Year: 2007

Slow/fast

There’s one apple left on the tree at the bottom of my neighbour’s garden. Each morning I open the blind and peer out of the back window to check that it’s still there. Somehow while it clings on surrounded by yellowing leaves it must still be autumn, not yet winter. The biscuit turned six months last week on a clear November morning when the first frost was scraped from the car windscreens and the gas supply to our whole street was turned off for the day. Six months since the afternoon we brought her home cocooned in a white Peter Rabbit jacket and lay her on the red bedspread. How could we ever not have known her? May/November: it seems like both forever & just one long amazing moment. Time is still a big issue. There’s so much more now, but somehow I seem to ‘waste’ it. Not surprisingly, the biscuit is happier watching her mummy busy about in the kitchen than read a book. I’m still not good enough at grabbing the moment, at …

Gorging

Not only on plums, but on the delectable words of Tove Jansson. Her writing is so clear and spare — invigorating in the way that I imagine a day in the Finnish forest would be. Somehow her prose gives equal weight to the spaces between the words (and between what is said and what is unsaid) as to the words themselves. When the biscuit was new I stood by the bookcase in the bedroom re-reading episodes from Jansson’s masterpiece, The Summer Book, whilst joggling her to sleep. Sophia and Grandmother’s adventures and arguments, the worlds conjured from their imaginations, all reminding me that the tiny bundle in my arms would grow to delight in the smallest of things. The Summer Book reminds me of my relationship with my own grandma — the conspiracy of old and young and their powerlessness against the whims and fates of the generation between them. It’s about life and death, creativity and nature; it’s about how, without despair or equivocation, we can live our lives in the full knowledge of …

[Re]constructing

We’ve been in France. Eating, thinking, relaxing. Making plans. Looking after the biscuit. I’ve realised that there’s something about the rhythm of a working week that I miss. Something about knowing where the sweet spots are: the absolute freedom of a Friday evening, the pleasure of plunging into the park at lunchtime. Something about the small ceremonies of buying a coffee & almond croissant on a Friday morning or of pausing to wash an apple mid-afternoon. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to fit these tiny moments of pleasure into the freer routine of days at home with the biscuit. I love the fresh promise of autumn. September has always seemed a far more promising place to start a year to me than January. So, New Year, new plans. Little ways to improve the days. And, more ambitiously, plans to find time to write (the last twentysomething birthday and I make myself a rash promise — but, if not now, then when?).

Reading over her shoulder

The biscuit is three and a half months. A letter arrives from our local health visiting team. ‘As your child is now approaching the weaning age,’ it reads, ‘you are invited to attend our "Messy Me" weaning workshop.’ I suddenly realise that my days of reading over her shoulder are numbered. Those early weeks of breastfeeding torture have turned into the most cherished parts of my day. Six months though, I’m sure they don’t need to eat until they’re at least six months. I phone and book a place on ‘Messy Me’ for the start of October. ‘Bring baby along,’ says the health visitor and I’m left wondering what else she might have expected me to do with her.

Miffy

The biscuity one sat on my lap for her first bedtime story on Sunday evening. We made it into the National Gallery shop the other week and I couldn’t resist buying a copy of Miffy. Reading to her for the first time was such a lovely feeling, but I’m not sure that this is the right message about motherhood to give to my tiny baby daughter If we could have a baby now, how lovely it would be, said Mrs Bunny, I could shop and cook and sew for three! On the other hand, I’m with Mrs Bunny when she tells the chicks that they can’t play with Miffy yet I’m sorry, Chicks, you’ll have to wait, kind Mrs Bunny said Miffy’s too young to play with you babies must stay in bed! and at least now I know how she fits all of that cooking & sewing in. —– Happy 3 month birthday biscuity xx

Reading aloud

When the biscuity one was very small, during the long evenings in which sleep (hers/ours) seemed an impossibly elusive state, we rediscovered the pleasures of reading aloud. One of us would joggle, baby on shoulder; one of us would read, eyes straining against the gathering darkness. B finished his epic reading of Nicobobinus (started last year, but hampered by my habit of falling asleep mid-chapter). I read the The Means of Escape, drawing us into the strange yet complete worlds of Penelope Fitzgerald’s short stories. Both suitably surreal for the endless hours that had once separated night from day. But there was one book so painful and so funny, so connected to us that it appeared to have been transferred directly from life to the page by a process of black magic. I first read Rachel Cusk’s searing account of motherhood in 2002, at a time when, though I knew that I wanted a child above all else, it was still a comfortably distant prospect. I can remember compulsively gulping whole chapters even then, peering …

Falling through time

Of course, you need time to think too. It’s seven weeks since the biscuity one was born (no-one knows how she got this nickname — I can only think that I’m to blame) and, perhaps more fundamental than any of the more obvious shifts, is the way in which time has changed for me. There never seems to be enough of it to get anything done, and yet it pools in unexpected places –an hour’s biscuity nap can seem like an entire day — and loops back on itself through the endless cycle of feeds & changes, so that no one time of the day or night is, in essence, any different from any other. This circularity is something that you have to relax into, to embrace, in order to survive. Once you’ve stopped fighting the apparent speeding of time (‘but it’s only 2 hours since her last feed finished’), its rhythm becomes something soothing, something constant, something to savour. Instead of waiting for it all to end you find the spaces, the time to …