The pregnancy/baby diaries: The potato’s arrival

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So our potato finally arrived, four days early, on 1 August 2017. That it has taken me four weeks to write this post might give you some idea of what life with a newborn is like and just how all-consuming it can be, but I’ll save that for another post.

I had always thought that our baby would be born early and this belief intensified after one particular incident in week 35 of the pregnancy after I sprinted for the bus (which is a terrible idea when you are eight months pregnant) and then suffered contractions that made me think I might give birth on the bus. The beard had to meet me at the bus stop and escort me home; a walk that normally took five minutes took almost half an hour.

At the doctor’s appointment I had the following day I was warned in no uncertain times that the baby would arrive imminently unless I slowed down. Fortunately, I was then signed off sick from work and had a chance to rest.

In Switzerland maternity leave only begins when the baby is born, any time you have off before the baby’s arrival is considered as sick leave, and your doctor will normally sign you off some point between two to four weeks before the baby is due. This makes planning for things like when you finish work and your maternity replacement should begin quite difficult, but it does protect the amount of maternity leave you get, which is less generous here than in the UK.

I had been quite uncomfortable for a little while before the bus sprint, not helped by the fact Geneva had been undergoing a particularly virulent heatwave for several weeks, so my doctor would have been happy to sign me off six weeks before my due date but I managed to negotiate this down to just three weeks. At the time of our discussion I didn’t feel great but still felt capable of work, but the final week, even before my public transport dash, had been incredibly challenging so I was grateful when my sick (prenatal maternity) leave began.

For once, I actually did as I was told and followed doctor’s orders to take it easy. I thought I’d revel in nothing but moving from bed to sofa for alternating stints of Netflix binging, reading marathons and daytime napping, but it did get pretty boring fairly quickly. However, I was grateful that the potato was at least happy with my new regime and did decide to stay put until I reached the point of being full term (37 weeks), but after that point I found myself increasingly impatient for baby to arrive.

From our prenatal classes the midwife had said that labour was not like seen on tv, rarely was it a case that waters would break in a gushing flood and then you would instantly have to rush to the hospital. For most first-time mothers of our age (as in not-teenagers) labour would take somewhere around 18 hours from initial contractions, and for many people this could last much longer.

With not much to do whilst lounging around the flat I became much more sensitive to every twinge, unusual occurrence in my body and many a night (I guess I was even more attuned to these things when lying in bed longing for sleep and with no other distractions) I would find myself googling random symptoms to see if this could be the start of labour.

I didn’t have much in the way of contractions before the baby was born and I knew that although waters breaking was a good indicator I also knew that for lots of people it was barely noticeable when this happened. So, after what seemed like countless evenings of internet researching and scouring through millions of forum entries for indications of early labour, it took me by surprise when my labour actually began on that Tuesday afternoon at 12.30pm.

The beard and I had just had a late brunch, and I was sat in my PJs browsing social media between Star Trek episodes (we’d found a new series to binge on during my leave), waiting for my man to get dressed before watching the next episode. All of a sudden there was a gush, I leapt up from the sofa (I figured it would be easier to clean the tile floor) stood rooted to the spot and yelled for the bearded one.

I didn’t feel any contractions at this point so we took time to find the leaflet the hospital had given us about when to come in for labour, noted that instructions for when you think your waters have broken are to put on a pad, walk around for 30 minutes and if still leaking to then call the hospital. Whilst I paced the flat, the man prepped for the hospital trip: corralling the cats, setting out enough biscuits to last them a week (in case complications kept us both at the hospital for some time), checking the hospital bag, etc.

After half an hour was up I called through to the hospital (which took a little longer than expected, owing to the leaflet they had given us having an out of date phone number). We went through a few things and they said that I should aim to come in within two hours but had time to take a shower, have some food and make my way in. So the beginning of my labour was all very civilised.

By the time I got out of the shower I’d started to have some regular contractions, but these were fairly mild and I remember thinking maybe labour isn’t as bad as I’d been led to believe, or perhaps I have a particularly high pain tolerance threshold and this isn’t going to be any worse than a bad period. Ha!

