30 September 2010


The sun pressed its face against the cobblestones and I held the crinkly kraft paper bag into which, minutes earlier, the shop keeper had fed a slim historical biography about this very town. I was walking to my final lesson, where Kate would tell us to get our own paints and I would root around inside various sandwich bags for colours I could remember the names of, and put them on pallet paper like I hadn't only heard of pallet paper three weeks ago. "You've cracked that, finally," Kate would say about my landscape, which is a compliment of the highest order, whether or not she means it. Everything about the afternoon was building to this moment, and I could feel it.

29 September 2010


This face, at bedtime, squashed in a face sandwich by the nursery window, as we say goodnight to the bun-bun, and to the squirrel, "Who went (insert the noise a squirrel would make if it scurried over your fence but paused long enough to eat a nut)," and to the stars in the sky, the apples in the tree, the neighbours doing their washing up, &ct. We do this routine at the window every single night, but tonight he squashed our faces together for quite a few long moments, and grinned, and laughed through his nose.

28 September 2010


Not every one is going to be a winner, and some days you’ll be in no frame of mind to spot your best moment. In fact, what the narrator of The Anthologist doesn’t realise is that many of his gems – at least from a reader’s perspective – derive not from his best moments, but from his most painful memories and encounters. I don’t want to share my worst moments with you, because they have no basis in reality. They all take place inside my head, and all of them are lies. (I hope they are lies.)

27 September 2010

Spider webs

It's raining and I'm washing dishes. I glance up and see two spider webs clinging to the hawthorn in the back garden. The webs are like delicate necklaces, or faery handbags, their silk textured and weighted by points of rain so exacting it's as though someone has painstakingly strung them with the tiniest of jewels. They swing and glitter there in the dusk as I wash dishes, and give the impression that someone might stop by later to retrieve them.

26 September 2010


At the market, the honey merchant told me to put my hand against the pane of glass separating me from a shallow wall of bees on a comb. “It's warm,” he said. It was warm. “They're generating the heat,” I said. “They're generating heat from all the work they're doing,” he said.

25 September 2010

Our town

I was wrapped up in a fluffy dressing gown and shivering beneath the duvet. The curtains were open and I watched the clouds scaling the blue skin of a chilled autumn sky. The mock Tudor fa├žade of the terraced houses across the road begged to be part of a sinister historical drama, so I obliged by thinking up bits of narration for one, spooling variations through my internal projector: "Our town...The people of our town...And when we thought back on it...Our town...It was our town..."

24 September 2010

An introduction to an idea of best moments

Okay, so here’s the deal. I finished reading Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist, and in addition to being one of the best novels I’ve read in a long while, it gave me a great idea about how I can raise a toddler and still keep this blog alive. When asked how he achieves the presence of mind to write poetry, the narrator replies:

"'I ask a simple question. I ask myself: What was the very best moment of your day?' The wonder of it was, I told them, that this one question could lift out from my life exactly what I will want to write a poem about. Something that I hadn’t known was important will leap up and hover there in front of me, saying I am – I am the best moment of the day."

He goes on for a while, but in those few sentences, I was already a convert. I know that a blog isn’t poetry, or even prose, but if you look back in your archives, you’ll see that on any given day, your writing often depends on the lifting of these best moments.

My day has only just started, and not very well, but I will write down my best moment from yesterday so that you can see that I’m committed to doing this...

Wait - I haven’t told you what I’m doing yet!

Okay, so I plan to write down the best moment of my day, in whatever shape it takes. That’s it. Simple, right? It will allow me to keep up my end of the bargain (i.e. – I write a post, you read a post) without compromising too much of our precious time on this earth.

I hope you enjoy reading about these moments as much as I enjoy remembering them.


It was four o’clock and I’d just finished my painting lesson. The pink stucco house across the street had a bit of the weak, autumnal sun smeared across its face and I wished that I could have painted it. I don’t know how to paint, which so far is the only thing I’ve learned in my painting class, but I felt good knowing that I could see this pink house and its light and feel that I wanted to do something like that. I’ve never been capable of seeing colour, light and shadow in this way before, and I’m happy for this new gift.

12 September 2010

Hartley: Twenty Months

A dictionary of your favourite words or phrases, on your 20th month:

Ah-aye (-pronoun): ‘Hartley,’ if said in combination with an index finger aimed at your throat.

Ah-mudum (-verb): It used to mean ‘living room,’ but now it basically means ‘follow me,’ ‘come this way’ or ‘please stop washing dishes and come and play; this is boring.’

Ah-munamunamunamuhBODEE (-verb): I’m going to ask you about this when you’re older, because right now nobody has a CLUE what you’re saying, though it never varies.

All-room (-noun): your new word for ‘living room,’ which I’m sorry to say is where you eat all your snacks and meals. A bad habit I’m trying to rid you of without starving you.

App duce (-noun): ‘Apple juice’ which is how you’ve begun to refer to all forms of juice, which you’re not even supposed to be drinking, because it will ruin your teeth.

Beh-puss (-noun): Breakfast, not to be confused with toothpaste. Easy to do, first thing in the morning

Boo-bat (-noun): aka ‘Boo bag’, aka sleeping bag. As we nicknamed you ‘Boo’ for some reason, we thought it apt to refer to the bag you sleep in as a ‘Boo bag.’ We did this consistently for such a long period of time that you’ve taken to calling it this yourself. In fact, you refer to yourself as ‘Boo’ when you see a photo of you, or of any baby (though you also refer to babies as ‘baby’). You sort of extend the ‘oo’ so that it sounds more like ‘Booo-ah’ which I find unbearably cute.

