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In the last few days:

1) A single magpie

2) An older man standing in front of his house, black tie, searching the road for his ride

3) A young man in the same, glancing at his watch,  on a street corner

4) One church, weeping. Afterward, children running through the garden.

5) Yesterday another church, full of celebration. Then suddenly, weeping.


Never known such a time for sorrow and beauty side by side. One way this, another way that. An almost daily parade.  

Last week, M attended the funeral of her friend’s mother with me. We cried together. Later, on the way to the village hall and cake and tea, she held my hand and said that it felt right for her to be there. It did, and was.


Because we have Wonderful Builder in, earlier this month we broke it to the children that there would be no decorations or tree this year. We would be going away for the holidays, we stressed, to a house where there is always a huge tree, garlanded stairs, etc — bliss — so it’s not like they won’t get their fix. Nods of acquiescence all around.

However. The closer we hove the more pleading the looks, so at the weekend out came the box: M’s idea was to decorate their rooms and only their rooms. A little bit of Christmas.

Well. Almost every single decoration and the tree lights along the hall later, I’ve decided that children are much more sensible than adults. Again.

It looks like Christmas. It feels like Christmas. They took two hours stringing tinsel along their beds and paper chains across their ceilings. Baubles on every knob of their chests of drawers. And two nights ago when the lights first flashed on it was, as they say, magical.

Never mind that last night the lights, um, flashed off. So I’ll be at the hardware store today, trying to find a fuse bulb for a five year old set of lights. And probably end up buying a whole new string. It’ll be worth it…


Tatted starAmongst the decorations come my grandmother’s tatted ones, made many many years ago and carefully preserved year on year in a square, christmas-y box. They are strung with red ribbons, starched stiff. We only have five.

M in particular is affected by the concept of time. Yesterday she put on her tiny silver ring, bought last year in France. One of her most precious things she says, because (this seven year old says) it ‘holds memories’. Her shelves are full of objects gathered at such and such a place at such and such a time: wool caught in the fence of her infant school playground, a stone mouse from Pisa, a tiny china bear from her best friend, a ‘key’ she fashioned out of strong grass, a small enamel painting of St Francis of Assisi she chose at the place itself. Etc.

I feel I have no way to disperse this for her, and perhaps I don’t need to. I too have felt it all my life, and remember crying on my twelfth birthday because I would never be eleven again. Sigh.

I suppose that while she makes and arranges objects to remind her, I most often use words to do the same thing, e.g. the memoir work on this site about my beloved grandparents.

M has formed and reflected her life from things around her ever since she was old enough to grasp and hold. There’s no getting round it, and though I know this attentive, sensitive way of getting through the world isn’t a simple (or lucrative!) path to follow…I don’t think she (or we) has (have) any choice. She’s on it.



From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning


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Who am I?

A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.