By the time I’d gotten dressed and we went down to the garage the contractions were about six minutes apart and the pain level had dialled up. By the time we arrived at the hospital thirty minutes later, the contractions were three to four minutes apart and each one was bad enough to reduce me to grim-faced, gritted-teeth silence but still just about manageable with the recovery period in between.

By the time we’d gotten to the hospital at about 2pm contractions were three minutes apart. We were instantly taken through and examined, but at this point I could still manage the pain so thought I could get by without the need for painkillers. Within 20 minutes the contractions were longer and so frequent that I couldn’t catch my breath during the supposed recovery periods and I felt I could no longer continue purely under my own steam, so called for the epidural. I felt like I’d failed a bit, in not being able to hold out for longer but I think the man was relieved to see me seek some relief beyond his mopping of my brow and provision of water.

Within another 20 minutes, although it felt like an almost interminable age, the anaesthetist came and explained the procedure and the epidural was connected. It didn’t kill all feeling, I could still feel the contractions but these were now back to mildly uncomfortable rather than swear-inducingly painful. This was now probably about 3pm, for the next 90 minutes I did okay, remembered to breathe and let my body do its thing. At about 4.30pm, everything changed gear again. What I hadn’t realised about the epidural is that it can only do so much, those final parts of labour are a bitch, drugs or no.

But, I was better behaved than I thought I would be, and only crumpled the beard’s hands during each contraction and muttered a single expletive after each exhausting effort was over. Although I remember having the distinct thought ‘why would anyone ever have more than one child when they know how painful labour is?’

The pain didn’t go away when the pushing began (probably about 5.30pm) at least there was now a clear end point in sight and I went from dreading each contraction to willing the next one to hurry up so I could just get on with getting the pain generator out! As I responded to the midwives encouraging calls of ‘Poussez! Poussez! Poussez!’ (Push! Push! Push!) eventually I could feel the baby starting to emerge. I ignored the midwives (at some point there were two) sudden calls for me to stop pushing as the baby and I decided we were just going to get on with this in one go.

And suddenly, at 5.56pm, there she was, our little baby girl had emerged and was quickly placed on my chest. She emitted her first cries as her lungs started working for the first time and she learnt to breathe. From my prone position I could only see the top of her head, covered in a mass of dark hair and one squidgy eye looking up at me. I burst into tears and felt an overwhelming rush of what felt like every emotion possible, although dominated by a kind of euphoria that I can’t really describe. I felt the beard by my side and concluded I was the luckiest person alive.

The midwife and I think a doctor started to explain to me that there had been some tearing and I’d need stitches (in my eagerness to meet her and her rush to enter the world, our daughter had come out in a triumphant superwoman pose with clenched fist saluting her new world). The previous pain already felt irrelevant and their words had almost no meaning; they could have told me they were going to have to amputate a leg and I don’t think I’d have cared.

Our daughter had arrived and I was in love.

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The Pregnancy Diaries: Slowing to a Stop

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I have always been a person who moves quickly, this is mostly just a character trait (I say trait others may use the word defect) although it definitely either became worse over eights years of living in London or I just became more conscious of it during this time.

In London most people are in a rush all the time, rushing to get to work, to get home, to meet friends, to catch the bus, and so on. In a city of over eight million people, time and space are at a premium and both need to be maximized to cope with big city living.

However, even by London standards my habitual speed was definitely way above average. I remember when I first took the beard (then beardless) on the train to visit my parents he was amused at the way I ricocheted out of the Marylebone forecourt and raced towards the train as soon as the departure platform was announced. I wasn’t deliberately doing this but I know that my thought process was every person I passed was one less person I’d have to contend with to get a good seat on the train. Perhaps not all my fellow competitors were aware of this but the race was on and I intended to win or at least place well.

Certainly not everyone in London was like me. I had a friend ,who had lived there far longer than I, who moved to her own tune entirely and would never rush, even when crossing roads at non-designated crossing points. Even consciously trying to walk slower to adapt to her pace I’d find myself taking two steps forward and one back to try to adjust my natural equilibrium to hers.

