Even the six-year-olds

Liv clambers into our bed as soon as she wakes, poking us with elbows and knees, wanting to know what they are doing in heaven today, to celebrate Good Friday?

She wants to know every single thing I don’t have an answer to.

It seems, these days, like Liv has taken those verses in Deutoronomy, the ones about teaching our children diligently, and turned them on their head.  My own uncertainty about what to do with God’s words in our home does not stop her.  She talks of them when she sits, when she walks by the way, when she lies down, when she rises.

*

Liv has an unflagging interest this year in Pilate.  (Asking what his name was again, trying to get her tongue around it, giggling a bit, Pontius Pilate).

She sits in her booster seat as we drive to Asda and asks her questions.

She is trying to work out his responsability, what he decided, what he really wanted, if he was good.

“I would have decided that Jesus should die”, she declares, “because it brought so much good, in the end.”

So she clambers into our bed this morning, it’s Friday, and she wants to celebrate, because she is certain this story is Good.

*

“Even the stones would cry out!” she told us, wide-eyed, a few Sundays ago.

Yes, I think, even the stones, and even the six-year-olds.

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The Sisterhood of Crackpot Mothering

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A free spirit. A wonderer and wanderer. Quirky. Day-dreamy.

These are words I often use to describe my 5 year-old, and now that I think about it, they are words that are sometimes used to describe me.

She is often the easiest of company. If she can take the world on her own terms, all is well.

But I noticed, early on, that she struggles with anticipation. She gets nervous if there’s a build up, if there’s fuss about something. Half-way through an expression of excitement she has changed her mind and doesn’t want to do it. She feels under pressure sometimes, when there really isn’t any… a kind of performance anxiety even when nobody’s watching.

September was tricky. P1. She developed a clingyness she hadn’t had before. She was one of those children who needed prised off their mum, finger by finger. But still, September of P1, that’s understandable, right?

*

It’s June now and since the middle of May she has, once again, needed peeled off me every morning.

This morning her Principal bent down and carried her in to school in her arms. They are so gentle with her. So positive and kind. Yet here she is on 1st June freaking out about going through that door.

The school office phoned on my way home. She’s ok. She’s settled. The Principal’s wearing her sun hat. She’s laughing.

Of course she is. I know she is. She enjoys school. But, yet.

*

Her little sister got baptised on Sunday and when I get in from the school run there’s a text from my mum.  She has sent a few since Sunday – texts that are careful not to make a fuss of me but that are checking in if I’m ok – if I have ‘recovered’.  She knows me.  The baptism was good, important.  Among people who are gentle and positive and kind.  But my mum knows me.  I freak out, sometimes, even in safe places, even in the midst of things that I want.

We joke, now and again, about the little triangles of pancake my mum produced a steady supply of in the run-up to my wedding.  She was well practised by then in the low-key art of caring for a daughter who feels sick when she’s nervous.  She just plated them up and left them quietly at my elbow, bite-size pieces of sustenance that would get me through.

Last night at bedtime Livi said it out loud: “I’m nervous about P2”.  It’s what I suspected.  It seems so early, so pointless, to start worrying about it now.  And yet, I get it.

*

I have described to friends how I feel like my intuition is broken these days, like I used to “KNOW” how to work with Liv, and now I don’t.  But I read this recently:

Intuition is not independent of any reasoning process. In fact, psychologists believe that intuition is a rapid-fire, unconscious associating process- like a mental puzzle. The brain makes an observation, scans its files, and matches the observation with existing memories, knowledge, and experiences. Once it puts together a series of matches, we get a “gut” on what we’ve observed.

Sometimes our intuition or our gut tells us what we need to know; other times it actually steers us toward fact-finding and reasoning. As it turns out, intuition may be the quiet voice within, but that voice is not limited to one message. Sometimes our intuition whispers, “Follow your instincts.” Other times it shouts, “You need to check this out, we don’t have enough information!”

In my research, I found that what silences our intuitive voice is our need for certainty. Most of us are not very good at not knowing. We like sure things and guarantees so much that we don’t pay attention to the outcomes of our brain’s matching process.

[Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection]

It’s a lovely idea that we might be wonderfully, naturally intuitive parents.  But it’s much more comforting to me that intuition is something I can go looking for, and remind myself of.

I have been doing that this week. I remind myself of my own nervous nature and how it hasn’t ruined my life.  I remember what it feels like to be cared for by an empathetic mother.  I read old favourite articles and books.  I take wise counsel.  I reawaken my instincts.

