Niamh Ann Purdie

Niamh
Niamh (Photo credit: Iain Purdie)

I’m writing this up a couple of days later, simply as I’ve not had the time since the big event.

Niamh Ann Purdie is our daughter and she was born at 14:50 on July 25th 2012, weighing in at an eye-watering 10lb 7.5oz (4.7kg approx). She is absolutely perfect in every little detail. Here is her story. Or at least some bits of it which seem relevant. Or funny.

First up, she almost wasn’t called Niamh. After rattling names around, and exchanging blows on more than one occasion we had settled on Eilidh. Unfortunately, some utter munter happened to ask Gillian what she was going to name our little bundle of joy. As any proud mother probably would, Gillian told her. A few weeks later, aforementioned bint appeared with hew new baby girl: Eilidh Ann.

She stole our baby’s name that we’d spent weeks arguing over. Worse, there was every chance that Littler Miss would be in this girl’s class at primary school in a few years. So back to the drawing board.

Niamh had been a backup name anyway, and Gillian did give me final decision as she’d named the previous two nippers. After some soul-searching, I decided to forever hate the evil woman and go with Niamh. Actually, I prefer it for several reasons:

  • It means “bright” or “radiant”. I like that
  • It’s the name of an Irish goddess
  • It has its own provenance, i.e. it’s not a different version of another name. Look up Iain and you’re redirected to John. Look up Eilidh and you’re redirected to Helen.
  • Niamh was the warrior queen of Sláine mac Roth from the 2000AD strip, a queen not content to sit back and simper but instead was up front with her husband, protecting her children and cutting down swathes of the enemy with whatever weapon she had to hand. I like the idea of this in a daughter.

So, Niamh it was to be. Although I really wanted the old Irish spelling (Niaṁ), I was over-ruled on the basis that people wouldn’t be able to get that last character on a keyboard. Pff.

Just for interest, names bandied around and discarded included pretty much all of the small handful from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Trillian, Tricia, Random, Fenchurch, Eccentrica…) and a fair few female scientists (Marie, Grace, Ada). Oh, and SkullKrusher – the name I used to refer to her during her 9 month, 3 day tenure in Gillian’s belly.

Ann has family significance. One of my grannies has already had a few children named after her on that side of the family. My maternal grandmother hasn’t and I’d always had Ann in mind for a girl. As luck would have it, it’s also my mother-in-law’s name so that helped it find favour.

In the run-in to the due date of July 22nd, we’d had conflicting information from scans and proddings. Little Miss was quite a sizeable baby and Little Mister noticeably bigger. First impressions were that this one would be smaller. And then not. Maybe 8 1/2lbs. Yeah, well. Those three extra days were obviously serious construction time.

After a little false start a day or two ahead of time, little baby SkullKrusher decided to start making serious motions around breakfast time on July 25th. Without too much of a rush, we grabbed what we needed and sneaked out without the kids seeing us just in case it was another false alarm. By midday we were in a little cubicle at the Southern General, Gillian wrapped in straps which monitored her contractions which were definitely getting stronger and more frequent. Around 13:00 they moved us to the ward to while away the time until she was ready.

Well, great. No telly, my mobile battery low and Gillian and I twiddling thumbs. Not to mention peckish. I took her order for a sandwich and wandered over to the car to get her purse – the canteen in the hospital doesn’t take plastic.

My thinking was “drop sandwich with Gillian, go to McD’s wander back, kick heels, stare at walls…”

This didn’t happen.

By the time I got back upstairs, Gillian was gripping the bedsheets like she’d float into orbit otherwise and informed me through fetchingly clenched teeth that they were about to move her to the labour ward. Bloody hell. SkullKrusher wasn’t messing about.

Sandwich unopened and uneaten, we were whisked downstairs and into a nice little room with a very uncomfortable looking bed and very comfortably professional staff. They settled Gillian down and I floated around near the head end courtesy of strict instructions given by Gillian. I’d been warned by her mother that she’d likely call me lots of nasty names, demand that the baby goes into reverse at some point and – once she got into the gas & air – would start spouting utter bollocks.

I had also been told not to hold her hand or rub her shoulders etc. I know she just doesn’t like this kind of thing when she’s ill at the best of times. The idea of having my future wife’s fingerprints permanently embedded in the back of my hand also dissuaded me from reaching out… to begin with.

There will now follow very little grizzle or gore, I promise. The next few paragraphs are pretty much what I remember in a very rushed and very short period of time.

After a brief examination, where everything seemed to be going fine, the attending midwife (I assume it’s a midwife? I didn’t ask) was calling for some assistance when Gillian let out a belter of a primal scream. The midwife looked around. “Are you feeling the urge to push?”

