Monday, 23 January 2017

How To Feed Your Soul

Have you already lost that New Year glow? That warm fuzzy feeling that this year things will go OK, things will be accomplished. You will be calm, intelligent and accomplished?

I reached a proper low around the middle of January. The bottom out involved words like: stomach bug, medical fasting, colonoscopy*, husband projectile vomiting, two small children, no family nearby, vandalism to the car, nobody going to bed on time, spilt milk, tears over spilt milk. So that was last Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Our climbing Finn and the spilt milk, January 2017


Thankfully, this week there has been some soul food to replenish my very empty tank.



A child free catch up. My friend B is from New Zealand and we have only known each other as 'mums in Scotland.' Most of the time we have snatched conversations amidst the chaos of small children. This week we managed a late afternoon glass of wine and a chat without the babies. Just sitting down to an uninterrupted chat with another mum is a special occasion. But B has been been on a soul food gathering project of her own. She has been asking each of her good friends to come up with two adjectives which describe her- and giving out two in return. For me she had 'non-judgemental' and 'worldly'. I am still working on my return words. 


Kid time: We were watching some vintage Wiggles and Rafa was dancing, but became concerned that he was 'not very good.' We reassured him that he was good, and also that perhaps if he practised more he would get even better. A moment later Rafa asked Jon and I to leave the room so that he could 'practice'.

We dutifully let the room and had a brief chat (and a chuckle) in the kitchen, before being called back in to join Rafa (with his new and improved dance moves) in a wags the dog dance party.


For the first time in years I went to a writing workshop. It was an Ekphrastic (using visual art as a prompt) group led by Helen Boden. We spent the morning at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery with Helen taking us through the landscape photography exhibition - The View From Here. Two hours with no phone and no children were soul food in themselves, but I took real energy and joy from the guided viewing, stretching my writer muscles and listening to others read their work (especially those who wrote and read in Scots).  I admit it was also a bit of a buzz having people chuckle at the occasional line of my own. Here are some of my scribbles:

On viewing Mer de Glace  – Francis Bedford French Alps, 1860, and 'View from Baluchiston' Fred Bremnr India, 1899.

Humans in Landscapes
The leisure Class.
Explore, conquer.
What monster is there that needs out-run up a mountain?
Icy passage, Oh the air up there is fine.
But I wonder who is at home cooking the dinner?
The hot rock under bare feet .
Man stands in a landscape and he thinks himself large.
Stands tall. Knows of the photographers click,
but does he think about what comes after?

Watches on, listens while friends tell a tale,
a romance perhaps,
Or a stubbed toe and lingering pain.
The small details they carry in their pockets are not captured here.
Just their deeds. Just a moment gathering water.
Geological landscape and man.

Does it make a poem? Hmm.

Inspired by the title: 'Late Afternoon – Remembering Lost Holidays'
Photograph by Thomas Joshua Cooper and other Highlands landscapes.

These Scottish landscapes, especially the bald hills- Denuded long past set my teeth on edge today. Yes there is adventure there and beauty and majesty. But Oh please just give me a tree! No actually give me a forest and a stream and a child naked squatting to examine a stone rubbed smooth by river water. With bare feet tough from a summers wandering.

Late December at the Green Lochen my son asked to take off his boots. He paddled a moment and then asked to have his boots put back on. The long dark days just now. I'm over them.
'Is it morning?' He asks everyday.

And there I was back writing about the children, and daydreaming about the contrast between Scotland, where I find myself today, bringing up small children, and Australia of my youth. I also loved the contrast between my piece, and other readings based on the same images. You can read some of the other work inspired by the morning here - Sam Dounis.


'Can I take my boots off.' Paddling in Scotland in December 2016


Over a bowl of soup after the workshop one of the women commented that she finds her other writing flows better afterwards. I like the notion that what you produce is not necessarily the goal. It is free-ing because you are not setting yourself up to fail - or to worry if you don't 'produce' something. When I go back (which I hope to next month) I will try to remind myself of that. 

Still even having occasionally sunk into that mum habit of fretting over the need to make the most of every valuable second, I came away from the workshop with a bounce in my step. 



Some other soul food moments this week have been starting 'The Buried Giant, the Kazuo Ishiguro book I bought in December, Skyping with my brother, getting new twitter followers, going to the gym with my husband and having a family swim. 

