Thursday, 31 May 2012

Summer Days

Oh, these summer days. So full and so fleeting.

So many hours spent in the sunshine. So many chunks of bread and cherry tomatoes eaten whilst running through the grass. So many hours spent 'driving Daddy's car', so much '"shoes off, shoes on", so much suncream, so much nakedness, so much tractor time, so many scraped knees.

So easy, so joyous, so hot. I could do this all summer long.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Filling the Blanks

Last month in a sudden panic at the busyness of life, I bought myself a calendar. I took out James' diary and filled in square after square, and when it was done life felt more ordered and more full, and the blank spaces were few and far between.

There were work commitments, hospital appointments, family visits, church obligations and endless Duke of Edinburgh weekends for James, but there was little free time and even less fun time marked out for us on that grid.   

And so this weekend, after an appointment to do this:

we filled in our one blank day with this:

We woke up with the dawn in a field that smelled of wet grass, and ate warm oatcakes in the early morning sunshine. We watched John's red wellies trail a path to the play park and we felt the excitement of the heat before the day had even begun.    

Then we set our boat on the river and paddled downstream, trailing our fingers and toes in the cool water and waving at passers-by on bridges.

The sun burned our scalps and made us squint at the sparkles on the water, but our journey was as slow and calm as the river beneath us, and the beauty of the day was intoxicating.

We ate our picnic in a bright empty field, frilled at the edges with buttercups, listening to trains hooting in the distance, and watching their steam rise on the opposite side of the valley.

Then we made our way downriver to a tiny picture-postcard station, bedecked with union jacks, and bundled our sleepy but excited boy onto a steam train for the return journey up river.  


It was just one blank day in the midst of a busy couple of weeks, tucked in behind a suit fitting and promising nothing at all.

But the brilliance of the sunshine, the adventurous spirit of my wonderful husband and the easy happiness of our boy made it every kind of perfect.

And when I look back on this weekend, I know that it won't be the suit fitting that I remember, but the glorious sunny blank day that we seized and filled to the brim with good things.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Living is Easy

At last, the world is warm. The days are long and gentle.

There's a mellowness in the morning, a stillness around the edges of the evening, a sticky slowness to the midday heat.

And as long as it lasts we're living beneath the big blue sky, wriggling our toes amidst the warm grass and finding that everything, everything is easier when the sun shines.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Down by the Station

Sometimes its hard for me to hang back and let him go adventuring without me. I want to be the one holding his hand, hearing him chatter, seeing him smile. I want to be at the centre of his joy.

But if you ask John he'll tell you that "Grandma and John see choo choo's" and so when we arrived at the station, just as the last train was preparing to leave, I let Grandma take his hand and walk him along the platform, through the steam, to talk to the driver.

Because I knew that this was really their moment - their memories - and that my place was really behind them, letting them go.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Worth It

I procrastinated about renewing our National Trust membership.  It was expensive. It was unnecessary. It was something I'd intended to cancel a long time ago.

But to be able to meet my Mum at Powys Castle on a day when the sheer thought of the hours ahead made me cry, to meet her in the car park and get that deep hug that I craved, to sit on the flower-strewn banks of a silent lake and eat a picnic whilst the sun dipped in and out of the clouds, to amble through paths lined with nodding bluebells and smell the sweet scent of azaleas at every turn, to watch my boy bury his face in the startling pink of a rhododendron flower and then decide that it smelled good enough to eat, to wander through wind-swept narcissus and capture a picture that I will cherish forever, to eat chocolate brownies in the garden tea rooms, to chatter and smile and leave knowing that the week has been completely tuned around - well, it was worth every penny of that membership fee, and perhaps a little bit more besides.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Good Things from Sunday:

* James has drifted back to sleep, so I'm sitting silently at the breakfast table listening to John moan about his Shreddies. He whines, then eats, then whines some more, whilst I stare flatly out of the window and watch the sun rise over the garden.  Just as the whining is starting to fill every crevice of my mind, I turn on the radio and the second movement of the New World Symphony drifts dreamily across the air.

