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.

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