A little over a month ago I had no kids, drove a two seater sports car, and was expecting a gentle transition into fatherhood. This morning I was reading my Sunday paper in the kitchen accompanied by 4 children (aged between 1 month and 13 years old), 4 dogs, and a cat. I was a family sitcom waiting to happen, all they needed to do was roll the cameras.
Amélie was born one month and 5 days ago. This was promptly followed by a wave of visitors eager to see her. At 3 weeks old we were starting to get a little more time alone to bond as a family, and to get into some kind of routine. It was at this time that the chain of events were set in motion for my Walton style Sunday.
I was chatting to a friend of mine about his daughter (my goddaughter), when she was 10 or 11 we used to spend a lot of time together but now she was 13 I hardly know her anymore. I thought she was probably too 'cool' to have much in common with me anymore, but it turned out she was scared to come round because she felt she was bothering us.
With that misunderstanding ironed out she started coming to visit again. Some time ago she wanted an Aquarium, we were running a pretty large Aquarium in our basement which was very neglected, so we had struck a deal that if she looked after ours we would buy whatever fish or plants she wanted and it would in effect be her Aquarium. We revived that deal and arranged for her to come round and spend the day with us on the 24th to clean and set up the aquarium.
A week later some old friends of mine sold their house. They had a great offer, but had to move quickly. This left them homeless for 3 to 4 weeks until the house they were in the process of buying was ready for them to move in. With 2 kids (aged 5 and 11) and 2 dogs the chances of them finding a place to rent for a month were slim to zero so his wife called Clare to ask if they could move into our house, which they duly did 2 days ago on the 22nd.
Which is why this morning I was reading my paper, surrounded by chaos, looking like Al Bundy and wishing I had a shed to retreat to. Our two usually well behaved, non neutered gun dogs had instantly gone feral with the sight of our house visitors pretty little Dalmatian, and were whining like crazy. The cat had been screaming outside the back door all morning too afraid to come in. Our month old baby was in her car seat on the kitchen table and I was rocking her to keep her calm while I endeavored to read the paper. I had to read the same paragraph again and again because I was part of 3 concurrent conversations. One of these conversations was with my friends 5 year old who by now must think I'm the grumpiest man he has ever met.
At the end of the day I was exhausted, more than ready for my weekly Cuban. It takes too long to smoke outside in the cold, so I usually sit in the lounge by an open window sash window, long after the baby has gone to bed. I had been smoking for about 15 minutes when our house guests came into the lounge, they had been unpacking and putting the kids to bed. We opened a bottle of wine and started chatting.
After about 10 more minutes my friends wife started to look uncomfortable, she has asthma which I wasn't previously aware of. I offered to leave the room and go outside but she wouldn't hear of it. She went upstairs for her nebuliser, which I expected to be a little hand inhaler. What she came back with was a big clear plastic contraption the size of a hamster cage. There was no way I could remain in the lounge after seeing that, I felt like I had gone from Mr. Grumpy to Dr. Evil so went outside to finish it off.
So it looks like no Cigars for a month, and a crash course in parenting. I have already learned why my Dad used to take the newspaper to the toilet for an hour, and the real uses and benefits of having a shed or workshop. I am just trying my best not to turn into him!