Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater

6.30 am

Don’t want to be up writing this, want to be back in bed. Sunday is a day of rest. Feeling the weight of responsibility of this project. It needs constant feeding. Constant maintenance. I’ll try, I’ll try, but right now its pissing me off. I want to be back in bed.

When I get back from my summer holidays this year, I’d like to adopt a kitten. I saw a Facebook post of my friends new ginger kitten. Ahhh so so cute and adorable. Perhaps I can go and visit them, they only live down the road. Weird that I see more of her on Facebook than on the street. I want to hug and mother a kitten. I don’t mind if it scratches my hand, it has a place on my bed, yes I hate cat shit, but they are soooo wonderful and playful and cuddly and cute. I really want one.

I remember looking after litter after litter of kittens as a child. Getting your cat neutered in the 1970’s was not a priority for my parents. Not sure my mother has ever forgiven me for giving away a boy ginger cat to a happy couple who came to collect on seeing our postcard  advertisement offer of kittens free to good homes in the newsagents. I was only six or seven. She shouldn’t have given me the responsibility. She should have made herself more clear. Mum I don’t feel guilty anymore.

The kittens home was the large victorian conservatory that clung to the side of the house. A vast warm glass space, with an occasional missing pane, a stone floor. Where cycles and abandoned pram scooter and such were kept. Where a grape vine grew. I watched the cat giving birth. I stayed with her. I loved to watch the kittens feeding. All snuffled up in the fur of their mother. Cosy and snug. The mother cat closing her eyes blissfully purring with contentment.

I miss my cat Frida, she was killed on the road over the summer. All ashes now, she lies in a small cardboard box on my bookshelf. Sandwiched between a tent rip repair kit and a stack of cameras. I’d like to make a ceramic cat shaped urn, like the ones in the Egyptian section of the Manchester Museum. An urn to place her remains. It will happen. Until then she is filed between language, camera and repairs to be done.

Throat is sore. I got stressed and drank too many glasses of red wine and slumped asleep on the sofa watching Winter Watch with Naoise. Syd was busy playing his guitar. Went to bed far too early, only waking to placate can argument about teeth brushing between Patrick and Naoise.

We spent the day splashing around in a wave pool in Blackburn. I’ve not been swimming in a while, I felt too embarrassed of my overweight, out of control body, but now I’ve lost a little weight, I feel less conscious a bit more confident. I can brave the theatre of the pool. Its fun bobbing around with floats. Naoise loves the water. Syd loves the water too. He still does not seem quite himself, he is pale and complains that the lights are hurting his eyes. He jumps and dives and swims under the water. He must be a little better.

Syd has decided to spend some of his savings on a new electric guitar. I fully support this purchase, he needs to follow his dreams. Options evening is coming up and I can sense his concern and anxiety. The pressure to conform. To select an imaginary career path defined by GCSE subjects. He wants to be a recording artist. He knows its a precarious option, but I keep reminding him that he can do it and it is possible and you can make a living from performing and teaching, like his guitar teacher. He knows its precarious he wants to be sensible, have two paths to follow music and engineering.

In the music shop. I like to watch him selecting and trying out each instrument. A shiny glittery black one, a pale blue shiny spiky one, a black one, a wood toned one. All different all different sounding. Tuning up each, holding its weight in his lap, sampling the strings, strumming, plugging and unplugging each from the amp. Naoise is busy playing an electric piano. Random noisy tunes. Syd cannot concentrate. It is noisy. There are men sampling guitars in each corner of the vast warehouse sized shop.

I tried to take photographs of Syd playing the guitars in the shop, but he asked me not too. Its important to honor their wishes, respect them. I am sure that it can be very annoying having your mum stuck behind a lens looking on, shooting. I love to look and look and look and look at my children. Their faces are whole continents of intrigue. There is really no need to watch television when you have children to watch.

My body clock is changing. I seem to automatically wake between six and six thirty. There are no cars on the road. All the snow has gone. Washed away by the rain. I hope to find an image, its a photograph of a baby bath that was thrown out on the streets in London. In Catford. I saw it, whilst walking to admire my friends allotment. It was my first trip away from Naosie after he was born. My friend was holding her daughters hand,  helping her to keep balance, she was roller skating, and I think that dad was pushing their six year old son in a pram as he had broken his leg.

I look through thousands of images. I eventually find the one of the baby bath chucked out on the street in London. I find others. I also find an image of Naoise in the pram, on the canal, a little wisp of his hair hanging out of the back. Its so fleeting mothering. The kids growing up. Its so fleeting. The photograph stops it, stops it for a second. Freezes it Records a moment in time. Later there is intrigue and fascination. Looking back. Looking forward. Rewind. Pause. Stop.


The oven buzzer sounds beep beep beep beep beep …..


  • Ellie

    ‘ I love to look and look and look and look at my children.’ Once again Helen you put into words so many of my feelings about ‘mothering’. I have 935 photos in my phone alone, of moments, drawings, expressions, holidays, parties, sleeping, day to day life and so on. I look at them endlessly and wonder what I will ‘do’ with them – what are they ‘for’. You have just captured their purpose ‘The photograph stops it, stops it for a second. Freezes it Records a moment in time. Later there is intrigue and fascination. Looking back. Looking forward. Rewind. Pause. Stop.’. Perfect analogy.

  • Alison Burrows

    Everyday, when washing vegetables, especially when they are cut up small for a stir-fry, I try not to lose the scraps of food down the sink. Even when using a colander it is so difficult to keep the vegetables safe.

    Motherhood is a juggling trick, watching, caring, keeping clean and tidy, suggesting this and that, being rebuffed, trying again…. Sometimes there is a glimmer of hope, of success. Let’s hold onto that and see where it leads.

    Hope Syd finds a great guitar!

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