Friday 28 November 2008

Reality TV

I am sitting under the comforting low-light of a table-lamp, while in the corner of the room the television sparkles. My daughter is sitting tight against the sofa-arm, knees drawn up to her chest, thumb in mouth. Her eyes are fixed to the screen as a dancer sweeps from corner to corner in perfect princess circles. I am next to her, arm around her shoulders, also lost in TV half-life. Brucie smiles in the LCD brightness, performing with comforting, barely-remembered ease. My daughter reaches her hand towards me. “Daddy, I like holding hands with you.” she says. I smile and squeeze her fingers tightly.



“I wish Bruce was your daddy and then he could come and make jokes and we could all laugh.”

“Me too” I say, smiling again. I can’t begin to know how to reply to her sometimes. She’d like me to have a father and she’s a little disturbed that I no longer have one. If I think hard I can remember life in flannel pyjamas too. Small things are big, big things don’t exist and everything is simple.

“Daddy…” she says


“Maybe you can ask for Christmas.”

Saturday 28 June 2008

Space and Time

The seagulls followed us home. I watch in the playground as they skid overhead yelping and flapping. Then they are gone. I wonder why they were here, where they are going.

My daughter slams into me and hugs my legs, her face pressed sideways and arms spread wide. I try to enjoy these moments. I know you must. But still time leaches through me. As I hug her in return I can feel it escaping between my arms.

I have a new feeling now, in the playground. I stand watching my daughter as she jumps up and down climbing frames, remembering the early faltering steps, the clutching at the handrail, the worried looks back. Then I would loiter nearby, ready to catch her if she fell, now I hardly need to pay attention.

My daughter sees me looking upwards and follows my gaze.

“Can birds touch the sky daddy?”

Her questions have become more tricky. She throws queries out and expects a neatly packaged response. It takes more knowledge than I have to do it properly. People write books on these sorts of things. I tell her something about air and wings.

“Oh.” she says, seriously. Then her little lop-sided smile returns. “Pretend I’m a fairy, daddy.”

I pretend and she whirls around the playground in her fairy world. A little girl about eighteen months old stands watching her in fascination, the way my daughter used to look at the older girls. My daughter skips around her, stops, smiles and moves on. When we leave the playground I say to her

“That little girl is the same age as you were when I started looking after you. What do you think about that?”

“Hmm” she says. “Can I have an ice cream?”

Wednesday 30 April 2008

Devon Dreams

I am standing with my daughter on Baggy Point in the thin sunshine which comes after a squall. I grip her hand more tightly than usual as we look into the frothing water below, where the rock has fallen away from the cliff in dense slices. Gulls wheel and mewl and flap against the sheer edge. The scale is so unfamiliar it is hard to get into perspective. I gaze into the distance towards other land masses over silent seas. I remember when it was my hand that was held firmly and I felt and saw for the first time. Memories haunt me. It’s so long ago and I don’t know how that's happened. So suddenly. And now here I am, creating ghosts for my daughter.

She looks across the grassy space to the bay and gets out her little binoculars. She peers intently into them and squeals “Everything is so close!” and giggles. Squeal, giggle squeal, giggle. Looking towards where the boats are moored she says “Daddy…”


“Are those buoys or girls?”

I start to explain but I can’t make her understand the spellings and the pronunciation and anyway it doesn’t matter. “Buoys.” I say. “They’re all buoys.”

She thinks for a moment and then says. “What do you do if you want to have a cup of tea on a boat?”

“Well, some of them have tiny kitchens.” I reply.

“Are they as small as an ant?”

I smile. Perspective is a difficult thing up here in this strange rocky world. As the wind gets up I suggest we go and get some hot chocolate. My daughter’s eyes sparkle and a memory starts to form.

Monday 24 March 2008


I am surrounded by packing boxes. They spill their contents like urban rubbish bins. We filled them up in one life and now we’re unpacking them in a different one. Without the packing cases I’d move on more easily. It’s really only all this stuff that attaches us to the past. I have driven along our old road and looked at the houses where the people opposite live. People whose lives I have known, although I have not known them; who no doubt casually observed ours too. They’re usually not at home when I pass by. I wonder what they think of the change that has happened opposite them. Do they think about it at all? Have they noticed?

I see a little bit of grey material underneath the top layer of one of the boxes and give it a tug. Up it comes from the depths as though a lucky dip win. It is my daughter’s old coat, a little crumpled, very small. The label says age 2. Three buttons are aligned each side of its double-breasted front. On each the smiley face on a luminous sticker grins out. Already I have difficulty remembering where they came from. I think they were given out each time we went to a little toddlers' art group. Placed there perfunctorily by the kind lady who ran it, but well-loved by my daughter. Now I remember. A different time. A different place. I suddenly feel a keen sense of change; of loss. But of course we haven’t lost anything. Just time. I want to wrap my daughter up in her little coat and transport us back to those days, simply because we can never return.

My daughter wanders into the room and comes towards me. “What are you doing daddy?” she asks.

“Just unpacking” I say.

“That’s my coat!” she exclaims “Oh! Look at all the little faces.”

I smile.

“Daddy...” She says. “Do you think the little boys and girls in my old school miss me?”

“I’m sure they do” I tell her supportively. “Do you miss them?”

“Uh, well, not really” she says. “I like my new friends more.”

I smile again and put my arm around her shoulders. Then I fold up the coat and put it into the bottom of a drawer.

Friday 4 January 2008

Christmas Spirit

I am upstairs tapping at the computer. My daughter is nearby, sitting on the carpet. She has collected a number of her toys and dolls around her and is gesticulating and talking in a hushed voice. I turn my head slightly and listen as she leans close to one of the dolls. She is talking to her about bedtimes and eating tea and being good. She strokes a dress here and pats some hair into place there. I can just hear what she is saying but not every word. I love to watch her caring for all her little inanimate toys.

“Who are they?” I ask, pointing to some dolls near her.

“They are my children.”

“And those too?”

“No, those two are having a playdate” she says. “They’re both boys. That one’s a bit older though, because he was born on Christmas Day.”

“Oh, like Jesus?” I ask.

“No daddy” she says, smiling indulgently. “He’s called Tom.”

She tucks them up under a little blanket. They look loved and cared for and somehow happier than usual. I thought my daughter had an imaginary sister. In fact she has a whole extended family.