about, the boys were communicating with each other perfectly well. They were learning and mimicking the noises made by each other, repeating them, coming up with combinations and even making up new sounds! Before they arrived, we were informed that twins would learn to talk, in the adult sense, later than singletons, and would develop 'twin talk' - a 'language' of their own. And now we could see why - talking was all about communication and feedback, either through noises or actions. And the boys formed their own private feedback loop. Singletons also have their own languages, but they do not necessary have the feedbacks to develop them further, so they would abandon them and have stronger motivation to learn to speak like the adults around them. While we have not been let in to their little world, they were perfectly happy. Of course, we continued to encourage them to learn them to learn and speak our languages, the boys, at least for the time being, were thriving with their very own. They continued to amaze us and to provide us with much entertainment.
Home: It was interesting to effect of a change in time zones on the boys. There was only an hour's difference between France and the UK, yet it had a profound effect on the boys' habits. Having spent two months in Brittany they were fully adapted to the routines over there. The sudden return to London got them slightly confused. Essentially, they were living an hour ahead of the UK for much of the first week back from France. While the daytime activities (meal times in particular) were according UK times, the body clocks were telling them something different. They were waking up roughly an hour early and by the time they had their dinner, there were showing signs of tiredness. These were clear signs that something inside them were telling them they should be doing something else other than what the clock on the wall was suggesting. Now, this brought a question to my small brain: if this was how the boys reacted to the change of just one hour time difference, what kind effects would be on them if we were to make a one-week trip to Hong Kong so that they could meet part of our extended family for the first time?
Work: It was amazing how long I felt I have been away and how little time it took for me to get back to the swing of things at work. On arrival, I found an expected collection e-mails which took me two and half days just to scan through, never mind to deal with. My phone began ringing in the afternoon of the first as people started to catch up with their diary and realized that I was back from vacation. My to-do list was already growing. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, there were colleagues from other areas who I was working with who were on vacations themselves so I did not have deal with everything one go. Additionally, I have been fortunate as my team mates have helped me while I was on vacation. Nevertheless, there were a lot e-mails which I had to go through and deal with. The trouble was that the longer it took me to go through the e-mails, the less time I had to deal with them - there were deadlines. Moreover, as I got back into being involved in the day-to-day work, I had less time to go through what I needed to do. A week since I got back, I was still dealing with them. What a colossal pain!
Home: Since the expected timing of arrival at home was going be awkward from the perspective of feeding the boys, we decided to give them their dinner before disembarking. We were back in the restaurant. With so many people around (the boys have hardly ever eaten their meals outside the home environment) and not being settled for the during of the trip, adding to the fact that it was comparative early for their dinner, it was difficult to focus their attention on the food. They were looking at anything and everything. We noticed that the charming young hostesses in the restaurant were the particular focus of wandering eyes. They were twisting and turning to follow them around the restaurant. There was no subtlety in it - Master Chill was almost turning all the way round to follow the hostesses. Had he been able to do so, he would have swivel his head 360 degree. Thankful, the ferry arrived at the port shortly after their dinner. Having not slept during the entire crossing and with full stomachs, the boys fell asleep quickly and we drove home in peace.
Home: The ferry crossing was one of the worst we have ever experienced. There was strong wind and lots of waves. There were a lot of movements and the boys simply could not settle. We went to the self-service restaurant to feed the boys in high chairs and had our lunch. We were hoping that with a full stomach, they would calm down. However, a combination excitement and movements of the boat prevented that from happening. We took the boys onto the decking which they enjoyed and we were thankful that while the conditions were less than ideal it was not raining. We spent a lot of time entertaining the boys in the cabin, but given the restricted space available, they were very frustrated despite climbing over every available space. Also, they were too young to play in the children area of the boat so they were stuck with us. We were running out of ideas for them...
Home: We were thoroughly entertained by the friend's family. Their children played with the boys. Master Cheeky discovered the joy of carrying and throwing a full size soccer ball, something we did not in our house. Master Chill was busy exploring every part of the garden. After the boys were put to bed, we were treated to a nice meal. After a good night sleep, we woke up at a comparatively civilized time, compared with the otherwise horrifically early start from our house, and had breakfast. We were then guided to the ferry port by our friend. The short drive before our crossing was a big contrast to the one we would have to make had we set of from our house.