When I first moved from London to Geneva one of the things that struck me most was the (lack of) pace of this city. Even at peak hours, no-one seemed to be in a rush and everyone happily ambled down streets with all the time in the world. Of course, Geneva is a fraction of the size of London and the average commute is probably somewhere around 15 minutes. Plenty of time to meander after work and still enjoy an evening.

I have adjusted somewhat to Geneva time, although I still move a lot faster than the average inhabitant here, but the need to slow down further to accept the fact I’m pregnant has been tough. It must have been at about five months that I first started to notice that operating in my usual gear was not quite as easy as previously. Of course, I continued to ignore this for as long as possible and continued to stomp and stride my way about the city, opting to walk instead of taking the buses for shorter distances.

In my sixth month I started to make some minor accommodations and accept a slight pace readjustment and upping the frequency of taking the bus over traversing by foot. But I still refused to admit there were certain things I just couldn’t do, so I still set about regular weekend walks with the beard. And if I needed to rush a bit for the bus, then so be it, even if I could definitely feel the consequences afterwards and the little potato would object quite strongly to what it probably considered some quite unnecessary bouncing about.

Towards the end of the sixth month I have had to be more accepting of the restrictions my body has imposed upon me as I waddled into the pace of an average person, which from my perspective felt agonizingly slow.

Now I am well into my seventh month I can no longer pretend that everything is business as usual with the occasional off-day causing me to readjust my speedometer. I am having to accept a slow-down into a snail’s pace that is incredibly frustrating yet impossible to overcome. I am now that person that will not hurry across the road. This is not because I’m wholly oblivious of the traffic (although as the beard will testify my road awareness isn’t the best) I’m now just physically incapable of doing so.

Recently, I was traversing a road when the green man transformed into the red version. The beard tried to shepherd me across the road a little faster than the glacial pace I was currently moving at but I explained that I couldn’t go any faster if a dinosaur was chasing me so I definitely couldn’t speed up for a few cars.

When I get particularly exasperated at my inability to walk at even half the pace of a normal human being, my facially-haired man points out this is good practice for when the potato makes its appearance. He’s probably right and I should accept that my capacity to race down a high street, weaving between dawdlers is a skill I’m not likely to get to exercise much with a baby in tow and the need to slow down is just one more way in which having a child will impact on my life.

However, ignorance is bliss so I will ignore his wise words, as I strived for so long to ignore the physical impacts of pregnancy, and will operate under the delusion that as soon as the little one arrives everything will resume to my previously understood definition of normal.

At any rate, we’ll see how handy my ability to quickly distance myself from those around me will prove to be when we are out with the spud in public and it starts wailing for one reason or another. Whoever is closest has to fix it right? If the beard and baby are left eating my dust then I’m sure that is more likely to inspire the offspring to Usain Bolt aspirations rather than indicating I’m a terrible mother.

The Pregnancy Diary: Passing the 12-Week Point

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The 12 week scan is a big deal in a pregnancy, it’s the time when chances of miscarriage drastically decrease, you get the first in-depth analysis of how the potato is growing and accompanied by a thorough blood test is likely to be the first indication of any potentially serious problems.

In Switzerland we have been lucky in that before we were sent for our formal 1st ultrasound we had already had 3 scans with the gynaecologist. Although his equipment isn’t as advanced as that at the ultrasound centre we were referred to, we could see that the potato was developing as it was supposed to and could check its heart was beating.

I was talking with the beard about this recently and he felt that having more regular scans made us more likely to feel more paranoid than if we only had the 12 week and 20 week scans we’d have been entitled to in the UK. But I think the regular scans means that at least we get to alleviate our paranoia each time we see the doctor.

I still dislike the action of having to go our gynaecologist (lovely man though he is) and my blood pressure is still highly elevated every time we do (but is fine whenever I have recorded this at home, so clearly I have a distinct touch of ‘white coat syndrome’). I used to bemoan the fact that the doctor kept asking us to come back at three week intervals, but when travel circumstances dictated that we had a four-week gap between appointments I found myself increasingly anxious as week three passed and we had to wait a whole extra seven days to check on the potato’s progress. But maybe the bearded one is right, perhaps if we didn’t expect such frequent scans we’d find a way to be a bit calmer in-between times or perhaps not.