So here's hoping New Year Fuzzy Feelings- the reboot- lasts longer than the original... or perhaps I just need to factor in soul food all year round?  

*edited 25/1/2017 - talking with a friend last night I realised I should explain, I have a first degree relative who died from bowel cancer (my father) as such the advice is to have a colonoscopy every five years - happy to say I am symptom free. If you have any concerns about your health don't be shy to seek medical advice. 

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Five Tips from a One Time Group Travel Virgin



On 'that' trip with Walkabout Scotland -2011

In I my pre-mum, pre-writing about travel with babies life I was often to be found curled up with a good book. On occasion I got myself out of the house and had an adventure or two. If you read until the end of my rather long tale of group travel virgin blog you will know that I married my tour guide. That fact basically makes me an expert in small group travel. Between the Kimberly trip which was my first time and the trip with Walkabout Scotland where I met my husband I also went by myself on small group tours to:

USA - epic road trip from California to New York -2008



Ayre Peninsula- South Australia -2009

Borneo  - 2010


On Safari in Tanzania -2011

A sail boat adventure in Turkey - 2011

A snowy road trip from Vancouver to Banff- 2011

A road trip/pub crawl in Ireland -2011

Here are some things I have learnt along the way:

Tip 1: 
When selecting the type of group travel to go for always choose something you love: ie if you go on a trip that involves camping, or trekking – because you love those things, you will meet like minded fellow travellers. 

 Tip 2: 
If your already out of your comfort zone - go even further and break the ice with everyone in your group, because...

Tip 3:
When you travel with an organised small group tour you are never on your own for very long. You may not know it yet - but you are about to become part of a new tribe!

Tip 4:
When reading a tour itinerary it is a good idea to keep in mind what is an 'included' item in the itinerary and what is an extra – that way you know what you are paying for before you go and can budget for any extras you might want to do.

Tip 5:
Beware - group travel is a gateway drug. Before you know it you will be jumping off the tour bus and into a solo travel adventure.

Flying solo in Israel -2011


Thursday, 5 January 2017

Tale of a Group Travel Virgin


I wrote a travel story recently that saw me looking back to a trip that I took ten years ago. Writing it was quite an interesting journey in itself – funny how when you look back patterns reveal themselves. That's one of the reasons I love writing. The story did not get chosen for the project I sent it off to- so I thought I would post it here.

Slow Starter
Darwin to Broome


On the first morning I woke up in Darwin with human faeces in the hallway of my hotel. I am someone who once returned the gift of a mystery flight because the idea of going somewhere new, by myself made me uncomfortable. And there I was, by myself in a very unpleasant hallway about to spend two weeks on a 4WD bus travelling though the remote Kimberly wilderness with a group of strangers.

Why, I asked myself, did you give up the comfort of your couch and your knitting to come here?

Booking myself onto this holiday had been a convoluted sort of process. With my first almost full time job I had a little bit of disposable income, and paid holiday time, but there was nobody to go on holiday with. A much more well travelled cousin encouraged me to visit her in Thailand, use her home as a base and look into some group travel as a way to explore Asia. Reading trip itinerary's got me excited, but Asia semi-alone seemed a little scary. Fear of the unknown held me back. But the seed of the idea of group travel had been planted. Perhaps I could see more of my own backyard? I switched from brochures about Asia to brochures about small group travel closer to home, and a trip caught my attention: travelling from Darwin to Broome, along the Gibb River Road, camping, swimming in fresh water gorges, visiting El Questro and the Bungle Bungles.

Now it turns out that travel agents have this great skill – you make an enquiry, they hold something – say a tour and some flights provisionally, and then they tell you you have so many days to pay or you will loose the booking- they give the reluctant, pondering traveller such as myself a deadline and a fear of missing out. Which is I suppose how I went from enquiring about availability and flights to being alone in a fetid hallway.

That day we travelled out of Darwin, and after a swim beneath sun drenched rocky escarpments at Edith Falls and a long drive, we camped on lush grass at Timber Creek under strange, majestic upside down looking boab trees. On the second morning there was only kangaroo poo outside my tent. Big improvement, but I missed being amongst my people.

