Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Room With A View

This is a view from my bedroom window.

We recently joined the masses of Londoners that enjoy loft living. Not in the American sense of the word; which possibly conjures up images of something trendy and cool, but rather in the sense of living in a slopey roofed, attic conversion.  That’s where my bedroom is now; in third floor clouds.  Apart from the extremes of temperature (either roasting hot or too cold) I am rather enjoying my bird's eye view of the world, it gives a different perspective, and I’ve noticed things I might have otherwise overlooked.

This is another view, from the same window.  

One window, two different perspectives. This is what I see when I sit breast feeding EB on my bed, at around 7pm.  I like this land of chimney pots way up high. I like watching the birds flit from one pot to another; the world up here changes slowly, in small increments; early evening sun to dusk and then gradually to dark. There’s something tranquil and reassuring in the solid, brick like permanence of it all.

There is a second window in my bedroom, a large one.  I won’t show you a picture of the view from that window, but instead, will describe the house I can see through it. A large, brick built, Victorian abode, with three storeys and a hat like roof, rather like those you see on dutch barns. The house intrigues me.  I can only see the back of it.  A private road separates the gardens of our properties; a physical divide, overgrown with brambles, as if to say; 'Do not cross here'.  Around the corner, where the house fronts onto the street, it guards it's privacy with 9ft high fences and a gate that is solid, like a door. It is impossible to see into it from this vantage point, but at the back, we overlook each other.  My bird's eye view allows me the privilege of seeing over and beyond fences. I’ve only ever seen glimpses of the people that live inside the house, but I feel that I know much about them. 

There is a room at the top, in the eaves.  In this room a woman paints.  I can see her easel, the edge of her canvas. Never the picture. Never her face. She stands in shadow, further back. I can see her silhouette, in side profile. Sometimes I see the movement of her arms as she moves her brush, or sometimes she runs her hand through curly hair.  She paints in the early evening. 

On the floor below, the first floor, there are two rooms at the back of the house. The one on the left has a sewing table with an old fashioned black and gold Singer machine placed in front of the window.  A reel of cream cotton balances on the top of the machine, reflecting  that this is not just an artefact of bygone times, but despite it's obvious age, is an item fulfilling it's intended purpose. Sometimes there is fabric on the table and then a day or two later, it is gone.  It is a room of industry; things move in and out quickly.  I sense that much gets done in that room.

The other room has french doors instead of windows - odd for a room on a first floor. They lead onto the roof of the ground floor bay window and the back extension. At one point, someone placed a bird table on top of the bay roof.  It looked odd, misplaced.  Inside there is a single bed against the wall, always covered with the same aztec patterned bedspread, in neutral colours of beige, brown and duck egg blues.  The curtains tonally match, but feature a large, heavy 70’s inspired pattern. There is a large angle poise light for reading. Broadsheet newspapers are often spread in sections on the bed, sometimes for one or two days at a time. It doesn't seem that this room is used for sleeping, the curtains are rarely closed.  

Only once have I ever seen a face in that house.  A small woman, or a nearly grown child, I could not tell, sitting on the edge of the bed, in the room with the aztec bedspread. I caught them staring down through the window, watching me in the garden, as I rocked EB in his seat. When I looked up again, they had gone. I find myself looking to that window often, to see if someone is there. I have the feeling of being watched, but when I glance up - there is no-one.

The inhabitants of the 'hat house' are a mystery to me. In idle hours, I wonder about them, their silent shadows and what life behind that high fence is like.

Do you have a room with a view that fascinates you?

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Almost There

The Easter holidays are nearly over.  Three weeks of double trouble; Pip and EB each day, every day. I wondered how I’d cope after finding just one week at half term difficult. But this time, as the holidays approached, I didn’t worry about it.  Passing the 3 month stage with  EB helped, things got easier; small things, such as him being able to sit up in his pram and look at the world around him, made a difference.

The weather hasn’t always been my friend; rain, sleet and bracing winds have tried their best some days to thwart our plans. But true to my resolve, we’ve carried our weather with us, and haven’t been governed by the dismal forecasts.  Pip, frenetic ball of energy that he is, has been exercised daily in windy, London parks even if he has been racing around them tumbleweed like, on his own.

On inclement days, we’ve baked, baked and baked some more. Our best creation our Easter Nest Cake. When the heavens have opened, Octonauts have presided in a sea of surfy suds the kitchen sink, (thank you Easter Bunny for your inspired gift of Shellington and his Gup A).  In the living room, dens have been made out of everything available from sofa cushions, blankets, jigsaw boxes and EB’s bouncy chair. It’s been hard work trying to recreate each new version to be as good as the last, but even though I say so myself, I’ve become quite adept at creating something magical from a few bean bags and a travel cot mattress. 

During longer breaks in the clouds, we’ve left London and inhaled smog free open air.  Being as active as possible seems to help dampen some of the rising testosterone in my nearly 4 year old. A trip to an estuary beach on a lack lustre day, it’s wartime pillboxes now in ruins from coastal erosion; a bleak prospect for me, but an adventurer's dream for Pip.  A walk in the woods, near Grandma’s house; an opportunity to make real life dens, or lay claim to those already made by others.  A bribe to my brother to bring his newly acquired vintage wartime vehicle to visit us, so Pip could sit up high and pretend play. 