At any rate, had we been in the UK, the 12-week scan would be the first visual encounter we’d have had with the baby. So I can imagine the wave of emotions this first encounter provokes in UK-based parents would be very different to that which we felt awaiting our premier echo in Switzerland but this didn’t mean we weren’t on our own emotional rollercoaster as the scan took place. Certainly the official ultrasound felt like a very different experience than our regular consultations.

It’s quite hard to know how you are supposed to react when viewing the grainy black and white images of your growing child, probably there is no set way to respond but certainly some kind of response is required as the technician points out various body parts, organs, etc. on the screen. It felt a bit like at Christmas when you are being handed so many nice presents that as you say thank you time and again the effect of the words start to sound hollow. You start to panic that the gift givers will sense a lack of enthusiasm in the repetition of your words, so try to overcompensate with effusive acknowledgement but then worry that earlier, more simple, iterations of gratitude suggest a lack of interest in these initial gifts.

And so it was in the ultrasound room as they point out the head, arms, legs, organs, etc. and I’m politely responding with a vague ‘mmm, yes’ as though I understood that one blob here is a lung and another blob there is a bladder. I became increasingly self-conscious that perhaps I’m not responding correctly. The technicians must see so many expectant parents, that in comparison my ‘mmm, yeses’ might sound like someone who isn’t interested and shouldn’t be trusted with a child. Oh god, I thought, I’m doing this wrong, and started trying desperately to think of something, anything else to say with the next image they showed me.

Unfortunately that was the moment they decided to switch to the 3D imaging technology, which is supposed to give you a glimpse of your baby’s actual facial features and therefore be rather exciting but instead struck me as some kind of mud monster creating itself out of the dirt to suck away all humanity. On the plus side I managed to say something other than ‘mmm, yes’ on the downside what I blurted out was ‘oh, it’s weird’ in a genuine state of shock at the thought of this nightmarish creation shaping itself so crudely out of my own flesh!

It may be naïve to think there is a right way to respond to ultrasound images of your child but I’m am now fairly confident that there is an incorrect way as seemed evident from the doctor’s somewhat stunned response as she quickly corrected me ‘no, not weird, beautiful’. I’m a bit embarrassed by my patently non-maternal response but still find myself thinking ‘that’s easy for her to say, she’s not the one with some slime demon growing inside’. At least she switched back to the traditional ultrasound images pretty quickly.

Initially we told the immediate family that we’d give them the all-clear to start spreading the news at the 12-week point, but as we were still awaiting the results of the blood test, we made them hold off for another week. Fortunately, a week later, the results came back positively and Down’s Syndrome was assessed as very low risk so we didn’t have to confront the issue of how we’d act had the risk been otherwise.

I thought I’d feel elated as soon as we reached this marker and could sound the sirens announcing the pregnancy but we both felt strangely flat after leaving the doctor’s that afternoon, and decided to communicate the news to family members by text rather than having to talk to anyone.

However, the next day I started to tell people at work. I had a new boss starting in a few months who happened to be in Geneva that week preparing for his handover (he was already internal to the organization) and I wanted to let him know as soon as possible and to reassure him the timing wasn’t a deliberate attempt to abandon him as he took on his new role. I was also keen to share the news with office-mates to be able to justify the constant state of exhaustion and permanent green tinge I’d been exhibiting for the last 6 weeks or so.

As an added bonus, in the act of telling I provided a source of amusement for one colleague amused by that variety of methods I went about spreading the news from slipping it into conversation, firing it at people as they came in the office and a dozen ways in between. And I found the more people I told, the more I felt their enthusiasm catch within me.

This shit just got real and finally I was excited!

