An Announcement

The next few sentences are going to be really bloody hard, so if you don't know me, or my domestic situation, feel free to ignore them.  For the rest of you that are reading on,  it is with abject despondency that I announce the passing of Horatio Pyewackett Caractacus Fearns.  After a long illness and much surgery (which ultimately proved unsuccessful) his condition worsened to such an extent that it left us with no other option than to have him put to sleep. This happened at 10:25 on Wednesday 18th May.

He died - as he lived - with great style.  Despite the overdose of anasthetic that was neccessary to end his life (and the pain and difficulty that he ultimately found in walking) he tried to escape the vet's table (he hated vets) and attempted a somnambulant run for it.  I'm so proud.  He eventually died peacefully in my arms being stroked by both myself and by the person he loved more than anything or anyone else in the world, my wife Briony.  He died well.  He had been suffering for the previous few days, we had to put an end to that.  Sadly, his illness was incurable.

Obviously I'm going to miss my brilliant little boy.  He was warm-hearted, affectionate, bright, and very very hairy.  He was also beautiful.

I'm an agnostic.  But I know that if there were a heaven or some sort of afterlife then somewhere, my cat would be out there walking on foil.  Still, we've always got this:

So long Li'l' Boy, I'll miss you more than you'll ever know.


This is Byron.

My wife and I decided not to tell many people about the pregnancy.  While Byron is our first child, this was not our first pregnancy and we didn’t fancy having something go wrong and then have to go through the depressing task of informing everyone.  We’ve done that before and it was quite upsetting so soon after what – to us – was a painful and tragic event.  If you didn’t know that we were expecting a baby, the chances are that you hadn’t seen us during the pregnancy.  We really only told people who would have noticed anyway.  Oh, and grandparents and doctors, we told them.  That seemed only sensible.

For the first nine months the pregnancy was relatively straightforward, with only a couple of minor scares along the way.  After nine months though, things became more complicated as our child seemed curiously reluctant to leave the warm, comfortable environment that he was dozing in (no one knows from where he might have inherited that trait).  We had multiple stretch and sweeps (men: don’t ask, don’t google), we tried stretching and walking a lot, we tried bouncing on a giant ball (I fell off) we even tried reflexology.  The reflexologist told us that most of the overdue mothers-to-be that she worked with gave birth within a couple of days of seeing her.  A week later we went to York Maternity Unit to have labour induced.

We were there for about a day and had failed to induce labour, so the decision was made to break the waters and to chemically start the contractions.  It was then that we discovered that contractions are, in fact, somewhat painful and, after a brief discussion we decided to amend our birth plan and go for an epidural.  A decision which Briony announced to the midwife and much of the rest of North Yorkshire by bellowing “I WANT AN EPIDURAL!  I WANT AN EPIDURAL!”.  They administered the epidural.  After about ten hours of labour it became apparent that the cervix wasn’t opening quickly enough and Byron’s heart rate became erratic.  It was clear that we needed to get him out there and then and the decision was made to have an emergency caesarean section.  Ten minutes later we were in the operating theatre.

There is very little in life that prepares you for the experience of watching your wife and unborn child undergoing major surgery and I knew that I needed to put my natural squeamishness aside and remain calm and positive and try to be a comfort to my anxious wife, who would be conscious throughout.

There is absolutely nothing in life that prepares you for the moment during pre-op that yet another surgeon wearing a cap and scrubs enters the theatre and it turns out that he’s your hapless husband (the one with the fear of blood).  I tried to reassure Briony that I wouldn’t be performing any of the surgery myself – not even the minor bits – but she seemed a little unconvinced.  I fancy that she expected to wake from her weird and terrifying dream at any moment.  She did not.

They erected a screen and between Briony and I and the area where they were performing surgery and commenced proceedings.  We were quite happy staying up at the head end and chattered amongst ourselves rather than listen to the team saying things like “incision” and “forceps”.  I began to wonder if they’d ever considered referring to their instruments and procedures by using less intimidating code-words.  I know I’d have been much happier if I’d been listening to “banana…trousers…hand me the wobbly-spoon” coming from the other side of the screen.  Soon though, my thoughts were interrupted, as the surgeons called for the midwife, who was handed a purple baby and tore past us into the next room.  He wasn’t breathing.  Fortunately for Briony, she couldn’t see into the next room where (unfortunately for me) I was able to watch the midwives clearing his airways and attempting to resuscitate him.  Eventually after what seemed like many minutes - but was probably only twenty or thirty seconds – they were successful and he began to scream.  That was the best sound I have ever heard, and probably ever will hear.

The midwives set to work cleaning him up and, while the surgeons carried on with their work, they then asked if I’d like to go and see my son.  But there was a problem.  I could already see my son and I was quite close enough.  In fact, I realised that I’d been slowly backing away.

