10/19/2004
 
If I’ve given the impression that it’s all plain sailing down here, then you are sadly mistaken. Apart from the Squaddies (and the new, even more horrible discovery of JUNIOR Squaddies) there’s acclimatization (pimples), jetlag (crippling grumpiness) and, um, digestive system ‘issues’...

Luckily these ailments pale into insignificance whenever my sister brings over Harri.

Harri is a very happy baby and if I had to rank all babies for cuteness I would definitely put him in the upper quartile. Whenever I’m around he will look intently at me – probably because now I’ve become a recluse I tend to sport bed hair 24/7. Actually Harri is obsessed with my hair. He shakes his head, prompting me to do the same and my runaway Evil Scientist sticking up fringe tickles him, making him laugh. Then he’ll grab a fist of hair and pull me towards him, hugging my head and giggling into my ear. For the record, if you didn’t get arrested for giving babies hickies that kid would have a necklace of them by now.

A few days ago Holly asked if I could look after Harri while she went to an appointment (I later found out that she hardly trusts anyone to look after him so I must be a trustworthy Uncle!). She tried to put him down in his cot, but he wasn’t having any of it so she left us sitting on the carpet in the lounge making silly noises at each other. That got tired real soon so we started to crawl around a bit. The house has been Harri-proofed but he still makes a bee-line to the heaviest and crashiest things, like a wooden African Mask of my Mothers that would probably scare most other little beings, but not Harri who wants to pick it up and put it in his mouth even though it’s twice as big as he is. Being a trustworthy Uncle I decide to wear the mask instead of letting harri concuss himself with it. I give an impromptu performance that draws dance styles and movements from different African and African disasporan cultures which Harri seems to enjoy.

Next I try to pop him down again because it may win me extra points if Hol comes home & Harri is asleep and I am standing in the kitchen making fresh homemade bread or something. I’d watched Holly wrap Harri up in a cotton blanket and then kind of attach him to the cot with a fabric Velcro belt. First the blanket. Harrison does not lie still and has the amazing ability to twist 180˚. No sooner do I lye him flat when, whoosh, he’s on all fours again and crawling off at top speed. We play this hilarious game for a while until I learn to pin him down softly while I apply the wrap. The other trick I observed Holly use was to fold his arms under the blanket. I can't remember if Holly tucked both arms under and anyway, what if he wanted to itch a tickle on his nose? - so I create a sari-like effect with the blanket, and then pick up the baby bundle, gently laying him down in the cot and attaching the strap with the Velcro.

All done.

I smile down at my handiwork and how cute Harri looks and think how pleased Holly will be and where I’ll put the Best Babysitter in the World trophy – on the Mantelpiece or on the shelf by the door so that people will see it when they walk in. Then, all of a sudden, Harri explodes out of his wrappings, kicking his feet and arms wildly.

Stoically, I go through the entire process for a second time. This go I wrap him a little tighter and make sure the Velcro is good and fastened. Harri lies there, the hint of a smile on his lips. Then, with amazing dexterity, he wriggles out his wrapped up arm, pumps his little feet in the air and simultaneously flips over, freeing himself again.

When Holly gets home, Harri is sucking his fingers in the Living Room and watching me make baby noises from behind a large African Mask. I was still having a great time but I was also very happy to see Holly again and give back all responsibility. It was the longest twenty three minutes of my entire life.

Tomorrow I’m going with Holly and Harri to his singing group. I hope they know some Billy Joel.
 

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