Diary of a stay-at-home Dad #1: the first day

Today is the first day of Team Dad. After ten months of maternity leave, my Wife has returned to her part-time job, and due to the cost of childcare, we’ve decided that from now on, for three days a week, I’m going to be looking after Toddler and Baby.

I already knew my Wife was good at juggling the feeding, changing, caring, washing, and bathing. But now I recognise her total genius. Because what no-one tells you about childcare is that past changing a nappy, every job is ridiculously easy. The trouble is there’s just so many of them.

Take getting the kids up in the morning. Fundamentally, they just need to be fed and changed. Sounds simple. But for that, you need to cook their porridge while changing their nappies while running upstairs to find their clean clothes while cleaning the bibs you forgot to clean the night before while getting them a drink and ultimately, completely forgetting to have breakfast yourself.

Those are the issues I might have anticipated. What I didn’t know is that on waking them up, I’d find Baby’s nappy had leaked, soaking her clothes and bed. I also didn’t expect them to so vehemently resist eating their food – Toddler because she wanted me to read Jack and the Beanstalk, Baby because she was more interested in banging her spoon on her feeding tray as though it were a drum.

After I’d swept the floor clean of crumbs of toast, we got to playgroup an hour late. I saw that as a major achievement. Then Toddler wet herself just as we were about to leave, and again once we got home. Three months of potty training wiped out in one morning.

In the afternoon, there was respite. Baby had a nap, Toddler played happily in her new indoor tent, and I sat down with the paper and a cuppa.

Then, a smell. And not one filled with the kind of pleasant notes identified by wine experts. After dragging toddler out of the tent and into her fourth set of clean clothes, there was a cry from upstairs. Baby was awake. Defeated, I poured my cold cup of tea away.

In the evening, after I’d swept the floor again – this time because of a constellation of cake crumbs – my Wife arrived home and asked how the day had been. “Hectic,” I said. She replied only with a knowing smile.

This new year, why not set up your own subtitled cinema group?

First published in the January 2012 edition of The Hearing Times.

Three years ago, I became a father for the first time and with feeding times and the general chaos of life-change, I suddenly found it harder than ever to get to the cinema for one of the few subtitled screenings. Which is, all in all, a bit of a problem for a scriptwriter.

Additionally, I found that the subtitled films I could get myself to were Hollywood blockbusters, rather than the art-house fare I usually watch (ok, ok. I’m a snob. I admit it).

I’d also noticed that most of the regular events for deaf people in London and elsewhere revolved – in some way – around drinking. Deaf pub and club meets, new years eve bashes, and so on. There seemed to be a gap for a regular night where deaf people could meet, hand-wag for a bit, take in some culture, then chat about it afterwards. We could still have a drink – it just wouldn’t be the main focus of the evening.

So, with my own need to temporarily escape parenthood for the occasional film, and deaf people in the capital needing a regular cultural night out, the London Subtitled Cinema Group was born. My thinking was that if enough of us got together, we could persuade a cinema chain to put on subtitled screenings especially for us. You can hope can’t you?

Well, somehow it worked. After one failed approach with another cinema, I got a positive response from the Curzon Cinema group, who by chance had a member of staff with a deaf granddaughter, and as a consequence, really understood what a deaf group would need.

After a few meetings – where I persuaded them to offer us discounted tickets, and they in turn told me more about the practicalities of getting distributors to provide subtitles for films – we were soon booked in to see Where The Wild Things Are, just before Christmas 2009. In truth, the film was a disappointment for anyone who remembers the children’s book, but around 25 people came, proving that there was demand for the group, and everyone got on famously.

Since then we’ve seen 15 films, with highlights including The Secret in Their Eyes, A Prophet, and most recently Drive, starring Ryan Gosling. Between 20-30 people attend each screening, with the record group attendance being the 40 members who came to see The Social Network.

There is one main group rule. It’s for deafies only – though the members are very welcome to bring hearing friends and family along.  The best thing about the group is the friendships that have developed. I’ve gone on to work with several of the group members, and I’m proud to report (Cilla Black style) that we even have a group romance – between two members who met after we saw a very strange Greek film called Dogtooth.

Recently, I’ve heard about another cinema group which has been set up in the north-east, by Paul Terry. His group is attended mainly by hearing people, but go to subtitled screenings because they have a deaf member.

What’s clear is that when a group of people get together, it’s much easier to get cinemas to agree to provide subtitles. He told me “getting numbers up means we can start requesting specific movies, perhaps older, foreign, limited release and subtitled movies for the club to enjoy. I’m also hoping that technology will soon be at a point where deaf people can come along and enjoy movies with us without having to put on a specifically subtitled movie.”