Many people talk about how universally beautiful babies are and I’ve never really agreed: Sure there are beautiful babies, but there are also average looking babies and ugly babies.  My son, however, was in a whole new category called Run For Your Lives!  He was bright red with thick dark hair, a wonky nose, uneven ears, what appeared to be a black eye and a completely square head.  It looked like Frankenstein’s monster had sired a child that had just taken part in a particularly gruelling and arduous prize-fight.  I moved tentatively toward it.  Him!  I mean him, doing my level best not to display any fear.  “Don’t worry”, said the midwife, sensing my discomfort, “that’s just swelling.  It will go down quite quickly.”
“So he won’t grow up with a square head then?”
“Oh, thank god.  His head looks like the classic movie version of Frankenstein’s monster”.
“Yes!  That’s who he reminds me of.”

She handed me the baby and I took him over to show Briony (who was still being worked on).  “Look, that’s your son”, I said to Briony who was regarding him with some suspicion, “Don’t worry, the swelling will go down”. She smiled.

I sat next to her cradling my son in my arms; a child who was only by that point several minutes old and had already – in his short life – been almost strangled to death by an umbilical cord that was wrapped four times around his neck, been savagely beaten and bruised by the forceps that were necessary to extract him in a hurry and almost rejected by a cruel and monstrous father for not fulfilling some sort of arbitrary aesthetic criteria.  As I looked down at my son and he looked up at me, I knew that any child that could survive all that would be robust enough to survive anything (including having me for a parent).  I told him not to worry and that it would all get better from now on.  And it will.

I’d very much like to thank the team at York Hospital and in particular the many midwives for whom nothing has been too much trouble.  Midwives are amazing - and are fuelled entirely by biscuits - and, if it weren’t for them (and the surgical team) my son wouldn’t be alive today.  I’m very glad he is.  I’d also like to thank Briony who was amazing all through pregnancy and labour and is right now doing very well at early motherhood.  Mother and baby are expected to return home tomorrow.

For fans of facts - or if you want to play Baby Top Trumps against us - here is some data.

Name:  Byron Sebastian Fearns
Born: 24th March 2011, 2:08am.
Weight: 8lb 13oz (or 4 kilograms)
Time in labour: Bloody ages. A very, very long time.
Hair colour: Black.
Eye colour: Green.
Length: Long.
Feet: Larger than those of any other human baby.  So large that everyone who sees them says “Blimey!”
Hobbies: Sleeping, sleeping and sleeping.
Number of staples in mother: 17
Favourite bird: Owls.
Days late: 14
Health: Absolutely fine.

And here are some pictures (now that the swelling’s gone down a bit).

Byron with idiot.  He's about half an hour old here.  Byron, obviously.


Dear Vanity Fair...

Blimey!  It's been rather a while since I blogged.  I blame 7 Reasons, which takes up most of my writing time, but is excellent fun.  Anyway, this evening I wrote a letter to the editors of Vanity Fair about something on their website which, as it both amused and flummoxed me, I thought I'd post here.  Perhaps someone out there on the other side of this screen (yes that's you, the reader) will have - or be able to speculate fancifully about - the answer to my question.

Dear Editor(s),

I have a question about your website.  Why does your Follow Us box contain a blank speech bubble?  I have been staring at it for several minutes now and can think of no earthly explanation as to why it's there.  A blank speech bubble has no apparent association with any of the various media mentioned in the box's text (Twitter, Facebook,Tumblr or your podcast via iTunes) so what is its purpose?  Unless it was put there to visually convey a message along the lines of shut up and look at our stuff, its inclusion is perplexing.

I have attached a screen capture of the box so that you too may stare at it in bewilderment.

I would be grateful if you could furnish me with an explanation of its presence as I fear that it may cause me to lose sleep or - even worse - discuss it at length with friends and relations.  Yours sincerely,

Marc Fearns



Wow!  I haven't posted here for ages.  I thought I'd pop in and post a picture I made for 7 Reasons.  It's called Stupid Stupid Stupid and here it is:

(Click on it to see it in its correct size)

Now you may be wondering why I made a picture of a hairless cat wearing Crocs balancing on a green lampshade.  Well you can find out here.


Something I Found In The Bathroom

Ever wondered what the severed head of a ginger child stuck on the body of a swan with an anchor attached to it and surrounded by a wreath would look like?  Wonder no more:

I'm staying out of the bathroom from now on.



Anyone else sick of the word change yet?  I was going to play around with the Lib Dem posters too, but they already use the word change in them and I got rather bored of seeing it. 

Please politicians - of all parties - stop saying "change".  Say something else.  Say "serendipitous" or "marmalade".  Say "lumbago".  You will not get more votes just by saying "change".  Hopefully.


Missing: Men With Sandwich Boards

Whatever happened to men with sandwich boards?  When did you last see a man wearing them?  Have you ever seen a man wearing them?  Where have they gone to?

I see people carrying placards around our city centres advertising businesses.  I see people standing outside  shops and bars with placards that point toward them.  What I don't see, however, are men with sandwich boards advertising things.  I can't remember the last time I saw one.  Has the held-aloft-placard been proven a more successful marketing tool than the sandwich board while I wasn't paying attention?  Has the sandwich board become a relic of another age like the daguerreotype or the Jacquard loom?  Has anyone else even noticed their disappearance?

I think we should be told.