The second, the second….

Logrona to Najera… 31 km.

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31kms is a long way for  us pseudo new walkers, it has taken many glasses of cider to recover!

The streets of Logrono were sleek with overnight rain when we left it this morning.

For a while we walked with someone from Poland.             ” I have lived in London for 15 years,” she says. ” That is enough. I am looking for peace.”

And with a sense of purpose she strides on ahead of us into the calm of the national park we are about to walk through, full of butterflies and birds and hungry carp.

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At the top of a path that has meandered around the edge of a mountain, Ninesh is greeted by a cry of joy.

”  The second, the second,” says a complete stranger in French. He holds out his hand and pats Ninesh happily on the shoulder and then., as if suddenly remembering his manners,  he pauses. ” sorry, my name is Vincent, but you are the second black I have seen.”

Without a pause, Ninesh shakes his hand and smiles. “How disappointing that I am not the first,” he says. And we begin the descent.

But there is no sense of  maliciousness in the language of the Camino. The joy is genuine. The honesty refreshing.

The Camino is about what joins us: the Way. Whoever walks it is part of an undefined, unbarriered family where difference is something to be celebrated and people feel safe enough to say what they think.

” So why are you walking the Camino?” I dare to ask everyone I meet.

And always they have a reason.

Many have reached a point of change or transition in their lives and are trying to decide what to do next:

The student from Belgium who has reached the end of her study and is trying to decide what to do with the rest of her “real,” life.

Carmen from New Zealand who has devoted the last 16 years to her kids and is trying to come up with a new business idea.

Bernd from Germany who is ready to step back into working life after being a carer for  his dad for so many years.

Perhaps it is the constantly moving on, the looking forwards not backwards, the thinking about tomorrow not yesterday.

Perhaps that is what makes people believe they will find what they are looking for.

The Camino, so unfathomably old, drives you constantly forwards.

Perhaps all it does is make you realise what you already knew.

Perhaps all it does is make you realise that if you can walk so far today, you can do it again tomorrow. And if that is possible, then isn’t anything?

We walk and dream and hope and laugh ( with just the odd blister plaster Ibuprofin to numb the pain).

And tomorrow the way will be a little easier.

Tomorrow our dreams will be a little clearer.

Tomorrow there might even be fewer hills.

 

 

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Word Ropes and Brexit Tapas

Los Arcos to Logrona….. 28km

We left Los Arcos dawn-drenched, the sky streaked with purple and orange behind us.

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In front of us our shadows stretched long across the wide openness of the Camino, an empty page, ready to be filled wit whatever the day had to bring.
For a while it was almost possible to believe that we were the only people wandering through the wide, empty peacefulness of that early morning world.

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But the one thing you learn as a Camino pilgrim, is that however early you start, there will always be travellers in front of you.
In the early morning light, people seemed lost in worlds of their own, but as the sun gained heat, so did the number of travellers.
On a steep climb through a wooded hill we met an older man. Stopped half way up the hill, he seemed to be waiting for us.
” where are you from?” he asks.
We had a long way to go and a little part of us wanted to plough on through.
But that is not the Camino Way. If someone makes conversation, you drop into step with them. Time is not something to be defined by the distance still to travel.
Barely waiting for us to reply, he began.
Stopping sporadically to inhale deeply and wipe the sweat from his brow, he told us about himself.. How Though American and currently living in New Hampshire, he has lived in England and Spain, both he and his wife have had high powered jobs and his children are very successful, He is expecting his first grandchild in London soon.
And that this is his third time walking the Camino..
By the time we got to the top of the hill there was not much about his life we did not know.
What he knew about us, was that we came from England. Something that he had guessed when we said hello.
He stopped next to a scattering of red plastic chairs that had been placed next to a folding table where someone was selling water.
On the other side of the chairs, out of nowhere, piles of stones had been balanced in an amazing creation spreading across the brow of the hill.
“I’m going to grab a water,” he told us, already lowering himself with relief into a chair and barely registering the extraordinary and unexplainable piece of art next to him.
And just like that, our job was done.
We had helped him use his words, like a rope, to pull himself up the hill and he had made it.
The Camino gives you what you need.

