Tuesday, 31 May 2011

What a Wedding!

It started with a tiny country church, lost amidst fields full of wild flowers.

Outside, forgotten gravestones lay sunk in a sea of buttercups and inside people in hats waited and whispered, their heads twisting endlessly towards the door, as the comings and goings became fewer and the itch of anticipation spread.

All around us, the delicate scent of roses filled the air, and well-groomed guests rustled with expectation, and deep inside we re-lived the same electric moments on our own wedding morn, as we packed ourselves into the pews and waited in an uneasy silence for the magic to begin.

And when the door opened and the bride entered, dripping in lace, and looking bashful, bridal and more beautiful than she'd ever looked in her life, we knew something special was at hand.  

We watched a smile slip through the church as we marvelled at her radiance and then we wiped tears from our eyes as we looked up towards the groom and saw pure love plastered across his face for everyone to see. 

We sang the hymns with celebratory gusto, I read my reading with a clear voice and a stumbling heart, and then we all grew wistful and humble as the marriage vows were said and we witnessed the awesome sight of two people binding themselves together in love.

And once the ceremony was over and we had smiled for our photographs and showered the newlyweds with rose-petals, we headed off towards the reception without really having any idea of what we were going to find, but hoping for even more magic.

And magic is exactly what we found.

We walked into a manicured garden where flowerbeds frothed with foxgloves and jugs overflowed with roses, and felt its tingle hit us even before we'd sipped our champagne.

Above us, bunting fluttered beside Chinese lanterns and streamers soared from the treetops, and higher even than that, the marquee pointed majestically to a clear blue sky.

To our left little pavilions were dotted about the lawn, and to our right, beyond the cushioned hay-bales and the croquet game, an orchard stretched off into the distance, its branches dancing with streamers and hung with lampshades and hearts.

And beneath its bedecked branches, in a little glade that we happened across almost by chance this is what we found:

A Mad Hatter's tea party, complete with illuminated chandelier, hiding quietly in the orchard just waiting to be discovered.

And as we giggled and gushed, and felt reality shift beneath our feet, we wondered whether there could possibly be more, without knowing just how much more there was to come.

There was the marquee, bursting with roses, festooned with flags and dripping with vintage style.

There were the tables laid out with mis-matched china and hand-embroidered table-cloths and bedecked with cakes and flowers.  

There was afternoon tea of the most exquisite and picturesque variety, complete with finger sandwiches, scones, strawberries and cream and trifle.

There were the gramophone records that crackled with Frank Sinatra as we sipped our tea from vintage teacups and picked our pastries from china cake stands.

There was the pick-and-mix table that made us gasp and giggle and then gallivant like sugar-high children.

There was the film tent, where old movies crackled in the darkness and buckets of popcorn waited to be picked up and munched.

There was the wish tree where people wrote out their wishes and watched them flutter happily in the breeze.

And of course there was my beautiful friend the bride, whose wild imagination had dreamed up this day and whose happiness was sweeter than all the cream eclairs in the world.

It was a wrench to leave the party, just as the band were beginning to set up, the fire-jugglers were arriving, the site was becoming illuminated from without and whispers of fireworks were at large.

But we'd savoured every minute of this magical and memorable day and as we bundled one sleepy boy into the car and made our way home we knew that we were blessed to have been included in the magic of this wedding and to have friends whose dreams are as big and imaginations are as beautiful as this.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Blue, With Bells On

Every May, when I know that the bluebells are in bloom, I yearn to be back in this meadow.

I long to turn the corner at the bottom of the steep, wooded path and see the grassy field open up before me like a secret and hear the rush of the river intensify the silence.

I long to smell the sweet scent of the blossom that bursts into flower just as the bluebells come into bloom and gaze down the grassy expanse of a meadow that's green as Spring itself.

And so, when I returned home last week, and the sun burst briefly through the cloud, it was with a happy heart that I carried my boy down the path towards the river, and saw the meadow stretch out before me, frilled at the edges with blue.

I sat in the freshly cut grass with my Dad, my brother and my boy whilst bright sunshine made us lift our cheeks towards the light, rest our eyes and smile.

