Friday, 21 February 2014


There are few things better than having your baby asleep peacefully in the next room. Not because it's preferable to having them awake - though this may occasionally be true - but because you know you have done your job.

Sleep. Only a parent can understand the sheer gravitas of slumber. We've had our fair share of shattered nights and I have shouldered much of the burden of night feeds, but in general Felix has been a good sleeper from the outset. I credit this largely to him being in a solid routine and to the tactic of feeding in enough milk that it's spilling back out of him by the end of the feed. Empty belly, no sleepy. I know couples who have really battled with the issue. With babies who simply would not sleep, or would only sleep in the day, or in twenty minute intervals. Others seem to have acquired babies who sleep right through the night from 8 weeks onwards, which to me seems nothing short of miraculous. Felix is somewhere between the two. Always able to manage a stoical four hours, occasionally batting it out of the ballpark with a massive eight.

Sleep. Only a parent can appreciate how precious it is. I'm not talking about baby's sleep but yours. Having a baby throws a giant spanner in the lie-in factory. Suddenly a lazy morning constitutes anything after - or even near - 8am. Languorous days spent in bed are a distant memory, and occasional late nights out are severely punished by sleep deprivation the following day. 

I recently awoke to a room filled with the clear light of morning and an unfamiliar sensation of well restedness. Had I fed him and forgotten? Nope, a full bottle glared at me from the dresser. An avalanche of fear swept over me as I leapt from the bed and peered down into the cot, every nightmare scenario playing simultaneously through my mind. The sight that met my eyes was the sweetest imaginable. A pair of sea-blue eyes twinkled back at me and his little body wriggled with pleasure. 'Hello Mummy' he seemed to be saying, I'm awake and it's a new day and it's lovely to see you! At that moment I swore I would never again complain about lack of sleep, that I would try to celebrate every waking up and give thanks to God for a happy, healthy baby whose evident delight in seeing me is a tonic to the soul. This resolution, however admirable, does not mean I feel less tired. There are days when a dull ache squats behind my eyes like a sullen toad. My solution, perhaps paradoxically, is exercise. Not a day goes by that I don't take Felix for a walk to the park or down the river. Weather conditions recently have been extreme; mighty winds, sudden storms, vicious hail and drenching rains have been punctuated by bursts of brilliant sunshine. One day I saw not one but two rainbows. Any day that has two rainbows is a good one. 

Sleep. Perhaps ironically I dream of it. Now and then, when Felix sleeps through the night, I savour the feeling of having had a full nights worth as a sommelier would a fine wine. Yet no vintage could taste as good as sleep feels. Oh the sweet caress of the duvet, the yielding softness of the pillow, the sheer relief of being horizontal. Mr Sandman, never was a dream so sweet...

Monday, 10 February 2014


For our conjoined birthday we organised a weekend away to Easter Cottage in Rye, East Sussex. Having curated a select group of friends including baby Teddy, offspring of Wicki, we set about the challenge of integrating two young babies into a weekend of drinking, debate, and late night jamming. Perhaps surprisingly, these conflicting elements slotted together as neatly as jigsaw pieces.

As enjoyable as sitting around discussing the application of anthropology, making vast communal shepherds pies and consuming our own body weight in cheese and port undoubtably was, the highlight of the weekend for me was always going to be our trip to Camber Sands. This beautiful sand dune backed beach is a short drive from Rye and a world away from the creature comforts of the cottage. 

By Sunday I had about as much rich food and conversation as I could take; what I needed was a brisk and bracing walk along a windswept beach. Babies strapped into holders we left the relative safety of the cars and entered another world. Waves crashed on the hard golden sands, wind whipped through the grassy dunes, and the smell of brine was strong in the air. Clutching our takeaway teas we made our way onto the beach, buffeted by powerful offshore winds that tore at our hair and reddened our cheeks. 

It was a perfect day to fly a kite, especially a bold box kite in triumphantly luminous rainbow colours. It had been years since I had flown a kite, and I was unprepared for the sheer wonder of it. On a count of three Natalia threw the kite into the air and it soared immediately, taut as a guitar string. Up up and up it flew, and with it my spirit. We reeled it out till it was just a day glo dot in the sky above and when I grasped the handle I was shocked at the power of the wind. Oh what energy, what joy! KITE!!! 

I raced down the beach clutching the handle firmly in both hands, wellies stomping through the shallows, yellow mac bright as a buttercup. 'Yippppeeeee!!!' I screamed as the kites vivacity flowed through the string into my heart. You would have to be made of stone to resist the lure of a beautiful kite on a sunny day, and as I ran past people stared up and smiled. They pointed into the sky and laughed as their dogs barked, crazed by its fluttering shadow. The kite flew as high and proud as a flag, a beacon of brightness against the forget-me-not sky. My heart raced with sheer joy and laughter bubbled out of me. I was a woman mad with kite. 

And Felix? What did he make of all this? Well as it happened he slept soundly through the majority of the action, cushioned cozily in daddy's coat. But later on, while the group lolled in a beachfront cafe gorging on fresh donuts and sheltering from the wind, I took him out for a walk. Forming my body into a shield I sat down on the sand facing out to sea. His face shone with interest as he took in the pounding surf, cheeks and nose growing ruddy with the briny wind. His amazed eyes reflected the ocean; a thousand shades of blue dancing with the waves. His mouth formed an O of wonder and I clutched him closely to me. Back in the car he laughed
uproariously. 'He he he' he giggled, body wriggling with pleasure, shoulders shaking with mirth. It was a laugh born of exhilaration, bobbing on waves of delight and discovery.

“My soul is full of longing for the secret of the sea, and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me". Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.