Blump has now finally settled in a head-down position: there have been no somersaults in over a week now. Ready to dive. Yesterday I had my regular checkup with the midwife, and she confirmed that Blump has moved down into the pelvis, and as she put it, “is not going to move out of there… except when she or he is coming out.”

Not that that stops him/her from moving around otherwise. Now that Blump is taking up most of the space inside, there is less of a buffer between me and his/her sharp little knees and elbows. I feel every kick very clearly, especially those aimed outwards, and I really can’t understand women who say they cannot feel their babies moving! For me it’s gone long past the point of feeling them – now the distinction is between normal movements, somewhat uncomfortable movements, and movements that actually feel painful.

Yesterday was my last day at work. After the intensity of the last few weeks – when I was literally dreaming of code, and seeing Excel sheets in my mind’s eye when I lay down to sleep – this feels very strange. It will take a while to get used to the idea of being at home. Every day of every week.

I’ll spend the weekend just catching up with everything that has been piling up at home. I’ve got two weeks’ worth of snail mail to go through: I’ve taken the time to open them and check that there’s nothing urgent inside, and then just added them to the pile. Laundry had also been accumulating for at least two weeks, until I made a dent in it today. And I last had a haircut… let’s see… maybe around 6 weeks ago?

All of that will be done in another day or two. Then I’ve got a hobby project to keep me busy for a day or two (Roman blinds for the bedroom). But after that, I need a plan. I can only read for so many hours in a day, and only see so many movies, before I need something more active to do. And given that first babies often arrive late, this could go on for a month. I don’t believe I could just hang around and do nothing in particular for more than a week.

Of course, Blump could arrive early, which would change things a bit.

My very pregnant looks came up during a lunchtime conversation today. Somehow that then led on to a mention of Homer in his muumuu in “King-size Homer”.

I have to say, this is the first time I’ve ever been compared to Homer, in any context!

Helen in muumuu Homer in muumuu

ParcelForce are completely incompetent. Avoid them if you can. And don’t send any large parcels to the UK without warning the recipient.

I bought a pushchair / pram from Ebay just over two weeks ago.

First I waited. Nothing happened. I gave it a week, then emailed the seller to check that they’d shipped it. They had indeed sent it off that Friday, and gave me a tracking number. I went to ParcelForce’s web site to see what’s happening.

It turned out that they had tried to deliver the parcel 3 times. First Monday morning 9:25. Then that same Monday afternoon 17:43. Then Tuesday 17:00.

It’s pretty absurd to expect anyone to be at home at those hours. Even someone with a 9-to-5 job wouldn’t be home at such times. But that’s OK, I was fully expecting them to turn up unannounced in the middle of the day, because that’s what ParcelForce does. It’s stupid, but at least it is predictable. They do that, then they leave a card, you call them and ask to redeliver on a Saturday or send it to the local Post Office. Fine.

But this time I did not get any notice of any of those three attempts: none of the usual cards (“we tried to deliver but you weren’t home”). No letter telling me that a parcel was waiting for me. Had it not been a parcel I ordered, I’d never have known that it had been sent, and it would have gone right back to the sender.

So on Monday I called ParcelForce’s call centre to ask them to send it to the local Post Office. (Their call centre is, of course, closed on weekends.) While the web site promises that it will be available after noon the next day, for some reason they told me it wouldn’t be there until Wednesday, but at that point another day’s delay didn’t concern me much.

Today Eric and I went to the Post Office to pick it up.

The Post Office knew nothing about our parcel, couldn’t care less about our parcel, and definitely weren’t going to do anything to help find out why it wasn’t there. We went home again and checked the web site, and sure enough, there was no notification there about it having been sent to the Post Office – it was still sitting in the depot.

By now I was getting slightly worried, because they only hold the parcel for 16 days – any longer than that, and it gets returned to the sender. I couldn’t ask them to deliver it on a weekend, because that would take me past that 16-day limit. And if I asked them to deliver it to the office instead of home, and they for some reason couldn’t get it done within 1 day, then that would again be past the limit. And I’m sure that it wouldn’t matter to them that the delay was because of their procedures. So I decided to bite the bullet and pick it up at the depot.

The web site told me where the depot is. Out in the boondocks, of course: in Charlton, which is 10 minutes by tube + 20 minutes by train + half a mile’s walk.

What it didn’t tell me was the opening hours. You have to call the depot for that. So I tried to call the depot to check their opening hours, and to confirm that I could turn up to pick up the parcel without advance notification. After 15 minutes of queueing, the voice on the phone said they were too busy to answer, and forwarded my call to the call centre again. Which, as I’d already discovered, was closed on weekends. The next call ended the same way.