When it comes to demanding better provision for cinema access, what better way of persuading cinemas to show films with subtitles than demonstrating that there’s a big demand for it?

So if you’re looking for a project this new year, why not set up a cinema group in your area? It’s a great way of bringing people together, and you might just see a subtitled film that’ll stay in your mind for life.

For more information on the London Subtitled Cinema Group, or if you’d like any tips on setting up your own group, just go to: http://londonsubtitledcinemagroup.wordpress.com/  or email subtitledcinemagroup@gmail.com

My new photography website – check it out!

In my spare time, I’m rarely far away from my camera, and since my children came along I’ve become a man possessed by the need to capture every stage in their development!

I enjoy photography so much that I’ve taken several evening courses to develop my skills, and I’ve since gone on to photograph a family wedding, a local pre-school’s children, and a local family.

The site’s still a work in progress but you can take a gander here. Hope you like the images!

Interview with ‘That Deaf Guy’ cartoonist Matt Daigle

First published in the January 2012 edition of The Hearing Times.

Matt Daigle is a deaf cartoonist, designer and illustrator who lives in California. He and his wife produce a hilarious comic strip called That Deaf Guy, about a deaf man who, like Matt, has a hearing wife and son. The strip is laugh-out-loud funny, original, and true to deaf life. They recently picked up thousands of fans after becoming a hit on Facebook, so I thought it’d be a good time to interview the man himself and find out more about his life, family and work.

What inspired you to become a cartoonist?
I started drawing cartoons as a kid. Being born deaf, cartoons communicated to me at a time when television and other media were not accessible. Then when I was 12, my mom took me to an exhibition by Gary Larson (creator of cartoon strip The Far Side) at the Smithsonian Museum and I was hooked for life!

Where did the idea for That Deaf Guy come from?
The idea came from my wife! She is hearing and has always been a big fan of my cartooning. We were on the way to a cartoon festival in Missouri when the idea came to her. I am the artist but my wife is the writer. We knew that in order to go more mainstream, we needed to incorporate humor and language that crossed two cultures, so it is a hearing/deaf collaboration. We both come up with ideas and aim to find a happy medium. If the humor is too deaf, hearing people will not understand it and vice versa!

What’s the response to That Deaf Guy been like?
The response has been surprising and inspiring. It was online for a year and literally no one knew about us. Then we hired a marketing person who has deaf parents. He told us we had to get on Facebook and within a week we had over 1,000 fans. We were jumping up and down when we had 200!! Now a month later we have nearly 3000 fans. We love the idea of our comic strip creating a forum for people to talk about their experiences and laugh a little.

Do you have a favourite That Deaf Guy story – and if so, why?
It’s really hard to say which one is my favorite. Many of them are based on our lives with our son and on my own deaf experiences, so each one is special or funny to me in different ways. I do get a kick out of the ‘Be Deaf-Wise’ strips because I think they educate in a funny way.

Is That Deaf Guy published anywhere, or just online?
That Deaf Guy is published in SIGNews – a newspaper in America for the signing community. It has also been published in several books that relate to deaf culture and of course, we have our webcomic. I really want the strip to go more mainstream. I think that there is so much more we can feature. Deaf stories aren’t always about oppression and lack of access. Many of us live successful lives and I would like to show that version by becoming nationally syndicated, publish books, and even take the concept to prime time television.

Tell us about your home life. You have a son – how do you combine your career and being a Dad?
I work with my wife on That Deaf Guy so I love having time with her to be creative but when it comes to my son I really have to balance my life so that I don’t one day turn around and he is grown up and I missed everything! My wife is a VRS interpreter and works late at night. I work from home, so we are both here during the day. We make it our motto to create everyday. Our creations can be hours of writing or drawing That Deaf Guy or it can be an hour of constructing something out of Play Doh!

To see more That Deaf Guy comic strips, go to http://www.thatdeafguy.com/
You can check out Matt’s website by going to http://www.mattdaigle.com/
Follow Matt on Twitter: http://twitter.com/deafcartoonist

Photoblog: The delights (and mankinis) of Redcar’s Boxing Day dip

Most people grab a lie-in followed by a cuppa and a few Christmas chocs on Boxing Day. Not folk in the North East of England.

At 11am on Redcar beach, 500 crazy Teesiders jumped into the freezing North Sea cheered on by ten times that number. The upside? Nearly £80,000 raised for charity. The downside? Witnessing the tight-fitting mankinis on show. Here’s my pics.

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