Tuesday, 2 December 2014


Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store.

I have recently been re-reading Tom Hodginson's 'How to be Free'. This little book is essentially a manifesto on how to combat the evils of modern life and to live a freer, simpler, more authentic life with much less money and much less work. It is probably the perfect book for me to read right now, seeing as we are living on less money than ever before and I am working fewer hours than at any point in my adult life. And yet, I am on route to being happier than I have ever been, albeit in a different kind of way to years past. I am glimpsing the beginning of a new dawn, a way of life that involves less work but work of a higher caliber. I am rejoicing in my gallery Mondays and rediscovering all the skills I used to take such pride in whilst adding to them. It is a very busy place, very demanding, and at times I feel pushed to my limits. It feels good to be tested professionally. 

What gives the day its clarity, its extra dimension, is rushing back to put Felix to bed. My route takes me right along the river path from work to home, and as I race alongside the jet black Thames, the cold winter air bringing roses to my cheeks and tears to my eyes, my legs pump the pedals with determination knowing that each push brings me closer to home. There is no feeling like racing back to your baby, fulfilled by an honest day’s work, arms aching to hold the solid warmth of your child, to cradle them and bathe them and read to them, to lay them in the cot and sing the bedtime song, to stroke their hair while they surrender to sleep. I love knowing that the next day I am just mummy again; all the glamour and excitement of work replaced by a very different kind of challenge; raising my son. Tights and dresses are replaced by grubby mummy jeans and wellies and waterproofs, and honestly I would rather be in the damp wintery playground than anywhere else. I would give it all up if I had to but to have both feels very close to Heaven. Truly my cup of contentment runneth over.

We have endured hard times; the road has not only been rocky but at times nearly fallen away. We have clung tenaciously to our dreams, to our love, to what we value, tightening our belts repeatedly and to the point of pain, all for the love of Felix, and at last I feel a shift in the flow of energies. Things are becoming easier; the weight of worry that has dogged me since pregnancy is starting to lift. I'm a hot air balloon, as ballast is cast off I feel myself floating ever higher, soaring into the clearness of the cerulean sky where I know I belong. Felix is absolutely full of love, his wish to hug and kiss everything around him, the cat, his books, his favourite tree, even a strangers dog, proves that a lack of cash means nothing. He has no inkling that we have skated over some very thin financial ice, he has not suffered or been deprived and is exceedingly joyful. Of course you need enough money to buy food, to provide shelter and toys and warmth. I am not proposing that genuine poverty is anything other than dehumanising, but all the other stuff is just window dressing, baubles that glitter enticingly but deliver little added value. We are all three of us still in one small bedroom, but now that he sleeps solidly through the night those tortures are over. Yes, I miss reading in bed. In fact, I miss doing anything in bed other than sleeping. We creep into the bedroom at night and in the morning are greeting by a hybrid of the Cheshire Cat and Tigger, an ecstatic, bouncing grin. There is no escape, we are as tightly penned as the Three Men in a Boat, but there is a special intimacy to still sharing a bedchamber, a closeness I have learnt to treasure.

The living room has become just that; our space for living. It is Felix's playroom and our lounge, it is where we read, where I write, where we play music, watch films, talk and entertain friends. Thank goodness we inherited two massive sofas from friends moving abroad. These double as daybeds and guest beds, the cat uses one to sprawl on after a night on the tiles while Felix commandeers the other as a platform from which to observe the outside world. The cross-species love affair between Teddy and Felix continues apace; Teddy placidly accepting Felix's rapturous hugs and drool-heavy kisses. He has surrendered his space and dignity to the force of the baby, showing incredible restraint as Felix bashes him playfully with a toy hammer ands yanks his tail.

With less than a month to go before Christmas I am more excited, more joyful, and more content than I have been for a long time. I have started squirreling gifts in drawers and behind furniture, 
clearing the decks in preparation for the purchase of a small but fragrant Christmas tree. I am in thrall to the alchemy of Christmas, to the twinkling fairy lights and glowing candles, the warm reds and golds, the cool blues and silvers, the feeling of anticipation and of coming together. With Felix's passion for colours and lights I know that this Christmas will be an explosion of sensory delight like no other, and the best part is I can indulge myself in creating a festive wonderland all the while claiming it is for him. Haha! But even if all that were to be stripped away, if there was not a single gift under the tree, even if there was no tree, this would be a magical Christmas,
because Christmas with a young child is Christmas reborn. You can - you must - once again believe in Father Christmas. Oh the joy of Christmas morning, Felix awakening with no idea what awaits him, eyes widening as he opens his gifts. If I could ask for one wish to be granted this Christmas there is no doubt what it would be...Oh Yea Gods of Weather the sledge awaits! Truly we are dreaming of a white Christmas! Bring on the blizzard, or even a dusting of frosty flakes with which to make a snowball. I want to see Felix's face as whirling white flakes fall from the sky, watch his nose wrinkle as one melts on the very tip, to hear the crunch and squeak of fresh snow under foot. To experience afresh the wonder of winter, suspend all disbelief and believe wholeheartedly in the magic of Christmas once again.

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.  
Roy L. Smith

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