Knights (and other dreams)

We recently went to the documenta 13 in Kassel. This is a huge art exhibition that takes place every five years, pretty much taking over the town. We had a great time when we went five years ago. This time, we loved it, and I’ll write more about it soon, but I first want to share with you one of my favourite exhibits.

Nedlo Solakov’s installation ‘Knights (and other dreams)’ is housed appropriately in the Brothers Grimm Museum. It opens with a a videotaped interview with a Bulgarian actor/director, Oleg Kovachev, who is most famous for a role he played as a child in a movie called ‘Knight Without Armor’.

In the interview, he candidly talks about how frustrating he finds it to always be known as the boy from ‘Knight Without Armor’, especially as he tried to make it as an adult actor but failed, although he went on to become a prize-winning director. Solakov uses this as a jumping off point for thinking about his own unrealised dreams – he had always wanted to play the drums in a hard rock band, and he had coveted a remote controlled helicopter as a child. He also invented a dream – to own a real suit of knight’s armour. The rest of the exhibit consists of interviews with people interested in knights, including medievalist societies and the Maltese Knight’s Hospitaller, and documentation of Solakov’s decision to realise some of his own unrealised dreams, both real and imagined. This culminates in a quite spectacular performance of a knight playing the drums, and a not-so spectacular episode in which a knight attempts to stop a remote controlled helicopter from skidding around the ground. Some dreams turn out to be wonderful; some don’t.

It made me think about my own dreams, both realised and unrealised. Many of my dreams have come true: to fly in the sky like a bird, to study medieval literature, to get a phd, to live in a little house with sunlight on the floorboards, to live in Europe. Some I have revised – after experiencing Norwegian winters my old desire to visit Antarctica no longer seems quite so appealing. And some just haven’t worked out – as a teenager and young adult I wanted nothing more than to be a great Australian author, which now seems unlikely. And it made me think about my Dad, who has quite a few dreams (both realised and unrealised) that really shape his personality. The exhibition was whimsical and quite funny in places and I love that it left me with the sense that unrealised dreams can be precious things.

Seventeen months

We are in Austria right now with your Oma and Opa. When we arrived, on a rainy afternoon, we went straight to the supermarket for supplies. While Michael was putting our shopping bags into the car, I noticed some horses walking through a nearby playground, and I showed them to you. ‘Neigh neigh!’ you said. Up till now you’d only ever seen them in books and in the ‘Old Macdonald had a Farm’ song on youtube. When you woke up the next morning, before we even got you out of your crib, the very first thing you said was ‘neigh neigh!’, and pointed desperately at the window. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘there are some horses around, we’ll visit them later’. Requests to visit the ‘neigh neighs’ haven’t let up yet. Every time we take you to see them you want to see them again immediately.

Your favourite word right now is ‘more’. You want more yoghurt, more songs, more peas, more spins in the air, more horses, more cows, more tunnels, more raspberries in your bath water, more tickles, more little trecks around whatever strange thing has caught your interest. It’s not always a request, sometimes it’s just a statement that you’re going to do something again, or even checking with us if you should do something again. When we were stuck in traffic on the way down here, you were trying on my sunglasses, peeping out of them, saying ‘daaaa!’, and then, when we laughed at you, ‘more?’ And you would do it again.

It’s very cute to hear you say ‘peas!’ The word always seems to be exclaimed. Some of your new words, apart from ‘more’, are ‘bubble’, ‘turtle’, ‘key’, ‘moon’, ‘star’, and ‘yoghurt’. You’re favourite song right now is ‘Tiny Tim’ (a song about turtles and bubbles), and you are getting very good at the actions.

You’ve got very good at bossing us around. You like to sit on a step, and point to the spot next to you to indicate that I should sit down too. Or you stand up, point at the floor until I stand up too, take my hand and lead me to where you want to go.

You had your last breastfeed the day before you turned 17 months. It was more my idea than yours, I’m afraid, but you took it in your stride, which I’m pretty sure you would not have done a month earlier. I miss it a little but you are sleeping so much better now, and we still have lots and lots of snuggles.