 

 

 

The Pregnancy Diaries: Part 4 – Pregnant in Venice

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I must have been about 6 weeks into my pregnancy when the first symptoms of morning sickness kicked in and I met these with a mixture of welcome relief and regret. I’d read online that the symptoms were a good indicator that the pregnancy was progressing well (although morning sickness doesn’t affect everyone). The downside is having to deal with an unprecedented fatigue and constant nausea (although fortunately not actual sickness), the combination of which I can only equate to constantly feeling hungover and sensing that everything would be okay if you could just be left alone to lie very still in a cool dark room.

Dealing with these unpleasant early symptoms of pregnancy when you can’t tell anyone definitely makes for a challenge in the work environment. I know a lot of women have it a lot worse than me, but I cannot emphasise enough the hell that is trying to pretend everything is business as usual when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and wish everyone and everything would just go away.

I was fortunate at least that I could somewhat disguise my symptoms as being generally run down at a time of year when the combination of bad weather and end of year exhaustion makes lingering colds commonplace. But I felt this way for the entirety of December. Every time my officemate would leave the room I would allow myself a visible grimace as I let fall the mask of pretending I’m just mildly under the weather.

I have spent many years vocally berating the lack of acceptability of afternoon naps, so colleagues in my immediate vicinity were already aware that I tend to flag a bit mid-afternoons but the exhaustion of growing a life-force sucking potato inside me was a whole new level of fatigue.

From 3pm onwards, with nowhere to nap, I could barely keep my eyes open and by 5pm I was resembling a zombie whose shambling stumbly purpose was a quest for energy rather than brains. Except sources of energy were pretty limited. I’ve never been a massive coffee drinker and I know from personal experience that energy drinks are the devil incarbonated.

Normally I’d revert to tea but I had discovered an inexplicable absence of desire for tea, which might not seem entirely odd if you didn’t know that even by British people standards I’m a tea addict and would routinely drink anywhere between 6-10 cups a day. I recall opening the cupboard at work where the tea supplies are stored and staring at them for a good five minutes, thinking I desperately want something but also I can’t drink any of these. I’d occasionally settle for just getting a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon and surreptitious trying to rest it on my aching belly without anyone noticing.

Just to keep me going until I could get home and have a nap before dinner, I’d resort to one of two options: either gulping down a strong black coffee with too much sugar or sneaking off to the office of an absence colleague and settling in for a 20 minute power nap, hoping a) no-one would notice I wasn’t at my desk and b) no-one would find me drooling on the floor of someone else’s office.

Another challenge was trying to hide my less than impeccable diet of salted tortilla chips, dried fruit and nuts and occasional yoghurt from co-workers. And yes, I know this isn’t the most wholesome combination, but diet options when you feel completely hungover all the time are somewhat limited. I would try to eat something more nutritious in the evenings but this was a challenge I just couldn’t face during the working day.

I am lucky in that I can occasionally work from home and during that time, as my boss was working from abroad, I could take a day or two a week to work in the comfort of my PJs, with a hot water bottle clutched to my stomach and no need to hide my misery face except for the odd Skype call.

About seven weeks into the pregnancy we took a trip to Venice. We had planned the trip long before the pregnancy drama, in an exuberant splurge on easyjet sale flights a few months previously. The sale coincided with the happy realisation that since crossing the border to live in France as Frontaliers our finances had improved to the extent we could finally benefit from one of the main selling points of Geneva: the ease of which you could leave it to go to other places for a weekend away!

We had been to Venice before as part of a day trip from a Lake Garda holiday many moons ago (our first actual holiday away together). We had been looking forward to the opportunity for a more leisurely sampling of Venetian delights, but as the trip approached, in my new condition, the enthusiasm we’d initially had was definitely waning. Had we not already paid for everything we wouldn’t have gone. Even having paid for everything I was in two minds about going.

In hindsight I wouldn’t have booked the trip knowing I’d be pregnant but actually Venice was a good destination to not feel great in. Our hotel was fairly centrally located which meant we could foray out in one direction for an hour or so, scope out the sights of that little neighbourhood and then be back in time for me to enjoy waves of nausea or just a nap that the small amount of exertion would in no way warrant if it weren’t for the tiny energy vampire dwelling within. Having seen the main tourist sites on our previous visit we also didn’t feel pressured to do anything in particular so the exploratory forays suited us quite well.

