Sunday, 28 October 2012

Our place

Our house is old. It's walls are made of stone and around the windows this stone is visible like a Henge, the bones of this home. The floor is also stone and there is a groove worn where generations of people have shuffled through the doorway.

I do not keep it neat and tidy although it's the sort of cottage that should be. There are vagrant clothes on the stairs, in the kitchen and on the back of the sofa.This sofa is battered and stained but covered with a crocheted blanket to protect its modesty. Dust heaps often gather in the corners of the stairs.

In a high wind the windows rattle and the house sprouts draughts from every tiny crack. These same cracks let in our little winter visitors, the mice, looking for crumbs and warmth. An old aerial creaks on the chimney.

There isn't a lot of room, it's a bit of a squash if people come to visit. We eat in our living room at a small pine table covered in scratches, pen marks and tiny divets where Monty has banged the tines of his fork into the table with force. Some say it is an impractical house for a family with two growing boys.

And yet...

Morning light comes into the back of the house through a filter of tree canopy.Out of the kitchen window I watch  it dance with the woods, blinking and glinting, switching on and off with the movement of leaves. This is the same sunlight I see touching the tip of the opposite hill and moving down through the landscape as the day progresses. In the afternoon it fills the front rooms, sometimes dazzling but always welcome.

Our view is perhaps the hardest thing to imagine giving up. It's a pastoral cliche - all fields, farmhouses and wooded hills. This house stands on the opposite side of the valley, we look down upon the tops of trees and the flights of birds; we can watch the river rumbling by. There is a big open field which the deer particularly love to visit. Each time I see them, I am moved by their wildness. This year I watched them with their young, springing and sprinting, mad with freedom.

I'm finding it hard to imagine giving up these familiar scenes for somewhere more practical, but I think that the time may have come. We could do with a little more space and I hanker after a garden, a bit of earth to call my own. I had hoped that we might be able to move into another old stone house near some woods with a breathtaking view, but unsurprisingly there aren't many of those about that remain affordable. We have found a house that has been loved, with garden enough for growing and fruit trees in the hedges. In a few days we will hopefully hear from another who seems to love our little cottage, then we'll just need to let go and try and discover the romance in a different sort of house, in a different sort of neighbourhood. And so we wait...

(The woods outside our door)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Golden boy

A grey tarmac road, a track, a field, a gate. My golden haired boy runs and darts, feet barely touching the ground. He is smiling, all teeth and dimples; backwards and forwards he goes, offering arms to lift and hands to hold then pulling away to freedom and the joy of swift movement. There is a gang of us on this expedition but I cannot keep my eyes or my camera away from this little one with the bright halo of hair.

Both of my boys have mounds of hair upon their heads; it's amazing stuff that just gets bigger and fuller as it grows. Eli's has lost its blonde innocence and I think this winter may take the light from Monty's too. This could be the last time I get to capture the glow of those curls; the light scattered like fairy dust along the threads of his mane. The shimmering, shining wonder of it.

My brother and my dad had the same thick golden hair when they were children, but sadly they both lost a large amount of it when they hit their twenties. I think it came as a shock to my dad at the tender age of twenty-one to suddenly have his crowning glory coming away in drifts. To this day, he blames the standard issue army beret he was obliged to wear during his National Service. I'm more inclined to blame genetics, when I and others appreciate my boys' locks, it is always edged with a slight sadness that this gift may be lost before they are ready to part with it. So for now, we let it grow long and luxurious, a tangle of tresses to trap the light with.

(Can you spot the little sprite in the trees?)


This is my late post for the Nurture Photography Challenge - there are some stunning pictures that people have contributed on the theme of yellow/light this week. I can recommend having a look.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Popping in...

I've been slightly absent around these parts of late but I'm still around, just busy! We've been having a lot of fun, learning some new things, spending time together and with friends and watching the leaves fall ever more thickly from the trees that are all around us. There have been good amounts of sunshine helping the season along and for that I am grateful.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Catching the worm

I wake early, so early that the soft warm place I occupy like an animal in its den is reluctant to let me go. The weight of the blanket around me pins me to my place and in that second I know I must break free or remain captive to the clinging bed. With an effort of will I step into the new-come chill of unheated autumn house.

