Wild Boys of Brighton

They don’t like to be damp. They are not fond of wind. Or cold. It was not their idea to take the Family Fishing Rod to Brighton Beach (past the empty mini-golf, over the silent kiddy railway) – it was my idea.

The wind whipped at our coats and although the rain was light it was intrusive.  There was a lot of jumping up and down on the spot, hands covered by jumper sleeves, “…can – we – gooooo?”

We struggled to untangle the invisible line (“Don’t touch it while I’m UNTANGLING it… Go away!” “But, Daddy it’s MY fishing rod!”) and although the wind was unhelpful, eventually we had a line with a hook and a weight and a little float on it.

Then we got out the worms.

They were in a jar in one of the boys’ pockets… the worms were of no interest until the moment came when a worm was THREADED onto a HOOK. In fact, fishing was of no interest until that moment.

The first cast was a beauty – the slick of rod through the air, the slow arc ending in the dark circle of moment as the worm hit the water. Then we realised that it was only the worm that had hit the water. The rest of the line was still with us on the beach.

Another worm, this time threaded without mercy in several places onto the hook.  A quick acquaintance with the way the reel’s locking system worked and a second attempt. Beautiful. Now the boys were hopping up and down in excitement… “My turn!” “My turn!” It seemed the unmoving sea was teeming with boy-sized fish just nosing about near the shore, trusting and curious about a worm squirming on a hook that might suddenly hit the sea floor in front of them. Nibble nibble. The float floated – every boy was SURE it would be snatched beneath the surface any second – come on! Come on fish!  Jump jump jump – some explosions and kung fu kicks to let off the steam of anticipation.  Quiet yelps and gun shots and whispered crowd roars as they waited for the fish to notice the worm. “Hey fish – here you are!”

It was dusk.  The beach was empty but for some die-hards with a lot of Brobdingnagian fishing equipment and all-weather gear further down. On the horizon, fingers of sun made silver columns from the clouds into the sea. I got out my camera but only got this before it died:

…that’s because it’s a phone and I need a new camera that is a camera. So the portraits of happy children excitedly pulling at a fishing line whose end floats only a few feet away in a still, grey sea are lost.

But it was heaven. If heaven is cold – it was very.


Tinsel and Tea Towels

I have seen four tiny Nativities in a week. One involved dancing to “La Bamba” and another this track. Seriously.

This is the New Christmas. We acknowledge the religious nature of the “holiday” but we’re also awfully cavalier and post-post-modern about it.

I’d also say, and this may be the result of being the mother of boys, or it may be a reflection on the vicissitudes of children’s early development, but all of these Nativities were undeniably matriarchal.

The schools’ sound systems’ default setting seem unusally loud.  In one, the chorus was just a row of tiny kids opening and shutting their mouths and waving their arms about in very approximate unison.  Cute though. In another, the angel asked Mary: “Do you want the good news or the bad news?” But we didn’t find out what either was because the sound system drowned out the answer. However, the two-foot-high angels’ gestures implied late-stage pregnancy and the vigorous rocking of a tiny baby so I could have a guess.  Though whether it was good or bad I have no idea.

I do actually, I’ve been through labour more than once – that may have been the bad news.

Or the colic or the cracked nipples or the demise of the pelvic floor. All sorts of options.

“The good news is you’re going to have a baby whose very existence will inspire Great Works of Art and Magnificent Buildings and even Universities – and that’s after being born into a donkey-trough. The bad news is you’re going lose your virginity through giving birth – which kind of flies in the face of all sorts of givens… but it makes you a Force of Nature – and you will be dressed in a blue sheet and synonymous with Good Manners for eternity. All sorts of upsides – here, have a lily.

These days – school Nativities, even in church schools, come laden with complex ironies.

But at least the kids know that Christmas is about Jesus. I am relieved they have some sense of a cultural inheritance that is out of the hands of Disney. Even if do they think the Angel is called Tinkerbell.

The Weather Outside

Since we moved to Lewes there has not been a day when I have not been grateful for the sky. No matter how fraught is that “get them out the gate” bit in the morning – as soon as we hit the gate they are running and there are the downs and the big, big sky.

The other night I was walking home from the train after a day of this in Birmingham. It’s a long way. I get back after the pubs are shut. The streets are empty.  My husband offers me a lift from the station but I like the walk.

The walk is all uphill – half way up the hill it started to rain.  I was first aware of it because I could hear it coming and then in a second, I could hear it hammering the road. This rain we get here – it’s tropical. It’s  assertive and absolute and it comes in under your hat and into your shoes and it finds you.

God it’s fabulous. It’s almost welcoming.

I got home soaked and there is great satisfaction in finally standing dripping and laughing in your hallway.  Fresh socks and an armchair.

The kids also got caught coming home from school today – they slopped into the kitchen giggling and phewing, even though they were freezing and shivering and John not quite sure where to put himself or how much laughing was required. Joseph can’t do some of  this sensory stuff – but he is getting the hang of rain. We make hot chocolate with marshmallows.

I love it here in Lewes. I am still madly in love with living where you can see the sky and the weather coming and where the rain wakes us up in the morning (taptap) and the seagulls are as big as Labradors.

I like your Berghaus

My husband was offered no less than £150 in the street for his Berghaus jacket the other day.

It is an early 90s number.  Better than functional – it is an anti-elemental fallout shelter.  It is loud blocks of primary colour. Primary school, that is.  You could learn all your shapes and colours from that coat.  It is a bit like wearing a very big shoe around yourself. It has a hood like a tunnel so you have to move your eyes with your whole body. It is not snuggy.

A guy said: “I sell them – they’re coming back. Here’s my number. £150.”

He made my old man’s day. Had the guy said, “I really like your coat. Where did you get it?… What’s that? It’s so old I won’t find one in a shop? Oh no! I love it. Oh well, good luck to you. Nice coat, mate.” Jonathan would have taken it off and forced it on him on the spot.

Reader, that’s the bloke I married.

So today he is a Dad in a Trendy Coat which he couldn’t possibly bring himself to sell because that would feel all wrong.

But it’s nice for him to know he is teetering on the cutting-edge of fashion, oblivious to the sartorial razor right under his feet. I think that’s how it is, really.

Picture coming.


“£150!” he says, “well you can leave it but it wasn’t £150.”

“What was it?”

“£100.” Then he sucks his lip a bit, “I think. And it was early 80s.”

“Ok then.”

The coat has been in his life longer than I have.  So has our television.