I started this blog post one evening and when I read it the following day the old gremlins were whispering – people will read it and think ‘Well of course Olivia has issues, her mother is a clearly a crackpot!’.  I told a few friends. They said: Me too.  Welcome to the Sisterhood.

*

My friend Tory told me a story this week about her son Noah at his nursery sports day. 60 kids walked out all completely fine, and in the middle of them, Noah, “walking along crying his little head off, upset and miserable.”  Everything in her story reminded me of Liv – how she could tell how difficult his first race was by the way he was running and the weird way he held his mouth.  Tory said so many wise things but among them this : “I hate that he cried at his sports day but I totally understand why he did.”

It’s not just going in to school that’s hard for Livi at the moment.  It’s been the Mayfair and her cousin’s play and swimming and church and choosing an ice-lolly.  I hate that she cries at these things she should love, but I understand why she does.

In my favourite parenting book, Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne calls it a “soul fever” when a child is being rushed along by too much stuff, speed or stress.  “Something is not right; they’re upset, overwhelmed, at odds with the world. And most of all, at odds with their truest selves.”  He advocates simplification – stripping away the distractions and clutter that monopolise our attention and threaten our connection.  “It’s about giving kids the ease to become themselves, and giving us the ease to pay attention.  To more fully develop, and to trust, our instincts.”

In an article I love about slowing down kids’ schedules, especially introverts, the author writes about how his 6-year-old son Felix “isn’t always cognizant of his needs”.  I have to deliberately remind myself of this.  Olivia isn’t cognizant of her needs.  She wants to do All The Things.  But all the things exhaust her, especially at the minute.

June is full of events and outings and changes in routine.  Each one seems like a good thing, but when Olivia anticipates what’s ahead, combined with finishing P1, it sends her running to the toilet.  So we have cancelled some outings, replaced them with things like ‘Chicken drumsticks for dinner’ and ‘Walking to the café for a bun’, and truthfully, even CBeebies on the sofa instead of ALL the time in the sun.  And she hasn’t complained like we thought she would, in fact she seems at peace with the schedule.  There is a certain kind of anticipation, is there not, in chicken drumsticks and a wee bun, that couldn’t make anyone nervous?

*

I have thought all week about Liv, about my mum, about my own anxious self.  Liv has wobbled and I have wobbled.  It’s Friday now and I feel like the quiet voice in my gut has got a bit clearer, and calmer.  She’s out of sorts.  That’s ok.  I can care for that.  And also, it isn’t everything she is.

We walk home from school on Friday afternoon and she sidesteps into the doorway of the old music shop to do this geeky dance to the music.

She always does that.

It’s one of my favourite things.


photo credit: Poison Ivy via photopin (license)

5 Things I learnt from having the Flu

You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

[Kathryn Stockett, The Help]

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1. Only the Flu is the Flu

I knew this one already, but this flu (let’s call it The Flu of April 2016), reinforced this truth.  Ever since I had The Flu 16 years ago, I have been careful not to call ANYTHING else ‘the Flu’. Colds, yes. ‘Viruses’, oh yes. Tummy bugs, ‘flu-like symptoms’, feeling s**t… yes, yes, yes.  But never The Flu.

When I had the flu 16 years ago I remember my mum mopping down my 20-year-old brow in the middle of the night, and it occurring to me that perhaps I was dying.  I remember my friends had it too and we were supposed to be going to a Travis concert (!).  Our parents stretched landline cords to hold phones to our ears while we assured each other that we would definitely be better in a few days and definitely be going.  We weren’t better and we didn’t go.  My dad put an advert in the Belfast Telegraph and somebody bought the tickets via a rendezvous at Lisburn Leisure Centre, because that is what you did 16 years ago.

Previously, there was the Beijing Flu of ’93, the highlight of which was when my brother puked while on the phone to his girlfriend.

The Flu of April 2016 reminded me that, other than the Travis Flu and the Beijing Flu, I had never really been sick in my life.  ‘The Flu’ becomes your new standard of illness.  Your ‘soldier on’ button gets stuck and even though it’s your husband’s Sunday morning lie-in, he has to get up because you genuinely, honestly can’t get out of bed.

2. Never be jealous of a sick person

In the weeks preceding The Flu of April 2016 I heard people mention that a husband, or wife or so-and-so had a terrible dose and spent the day in bed.  I thought that sounded amazing. A whole day in bed! An excuse to opt out of life with small children for a day.  But then I got the flu and learnt…

3. It is possible to NOT enjoy a day in bed

When I am tired, but well, I don’t really believe this, but it’s true.  I did not enjoy bed or the sofa. I did not enjoy back-to-back Nashville or a Scandinavian crime marathon or even 5 Star babies. I could not read a book.

