Sunday, 12 October 2014

ENTRY TWENTY SIX - I AM 1

It has been three weeks since Felix's first birthday, and in that time I have started and scrapped at least a dozen entries. I have been tormented by the task of trying to sum up Felix's first year in a thousand words or less, and all the while the words have been lodged deep within, slyly whispering in my ear then turning tail as soon as I try to pin them down. Reading back my false starts I have felt sickened by them. Delete.

And then finally, at long last, on a sunny bench in a churchyard in Hambledon a glorious release occurred. Words that had been scrambled, jammed and tangled flowed once again, like a river silted up and suddenly cleared, and I felt overwhelming relief as pure clear water gushed once again down the dry riverbed. How to encapsulate a whole year? A year in which Felix has gone from being unborn to newborn to infant to toddler. A year of the most profound and wonderful change, but also of struggle, sleep deprivation and gnawing anxiety. A year of immense personal development for all of us, for the breakneck speed of change that a baby undergoes demands that as parents you keep up. It's like a race between a tiny jet propelled car and a push bike, you have to keep peddling and the pace is relentless.  

Motherhood is a brutal pruner, anything unnecessary is ripped off ready or not, but although painful I have welcomed these changes. Motherhood has made me a better person; more empathetic, more humble, kinder. I have become incredibly dexterous, able to carry a baby and run a bath and feed the cat and pick up stray toys all at once. I have grown the extra arm and eye that all mothers possess, invisible weapons in our struggle to keep our offspring alive. I have felt the pain of sacrifice and done battle with the green eyed monster. We have long outgrown our one bedroom flat and at times I have felt trapped, while financial worries have exacerbated the ordinary challenges of parenthood. And yet a light shines through all the rubbish and clutter, a beautiful beam that illuminates everything before it, chasing away the shadows and striking fear and resentment from the dark corners in which they lurk. Felix. It may be a cliché but it is also a truth; Felix makes it all worthwhile. 
 
On the Sunday before his birthday a small gathering of family and friends converged to celebrate. There was a picnic, a homemade cake iced to look like Mr Bump and a trip to Clarkes to be fitted for his first pair of proper shoes. But most of all there was Barker, an antique dog walker purchased in a curiosity shop in Rye. As we sat beneath the sycamore tree Felix raced around the grass with his new pal, stopping only now and then to smother him with exuberant dribbly kisses. As I sipped my celebratory wine and nibbled on picnic food I pondered the meaning of the first birthday. It's a strange thing really, incredibly significant and yet not really understood or appreciated by the celebrant. It is a rite of passage, an acknowledgement that the first and most dangerous year of a baby’s life has been successfully completed. So many hazards lurk in the first few months, and like any mother I have stood by Felix's cot a thousand times watching to see him breathe, sometimes I still do. 

As our very nearly one year old son tumbled to the grass after an overly ambitious turn I rose automatically, running to his side to make sure he was unhurt and setting him back on his feet, and I thought what an incredible journey a human being makes. Once a mass of cells nestled in my womb that had been expelled into the world and become a boy, a person capable of independent thought and action. His blue eyes alight with joy our son was in his element, pointing at every airoplane and bird and truck and bus that whizzed past, and I was reminded of the maiden flight of a baby bird. Seeing him prepare to launch himself into the limitless sky of the future made me dizzy with wonder; what a privilege to have brought a child into the world, the most beautiful, terrifying honour I will ever know. This is the true meaning of the first birthday, for it is not only the first birthday of your child but also of you as a family. A newborn baby may be fragile and helpless but it's also the Big Bad Wolf and you better make damn sure your house is build of sturdy bricks or it'll huff and puff and blow your straw house right down. The first birthday is a milestone for you as a family, a time to reflect on the year that has passed and celebrate the creation of a family unit, that most precious and wonderful thing that springs out of a baby's birth. So go forth and multiply, it will undoubtedly be the very best thing you have ever done.

Monday, 22 September 2014

ENTRY TWENTY FIVE - CAMBER SANDS



Morning. I awake to the sounds of gulls shrieking. The sky is misty blue, the air fresh and fragrant. Our apartment backs onto the dunes at Camber Sands, so we can’t see the beach but we are near enough to smell it, hear it. I glance at the time, 7.49. Felix is still asleep; a minor miracle. It has been an age since I have woken before him and it feels odd, like putting a shoe on the wrong foot. I check on him, his cheek is pressed tightly into the bed, his breathing deep and even. I pad down the stairs and make myself a cup of tea, write my thoughts in the notepad while the sun rises and floods the balcony with warmth and light. It is a beautiful place; dune grass and cactus grow in the communal gardens of the eco apartment complex, giving the place an exotic, almost Greek feel. Swallows dart and swoop between the buildings, their streamlined black bodies like arrows. I am full of joy.

