Monday, 8 May 2017

A Daytime Date

Some days ago, well actually weeks ago now, when it was still the Easter break is when it happened. It was a friday and we woke up to no children in the house as Grandma had taken them in for two nights, three days. We woke early wanting to make the most of the day and headed out just us two with Wiley blasting in the car on our drive to Leamington. Leamington, a town of old that we've frequented before sans children. We have also visited often with the children but we have a few favourite places to go when it's just us. Coffee, cake, slow walks and ambling, window shopping without the rush rush whispers and then shouts of busy wild things yelling for the days itinerary. Time to glance and then look at paintings, time to have conversations with people in commercial galleries and hear stories of paintings of chickens made as gifts for loved ones. Time. Just time. Time to find old record shops and search through vinyl, time to sift through 7 inch records digging for birthday treasure for a friend. Enough seconds and minutes to gather some of the memories of time spent like this from our early relationship days. Moments long enough to take me back to newlywed days spent drifting along the streets and side roads of our beloved Oxford, fingers and eyes locked and fixed on the journey, us, he and I, her and him, you and me. Opportunity to reflect a little on it all. This journey of ours. These little creatures that we created that continue to grow and unfurl and take over our household. I say this in the best kind of way, the kind of roots bursting out of the pot kind of way, brilliant healthy seedlings sprouting and ready to root in a greater, wider world. You feel precious of course, about these seedlings that you have nurtured tirelessly but you don't want to stunt their growth, they have to exposed to the elements, it's vital in order for them to reach their potential. Yet the growing pains are there, the dull aches, the heart break, the joy of seeing them winning,  of us winning, the pain of seeing their struggles and losses and of our struggles and losses, but mostly the breath, the exuberant life giving breath of life being lived. That is the picture that I took on this day that we spent together. It is stored and logged as one of those nothing much happening, easy like a sunday morning when it's not a sunday morning kind of days.  One of those, one day I'm gonna take you to eat Syrian food at that place nearby that we just never end up going to kinda days. We'll quote films, talk art and travel and when we grow old type of talk and it will feel so good kind of days, the ones that roll from morning to noon to night so effortlessly, so pleasurably that you keep checking your watch to see how much time has passed because you don't want it to end. You. Me. Me and you. Just us, all day long and round the clock. These are the days of our lives they say, well, I believe them. Let me not forget. In the day-to-day, of busyness and tiredness and budgets and letters and childcare planning and work and homework and guitar practice and ironing and not dusting, not ever remembering to dust and washing and hair washes and cooking and shopping and brushing of almost adolescent teeth and phonically and messages and birthdays and parties and weekend walks and adventures and all of it. In all of it, let me remember, just us and this day and days like this. The ones that roll from morning, to noon to night so effortlessly. Easy, easy like a sunday morning. Just us. Me. You. Me and you.

The Look by Siyuan Ren

Art by Siyuan Ren

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Week-Ends: Stow-on-the-Wold

We woke up to a crisp and snow dusted morning. Everything looked sparkly and pretty and familiar yet seen through rose tinted glasses. After a few weeks of threatening, my body surrendered to a cold and I'd spent the night tossing and turning and feeling bunged up. At 3am, awake and restless and fighting illness I read the beautiful words of Belle Augusta, suddenly my heart was filled with all sorts of magic, the kind she weaves with her love letters to New York. I fell back to sleep dreaming of adventure and with thoughts of truly embracing the natural beauty around me, as Belle does so wonderfully. So upon waking, in spite of not feeling my best, after a hard week of school and work I was determined to make the most of this hard earned precious time with my family. I nourished myself with superfoods, baked sweet potato, rocket, roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, a drizzle of sesame seed oil and a little grated cheese plus greek yoghurt with honey and coffee ... Real coffee from Kilimanjaro no less. I followed this with a deep, hot bath filled with the most delicious smelling bath oil, a gift from a friend, that immediately has you conjuring pictures of the Black Forest, mountains and evergreens and pines. I added my Bay & Rosemary candle, a christmas gift from my three boys, then, I lay. Making waves. Imagining myself swimming laps, closing my weary, tender eyes and allowing myself to daydream, sort of, as I drifted in and out of my parental role hearing the background noise of two active boys. The boys had already devoured pain au chocolat for breakfast, the ones that my husband had driven out to collect the night before in readiness for Saturday morning. I toasted the remaining ones for him alongside some mediterranean loaf and of course, added a real coffee for him too for a morning breakfast in bed. I searched my notes for my 'places we must visit' list and I found a few places and my husband chose one of them - Stow-on-the-Wold. She was all kinds of beautiful and just an hour away from home. The journey was gentle and lulling and The Cure kept us in a state of blissful melancholia if there is such a thing. We found perfect teahouses and independent stores and coffee shops and free parking and cake, very very good cake, orange and poppy seed and brownies, chocolate and coconut. We ate lunch in the middle of nowhere next to fields with a white covering and it was cold, so cold. Those boys of mine, all three, ate hot chicken drumsticks in the wilderness with the passion of resplendent kings of old feasting at a banquet. I, took myself back to the car and put my mittens with yellow pom poms on. Small pleasures. The week-ends are all about feeling all of the feels. Feasting on time, simplicity and togetherness. 

