Trike review: 4.5 months in

Some time ago, before L was born, we bought a Christiania cargo trike, which we used for the first time when he was about 5 wks old. How is it working out now he’s nearing 5 months?

It has been absolutely invaluable for middling-local trips: to the shops (a mile away), the library (ditto), the breastfeeding drop-in cafe (1.5 mi). All of these are walkable distances but a mile is a long way to go when you’re carrying a baby plus books/shopping, and have dodgy knees. It also makes the whole thing quicker, and it’s fantastic for putting lots of shopping in.

It’s also been great for going to swimming classes (about 3 miles), but for now that’s about the furthest we can go.

The main issue is bumpy roads. Understandably, L does not like the bumps (the trike doesn’t have suspension, and while his car seat is padded, it must still be a bit surprising to bump around in it), and it turns out that the roads round here are fairly bad. We now take bumps very slowly, and as long as he’s in a good mood, he copes with them.

Regardless of the bumps, though, his tolerance is limited. It definitely pays to feed him before setting off, and if he’s grumpy to start with or it’s late in the day, we’re more likely to have problems. I have done several roadside feeds, and walked home, pushing the trike, with L in the sling, a couple of times. (I’ve also cycled at walking-pace halfway along the Thames Path with a grizzling L in the sling, when he refused point blank to go back in and I got desperate and achey, on the way back from the Royal Festival Hall. I wouldn’t recommend this, but I don’t think it was seriously unsafe given the speed I was going at.) Having said that, he’s also fallen asleep in it a couple of times, and if put into it when already asleep, stays asleep quite reliably.

He prefers to have the hood down (so he can see whoever’s riding it), which is fine when it’s not raining, and even if only raining a little if I cover his legs with a blanket. It gets pretty hot in there with the hood down, too, which he doesn’t like. As a result, we leave the hood down unless it’s proper tipping it down.

From the point of view of the adult rider: it is still not a speed machine! And it’s moderately hard work. I’d like to get a better saddle, too. You get considerable attention when riding it, but almost all of it has been positive.

If you’re considering getting one, bear in mind that you do have to carry the baby when you get out. Not a problem for us as we use slings rather than a pushchair anyway, but I doubt you could get a pushchair in there (certainly not a suitable for < 6 months one). General conclusion: awesome and well worth the money, but we haven't been able to use it quite as much as I hoped in the early months (I was faintly hoping to be able to do the 8 mi down to my parents' house, rather than taking the train, for example, and right now that's not feasible). I am, however, hoping that L will tolerate it for longer as he gets older -- he's certainly getting steadily less bothered by the bumping around already. On the upside, I have a good excuse not to cycle a 35-kg bike + 7kg baby + carseat + misc bits and bobs any further than 3 miles down the road, which is perhaps a good way of building those cycling muscles back up.

Making a laptop caddy

In our household we have a tendency to leave laptops lying around the living room. It occurred to me, as L began rolling and trying really hard to crawl (he is currently managing whole millimetres at a time, often backwards), that this might not be a good long-term strategy.

So I consulted the rest of the household (the dog wasn’t that helpful), did some sketches, dug around in the piles of miscellaneous wood in the garage, and spent last Sunday afternoon making this between bouts of feeding L:

Wooden laptop holder with four upright slots

We have three laptops and a couple of tablets, so 4 slots seemed like plenty, with a box at the end for power cables. The original design was altered a bit when I established what wood I had readily available, but I think for the better (I was a bit too generous with the original sizing).

The short ends are a couple of bits of 3/4″ pine shelf offcut; the long sides and the dividers are plywood left over from a flooring project. The other ends of the dividers are held by a 1″ batten, because I didn’t have another piece of the 3/4″ pine:

Close-up of inside of laptop caddy, with wooden batten

To cut the slots for the dividers, really I could have done with a router[0], or failing that, a chisel which hadn’t been wrecked by being used to prise up carpet nails. I also realised afterwards that a hacksaw would have been a better tool than a regular saw. All in all, then, they’re not the neatest ever, but they do the job:

Close-up of top of laptop holder, with plywood sitting in roughly-cut slots in the end piece of wood

I’ll probably paint it sometime soon (we have some nice grey linseed wood paint left over from the same flooring project as the plywood) but the natural wood looks OK for now. And it’s doing the job, for the total investment of a dozen screws and an afternoon with the power tools and a manky chisel.

[0] After chatting to my Dad later, I will be getting a router next time I’m at B&Q. He says he’s spent 30 years repeatedly thinking that a router would be useful but not quite worth it for any given project…

Watering upstairs

We have some plants on the first floor; a few on the windowsills, and a few more now on the balcony (see The Balcony Project). We do not have any water on the first floor. So far, my watering has been at best intermittent (though given the recent weather this hardly matters for the balcony); what I’d like to do is to set something up to make it more reliable.

Currently, if I want to water the indoor plants, I have to pick up the small watering can, go downstairs and fill in, come back up and water. To water the balcony, I need to get the large watering can from the back garden, fill it, come back up, water, and take the watering can back down again.

The time when it would be easiest to water, and when I’m most likely to remember, is when L is playing on the floor; but I don’t want to be running up and down the stairs too much at that point. (Having said which – I could associate it with making myself a mug of tea.)

So; what might make this easier:
– having a watering can on the balcony?
– having a water container upstairs (perhaps on the desk) that I fill up on a more regular basis and then have available to water from?
– emptying half-glasses of water into one of these containers before clearing them downstairs?

So far that’s it on the ideas front & I’m not very convinced by anything there. Any other suggestions?

Writing and time

Since I last wrote about writing and parenting, a few weeks ago, I’ve been experimenting with ways of writing fiction during my child-care days.

I’ve written a few more bits and pieces on my phone (thumb-typing is slow) using Epistle, which has worked a little but I still find it hard to do more than notes or a handful of sentences. Then the other weekend I bought myself a nice hardback notebook which opens to stay flat (I love my Moleskine, but I can’t use it it one-handed as it won’t stay flat). Since then I’ve written about half of a short story, balancing the notebook on my knee, with L asleep in my lap. The other half I’ve written partly on the phone, and partly on the laptop like a normal person (i.e. when not actively baby-wrangling). Editing still needs to be done on the laptop, although I can think about it whilst baby-wrangling.

I also did some sketching of maps on a borrowed portable easel, while Leon sat on my lap, watched, and then tried to steal the pens. Possibly I might use crayon if I do that again, although the sofa did survive unstained. That was fun, entertained L (always useful!), and was more productive than I anticipated for the story itself.

There’s something about writing by hand that allows me to sneak up on myself. I’m not really writing, I can tell myself, I’m just making notes. I’ll have to type them up later anyway so I don’t have to get it right first time. It allows me the mental freedom to scribble things down (and it is scribble; my handwriting suffers dreadfully from the angle even when using a fountain pen) without getting paralysed by the idea that I am Sitting Down To Write.

(I just hope it carries on working now I’ve talked about it here.)

Writing in multiple different places does have its drawbacks. I have to type up the handwritten notes anyway, so I’m working over that twice; but then that can be seen as an advantage. I’ve occasionally found myself writing the same bit twice, or writing scenes that need something else between them to tie them together. On the other hand, that can help me to keep it all active in my head, as I remind myself of what I’ve written where, and what’s still missing. And having two takes of a single scene isn’t such a bad thing either.

I’ll keep experimenting. And I have a short story to finish.