And for a moment, everything was perfect. The colours were brighter, the air was quieter and the sun was warmer  than I would have believed  possible and cabbage white butterflies were dancing in the grass. Bluebells were nodding their heads gently in the breeze and behind them, rhododendron flowers studded the riverbank like jewels.

Moments of pure rapture are rare and need to be savoured and celebrated, and as I watched John rollick and roll in the grass, his giggles rippling over the glade, I realised that that's exactly what he was doing, and that he was capable of expressing the joy of the moment with an eloquence that I could only dream of.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Toddler Group

The little girl with the pigtails sat herself in the bubble car that John was contentedly pushing around the room, turned to him and scowled.

She poked her tongue out until it was stretched to the roots, distorted her angelic features into a series of grotesque grimaces and prodded his pudgy fingers maliciously.

She reversed the car over his feet, sending him tottering backwards, tugged his hands away from the toy and finally,with a small but victorious squeal, whizzed away from him across the room.

John stood quite still in the empty space that she left, watching her go, his little face full of confusion, resignation and acceptance.

And as I sat on my hands, feeling anguish tear at my heart, and using every ounce of my strength to stop myself from running to him, scooping him up in my arms and smothering him with love, I felt as though I were rounding a corner into a new phase of parenthood, and that this one looked tougher and more treacherous even than the last.

Sunday, 22 May 2011


He's only just begun to notice it, but his uncles are probably the coolest uncles in the world.  

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Finding Our Peace

I left the house, once again, without knowing where exactly I'd go.

I drove, as I so often do, towards the supermarket, with just a desperate need to escape the house, and it wasn't until we'd passed the garden centre and swung around the roundabout that a plan formed in my mind.

And even when we'd reached the country park, and navigated our way through the trials of the public toilets, I was still unsure of my plan, and still uncertain as to whether this unexplored place would have the power to lift my spirits or distract my boy and me throughout the long hours of another empty afternoon.

But slowly, slowly, as we wound our way out of the information area and began to explore the world in which we found ourselves, the beauty of the park made me forget my concerns and the thrill of discovery brought a smile and a skip to my heart.

We stopped to greet the animals, we meandered through the cool shade of the wood, we felt ourselves dwarfed by the awesome symmetry of the viaduct, we marvelled at the minute beauty of a buttercup, we gazed across meadows dancing with flowers, we sighed at the picturesque sight of the dovecote, we laughed at the improbable sight of llamas, we walked quietly together in the beauty of a brand new world, and when the path ducked down under the trees, we found ourselves standing on the shores of a wide, cool river, that bubbled peacefully beneath the arches of the viaduct and invited us to rest a while and play.

And so for a long while, I sat on the shore of the river, smelling the cool mud of the riverbed, listening to the water whispering its secrets to the stones, and watching my little boy gather pebbles in his fists and drop them seriously into the water. 

I drank in the deep silence of the place and watched its peace settle on John's soul. And there by that river, whilst the sun slumbered quietly beneath a thin summer quilt of cloud, I felt days of deep darkness disperse and the peace that I'd been seeking so desperately find me and fill me at last.

Thursday, 19 May 2011


He ran his fingers over the strings and my busy boy stopped dead in his tracks. He picked out the first few notes of the melody and John's eyes widened with wonder.

He settled himself behind his instrument, flexed his fingers in front of him and then music flowed from his fingertips into the expectant silence of the room.

The exquisite melody rolled from the strings and tumbled through the air, and as it trembled tentatively into our hearts I watched my boy grow stiller and more silent than he's ever been in his life.

I watched enchantment and enthrallment paralyse his face, and I watched wonder and absorption flood every ounce of his being.

And as I looked around at the expressions of the people in the room, from that of my Granny whose smiling serenity brought a tear to my eye, to that of my little boy who was gripping on to my knee to steady himself in his trance, I realised that my little brother, the musician, was magic.

Because the music that he wrung from the strings of his guitar sang of beauty at the deepest, purest and most exquisitely powerful level, and it didn't matter whether you were at the very beginning of your life or the very end of it; you felt it just the same.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Heart of the Matter

All day long, I felt as though someone were playing cat's cradle with my emotions.

I went about my business quietly, whilst emotions raged and roared within, and neither the serenity of our daily routine nor the sweetness of my little one's smiles had the power to quieten the storm.

And only once the day was done and I sat quietly with a year's worth of photographs in front of me, did peace finally find a chink through which to flood my heart.

