Michael McIntyre

We had a good day on Saturday. Friday was Ursula’s birthday – one of my presents to her was a big canvas print of great photo I took (if I do say so myself) of a dolphin in Florida, which looks very nice on our living room wall.

A dolphin at Clearwater Beach, Florida
A dolphin at Clearwater Beach, Florida

We already had tickets for Michael McIntyre at the Hammersmith Apollo on Saturday night, but the show was at the particularly awkward time of 6:30pm, meaning going out for dinner wasn’t really an option. So Ursula suggested afternoon tea instead, which I duly booked at the Cadogan Hotel in Kensington (you can’t get Claridges or the Dorchester at such short notice). Tea was lovely – excellent sandwiches, hot fresh scones, beautiful cakes, and I had to drink Ursula’s complimentary glass of champagne as she’s still totally off the booze. The Cadogan Square car park was hilarious – almost every other car in there was a dust-covered Ferrari, Aston Martin or Porsche, obviously belonging to the super-rich of Kensington who are never around long enough to drive their supercars. Our poor little Nissan Qashqai felt rather intimidated.

We got to Hammersmith bang on time, rather foolishly as it turned out, because despite the doors opening at 6:30, the show didn’t start until 8:00. The first 45 minutes was spent packed like sardines standing in the swelteringly hot foyer. Ursula, who’s bump has really started to show in the past couple of weeks, was not offered a seat, and she started mumbling along the lines of “he better be bloody funny!” 

Fortunately, he was bloody funny. Face-achingly hilarious in fact, that is if you happened to be in his target demographic – middle class, north London, 30-something, parents of small children. I’m not sure what the students in the audience made of the whole thing, but for me, stories about men in lofts, and baby playgroups, were bang on the money. McIntyre obviously shares a lot of our experiences in the world of 21st century parenting, but I couldn’t help thinking as he joked about his two boys (one of whom has the same name as one of our potentials) about how our experience is about to become so very different.

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All systems go

Big relief: another potential stumbling block on the loft conversion front has been averted. Because we live in a semi-detached house, we have to get what’s called a “party wall agreement”, which is the consent of our adjoining neighbour, before any work can commence. If they didn’t agree, we’d have to employ surveyors, which would cost a load more money and delay the whole process by at least eight weeks, which could have been a bit of a problem given than we’re trying to get this finished before the babies arrive.

So we took round the paperwork for the neighbours to sign on Sunday morning, and they said it shouldn’t be a problem, could they just take a look at it, and they’d drop it back to us later in the day. Sunday evening came and went with no paperwork, so I started to panic. By Monday lunch time I couldn’t take the stress anymore, so I asked Ursula to go round and check whether there was likely to be a problem – unfortunately for me I couldn’t do it as I was at work. Thank God, all was OK, she just wanted to take some advise from someone to check she wasn’t signing the rights to her house way. Anyway, as of this morning, we have the signed party wall agreement, so there shouldn’t be any further obstacles in our way.

Now I have just a few weekends to empty all the crap out of the loft and find somewhere to store it while the work’s being done. Annoyingly, most of what we have up there is old baby stuff left over from Jacob and Max, so we can’t throw it out as we’ll be needing a lot it again. But of course there’s nowhere to put it until the loft’s done. Might have to call up my grandma and borrow some more space in her garage – she’s already got a load of furniture from our old house that we couldn’t fit into the new one.

5…4…3…2…1…We Have Loft Off

Fairly momentous day – we have chosen a loft company and given them the go ahead. I have decided not to name them on this blog, just in case it all goes tits up and I feel the need to use this as a forum to rant about them. 

Did I ever actually mention that we’ve had confirmation that the planning regulations are changing in our favour? No I did. So, the planning regulations are changing in our favour. Shock horror. The government actually did something sensible. Which means we will be able to do a proper loft conversion (the technical term is hip-to-gable) providing us with a decent amount of space up there. We will then be able to shut the door, turn the TV up really loud and pretend we can’t hear anything when the babies are crying.

The plan is that it will be done by Christmas. It all seems a little unfeasible to me, seeing as how that is just 3 months and 2 days away, but we’ll see. We’ll still have to decorate, tile the bathroom, fit the carpet etc in January, but it would be nice if we could actually have the house sorted in time for the new arrivals. The official due date is March 3rd, but twins never go full term, so they’ll probably arrive some time in late January/early February. It’s all disturbingly soon really.