Not seeing any other option, I went to Charlton anyway, hoping that they would be open. After a bit of wandering around in an empty industrial estate, I found the depot – only to see a man pushing the gate closed. It was 12:28 and it turned out they closed at 12:30. (Of course there was no sign saying that. If I had arrived 3 minutes later, I would probably have spent then next half hour looking for an open gate – because there was also no sign saying that this was actually the entrance.)

Anyway, he took pity on me and let me in, and found the parcel for me.

He also explained why the parcel wasn’t at the Post Office (after I complained about that). Apparently it was simply too big, and the Post Office wouldn’t have space for it. Which I can totally understand, after having seen the Post Office from the inside… But then why did they not tell me that on the phone? Or send me a notification? Or at least put a note in the tracking system? How was I supposed to know this?

It shouldn’t be a two-week adventure to get your parcel delivered. It shouldn’t take 40 minutes on the phone, one wasted trip to the Post Office, and then an extra 2-hour outing to somewhere that’s barely within our street map. It shouldn’t require lucky guessing of opening hours. It shouldn’t require advance knowledge (or a crystal ball to tell you) that a parcel has been sent to you.

Had a very busy week at work, thus no blog posts during the week. Next week will probably be no different.

The project’s phase-1 code cutoff coincides with my last day at work (this coming Friday), which makes it a very firm deadline for me. And there’s so much still to do! If it was just code cutoff, then I’d know that I can still fix small things during the QA period – but now I won’t be there and it would be a lot harder for someone else to fix anything that I left broken. And if it was just me leaving, then of course there wouldn’t be as much pressure on the project itself.

I don’t think I’ve ever worked as intensely as I’ve done these past two weeks. I’ve worked longer hours, sure – and even longer hours for a longer period. Stretches of 55- or 60-hour weeks weren’t that unusual in Commodities. But then that was a different kind of job: I might work on a presentation in the morning, then do some pricing or modelling, talk to clients, talk to middle office to fix some problem with a trade, then go back to working on the presentation. Now I’m sitting and coding and debugging all day, and that takes a different kind of concentration.

By the time I get home in the evening, I feel completely flattened and squeezed out. Not so much physically – I get home at a reasonable hour, and get all the sleep I need – but mentally. Sit in the sofa and re-read some familiar comfortable book, or see an easy movie. If we had a TV I’d probably spend all evening zapping mindlessly between channels. (So it’s a good thing we haven’t got one.)

I’ve only got one more week left at work and still so much to do… On the other hand, since it’s only one more week, I know I can keep this pace up without having to pay for it later. Then I get 2 weeks at home, and if my brain is tired and not good for much more than watching TV, it doesn’t really matter at all.

I’m actually going to quietly sneak in to the office for half a day tomorrow, to knock some more items off my to do list – and then just pretend I had a very very productive day on Monday!

We went to an antenatal parent education class today, organised by the Royal London Hospital. I have to say it was a big disappointment.

First problem: it took us 3 tries, on 3 different weekends, to even get to the class. The first time no teacher turned up and we gave up and went home after 15 minutes. The second time no teacher turned up, we chased around the hospital to find out what was going on, were told the class was cancelled because the midwives were all busy, and went home again.

This time a midwife did turn up to actually hold the class. But she was so disorganised, and her way of presenting so confused, that the class was almost useless.

She started by handing out a course plan with a list of topics. That course plan had nothing to do with the actual course. When she spoke, it was almost a stream-of-consciousness presentation: she might be talking about pain relief in labour, in 3 sentences segue into breastfeeding, then moments later be talking about how to raise children, and then back to labour again. Only when someone asked a specific question did she stay on topic for more than a few moments.

Occasionally, when someone asked a question about something I felt informed about (I have been reading, after all) I was very tempted to answer the question myself because then they would at least have gotten a coherent answer. I believe some of the people there may have gone home more confused than they came. Of course, if they knew nothing at all, then this may have been more useful than nothing…

The course was supposed to take 6 hours. 4 hours after we’d started, the midwife obviously thought she had spoken enough and sent us home. Well, she did ask if there was anything more we wanted to hear about. But if we knew what we needed to know then we wouldn’t have been there, would we!

I got the impression that someone had set up this class a while ago – written the course plan with suggested topics in a rational order – and then handed it over to other people to run. Maybe the original plan was put together by a consultant from somewhere, or just a midwife with some planning skills who later left. (The course seemed to be a few years old: many of the printouts and photocopied materials were dated around 2002). In any case, the materials appear to have been taken over and used by random people with no teaching or organisational skills whatsoever.