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We left him chatting idly with someone he had met the night before and headed on towards Logrono
Through wheat fields and wooded hills, almost drunk on the scent of honeysuckle, so sweet it seemed to cling to our clothes.
Through towns with ancient cobbled streets, Sunday’s church bells echoing through the streets
Around us children play and families cook Sunday lunch.
“Buon Camino,” they shout from windows and shops.
“Boon Camino,” laugh the children, dribbling footballs around us.
We smile and walk on, travellers walking a living ancient trail.
Past and present so tightly entwined they cannot be separated.,
The Camino forms the very fabric of this part of Spain.
No one is surprised at the dust- covered, foot-weary strangers who walk.through their high streets and wander into their bars and restaurants asking for Wifi codes or foot ointment or toast and butter.
But in Spain, even when there is no toast, there is always tapas.
We have just spent the evening in a tapas bar with Fabian.
He is a French force of nature with views on everything, walking the Camino for the second time.
” I just need to empty my head,” he says.
Over tortilla and mini burgers and Spanish charcuterie, we talk about Zola and the new religion of consumerism and the deliciousness of tapas and, of course, Brexit.
Fabian laughs at the passion with which we defend our desire to stay in Europe.
“There is too much wrong with it,” he says, with a French shrug.
” I think maybe we should just sit here  drink wine and eat tapas.. and see what happens.”
And with a glass of local Rioja in my hand and the taste of tortilla con patatas on my lips, it was hard not to agree.

Perhaps there are some things that even the Camino cannot answer.

 

 

A Blog a Day the Camino Way First day back …

 

So we are back.
A year on and we are ready.
Ready for the blisters.
Ready for the aching shoulders.
Ready for the dreams and stories.
Ready for the ancient Camino magic.

We are are beginning from where we ended last year: Los Arcos.
Back in the square where, foot-weary and triumphant, our 138km walk came to an end and I ceremoniously dumped my falling-to-pieces walking boots in a cafe bin.
Now I have new boots but Los Arcos remains unchanged.
Cut into the hillside, its narrow cobbled streets overhung with geranium-filled balconies eminate serenity, despite its lively bars.

 


It is a good place to start the next stage of our journey.

Already on the bus from Bilbao we could feel the Camino pulling us in.
“Excuse me,” says to Ninesh to a sallow- cheeked traveller ” but I think you are sitting in our seat.”
If it were not for Ninesh, my husband’s, careful planning, most of our nights would be spent on mattresses on the floor.
He has spent the last year planning this trip with me helpfully agreeing every time he booked the next hotel or hostel.
Even our bus journeys were pre-booked after time-consuming hours of internet surfing to track down elusive independent bus companies.
Not just booked but the best seats at the very front of the bus reserved.
So when we found someone else sitting in those painstakingly researched seats, I could see Ninesh’s pre-planned heart sink.
” I am so sorry,” said the seat-occupier, ” I didn’t know seats could be booked.”
And so we struck up a conversation with Bernd.
From Hamburg, he too is returning for the second part of his Camino journey.
He too has not been able to let go of the memories, although unlike us he only booked his flight 2 days ago.
” I had to come last year,” he said. ” I had a hard year. My mum was dying and I have been caring for my dad with dementia for 16 years. I suddenly realised I couldn’t do it anymore. A friend told me about the Camino and I just came. I didn’t book anything. But on the Camino that doesn’t matter.”
He pauses and looks out of the window at the gently sloping fields.
” You know,” he says, ” I have never experienced such a sense of open-mindedness. I know now that when I walked it last year all alone, I just knew… knew that I was in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. It helped me to decide what to do.”
For a moment he stares at me intently, his grey eyes magnified by his glasses.
“That’s what the Camino does,” he says. “It gives you what you need and takes away what you don’t need.”
And suddenly I am reminded of one of the travellers we met last year. She was running away from pain and heartbreak. Looking for a new start, for answers for the questions she was too scared to ask.
” I realised as soon as I started walking that I had forgotten my sun hat,” she told us ” I really needed it but I didn’t want to go home and get it. I didn’t want to go back. But it was so hot. And suddenly there on the path in front of me was a sunhat. Black. Just like the one I had left behind. That’s what the Camino does,” she told us. “It gives you what you need.”

I am not sure what it is that Ninesh and I are looking for.
Rain- free days -definitely.
Time to “just be,” – perhaps.
A step into a future where our life together, no longer shaped by our flown-the-nest -children, needs re-definition.
But like Bernd says, we are open-minded and ready for whatever the ancient path chooses to show us next.
Even if it is only rain clouds and new Decathlon rain capes.

 

How to be A Gap Year Mum.

This is a blog from a year ago and now our son is travelling the world …and he feels just as far away and I dream just the same dreams for him.