My husband went around saying “You know Sharon’s sick when she doesn’t even want a cup of tea” … so, really, a day in bed without tea or a book… what’s the point?

4. Recognise your Shame gremlins

This is a serious one!  I have been reading a lot of Brené Brown recently and learning about the ways in which shame is present in the most mundane and visible aspects of our lives.  To identify your own shame-triggers she suggests writing out how you want to be perceived, and how you don’t want to be perceived.  I realised from doing this that being sick (or even tired) is a shame-trigger for me, particularly as a mum.  It is desperately important to me to be seen as someone who will ‘soldier on’.  So when I got the flu, and I couldn’t, my shame gremlins (as Brené would call them) were quick to make me feel panicked and embarrassed about how much help I was needing from my husband and parents.  But the critical awareness Brené teaches meant I could recognise these shame gremlins for what they are, and be kind to myself.

One of my friends included those lovely words from ‘The Help’ in a text to me while I was sick and I needed the reminder: rest up, you is important.  In contrast, if you have a friend (or great-Aunt or nosey neighbour) who practices a shaming brand of sympathy: don’t communicate with them when you have the flu, or ask your husband what they said.  You will not be better tomorrow and your husband is going to do the school run, even though theirs never did.

5. You DO Something!

Finally, the best thing I learnt from having the flu recently is that I do something! I had been so focused on both the embarrassment and the logistics of getting people to do the things I normally do, that I missed the fact that maybe I’m a *little bit* important to some people!

I am on a Career Break this year and one of the benefits of being a ‘Stay-At-Home-Mum’ is that there is no hassle when your kids are sick.  Early morning puking? No problem, no panic about work and child care. But my husband and I were both panicked on the Sunday night of the Flu of April 2016 when we realised I was the one sick.

One of the damaging sides of being a ‘SAHM’ is that you can struggle to see what you have to show for your day.  You discount the importance of the school run and making dinner and only notice the things you aren’t getting done.

What I learnt, from having the flu, is that those things – the school run, making dinner – seemed much bigger and more important when I had to ask someone else to do them.  My 3-year-old’s day seemed like something, when it depended on someone else.

 

Did anyone else get the Flu of April 2016? Or the cold or a mysterious ‘virus’? Or do you remember the Beijing Flu?! However you’re feeling, remember that we can feel shame in the most mundane circumstances, and that you is important.

 

This is the girl, all cold and cross

‘And though she be but little, she is fierce.’

[Shakespeare]

My friend Patrick recently sent me a link to the met office’s list of future storm names. For I: Storm Imogen.  Yes, I thought, what a perfect name for a storm. But, also, hasn’t Storm Imogen already hit, many times?

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You turned 3 this month and you have been celebrating yourself like it’s your job. Your capacity for celebration matches your capacity for angst. You are ALL the Emotions. You are both/and.

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It’s true, you can tantrum. You can huff. You can bear a grudge. You can give the most withering looks. When Storm Imogen hits it is loud, and a little violent. You stamp that right foot with indignation and your voices ratchets up like a crazy housewife (like your mama, I fear, when I’m not my best self). You are, we often say, a very eloquent cross person, very specific in your grievances. When you do not want to wear your coat on the Gruffalo trail and I tell you you can take it off in the car you stamp that foot and yell into the Colin Glenn: “I do not want to wear it in the Deep DARK WOOD!” You add syllables when you’re cross, as well as volume, your piercing, rising tone vibrating off the trees. When you do not want to wear a hair bobble at breakfast (you never want to wear a hair bobble) you yell in mounting disgust :”That. Hair. Bobble. Is TOO SPARKLY for me!”  (This morning, you simply insisted train drivers don’t wear hair bobbles, and that was that.)

You like to be charmed.  You like a little effort to be made.  You are open to bribes, deals and offers.  You’re anyone’s for a chocolate button.

You like to mimic the faces of the characters in any books we read.  Your favourite, of course, ‘This is the bear all cold and cross’, a posture you adopt away from the books, whenever it matches your mood.
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Your mood: both/and.

Both the stormiest, and the sunniest girl around.