Gillian managed to growl something that sounded like a “yes” and was instructed to just go with it and push when she next felt the need. As I’d been doing, I proffered her my hand. Unwitting and just instinctive, despite previous instruction and the fact that I kind of rely on working non-broken digits to earn a  living. This time she grabbed it, for which I am very glad.

Birthing isn’t easy. It’s painful. I can’t begin to comprehend how much. Despite the upcoming end result, watching the woman you love and have chosen to spend your life with in such pain without being able to so much as offer her physical comfort is not a pleasant sensation. The relief I felt when she grasped my wrist was huge. Partly as it made me feel that I was finally helping in some small way and partly as she was far less likely to snap those bones that the skinnier ones in my fingers.

The midwife had just about got her gloves on when the head made an appearance.

Now hang on. I’ve seen births on telly – real and dramatised – and this doesn’t happen. There’s supposed to be hours of screaming, groaning, swearing, threats, cajoling, pushing, panting, breaths, tears… Nah, bugger that. That’s inefficient. Gillian’s far better than that.

Push two got the head out.

A couple more breaths, a howl that told me either “here we go” or “my army and I are about to pour over the hill and lay waste to your puny township” and push three resulted in the single most amazing, wonderful, tear-inducing, memorable, fantastic, staggering (etc., etc.) moment of my entire life.

The birth of Niamh Ann.

Gillian was only concerned that the baby was OK, obviously. All she could say was “is she OK? I can’t hear her crying.” She was. I could hear her gurgling as the midwife and other staff cleaned her up and began to wrap her. The first little cry stopped Gillian dead and the first actual tears I’d seen sprang from Gillian’s eyes.

I’d been bubbling since I saw the head. And grinning like a loon at the same time. A very strange combination, but there simply is no equivalent event or chance to experience such emotions. Hell, I’m welling up just remembering it all.

With very short order, the slimy, red, scrunched, screaming little bundle was handed to mummy.

I have never in my life seen something so beautiful.

I’m not generally an emotional person. I don’t form bonds easily. I’m actually quite a loner. But in that moment right there, I knew there was no way anyone would ever be able to harm this little bundle of squodge while there is breath in my body.

She’s just wonderful. Healthy, strong and worth all the nights’ sleep lost due to mummy’s snoring.

Welcome to the world Niamh. Mummy and I love you so much that words fail even a verbose potty-mouth like your daddy.

P.S. I ate the sandwich while we moved up to the maternity ward.

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Batman: The Dark Knight Rises

As if this one needs an introduction. We’d hoped to see it at the IMAX as I saw the first two episodes there. Unfortunately, you have to book at least a day in advance at the Glasgow one due to their steam-powered booking system (assuming you can even find it on their web site). Also, simply due to popularity, the film is booked out for every evening performance until the middle of this week – and with Littler Miss working her way down the birth canal slower than a barge through treacle, we can’t risk blowing the cash on something we may not be able to get to. So, off to Parkhead we went. Oh, and with no concerns about trying to find a 2D showing as there was no crappy, revenue-driven urge to produce a 3D version of the film. Thank you director Christopher Nolan for putting your foot down about that one.

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises

I’ll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. The film follows on very closely from the end of The Dark Knight, with prisoners incarcerated as a result of the Harvey Dent Act. Gotham is free of organised crime and, as a result, the mysterious Batman has disappeared. However, this is Gotham. And this is a trilogy. So something has to happen.

Cue villain-of-the-moment Bane, born of darkness and out to destroy Batman – and Gotham City while he’s at it. It’s difficult to go too much further without giving anything much away so I’ll leave it at that and focus on the overall quality of the film. Before you see it, though, this excellent article on ScreenRant is worth a read. It’s pretty much spoiler-free!

There’s no denying the acting pedigree of the cast. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine return as Fox and Alfred respectively. Two of the most respected actors of their generation, and deservedly so. Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon, takes on a major part of the story. As well as an ensemble cast, it’s a multi-faceted story which ensures these people aren’t just background to Christian Bale‘s hoarse whispering Batman and Tom Hardy‘s muffle-voiced Bane.

Ah, yes. Bane. Huge, scary but often hard to understand. On the whole, I got most of what he said but there were some lines I just didn’t catch. In fairness, Batman was just as unintelligible one a small handful of instances.

The film runs for a long time – 2hrs 45 mins, in fact. Be prepared for a long sit and don’t expect a thrill a minute or a bucket of laughs between the action sequences. Dark Knight Rises is a dark film – very dark. Unrelenting in places. It could be worse. Some of the death scenes are cut away from rather abruptly which is probably what’s earned it the 12A rating in the UK rather than a 15.

