Monday, 30 September 2013


As, you proudly announce that you are seven, the golden autumn light dances in your blue eyes.
You are generous, loyal and brave.
You are funny, clever and cautious.
Like your Father, you run and climb like a fearless cat.
Like your Mother, you love the still escape of reading.
Yet, you are completely your own independent little self.
The world belongs to you and you will run to meet it.
You cry easily, love easily and dance spontaneously!
Everyday is still full of wonder.

Morning Song

  by Sylvia Plath
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival.  New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety.  We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses.  I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's.  The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars.  And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.





Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Working Mothers: How do you do it?

When my first child was born nearly seven years ago, I had assumed that I would return to work eventually and my child would be looked after by either a lovely crèche or a saintly child-minder. I had already travelled for a few months and then moved from the UK to Dublin. On departure from the UK I found myself unexpectedly in early stages of pregnancy and almost as soon as the blue line showed positive I began to experience frequent 'morning' noon and night sickness.

Mr S was lucky enough to find a job quickly so I settled down for nine months of profound nausea, extreme fatigue, facial eruptions and constant heartburn.(Which the Doc assured incredulous me was perfectly normal.) So when E was eight months old I had already been out of the job market for ages so off I went to find her that lovely crèche...

...six years, two kids, three house moves and one big dog later I am still 'just' a 'stay at home' parent. Now with both E and O at big school, I have sometimes been asked "so what do you do all day"?? and "How are you enjoying all your free time?" as if my life is one long round of conspicuous consumption, beauty appointments and having coffee with my yummy mummy friends. Right?

This is what I did yesterday:
  • kids wake up
  • fight way into bathroom
  • make tea
  • feed dog
  • feed kids a snack
  • reason with O that I do not have to watch him butter his rice cake
  • persuade them to get dressed
  • make breakfast
  • put shoes on correct feet
  • organise school bags
  • brush teeth
  • stop child from running into road
  • put kids on school bus
  • intervene in the great seat choice battle
  • close front door and breathe
  • eat banana
  • hoover
  • hang laundry
  • fill washing machine
  • clean garden of dog offerings
  • take dog for walk
  • dog finds great rotten bone and wont get back on the lead. Walk off and hide behind tree. Relived dog finds me and gets back on lead. Smile ruefully at man who has witnessed this.
  • coffee and toast
  • run to get in laundry in before rain
  • let builder in
  • commiserate with builder that my house does not conform to 'normal' building standards.
  • builder fixes hole that he made accidentally.
  • make soup
  • think about opening my college books
  • clean bathroom
  • tidy kids rooms
  • stand on lego and scream
  • find some lovely drawings by E and smile
  • put ironing away and do washing up.
  • shout at the radio
  • make builder tea
  • prepare a sourdough starter
  • pick O up from school
  • buy milk
  • E arrives home
  • make snack for kids
  • help with homework and music practise
  • start dinner
  • almost burn dinner reading The Great Gatsby
  • kids have dinner and I eat a sneaky biscuit in kitchen
  • feed dog
  • bath-time for kids
  • story-time and kids bedtime
  • start dinner for Mr S and me
  • Fall asleep watching The Great British Bake Off

I sometimes wonder if I do return to the world of work after finishing my OU degree, how on earth will I manage to do all this and work and sleep? How much does a housekeeper/chef/chauffeur earn these days?

Thursday, 5 September 2013


The light is low and mellow and the children have returned to their lives of structure at school. The house is still and in the mornings of this Indian summer, I walk the dog through fields of great golden  bales of barley straw. The hedgerows are laden with berry jewels, rosehips, blackberries, haws and one bent blackthorn adorned with her sloes. Next year, I might make some hedgerow wine. Instead, I throw some rhubarb and strawberries with honey under a crumble.

Seamus Heaney died and my Dad phoned me to tell me that one of his friends died. My Dad speaks to me of his friend in a manner that suggests that I know this person very well. However, I only have a vague notion of whom he is speaking. He forgets sometimes that this person was a greater part of his life only when he was a teenager before myself and my brother arrived. He tells me a story of how when he was this young man, he would linger in the moonlit garden listening to and avoiding his father leading the nightly rendition of The Rosary. A small silent rebellion. 'I would sure go in now', he says firmly, nostalgia is memory tinged with regret.

I wonder if I will look back on my own rejection of some of my familial beliefs and values as a flash of youthful arrogance instead of a part of some natural evolution into individualism and adulthood. The only poem of Heaney's that I ever read was 'Digging' in GCSE English Lit  and I remember realising that poetry could elevate the ordinary into something exceptional. That reading in and of itself was something essential, something important. "My Father digging...", my Grandfather was also man of the earth, of turf and floury spuds and of coaxing little seeds to grow. Granda grew strong, eye-stinging onions in his garden and delicate sky-blue iris and midnight scented sweet-peas. Today, he is gone and Dad grows the flowers and I grow the onions and crave the odour of alliums and damp purple soil.