We were definitely glad we’d gone though when the realisation dawned on us that such random adventuring would no longer be an easy option when the potato finally makes its appearance. That in fact all life’s previously easy options would become a memory as hazy as the fog that engulfed Venice that December weekend.

Bigging it up for Belgium

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I met someone recently with a French name and I was trying to guess where he came from, I went with the obvious Switzerland (obvious as I met him in Geneva I then tried France, with equal failure. At this point he looked a bit exasperated that I wasn’t going to remember which other European country speaks French when the answer came to me: Belgium. We spoke for a while about how annoying it was when no-one remembered his country.

Granted Belgium is bilingual with the two national languages of Flemish and French so that doesn’t make for an easy linguistic classification but I recalled that Belgium gets overlooked on a regular basis. And by a regular basis I mean I can think of one example, albeit a glaringly obvious one, which is that fries around the world tend to be known as French fries, when in fact they originated in Belgium.

Who else recalls with fond patronising mockery when a number of high-ranking and therefore headline-grabbing Americans decided to rename ‘french fries’ as freedom fries’ because the US was upset that France wouldn’t agree to join military intervention in Iraq without international support?

This may have never happened but I imagine indignant Americans refusing to grant recognition to the tasty potato fry, I imagine French people probably ridiculing the gesture and lastly I imagine Belgians angrily stomping their feet and saying ‘mon dieu! Les frites sont belgique pas français!’

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Coming from the UK/England (for better or for worse) I’ve never really had the problem of national or linguistic non-recognition but I’ve seen the frustration of Welsh friends trying to explain that Wales wasn’t England and I imagine there must be a lot of inhabitants from less renowned countries sighing and rolling their eyes as they try to explain that ‘no Suriname is not in Africa’ (it’s in South America – I checked), ‘yes, I’m sure Luxembourg is in fact a country and not a province of Germany’, or ‘no, I don’t speak Polish because I’m from Hungary’.

Where you are from is actually a pretty big part of your identity so to have someone fail to recognize your nationality, or even worse to question it’s existence once you tell them, must be immensely annoying. I’m definitely not a geographical expert and I often get mixed up about where places are but I hope I’d have the sense to accept the answer of the person that’s actually from that place. I presume, and hope, that non-national recognition is only a problem for people when meeting others outside of their country, if you go to a country and don’t know that country exists then I cast a whole heap of judgment upon you!

So with Belgium on my mind (plus I was going anyway), last weekend I headed off to Brussels to meet a good friend who relocated there from London. I had been to Brussels before but quite a few years ago, so I had forgotten what it was like. I was imagining it would be much like Geneva, i.e. small, so was surprised on arriving at the airport to discover it was an airport of substantial size that actually takes a little time to navigate and that Brussels is in fact a pretty decent sized city, i.e. bigger than Geneva but not as big as London.

I had a great few days, it was awesome to catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen for about two years and to discover we had one of those friendships that is like an old comfy trainer. You might forget it exists from time to time and definitely don’t give it the attention you should but when you finally put it back on you remember just how comfortable it is. (A, if you are reading, sorry for the old shoe comparison).

As I’d done the touristy trail in Brussels on my first visit we also went for a day trip beyond the city and visited Ghent. Belgium impressed me by the convenient travel distance between big cities and by the fact it didn’t cost me a small fortune (try rocking up at a Swiss station on the day to get a ticket to a nearby city without crying as an unbelievable amount of swiss francs are vacuumed out of your account)!

Brussels was nice but Ghent was just laid-back cool. It was cold, it was foggy but it was awesome and also provided some nice Ghent specific beer. There is more to Belgium than beer (there are also fries, waffles and chocolate) but culturally it is a fairly important component and it would have been pretty insulting of me not to sample the local produce. Not wanting to risk initiating any diplomatic incidents I obviously felt obliged to try a few whilst I was there.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 14.04.46 What’s particularly cool about beer (because yes, beer is cool or at least as cool as I am for continuing to use the word cool) is that every beer has it’s own specific glass, which makes the whole drinking experience so much more than just get trollied. It is a world away from rocking up to an English pub requesting a pint and being provided said pint in whatever generic glass happens to come to hand. Drinking a beer in Belgium is a traditional practice, imbibed with a rich national and social heritage (which could also be said of getting bladdered on the weekend in the UK, but it’s probably less frequently mentioned be the Minister of Sport and Culture).