Home: One of the Ruler_of_spike's friends, who lived a comparatively short distance from the ferry port, again invited us to stay over on the night prior to the day of our crossing. This was a very generous offering, even more so as the couple had three teenage children and to accommodate our family of four the kids squeezed themselves into one room for the night. Obviously we were overjoyed by the offer and accepted. We traveled in afternoon on Sunday after the boys woke up from their afternoon nap. This conveniently coincided with the end of the road closures owed to the annual semi-marathon which passed through the village. The comparative late leaving time allowed us plenty of time to pack our belongings and load them into the car. The journey was the friends house was uneventful as the boys slept all the way. However we noticed that there were a lot cars in certain parts of the journey which was unusual.
Home: After two weeks in France (two months for the Ruler_of_spike and the boys) came the depressing task of getting ready for the return to London. First there was the packing. We had a lot to pack: our clothes, our laundry, wash bags, stuff that we have bought for the house and stuff that we were bringing back to London to wash before the next trip.. Then, there was stuff for the boys, and there was a lot of it... the clothes, their toys, their food, etc. On top of all that, we needed to have a separate kit for the ferry crossing. There was just so much packing and organizing. Then we have to re-install the roof box. My mood usually changed by the time we got the box attached to the car. We had to go through all the travel documents and tickets. To minimize waste, we tried to finish as much of the leftovers as possible. The list of things to do just went on and on. To add to all of that, the Ruler_of_spike heroically vacuumed the house in what little spare time she had. It was not difficult to see why getting ready to return to the UK was a depressing business.
Home: Here was another sign of the boys growing up - they have their first pairs of shoes! And slippers... We have been fortunate in the sense that the boys started walking in the beginning of the summer and as such they enjoyed the first couple of months of mobility bare feet. Frankly walking around in the house, the garden and beaches hardly required shoes. Anyway, they were busy taking off whatever we were putting on their feet, so there was little point in getting them shoes to begin with. Also, since they were not fully mobile, they were in their buggy whenever they went out, so there was little point in getting them shoes just yet. However, two upcoming factors made us invest in some shoes for them: first, the boys were now almost walking all the time; and second, summer was ending. Naturally, as the boys became more mobile and more competent in their walking, it was natural that we would take them out and to encourage them to walk outside. We felt it was important that we invested in some proper shoes for them so that their little feet and legs would develop properly. Unlike older children and adults, they have not developed the ability to inform us whether the shoes were the right sizes or not. So we took the boys to a specialist children shoe shop to have their feet measured. In the past couple of months, physically, the boys have changed a lot. They have grown longer and their feet were now bigger. As things turned out, they both have long and narrow feet and were both size 22 (European), so we took two pairs of size 23 shoes for them. They should last for about three months. There was something about children shoes which made them incredibly 'cute', for the lack of a better word, especially when they were put next to adult ones. And when the boys have them on, with their trousers and jerseys, they looked so mature, like little men. Of course they were not going to wear their shoes in the house, so we also took some slippers for them. They should keep their feet nice and warm while rummaging around the house during the upcoming winter.
Home: We were not parents that would spend our time comparing our boys with other children. Yes, we wanted our boys to be healthy, to enjoy full lives and to develop as fully as their potentials would allow them. However, we had little time to waste on what and how other kids were doing. We did not have children so that we could 'go compare'. That was for other parents who have such inclination. However, there was one occasion, when all the boys' cousins gathered, which we looked over our shoulders and compare the boys to another baby. For those who follow this site, you would know that the boys were born prematurely by seven weeks. This cousin was born at full term a month after the boys. Last year, at the age of three and four months, there was a marked difference between them - the boys were noticeably smaller than their cousin. Fast forward twelve months, and a lot of hard work by the Ruler_of_spike, the boys were noticeably more matured than their cousin. They did not have the 'baby look' anymore. They were now toddlers, little boys. That fact was noticed by some of the rest of the family. We, again, were at pains not to compare the boys with other children, especially at such young age when these little things all develop at different speeds. However, the sight of their relative maturity to their cousin was 'vindication' of all the hard work and sacrifice the Ruler_of_spike has made.
