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New Year

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Sunday Scavenger Hunt


Wellies on, folks. Fetch clipboards and pens. Pack a bag with chocolate buttons to bribe them with half way round when they lose interest. Plan a route and make up your list of things you’re likely to see in your little space of the world (it’s a good feeling to get home with all the boxes ticked) and have a big pile of cake or the equivalent waiting back home to reward your grubby, small adventurers with.

Kai knows our neighbourhood pretty well so drew us a map of where he thought we should go. Getting him to draw his own version of our ‘treasure list’ helped to give him a mental map of the things we were looking for so he stood a better chance of remembering them on our way round (it also killed some time while I had a shower. Ha.)

We decided on a BONUS sheet too – good to add to if you reach a bit of the walk where you treasure items are a little unforthcoming. Ours was leaves of different colours, with spaces to stick down leaves of each colour as we spotted them (pack sellotape).

Next time I want to do a sounds list. Get them to listen for bird song, dogs barking, a car horn, the wind whooshing, wet branches dripping. I’d have liked to have had a list of a few more wildcards too – writing down the most interesting thing we saw that had been thrown away, writing down an unexpected sound we heard, or a word we saw written down. (*steers Kai past our urban graffitti*).

It was a beautiful morning for us. I hope you have as much fun as we did.


One hour, and one VERY illusive bug later (turns out bugs do NOT like damp November days) … RESULT.

Happy treasure hunting.

(NB. Not Hitler’s dog. FOUR DOGS. Four ticks. Yikes)

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And she gazed at the sky and the sea, the land,

The waves and the caves and the golden sand,

She gazed and she gazed, amazed by it all,

And she said to the whale, “I feel so




{From Julia Donaldson’s ‘The Snail and the Whale’ which we read at bedtime tonight,

with love from a consummate gazer, who found her own ‘golden sand’ today.}

Happy Weekend.


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On Paying Attention

I’m making paying attention my own personal art form. I think if I can get really good at anything in life, I’d like it to be this.

And of all the things to teach me how, I’m finding not being well, and, more specifically, pain is the thing helping me to learn what mindfulness really means, that word I’ve come across in books sometimes but never really understood.

When the now hurts, or we don’t like it, it’s the easiest thing to try and escape from it. You sink yourself in the past, or in longings for things to be different, you make excuses, or you fantasise yourself into something else. Anything to make now Go Away. Or at other times the temptation is to do the opposite. You put your pain on like a cloak, wrapped around your head until you can’t see anything else, hiding everything else under it, becoming it.

None of these have ever really worked for me, never made anything better, although I’ve tried them all, over and over. All help you to endure in one way or another, but they don’t really give you strength, not really, and it’s all a strength game, this, that’s the thing we’re after in times of hurting, isn’t it? It is for me, what I really want through all this, strength to overcome, endure with some grace, I don’t know, but yes, strength please. And I’m learning what seems like an escape is often the thing that robs you of strength, not gives it, self-deceptions and avoidance and self-pity becoming fingernails under scabs that you didn’t even notice scratching.

When something hurts I’m learning the thing to do isn’t to pull away from now, but to rub your face in it. You don’t switch yourself off, you turn yourself UP. And you focus on everything in your now except for your pain.

On the really bad days, and today was one of them, I’m learning to make it my art form, a kind of slow dance of attention, moment to moment. It doesn’t make pain go away, but it helps it pass. It’s not easy, christ, I don’t want to pretend that it is. Sometimes I have to fight and fight to focus on anything other than the fact I’m hurting, and today I lost it for great long stretches, but it can be done, one tiny moment at a time. I’m getting better at it every day, I think. I hope.

And somewhere in all the little moments of paid attention, there is a really true release, a stillness of mind, and yes, strength. From seemingly nowhere it’s there. It’s like alchemy – I love it, the way I can somehow turn the tiny moments of everyday into that longed-for elixir. You find yourself drip-fed strength. Not loads, but enough. And the best thing is that once you’ve learned how, it makes the happy times better, too. You learn to give them they attention they deserve. Sometimes you start noticing tiny bits of happy you were always too distracted to notice before, but that were probably there all along. That’s the other thing I’m learning to syphon out of life, joy. Strength and joy. I reckon I could probably do anything with enough of them.

Today I didn’t manage much of anything impressive, but I did dance my slow dance of attention.

I let hot water run over my hands and for a few precious seconds I was nowhere but there. I noticed the pattern of birds in the sky, and the colour of peeling paint, and the shapes of leaves on the pavement, and the taste of my tea. I made myself spend a few minutes focusing on thick yarn under my fingers rather than on my sore fingers itself. And I laughed, lots. Because if you’re paying attention, when something is funny it’s REALLY funny. I’ve never laughed so much as I have lately.

Kai is my favourite. A moving, sensory picture book to pour over. I watch the way his face changes as he talks. I try to isolate every nerve on my knee that’s tingling with the weight of his head on my lap. I watch tiny bubbles pop on his back in the bath, and feel the shape of his limbs under the warm towel.

I didn’t do much today but I was very much here and here, it turns out, was full of good things.

Here’s to now. x

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I curl up in bed in the dark because I am weary and my very me kind of quiet, the kind that involves needing to lie very still because thinking and feeling places are a little concussed, and I listen to my asleep son breathe.

Because I am full of missing, I lie in the exact same place and position I was as I lay the night before with my forehead pressed up between the shoulder blades of my lover, letting the rise and fall of his breathe rock me to sleep. The memory of my one love’s breath mingle with the now sounds of my other love’s, and my own, till there is nothing to tell them apart and we are all together again in a long inhale exhale.

I think if love had a sound it would be something like the sound of breathing. Something rhythmic and life-full, made of ebb and flow and warmth.

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