10 January 2014

Five years old

Hello my darling,

It’s your birthday tomorrow, and I spent a little while today flicking through some of the things I’ve written to you over the years. Every now and then your father likes to remind me how fortunate we are that I was once such an avid archivist of your habits, and then I feel a little sad that I’ve not kept up my writing here, if only to produce a comprehensive record of your most fleeting characteristics.

I still unthinkingly refer to you as My Boo; sometimes you allow this, though just as often, you furrow your brow and say “I’m not a Boo,” because:


1.     A baby, most often male, of a similar age to Hartley.

eg. “Will there be other Boos to play with at the party?”

You’re no longer a baby, by any definition, and even when you pretend, you approach the task as one who has never visited that sunken Atlantis – you unfocus your eyes (your gaze was locked and penetrating as an infant, but never mind), go slack in my arms, and make exaggerated gurgling noises that mock the very essence of your babyhood until I grow frustrated with the game and suggest we play Lego instead.

At nearly five years old, you are already a far more eloquent speaker than most adults. Words come easily to you, as do their context, and if I dither in my attempt to answer a question, or provide you with some information you’ve asked for, you come to my rescue brandishing the very syntax that eluded me. 

You’ve taken the phonetic approach to literacy quite seriously, and during your first term of school, would try to spell something, anything, upon waking. The first words out of your mouth in the morning as you loosened the shackles of sleep wouldn’t be Morning, Mummy! as in the proceeding months, but an enigmatic Puh. AH. Ullll. Pal! 

Your favourite thing to do at bedtime story is to point out words, or groups of words, and identify them as those I’ve just read, or to stop me mid-sentence and find a word at random to read out. When you were very sad last week, I promised you I’d read you a hundred stories, or as many as it would take to get you off to sleep, and you were so taken-aback by this proclamation that you immediately stopped crying and fled to collect your library.

Speaking of literacy, one thing you did this year that utterly shocked me was you texted your Daddy while I was in the shower one afternoon. You didn’t just text Daddy: you texted him your own name, spelled correctly. And that’s not all. Thereafter, you started texting both of us sentences strung together like one long word, which you’d deduce letter-by-letter as you phonetically sounded them out. These texts are perfectly legible, and perfectly you. It is a pleasure and an honour to receive a text from you when you’re with your Dad.

Your inner world is saturated with characters from your favourite programs, video games, and the comics your father shows enthusiasm for, whether you’re around or not. You’re Daddy’s number one fan these days and, not wishing to deprive me of first place, have designated him at Zero place, zero being “better than first, but only slightly better – The Best.” You and Daddy often interact like brothers who possess a genuine affection and mutual respect for one another, when you’re not squabbling about injuries, real or perceived. Unsurprisingly, your mannerisms and attitudes are nearly identical, and I sometimes feel left out when I’m in both your company. But then I collect you after school and you slowly shed the vestiges of that home and you are Mummy’s boy, curled into my side on the sofa and sucking the meat of your hand.

Oh darling, I could go on and on, but this is stolen time, and tomorrow you’ll be five years old. I still remember when you were sad about turning four, because you wanted to be your own age: “three and three-quarters.” You’re not as anxious about growing up as you once were, and looking back at all my letters to you, I can say with a small amount of confidence that I’m better able to let go of each year with enthusiasm for what’s to come. Whenever I think about the future, I feel a bit of trepidation, but I’m thankful every day that you’re indelibly in that picture. 

Happy birthday, my growing boy. I love you number zero (the best).

Love always,


09 January 2014

Alone with the music

Sometimes I feel a tiny pang of grief for the girl who thought she was held aloft by love, amplified through the music she listened to on headphones while walking up the South Bank towards work, not realising in all those moments that she was alone.

03 January 2014

The journey ahead

Lately it seems as though my memories - those internal anchors of identity - have loosened themselves from their sheaves to float about aimlessly in the ether; here, an unlikely pair brush past one another, while other, tighter chronologies careen away, as though repelled by their like poles. The ephemera of this stagnant rock pool reflects a self so fractured it hardly bears peering into, but I can’t seem to pull myself away at times.

This year I want to do more doing, and less lying wounded along the shoreline of my personal histories. I want to stop worrying over little, incremental units of time, and simply live the big picture. Rather than brace myself for the slap of each wave as it comes, I want to climb up and over the whole roiling froth of it and learn to ride the swell.

