Sunday, August 20, 2006

Time shift

I'm tired. Am writing from the dark, with too much in my head to make sense of it. I'm trying to tap the keys lightly so as not to wake Anna-mouse in one room, and the Bim next door. I'm tired of not making a noise. I've tip-toed through whole nights on end since Anna-mouse was born. The irony is that when we got to Bonfire Night here (a particularly vocal event here in Kent Town, it seems) it sounded like World War Three and little one slept through regardless. Yet still we creep...

I've been to London and back. I miss it. I have heartache when I don't go. I have heartache when I do. I never knew where my roots were until we left it, nearly a year ago to the day. Crossing Waterloo Bridge on a cloudless night... ah! The sense of possibilities is endless. The sheer noise of City washes you clean if you hold yourself open to it. I dream of those blue, Hungerford fountains of light shedding their blue drops into the Thames. Today we spread our time between London north and south: I'm not one of those divided by the river, I have memories embracing both shores, and friends or family still abide on each.

One penumbral evening a couple of months ago I was driving Anna-mouse home from the leafy suburbs of north London after a particularly good humoured day with her Granny, my Ma. On a whim I take a quick detour up the familiar streets left decades before to find myself quietly revving in front of our old front door. I stare longingly up at what used to be the window to my much-loved room. Quite suddenly a small child presses his face to the window, as another, more shadowy face appears behind him, holding this small creature up to the street to say night night. A confusion of years shivered through me - who the child, who the adult? Was that me, then? Is this me now?

"See, Anna, this is where Mummy used to live when she was a little girl," I say.

My child lets out an encouraging, wise-sounding "Ah."

We begin the slow stop-start journey back. I ache for my small self, the one with the Picasso Dove on her wall, and special plane tree leaf pressed between the leaves of her diary.

But the ache heals itself as fast as it is felt, because another small person, another part of me, is sitting on the back seat wearing her sock on her head, gloriously oblivious to my anguish and enjoining me to sing the Hokey Cokey with her for the fifty-ninth time today.

"Cokey, Mummy. Cokey!"

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