Tag Archives: emotions

Now you are three


Dear Arthur,

So now you are three.

How did that happen?

I remember when you were tiny, in those first magical, mystical days, I used to stare at you through the fog of sleep deprivation and try to imagine what you would be like when you were this age. How you would look, how you would sound, what you would do.

I never could have imagined you.

The way you draw in your breath and clap your hands in glee when something exciting happens: from the suggestion of a train ride to your first sight of snow to me making it home from an evening meeting in time to kiss you goodnight. You are excited by life, and I love that.

I love how you quickly make your way to the dance floor when a song you like comes on, throw your hands in the air and shake your booty with a huge smile on your face. I love that the dance floor is whatever you decide it is in that moment, from a clearing in your toys in the lounge to the rug in your bedroom to a select few tiles in the kitchen marked out by something only you can see.

Your imagination is spectacular. Inspired by story books and movies you create all sorts of people and scenarios to take you through your day. Wherever we are you can conjure up your own entertainment – and as your vocabulary increases you can share it with others too, making up stories for us just like we do for you.

And what a vocabulary. There was a moment recently, when you were once again telling me the story of The Polar Express, when you described the train arriving outside the window with its ‘hissing steam and screeching brakes’. Several times a day I am astounded by the words that have found a home inside your head.

You absorb everything around you, and if I stop and pause for a moment I can watch you do it. Almost hear the cogs in your brain turning as you focus in on new little details you haven’t noticed before. You ask about things of course – ‘why?’ is an increasingly common refrain, and I always try to answer you the best I can, even if the level of understanding you are seeking is beyond me.

You don’t just rely on other people for answers though. You are fascinated by how the world works, and are constantly experimenting, trying it all out. Sometimes your methods are a little frustrating – the throwing, the tasting, the taking things apart. But I know why you’re doing it, so it’s ok.

Don’t ever stop exploring, my little bear. Don’t ever stop seeking out the truth and trying to make sense of the world, even when it seems completely unintelligible. Especially then.

There is so much about your emerging personality that I hope you hold on to as you grow.

I hope you will continue to try to understand your emotions, and those of other people. When you look up at me with your big blue eyes and say ‘I’m sad’, and together we try to work out why, a part of my heart aches for my inability to protect you from the darker feelings that will inevitably engulf you from time to time. But I’m glad you want to talk about it. Know that I will always be here when you are sad or angry or afraid: my love does not need you always to be happy.

Though of course when you are my heart sings. Your laughter is, hands down, the best sound I have ever heard. I think you like it too. If there’s a lull in conversation you’ve started saying “Let’s laugh! Will you laugh with me?” It is impossible not to agree, and usually I’m giggling before I’ve even had time to answer.

You bring so much joy to my world.

There is nothing sweeter than hearing you say, “Can I give you a toy, mama?”

You say it when we’re in the midst of playing, when I’m distracted by my work, when we’re talking about something you’ve done that’s made me cross. And when I say yes, which I try to always do, you go and pick out one of your favourite cars or creatures or maybe even a train and carefully hand it over with a smile.

I think what you’re saying is “I love you, mama.”

And I love you too. Very much.

All my love for always, Mummy xxx

The lure of the dark side

What is it we find so irresistible about dark and twisted fiction?

I’ve wondered sometimes whether it’s just me: often when I relay to my husband the plot of one of my favourite books, or try to convince him to watch a film that’s caught my eye, he can’t quite understand why I would want to immerse myself in such torment.

It’s not so much horror I like, and certainly not gore, but rather the depths and depravity of human emotion at its worst.


Since I first read it when I was about seventeen, my favourite book has been Ian McEwan’s ‘A Child in Time’ – a harrowing account of the impact losing a child has on her parents. He is still the person I come back to as my favourite author, the person whose body of work I most aspire to, and it is the strong element of macabre I think that lures me in most effectively.

More generally I find myself drawn to tales of loss, of death, of suffering and abandonment. Stories which explore the evil that humanity is capable of, and expose parts of the soul that you would never wish to encounter in real life. And I find them fascinating rather than depressing. There is definitely something cathartic about them – a place to play out my deepest fears which I can put to bed again simply by closing the book.

My most recent novel definitely strays into this territory. An examination of the horrible ways people can treat each other, with an antagonist who brings together some of the worst traits I have come across in my experiences and those of others. It was a little harder to switch off from that – there were days (and nights) when his consciousness seeped into my own and left me feeling distinctly unsettled. But still I found myself compelled to tell his story.

The short stories that I have written are even more twisted. I’m sort of playing around with the idea of putting together a collection, and in trying to identify the common thread which binds them together there is no escaping the darkness at their core. Obsession, murder, man-eating hermit crabs, psychosis, self-amputation: putting them all side by side is making me wonder a little exactly what it is that’s going on in my head!

But it seems that I am not alone in feeling the pull of the dark side. When I alluded recently to a short story I was working that was possibly too dark to share I wasn’t intentionally building up intrigue, but it seems that just that thought was enough to make people want to read it. It’s still sat on my hard drive, waiting for an appropriate outing, but it’s kind of good to know that I’m not the only one who likes to immerse myself in these shadowy worlds.

I’ve been working on another story this week, one inspired by the awesome story of a woman in Exminster placing a Gumtree ad for someone to help her test her home-made time machine. I was struggling for a hook at first, and of course when it did begin to emerge it was from those shadows.

I guess there is just a part of me that is fascinated by the more sinister workings of the human mind, and how they play out in interactions with other people. The seeds of those workings must be lying somewhere in the recesses of my mind, but by germinating them in the realm of fiction I am satisfying that desire for darkness whilst being able to focus my real life on altogether more pleasant pursuits.

And I suppose that is one of the many reasons why fiction is so important! Who knows what would happen to the world if our imaginations did not have that safe place to explore their darkest fears…


Muddled Manuscript

Word of the Week: Happy

Today the word that sums up the week that was is:


I’m finding Arthur’s language development particularly fascinating at the moment. He’s adding new concrete nouns to his vocabulary everyday, delighted to be able to name things in the world around him. But he’s also beginning to use more abstract words. ‘Love’ was the first one: initially it was his name for a heart, and it still is, but he’s also started to associate it with cuddles and family, even this week linking it together with our names to say ‘love daddy’, ‘love mama’ and mimicking us when we say ‘I love you’. Which we say a lot!

His first adjective was ‘pretty’. He pointed at me when he said it that first time, and has since been using it to describe flowers and the sea and a picture he painted. Then this week he said ‘happy’ – an adjective but also an emotion. And I think he knows what it means. He says it when he’s doing something he loves, often follows it with ‘yeaaaah’, and has begun to precede it with his name. Out of all the considerable cuteness of the words he’s come out with so far, ‘Artur happy’ has to be the most heart-melting of all.

And we certainly have plenty to be happy about! The sun is shining, we’re getting to go swimming outside almost every day, and yesterday Leigh finished his third year of medical school so we have a whole long student summer to look forward to as a family.

We have an epically long to do list to tackle, making up for how hectic things have been whilst Leigh’s been studying. But for the next ten weeks, rather than padding around the house saying his name and looking longingly at the phone in the hope that it will ring and he will hear his voice, Arthur will be able to hang out with his daddy. And that makes him very happy.



The Reading Residence