48 hours… that’s how long it is until our daughter, Mia, steps onto a plane and into the biggest adventure of her life.
5 months of travelling the world.
5 months of no work, no studying and, best of all, no parents.

” How do you feel?” my friends ask, ” You must be worried. Are you sad? This is it, isn’t it?  She’s leaving home. Does it feel like the end of an era?”
And I pause for a moment.
I need time to think about it.
Because I suppose I should be feeling all those things.
I suppose I should be preparing myself for impending heartache.

But the truth is, I’m not sure how I feel.

As a parent, I have spent much of my life full of the uncertainties that are inherent to a job that has no description, a role that has no rules, cares that have no end.
I spend my days worrying about whether what I have said or done is right or wrong, whether what will happen next is going to be awful or incredible, whether what I believe to be true is actually a threadbare fabric of misconceptions.
Our daughter spreading her wings, floating freestyle through the world for a while, that’s just another one of those things not to be sure about.
Today, like every day since our children were born, I grasp at rags of emotion and wonder how they fit together.
Like every day since they were born, I feel many things a little bit and nothing quite completely.

On this grey, rainy morning, sitting in our little kitchen, in a tiny city, in small, unsettled England, it’s easy to imagine taking flight.
Who wouldn’t rather be heading towards sunshine and dreams-come-true and days of carefree wandering?
 And, of course, I can’t help remembering how it felt to be that young.
To feel the breeze of the future ruffling my hair.
To dip my toe into the ocean of tomorrow and wonder which way the current will pull me.
To feel the intensity of almost perfect moments in almost perfect places.
I remember how that felt.

It feels as though it was just yesterday…it feels as though it was so very long ago.

And now it is our daughter’s turn.

I picture her walking through the departure gates and away from me.
Walking through the departure gates and into the next part of her life.
The painting we have been creating together is almost finished now, the last few strokes beginning to dry, the lines almost, but not quite yet, blurring into memories.

It’s time for her to start creating a new canvas,  to be guided by a new map, with new co-ordinates.
Time for her to follow the beckoning path of the future she has been waiting for.

And she is ready.

I hope that I am.

I picture her walking through the arrivals gate into an airport full of light and noise and colourful confusion.
I picture her, hopes and dreams stuffed into her turquoise ruck sack, stepping out into a hot and steamy world that is too far away for me to touch.

And I hope that it will treat her well.

I hope she returns wearing the stories she lives and the stars she touches like invisible pearls around her heart.

I hope she has the time of her life.

“How do you feel?” my friends ask.
And I can’t answer that.
Because in the end, that is not what matters.
What matters is what we share.

And what we share, is, and always will be… love.

Go well my Mia.

Grief and Rainbows

As it happens, I have spent a lot of the past week thinking about grief and sadness.

That sounds like a miserable way to spend my time, but it isn’t, not really.

A few months ago we were on a “friend-hopping,” road trip around Germany – staying with friends from different phases of our lives.

Friends from a year spent working in a special needs nursery in Hannover more than 30 years ago.

Friends from a time when our children were all so young that the only way you could make friends was by meeting other parents in the park.

And friends from a closer and more painful time.

This week it will have been 8 years since our friend Ceylan died.

She and her family were living in England when we met. It was meant to be their big adventure. A few years living in England, trying on Chichester for size.

From the moment we met, there was a feeling that our friendship was meant to be. Very quickly our lives became intertwined.

Ninesh, my husband and Torsten, her husband, played squash and went to the pub together.  Ceylan and I would spend afternoons chatting and laughing in a mixture of German and English. Her children, Selma and Luis,  were young, (1 and 2) when we met, our kids, 10 and ll, but somehow, even our children bonded.

It was a gift, the friendship that grew.

They were on their way to spend a week skiing with friends from Germany when we got the phone call.

Ninesh and I were just about to go out to dinner.

It was the police at Gatwick airport.  Ceylan had collapsed on the plane, Torsten was in the hospital with her.

“It doesn’t look good,” the police officer said, even though we hadn’t asked, “someone needs to come and collect the children ASAP”

There are things that happen in life that rip through the very fabric of your being  And when you try to piece the threads back together, you realise that you can’t quite remember what the pattern used to be.

That’s what happened on that long, dark night.

The lives we knew were shredded, the pattern changed, replaced by  something less definite, more fragile, less permanent.

I drove her young, young children back from the police station that night.

I carried them up to our spare room and sat with them, and stroked their foreheads, while  they reached restlessly for their mum.