Home: Welcome to genetics one-o-one: features that existed in the parents had a random chance of being passed on to the off-springs. For many years, I suffered nose bleeds, particularly with my right nostril. The basic reason was that there was a capillary that was very close to the surface of my right nostril and the slightest touch would rupture it and caused a nose bleed. (Can you imagine the trouble I had when I was playing rugby?) So, with our two little Masters, they each had a fifty-fifty chance of having a similar issue. As things had turned out, Master Chill appeared to have inherited this little capillary in his right nostril. One of the scariest things that could happen was to have a nose bleed while asleep. Basically, anything could happen - there was even the possibility of bleeding to death as there was no way of telling the flow rate through the burst capillary. Even with a small amount of blood, given the fact there was little control of where the blood would end up, it could make a right mess, particular if the blood was smeared. It also made an unpleasant sight. So that was how the Ruler_of_spike found Master Chill when she went to wake the boys up from their afternoon nap. He was obviously aware that there was something happening in his nostril so his curiosity took over and he used his little finger to find out what it was, and when he saw the unfamiliar color of blood at the tip of his finger, he panicked a little. Master Cheeky was stressed out as he saw his brother with blood smeared all over his face and it was a while before he calmed down. Fortunately, the nose bleed ended quickly and the boys calmed down. However, it was rather important for us to find out if there was anything could be done to help Master Chill. Medicine and medical technology have improved by leaps and bounds since I was a little boy and we were hopeful that something was available to help him.
Home: This happened out of the blue and it was a really present surprise: one evening when I was feeding the boys their dinner, Master Cheeky started beating his hands on the tray of his high chair. I could imagine your response would be: big deal! Yet, it was a big deal. You see, it was not just any kind of beating, but a steady, alternate hand, rhythm. While the speed of the beat varied a little bit, but overall, it was a very steady beat. That was the big deal. Children, as far as I know, don't do steady beats. They, in general, beat their hands at random. I was mightily impressed. Case in point: Master Chill, having seen and heard what his brother was doing, started beating his hands on his tray also, but of random in nature or off-beat at best. I would have to see if I could get them to clap the beat of music in the near future.
Home: The boy were now seventeen months old and they were just developing new things every day. One of the most noticeable development was the amount of noise they make. They were not yet talking, which we were not worried about as we were aware that them being twins, they would be marginally later in that development when compared with singletons. However, the boys were making a lot of noises. Different noises which if one started the other would copy a few days later. The boys were communicating with each other which somehow conveyed their thoughts to each other. They played and they laughed together. They shouted at each other in the morning to wake each other up in their beds; they made noises to each other in the car when they were strapped in their car seats, in they play pan when we needed to get things done without their interference and in the evening before they fell asleep. It was like they were having a private conversation which we were not allowed to participate nor understood.
August 2011: 
Home: The boys loved the beach. The part of Brittany which we were in was not well known for the beaches, as it was in a gulf. There were no miles of white sandy beaches with beautiful surfs. There were, however, lots of oyster parks, massive tides and lots of algae. All these meant that there were lots of interesting things on the beaches: shells of all kinds of shellfish (in less than a week, we have seen shells of oysters, clams, sea snails, crabs, mussels and many others), rocks, bits of wood and, of course, washed up algae. There was so much to explore and mess around with. The boys loved digging around with their shuffles and spades. They also loved getting their little feet wet. They were not scared by the water and many times they would have walked right into the sea had we not stopped them. They got excited when they saw birds. They would point excitedly and make a lot of noise when they spotted them, either flying in the air or walking or standing on some rocks. I hope they have enjoyed good times on the beaches.
Home: The boys have their toys and they were having a way of a time with them. Typically, they were just fine, each playing with the toys that he liked. However, Master Chill had the habit of wanting to get the toys which Master Cheeky was playing with. I guessed it was because Master Chill was physically stronger or may be because Master Cheeky just did not want the trouble with fighting for the toys with his brother, he just let his brother take the toys off him. I was a little troubled to begin with as I did not want them to be bullies and pushovers. However, further observation suggested that there was more to that than met the eye. Master Cheeky actually has a plan which worked very well on his brother. If Master Chill wanted to play with something he was playing with, Master Cheeky would leave the toy to his brother and moved on to another toy. However, and this was where I thought the real trick lied, Master Cheeky would pick something which he guessed would attract Master Chill's attention. As Master Chill was more interested in what his brother was playing, he would leave the toy which he just took off his brother and moved on to the new one which Master Cheeky has just started playing with. Once his brother attention was fixed on the new toy, Master Cheeky would leave it again to Master Chill. Once his brother was fully engaged with the new toy, he would return to the original toy which Master Chill has now left behind in order to play with the new one. In this case, Master Cheeky was using his brother's tendencies against him to get what he wanted. This kid needed to be watched very carefully!
