Wednesday 3 June 2009

Love letters

“Daddy” says my daughter, coming up behind the sofa and leaning over towards me. “Can I have a piece of paper please?”

I give her a sheet and she goes away to her room.

A little later she re-appears and hands the paper back saying “Look, I’ve done this for my friend.”

I take it and find in amazement that it is filled with writing. Something strange has happened recently: my daughter now reads to me the books I used to read to her. She trips through the words using the same intonations I used to. And then there’s the writing. Some of the words are familiar, others not. But it’s undeniably writing.

It says:

I’ve got 46 stickers I countid them on Tuesday 2009 17th the 17.03.09 March. Yor my best frend. I hoap you have a sooper holoday and Il tri and get my mummy to have a play date

Love from Xxxxx

I congratulate her on her efforts. She smiles broadly back, but suddenly I don’t see the straight-backed girl with fraying pigtails and biscuity mouth in front of me. Instead I see the baby I fed with milk from a tiny bottle and rocked to sleep in an attic bedroom five years earlier. I can’t remember any of the countless tiny moments in between and I can’t begin to understand how the change has happened.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Reality TV #2

It’s dark outside; inside the windows are laced with moisture and the radiators are groaning with the effort of heating the space around them. I am sitting on the sofa with my computer on my lap. Although I no longer go to an office I still have to get up early to work. Sometimes when I tiptoe downstairs a floorboard creaks and my daughter squeaks and half-awakes from dreams of princesses and monsters.

Between key-taps I watch a man and a woman in the glow of the television. Like me, they are sitting on a sofa. They repeat smiling interviews with uncomfortable guests over the course of the morning. The talk is of strikes, economic crisis, financial bail-outs. Then there is a feature about shoppers, then a weather forecaster standing in a snowy garden.

My daughter comes downstairs and heads over to where I’m sitting. I say hello and she sits down against the arm of the sofa with her thumb in her mouth. I switch over to a children’s channel and bright cartoon figures jump from the screen.

I am poring over my computer, tapping and flicking my eyeline up towards the screen every so often to see what I’ve written. I change a spelling here and there, red lines underscore words the computer doesn’t understand. My daughter narrates the plot of the programme she is watching but I am only half-paying attention, grumpily grunting as I scour the financial world for interest. The figures at the bottom of my screen tell me my deadline is fast approaching. Suddenly my daughter’s voice drops and I look up.

“Daddy… you’re not even listening to me.” She reproaches me tearfully.

I look at her, my fingers poised over the keyboard, images of financial ruin on the computer screen. And I realise, suddenly, that it’s not important. The world my daughter lives in: the cartoons, the good-natured babble – that’s the important one.

I lean over, give her a kiss and put my arm around her.

“Ok” I say, looking at the television “Tell me what’s happening”.