I’m doing my best here to sell Belgium to the world but it will always be a winner in my eyes because in one week it gave me both a new friend and renewed my acquaintance with an old friend. And of course, more importantly than forging or rekindling human relationships, there was beer!

Resting bike face

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You may be familiar with the phenomenon that is resting bitch face, whereby a certain number of females and males too (let’s not discriminate) are prone to the condition of a face that, when left to it’s own devices, expresses the wrath of an inner demon that thrives on kicking kittens, making their friends pay for everything and insulting disabled people.

This is no reflection on the owner of said face, as more often than not they are unaware of this portentous façade, which is why the evidence is only ever seen when the person is at rest and is not responding to the people around them.

Some say this may be a survival tactic that has evolved over hundreds of years to send a clear signal to anyone, that might want to engage in some light hearted chit-chat with a stranger, that this stranger would actually rather be left alone with their own thoughts/book/electronic gizmo/etc.

Some say this condition is actually symptomatic of those inner demons that reside within all of us and are merely pretending to be human whilst waiting for the moment to exorcise themselves of their host and take over the world.

Some say that as it takes more muscles to frown than to smile then resting bitch face is just a subconscious facial workout.

Whatever the reason behind the act, at least the condition has gained worldwide recognition. What may be less commonly known to you is the phenomenon that is resting bike face. It has come to my awareness that this is something that afflicts me.

From a distance on my bicycle I probably look like any other cyclist, well possibly slightly slower, more out of breath and marginally sweatier than other cyclists but you get the idea. However, if you were to take a nice photo of me cycling past and then zoom in on my precise facial expression you would notice that in fact my resting bike face is no laughing condition.

Unlike resting bitch face my facial expression whilst cycling does not so much suggest to the world that I am better left alone, so much as ‘if you don’t get out of my way I may actually bite off a limb and pick my teeth with your bones.’

Even though I am now conscious of the fact that my face has a tendency to scrunch up into something resembling a snarling paper ball I am still unable to stop the problem.

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I am probably more conscious of the issue since my Cambodian bike helmet, complete with snazzy visor, broke, thus leaving much more of my face exposed to the world than previously. Perhaps my face is just reacting badly to the removal of that flimsy plastic piece of social distance that used to be affixed to my head?

I have noticed that my resting bike grimace is intensified with the addition of the vacant gaze a dead fish would be proud of when cycling uphill becomes even less enjoyable than normal, with, say, the addition of a light snowy breeze blowing into my face or leg muscles that are valiantly trying not to crumble after I’ve overdone it at the gym and then decided to cycle home (in my head it makes a lot more sense).

Although at least under these conditions that zombie dead-eyed ravenous expression would probably make more sense to the average passer by than under pleasanter cycling conditions.

Whilst I am unable to control my two wheeled riding expression I am reasonably sure I don’t actually want to tear your head off with my teeth, but as this theory is untested it maybe best to stay out of my way if you see me pootling toward your, just to be on the safe side.

This wont be a problem as I tend to pedal at the pace of a sloth who has already put in their day’s work just by waking up in the morning, but you have been warned!

Anarchy comes to Geneva

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On Saturday night whilst I was indulging myself with homemade mulled wine and chocolate fondue something a little less sedate was taking place on the streets of Geneva.

I’m going to go out on a limb and call it vandalism. Those involved would probably wish to contradict me and call it anarchy, as though this justifies destructive behaviour (smashing windows, painting slogans and throwing paint at buildings and statues) as having a higher purpose of ‘fighting the power’.

The thing about anarchy though, is that it is inherently, absolutely pointless. I understand that there is lots to be dissatisfied about in this world where rich white men tend to dominate proceedings and set the rules.