An unforeseen consequence of this is I’ve had little or no time to myself.  It's been impossible to catch more than 5 minutes to do anything. In the end, I decided it was futile to fight it. Better to throw myself wholeheartedly into the holiday spirit rather than try to squeeze in a blog post or format a recent photo project and feel frustrated because I couldn’t complete it.  Better to say; for these three weeks, I’ll put my own stuff to one side.  I wouldn’t want life to be that way all the time; I need my own space, my own ways to relax, but forcing them into a schedule where there isn’t room for them doesn’t work. It makes me feel stressed and afterwards; selfish.  Accepting self-sacrifice is the better short term option is one of the aspects of mothering I have always found difficult to deal with. But, I now recognise that on occasion, doing this is for the greater good, we’re all happier for it - including me.

Days have become weeks and suddenly we’re almost there; at the end. Only a couple of days remaining before pre-school starts again. The past three weeks have been good for Pip and I. We’ve spent a lot of time together and as a result, we’re more connected.  Daddy is still his adored hero, but I feel that Mummy has reclaimed her place as his princess again.  My sweet boy has grown up so much in the four and a half months since he became a big brother. He hasn’t always found it easy - and neither have I.  But, I can sense the change; we’ve turned the corner, we’re almost there.  Hugs at bedtime are once again freely given and the words ‘ I love you Mummy’ are offered up from the small sleepy head on a bedtime pillow.  Our relationship is almost as it was pre-EB (albeit with the added addition of little brother in tow.). We’ve found our equilibrium again and it feels good.

I know I will feel a pang of sorrow as I wave him off on Thursday morning.  I will miss him, miss his chatter, his observations on the world around him and our rediscovered closeness. But truth be told, I’m also looking forward to a sneaky cappuccino in my favourite coffee shop, the chance to sit quietly and take the time to unravel the unwritten blog posts and the half finished 'To Do' lists of the last three weeks and watch the world go by.  Better still, I’m pretty sure there will be sunshine. About time too.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Mojo Gone Loco

I can’t seem to get on an up and stay on an up right now. My mojo is like a yo-yo; steadily spinning up and then oops!, suddenly flailing around on a long thread again. One moment I’m full of inspiration and good intentions, the next, I’m lethargic, heavy footed and afflicted with can’t-be-arsed-itus. 

I’m going to be incredibly British and blame the weather.  Frankly, there’s no spring in my step now and there should be. We’re in April for goodness sake and it’s still freezing.  I can’t remember when it was last so cold at this time of year. I’ve had the heating on every night for weeks, otherwise, the gro-egg temperature indicator in our bedroom turns to blue. One night recently, determined to tough it out, I turned the heating off.  At 3am it was 9 degrees. EB’s tightly furled fists were like ice cubes when I lifted him out the cot to feed him.  As I marched downstairs to turn the heating back on yet again, I wondered whether sleeping in my dressing gown would be preferable to the sauna like alternative.

Alas, it was not. Which means I’ve just had to put up with the constant dry heat turning my skin to a dry, scaly mess. The heels of my feet are now so cracked they’re catching on the carpet. Even my hair is dry;  I noted yesterday that there are split ends on the split ends.  Not wanting to be outdone, my well worn winter wardrobe has grown bobbles on it’s bobbles. In fact, everything is multiplying in it’s bobbly-ness, dryness and brittleness.  And it’s all spring’s fault. Because it’s not here yet. And it should be. 

Carry your weather with you’; is an old adage a friend once shared with me, (they weren’t talking about umbrellas.)  In my flailing yoyo moments, I have pondered this recently.  And I’ve decided that’s what I need to do; awake my own dawn chorus of birdsong; shimmer in my own self-made sunshine, to shake off this lethargy.  I'm going to stop being so weather vain, so seasonally affected. I'm going to stick two fingers up at Mother Nature and regenerate and reinvigorate myself anyway.  I deserve it, after four months of feeding a small through the night and pushing a pram through rain, sleet, snow and bracing winds.

Not just deserve it. Need it. I need to feel a bit chipper again.

On Saturday, it was a year to the day since I saw EB’s two blue lines waving hello on a pregnancy test. What a year it's been. I've given my body over to it, but I’m done now; with incubating, with giving birth, with those especially hard nights of those first few months and the accompanying dark circles under the eyes that come with them.*

My personal self is in need of a renaissance.

I booked a haircut today. It’s been 8 months since my last.  I’m using the spa voucher I received for my birthday to get my wintered hooves a pedicure, and I’ve resolved to actually use the exfoliating body scrub I have in the shower. 

I’m determined, I will follow up on those good intentions. I am going to make those broccoli and cheese muffins for Pip (even though he thinks broccoli is the devil’s work) because I want him to try them. I’m also going to move myself and Husband away from the winter casseroles and comfort food now, and widen our repertoire to include some lighter options - to eat spring like even if outside it doesn’t feel like it.  If I don’t, I’ll never get rid of my muffin top.

I’m going to stop procrastinating about the idea that's been ruminating in my head for a new project these past weeks and just DO.  Otherwise I’ll never get around to it.  Sometimes it’s better to capitalise on creative enthusiasm and worry about the finer details later.

So, stuff you, Spring. I was hoping you’d buoy me up but I can’t hang around forever. You may well now be limping around the corner, but I’m going to be one step ahead of you this year.  A woman can only wait so long.

*The nights are still not great, but have been accepted as a way of life now.