It’s been an intense couple of weeks, with A abroad in the states visiting friends and B starting her new course at Dance City in Newcastle. There’s not enough of me to go around and I’ve been hugely grateful to friends and neighbours for ferrying kids and babysitting when I’ve been working. Hoping for more of a routine now A is back but also feeling the pull of the city as the drive down from rural Northumberland three times a week takes its toll.
I’ve always been a city girl, straining at the leash to leave home as soon as I turned 18 and spending 10 hectic years in London. We moved up to the North, where I had lived as a teenager, when B was not even 2, propelled by joblessness, post-natal vulnerability, a need to be nearer family and a mouse infestation in our Nunhead flat. Many times since I have wondered how I thought I might fit in to a small farming community after the edgy diversity of Peckham. Our proximity to the shiny, bare Northumberland beaches has done much to soothe my restless mind but I need lots of people around me and am enjoying the trips into Newcastle, despite the upheaval to the family timetable.
This morning was dank and hazy, and B was in a foggy mood. The very best thing for her is a race along the beach, so we donned wellies and drove to our nearest village by the sea for some coastal therapy. B and M enjoyed taking pictures – we talked about close-ups and landscape shots, while baby F pretended to be a fierce dinosaur chasing down the ever-speedy Little M. Dropping from the footpath down to the beach, we collected stones to paint and spotted some brilliant birds – a cormorant on a rock, its wings spread, creating a bold silhouette; a heron waiting to grab a fish, greedily eying the water; a massive black-backed gull that B willed to be an albatross; sanderlings, oystercatchers and redshanks darting along the shoreline. Some colour returned to B’s cheeks as the sea worked its magic.
Home for music, as M tackled some theory to help with her piano and drumming and B selected some songs for her grade 4 singing exam in December. Little M has just started the piano, concentrating well for one who, for now, likes formal learning in very small doses. I’m a big advocate of music as an enrichment activity for children. Even though Little M is still sounding out most of her words and learning the trickier blends, she is enjoying decoding the notes on the stave and listening to the harmonies of our duets, and she loves to sing. It’s all great for memory, hand-eye coordination, concentration and motor skills. I remember B really struggling to write when she first started school because her hand hurt when she held the pen. It made me wonder if she needed to be writing at all – maybe the pen was trying to tell her something?! Now she beavers away writing poems and diaries and song lyrics with no complaint at all, but it took some time to convince her that writing could be fun. This way, Little M can write when she is ready.
This afternoon A tackled earthquakes and fairies with the little ones while B and I took the train into Newcastle and spent a gorgeous hour in the Lit and Phil. This is possibly the best place in the world for a bookworm like B, and we crept up the iron, spiral staircase where the old maps and musical scores are stored to explore. An enthusiastic librarian showed us a metre-high linen map-book, hand printed in 1896, and we pored over the vast creamy pages, remarking upon tobacco factories and tramlines. Next we examined a unique book of pianoforte music for ladies, printed at the end of the 18th century, as the librarian told us about Jane Austen’s skills as a musical composer – information devoured by us as we are enjoying reading Pride and Prejudice together at the moment. We discovered that the oldest book in the library is a 16th century book, and that it is also in possession of original writing by Galileo! B found a book from 1825 and ran along the rickety corridor with wide eyes to show me the date etched inside the frail black cover.
A is working for the rest of the week, but Grannie and Grandad are visiting tomorrow promising adventures in the allotment and homemade curry for lunch, so I am spoiled for help this week. And I’ve just booked flights to Belfast for a child-free weekend in November with a dear old friend (more dear than old if you’re reading this P…!). A bright and breezy start to the week.