* Not the best photographs by any means but I promised myself I would blog this day

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Sun in the Clouds

Collages that make me think of a dear friend. The brown sugar in the glass jar at that new cafe that tastes like molasses. Listening to Fela Kuti whilst driving back from climbing big hills at the week-end. Thinking about those 78 vinyl records of my dads' and wondering which high life musicians they featured. Walks home with my youngest boy after picking him up from the childminder. Sending my children to fetch things for me when I realise I don't have to keep running up and down the stairs. That boiled sweet that a kind colleague gave me that I put in the bottom of my handbag for a rainy day. The mittens with adorning pom poms that were a present from my three boys for christmas that I thought I'd never wear but that I adore. Getting round to writing a letter by hand to a friend who lives on the other side of the world. Making that daily phone call straight after work finishes to my eldest boy and hearing my boy say 'Hey mum!'. My husband telling me about a favourite memory about his mama from his childhood. The one where he could never remember the difference between fried or scrambled egg. The one where she told him a simple way to remember his favourite cooked egg, it was the one with the sun in the clouds. In the twenty two years we have been together, last week was the first time that I heard about this memory. What magic! What a mama! So, the life lesson I have learned from that. Aways, always try and find the sun in the clouds. It will be there somewhere but you might just have to ask someone else for a little help in finding it.

Monday, 23 January 2017

And breathe ...

At the moment I am waking up before I need to wake to remind myself that I have two more hours to go before I need to wake up. Then I wake up nearly exactly an hour before I need to get up to remind myself that I need to be out of bed in one hour. Sometimes, I give myself some time out and sleep straight through the following hour until I actually need to get up. At other times, I lie impatiently still, neither fully awake and definitely not asleep and check my phone intermittently. I don't like that this is taking place. It is emotionally exhausting and psychologically unhelpful. I don't like. Not one bit. Although I get it. We've had a lot going on and my mind is fussing with all of this information, my sub conscience poking its nose into places when it has no right to do so.

I am working full time for the first time in eleven years, since September. The first few months were adrenaline filled and since there was just so much change going on, somehow we all rode the wave. One child starting secondary school, the younger one entering the world of childcare for the first time with two different childminders, myself working in a new role and my husband taking on new plus additional domestic and childcare duties really for the first time. Now some months in, I think we're all feeling it in our different ways. My eldest shared with me a couple of nights ago during a strained exchange that he misses not having as much time to just relax with me. Whilst I know that he is extremely privileged to have had a stay at home mum for his entire life and I also know that our evenings and week-ends are spent together and very little time outside of school is spent apart, and that, like me he can be a little dramatic but nonetheless of course mother guilt entered my heart and pierced it a little. 

Normally when I experience a little overwhelm, it either has me scribbling words and thoughts uncontrollably or it's quite the opposite. The last few months I have scribbled away and tucked words in different places, some places almost already forgotten and other in other places, the words just sit waiting, waiting for me to remember them. Time slips away and things are forgotten and just like my ten year old self did, I worry. I worry that I won't remember it all correctly, perhaps that I won't remember it at all. I worry that the days and months and years will roll into a mass of half truths and fractured memories and worst of all, I worry that I won't remember the good days, the happy times, the funny things. So perhaps in the early hours of this morning which technically will be tomorrow, perhaps I'll have a slight reprieve from the list of to do's that knock on my door. Perhaps I'll feel like at least one box is ticked and not in a work kind of way but in a surviving kind of way, a breathing kind of way. Breathe. And breathe. And breathe.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Sweet Peas and Memories on a Properly Cold Day

Today has been one of our coldest and foggiest days so far this year. I haven't left the house all day and I feel a little numb and a little restless for it. It has been an unexpected day. My first day off work since I began my new job in September. A day needed not by I but by that youngest boy of mine, who woke, complaining of aches and a temperature. He is the one that was born with his cup spilling over with joy, his cup is always half full and I am often challenged by this joyful spirit of his. However, our new rhythm of mama working full time and him spending his early mornings and an hour after school with two different childminders on different days, and the transitions in routine, in weather, well I think he needed a day and his body decided to tell him so. His chest began whispering this notion at the week-end, it said quietly 'remember me, I like to return right alongside the dry cold air'. I mostly managed to banish it but the whispers, a few determined ones lingered in the air and made themselves heard but again we are shooing them away, for it is only a week and a bit till the end of term and make it we all four will, by hook or by crook, to the end of term.