8.17. Felix sleeps on. I leave a note and do the thing that I always say I will do and never do; I go for a run on the beach. The sun is warm and kindly on my skin as I scramble up and over the dune. Although it is mid September the weather is summery, the sand cool and soft under my bare feet. I race down the side of the dune towards the beckoning sea; it glints and sparkles like a tray of sapphires. The beach has been combed and is pristine, the track marks giving it the appearance of a vast athletic ground. I start to run, my feet
digging into the powdery sand and slowing me down. After just a few paces my calves are burning but I carry on, fixing my eyes on the curve of the bay in the distance. The dunes are to one side, green and ancient, the sea to the other. There is no one on the beach, I am alone. My heart beats a wild tempo but I carry on, drawing the morning air into my lungs to counteract the burning there, until eventually I collapse onto my knees, my breath ragged and laboured. The sea winks at me. Eventually I rise and walk into its cool embrace, feeling the soft briny water wash away the sweat and exertion. The tide is on its way in but still I have to walk some distance before the water comes near my hips. I dive into the waves and feel the shock of cold as my head goes under, but I experience it as pleasure not pain. Mind over matter. I float on my back, bobbing with the waves like a bottle.

‘If you want to feel depressed, go to Dunguness’.

We drive from Camber Sands in bright sunlight. Another blue sky day, 20 degrees or so, the sun warm and yet mild above. As we approach Dunguness a strange tinge appears in the sky like a shadow. I have read about Dunguness, seen it on Coast. I know it is ‘Britains only desert’. We drive past wooden houses and shacks, randomly dotted on the stony expanse. The dirty fog thickens as we drive into the centre of the desert; it has the strangest colour, yellow-grey like the depiction of a fart in a Beano comic. There was fog this morning on the beach at Camber but it was beautiful, a dove-grey mist that covered the beach like lace. The sickly fog that rolls over Dunguness only heightens the dismal feel of the place. We park next to a sad looking pub called the Britannia, ‘The only pub in Dunguness’ it declares boldly. It feels like a threat. The power station looms ominously, a blot on the already forbidding landscape. We wander down a wooden walkway towards the beach, Felix strapped into the backpack, the modern lighthouse uttering regular calls declaring the fog to approaching boats. The beach is a desolate expanse of brown pebbles, the lapping sea muddied by the underlying sand. With the thickening ochre mist I feel like I entered the sepia world of an old photograph. It is one of the most depressing places I have ever been, bringing to mind the T.S Eliot’s Wasteland. ‘A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief, And the dry stone no sound of water’.

The old lighthouse, the only thing of note to visit in this barren wasteland, is closed. Weekends only it declares. We are left to wander like lost souls in purgatory, glancing nervously at the power station in the background. It was not the drabness of the landscape that bothered me; as a matter of fact I am quite partial to an austere landscape every now and then, it is cleansing for the soul. But Dunguness held an unspoken menace that crept into my very bones and made me feel like screaming ‘abandon hope all ye who enter here’. The vast openness of it, with its scattered homes like the remnants of an Armageddon was interesting, painterly even. I can see how artists are drawn to the place. But always the spectre of the power station caught the eye, looming darkly on the spirit, suffocating any joy to be found there. Apparently the inhabitants of Dunguness receive free energy, a kind of pay off for having to live under its shadow. It seemed to me a cheap price for the stifling of your soul.

The oddest thing happened as we drove out and away. As soon as we were some way down the road the sickly mist started to lift, thinning perceptibly as we reached the outer edges of the desert. As we drove towards Camber we left the stifling cloud behind entirely and re-entered a beautiful September day, a world of sunlight and blue sky. I glanced back at Dunguness, wondering about those lost souls stuck in their eternal gloom. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that the weather changed just as we arrived and left, but it felt to me that the very landscape of Dunguness makes its own weather, a kind of perma-gloom that envelops this sad and dispiriting place like a filthy coat, shielding it forever from the welcome, warming rays of the sun. Perhaps this is what some people seek, a smog to dull the beauty of life, a dark nuclear shadow to blight their every day, a kind of penance for happiness. A pub so sad it would make me teetotal. To live in a barren pebbly wilderness that stretches flat and drab as far as the eye can see, the only features man-made and ominous. Only the lighthouse relieves the eye of Dunguness’s ugliness, and it is simply not enough. It is worth visiting if only to be glad to be gone.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