Buh-puss (-noun): Toothpaste. Often preceded by TEESS! You’re only meant to have a pea sized amount, but I think your father probably gives you more.

BUN (-verb): Bounce!

Dadoo (-noun): or ‘thank you.’ You’ve since learned to say ‘thank you, daddy’, though you apply this gratitude indiscriminately. So for example, were I to hand you an apple, you might say ‘dadoo, daddy!’ This morning I taught you to say ‘thank you, mummy,’ and you nearly managed it (‘dadoo, da-….dadoo mummy’), but not quite.

Duh-do (-noun): ‘Play-doh’ which you mainly want to squish into the carpet or eat, which is why it’s currently stored on a high shelf.

Ee-ee-doon (-noun): Upsidedown. You say this if something is upsidedown, like a toy, or a book character, though you also like to lean your head as far back as you can while saying ‘ee-ee-doon,’ I guess because that’s how the world looks to you. I’ve even watched you do a downward dog and look between your own legs as you say this, which is impressive on a number of levels.

Eenis (-noun): Jeans. You say this each time you see that I’m about to put them on you.

Hudoh (-verb): ‘Huggle,’ which is what people in England call a cuddle. It’s actually a cross between a cuddle and a hug, and when you say it, you squeeze your arms around my neck and drag out the word like you’ve heard us do so many times now.

Mo (-adj.): As in ‘mo, mo?’ as in ‘more, more?’ The deadpan way you say this with chocolate sauce smeared on your chin after you’ve demolished a Cornetto cracks us up.

Mun (-noun): which is what you call the gingerbread man we bought you once, and must now buy for you each time we pass Gregg’s. You mainly want to eat the candy buttons off his chest, but sometimes you will deign to chew a bit of biscuit when those three buttons are bitten off and swallowed.

Nu-ck (-noun): ‘Milk,’ which you don’t say anymore, now that you’ve been weaned. I was really sad that first night we put you to bed without it, since you said ‘milk’ properly for the first time ever. You might say it now when we give you cereal, but if we give it to you in a cup, you spit it down your shirtfront in disgust. I don’t blame you at all.

Ole dun (-adj.): ‘All done,’ which you say when you’ve finished a meal, when you want to get down from your chair, or when you’re finished with any scenario, really (eg. if you tire of a nursery rhyme and want me to stop singing it too, you’ll say ‘Ole dun!’).

Papet (-noun): ‘Packet,’ which is what you call the packages containing pureed vegetable matter.

Pat pat, niss niss (-noun or -verb): ‘Feet feet, knees knees’ – my instructions to you when you’re crawling backwards down stairs, but now you repeat this mantra anytime you’re negotiating stairs, up or down, however you manage them.

Pease (-noun): Can mean please, but it can also refer to a specific packet of baby food, which contains broccoli, pears and peas. Thank god you don’t really know what you’re saying, as I’d be hard-pressed to get a vegetable - other than string beans - into you any other way.

Peepo (-noun): refers, of course, to Peepo, your favourite storybook right now.

Piss (-noun): Fish, which you love in finger form, or breaded and baked. You haven’t yet clued into the fact that it also refers to the living creature, and I dread the day you realise I sometimes refer to you as poultry. You also like to use this in place of your usual word for ‘crisps,’ just to make things a bit confusing for us.

Puhpa (-noun): Pizza

Shit (-noun): Sit or shirt or shorts. I hope.

Sit dare (-verb): ‘Sit there,’ which is what you say when you want us to get down and play on your level. You often illustrate exactly where you’d like us to be, by stabbing your index finger at the floor. Usually you are pretty forgiving if we miss the mark by about a foot or so.

TAIN (-noun): which is how you say ‘train!’which you cannot say unenthusiastically, ever.

Tess (-noun or -verb): an approximate sound that could mean cheese, teeth, toast, kiss, juice, crisps (baby puffs) or chase, depending on the context. If I’m in the kitchen and you’re shouting this on the other side of the safety gate, I can be almost certain you mean cheese, juice, toast or crisps, but I’ve been wrong before.

Tetsup (-noun): Ketchup. Anything that’s a sauce or spread, in fact, though you only want it to be ketchup.

Tits (...): I’m not sure about this one, but I do know that nobody has ever said this word (aloud) in your presence, so.

Too tie (-adv.): ‘Too tight,’ which is what I asked you once when you didn’t want me to put jeans on you. I’m still not sure if you understand what it means, but you say it every time I do up the top button of your jeans, which makes me worry and then loosen the waistband so that it sits around your middle like a hoola-hoop.

Touses (-noun): Trousers.

Tsitsin (-noun): which means ‘kitchen’ which is something you say about 90 times per day. Usually you will put your arms up and demand I carry you there, but sometimes you will say ‘hand!’ and reach up for my hand, which means we are going to walk there together.

Up-taz (-verb): ‘Upstairs,’ which usually means ‘let’s go upstairs,’ though sometimes you say it when you’re already upstairs, and then we know you mean ‘downstairs,’ which I guess you don’t have a word for yet.

Okay, tiny boo. This list is officially ole dun. I love you more than all the words in the dictionary – yours, mine and every other dictionary imaginable. So there.