I tread with care as I gather my comforts in the dark, slippers and soft jumper, barely breathing lest I should wake an interruption to my daily rituals.

Downstairs, the moon is still awake, casting its blue light over kitchen surfaces, I look for it but cannot find it so content myself with dreaming a moment longer in the glow before turning on a light and bringing the room into reality.

With sleepy hands I rinse out the coffee pot and refill it. I am emerging now from my otherworldly haze and glad of the quiet and solitude, grateful for these moments that are only mine. The smell of brewing coffee fills the house and I am reminded of a man lying upstairs who will catch a waft of reassuring familiarity.

Pulling a blanket over my knees, old woman that I am, I wallow in my little piece of time. Soon there will be steps upon the stairs, little voices declaring their hunger, little bed-warm bodies folding into mine. There will be some tension as we settle into our day roles and jostle for our place in this pack. There will be noise and negotiation, discord and discussion.

But now, right now, there is just me.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Fade from green

Today, in an effort to improve my photography skills I'm joining in with Bumbles and Light who are hosting an Autumn themed photo challenge. Each week there will a prompt to encourage those taking part to get
out there with our cameras and have fun. Although I love taking pictures I'm still a bit of a novice so this seemed an ideal opportunity to pick up some tips whilst enjoying being inspired by the themes of the week. 

This first week's prompt was 'Green/Journey' so living in possibly the greenest part of the entire planet I thought I could probably manage this one. Everything in this bit of the soggy pennines seems to be covered in moss, if the people stood still long enough I'm fairly sure we too would be covered in green hairy coats. It's incredible stuff, bright and springy close up but looking like ancient velvet upholstery covering tree trunks and branches. These pictures were taken at Hardcastle Crags, which feels like the epicentre of this wet and sodden land. It is so beautiful though, with a rushing river complete with stepping stones and acres and acres of woodland.

The trees are still clinging to their foliage and except for one or two trees brightly blazing yellow, leaves were mostly still green. We all love it here so much, if we came every day there would be new things to discover and enjoy.

I'm not sure my photography really captured the day - I really wanted to try and get some mossy loveliness but the day was grey and the light flat...challenging conditions for my untutored eye. I enjoyed the challenge though and am looking forward to taking part again next week.

Nurture Photography Autumn 2012 Button

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Education otherwise...

I've been asked on a few occasions about how we're all doing with our adventures in home education, so a few weeks into Eli's full-time 'unschooling', I thought I'd offer a report of how we're getting on. 

On the whole it has been great, spending time with Eli on his own has been a real gift. In our first week there was a real skip in his step and we enjoyed some perfect golden moments when everything felt just right.

Since that first week challenges have crept in, as they will, but nothing that some thought and good management couldn't put right. It's sometimes hard to get the balance right between social engagements and quiet time at home, and of course, having Eli with me all the time means there isn't much chance for me to switch off.

There's plenty to feel good about however; Eli has started reading which is a great relief for me. I've been trying to hold onto the wisdom that all children surrounded by books will learn to read in their own time, but I knew I'd be nervous until he actually started being able to put letters together. I was never totally relaxed about just leaving him to it, so I've put various things in his path like a Letterland book and a Montessori moveable alphabet, but mostly it's been his own motivation and enquiry that has lead us to this point. He's been enjoying writing for a while, asking us how to spell out various words and I think again the Letterland book really helped us with that - if he didn't know what a letter was we could refer to the corresponding character and this prompted his memory. 

I have no idea how they teach reading in schools so my approach has been mostly based on instinct and knowing Eli's moods and preferences. The real breakthrough only happened because he decided, very definitely, that he wanted to read. I've been enjoying his triumphant exclamations when he manages to read a word totally without help, it's an amazing thing to witness. 

Other than reading, we've been drawing, cycling, shopping, talking, climbing, swimming, cooking, having fun in the woods, meeting up with friends, and all the bits in between. I think I'm learning to relax a little and trust in his own innate ability to learn. I know there will be tough times, when I worry about how differently we're doing things, when I feel weary and low on resources; but I can't help feeling that for as long as it lasts, this is a special way to live.

Recently, on a bike ride, as we were zooming down a hill beside a river, Eli shouted at the top of his lungs 'I'm free!'. How wonderful it was to hear it.