ENTRY TWENTY FOUR - WHERE ANGELS FEAR TO TREAD

Angel puff…it just slipped out on the bus the other day. A nickname of such cloying sweetness it would make Barbara Cartland turn in her grave. It sits pinkly radiant amongst such other gems as my love, angel boy, sweet love and Mr Milk. What is it about babies that inspires such nonsense? That turns the normal adult brain into a giant cream puff, sickly sweet and oozing. Could it be their satin-velvet skin, so poreless and perfect it demands to be stroked and adored? Or it is their tufty gossamer hair, as fine and soft as the fluff on a dandelion. Their plump, rounded faces, eyes as wide as a bush baby and sweet rosebud lips. The earnest attempts to communicate, mamamamama and dadadadadada and nanananananana. Or just the smile they give you when you do a peek-a-boo, face lit up like Piccadilly Circus. Wait I know, it must be the sleeping baby; that irresistible bundle of plump sprawled limbs curled in the cot, making soft sighs and murmurs as they dream sweet baby dreams. 


I was never one to coo over babies, immune to their clumsy, milky charms. In many ways I didn't see the point of children till they were a little older; once they were up and talking, walking, climbing trees, drawing and interacting I was much more at ease. Babies terrified me with their helplessness , their dependancy. The floppy necks and uncoordinated limbs of newborns freaked me out, like marionates with broken strings. During pregnancy I worried I would not cope with a newborn, that grub-like creature that eats, sleeps, cries and soils the nappy. It all seemed so one sided, so draining. Due to the factors of Felix's birth I was not overwhelmed by love, or any emotion apart from relief, when I held him for the first time. Over the first days and weeks we bonded but still I did not feel the overpowering rush of emotion I had hoped for. It was at around six weeks, when he first smiled, that I began to understand what it was all about. I woke on Sunday morning to Felix grinning at me from the cot. It was a lightbulb moment; not just the smile but the feeling that his personaility was starting to shine through the fog of being a new mother.

 
Now it's like a button has been pressed and I can't turn it off. I am captivated by Felix; his development is as swift and exhilarating as a hare in the grass. Seeing the evolution of a newborn into an almost toddler puts me in mind of a garden coming to life after a long winter. At first nothing much seems to happen, a few green shoots, buds tightly wrapped on branches, the smell of sap rising. Then as the warming sun shines down, incrementally stronger and longer each day, the garden starts to dance. Leaves appear; the lime-bright first leaves of spring, grass shoots up and blossom begins its wedding procession along the branches. That first burst of growth is magical, but what follows is a riot. Flowers of every hue and type burst open, creating a carnival of colour, while blossom petals fall like confetti on bright new grass studded with daisies. Leaves darken with chlorophyll until everything around is shaded, and wildflowers colour the verges with cornflower blue, poppy red, buttercup yellow. Nature's firework display is in full effect. This is how it feels to raise a nearly one-year-old, to be in thrall to the full force and ingenuity of Nature.


But it's not just Felix, I am now officially into all babies; newborns, toddlers and others. I'm helpless in the presence of infants. Like a desperate politician I want to kiss and cuddle them all. I rubberneck at newborn babies in prams, exchanging smiles with tired looking mothers, wave at toddlers, pull faces. I kiss and cuddle the children of my friends with ardent adoration, loving their button noses, their chubby arms, their developing personalities. I look at myself and see a baby-lover, and I'm surprised by the change in me. Oh who am I kidding? I've fallen down the rabbit hole and plunged deep into the syrupy sweetness of a treacle tart, and the worst thing, is I love it...

Sunday, 7 September 2014

ENTRY TWENTY THREE - THE PLAYGROUND


“Play is the work of children”….. J. Piaget

Felix adores the playground. After breakfast we chuck on some clothes and trundle down the road, and as I crank open the gate he starts to vibrate with excitement. We play on the swings, we do a few supervised slides, explore the pit of wood chips, touch the tree. Our local playground is a dilapidated affair and I used to think it bleak, but the more time I spend there the more I appreciate its gentle charms. For some reason it has escaped the wave of refurbishments that has transformed most play areas, and stands as a reminder of times past. The main playframe is hopelessly outdated; the peeling paint and halfhearted attempt to resemble a space station striking a pathetic note. And yet everyday I see children playing happily on the drab metal platforms, the power of imagination transporting them to galaxies beyond our knowledge. In the corner sits a huge sycamore, its branches arching gracefully overhead, a protector of all who play there. The grass underneath is luxuriant and impossibly green, shaded by the tree-umbrella is has escaped the baking heat of summer. Felix plays happily amongst the vivid stalks, using the trunk as a pull-me-up, occasionally craning his neck to gaze at the massive canopy. In the past week his desire to walk has become overwhelming, and as we have precious little space in the flat the playground has become his training ground. His plastic walker is slung over the buggy bars and released into the arena where he seizes upon it and races about with glee, the light of triumph shining in his eyes. 

