Wednesday, 31 October 2007


It's only 5 o'clock, but it's already dark outside this Hallowe'en. I still cling on to the family traditions from the days when there were three young boys in the house with me every day, along with an assortment of dogs, cats and rabbits. These traditions helped to keep me sane when my world was falling apart and so, today, the pumpkins that rather surprisingly grew in the vegetable patch this year - how? why? - have been carved into macabre faces and lit with tea-lights then placed outside the front and back doors to ward off the spirits that roam tonight.

I have spent a lot of time recently walking alone through the beautiful empty autumnal countryside that surrounds me here, a sure way of calming my turbulent thoughts, longing for a dog to keep me company. We have been dog-free for four years now, and I am trying to resist the temptation to fill the dog-shaped hole in my life. My animal family has gradually reduced to two cats and a rabbit. Very manageable. But just recently the desire to have a new little creature in the house has been overwhelming, so a very small ginger kitten is going to join us on Friday. I won't be able to take him for long walks with me, but I can sit and cuddle him on long winter evenings as I read my book by the fire. My son and I have very different ideas about naming him and negotiations are ongoing. Any suggestions gratefully received...

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Late Autumn Sunshine

I should have been in London on Saturday, visiting some old friends, but the trip was cancelled at the last moment leaving me with an empty day. I pottered around desultorily, doing a few chores, wondering if I would go to the coast and sit on the pebbly Sussex beach, read my book and watch the children play in the waves.

In the end, having wasted half the day, I decided to join a friend who had mentioned a folk festival in the nearby market town and had invited me to join her in the pub garden overlooking the high street to watch the procession go by, morris dancers, folk singers, witches and warlocks. A pretty, gaudy sight.

I wandered up the high street taking in the spectacle, then back to the pub garden. As I scanned the crowd looking for a familiar face, someone touched my arm and I found myself face to face with the Man in the Pink Shirt. We hadn't seen each other for a couple of weeks. Things had unravelled. He bought me a drink and we stood outside the pub for a while together, watching the crowd, talking, kissing a little sadly, enjoying each other's company and the late autumn sunshine.

Then we kissed a final goodbye. And parted.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Sea Change

He gets himself up in the mornings now without being called, dresses, breakfasts and chivvies me, yawning and still half-dressed, out of the house.

Spending the summer wondering and worrying - had he done enough? Would he lose something that was important to him? Would he be going back to his school or not? All this certainly put everything in context. And then the triumph. He could do it and he could do it by himself!  Somehow in the last few weeks a wall has come down in my son's heart and mind. Whatever was blocking him seems to have melted, I hope for good. He has visibly matured, grown up and become more comfortable in his skin. We went out in September and bought his first suit, navy blue and washable, but very smart. He chose shirts and a tie, shoes that were neither too smart nor too casual.

And all this new positivity is reaping it's rewards. Staff are pleasantly surprised and impressed and respond to the new person he is becoming, friendships are maturing and being sealed. There is even a pretty girl in the picture - long red hair and coltish legs, and a part in the school play.

Which all leads me to question ... what really was the problem? Because there is no doubt there was a very real and quantifiable problem and that it started when he was very young. What particular combination of genes and family circumstances led us down the difficult path we have both travelled?

I suppose, in the end, it doesn't really matter. The important thing is to negotiate that path day by day and somehow find a way through until the moment comes when he is ready to take over his life. And I can let him go.