When we were staying in the B&B in Denmark we had to wait until 7.30 for breakfast. Given that you woke up at 4.30, you were none too impressed with this. For the last ten minutes before we went in, you clutched your bib and your spoon, saying ‘yoghurt? Mama? Yoghurt?’ Again and again and again. And when we finally got in there and poured you a bowl of yoghurt, you burst into inconsolable tears, because it wasn’t in a little pot like you were used to. I had to take you outside and calm you down, and stop talking about yoghurt and offer you some cheese, before you were happy to sit in your chair again, at which point you contentedly put away about three bowls worth of yoghurt, after all.

Apart from the horses, your favourite thing about Austria were all the cable cars. The first time we took you on one you were amazed every time a carriage went past in the other direction. ‘More?’ You would ask. And sure enough, another one would show up. After that, if we were walking or driving anywhere, as soon as you spotted a cable car you would point and complain urgently, letting us know that you wanted to get on it immediately. As long as you had a banana or a piece of apple strudel to munch on on the way back down, you were pretty much in heaven.

This month has been all about connections, between things, pictures, words and people. It has been such a delight to see you form such a strong bond with your German grandparents, and you’ve also had a wonderful time lately playing with our neighbour’s daughters and some of our friends’ children. When we read your books at bedtime, one of them has a picture of a sippy cup, and you always excitedly point at the picture of the cup and then at your own cup, and at the picture of the bed and at your own bed. When we were out for dinner this evening, you were fingering the buttons on my shirt. ‘Buttons’, I said, at which point you hastily pulled up your top and pointed at your belly button. When Michael returned from America with a t-shirt for you with a picture of a tyrannosaurus on it, the first thing you did was rush to your bookshelf and pull out the book about the Gruffalo, and say ‘argh!’ They did look quite alike. Then you dug around in your duplo box until you found your duplo dinosaur. You are so much fun to be around right now.

How to have a perfect day

We’ve just returned from such a lovely week in Austria. (See here for one of my most popular posts of all time, in which I extol the virtues of an Austrian holiday.) A couple of days ago, we all had pretty much the perfect day.

Morning: adventure playground with Oma and Opa (Felix would have happily stayed on the swing for hours), then up the cable car to the paraglider launch. Felix spotted plenty of cows, buses and tunnels.

Michael was flying all morning, but Moni and Herbert and I played with Felix in the sandpit, the trampoline and the little house outside the mountain café.

Back to base for lunch. During Felix’s nap, Herbert, Michael and I ducked out to ride the toboggan down the mountain.

Back to base to pick up Moni and Felix, and then off to another cable car and up up up. Moni stopped at the middle station for a coffee and strudel, but the rest of us went right to the top. Felix clambered around on the bouncy castle, and then I carried him in the ergo up a little track to a most incredible viewing platform, where I caught up with Michael and Herbi.

Back down again, picking up Moni on the way, and straight to a restaurant around the corner from our apartment, with views over the meadows towards the mountains.

We ate Austrian specialties for dinner and sat outside for hours while Felix pottered around the awesome play area underneath the apple trees. And what this list can’t really describe is just how happy we all were together today. We’re all exhausted now but in the best possible way.

Summer holidays

The past few days the sun has even decided to come out, and Felix and I have been having the loveliest time hanging out with friends and playing outside. On Tuesday I took him to the forest (just a five minute drive from our house) where he played with a super-duper wooden car.

Yesterday we went into town and I let Felix wander around for a bit. When he discovered a locked door he demanded the keys out of my pocket and promptly tried to open it.

This evening it was warm enough for a paddle in the lakes, but we didn’t manage to get any photos. On Saturday we leave for a week Austria, with a few days in Germany either side. We’ve been looking forward to taking Felix to Austria pretty much since he was born. I think he’s going to have a blast.

In the park

This is the little park in the centre of town. We walk through it to get to the main street. The windows of our favourite cafe face onto it. When I wrote this post, when Felix was a tiny babe, I was looking out onto the rotunda covered in snow.

We stopped in the park to let Felix run around a bit yesterday, after he’d been so good sitting in the stroller looking at all the boats.

Felix loves to climb up the steps to the rotunda and swing its gate open and shut.

But I think this picture of him riding the wooden pony with the wind in his hair is about as sweet as you can get.