Home: While we might have been on vacation, but we still have to do some house work and other bits and pieces to look after the house. We have previously observed that our next door neighbor has allowed some ivies to take root on her side of the wall and the plant has spread rapidly and it has now taken hold on our side of the wall. This particular type of ivy, from what I have been told, was a really nasty one - it would penetrate into the cracks on the wall and if left untreated, it would eventually make the wall unstable. During my last visit in early August, I made a start in clearing out the wall. After I returned to the UK, the Ruler_of_spike continued in what little time she could spare and cleared what she could. Meanwhile, the neighbor also worked on their side and cleared out their side of the wall. By the time I came back, the wall was almost free of the plant. However, there were still patches of it hanging on, and, to our horror, on other walls around the garden. So we made further effort to clear what were on the walls and pull out as much of the roots as possible. We have even considered using some herbicide, but we retreated from that idea as we feared it might cause more harm to the rest of the plants near the walls than just killing the ivies. Given this decision, we just had to be very vigilant and act as soon as there was any sign of the plant returning to the walls.
Home: I seemed to have taken the weather with me to France - it pretty much rained or drizzled non-stop for two whole days after I arrived. That, however, did not really matter for me as I was with the Ruler_of_spike and the boys. I was enjoying life with my family again. It was so great to have someone to talk to and there was a lot to catch, despite the fact that we talked nearly every day on the phone. The boys were just a delight. They have developed in leaps and bounds in my absence, despite the fact that it merely two and half weeks since I last saw them. They were now walking confidently and we occasionally running. How quickly children develop! I did not know about the technical distinctions of babies and toddlers, and although they would always be our babies, they seemed more matured than what would be considered as babies. They certainly waited for no-one in their developments.
Home: Now this was a rare thing: delays on the SNCF, the French railway. Given the long wait at the train station last time round, and the fact that I was pretty confident about the timing from the airport, I booked an earlier train from the station. However, even though the train departed nearly two hours earlier than the last trip, I would only arrive at my destination an hour ahead of the other train as it was not a direct train and I had to wait for my connection. Anyway, the train was late departing and when I got to Rennes, a big railway station, I was a full 20 minutes late. I was anticipating a mad rush to get to my connection. In August, trains in France were not really the place to be without a booked seat, no matter how short the journey was. As things turned out, my connection was nearly 40 minutes late. In the end, I was only marginally quicker than the late train and arrived at my destination just over 20 minutes earlier than I would have had I caught the later train.
Home: It has been another incredibly long two and half weeks since I left my family in Brittany and headed back to London where there were riots and looting. As you see from my entries, much (too much) of my existence was dominated by work. In between, I managed to cook pots of chilies and curries to sustain myself, but it has, again, been a miserable time. Finally, the wait was over and I was heading back to France, back to be with my family!
Work: Another work-related entry... That was because my family was away from me and I did not have much else to write about. My boss came over to me one afternoon after attending a meeting with one of our relationship managers. Relationship managers were important people. They were the folks who bring in the clients so that our sales teams could service these clients and generate revenue. When they said something was urgent, we had to drop everything else and work on it. This particular relationship manager covered many high profile names and I had been fortunate enough to have worked on some of them and out of these some of the cases had been quite challenging. In any event, my boss mentioned that the relationship manager had mentioned I have help him on these cases and I was technically competent. To be completely honest, I was not certain how to interpret this piece of news. In one respect, I was pleased that all the experience I built up during my time in investment banking, and as a credit analyst, was being put into good use. On the other hand, I felt like I was not really adding anything over and above my basic competence. I knew I had more to offer, if only I had time to think, digest the work and develop ideas. At the same time, given the straight jacket situation that had been imposed by our management and volume of work that was coming through, I was barely covering my bases, never mind being creative and developing and extending ideas. In the end, it felt like a disappointment - I was merely doing my work, but not adding much else.
Work: The summer months of July and August were traditionally some of the 'slower' months of the year. People were often on vacation, so decisions were slower and activities level lower. However, that particular assumption did not really apply to our team. That was primarily owed to the long lead time in our team's work. On average, our turn around time was around one hundred and twenty days. Of course, there were examples where all the parts performed and we managed to bring the process to its conclusion in less than a couple of months. There were cases where things dragged on for over a year. As such, even if the revenue generators were not introducing new clients to the bank, we were still working on the ones that we were trying to bring on-board. This meant that even though it might have been 'slow' for some folks, it was not the case for our team - we were still working flat out. Where was this going to end?
