Month: August 2014

There was the light

Home, which brings its own strange dislocation. A seeing which is impossible in the rush and familiarity of the everyday. I notice all that we have started and not finished: the unpainted wall in our bedroom, the bare light bulb at the end of the kitchen, the half-read books piled on the shelf. The season too has shifted: the rhythms of our summer — all those hours in the garden — no longer fit the weather or the length of the day. The evening air feels autumnal, dusk falls early. We shop for school shoes. But, there was the light. The light at the coast and the light at B’s parents’ which holds you in its embrace — a fly in amber. Liquid, dripping light. Light into which to dive. My notebook is full of questions, plans. How to carry the energy of this holiday, the bliss of its togetherness, its ease, its possibility? How to work towards this being more what we have? How to hold to all that I have promised myself? I …

Happiness is at the farm

We’ve been camping. Camping in Brittany. Camping, to be precise, in Finistère: the end of the world. We stayed on a beautiful dairy farm, with goats, pigs, donkeys, rabbits and geese, as well as the cows and their calves. It was pretty magical. But also pretty cold and wet. I now finally understand those tactful comments people made when I told them where we were going. My lovely neighbour who told me of her many trips camping in France, her many trips to Brittany, but never, as far as she could remember, camping in Brittany. Later, B told me that she’d said to him that they’d bought a caravan in the end after getting washed-out one summer. Still, the enormous tent we bought second-hand on eBay in December (a cheap time to buy a tent!) but hadn’t had time to put up, did have all its parts, and was wonderfully waterproof. And it only took us an hour and three-quarters to put up in the pouring rain, and, well, about five hours to pack it …

We love: Roald Dahl

I don’t have many rules when it comes to books and children. Deliberate destruction upsets me, but I’ve got pretty good at magical mends over the years. Walking home from school holding a book in front of your nose? Fine, just look up when we’re crossing the road please. Not talking to me for an hour after school because you just have to finish your book? Okay, but I can’t say I won’t be lonely. Staying up hours after lights-out because you just can’t stop reading? I was that child.  Censoring your reading? Never! Or at least I thought never. And then, well, I looked at Roald Dahl’s The Witches and found myself saying, not until you’re seven. Since reading really clicked for T two summers ago she’s made her way through pretty much everything Roald Dahl wrote for children. For a long time she read Danny the Champion of the World over and over. Then, after her birthday last year, there was the Matilda phase. Camping in France last summer, she sometimes read aloud …

Remembering

‘Barty and I were very happy in the Fens. We had two children — boys. They were both killed in the Great War — the First World War they call it now.’ Mrs Bartholomew did not cry, because she had done all her crying for that so long ago. from Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce (first published 1958) And, oh, how I cried as I tried to read these lines from the final chapter of Tom’s Midnight Garden to T and the Moose outside our tent last summer. Twice last year I was undone by the ubiquity of loss in that generation — the loss of husbands, sons, brothers. A loss so catastrophic that it permeates children’s literature in such a matter-of-fact way. In The Borrowers, it is Mrs May who tells Kate about the tiny people who live in houses and ‘borrow’ things from humans. But it was Mrs May’s younger brother who met Pod and Arrietty and told her about them, ‘He was such a tease. He told us so many things …

As if watering them, as if turning the earth at their feet

And he reads to them, as he does every night, as if watering them, as if turning the earth at their feet. There are stories he has never heard of, and others he has known as a child, these stepping stones that are there for everyone. What is the real meaning of these stories, he wonders, of creatures that no longer exist even in the imagination: princes, woodcutters, honest fishermen who live in hovels…It is as if there is only a single hour, and in that hour all the provender must be gathered, all the advice offered. He longs for the one line to give them that they will always remember, that will embrace everything, that will point the way, but he cannot find the line, he cannot recognize it. It is more precious, he knows, than anything else they might own, but he does not have it. from Light Years by James Salter Picnics. Summer colds. Day after day of perfect weather. Falling leaves even in July. And now, August, and the weather has …