In early photos from the trip everyone is standing up very straight with their hands tucked behind their backs or in their pockets. We are travelling together, but we were not together. Those first days I dwelt on the contrast of how much more comfortable I was on camping holidays with friends or family. I was hyper aware of the little groups that existed within our 'small group' – I was not part of any group. There were two brothers travelling with their wives who spoke minimal English and were easily thirty years older than me; other couples travelling together, two friends who had come together, and an assortment of other solo travellers like myself. I felt lonely amongst this group of strangers.


My tent mate was a British doctor,

the start of everyday was a struggle for us- as we were both equally poor at functioning without coffee 

and the itinerary most days demanded we pack up our tent before breakfast. After breakfast we would be on the road again. The Northern Territory and Western Australia have properly Australian distances. We drove, and drove the next day, and the day after that and the day after that. We often drove through the hottest part of the day, arriving at our camp-site in time for a bit of an explore and a swim. Sometimes staying in one place for a night or two before moving on.

I have done a couple of road trips up and down the eastern coast of Australia with my family. Between Melbourne and the Sunshine coast the landscape is dotted with towns and cities. Between Darwin and Broome there are remote indigenous communities, farms that get managed via helicopter they are so huge, wild rivers, a few small towns and rough roads. The most spectacular locations, within the wide open land of the outback that is the Kimberly, can only be accessed via roads such as the notorious Gibb River Road – and its smaller, rougher off shoots.

Even in the dry season, robust, high clearance 4WD vehicles are the only way to attempt the journey if you want to see any of the countryside not immediately adjacent to the Great Northern Highway. There are river crossings, big remote distances without street signs or easy landmarks and changeable conditions. The road can be closed completely during the wet season, and vehicles even contemplating travel in the wet must have a snorkel! The debris stranded high up in the trees marked the height of the water in the wet season. As we covered those big distances I realised how challenging it would be for me, and my townie friends and family to ever embark on this type of journey. Going with a driver who know the terrain, and with an organised group – so someone else took care of all the preparations – gear, food, water etc. was a perfect way to experience this wild corner of outback Australia.

Every destination was absolutely worth the chunk of driving that it took to get there. The contrast of hot, hot days relieved by swimming opportunities in spectacular locations like Bell Gorge was without a doubt a highlight for me. On one of our hiking/swimming adventures we made a non-vehicular deep river crossing. Some strong swimmers (myself included) pushed inner tubes across, floating our boots, camera's etc. to keep them dry. As I gained the far bank, with the kit safely ashore I looked back to see that one of the men in our group was loosing confidence. The water was slow moving, but dark, chest high and the river bed was slippery bottomed. Within a moment one of the tanned and barrel chested German brothers had taken his hand and supported him for the rest of the crossing. The moment: these two men, previously strangers to each other, holding hands as they emerged from the river was not captured by my camera, but the memory is one of my strongest from the trip.

Bell Gorge, Western Australia 2007

There were great reminders that the driving itself was part of the destination. When we drove the 50km 4WD only track into the Bungle Bungles I sat up the front with our guide.

In the truck I could feel every bump, taste the dust and see the blind corners coming – I truly felt like I was in the Kimberly. 

The vast glory of the Bungle Bungles was a great reward for surviving that terrain without the air-conditioning and good suspension of the cabin. We hiked through dry river beds at the base of ancient canyons in temperatures above 40.C and picnicked in the shade of Cathedral Gorge. You can see the evolution of friendships in those Bungle Bungles pictures, we are all a little wilted, very exuberant and our arms are interlocking in the foreground of images capturing a fragment of that majestic Martian landscape of orange beehive domes thrusting up from the earth's crust.

And somewhere along those hot dusty roads, and in between swimming, walking, sweating and wildlife spotting I found I was not travelling with a group of strangers anymore. Perhaps it was Pip and I laughing together everyday in exasperation at our own continued inability to pack up our tent; perhaps it was those helpers who came along and sorted out our tent mess; perhaps it was conversations unfolding along dusty walking trails, by camp-fires and over card games on long drives; perhaps it was sharing snacks and beers at sunset over-looking the Bungle Bungles, watching the colours change on those ancient masterpieces in the cool of early evening. Somehow the alchemy of heat, dust, shared exploration and discovery, bumpy roads, river crossings, the minimal comforts of camping, spectacular locations; combined with cold beer, starry evenings and being away from everyone you know came to equal friendship. I don't recall exactly when the cross over happened – but I do remember looking around at our group scattered about the camp-site one evening and realising that these were my people. I was not on the outside looking in anymore.