Home: The boys were now so mobile. The days spending most of their days on their hands and knees were long gone. They were climbing on everything that they could get their legs over. They seemed to like reaching for high places, places that had been beyond their reach. Obviously, having discovered that they moved around in a three dimensional world, they were spending much time pushing on the boundary of what they could do in this new dimension. Of course, we have previously relied on height to put certain things beyond their finger tips. However, this particular tactic was now getting less effective. For example, we left many things in the middle of the dining table which, despite being able to stand up and reach the edges, was unreachable. That tactic became redundant as soon they could climb. They would first get up onto a dining chair and then onto top of the table. A whole marvelous new world awaited up there. The Ruler_of_spike first tried moving the dining chairs away from the table to put a stop to this practice, but the boys just pushed the chairs back towards the table and they were back in business. So she moved the chairs completely out of the dining area, which stopped the enterprise on its tracks. However, if she, for example, wanted to have her lunch at the table, she had to bring a chair back to the table and quickly down before the boys get a chance to climb on it. It was a constant battle and she was worn out by the boys. The most taxing part was having to diligently watching out for them, constantly evaluating whether they were getting into trouble (and hence intervening before they were really in trouble) or simply letting them doing their stuff. It was mentally draining. A large part of her daily vocabulary consisted of: 'don't do this', 'don't climb there', 'stop doing that'. She had been kept on her toes!
Home: This really sucks! Just a few days after returning from France, I had the 'common flu'. I was feeling cold one evening then woke up next day with a soar throat. Then I spent the day feeling cold. By which time, I have developed a hacking cough. I invested in some over-the-counter 'medicine' which helped masking the symptoms of the flu, but was feeling rather rotten. The worst part of it all was that I had a hacking cough! It was no ordinary cough. When it started, it can go on for a couple minutes. I saw stars and the coughing gave me a blinding headache. Something was wrong - I was coughing phlegm that was brown/yellow in color - I had some sort of infection. So I tried to get an appointment with the doctor after the weekend. The problem was that two out of the four doctors at the surgery out on vacation. So appointments were scarce. Eventually I managed to get on the third time of trying. The diagnosis was not a surprise and I was prescribed with antibiotics. I could almost as if the drug was working immediately and could feel my lungs being freed up from the grips of the phlegm. However, the cough was still there and it still hurt. Despite the slow progress, it was better than before.
Opinion: When I got on the plane, there were few seats left. Although I was not the last one on-board, a full flight always had these problem. There was an empty seat on the third row between a lady in the aisle seat and a gentleman by the window. I politely enquired whether the empty middle seat was occupied. The woman's response was an impatient sigh, followed by a roll of her eyes and finished with an annoyed look on her face as she began to into the middle seat. While she was moving, she mumbled something to the man in the window seat. A thought, and an angry one at that, came to my mind: "Welcome to the world of budget air travel!" If people so wanted to have their privileges, like assigned seats, extra-wide seats and good leg space, these services were available - it was called First Class / Executive Class / Business First / or whatever. These things did not exist in the world of budget airlines. If people did not want to 'press the flesh' with masses, the easy solution was to pay for the benefit of not having to endure such inconvenience. If they did not want pay the asking - put up and shut up! Now, leave me alone to my private hell...
Home: The long weekend was just too short. In a blink of the eye, it was time to head back to London. We have heard in the news that there had been riots and incidents of looting in certain parts of London over the weekend. This was highly disturbing and I had a sense of dread of how and where these events would develop. However, that was still in London and I was still in France. In the morning of my travel, I received a text from my carrier that owing to some problems with the flight control system in the UK, flights into and out of the UK airspace were being delayed. Nevertheless, I had to make my way to the airport despite the lack of further information. I was given a lift by one of the Ruler_of_spike's friends who was travelling towards the direction of the airport. On arrival, I noticed that check-in for the flight was already opened, which was encouraging. However, on receiving my boarding pass, I was informed that I would not be allowed to go through airport security until much later, owing to the delay. This was a small 'regional' airport, not major international hub, amenities were very limited. With the exception of a couple coffee/sandwich shops, a ladies' clothing shop and a magazine/tabac, there was just nothing there. Hours went by, yet our plane was not called. Eventually, we were allowed to get past security and they even showed a boarding gate, but there was still no plane. When they eventually called us, I had finished an entire 2 litre bottle of spring water, enough to feel desperate for the bathroom. As the line was long, I dashed to the bathroom to avoid an accident later...
