December 12, 2018

England, summer

C has a summer job in a university south of London, and we move to a student apartment on campus for a month. The flat is much bigger than what we expected, with two bedrooms, and large windows opening on rooftops and the forest. There's a heatwave in England, and we keep the windows open all day and night to let the air flow. The grass everywhere has turned yellow, and it looks so strange, like it isn't England anymore without all the green meadows. C goes to work early in the morning and comes back at dusk, and so for the first time I am alone all day with Saoirse. It goes fairly well. In the morning, we usually stay home and she plays whilst I clean or do laundry. In the afternoon, as soon as it's not too hot anymore we walk through the forest to the little town, stop for a coffee in a lovely café we found on our first day, or head to the playground. There aren't a lot of children her age, and she usually stares at the big kids on the slide and on the swing. She seems to like it anyway.

The library is our haven. It's relatively colder in there, and there is a space just for young children where we can play on the floor and read books after books after books. Saoirse brings me piles of books to read through, but she also likes to sit by herself, turn the pages and look at the images in silence. My girl.

I find loneliness difficult. Of course she's there and I talk to her a lot, but it's starting to be difficult to never talk to other adults. I think the hardest part of our nomad life is that we don't have a community. I find myself in my head a lot, and that's never a good thing for me. The heat doesn't help. I write these lines in my diary :
“There is something disgusting about summer, the scorched spiky grass against my legs as I watch my child crawl around, the warm sticky air making everything red. There's no shade anywhere, but fifty shades of motherhood, and my favourite nuance is guilt. I'm guilty because today I looked away from a game she was playing, because I wished for her to go to sleep early so I could rest, because we only read her favourite book about ten times, before I caved and asked her to get another one. I'm guilty because I pay her too much attention, and not enough, because I want her to stay small and can't wait to not have a baby anymore.”

Moods break when the weather does. Dusk brings dark clouds and warm rain, and a breath of fresh air runs through the flat. I breathe, too. On the weekend, we walk through the forest together, and sit next to a lake. Saoirse plays in the grass, pointing at dogs and ducks. Callum carries her on his shoulders everywhere now. It's easier when he's here.

In our little café, there are lots of high chairs and plenty of toys and books at kids heights. It's so rare to find a truly baby friendly place, and it's so relaxing to go there. I sit with my chai or smoothie and share a cookie with Saoirse, who ends up with chocolate all over her face. Everybody stares and smiles at her, and she waves hello and giggles. There's a young girl working here with huge dark eyes and incredible second hand clothes – she's so lively and original and looks like an actual fairy, and she always come and talks to me. As we share stories about her life, I realise I am much older than her, and it feel strange – she clearly sees me as a proper adult, with years of travel behind me and a baby in my arms, whilst she is studying and working a part-time job. I want to tell her that I remember being her, doing this. But I also still feel her age, and although I have a child, most days I feel like a child myself. Maybe we all do this, look up to somebody older thinking they have together, and in the end, maybe none of us have it together at all.

December 03, 2018

Escaping to Cornwall

Callum's best friend and Saoirse's honorary uncle Steve has invited us to stay in his seaside cottage in Cornwall for a few days, so we pack a ridiculously small bag (I swear this is the thing about us I'm most proud of) and leave London for the coast. Saoirse is nice and calm on the drive, even if she is more used to wandering through carriages than having to sit still in a car seat. We get to the village late at night – a little coastal town called Boscastle. The cottage is lovely and cosy. Immediately this place reminds me of summers spent in Brittany – the same stone is used to build cottages, the blinds are painted the same pastel colours, and opening the windows you can smell the salt and the water.

The weather is incredible whilst we're there, and we go on long walks along the coast. Gorse and heather are everywhere and in bloom, and gives the places an air of the Mediterranean. It's my favourite thing about the British Isles. When I lived in Ireland, I used to go walk along Brays way and imagine I was in the south of France.

On our first day, we go up to the light house, eat scones and clotted cream, and watch a rowing race from the cliffs. I feel like a complete tourist, and it's wonderful. I have a strange relationship to England now, because although I am definitely not british, I have spent enough time and planted enough roots here than it doesn't feel like being abroad. Both my partner and child are from here, and I understand this place so much better through them.

At night, Callum stays in with Saoirse whilst I walk down to the village to see the Witchcraft museum by candlelight. The south of England is one of the most sacred regions for pagans all over the world, stories and tales from Cornwall merging with Britanny's in one big celtic cauldron. My favourite objects are the mandragora roots, so contorted they look like wailing humans shapes. Walking through the collection of mysterious artefacts, I catch my reflections in old, dusty mirrors and I almost startle myself – who is this woman without a baby strapped to her ? Everytime I go somewhere without her, it's always the lightness, the absence of her weight on my body who is the most noticeable.

The next day, we go and visit King Arthur's castle at Tintagel. The view from the cliffs is breathtaking, although Saoirse doesn't seem to think so and sleeps through the whole walk. We also visits a dairy farm close to Boscatle that doubles as a café. From the building made of glass and wood you can see the waves, and they serve the most delicious food. Callum and I joke that this would be our dream project, opening a place that serves the local community as well as visitors, in a remote, gorgeous setting. We joke, but really, when we start joking about something, it tends to come true, so... who knows ?

Next we go to a beach and I find it so amusing watching the british pretending they're in summer. It doesn't matter that it's only may and that the water is icy cold – everyone is in bathing suit and playing on the rocks. Callum engraves a rock with Saoirse's name, and Saoirse builds little towers. I can't wait for her to experience her first summer.