Bell Gorge, Western Australia 2007


On the last day I woke up in a tent pitched with a view Roebuck Bay in Broome, Western Australia. I was part of a group formed from people from all over the world who had shared the adventure of travelling through the Kimberly. I was soon to discover the main draw back of small group travel - that hollow feeling you get when the trip is over and everyone disperses back to their real lives.
But you carry those memories with you. And if you are lucky – like me, you will keep some of those friendships going. I caught up with one of my trip mates for a beer a few weeks later in Melbourne – she had continued on from Broome to Perth along the coast – and as I heard her highlights I began planning for my next small group trip. It turned out to be a road trip across America, but that is another story.

Cable Beach - Broome, Western Australia 2007


Many years later I went to visit my old tent mate in her home in Devon. I spent an idyllic few days walking forest and beach trails with Pip and her dog Finn before heading to Scotland to go on another small group trip - hiking in the highlands. I had been travelling in Africa, the Middle East and Europe – doing some small group trips, a family visit with my cousin in Egypt, (I never got around to visiting her in Thailand) and some completely solo travel, again that is another story.

The part that connects to my Kimberly trip, is where that Australian girl, who was a slow starter to solo travel, but was converted by spending two weeks driving through the outback with a group of strangers, found herself on the other side of the world,

trekking through bogs, up and down rain pelted mountains, making more friends from around the world and falling in love with her tour guide.

Four years later I am still here in Scotland, married to the man who led us up to the misty top of Ben Nevis. We have had plenty of adventures together, some of the travel variety, and some involving the birth of our two sons. Lately I have been reflecting that if I had never taken the plunge, gotten out of my comfort zone and gone on that first trip, perhaps I wouldn't be living the life that I am now. And oh what a pity that would be.


Rover mum, Rafa and Finn, Cairngorms, Scotland late 2016



Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Counting down to Christmas

A week or so to go:
Christmas is coming, Christmas is coming, Christmas is coming... and I've done very little.
Edinburgh is bloated with pre-Christmas activities. I think perhaps the intention is to distract us from the gloomy weather setting in – so the locals feel cold and are indoctrinated to think 'ah Christmas is coming' rather than 'ah, must immigrate.' Even though, once the Christmas lights, Christmas market, Christmas jumpers, ice skating, Santa and fire works have all been packed away comes the long dark of January, February and March.

Being Australian the Christmas Jumper thing is possibly the hardest tradition to fathom. There is something deeply uncomfortable for (this) antipodean about Christmas jumpers. You see, I had always assumed that the Christmas jumper moment in Bridget Jones's Diary was pointing out the freakishness of the gift giver in question, but in fact I now realise this is a popular phenomenon- grown men walk the streets with elf jumpers on, and no one bats an eyelid.

Sunday 18th December– an actual week to go!
If I am sounding grinchy I think it is because of all the added pressures of having a three year old in the house. Now is the time that traditions mean something, that memories are made – only I am adrift myself. I grew up with big noisy family Christmases in Australia. We often had to drive from place to place, over committing ourselves, over spending and overeating. There were aunties and uncles and cousins and bubbles and kids and general chaos. My adult traditions around Christmas are about sunshine and king prawns and oysters and my gang of female cousins and gossiping. I am trying to recall my childhood recollections of Christmas – helping to decorate the tree, the anticipation, running into mum and dads room to unwrap presents.

This year we are just... us, our little nuclear family here in Scotland. I am working Christmas Eve and I am working Boxing Day and we have had builders in all month and mummies book distracting her and interrupted sleep patterns to deal with. Very little focus has thus far landed on Christmas.

Monday 19th December– Christmas is Sunday. What's that you say? Christmas is on Sunday! This realisation was followed by much yelling and the slamming of doors.

Once the caffeine settles down I remind myself that we have been 'participating' in the build up. Jon was Santa again this year at the playgroup Christmas Fayre, - so there have been conversations around Santa, and attempts to persuade him that daddy is not Santa ... 'Daddy is Santa.'  I've hung up the cards we've received, and found the Christmas stockings. Rafa was in a Nativity play at his nursery and Finn has come home covered in glitter more than once. We are reading our Christmas book, and we have cleaned up most of the building debris and made some space for a tree. Last night I wrote two cards,  Today I WILL post them.