Home: The boys were definitely walking! Master Chill was just cruising. He glided around the house like he has always been walking. He did not know what to do with his hands just yet, so if he was not holding something, he arms were just swinging around. However, there were moments when he was a little unsteady on his feet, but these were getting fewer. Master Cheeky was also walking around very well and he still had this big smile when he moved. The boys were all over the house. They were adventurous and they were curious. There were no cupboards that were safe from their inquisitive hands, aside from those that were too high for them to reach. And that was not for the lack of trying. Cutlery, brooms, brushes, shampoo, soaps, body lotions, pots, pans, rubbish... These were just some of the things they managed to get their hands on. Now that Master Cheeky was moving almost as much as his brother, we could see that he was being more adventurous and he also led some of the 'expeditions' around the house. We also notice that he was being a little more assertive. It was all good stuff unless you had to deal with the mess created. There were times when she had to put them in the play pan so that she could get on with some things (like when she was doing the vacuum - the boys love that machine). The boys, particularly Master Chill, were not happy about that, so they moved the play pan to get closer! The Ruler_of_spike had her hands full chasing after and cleaning up after the boys.
Home: After spending two and half weeks on my own in London, I was really looking forward to being reunited with my family. I missed the Ruler_of_spike terribly and, of course, the boys. Although I have been catching up with her almost on a daily basis, it was not the same. She has been looking after the boys single-handedly for all this time without much rest and I could tell that she was tired. Unusually, there was a stretch of nice weather in London during which the daytime temperature reached 29C. The Underground was horrific, particularly during the morning and evening rush hours. However, there was rain on the morning that I was due to fly out and the temperature dropped compared with previous days. On landing in France, it was more of the same, much, much more. Having little confidence in the bus could deliver me from the airport to the train station in time to catch an earlier train, I opted for a later one which meant a three-hour wait in the station. During that time, it was just raining non-stop. It was windy too - the rain was horizontal at times. The Ruler_of_spike has warned me on the bad weather but, frankly, it did not matter, I was going to spend time with my family!
July 2011:
Home: I tried and managed to find time to call the Ruler_of_spike every day when I was away from her. It was great for me in that I got find out what she and the boys had been up to. The weather in France has been slightly more agreeable to that of London and the boys have been spending a lot of time outside in the garden. During the second week of my absence, Master Cheeky was developing a cough again, which quickly developed into another wheezing and not-able-to-breath episode. At the same time, Master Chill was getting a cold as well. This put a lot of strain on their mother as she was on her own with them. The Ruler_of_spike took them to the doctor and Master Cheeky was diagnosed with
brochiolitis, again. The bottom line was that he lungs have never fully recovered. The inhalers and antibiotics were just removing the symptoms but not addressing the primary issue - babies at that age have not learn the ability to cough and spit the built up phlegm in their lungs. As a result, the bacteria which caused all these illness have never really gone away. Master Cheeky was prescribed with more antibiotics and other medicines, but the doctor recommended additional help - kinesitherapy. While I have heard of this kind of treatment in the UK, it was usually for adults. Moreover, in the UK, kinesitherapy was considered as a form of 'complimentary medicine', it would never have been anything that the mainstream GPs would recommend - more of as a curiosity than a treatment. Unfortunately, it was not a pleasant experience especially when Master Cheeky did not know the purpose of the treatment. After each session, he was clinging on the Ruler_of_spike and he cried so much that even Master Chill joined in. After two sessions, he was scared of anyone who looked like the kinesitherpist! The trouble was that the Ruler_of_spike could not explain to him why he had to go through with the treatment, all she could do was comfort him the best she could. The alternative was to simply rely on the medicine and pretend that there was nothing else to do and let the boy fall ill again and again. I knew what my answer would be and felt horribly let down by the medical profession in the UK.   
Home: During the work week, as I spent the majority of the waking hours either commuting to and from work or actually at work, I did not have the time to think about the fact that my family was away in France. However, weekends were a completely different matter. It was inescapable to notice that I was alone in the house. Our usual weekend routine simply did not exist. I did not wake up to make coffee for the Ruler_of_spike. Nor did I go to pick up the boys from their cots. I did not get to feed them nor play with them. It was depressing. Lucky that the Ruler_of_spike has left me with a list of things to do and there were plenty to do around the house. Even so, there was only so much I could do to block out the fact that they were not there - the house without their presence was not a home, merely a house which I spend time in. 