Spending so much time in playgrounds has triggered a flood of memories from my own childhood. The new play areas are a world apart from the death arenas of years past, full of spongy sprung floors to cushion any falls and ergonomically designed rides that minimise injuries. The ugly metal climbing
frames of old have been banished to the scrapheap, and nostalgia fills me as I think of those rusty scarecrows ripped from their moorings after decades of loyal service. A few still remain; stark reminders of a time when town planners envisioned a Brutalist urban landscape clad in metal and concrete, all hard edges and man made materials. Not really the stuff that kids should play on but we made the best of it, weaving fantasy worlds amongst the austere metal frames, our knees and elbows scraped raw by gravelly falls. In contrast now there is a welcome return to wooden playframes set in woodchip pits, offering a soft fall and an evocative smell reminiscent of childhood trips to the Polish woodland, where the profusion of pine and cedars released their evergreen perfume throughout the forest. Amongst the sprung floors and newly planted trees a new generation of swings has sprung up like inverted mushrooms. These giant saucers hang hammock-like from thick log supports, often with three or four kids piled high as apples in a basket, pushing frenziedly and shrieking with delight as the saucer threatens to go the full 360. 

“Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold” said Joseph Chilton Pearce, and I have started to understand the playground as a microcosm of life. Everyone is at different stages of development, playing out their dramas, choosing their rides, scared and excited about taking the leap into the unknown. Pain and joy, rejection and acceptance, fear and courage, many complex emotions are explored for the first time amongst the swings and the slides and the seesaws, and it is our job as parents to put ourselves in the tiny shoes of our offspring and remember the power, the vital importance of play.

Friday, 22 August 2014

ENTRY TWENTY TWO - HALCYON DAYS

The august sun climbs higher in the porcelain sky as we set off for our morning activities. It's another beautiful morning with only the occasional high white cloud marring the cerulean dome, though a chill hovers in the air like a warning. I note how low it hangs; although it is nearly nine the sun still has a long way to go till it reaches its peak, and its ascent seems more arduous. Perhaps it is tired from a long season of heat, for truly it has been a glorious summer. The sun has given generously of its life-giving rays, and we have basked in the long halcyon days of midsummer. Pale golden stalks of cut hay and wheat glisten across the land, testifying to a good harvest, while apples and pears ripen roundly, rosily, in the orchards. Everything around is green and glowing with mature growth, though scorched stretches of grass recall the long weeks of heat. Autumn looms long like a late afternoon shadow, but summer is still king; still has some tricks up its sleeve. 


Felix and I are in our heyday. Our love affair with Mother Nature and with each other is in full bloom, and every day is a path of discovery. His legs have lost a little of their chubbiness now that he is learning to walk, and with each passing day his steps become surer. Every morning as the late summer sun sails steadily upward we take off our shoes and walk on the dew-laden grass of the park. I notice how Felix lifts his heels away from the moist stems,
walking on tippy-toes, until his feet adjust to the cool carpet. It has become a daily ritual, this barefoot walking. As the sun beats down it illuminates the droplets suspended on the tiny green stems and the whole field glitters like Aladdin’s Cave. It is like walking on molten gold. In a matter of weeks walking barefoot will be impossible, like the haze of a dream barely remembered, but until then we will continue our pagan worship of the grassy god beneath our toes.  