It’s true, you can tantrum.  You’re that kind of girl.  But you’re also a yes please and thank you and sorry kind of girl.  A kiss, hug kind of girl.  A dancing in the supermarket kind of girl.  A laugh-until-you-choke kind of girl.  A merrymaker. A reveller.  A celebrator of life, and of yourself.

You have a fondness for men, particularly  butchers.  You bond with people, often, by roaring like a dinosaur.

It was BLUE day yesterday at your sister’s school.  As we got into the car Olivia said “We are supposed to Be Loving and Understanding to Everyone, but Imogen’s not doing it.” Ha.  “Well,” I replied, “Imogen is often loving and understanding, but she’s still learning, just like all of us.”

Said sister (victim to the violence) is mostly your partner in crime, your crazy playmate.  Although you have a very particular, practical kind of Arnold nature, it is curiously complemented with this wild imagination.  I wonder if your whimsical big sister has nurtured that in you?  You are often lost in other worlds, bestowing names and powers on each other, solving problems and mysteries and saving the world, all before breakfast.

That Arnold nature, though, has you doing 50 piece jigsaws, has you tidying up, has you noticing details I never would and figuring out how things work… it makes you physically capable in ways that are surprising for a 3-year-old.  I may recognise myself in your Mullan-face and your wild hair but your daddy sees you straightening everything up and thinks “That’s my girl!”.

That hair, of course, is commented on by everyone you meet.  You hate to have it touched or tamed.  That may change but for now it’s nice to have your company, wee frizz.

So happy birthday to our little boss lady, may you always find yourself worth celebrating.

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Today you are you

‘Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.’

[Dr Seuss]

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“Are there elephants in Australia mummy?”, “What about rhinos?”, “Giraffes?”. You turn your porridge bowl around and ask me in turn if each animal on its rim can be found in Australia.

Then you make up your mind: “Yes, I would like to go to Australia on an aeroplane. Please.”

You’re answering a question Uncle Kerr asked you. Yesterday.

*

You arrived into the world with a large bump on your head where you repeatedly banged it for a day and a half trying to get out, a little left of centre.

Left of centre, your preferred position, still.

*

You hate baked beans and the dark and tidying up.  You love ‘psgetti’ and cocoa and strawberries and ramen noodles.  You love baking with your daddy and you love finger-painting more than any mummy-driven-craft-project I come up with.  You love the ‘No-livia and Papa Rexus’ made-up stories that you beg your Papa for (as long as he gets all previous details correct).  You love just one more book from Nana, just one more minute in her house.  “I DO like you mummy”, you told me to my amusement last night, “I just like Nana Beethie MORE”.

You love curling up in Papa Ernest’s chair and you love eating all Nana Berta’s treats.  You love running round and around the outside of their house and you love playing with you daddy’s old Fisherprice toys on their floor.

You love Jane from across the road and don’t leave her side when we go on outings together.  Jane knows what all the trees and plants are and the pair of you stop to look at all the insects and talk to all the dogs and to go a bit closer to the river than mummy lets you.  (In fairness, you and Auntie Jane are usually IN the river).

Your feet seek out every ledge or edge or wall or line on the road.  Your fingers touch every button, wall and surface.  You are always climbing and exploring, hanging off things that aren’t supposed to be hung off.

You make your raisins talk to each other while your porridge bowl cools, forgotten, beside them.

You notice the things in the distance and are often oblivious to what’s in front of you.

You take the scenic route, endless detours, even if it’s just across the living room floor.

You have an inability to hold your head still so we embrace the ‘messy’ style of plaiting, incorporating every twist and turn of your wandering attention.  You have the kind of hair I’ve always wanted, though, thick and smooth and taken for granted.

You have your daddy’s face, all your Arnold genes gathered in one place, while the thoughts and temperament behind it serve to thwart the Arnold modus operandi at every turn.

You love your little sister, your partner in crime.  You shared a room for 2 months in the summer until we acknowledged you have too ‘spirited’ a relationship to be roomies.  You fight, of course, but it is the shrieks of laughter that usually need investigated.  When you’re not causing destruction together you’re usually cackling and howling as monsters and witches, or calling out to each other dramatically: “Mama?”, DAR-ling!”.

You offer theories about everything you come across (why that car crashed, where that litter came from, why that thing isn’t working, who that person might be).

You unravel with too much choice, or expectation. “I’m not sure and “That sounds a bit tricky” are your go-to-answers when under pressure.

You thrive with a basic routine and wide margins in your day for wandering and wondering.  You love open space, and you love to be curled up at home.  It is the end of the world if you’re tired, and it always has been.