Gender

So the results are in. Well, half the results are in. Ursula went to the hospital for a scan this morning, and one of the two babies is definitely a boy. The second is either a girl with an umbilical cord between her legs or a boy with an enormous set of crown jewels.

I’m not really sure what to make of this news. I suppose if I’m honest I feel slightly relieved. I think two girls was the scariest prospect of all the possible options, just because, as I’ve mentioned here before, I don’t have a clue how to handle little girls. If baby 2 is a girl, she’ll be safe in the knowledge that she will be the undisputed centre of attention for the whole family, being as she would be, the first female Hirschkorn to be born in 63 years. If he’s a boy, well it won’t come as much of a surprise, for the same reason I just gave – we don’t really do girls in this family. And he’ll certainly fit right in, in this particular madhouse.

I know Ursula would like a girl, if only so she can have an excuse to buy dresses and pink things and flowery things. But on the other hand she would also be quite relieved if they were all boys, because we’re rather fond of boys in this house. The person who’ll be most disappointed if neither of the twins are girls is Jacob, who is absolutely desperate to have a little sister.

The one who we know to be a boy is a bit of a bruiser. He’s big, burly, and probably sitting on his brother/sister’s head as I write. He is baby B, but looking at the notes from the hospital, I’m a bit confused as to whether he’s the one on top, or closer to the emergency exit. As for baby A, well the hope is that we’ll find out more at the next scan, which is in about 3 weeks’ time.

Logistics

Yesterday morning, I had to manage the boys solo. Ursula had to leave early to do an interview with Bobby Robson for the health section of a Sunday paper. At this point any ordinary man would surely be in awe, but unfortunately having about as much interest in football as I do in Grey’s Anatomy, I was sadly unimpressed by this particular job.

Anyway, getting two small boys out of bed, dressed, breakfasted, into the car, with their respective bags, jackets and packed lunches, and delivered to two separate schools, one at 9 and one at 9:15, single-handed, was challenging to say the least. By the time I was finished, I was ready for bed, let alone a day at work. And apparently I have to do the whole thing all over again on Monday, as Ursula has a scan at the hospital, which might actually produce some interesting news for this blog.

All of which begs the obvious question: how the hell do you do this with 4? Of course the whole solo thing doesn’t happen all that often, but even when Ursula and I are both at full tilt on a school morning, it’s a struggle to get everyone where they’re supposed to be on time. If my calculations are correct, we will be blessed with one year (I think it will be 2014) when they’re all at the same school. But other than that, the logistics of managing four children’s daily movements fill me with absolute terror. 

On a separate note, we received confirmation on Wednesday that the regulation changes on the loft conversion front are indeed in our favour. It’s wonderful news, although I’m still having difficulty accepting that it’s true. So we can now press ahead with getting it done. All that’s needed now is to make a decision about a loft conversion company. I am well aware that I’m driving my wife crazy by taking my time over this, but I’m afraid I have too much of my mother in me, and I have to be completely sure before I give anyone the go ahead. So tomorrow is set to be a joyous day of going to look round other people’s lofts, to check out the quality of the work of the two contenders.

And just a quick observation before I sign off for the night: isn’t weird the way a bottle of wine disappears much quicker when you drink out of a big glass?

Loft

It’s been an awfully long time since I last posted, and for that I apologise. I went through a nasty bout of tonsilitis which took me completely out of commission for a few days. Also it’s been incredibly busy at work – this is our busiest time of year, and it’s our busiest year ever – so I’ve been completely knackered in the evenings and therefore not had enough energy to post.

So what’s been going on? Well no monumental news in the world of expectant twindom. Ever since Ursula got over the worst of the sickness a few weeks back, it’s been pretty much life as normal, much as we knew it would be during the second trimester. She still gets the occasional bout of nausea, and she gets very tired in the afternoons, but it’s nothing compared to before. And thank goodness, because there’s been plenty going on in life-in-general. We are now well and truly into Hirschkorn birthday season. My grandma was two weeks ago (OK, so she’s not a Hirschkorn, but that’s a minor technicality), then my dad, who had just about the worst birthday of his life with work so busy and both me and our warehouse manager off sick that day. Then last week was my birthday. I suppose it’s quite depressing when birthdays just aren’t exciting like they used to be. Ursula took me out for a lovely meal in the evening, and I got a good haul of presents, but otherwise it was just like any other day. And if I’m honest, 33 really isn’t significantly different to 32. 

The next birthday is Ursula’s – oh shit, is it really next week? Better get moving on the present front! Then in October we have both Max and Jacob, with my sister-in-law and nephew in between. Thank god the twins are going to be born at a totally different time of year. I don’t think we could handle any more Autumn birthdays, both from a practical and financial perspective.