I didn’t leave their sides until their breathing deepened and they found the calmness that comes with deep sleep.

I remember wishing that I could bottle that sense of peace they found that night, keep it safe for them so that they could reach for it when they needed it.

But that’s not how grief works.

In the depth of its pain, you cannot just reach out to find the peace you long for.

Instead you live moment by moment, wondering how you have survived the last minute to make it through to this one.

I sat in the living room, our children and their children sleeping above me,  and I waited  while Ceylan slipped away from us, from the world, from life.

I tried to convince myself that this was a nightmare, that I would wake up soon.

I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t as hopeless as it seemed, that Ceylan would make it.

I tried not to cry when my phoned flashed :

“Our friend Ceylan has passed away. RIP.”

I remember thinking as I read the words,  that I had forgotten how temporary life is.

I remember being scared that I had forgotten to value the things that really matter.

I remember feeling as though a black hole was opening in front of all of us.

I remember wishing that tomorrow would never come.

But it came and we stood there, our 2 children and Ninesh and me, while Torsten told his children that their mum had died.

He didn’t choose other words. He just sat them on his lap, held them tightly  and told them the truth.

That took a sort of courage I do not believe I will ever have.

They were 2 and 3 years old, incapable of understanding the enormity of what he was telling them.

They clung to him, their anchor and their lifeboat in a sea of sadness and confusion and pain

And we stood by and watched, broken by the sense of helplessness that  comes with grief.

That was 8 years ago.

That day, it started to rain.

A storm raged tearing branches from trees and flooding the fields around.

Ceylan did not go quietly.

She was not one who would have left this world without a fight.

It’s been a long and tortuous journey for Torsten and his family.

There have been times when it felt as though the rain would never stop.

But now, 8 years on, Torsten has a new partner, Leni,  and  a new baby daughter, Marla,  who is loved completely and  most especially by her older sister and brother.

Leni radiates kindness and  warmth and a serenity that brings with it a peace and gentle happiness to all who meet her.

She  gives all her  love to  all three children with all her heart.

So this story has a happy ending of sorts.

But it will always be a story shadowed with sadness.

For that is what the grief has become…sadness.

It still wraps itself around them all sometimes but it is no longer a blanket of broken glass, gouching pain and suffering into the rawness of  grief.

Instead it is a blanket of muted colours, softened by memories, traced with the threads and  dreams of what might have been.

There are days when the children wear it like a second skin.

And there are days when it lies crumpled and almost forgotten in the corner of the room.

“The sad truth is that life goes on,” says one of my friends who has recently also lost someone very dear to her.

I nod.

That is the truth, but I am not sure that it always has to be sad.

When we were staying with Torsten and his family, I watched the two older children leaning into their baby sister. Smiling at her, stroking her hair, kissing her forehead, keeping her safe. Allowing their blanket of sadness to slip to the floor.

I  watched their sister, still so tiny, following their every move with her adoring eyes.

And what I saw was hope.

Her love for them is unconditional.  She does not know their story is a sad one.

The pages of her book are blank and she is depending on her brother and sister to fill them with love and laughter and happiness.

Marla is replacing their yesterdays with tomorrows.

And at last, after 8 long years, the storm of loss is subsiding, the rain is softer now, the sun is breaking through.

And where they meet, the sun of tomorrow and the rain of yesterday, there is a rainbow that grows a little bit brighter every day.

 

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Mother’s Muse and Era-ending Blues

So it is almost here.

The end of an era is knocking on our door…and I am pretending not to hear it.  Thinking perhaps that if I do not answer, if I do not let it in, our son, Joss, our youngest child, will not be leaving in two short days to begin his travels of the world and our time as full-time, hands-on parents will be over.

Like his sister before him, he is taking a gap year.

Like her he has worked hard to earn the money he needs.

Like her, part of his months away will be spent in SE Asia.

But unlike her, when he returns, he will only be back for a month before he leaves to begin his studies and a new life in Canada.

It is not the travelling that is filling me with sadness, but the knowledge that this, the first of his big adventures, is the beginning of his leaving, the beginning of a life that will no longer include me.

” It’s a sign that you have done things right,” says one of my friends, trying to comfort me with tea and croissants. ” That your time as parents has been successful. We wouldn’t want our children to grow up afraid to leave our sides. We want them to be inquisitive and adventurous. We want them to be brave enough to live their lives without us. We want them to fly higher than we ever dared to dream. That’s what Joss is doing.”

And I know she is right.

And I am so immensely proud of our fiercely independent children.