The action and effects are, as expected, fantastic. They’re not as “big” as those in, say, Avengers Assemble, but they’re more gritty. Having said that, I found the fight sequences lacking a little something, perhaps because the two main proponents (Bane and Batman) are so heavily padded. Anne Hathaway‘s Selina Kyle (she’s not referred to as Catwoman at all during the film) are actually slightly better to watch and not just because she fills a leather outfit so well.

Expectations are bound to be high for this film and mainly as the last film was, simply put, absolutely outstanding. However, you’re never going to get that chemistry again. In fairness, all three films in the trilogy have aimed to be different as well and bearing that in mind, Dark Knight Rises is successful. It’s not like the other two, it is an intellectual level apart from other superhero films and it’s very much a wonderful piece of work.

However, it’s also not as good as I was hoping. Some of the dialogue just clunked for me and I think I was expecting more of the action scenes. I do think I’d have enjoyed it more visually if we’d caught it at the IMAX, but that’s only the visuals. The pace would still have been slow and Dark Knight would still be kicking it for overall quality.

It’s good. In fact, it’s very good. But it’s not the utterly amazing classic it’s been built up to be. It’s really only let down by its own hype and the expectations put upon it by the second episode in the series.

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Reply from Cineworld

Cineworld
Cineworld (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After sending my original missive (Dear @ cineworld…) on June 20th, I waited the three working days I was told by the automated email for a response. I then chased them and was told they’d not received it and could I mail them it again? I did. Five days later I chased it again. Apparently they didn’t get it. I sent it again. Over 2 weeks later and finally I have a response.

Do note that Gillian has already cancelled her card and I am trying to cancel mine. Perhaps I should have rung them like she did, but the terms and conditions clearly state that they only accept cancellations in writing by post or email… and then don’t furnish you with the details to contact them via either! The main reason for cancellation is impending babyhood, in fairness.

Their response follows. My comments inserted and will be in my reply back:

Thank you for contacting Cineworld.

I would like to apologise if you feel that there is a lack of 2D films at Cineworld Glasgow Parkhead and Renfrew Street. I can advise that we do aim to screen as many 2D versions of our 3D films as possible. We do also rely on the film distributors in providing us with enough 2D prints of their 3d films in order for us to distribute them to as many of our cinemas as possible.

This doesn’t explain the single, solitary 2D performance of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter at Parkhead, being shown at 13:30 each day. The cinema obviously had a print of the film which could have been shown more than once per day. They chose to show it only once, and at a time completely inconvenient to anyone with a job!

Our Film Buying department do also analyse the popularity of the performances that are screened on a weekly basis. Depending on the box office success of the performances, adjustments do have to be made. We are however always happy to receive customer feedback with regards to any aspect of the service we are providing to our customers.

I would expect nothing less. However, let’s take the situation above which prompted me to contact you in the first place. I would guess that there were very few bums on seats for this 13:30 performance, which in turn is going to make the 2D performances seem somewhat unpopular. After all, far more people paid to see the 3D ones. Is there any chance this was because they were on at a far more convenient time?

My background is science. You cannot get good, sensible, comparable results without comparing closely-related data. When designing an experiment you change as few variables as possible between runs. In this case, for instance, your variable should only be whether the performance is 2D or 3D. You should otherwise be comparing screenings at the same time of day, on the same day of the week, and at the same distance away from pay-day. Any data collected about the “popularity” of AL:VH in 2D at Parkhead that week  is therefore useless or, worse, wildly inaccurate.

All customer comments are taken on board and if there are any changes that can be made as a result of this, every effort will be made to do so. In light of your comments, I have passed on your feedback to the Film Buying department in our continuing efforts to collate customer feedback.

Thanks for that. It is appreciated.

I would also like to apologise if you feel that the lack of advance booking with your Unlimited card is not suitable. I can advise that your unlimited card is like your credit card, personalised for each individual. It is vitally important staff issue tickets to the correct customer, and the photo on the card helps us identify customers. As with any service, there are terms and conditions members need to adhere to.

The condition, which you refer to, has always been part of your Unlimited contract. Please see condition 7.4 under ‘Unlimited terms of use’ at the back of your contract.

This condition has been set in place to reduce card misuse/fraud. Too often customers have given their tickets/cards to other customers to use. So to reduce this from happening, we can only issue tickets over the counter to the cardholder. This process has been put in place to safe guard our customers and make sure only they benefit from the subscription paid to us.

[The solution I mentioned was for Unlimited cardholders to be able to book online, but perhaps have their account linked to a debit card. If they didn’t pick up their tickets, then they’d be charged for them. This would help prevent people just booking seats which paying customers may want, and then not turning up for screenings. I specified that they could collect them at automated ticket machines as existing pre-bookers can do using their credit/debit cards]

You’ve made a very fair point as regards the fraudulent use of the cards. May I suggest, therefore, that I adjust my initial proposal slightly? The Unlimited card is still linked to a bank, debit or credit card so that the tickets must be paid for if they are not collected. However, the card holder must collect them directly from the box office rather than using an automated machine. This is, in fact, what I do with tickets I’ve pre-booked for the kids at Parkhead anyway.