Home: Now that the boys were gaining mobility, it was going to be testing time for the Ruler_of_spike as my stay in France this time round was a brief one. Flying back to London on my own was always challenging, from an emotional perspective as well as from a logistical angle. Emotionally, I was usually a mess. I was leaving the Ruler_of_spike alone with the boys. It would be a difficult time for her even if everything going smoothly. Knowing that really made it doubly difficult to go. Fortunately, for this occasion, I was leaving at the crack of dawn as my brother-in-law was driving me to the Nantes airport, on his way to his work place. At that kind of time in the morning, I was barely functioning, so I did not have time to dwell in the parting. To make the journey more interesting, I had to drive my brother-in-law's car from our house to his (this saved one trip for him as his house was a lot closer to the expressway than ours). His car had manual transmission. I had not driven a manual since the one time in a hired car not long after obtaining my driving license. So it was going to be a totally alien experience. On the previous day, I drove back from his house and soon after leaving the first junction (which was on a hill), I nearly ended up opening the car door - a combination of panicking and still thinking like I was driving a right-handed drive car - muscle memory meant my left hand reached for the gearshift but in fact the shifter was on my right. I was lucky as the road was very quiet so there were no oncoming traffic. Also, I did not panic so the car did not stall and I remembered to shift the gear with my left hand. Anyway, I managed to get the car back to our house and then back to my brother-in-law's house the next morning without incident. He drove me to the airport with plenty of time to spare and I made my way to work after touching down on time in London. It was a totally strange experience to be in France in the morning, yet showing up to complete an afternoon of work on the same day. 
Home: Master Chill was making great progress in his walking. So much so that the Ruler_of_spike commented he would be full mobile before the summer was out. At the same time, Master Cheeky was showing signs that he was ready as well - he was make a few unaided steps. And we continue to observe the differences in their developments. For Master Chill, walking was discovered and happened almost by accident. He was holding on to the coffee table and he wanted to get something from another piece of furniture. He took his hand off the coffee table and walked to the piece furniture. At the time, it was as much a surprise to him as it was for the Ruler_of_spike. Then it was several days before he attempted another unaided walk, in which he made more steps. By contrast, Master Cheeky spent a couple of weeks, literally, observing his brother doing something different and being cheered on by their mother. Yet, he just watched. He must have made a decision to try to do the same. When he managed to take those first few steps, he expression was that of triumph. Of course, there was pure joy in his expression, as only babies and toddlers know how, but we sensed there was more for him. He practically willed himself to walk. This boy's determination is unbelievable!
Home: With the approach of the summer, or whatever the strange weather managed to deliver, it was time for the Ruler_of_spike and the boys to head over to France. While I found it hard to be away from my family, it was the best for the boys. Additionally the Ruler_of_spike would be closer to her family and friends, but I would not be able to provide any immediate support should such needs arose. The trip over was uneventful. The boys were old enough to be taken to the restaurant. We fed them in our cabin first and then we ventured out to our restaurant. While I went to pick up our meals from the self-service, the Ruler_of_spike stayed with the boys in their high chairs, from which they thoroughly charmed the folks from a neighboring table. It was great not to have to eat in our cabin as we done so many times since the arrival of the boys. It was bedtime for the boys after the meal. However, they were getting a little too active to be kept in the same cot - they were having a great deal of trouble calming down. Master Chill finally collapsed but Master Cheeky continued to struggle. Eventually, we switched off all the light and I went out of the cabin for a short time. Thankfully, he was asleep when I returned. They slept through the crossing until we woke them up for their breakfast.
Work: Both in and outside work I tried to be polite and respectful of my colleagues. So it was a surprise when one of the people who I was dealing with threw the phone down on me. While I would admit that she might have been frustrated in the sense that I was not getting the results that she wanted, however, I was getting very close to achieving them. All she had to do was answer one very simple question from one of the business manager and we had what we wanted. Instead she lost her patience and we were nowhere closer than we were when we started. The reason for her frustration was that she had been running around with her problem form over eighteen months and had not met with any success. Having thought she has exhausted all options available to her, she opted to push the whole problem to another colleague instead of answering the one simple question which would solve the problem. It was frustrating to have to deal with people like that, but the nature of our work - I got to meet and to work with all kinds of people, many of them brilliant within their chosen fields, but not necessarily the most pleasant of people. I just wished that some of these people actually recognized that we were there to help them and being unpleasant would not make things happen any quicker. 