So the main topic of conversation at the moment is loft conversions. One of the first thoughts to go through my mind when we found out about the twins was that our house is in no way whatsoever big enough for a family of six. We only moved here about 10 months ago, from a bigger house on a nicer street, because we were forced to because of this government’s ridiculous policy of catchment areas for schools. It’s a very long and complicated story which maybe I’ll tell another time, but the short of it is that if we wanted Jacob to go to a decent primary school, we couldn’t stay in our previous house. So now we live here, a few minutes away from a really lovely school, surrounded by hundreds of other families with young children. Despite the slight downsizing, the move was well worth it.

Jacob's new school uniform on his first day at Frith Manor
Jacob in his new school uniform

Incidentally, it was Jacob’s first day of school last week, on the same day as my birthday. You would expect this to be a monumental event, but it actually passed by with little fanfare, as he’d already been at the nursery of that school for the last year and a half. So he’s only moved to the classroom next door, with longer hours and a slightly different school uniform, but otherwise it’s much the same as before. It’s a relief to have him back at school as he was starting to get a bit stir crazy after 7 weeks of summer holidays. Max has also started going to nursery 5 mornings a week (up from 2 a week last term) but I think that’s all still a bit much for the poor little sausage, who’s been getting rather tired and emotional in the afternoons.

So back to the house thing. Our house is a relatively small 3-bed semi. When we found out Ursula was pregnant, the plan had been to move the boys in together and put the baby in the small box that is currently Max’s room. But having twins changes the whole thing – the room is probably not even big enough for two cots, let alone all the other stuff babies need like change tables, wardrobes, etc etc. Having only just moved in here, and with the property market the way it is, moving to a bigger house isn’t an option. So the only thing left for us to do is extend into the loft.

Ignoring of course the roughly £40,000 this would cost, it seemed like the perfect solution. There was this niggling thing in the back of our minds that an estate agent had told us when we were looking for this house, about how you have to do loft conversions before ground floor extensions in this area, and you wouldn’t be able to do it the other way round. Since a massive proportion of the houses around here have both, we had always assumed he didn’t know what he was talking about – a fair assumption for an estate agent. Our house already had the kitchen extended out the back when we bought it, so we thought we’d better check with the council, just for peace of mind. 

Whatever the polar opposite of peace of mind is, that is exactly what we had when Ursula spoke to the council. Due to some totally absurd loophole in the planning regulations, you can do the kind of loft conversion we need under what’s called “permitted development” so long as there are no other extensions on the house. Once the loft is done, you can apply for planning permission for a ground floor extension and permission will be granted. But if you do the ground floor extension under “permitted development” the council will then not grant planning permission for the loft conversion. 

PANIC!!! We went on a major rollercoaster of emotions that afternoon, believing that the only way we could get the space we needed was to sell up and move out of London and have to start the whole school thing all over again. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’ll never understand where my children get their drama queen tendencies from. It certainly isn’t from their father.

But then along came my mother, who, in her usual way when things like this happen, set off on a course of meticulous and detailed research to try and figure out a practical solution to the problem that wouldn’t involve emigration.

Thanks to her research, it turns out that the regulations regarding planning permission for loft conversions are due to change on the 1st of October. In typical British government fashion, nobody actually knows exactly what the changes are, and remarkably not even anyone in the loft conversion industry knows anything about it, despite the fact that the new regulations will totally transform their businesses. In essence it seems that, as of next month, loft conversions will be allowed under “permitted development” regardless of whether you already have an extension on the house. We’re very dubious about accepting this interpretation though, as it seems hard to believe that this government would introduce a change in legislation that would actually make life easier for middle-class homeowners. But if it is the case, then we’re free to go ahead and get started on the loft in two weeks’ time. If our interpretation of the new regulations isn’t correct, then we’ll have to figure out a way to do a smaller conversion that does fall within the existing rules.

Either way, we want to get things moving as quickly as possible, as the last thing we want is a house full of builders when we’ve got two new babies. So we’ve had hundreds of loft companies round (OK, so it’s actually about five or six, but it seems like hundreds) to give us quotes, and we’ve now whittled it down to the final two. They’ve both come round for a second visit in the last couple of days, and choosing between them is going to be about as easy as a…well as something not very easy at all. The sales guys from both companies seemed like nice enough chaps, but that has bugger all bearing on who the people actually doing the job will be. I’m sure whichever one we choose, we’ll always wonder if we’d have been better off with the other one. I sense there will be tossing of coins at some point in the next few days.