I don’t dispute there is room for improvement but you’ll have to forgive me for baulking at the idea of disestablishing government and prevailing law and order in favour of some sort of lawless society as epitomized in most Westerns. Personally, I don’t want to be subject to the whims of lunatic men on horseback with guns who can act with impunity.

One of the slogans I spotted on the bus was ‘fight the law’ and I just thought why? What is it about ‘the law’ that you don’t like? Is it that people aren’t supposed to rob you at gun point and take your belonging, is it that if someone hurts you or someone you care about they ought to be able to get away with it?

Would it help if I clarified that ‘the law’ isn’t actually the pseudonym of a dragon-wielding monster-villain intent on capturing virgins and eating the people’s livestock and pets? If it were, and my little cats were in danger, then by all means hand me the pitchfork and burning torch and I’ll fight the good fight.

Perhaps foolishly I think laws are supposed to protect people, myself included. I don’t deny that these aren’t always equally enforced and may sometimes benefit some more than others, but that’s a problem with implementation not the entire system.

I was trying to figure out what the point of ‘anarchy’ is and in some forum some chap explained that if anarchy were to succeed then local communities would get together to elect their own leaders and establish their own law and order. This confused me because, well, isn’t that what democracy is? People vote for local leaders, who represent their interests…

Sure, sometimes people vote for others that the rest of us think are dastardly villains, but that’s how democracy works, sometimes people are idiots. Whilst the idea of a particular bouffant buffoon perhaps becoming leader of one of the most powerful nations of the world is terrifying he would have to be elected by a lot of people and although we may think those people monster raving loonies (but not in the good way) they are at liberty to vote for who they want.

Where potentially dangerous leaders are elected to power I am all the more grateful for yet another added level of bureaucracy, in the form of international law and standards, that may have the capacity to keep such individuals in check.

In Switzerland anarchy makes even less sense because the people here already have more power than in most other democratic nations. They really can shape the development of legislation through frequent referenda, often initiated by the people, on most issues. Some of the votes on theses referenda don’t make sense to me, such as voting against increasing raising the minimum wage. The bleeding-heart, lefty liberal that I am, can’t understand why the majority wouldn’t vote for this, but the decision not to raise the wage was the will of most of the people.

I think when people talk about anarchy and setting up on their own they mean setting up with like-minded people and conveniently ignoring everyone else. The idea of those who would like to see a fairer world coming together voluntarily to share resources on an equal footing is lovely. This isn’t really anarchy though, this is what Communism is supposed to look like but as we know attempts have been unable to live up to the ideal and realize this egalitarian utopia.

Because this is the problem, not everyone wants to live in an egalitarian utopia. Even the best of us don’t spend our lives selflessly dedicated to the wellbeing of others, everyone puts their own needs first sometimes, some of us do this all the time. Most of us are quite content just trying to live in this world without harming those around us and some of us don’t really care about who they harm. This is what it means to live in freedom in the world, it means we have the freedom to try and be the best version of ourselves but we also have the freedom to be bastards to those around us as well as future generations we may never know.

The idea of anarchy as absolute freedom for everyone would be great if everyone happened to be a decent person but not everyone is a decent person and how can you have no establishment, no authority, absolute freedom but exclude the indecent people from this? Who would draw the line? And if nobody draws the line then that means that many will live without freedom because they are afraid of the liberties of others.

The thing about anarchy that bothers me is that it’s an easy option for lazy people who want to express their indignation without really doing anything to change things. It is easy to throw criticism, stones or paint from afar but actually making suggestions for improvement is another thing. Destruction is far easier than creation.

Some of the alleged concerns (I say alleged because I don’t doubt some saw the march just as an excuse to just destroy shit) of those that marched on Geneva are reasonable, lack of subsidies for culture that is accessible to everyone is worth fighting against but there are better ways to do this. If the issue is budget cuts then causing thousands of francs worth of damage will just fuel government claims they don’t have the money.

If you don’t like the system, look to change it, suggest alternatives and seek about how to implement them without harming others. Resorting to petty acts of violence will do nothing but alienate what may genuinely be a worthy cause.

In other, far better words than mine: ‘be the change that you wish to see in the world.’