Friday, 22 August 2014


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


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….