To the Lighthouse and the school run


The book by Rebecca Solnit A Field Guide To Getting Lost arrives as a thud through the door. I read the first chapter and find this quote by Virginia Woolf, from To the Lighthouse. 

It was about a mother and wife at the end of the day.

For now she need not think about anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of-to think ; well, not even to think. To be silent, to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated and one shrunk with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something visible to others. Although she continued to knit, and sat upright , it was thus that she felt herself, and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strongest adventures. When life sank down for a moment, the range of experience seemed limitless….Beneath it all dark, it is all spreading, it is unfathomably deep; but now and again we rise to the surface and that is what you see us by. Her horizon seemed to her limitless

Rebecca Solnit A Field Guide To Getting Lost: Open Door, Pages 15-16

Me (text message to mum yesterday)

Have you read To the Lighthouse ? Do I need to read it ? Cold any better?

Mum (text message to me yesterday)

We have just enough snow to look good and that is plenty for me! I guess you have more Syd must be feeling better to want to go sledging. I have had a better day and the cold is retreating. I have given in for an hours rest. I have read To the lighthouse but found I found it very hard going and got little out of it. You might enjoy it…too airy-fairy for me and hard reading. Lots of love xxx

I haven’t read To the Lighthouse, I should try to read it, even if it is all airy-fairy. The quote by Woolf shone out from the pages of the book, and I metaphorically circled it with my mind. Her words point to that thing perhaps that I  have been trying to express, the idea of aloneness, of not being.  Motherhood, and how the self is seen in juxtaposition with another. Perhaps all this walking is about freeing the self, the self disintegrating into the place where I am at right now. When I walk out on the tops, I am not judged. Waiting in the playground the maternal surveillance is present.

Helen Sargeant,, The egg the womb the head and the moon : Hide and Seek,  15th September 2013, Comments

I agree with you that play can just feel like another chore, and yes the maternal surveillance is horrible, if only we could just be more honest about what motherhood is really like, perhaps some of societies high expectations of us could be eroded. Its a trap, I fall into it, I try to be a “good” mother, am I a “good-enough” mother, perhaps my biggest critic is myself. Perhaps all of this idealisation is a fiction that we ourselves have created. Perhaps the pressure of the ideal begins early on when we are children ourselves, as we watch our mothers, mothering us ? Its not my mum that has made me feel this way though. Where do I go from here ?
Outside, out there in wide open spaces, wild places, I feel that I can play freely be happy and content with my children, be myself. Inside my head, inside my home, at playgroups, at the school gates, within the institution of motherhood, I feel confined, constrained, criticised.

I haven’t read To the Lighthouse, I should try to read it, because I have had a copy on my shelf since June 1994. Its a copy that was given to me by my Grannie. Its a beautiful version from the portfolio society, almost too good to read. It slips inside a blue case. Inside there is a message from Grannie and the date that she gave it to me.

The school run: in the morning

Drop Syd off at school, behind the bush in the pub car park. On the return journey, a heron flies exactly at the same speed that I am driving (30 miles per hour). The heron is flying the length of the river that runs next to the road. I am astonished at the speed of its flight.

Snow arrived again. I helped my friends boys to school as she was unwell. A little stressful not because of the children or the lateness. Stressful because I slid my car inches between a stone wall and a parked car. The car literally became a sledge. The children all three of them crammed in the back thought it delightfully funny and giggled and giggled.


Naoise enjoyed having me and his dad at the school workshop. We helped him and his classmates to make tissue paper kites. It is very difficult to make tissue paper kites using scissors that are blunt and caked in PVA glue and sellotape residue. But the kites still got made and they did look so lovely and fragile.


I was so impressed with how the teacher coped with the constant barrage of questioning. Her use of collective dancing fingers to get their attention. Her constant patience. It was a real eye opener. Naoise loved sitting on my knee when the teacher read the three little pigs. Sat on the floor of the classroom, on the ridge of the carpet.


At the studio: I read, I buy a jumper from the charity shop, I read, a blizzard begins, I go home.


The school run: in the afternoon

Collect Syd at 3pm from behind the bush in the pub carpark, drop him back at home. I stop for a moment and take a photograph of the pram tracks running down our road. It is good that there has been a baby born in our street. The first since we moved here with Syd nine years ago. It is good not to be the only family.

Collect Naoise.  Naoise sadly tells me that his kite got ripped and trashed in the wind when he flew it after break-time. Naoise plays hoping in the snow. He falls and I am holding the camera. I think he falls deliberately, he is enjoying the slip of the snow. Should I be holding the camera when he is falling ? He is fine, he really is.





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