You are cautious, sometimes. You listen to your inner voice.  You are not a child that can be persuaded, or coaxed, or bribed.  You do things when you want to and when you’re ready and I guess I hope you always will.

*

Today you are 5 and last week I found myself googling in search of an old Huffington Post article – The Day I Stopped Saying Hurry Up.  I don’t think I’m ever going to stop saying it, daughter.  We’d never get to school.  But I’m trying to say it less and it reminds me, completely, to cherish you my stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of child.

It reminds me that I LOVE the way you are.

I love that you take your time. I love that you colour outside the lines. I love that you deviate from The Plan and twist the instructions and sneak your own rules in. I love your abstract questions and your zany sense of humour and your wicked little laugh when you’re really amused.  I love that, more often than not, I find you standing on your head.  I love the endless thoughts that fuel your chatter, and I love your Quiet.

I love that you are FIVE in so many common, shared, universal ways. And I love that you are YOU in as many quirky, not-in-the-text-book, still-trying-to-figure-you-out ones.

So Happy Birthday Livi-kins and in the words of our wise old chum:

we’ll go to the top of the toppest blue space,

The Official Katroo Birthday Sounding-Off Place!

Come on! Open your mouth and sound off at the sky!

Shout loud at the top of your voice, “I AM I!

ME!

I am I!

And I may not know why

But I know that I like it.

Three cheers!  I AM I!”

dr seuss

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Belonging to Each Other

There is a dent in my pride to match the rather large one on the side of my car, above the wheel, where the scrapes are.  You can’t miss the scrapes.  There is a dent in my car and it bothers me.  Superficial damage in a car worth more to me than anyone else.  I don’t care about cars, how they look, what everyone else is driving. I don’t care about cars, until tonight.  Tonight I care.  I lie in bed irritated and regretful, unable to find the perspective that is glaringly obvious, unable to care about anything else.

*

Sometimes, when I haven’t just bashed my car, I get into bed and kind of wallow in the comfort of it.  I have done my fair share of travelling in the past and although I loved it I also love lying in my own comfortable space, thinking how nice it is not to be in a tent or a dorm room, on a greyhound or an overnight train.  I guess it’s part of a little end-of-the-day gratitude, for what I have, for my small corner in the world.

But as I snuggle into the sheets, I feel a niggling discomfort, wondering about all the people who right at that moment are experiencing very different conditions and feelings – homeless, trafficked, refugees.  I can’t say I leap out of bed to do anything about it, but I acknowledge it, and maybe that’s a place to start.

*

I’m annoyed about the car but I’m also annoyed because I was supposed to get my nails painted, and there was a mix-up.  If there is one thing I care about less than the aesthetics of cars, it’s painted nails.  I never have painted nails.  But I was going to tonight, and it’s annoying me disproportionate amounts.

I lie in bed wallowing, not in its comfort, but in my disappointment and self-reproach.

*

I hoist Imogen higher up on my hip as we navigate our way towards the school gate with her sister.  She’s too big to be carried but some mornings it’s just easier.  She is fierce in her independence, fast on her feet, and committed to a new method she has developed of holding her OWN hand.  I feel like I’m running a gauntlet from car to classroom – chasing my feisty toddler and coaxing my 4 year-old who just does not want to go to school – not on Mondays or Fridays, not last week, not this week, not today.  I try to navigate them through the car-park and up the steps, round corners and through their Big Feelings.  I feel fully deserving of a medal by the end of it all.

*

I text my husband to tell him we are having fish finger sandwiches. He replies, predictably, now desperate for a fish finger sandwich – that trivial sharing of common loves with the people we know best.

*

My computer is a throng  of opened tabs – op eds and blog posts and petitions and videos. Syria, Syria, Syria. Some get my full attention, some get scanned, many sit there, blinking at me, being added to, and added to, as if clicking on them will help someone.

*

I watch desperate refugees on the news – see toddlers asleep in arms at border points – and I feel ridiculous and ashamed at how desperate I thought I was, half an hour before, for my children to go to sleep. I have talked on and on and on about it for 2 months now. This room sharing isn’t working.  Maybe we should change them back?  Maybe we should try this?  These antics are unbelievable.  Worse than newborn days.  Will we ever sleep again?

I see a picture of a toddler in an anorak, hoisted high on someone’s hip, her big sister clinging to someone’s leg as they navigate a journey in stark contrast to my school run.  I feel ridiculous and ashamed.