Ursula commented to me this evening about how, if she hadn’t got pregnant, life would have been so simple these days. We’re both pretty settled in our careers and alright financially. We’re settled and happy in our house. The boys are at a lovely school and nursery. Life’s pretty good. But that’s all about to get completely blown out of the water. We’ll have no money, no time, no sleep, no hope! Babies – I hope you appreciate what your parents are going through for you.

Totally gutted

This is nothing to do with twins or families or anything like that. I was going to write another post tonight because I’m getting stick from the Mrs for not having posted in ages. She likes reading this because she says it’s the only way to find out what I’m actually thinking. In fact the reason for not having posted for a while is because I’ve been laid low with a nasty case of tonsilitis for much of the last week. 

But anyway, I’m not here to talk about any of that. I just want a quick opportunity to vent my spleen at that disgusting organisation that is the FIA. I’ve just watched Lewis Hamilton win possibly the most amazing Grand Prix of his career to date (as a father with “family commitments”, I NEVER get to watch a race live. It’s always on the Sky+, and I rarely get to know the result much before midnight on a Sunday night) holding his nerve as the rain started pouring down on the last few laps in Belgium, while the chump Raikkonen planted it in the wall as soon as the track got wet. So there I was about to go to bed feeling all positive and pleased, and I thought I’d just quickly log on to Autosport.com to look at some reaction. And there to my horror I discovered that Hamilton has had a post-race penalty of 25s applied, stripping him of his win.

The reason? For gaining an advantage by cutting the chicane while trying to overtake Raikkonen. HELLO? STEWARDS? Were you watching the same race as me? 

  1. Hamilton made a fair move on a struggling Raikkonen into the chicane, and only had to cut the corner because Raikkonen (in my opinion) unfairly closed the door on him when Hamilton had the advantage. Had he stayed on the road, they would have crashed, taking them both out of the race. So cutting the chicane was the only thing he could have done.
  2. Hamilton IMMEDIATELY let Raikkonen back through, the only appropriate action when you’ve gained a position by cutting the chicane, whether legitimately or not. How can he be deemed to have gained an advantage when he deliberately eased off to let Raikkonen back through?
  3. Hamilton then had to pass BEHIND, and then back off to avoid once again colliding with, an all over the place and increasingly desperate Raikonnen, to take the inside line into La Source hairpin, at which point he regained the lead. 

WHERE WAS THE UNFAIR ADVANTAGE? Hamilton just drove better than Raikkonen.

Any suggestions that the FIA is not really biased towards Ferrari, it’s just circumstance that makes it look that way, are now well and truly dead. Independent panel of stewards my arse. Isn’t it amazing how, two weeks ago, when Ferrari released Massa into the path of Adrian Sutil in the pit lane, clearly in breach of the rules and the spirit of the sport, it was deemed not worthy of a penalty, and saved a lot of red faces at Ferrari and a lot of championship points for Massa. Yet in this racing incident, where nobody was hurt, no rules were broken, it was simply the case of the better driver coming out of tussle in the lead, the FIA immediately stomp on it, and who stands to gain the most? Ferrari, and Massa.

Now I’m not usually one for a conspiracy theory (well OK that may not be strictly true, but that’s not relevant to this discussion) but here goes. Ron Dennis, while not directly responsible, probably knows more about Max Mosley’s little Gestapo get-together than he’s prepared to admit. The whole thing was just the next battle in the war that escalated out of all control with the pathetic $100 million fine in the so-called “Spygate” scandal last year. Mosley knows it, and will stop at nothing to make Dennis’, and McLaren’s, life a misery. Mosley exerts direct control over the stewards, and this was his decision. The slimy fox will always be able to hide behind the veil of the rules – he only ever acts if he can see a chink he can exploit. The quicker Mosley is removed from the power-broking executive of this sport, the better.

Now I am happy to admit that much of this sounds like the ramblings of a lunatic, and it’s entirely possible, indeed quite likely, that I’m well wide of the mark. But the fact is that I’m absolutely seething about this utter travesty and injustice. I don’t think I’ve ever been this angry about something that doesn’t actually involve me. I go to bed an extremely upset and annoyed man, and I wish McLaren all the luck in the world in their appeal. Every time I think I’m starting to warm to Ferrari (which was starting to happen post-Todt) something like this happens. Grrr…

Anyway I hope to return this blog to business as usual in the next few days, so stay tuned.