Maybe the teachers are different on different weekends and we just had bad luck. But the hospital should know that. If the hospital sends someone with so little preparation and so little teaching aptitude to teach a class, they can’t take these classes very seriously. This seemed like a mixture of box-ticking (“each hospital shall provide antenatal classes”) and keeping the parents pacified, rather than an effort to actually provide information or knowledge.

It certainly explains why the antenatal classes by the NCT (National Childbirth Trust) are booked about half a year in advance (which is why we attended this one instead).

Remember my complaints about delays at St Bart’s, and wondering how they could be so badly behind schedule already early in the day?

Yesterday I went to St Bart’s again, and was seen about 40 minutes after the appointed time. But that’s not the interesting part of the visit.

The interesting part was seeing, by chance, a summary of the doctor’s appointments calendar for the next 8 or 10 days on which he was seeing patients. I think he is only there once a week, so this would represent the next 2 months of appointments, although the scale doesn’t really matter here.

Out of those 8 or 10 occasions, 1 was blocked out, 2 were marked OB 1 for “1 overbooked”, 1 was marked OB 2, and the rest marked simply FULL.

If that is at all representative, at least 30% of his days are overbooked weeks in advance. It probably only gets worse closer to the time. No wonder he’s behind schedule every time I see him!

While I was there, the receptionist came in to ask what to do about booking a follow-up for another patient. There was obviously no space in the calendar, yet the patient needed an appointment. (That’s why the calendar printout was brought up.) So the doctor unblocked that single blocked day which he’d apparently kept as a reserve.

Time management the NHS way: time is a flexible, relative thing, to be stretched until it covers everything that’s needed.

… when you automatically aim for the side door and ignore the main exit on your way out when going home, because you know the main door is locked after normal working hours – and when the main door suddenly opens for you (because it’s an automatic one) your first reaction is confusion, and then the thought that you should talk to the friendly security guy outside to let him know that the door is still unlocked.

In the past 2 or 3 weeks I have received junk mail about parenting or children’s products from three different advertisers.

I have never before heard of nor been in contact with any of these companies. All of them have my address in the exact same format, and that is a format that I never use when asked for my address (spelling out the word “flat” and putting the flat number on a separate row). So I can be reasonably sure that my address hasn’t been sold by some unscrupulous company that I have purchased maternity or baby goods from.

On the other hand, the format matches the “official” address for this flat – as used by Inland Revenue, the local council etc. Very fishy. I strongly suspect that the local council has somehow been informed of my pregnancy – probably via the hospital or the clinic – and now they think they’re doing me a service by selling or giving my address details to companies they deem deserving.

Further strengthening this suspicion is the fact that the junk mail has been for one parenting magazine, one children’s book club, and (the latest) a language course for children that is somehow associated with the BBC. All “worthy” educational stuff, just the kind of thing that the local council would push in the belief that they know better – especially in a part of town with a high concentration of immigrants.

As most junk mail, the fact that it has been pushed to me without any request from my side is annoying enough. It is even more annoying that all these products are completely irrelevant to me – heck, I don’t even have a baby yet, even less one who’s old enough for book clubs! And if this is what I get before the baby has been born, how many will they send me later?

I replied to the first two and asked them to remove me from their mailing lists. It looks like that is pointless; if this is to stop then I’II need to go straight to the root and find out where they got my address from. Which they will probably refuse to tell me; and if they do, and it’s the local council, they will probably ignore me completely. I foresee an endless flood of junk mail for as long as I live here…

This weekend, due to my own carelessness, I bought one of the most pointless food items ever: soup with an energy content of 26 kcal per 100g.

Now you may not be too aware of calories and such. For your information, orange juice and milk contain ca 50 kcal per 100g. One slice of wholegrain bread is around 70–100 kcal. A banana is ca 130 kcal.

So someone has actually created a soup with less energy than orange juice. The whole 600g pot is a meal that provides less energy than two slices of bread. I believe it probably took me more energy to carry the soup home than I would get from eating it!

Stomach volume is at a premium right now, since Blump is taking up a lot of space. It would be entirely too easy to not eat enough because I feel stuffed after relatively small meals, which is why I try to pay some attention my calorie intake. And therefore I don’t think I can afford to waste the equivalent space of 3 glasses of juice on something that would give me marginally more energy than one large banana. Besides, unlike juice, the soup won’t even be fresh or thirst-quenching. Much though I dislike to throw away food, I think this pot of soup is simply not worth eating.