But I will miss our closeness.

I will miss the possibility of reaching out just for a moment and touching the unshaven cheek of this  “man-boy,” who has been so much a part of  me  for so many years.

I will miss watching the gentle way he talks and laughs with his friend Pierre.

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I will miss waking up in the morning to a house full of slumbering teenagers and listening to their chatter as Joss makes pancakes for everyone.

I will miss his  over-confident statements that leave no room for dispute, even when he is wrong.

I will miss the patient way he tries to explain incomprehensible IT problems to his grandparents.

I will miss his decisiveness and his quick-witted banter with his friends.

I will miss his drive and his energy and his ability to warm the hearts of all he meets.

I will miss.. him.

In the street acquaintances stop me and ask. “How are you coping with Joss leaving so soon?”

And I want to say “I’m not. I’m not coping at all.”

But that’s not cool.

Being a “cool” parent takes work and effort and sometimes a lot of lying.

Being a “cool” parent can be emotionally exhausting.

So instead I stand on the street and shrug and smile vacantly:

“I’m fine,” I say. ” You have to let your children spread their wings. Life is a big adventure waiting to happen…Joss’s wait is over. He’s ready…”

And he is..ready…. it’s me who’s not.

How un-cool is that.

18 still seems so very young to be starting the rest of your life.

When I was 18 I left England to au-pair in France. I remember the tears I shed at the thought of leaving my boyfriend, the sadness I felt that I wouldn’t see my friends for so long.  But I don’t remember caring  about what my parents felt.

When you are 18, the future is all yours. It lies in front of you, a pool of glittering potential, your past and your parents, a-hazily-dispersing reflection.

When you are 18, life is yours to make of what you will. Not to worry about what your parents think.

And as parents, it’s our job to give our children the courage to jump into the glittering pool and  to start to swim without looking back. We have to understand that our role must change, that instead of being the centre of our children’s universe, we become onlookers, standing on the sideline, cheering them on from the shore.

We must smile and wave and pretend that we are happy with our new-found lack of importance.

But the truth is,  however far from us they may wander, however “other” their lives may become, our children will never stop filling our hearts and heads

Being a parent is not time-limited nor presence-dependent. The moment our children are born, we sign a contract with forever. No small print, no loopholes, no get-out clauses.

I remember a mum once telling me that the thing they don’t warn you about when you become a parent, is that you will never, ever again be able to put yourself first. And she was right. Our children will never stop being the most important thing in our lives.

In front of me, Joss’s backpack stands ready to go. It looks so small, too small to carry a future in its zipped compartments. I always thought tomorrow should be bigger than today but I forgot that dreams and excitement cannot be carried on your back.

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He and his dad are at an Arsenal football match together today. They ( and his sister Mia) have been going together since Joss was 3 but this will be the last one for a long time.  Our days seem to be full of “last ones” at the moment – last days at work, last evenings with friends, last meals with family…..or perhaps that is just a mother’s lonely and melodramatic mis-interpretation of the truth.

What I do know to be true, is that Joss will leave behind a space far greater than himself, a  hole in our home and our hearts and our lives that can never be filled.

Go well my Joss. Come back safe

And know that if you ever feel sad or lonely or confused, our love, that is endless and always, is travelling with you and will not ever let you be alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Calendar Heartache

It’s strange how it is often the smallest things that have the biggest emotional impact.

This week it was a calendar.

It started with me facing the inevitable fact that another year is almost over.

It’s not so much the time passing that I find demoralising as the fact that it means Christmas, with all its tinsled consumerism, must be right around the corner.

I was counting the weeks on the family calendar,  looking at the 4 columns, one for each of the members in our family.

And that’ when it struck me.

After 20 years of shaping our days around the schedule of our children, next year we won’t need a family calendar.

Next year our lives will be reduced to 2  columns:  mine and my husband Ninesh’s.

“What’s the matter,” asks Ninesh, glancing up from his computer.

“I’ve just realised,” I say, ‘that from next year we’ll be a two -column family.”

Ninesh looks at me and looks at our calendar scrawled with squiggly lines and crossings out.

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“Great,” he says, ” not only will we be free to go out whenever we want, only have to cook for two but we will also have more wall space. .  I don’t know why you’re upset, the rest of us never look at it anyway. We’ve been using the calendars on our phone for years.”

And he’s right.

The only writing on the calendar is mine.

But there is something comforting in writing down what we are all doing and when.

Something that makes me feel complete about knowing where everyone is and when they will be coming home.