Work: My personal approach to work has always been that of: 'let's move on'. Whether the job or the project had been successfully executed or not, I would 'learn the lessons' and moved on to the next. Frankly, the nature of my work had been such that retrospect was not entirely feasible - there was never the time available. I did not care for praise but I took criticisms seriously. A simple thank you from the people I worked with would be suffice and an acknowledgement from my bosses would have been helpful from a career perspective. Otherwise, I did not look for much. There had been something which I had been working on since late last year which had been taking bits of my time which, when added up, was not insignificant. After months of talking to various people for their approvals, we were finally at the stage of going to the committee to get the final nod, I was busier than ever as I helped to coordinate their responses. After a couple of delays, the committee was finally scheduled. Unfortunately, I was dragged into another meeting at the same time. When I informed the business folks of that development, the first response was: "What? You're the key to this whole thing! You have to show." That, in itself, was no big deal - I have attended plenty of committees. However, it was extraordinary to be considered as 'key' to project that was primary a front office one and one which I actually did not contribute so much - our role was that of a coordinator and problem solver, not decision making. Nevertheless, it was an indirect way of being told that I have gotten the job done and I have the trust of the sales team. It would appear that some of my hard work was bearing fruits.
Home: No soon had we got home, Master Chill was back on his feet, literally. Prior to being detained in hospital due to his lung infection, we were seeing the beginning of his walk. However, now having been freed from the grip of illness, there was nothing to stop him from moving ahead. We could see that he was as surprised by his developing ability as we were. The first time he took his own steps, his was as if he wasn't sure what had just happened. And then, he tried again a few days later and walked a half dozen steps before losing balance. Once he gained confidence (it was not as if he lacked confidence in anything - he was practically fearless!), there was no stopping him. We were not surprised that he was the first one to walk, given he had been slightly ahead of his older in his developments in movements and coordination. In the mean time, Master Cheeky was watching intently. What was all the fuss about? What was he doing that he got so much encouragement? What was this thing he was doing on his legs? We could tell that he was working things out in his head and one day soon, he would be following his younger brother's footstep and start to walk. You could almost see him working things out in his little head! However, he was not ready to take that first step just yet. So, in the mean time, he continued to observe while Master Chill let his new skill take him around the house.
Home: The second half of the year kicked off with a 'bang'. Well, there was no bang, but a lot wheezing. Master Cheeky has been having colds and coughs, on and off, for nearly two months since the beginning of May. He has had a bout of brochiolitis, which was basically a virus infection of the upper respiratory system. However, Master Chill has large escaped without having been infected despite being in close proximity to his brother. Thankfully, by the end of June, Master Cheeky was generally free of colds and coughs. Then suddenly, I was back in the hospital with one of the boys. However, this time it was Master Chill that was unwell. It all happened rather quickly - one day he had a little cough, the next day he was wheezing (at which point I took him to the children A&E, but was discharge with an inhaler) and struggling to breath the day after (when he was admitted for treatment). It all happened rather quickly and shocked bother the Ruler_of_spike and I. Before being taken up to the ward, he was given a chest x-ray. Thankfully, we were given our own little room with stay-over bed for the parent. Of course, one of us had to stay with Master Chill in hospital, and given that Master Cheeky was already asleep, it made sense for me to stay. I quickly returned home to pick up essential bits (mainly food and nappies) and then back to Master Chill bedside. I was also informed that he was suffering a virus infection to his lungs. What sleep I had that night was fitful as I was woken up by the nurses coming in and out of the room giving Master Chill the nebulizer to keep him airway clear. He did not sleep well either owing to constantly woken up struggling to breath and having medicine administered. The next day, the Ruler_of_spike and I swapped places. While Master Cheeky was not seriously affected, it was not possible for me to go to work as the Ruler_of_spike could not be in two places at the same time. We, however, made one significant discovery - looking after one baby was very easy! Just having to look after Master Cheeky was no comparison to looking after both of them. Although I was incredibly busy, it was more to do with going to and from the hospital with additional provisions and being Master Cheeky back for his rest. The medical staff in the hospital were a little puzzled by Master Chill as his temperature was going up and down like a yoyo. The only conclusion they could arrive at was the fact that his infection was not yet under control. Although he was feeling better, breathing better and many ways back to his usual self, he was still not 100%, it was decided to keep him in the hospital for a third night. Frankly, after two nights in the hospital, it was driving the Ruler_of_spike a little mad. The room was functional but small and with me visiting them with Master Cheeky, there was simply no room to even sit down. It was a relieve to be told that Master Chill was going to be discharged. While the staff was ready to let him go after lunch, it was not until nearly six o'clock in the evening before his medication arrived and be allowed out. It was a painful wait and frustrated all of us. That night was the first time our whole family got to spend under one roof for over seventy two hours. We were tired but relieved that the worst was over all would be well again.