Finn - exhausted by Christmas. Edinburgh 2016


I'm trying to focus on how to best marry the needs of the two wee ones v's how to 'create' a memorable Christmas day. I have learnt in the past that novelty is not always best when it comes to the babies.

I keep reminding myself that a day just for our little family is probably the best gift we could give the boys. Day to day we more often than not resort to split shift parenting – we are rarely all together all day- so if we can achieve that, plus some presents and some tasty food, talking to the relatives on the phone, that will be enough - won't it?

Tuesday 20th December
I rallied today. Christmas love abounds. Jon cut some branches from the gigantic conifers out the back and put the children's nursery made decorations on them. In the chaos of moving things around to accommodate the builders my collection of nice decorations has been lost. And Jon's ugly baubles are lost also. Pity.

Jon, Finn and I walked up the hill to Bruntsfield to do a local shop- something I made time to do last year- so we would have a nice local 'hamper' for when my brother and his girlfriend arrived from Australia. Today we came home with locally made coco chocolate, sea salt from the isle of Lewis, olives – for me from 181delicatessen, black pudding – for Jon, some stocking fillers from the gullivers toys and a few other tasty treats here and there.

I got home, found one extra bauble for the tree and I put Norah Jones on in the background. Baby Finn pottered about briefly and I looked over the progress of this blog – only to realise that somewhere along the way my wee family has gathered a couple of its own traditions – my biggest one seems to be Jon as Santa – because actually he has dressed up as Santa for the last three years to the mingled delight and confusion of children from regional Victoria to Edinburgh. Another tradition I now see is doing a local shop for special tasty Christmas treats.

'Daddy is Santa.' Edinburgh - 2016


Some years we might travel down the road, others we might fly vast distances or someone special might fly to see us – living the life I live now – inevitably someone will be far from me. Lots will change and more traditions will emerge – but if we continue to be as blessed as we are now – I will try to keep the grinch at bay.


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Cover Art

So much of my communication with the world these days takes place on a screen. Big screens, small screens, in the case of my phone: a repeatedly smashed, repaired, smashed and dropped in the toilet screen. And I am not complaining; computers and phones help me stay in touch with my family and friends in Australia, they help me see the journey of a dear friend as she battles major illness and they help me stay in touch with fellow mummies down the road.

I have recently managed a few non screen based communications. I wrote a letter to my friend Helen in Australia, and received a lovely card and vintage sewing paraphernalia through the post in return. 

an Alice Retrocard in the post from Australia


I also got a great card from my mum to congratulate me for being a 'paperback writer'. The other non-screen communication is of course the book. Ok yes you can access it via a screen, but it is also an object that you can hold in your hands – and the first moment this book – or any book communicates is via the cover. Cover Art is a big deal- No matter what they say, people do judge a book by it's cover – nowhere more so I think than in the world of self/ independent publishing.

For the cover of You Won't Remember This I started out pondering photographs, I spoke to contributor Meghan about using some photography by her husband, I trawled my own travel photo archives (lots of good memories- but never quite the right thing), I got in touch with another photography/mummy friend Amelia Shepherd  who sent me some lovely options, but still I pondered. As the book progressed and I looked about at other travel books I realised that this book was not a 'traditional' travel book. I had poetry, very creative non-fiction and most of all unlike much traditional travel writing, the people were at the forefront of every story, rather than the places. A cover needed to communicate this and I eventually realised that a photo based cover was not going to work. 

I (literally) bailed up the artist who painted the beautiful 'You and your boy' cover artwork. The wee boy's and I were at my mum's in Australia in early 2016 and Gary Yelen (who is a man of many talents; a story in the book, cover artist – and was many years back the sounding board for my blog name before I headed off on my travels) had dropped in having given himself a minor injury doing some renovations to an unequipped house across the road. I gave him access to a sink and some rags to clean himself up, and while he bled into the sink I asked him what he thought about having a go at an image for the cover of the book.