I turn it up, and then up again, until the music fills the house and there is nothing that we can do but listen. And as I sit back at the breakfast table, I find that my soul is finally waking from its sleep, and that John has completely forgotten to moan about his Shreddies.

* The ladies in the kitchen are genuinely impressed with my Jubilee tickets. "They're wonderful!" says the new High Sheriff of Shropshire, "So positive - I really love them!" I feel as though I've just received an A+. Oh, how I have missed that feeling.

* John stands up when the congregation stands and sings as we begin our hymn. "Wheel a bus go rown a rown" he sings at the top of his voice, as we begin 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind'  "Rown a rown, Rown a rown!" Usually, that hymn makes me cry, but today I can do nothing but smile.

* We eat our picnic in the blustery sunshine whilst the peals of the cathedral bells drift across the park on the wind.

* The tiny train takes just a minute to trundle round the tiny track, but it's long enough to make everyone on board smile and wave.

* Watching John eat an ice cream is a sticky, drippy, serious delight.

*  When he stirs I lift him out of his car seat and carry him into the house. I settle down on the sofa and wait for his angry screams, but instead he rubs his warm cheek against my chest, curls his little body up on my lap and then buries his face in my breast and falls back to sleep.

I sit perfectly still, cradling my boy on my lap. I stroke my fingers across his back, bury my face in his hair, and gaze at his flushed cheek and fluttering eyelashes, the chocolate ice-cream drips on his trousers and the pudgy perfection of his grubby fingers. I sit and savour this fleeting reminder of his babyhood, take in every inch of his boyhood and delight in the uncomplicated closeness of his body for every second of his sleep.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Baking Gone Bad

These were supposed to be chocolate and cherry muffins. They were not my greatest baking achievement to date.  

Having said that, practically every last squidgy, sunken, burnt-on crumb got eaten, so perhaps it could have been worse.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Out and In

On Saturday, despite waking to the sound of a toddler retching at 5.30 in the morning, despite the cold wind that whipped icily across the sunny sky, despite an unsettled forecast and uncertain weekend plans, despite a nasty fall that left both John and me in tears and despite the first rumblings of a tummy bug that we did our best to ignore, we managed to get out.

We paddled our canoe down the river, singing "Row Row Row" and waving at cows all the way, we ate a hearty lunch in a warm riverside pub, and then we walked back to the car along the dandelion-strewn paths of the Severn Way.   

And even though the wind cut cruelly across the canoe for a while as we paddled down the river and John moaned miserably for a time after we woke him from his nap, I only remember it as good.

I remember the bright sunshine that dropped from the skies as we stepped out from the pub, the joy on John's little face as he donned Daddy's hat, the excitement that came from passing sheep and donkeys, farmers and tractors, the pride I felt in watching my boy walk and run and walk for miles, without ever losing his joy, and the waving fields of meadow grass and golden dandelions through which we walked. 

It was good to get out on Saturday. Good to make memories that are joyous if not quite truthful and good to take photographs that are happy if not quite brilliant. Good to feel the sunshine on our faces and see the world outside our walls, and good to spend time together in a way that was pro-active and memorable and real.

Especially since the rest of the long weekend was spent inside, reading and sleeping, sleeping and reading, as the tummy bug caught up with us, and the weather closed in, and there was nowhere in the world that we'd rather be than the sofa.   

Friday, 4 May 2012


The sun might have hidden its face from the world but the fields are still reflecting the glory of summer back at the sunless sky.

The world is resplendent in yellow and everywhere I turn dandelions are spreading sunny joy amidst the endless Spring showers.

I gaze at the golden fields as I drive through the rain and marvel at their simple brilliance as we walk with John through damp grass.

"Look John," I say, "look at all the dandelions!"

But John is too busy burying his little fingers in a mole hill to notice either the rainclouds or the glorious expanse of yellow that's stretched out all around him, and that's exactly how it should be.    

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


As my mum left she said: "You're doing a wonderful job. You're creating a home slowly but surely, and raising an amazing child. You're keeping a house, you're part of your community. You're doing it.

"It never felt like anything when I was busy doing it, but it's life. It's incredible to watch."

And even though I might have known these truths deep down inside, it felt so good to hear them out loud.