Today, I was determined to leave some words. Any words. Even if I was to resign myself to 'I have no words today' because sometimes it's the doing and not the thinking that's necessary. On this cold, cold day where I felt the chill like I haven't felt it so far this year, I used every like persuasion to convince my body that I was not cold, just like my Granny used to do. Scarf around my neck. Woollen socks. Slippers on. Warmed milk in a china cup. A blanket across my knees. When my nose still felt cold and wet like my childhood pet dog Snoopy, I decided that a trip down memory lane must be the only thing missing. The best part of memories is being taken back right into the mood of a previous experience. Right back like it happened yesterday. And so I looked at photos taken earlier in the year, a much warmer time of this year and stumbled across these images. They were taken back on the seventeenth of August, when the sun had scattered freckles on the boys' nose like seeds in a field, when his skin had a slight glow kissed by the sun, when time was our own and we were the boss of time, when it was just me and him, him and I and I had these words to say.

'Spent half the day with just this one today. We took a walk around our local park and as we did so, I recalled memories from his toddler years. We smelled the scent of sweet peas from a way away, so we followed our noses. I began to tell the boy all about how the scent triggered memories of Grandma Peppermint, who in the summer months always had a vase full of sweet peas at the top of the stairs as you entered her flat. They came from Uncle Horace's garden, he would bring a big bunch that he had cut from his garden and had wrapped in last weeks newspaper. Gran would always say that she preferred flowers in the garden than in a vase but she always confessed that the scent of sweet peas indoors was rather spectacular.'

Monday, 21 November 2016

Light and Dark and every shade of Grey

It's been a long time, a really long time. There have been lots of changes. Last year I was studying to become a teaching assistant, now I am working full time as a teaching assistant in a school that's a twenty minute walk from my house. My eldest boy also started secondary school in September and the youngest boy started being looked after by two different childminders before and after school as I can no longer commit to the school run. So, after ten years, I am no longer dropping off and collecting the children from the school playground. 

Life is full and busy and after half a term of riding the wave of change with adrenaline and perhaps even euphoria, now the built up tiredness is kicking in. I feel weary at the moment. But there's never a good time to start back here, that's why it has taken so long to return. Many many drafts have been written on my phone and never published, many. But I ache for the ritual of posting here. I long to tell my story, even if it is me telling my story to I, because just getting that story down in the first place somehow makes it real, it marks the passing of time and is forever logged and memory being what it is, I know I'll describe these current days and weeks differently if I reflect on them at another time or phase, even if its just a subtle difference. 

Story is everything. Often when there is heartache or heartbreak, there's either a need to keep telling your story or the ache and the break silence you. I have felt mute since a big family falling out of sorts exactly a year ago. It was all full of drama and hurt and made me think deeply about my perception of closeness and relationship, understanding and empathy, it has made me re-think my priorities and re-examine my strengths and weaknesses. I have thought a lot about my role as both victim and perpetrator and as a woman and as a mother and as the little girl always trying to please. 

Growing up is hard, especially when you realise that the lessons keep coming and that the answers aren't always black or white. Sometimes the palette has to get messy around the edges, things have to get dirtied in order to find new shades of colour. So, I think that's where I am, mixing new shades. Some are beautiful and unexpected, others are a little murkier and leave me with regret but I wouldn't be without any of the shades, they each tell a story of their own, ones that I am ready to tell once again.

Friday, 24 June 2016

What a soon to be 8 year old boy collected on a Summer's day

What I heard

. Children playing in the school next to the park
. A train
. Dogs barking
. Birds making a tweeting song
. Water splashing down at the water fall

What I saw

. Fresh helicopters on the ground
. Old tree that has been cut down
. Nettles
. Cute labradoodles, one black, one white
. Mushrooms growing on a dead tree stump
. A Woodpecker
. A duck feather floating in the air by the duck pond
. A Butterfly
. Some friends from school
. Bamboo in a muddy marsh
. The tree where I liked to squish berries when I was little
. Earwig hiding in the Elderflower bush
. A squirrel
. A Robin
. Unstable rocks sticking out of the ground
. A feather by a pine tree

What I smelt

. Roses in the rose garden (I couldn't smell it much but mum could)

What I tasted
. Banana from mum's bag of goodies
. Water from my water bottle
. A couple of chocolates from mum's box that Year 4 gave her as a  leaving present
. Salt on my fingers
. Wind in my mouth
. A burp