I poured over the pictures of my boy as a squidgy-sleepy thing, a roly-poly bundle, and an ever-evolving boy, and felt nostalgia swell into delight and delight mellow into joy.

And as I cropped, tweaked and saved the pictures of my beautiful, smiling boy, I realized that all of life's many questions and worries were consumed by the awesome force of my love for this little boy, and that this was the heart of the matter.

I felt the familiar ache inside as my love for him stretched the fibres of my heart, and felt panic pluck at my soul as I surveyed the time that had already passed for good.

And as I thought back over the conversation that I'd had that morning with my mother, the one that had been haunting me all day, I realised that I wasn't really asking for help at all; I was simply asking to share the burden of this almost unbearable love, and the agony and ecstasy of this lonely journey through motherhood, with someone who truly understands.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

What They Say

When mothers ask me if I've gone back to work and I shake my head and mumble something about being a 'housewife' this is what they say:

"That must be lovely if you can afford it" and "I didn't have the choice."

And every time they say it I nod understandingly whilst feeling my smile stiffen ever so slightly and my soul start to squirm. I mutter some platitude about it being right thing 'for me', and I leave feeling pompous and privileged, indulged and slightly indignant.

Because to describe mothering as simply 'lovely' is not to tell the whole truth. It's to focus on the romance of the role and ignore the relentlessness, the loneliness, the thanklessness and the mind-numbing monotony of the job.

It's to see a mother out walking quietly with her child and forget that she's done it every day that week and will probably do it again tomorrow, and it's to look at long empty days with envy without stopping to wonder what it must be like to have an endless expanse of emptiness to fill.

Yes, it's a luxury that I can afford, and I'm forever mindful of and grateful for that fact.

But it's a luxury that I can afford because of the lifestyle that I've chosen and the sacrifices that I make, and it was a choice that I made knowing that our house would always be smaller, our clothes would always be shabbier, our holidays would always be more local and our choices would always be more limited than those of some of my friends.

We all have the choice to a greater or lesser extent and I'm incredibly happy with mine; except when mothers ask me about it and I'm suddenly made to feel spoilt.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Curly Locks

I've finally conceded that John might very soon need a haircut. But it's just made me love his soft baby curls all the more intensely.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Life Lessons:

* There's no point in feeling self-satisfied for having locked the fridge door if you've left a bag full of groceries sitting on the kitchen floor.

* A toddler has an uncanny ability to sift through a bag of shopping and pick out the item that has the potential to cause the most glorious mess.

* It takes a one-year-old roughly a minute (the time it takes to rinse limescale out of a kettle) to swipe a box of eggs from the kitchen, open it, and discover that its contents are satisfyingly breakable.

* The look of delight on the toddler's face as he swooshes slimy egg-white on the tiles makes it impossible to do anything but laugh.

* Cleaning up egg-white actually just means spreading it right through the house (particularly when helped by someone small and very enthusiastic)

* Mopping up broken eggs is possibly even more enjoyable than breaking them in the first place. 

* Stopping to giggle and photograph the carnage means that you only have yourself to blame when slimy, eggy water is sloshed all over the seat of your sofa.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

To The Sea!

Ever since the sun first showed its face this Spring, I've been craving the taste of salt on my tongue and the sight of tiny toes splashing in the shallows.

I've been imagining my adventurous little boy gazing out across the wide horizon and picturing chubby fingers raking through wet sand.

And even though such imaginings can sometimes dull the wonder of reality, John's first trip to the seaside was everything that I imagined and more.

He buried his hands deep into the sand, scooped up pebbles in his fists, waded deep into the ocean without a care for the cold, and squealed with delight at the sight of the waves.

He ate mouthfuls of sand with just a shudder and a grimace, got smeared in suncream thick and sticky as treacle, ran about in a nappy sodden with sea-water, ate chips dunked in sand as though it was ketchup, fell into the hole that Daddy dug over and over again and eventually turned blue with cold, without ever letting it quench his delight.

And as we watched him thrill at the wonder of the wide horizon and marvel at the consistency of wet sand, we all felt the simple joy of the seaside overcome us with a childish sort of glee and wondered how we could possibly have forgotten that the beach was nature's most magical and majestic type of playground.