This way, you’re covering yourselves from people bulk-booking tickets online and not using them. You’re enabling cardholders to pre-book so they can actually go as a family/friend group with non-cardholders. You’re preventing the risk of fraud or card misuse. As a bonus, at cinemas like Parkhead where tickets and concessions are sold at the same counter, you’re not missing out on the chance to up-sell food and drink.

OK, so we have to queue to get the tickets – but at least we know we’re going to be able to get them.

I can also advise that our toilets are checked and cleaned at regular intervals by our staff members. However, we do not have the resources to assign a member of staff to each toilet for an entire shift, so we do rely on the public being courteous to fellow customers by cleaning up after themselves and flushing toilets etc.

Of this, I have no doubt. The facilities in the cinemas are generally of a very high standard. The issue with Parkhead’s toilet isn’t down to someone not flushing, it’s been there for months and I fear it’s something that’s leaked and soaked in somewhere. I’m no plumber, though!

As a gesture of good will, I would like to offer you two complimentary Unlimited retail vouchers which are valid for either 1x Regular Popcorn, 1x Regular Dispensed Soft Drink, 1x Regular Hotdog, 1x Regular Nachos or 1x Regular Coffee for you to use during a future visit to Cineworld. This is with a view to having a much more pleasurable experience. If you would like to accept this offer, please reply to this email with your full postal address and we will have your vouchers sent out to you as soon as possible.

We appreciate the gesture and our address follows. However, do please note that my partner has already cancelled her card (although it still has a couple of weeks’ use left) and I am trying to cancel mine although – again – I’ve had no email response back in the stated time. I mailed on the 9th of July using the contact form on the website as no direct email address can be found on your website. The reference I received back was SA44322X.

I will likely give them a call today, but I do note that the Terms & Conditions clearly state that cancellation can only be done in writing, either by email or post. I only hope I haven’t missed a direct debit date as a result of this delay and will have the card for an extra month. Please be aware that we are primarily cancelling as my other half is due to give birth very imminently and it will be difficult for both of us to go out together for a couple of months.

I would like to thank you for taking the time to contact us with your feedback regarding your recent visits to Cineworld Glasgow Parkhead and Renfrew Street. We do appreciate all customer comments we do receive as this gives us the opportunity to improve the level of service we provide to our customers.

Kind regards

On the whole, a fair response but one which misses the point on a couple of issues. We’ll take the vouchers, but I’m not sure if we’ll get to use them around the baby arriving. We will miss our cinema trips, but it’s a) going to be hard round the new arrival and b) was getting frustrating seeing performances advertised that we couldn’t attend. It’s especially annoying when such things have been ongoing for years, people have complained and yet nothing has been done.

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Review: Doctor Who And The Daleks

Doctor Who And The Daleks
Doctor Who And The Daleks by David Whitaker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second Doctor Who book I’ve ever read – the first was Genesis of the Daleks when I was about 10 years old. It’s based on TV episodes from 1963 and originally published in 1964, though there was a film version starring Peter Cushing and Roy Castle which I vaguely remember as well!

It’s not a bad book, though it lacks the flippant comments and off-the-cuff humour that The Doctor has taken on over the years. It’s quite a simple story and for someone who really jumped onto Doctor Who at a late age, raises more questions than it answers. I won’t mention them here for fear of spoilers.

Still, a nice small book that I could blast through quickly and which will find itself being donated to the school library at the start of term.

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Review: Extreme Risk: A Life Fighting the Bombmakers

Extreme Risk: A Life Fighting the Bombmakers
Extreme Risk: A Life Fighting the Bombmakers by Chris Hunter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not so much a follow-up to “Eight Lives Down” as a companion tome, and a far superior one. Whereas the first book covered predominantly Hunter’s involvement in one conflict, Extreme Risk spans several.

It’s also a far more emotional and hard-hitting read with greater variety in subject matter. Training, different countries, and a variety of positions both within and out with the Army are all covered as part of Hunter’s incredibly interesting life story.

If you like either factual or fictional military books, this is without a doubt a must-read. The background to events that have occurred in recent memory – the 7th July bombings in London to name but one – are detailed and help make sense of what happened on those awful dates, as well as justifying some of the government actions which came afterwards.

Check my progress on this book (if you can). I think it’s the quickest I have ploughed through a reasonably-sized book in the last couple of years… and with good reason. Gripping, well-paced, oozing with information, yet easy to read.

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