*

Recently, on the 52nd anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech, Gemma Brown asked people to think about and share their dream – for themselves, or their community or the world.  People looked up, took a picture of what they saw and posted it on social media with their dream.  I loved seeing and reading these.  I’m a slow, slooooooow thinker so I am still mulling this one over.  How would I finish the sentence “My dream is…”?

*

Mother Teresa said “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

I believe, and write often, that the small things matter.  I believe that the daily caring for a few small souls matters.  The school run, their sleeping arrangements, their Big Feelings, fish finger sandwiches.  All of it.

And I believe in telling the truth when I find some of that hard.

I have dreams for my own little anoraked girls, and I have dreams for myself.  (That’s a whole other blog post, but a lot if it is what Mel explores here, and what Elizabeth Gilbert talks about in her brilliant podcasts here.)

I feel peace when I feel the solidarity and care of belonging to others.  We share common loves, we share tips about sleeping arrangements, people text to ask how did Olivia get on today?  Some of it’s trivial, much of it is ordinary, but it’s good.

It’s good, and yet I know, they’re first world problems, or pleasures.  What does it mean that someone else’s anoraked girls belong to me too?

*

In the afternoon we walk home from school.  We go to the ‘wee park’.  Every day.  We have water and Nairn’s oatcakes and there is never anyone there.  It’s not fancy, but it’s good.  I look up to the sky.  Isn’t this very ordinary life the one we dream of, believe in, for refugees?  A little bit of space, a place to return to, somewhere to play for their children, where they can go down the slide head first?  Isn’t it right that my peace is disturbed lying in bed at night when I think of them?

*

The truth is I struggle to maintain my attention, and my compassion.  My good intentions embarrass me: unread, open tabs everywhere I look.

We belong to each to other. I think about that a lot. Connected with fish finger sandwiches and hand holding and those blinking tabs – trying to educate me, explain the war, tell stories and show me their faces.

I hit ‘x’, again and again.  I’m not going to read them all.  I start to choose more slowly, one thing at a time.  I start to look more seriously at the small things I can do.

I’m paying attention to the niggling discomfort at night, the lack of peace when I forget we belong to each other.

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The Song of the Blackbird

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Liv and I dander home from the park, and the ice-cream shop, and on days like this it seems to me like nothing’s changed.

There is something about their childhood that makes me feel like I am going through mine again. But this time, I know to pay attention.

It’s a little bit like that film, About Time, where Tim lives his day over again. “The first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing.”

*

There is something about the dandering. Something about the dandelion and daisy collecting, the hopping up and down curbs, the having to walk along any wall (or cobbled edge that passes for a wall) that makes me feel like nothing’s changed.

*

I go for a walk with my mum along the towpath and the teenagers who emerge as we enter are a flash back to my youth – faded black jeans and checked shirts and nirvana t-shirts, boys with scruffy fringes poking out under black beanies.

Along the towpath it could be 10, 20 years ago. I know we have iPads and Amazon Prime in our homes, but you can’t see them here. I know we are filled with dispirited nostalgia sometimes, convinced that everything’s changed. I know our landscapes often seem unrecognisable, but not today.

“Hear that sound?”, mum asks. Blackbirds singing.  “It reminds me of when I was a girl, walking in Barnett’s Park on summer Sunday evenings after church.”

Along the towpath it could be 10, 30, 50 years ago.

*

“Tig, you’re it!” they shout as they emerge from the door of nursery, dancing around each other’s feet, bonding through those ancient words we once shouted too. After Liv has chased her chums to their cars we go for a walk among the allotments. A dander. Interspersed with bursts of Tig. The girls are sweaty and grubby and beautiful. There is a blog post forming in my head, I should get a picture of them here in the long grass and the buttercups.

I think of these places, these little pockets of grass and wild yellow flowers, where it feels like nothing’s changed. I think of these places where I feel the gift of childhood all over again, and I realise I don’t need a photograph.

These sights and smells and sounds and songs get captured anyway. I let them run, like my mum let me run, no camera in sight. I let them be wildly beautiful, just for me.

I let them be.

*

We are filled with dispirited nostalgia sometimes, convinced that everything’s changed, maybe ruined. But do you hear that? The song of the blackbird. Let it remind you of those summer Sunday evenings, but also, listen to it now. We can’t travel back but we still get to live, to dander, on these extraordinary, ordinary days.

“And in the end I think I’ve learned the final lesson from my travels in time; and I’ve even gone one step further than my father did: The truth is I now don’t travel back at all, not even for the day, I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life.”

[Tim, About Time]