With excitement I consider the coming months. I have always found the turn of the seasons exhilarating, that unmistakable shift in the energy of the earth that heralds a new season. It is for this reason that May is my favourite month. It stands a proud harbinger to summer, an angel at the gates of glory sounding its golden trumpet. May holds all the promise of summer while offering all the delights of spring. Blossom laden branches scent the days as they perceptibly lengthen and the sun begins its high summer arc. And yet it is a toss-up between May and September, the month that opens the door to autumn and ultimately winter and yet which still cocoons us in golden warmth and long days. We hope for an Indian summer, a welcome extension to our halcyon days, and yet we also wait with baited breath for hoar frost to replace the summer dew. For a carpet of diamonds to crunch upon in our welly clad feet. For mist and fog to weave their magic amongst the falling leaves. For autumn to rise from her summer slumber and gather her paintbrushes, dust off her palette and begin her magnificent transformation. At first just a delicate twinge of rose that colours the edge of a leaf, then catches like a wildfire and spreads scarlet across the trees in bold strokes. Gold and amber and copper and bronze streak through the green summer canopy. As the trees concentrate their strength deep inside their trunk-hearts and the leaves start to curl autumn seizes every brush and paints vivid orange on the burnished brown, splashes crimson and pillar-box and flame amongst the russet. 

A year ago I lay in the late-summer meadow, my belly stretched to capacity, offering myself and my unborn fruit to the heavens. I was full of apprehension and excitement. I feared the pain of childbirth, the swift plunge into the unknown. As I lay on the grass I wished to stretch this pleasant limbo as long as possible. I was in no hurry, unlike many I loved my late pregnancy, loved being heavily laden with fruit. I reveled in my womanliness, my fuller breasts, my high proud beach ball. Today, Felix is exactly eleven months old. I look at myself from the other side, across an ocean of change. I see a girl made a woman, made a mother, made whole. I am enraptured by Felix. He is so alive, more than anything I have ever known. He laughs, he points, he touches, he learns, he delights in his newfound knowledge, he strives forward. Spontaneously, without being taught, he has started offering sloppy kisses. Lips unpuckered he leans in, leaving a trail of saliva and a melted heart in his wake. He lavishes affection on everything; us, the cat, his toys. He is full of love, excitement, passion. He is what you can achieve in a year.

Friday, 8 August 2014

ENTRY TWENTY ONE - FREEWHEELING



I don’t make a habit of reading back these entries. They are much like messages in bottles; once composed they are cast out into the fathomless ocean of the internet, free to be read wherever they wash up. My earnest words; my heartfelt attempts to communicate the enormity, the joy, and the struggles of motherhood, sally forth into the big blue yonder like a flock of eager seagulls. Now and then I scan the horizon for a reply, and when I spot one arriving from far overseas I am overcome with exhilaration. It seems that many aspects of the journey into parenthood are universal, and it is hugely gratifying to think that you are understood by people you will most likely never meet, that your words are treasured and your emotions echoed. That the fear and anxiety you feel is collective. I am buoyed by this commonality, it makes me braver, better, happier. 

Nonetheless while composing this entry I found myself re-reading some early entries, seeking to recall my emotions shortly post-birth when I was unable to ride my bike. The first few weeks of pushing the pram. Now that cycles with Felix are part and parcel of our daily routine it seems impossible that we were ever grounded but grounded we were. How I longed for the freedom and swiftness of cycling, how bogged down I felt by the buggy! A hare trapped in the trundling body of a tortoise. And yet in hindsight those early days - our October strolls in flaming autumn colour - were fundamental. Like a dry stone wall being built progress was slow, for this was a process that could not be rushed. Healing had to take place, and I had to adjust to my new sedate pace. No more rushing around hare-eyed on my bike, forever late, forever in a hurry to get somewhere, do something, pack more in. I learnt to love the pram and its measured, contemplative tempo, and with every passing day, week, month, the tiny being nestled inside it grew and with it my love. 


And now - at last - the time has come. Four wheels have become two as Felix and I ride again. The foetal Felix bobbed merrily in his womb as mummy rode for miles and miles, unhampered by her bulging belly. If anything as he grew inside me and my stomach became a fit-to-burst watermelon I felt the relief of riding as compared to walking. Heavy feet that felt flattened by the extra weight could still push pedals effortlessly; overladen joints relaxed and became supple again. My heart pounded and with it his, our blood flowed together as we cycled in perfect harmony, the ultimate tandem.

The moment I put Felix in his new bike seat and cycled away together is one I will always remember. Every wobble made my heart race with fear, every slight shift threatened to throw me off course, made me take a deep steadying breath and remember what precious cargo I carried. As we made our careful progress I glanced behind to see what he was doing; his mouth was hanging open, gaping in sheer amazement as the world flashed by us. In his eyes was all the wonder of the universe, the incomparable freshness of experiencing something for the very first time. My heart swelled with a love so profound it was painful, and my whole body felt lighter than air. As we cycled alongside the river on our way home the water shone blue as the midsummer sky. Small white sails flashed brightly in the distance. The verdant green of the willows and poplars reflected in the water as we rode past, the briny river water whispering of its journey to and from the sea. The adventure was only just beginning….