Most of all, I want to cast off the suffocating hopelessness I’ve felt over the last few years, and the certainty that I’m not only destined for pain, but that I deserve nothing else. I’m less sure about how to conquer this particular barrier to contentment, but I’ve a feeling the answer lies somewhere in the journey ahead.

06 November 2013

The end

The fibres are knitted tightly round the tear of that old life, and I'm starting to believe it was something I only read about. Once upon a time, there was me and you.

05 November 2013

Dial tone

"Nobody in this family answers their fuckin' phones," she said, slamming the car door, her new boyfriend laughing politely, even though she was already out of earshot.

I recall her as a baby. A child of three. She moved away when I was 19 and she was still too young to say things like "fuckin' phones" - an unnatural utterance, even now.

It's cold comfort, because I know why that particular phone isn't being answered today, and so does she. I know why, but I don't know why. I'm not sure there's a true answer, or at least one that would speak to a shared reality.

I was going to start a blog today. Somewhere new to come out to, before remembering that nobody reads here anymore. It's okay. I don't need readers so much as a space against which to throw these materials - to try once more to divine the entrails. It's at least a little better than trying to divine the silence of an unanswered call. Isn't it?

04 September 2013

First Day


Yesterday you started your first day of real school. You slept at Mummy’s and we tried to eat a big breakfast that morning. Then I brought you to Daddy’s to get you dressed and ready. We took some pictures of you in your new school uniform, and then we walked over together.

I have to admit that even though you were your confident self, I have struggled with the idea of you beginning school in a system I’m unfamiliar with, in a country of which I’ve only scratched the surface. Lately, too, it’s started to sink in, what it means to be a full-time working mother. I won’t be able to provide that secure framework around these uncertain hours (thankfully Daddy is able to do this still), which makes it all the harder to try and ascertain your experiences there.

When I first got your acceptance letter a few months ago (in a text, from Daddy), I was at work, and I sobbed silently at my desk with my face inside my jumper for a good ten minutes. I’m still coming to terms with the notion of letting you go that little bit more, which of course started the minute I told you that one day soon you would have two houses. You adapted to this change far better than the rest of us, and when we left you at the discovery table inside your little classroom on your first day of school, you said “Bye, Mummy!” and smiled brightly and waved your arm.

And when we stepped into the schoolyard three hours later, you marched out the door, saw us, and ran to us, giggling. You lifted your arms and I scooped you up. You wrapped yourself around me and pressed your face into my neck and sighed like you did when you were just a baby. I clutched the fat of your thighs, covered in the thick material of your alien school shorts, and carried you all the way back home.

It may not ever be possible to breach or fully comprehend the world you are effortlessly a part of here in England, but our language is bone-deep, and the means through which we will always find one another.

I love you my tiny boy, and I’m so proud of you.

All my love,


28 May 2013


Dear Hartley,

This weekend I was so sad, and scared out of my mind, and putting up a fairly bad front, even by our standards. You made me get-well cards while I hid my face in a pillow and worried about the future, and then some time later we both curled up for a late-afternoon nap.

When we woke, our friend M came by and we all went to the playground for a picnic. There was a band in the bandstand, and even though they played for the benefit of a film crew filming a fairly uninspired playground scene, it provided a lovely atmosphere.

I watched you join in with a group of bigger children, who spun the roundabout you clung to so quickly it made my mouth go a little dry. But there was a girl with you who made it her mission to keep you safe, so I relaxed and enjoyed watching you smile and laugh and interact with her while the wheel spun out of control.

Later, my heart broke a little when it became evident that she’d tired of being your protector and began dodging your advances. You don’t yet understand the frivolity of friendships, particularly between boys and girls, but you knew that it felt bad, and that made you try doubly hard to win her back. While she sat posed on a bench (the film crew had drawn nearer), I watched you run to the green, crouch down for a moment, and run back with something clutched in your hand. I knew what you were doing, as you’ve done it for me countless times, and indeed, you handed her a tiny daisy, which she gracefully accepted.

The tenuousness of this encounter fills me with more dread than the sight of your figure clamped to a careening roundabout, because as much as it hurts to fall off playground equipment, the pain of rejection can take years to recover from, particularly if it keeps happening. I hope this will not happen to you too often. I know you’re a beautiful, friendly boy with good intentions. I hope you’ll always remain quietly confident, and that one day you’ll learn how to brush off your heart and keep going.

 I love you so much, and even if I don’t feel worth the weight of my words here any longer, I certainly think you’re worth all the words in the universe.

Love always,