It’s not the calendar I will miss, but the sense it gives me that I am still a mum.

Under our daughter’s name there is already mostly only a squiggled line.  She is already beginning to make her own life, far from us, enjoying the independence and vibrancy of student life.

But I have written in big letters, the day she will come home.

Our son, still living at home for a few more months has a packed column, full of work and social life.

Ninesh has dinners and racquetball games, and nights out with friends written under his name.

I have meetings and book club and nights out with friends.

We each have our own lives but somehow, on our calendar they are all entwined.

It’s all there, on the wall. Proof that we are a family.

But in February Joss goes travelling and when he returns we only have him for a month before he leaves us to start a new life in Canada.

I’m not sure that I can justify a family calendar that has 2 columns of squiggled and empty lines.  It will be too obvious a reminder that I have no idea what our children are doing or where they are or who they are with.

It’s not a family calendar but a family life that is hanging on our wall.

“Perhaps we can buy a picture,” suggests Ninesh ” or use the space for photos of the good times we are having without our children.”

At that moment a sound like the splintering of breaking glass echoes from all our phones and the words, “there is motion at your front door,” flash up on our screens.

It’s a present we bought Ninesh for his birthday. A front door bell with a motion detector and video and a link to all our phones.  If someone rings our doorbell, wherever we are in the world, we will all know and be able to talk to them through the video screen and tell them that we are not in ( which they might have realised when we didn’t answer the door).

No longer can a postman hide a package under our doormat and pretend they rang the bell.

No more do I have to open the door to yet another charity persuader trying to guilt me into giving monthly deposits to a cause I have never heard of.

The days of curtain twitching are over, we just need to look at our phones to know who we are not letting in.

“It’s just someone delivering a leaflet,” says Joss, walking between me and the calendar and holding up his phone to show me.

“Won’t you miss our calendar?” I ask him.

“Why would I miss a calendar?” he asks, ‘ I never look at it anyway, I just use the one on my phone.”

I refuse to look at Ninesh’s I-told-you-so-smile.

“But isn’t it nice for you to know where we all are?” I persevere.

“I just text you if I want to know that,” says Joss, reaching for the Weetabix.

And I realise then, how ready I am to imbue a piece of paper four columned paper with a symbolic meaning  it doesn’t have.

It is not the calendar I will miss but the identity it represents.

It’s time to re-define my life.

It’s time for our children to fly, I know that.

I did it when I was their age.

Stepped into the wideness of a beckoning world without a backward glance or a care for the breaking hearts I might be leaving behind.

A family is bigger than the lines on a calendar.

It’s not the knowing “where we are when,” that matters but knowing “who we are now.”

It’s not the columns on a calendar that bind us together but an unspoken, unconditional love.

I know, I really do, that just because our children are wandering so far away from where I can keep them safe, doesn’t mean that we are no longer a family.

But I know too, that “knowing where our children are not,” which is at home with us, is the beginning of a future of always missing them.

I pick up a pen and turn to December 31st. In capital letters across 4 columns I write: GOODBYE.

Ninesh sighs, that why-do-you-always-have-to-be-so-melodramatic sigh.

“No one’s leaving on the 31st December,” he says. ”  There won’t be any trains.”

“I’m not saying goodbye to the children. I’m saying goodbye to the family calendar,” I explain.

Joss gives a derogatory snort and puts his cereal bowl in the dishwasher.

“It’s just a calendar mum,” he says.

I turn to look at him, trying to drink in his black, close cropped curls, his deep, almost- black eyes, the calm, kind certainty of his presence.

I force myself to remember how this feels, how he looks.

And I realise that I will never be ready for this 2-columned life.

Our phones vibrate to the sound of splintering glass again.

“It’s just a cat”, says Joss.

“How useful for you,” I say, ” even when you are in Canada, you will know when a cat is walking past our front door.”

And suddenly I am filled with the wonder of modern technology.

There is something that can hold our family together across the miles and oceans and dreams.

All you need is a motion-sensor bell and a video camera.

I will hang my heartache in the space where our calendar used to be.

And whenever I want to talk to Joss or Mia, wherever they are, all l will need to do is dance around on our front doorstep.

And I hope they will know that is it not the motion at our front door,  but the love of a faraway mum that is making their phones vibrate to the sound of splintering glass.

“You could just WhatsApp them,” suggests Ninesh, ” the neighbours might think you were less crazy.”

I sigh my “yes-but,” sigh…because where’s the splintering -glass melodrama in that?

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