I sent him a photo I thought could be a jumping off point (you can see it on the books facebook page @youwontrememberthis ) and some vignettes of stories from the collection, and I went back to my editing and parenting (a lot of toilet training that summer if truth be told). Not long afterwards Gary sent me the beginnings of an image that was to become the cover. As is often the way with screen communications – I sent back an affirmative reply, he did not get it. Eventually in a chat to his wife I repeated that affirmative, it got passed on to him and we went forwards.

It was not until Gary was back at his French life working at his gallery frukt and I was back at my Edinburgh life that I got to see the finished painting off screen – I was delighted – I had an image – but not yet a cover. 

With my foray into publishing I had also decided that the timing was right to 'brand' myself. If my Flamingo Rover blogger identity was to move forward in the world it needed to do so with style. As with so much of this project branding and book design was entirely new to me. With the screen of my computer bringing a plethora of design options to my feet I went with (as we often do) someone I was familiar with. I love my husbands logo, it was designed by a friend of his 15 years ago – and as far as I was concerned it did not look dated – a key element to a logo. And as luck would have it she still worked in design and had an office space that opened onto a kid friendly cafe. On a hot Edinburgh day I took the small boys on the bus down to Leith to visit Jenny Proudfoot at the Drill Hall to discuss logo's and cover design.


The meeting itself was mayhem. Rafa demanded all my attention, Finn was grotty and grizzly, but we managed the beginnings of a conversation which continued back and forth – sometimes on screen and sometimes in person until I had both a cover design and a logo.

One of the new Flamingo Rover logo's!


One of the things Jenny and I discussed was the way the colours of the book would communicate. Now I do love my pink, but I wanted the book to appeal to more than just mummies, ie- not to look like chic lit (which I love by the way). In a happy compromise I got to keep pink with my logo and (I think) I have ended up with a beautiful book cover which perfectly suits Gary's painting.

With the book in hand, and baby Finn in the pram, I trekked about to some landmark Edinburgh bookstores. It was an educative experience. By the end of the morning I had come to realise that there is a universal horror of self publishing. An almost identical quiver of horror ran through each and every bookseller I approached – until they saw the book, at which point there was a little sigh of relief.
Cover Art win. (Ok yes having a nicely bound book with an ISBN also helped)

You Won't Remember This - travel with babies


Thanks (at least in part) to the attractive book cover you can now buy the book from an actual bookstore - Word Power Books, and in a nice bit of synchronicity, our second retail outlet is also on Nicholson street. Word Power is in Edinburgh, UK and Foundry is in Bairnsdale, Victoria Australia- but both Nicholson Street.


Friday, 11 November 2016

FR Publishing, FR Published?



In the underrated film Sex and the City II Carrie announces 'I've been cheating on fashion with furniture.' I have a similar confession to make, I've been cheating on blogging with editing/publishing. 

Twenty writers from around the world (OK 19, plus me!) have trusted me with their stories of travel with babies, they have waited patiently while I edited, had a baby, looked after it,  landed in hospital with mastitis, bought a house, stripped wallpaper, painted, moved furniture about, wished my boys would have a nap at the same time, travelled to Australia, edited a bit more, attempted to learn about typesetting, realised it was beyond the scope of my abilities at this juncture. They waited while I fiddled about with my introduction, pondered various options for cover art, contemplated book dimensions... made decisions, lost the bits of paper I had made the decisions on, started all over again, had my computer re-booted, went back to work at my day job and picked up every single possession off the floor every day, only to find it had been thrown on the floor again twenty minutes after my boys got up in the morning. Non of this is in any particular order, but it was all going on throughout the books gestation.

Finn cooling down at Lake Tyres, Australia 2016


It is a scary thing to take on something you are not very good at (editing) and something you know nothing about (publishing) and work at it and work at it and work at it. Sometimes I wondered if I was taking so long because I was hesitant about putting it out into the real world; but mostly I was just super excited about sharing it, and frustrated by my incapacity to move forward as quickly as I would have liked.   

BUT... the project I began long long ago, and blogged about here and there has finally finished its gestation and been birthed into the world. There are real books, with pages you can turn and dog ear, a cover you can pat, stories you can read and re-read and even scribble on if you wish.

I know everyone says this about their book, but my book is a true beauty: from its cover art by Gary Yelen, its cover design (and my lovely new logo) by Jenny Proudfoot, its splendid typesetting by Hewer Text, and most especially the stories collected inside. You Won't Remember This - travel with babies - has it's very own website and I can't wait to send the book out into the world. 