Thursday, 24 July 2014

ENTRY TWENTY - THE EARLY BIRD AND THE NIGHT OWL



Felix turned ten months this week, yet in official terms his age is still zero. It’s a funny thing that for the first year of life, when we go through the most rapid and remarkable development we will ever experience, our age is classed as nothing. Especially if you consider that by the time a baby is born it is already over nine months old. 

I mention this as I have recently been confounded by people making variations on the same remark, with the inherent expectation that I will agree. ‘Doesn’t it fly by?’ they remark while shaking their heads with a mournful air, ‘Seems like only yesterday that Felix was born’. ‘Yesterday?’ I think in bewilderment. ‘Are you mad?’ His short life has been so packed with change, with growth, with discovery, that I feel a hundred years have passed since he entered the world. From being born helpless, nearly blind, unable to control his limbs, to being a curious, laughing, standing, sentient tiny person in ten months seems miraculous to me, and a thousand markers stand testament to every change. The day he ate his first solid food. The day he first stood up. The first time he smiled, laughed, got a joke. His first swim. His first wave. Each new skill is like the tiny dot of colour in a pointillist painting, and one of the ultimate pleasures of parenting is to stand back every now and then and see the points connecting into a painting of infinite beauty and complexity.

For me this richly layered tapestry of development gives the impression that time has slowed down; every week offers at least one remarkable change, whilst a month is time enough for complete transformation. Felix sheds skins like a hyperactive snake, and I gaze in wonderment as this tiny being takes shape before my very eyes. What I find fascinating is that although as parents we teach our children and take great satisfaction from watching them learn, a more mysterious part of development is those changes that happen independently of any guidance, that appear spontaneously as their personality begins to crystalise. In the last couple of days Felix has formed a very strong attachment to an ancient dog-shaped pillow that I have had since childhood. Its fur is matted and its eyes are droopy with age, but he loves it nonetheless, and has taken to laying his head on it with an expression of adoration. Where this passion has come from I have no idea, but this battered old blue dog has well and truly stolen his heart.


Whilst on the subject of transformation, a profound change has materialised in Felix’s sleeping habits. At long last, and after months of disruption, Felix has started sleeping through the night. Halleluiah and Praise the Lord. I have been scared to write about it, or even mention it in case there was some kind of regression, but it seems to be holding. We are now in the third week of sleeping through and it is marvelous - although with certain drawbacks - for we have entered the dreaded 5am zone. Oh rude wake up call, I hear you roar. There have been a couple of 445 wake-ups when I have peered at the time with a sense of compete denial, but thankfully these have ceased and he seems to have stablised somewhere between five and six am. 

Old habits die hard however, and the night owls have had to undergo their own sleep training. Previously bedtime in our house has been around midnight, often later. This is no longer acceptable, and thus a process of adjustment is underway with bedtime slowly shifting back around the clock. The Mediterranean style nine pm dinners have gone, as have the eleven o’clock baths. Writing till one am, my most prized quiet time when the night is still and the mind can freely process and express the thoughts of the day has been banished, replaced with morning nap writing. While Felix sleeps peacefully, exhausted from a heavy morning of play and swings and sometimes an early bike ride – more on that next time – mummy writes. Or reads. Or just sits and gazes out of the window at the verdantly green lime tree. The scales have tipped one way and then another, finding their balance once again, and I am quietly discovering the delights of morning.

I rise with the sun just peeping over the roofs of the houses opposite, and the air is fresh and clean and lovely like a crisply laundered sheet. It has been hot recently, proper midsummer hot, and by nine the freshness of dawn has long evaporated. But in the early morning, just an hour or so past dawn, the air is redolent with the scent of promise. While the sun rises warms the earth, browning the grass and heating the sea and ripening the harvest, our son rises in his cot, his smile beaming out like the rays of that huge star overhead. Felix greets each new day like a lottery winner receiving a cheque for £1,000,000. His joy at simply being awake is startling. He scrambles to his feet, chubby hands gripping the bars of the cot, and begins his morning exercises of ‘up and down’. Gritty eyed we smile through the cobwebs of sleep at his face, aglow with happiness and radiant with wakefulness. ‘Hello world’ he bugles wordlessly from the cot’ ‘It’s a beautiful day and a beautiful world and I can’t wait to get out there and start enjoying myself’. And despite my die-hard late-night habits, I find myself in thrall to his morning zest and energy. The night owl has taken a bite of the early birds worm, and might even get a taste for it...