Tears and potatoes

6.45 am

Naoise favourite uniform is tumble drying in the washer. He is very fussy about jumpers and tops and how socks are put on. There must be “no crumpled sock”. Some jumpers are a little too big others too small, it has to be just right. His fussiness is a real challenge to my patience.

I’ve got the bedroom routine a little better sorted, but the morning one is still a stress. We were over fifteen minutes late to school yesterday. However organised, however early I wake, we never seem to be able to get to school on time. Naoise is on a different time scale entirely, he has no sense of urgency. He sits in front of a plate of breakfast with snuffly (his comfort blanket/king sized duvet) hanging over his head and just stares at it. Moments before we need to leave the house, he wants to do creative projects, when we really  should be walking him to school. He has been making stickers for his friends out of address labels that are then placed inside small brown money envelopes that he decorates.


After school all he wants to do is play in the upper playground. To kick around a stone with his friend. He calls this “stone football”. There is something very victorian about the stone and the kick. Hazardous too. The stone occasionally is launched haphazardly into the air. I stand and chat and freeze. When it is time to part he just hugs and hugs and clings to his friend. They twirl around and around in their boy embrace. Their cheeks touching. We have to physically undo them from each other. Its very sweet to see them be so affectionate. A whole gaggle of the children in his class have known each other since they have been babies at the local sure start nursery and they have strong bonds of friendship. I envy them and their gang, they are fortunate.

I walk out. I walk out alone. I walk out on the tops and I visit my friend. I visit my friend because Syd is back at school. I have been released from two weeks of caring captivity. I am free. We drink strong coffee from little china cups. We talk about the children and work and diets and running. She is so kind. She gives me a pair of her husbands fell running shoes to borrow and a t-shirt to use. Just need a sports bra now and then I have no excuse. I must run. 

Patrick is out working all evening, this happens a couple of times a week. I enjoy having the children to myself. The freedom of the house all to ourselves. It is much easier to parent alone, their are no conflicts or differences of opinion. I can concentrate solely on the children. I like it. I am lazy though and opt for instant meals from the supermarket and double lashes of TV if they want. The evening is focussed on the routine. Home, snack, play, tv, put on washing, dry and fold clothes, cook tea, eat, clear up, kids in shower, little bit more tv, get super and milk, reading to Naoise. At this point I tend to fall asleep cuddling Naoise and telling him a life story.….he fights sleep. Last night he was snoozing by eight thirty. This is a triumph, the earliest sleeping Naoise yet in the past eight weeks. Hooray for me.

Syd wakes me from my sleep. “I am tired” He wants my attention and…..

The buzzer on the oven just sounded fifteen minutes gone. I had thought that it was 6.45 am when I started writing but I have just realised that I began at 5.45 am. Ahhhhhh so early so its now 6 am.


I am not thrown by the time. I am glad of it. Glad of the time to structure thoughts and find some flow.

I wanted to write about Syd’s tears at bedtime and something about my mum’s potato patch in her garden in Scotland. I cannot see any particular connection between the two subjects other than the word bed.

A bed of potatoes and a child that is settling down for sleep in his bed.

Syd is crying. He is crying because he cannot rouse me from my sleep. He shakes me, he taps me, he begs me to wake up and tell him a “life time story, tuck me in, watch tv with me, read me a story”. He is crying. Big tears falling. Tears that I have caused. He is so patient. Naoise being the youngest inevitably gets the most of my attention, he has to fight for his. His tears wake me. The loudest of tears.

We watch some rubbish;  Back Chat with Jack Whitehall. I lie next to him in his bottom bunk, his iPad is balanced precariously on his music stand. We watch and giggle together at the hilarity of Mirander and the pretentiousness of Joan Collins. I tuck him in and sneak back to my own bed with Naoise next door.

Within about an hour he has jumped in with me and Naoise. At some point in the night I will wake and then go downstairs and sleep in the double bed. All this bed hopping. I just don’t care as long as I get to sleep. Sleep is so precious. I am so glad that my sleep is not broken by the torture of breastfeeding, crying, consolling and nappy changes. Those days are long gone.

Mum is away in Scotland. I speak to her on the phone. She sounds far away. Far away on the bog. The roof of their house was damaged by the storm. They need to sort it out with the insurance people. What a total bore. She isn’t feeling too well and has a cold and is in bed. Last trip it was the lack of electricity that kept her in bed, this time a cold. Poor mum. I hope that she gets better for her birthday at the end of the week.

Over the summer I took some pictures of my parents garden. I am amazed that mum and dad manage to grow anything at their wind ravaged home, but here it is a beautiful patch of potatoes. Potatoes growing  in the far, far, north. The wind has not stopped them from domesticating a little patch. The soil must be peaty and acidic, still against the odds their potatoes flourish.


The buzzer on the oven timer sounds. Beep Beep Beep Beep ……….


  • Alison Burrows

    It’s lovely to read about your affection for your children, Helen. What breaks my heart is that Colin, my late husband, was part of an experiment during the aftermath of the war. He was born in 1945 and he told me that his parents deliberately decided not to show him any affection. I found that incredible. They adopted a girl from Germany in 1950 and showered her with affection. Totally uncalled for behaviour! I don’t believe you can give your children too much love and affection!

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