't 


Friday, 13 November 2015

Wordless

As this wet and windy week has gone on I have fallen in a bit of a physical heap. Various aches and pains laying me low. A sore throat has been the latest symptom added to the list. Nevertheless I managed a 'very' social day yesterday – which included an afternoon playdate at a friends house with lots of mummy and kid chat, and an evening out to celebrate a work colleges promotion – being on maternity leave I had lots of news to hear and share. By this morning I could barely manage a whisper. Usually even if I am a little horse my voice will find its way back before to long. But not today. Today I am voiceless.

Looking after a toddler – who is himself learning new words at a rapid rate – without a voice has been interesting. A lot of our usual conversations go like this:

'Mummy'
'Yes Rafa'
'Mummy'
'Yes Rafa'
'Mummy'
'Yes Rafa'
'Mummy'
'Yes Rafa'
'Mummy'
'Yes Rafa'
'Mummy'
'Yes Rafa'
'Mummy'
'Yes Rafa'

And I wait, always saintlike for him to get to the point. He is evolving. His conversations with strangers of: 'Hi,... by', now sometimes have a few words thrown in the middle, and even if he does not know all the words he does this very cute 'mumble mumble mumble dog mumble' - sentences in waiting. I have been thrilled with him learning to say Finn, on top of his usual repertoire of Mummy, daddy, baby. Anyway – the point is he expects a response! And I have had to whisper at best, which is confusing – and confusing, or frustrating a toddler is not something you want to do.


Our two boys in Autumnal Edinburgh, 2015


I did not dare take charge of walking Rafa along the street today. It is a challenge which requires a very firm voice – with clear 'Stop' commands. Luckily Jon was home and able to look after that task.
While Jon and the little boys went off to playgroup, voiceless me took my laptop to the local cafe to send some emails – a task not requiring a voice aside from an apologetic whispered 'Flat white.' I got on well enough. People who come to cafes with laptops are expected to be anti-social after all.

When the boys all came back after playgroup I took wee Finn and gave him a feed – he and I like to be together without words. Jon told me about the playgroup events and I nodded along.  Somehow due to the small cafes configuration Rafa ended up in a high chair adjacent to the woman sitting behind us in a wheel chair. Armed with a pork pie and plenty of words he did his best to chat with her and she did her best to chat back.

'Mumble mumble mumble mummy,' said Rafa
'Yes,' said the lady
'Mumble mumble mumble mummy,' said Rafa
'Yes,' said the lady
'Mumble mumble mumble mummy,' said Rafa
'Yes,' said the lady
'Mumble mumble mumble mummy,' said Rafa
'Yes,' said the lady
'Mumble mumble mumble pie,' said Rafa
'Yes,' said the lady.

As their chat went on – and round and round I began to realise that her chat was as limited as Rafa's and mine – though for different reasons. She had perhaps suffered a stroke at some stage. Rafa eventually got restless and I turned around to him. The woman's face showed her delight in realising that there was a smaller baby nestled in my arms and the movement I made distracted Finn from his settled feed – and drew his attention to the woman smiling at him. He smiled back. Sharing the delight of a beautiful babe in arms does not need any words. 

As the day has gone on it has been interesting to see how communication between my husband and I is impacted by my not having a voice. I have been limited to 'necessary' additions. A bit like speaking to someone who does not speak much of the same language – you are not going to speak of feelings or tell involved tales, you are going to ask where the bathroom is, and how much the beer costs. 

His speech however has been in full flow! With no pesky wifely interjections he can tell long Nordic sagas whilst I can only listen and nod along. If the occasion should arise that I should need to leave the room to feed the baby I can only hope I have the chance to catch his eye before I go in case he continues telling the story to an empty room.

Rather than calling out from room to room with a list of tasks I think he should be doing, if I want to speak to him I need first to make sure I have his attention. A touch on his arm, and eye contact needs to precede my quiet murmurs – or else all the effort is blown off in the wind. Nordic sagas aside I did at one point remind him that he need not whisper back to me, but there is something nice about looking your beloved in the eye and speaking the quiet important things that need to be said in the day.

Silence has interesting resonances. Pesky, frustrating at times, but on occasion the unsaid, or quietly just barely spoken connects us all.