Forest, light, twigs

Late Saturday afternoon we all walked down to our little beach. Antonia needed some coaxing, but once we got there she was in her element. Straight away she sourced herself a long stick to go ‘fishing’ with, and sat poking the water for a long time, in between finding stones to throw in, and stones for me too. This was a welcome change from every other time we’ve been there, when I have been responsible for sourcing the stones. She even let me have a turn of her fishing rod. Felix, who had raced ahead, and sat pensively on a bench looking out over the water by the time we arrived,  was disappointed that all the ice had melted. But he quickly decided that climbing up all the rocks would be worthwhile anyway, and scrambled around the place on his own for a while before convincing Michael to join the rock scaling adventure. We watched the yellow light on the water as the sun dipped behind the hills on the other side of the fjord.

Today we had a picnic in the little patch of forest right next to our house. Michael strung up two hammocks he had brought back from America, and lit a little twig stove to toast marshmallows. It was just. so. good. Like camping, or being on holiday, but only one minute from our garden. Antonia got a little stroppy around nap time (I don’t bother trying to get her down anymore, but sometimes you can see she needs it), but she redeemed herself later, finding a ‘salad’ for me of twigs and leaves. She insisted on going out again just before bed – she dresses herself in her snowsuit, boots and hat, and heads out the door. She instructed me on when to walk and when to follow, where to put the pinecones she found for me, and then sat down with a stick on her lap, pretended it was some kind of musical instrument, and sang ‘twinkle twinkle little star’. Then I had to do it too.

It’s light till half past six now. It feels like a different world.

Apart from this I cleaned and did laundry, which felt overwhelming and annoying at the beginning, but now I feel so much better. Felix helped by spontaneously tidying up the family room so I could vacuum. The house was in chaos from Michael being away for eight days, back for two, then away again for two (he got back on Friday night), and we were both exhausted and near the end of our tether. But it is better now. It was so good to be outside in the forest all together. There is some kind of grace in this place. It is good to be here.

A boy and his bike

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Felix spends hours on his tricycle every day. When we pick him up from the barnehage he is always completely shattered from riding his friends around on the double tricycle for three hours straight. This afternoon all he wanted to do was ride his trike to our friends house, so I rallied my non-existant third trimester energy and followed him over there. When we got there they were out. ‘But where can I ride now?’ he asked. ‘I know,’ I said, ‘we’ll go to the harbour.’

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After a quick stop for buns and a latte, after which I felt much better (Halden now has cafes open on Sunday afternoon!) we were off. ‘It’s so lovely!’ he said.

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He rode through as many puddles as possible all the way to the train station.

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He was a bit annoyed I wouldn’t let him get on the train,

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but rode all the way to the end of the line.

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When we got back to the harbour I collapsed onto a bench and let him ride laps up and down both sides. If you look very closely you can just make him out on the other side of the water. Even when we got home again he wasn’t finished – eating bites of spaghetti between rounds of our deck. Such a special afternoon.

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Before I was Felix I missed you

This evening I sat outside with Felix for half an hour before bedtime. I sat on the steps and knitted a baby blanket. He sped around riding his tricycle on the deck. It was pretty cold – I had to swap to my winter coat, but it was nowhere near dark. Michael had taken him outside to drive the remote control car, and then Felix asked for his bike, and we swapped. Felix is pretty good at pedalling now – he’s been practicing in the barnehage. He’s very proud of himself. He would ride up to me, stop, then say ‘goodbye Mummy, see you later!’ and do another round. It was one of those perfect moments – the grey-gold light between the still bare trees and the houses and the green green lawns, the tiny beginnings of new leaves on the hedges, the first rows of the baby blanket under my fingers, and Felix coasting around and around, chatting as he passed. And he said: ‘Mummy, before I was Felix I missed you soooooo many time’.

And it seemed as if time was centred in this moment, everything before and after pointed to now.

We have been talking a fair bit lately about where people come from, and about things that happened before Felix was born (he always says, but where was I?). He says, ‘When I was a baby…’ And he says, ‘When you were a baby…’ He says, ‘Who’s tummy was Daddy inside?’ He says, ‘how do you make a Felix?’ (Ask your father.) Once in the car he said: ‘When you were a little guy… Are you going to be little again?’ ‘No, I’ll never be little again.’ ‘But I want you to be small like me!’ ‘But I can’t be small because then I couldn’t look after you.’ ‘I want you to look after me.’

When we first started talking about the baby, he said, ‘There’s a baby in your tummy? And it’s not me?’ And later, we were walking by a busy road, and I said ‘be careful Felix and listen to Mummy otherwise a car might crash into you and there won’t be any more Felix.’ ‘Yes there will,’ he said, ‘in your tummy.’

He talks about the baby nearly every day. Last night we all sat on the sofa. He pointed at my leg. ‘One,’ he said. Then at Michael’s leg – ‘two.’ Then at himself – ‘three’, and then at my belly – ‘four’.

Truly his curiosity has been one of the nicest things about this pregnancy so far. It is a pregnancy I have longed for for more than two years, since Felix was a baby himself. I was not sure it would happen again, and I feel so utterly lucky. It is strange to think that the probability is very high now indeed that I will have a baby at the end of this. Things will change. And I am trying, in these last three months in which there are only three of us, to soak my little boy in, to listen to him, to be present for him.

As he rode around he talked to himself and to me. ‘The baby doesn’t like to sykler?’ he said. ‘No, it’s not so safe. But I’ll ride again later when the baby has come out.’ ‘When the baby’s bigger…’ He rode some more. ‘Do more stitches!’ He demanded, when I paused to look up over the trees. (A welcome change from his customary demands that I stop.) ‘I’m going to take care of you,’ he said. ‘And Daddy. And the baby.’ And then he told me he missed me before he was born.

Spring

Had such a lovely day today. So much sunshine. It was the first day it really felt like spring, so I met some friends at a lake with a beach and and ice cream shop, and the little boys were in heaven. As soon as we got the water Felix ran straight in and his jeans and winter boots got soaked, so we took them off. Then he insisted on taking his undies off so for a while he was running around in a winter coat and nothing else! Then of course the coat came off. I sat with my friends on the rocks and drank tea from a thermos and felt the sun warm on my face. Felix threw stones into the water with his little friend. He eventually talked me into taking my shoes off and dipping my toes in, and the water was like ice. There was a ten minute walk back to the car, and he held my hand, wearing a long-sleeve t-shirt, underpants, and wet winter boots. My darling, funny, funny boy.

We have been talking about taking the side off his cot for more than a year, and the response ‘yes, we’ll do it soon’, has been starting to wear thin. This morning when I went in to get him, he had managed to loosen one of the bars. ‘I’m taking the bars off, Mummy, help me!’ And indeed he managed to take two of them out, so we decided today was indeed the day. He was giddy with delight all morning, realising he could jump onto his bed whenever he wanted, and ‘hide’ under his quilt. We’ll see what awaits us tomorrow morning…

This evening Felix sat on my lap and stroked my belly. ‘Baby’, he said, and drove his little car down the slope. ‘You can talk to her, Felix,’ said Michael, you can say ‘BAH!’ ‘Noooo, the baby doesn’t like that.’ We chatted about babies and ‘tubes’ (umbilical cords) and names for a while, and I tried to explain that Oma had chosen Michael’s name, because Oma was Michael’s Mummy. It suddenly got a bit confusing, and Felix said ‘I think Mummy should always keep Daddy and Mummy and the baby and Felix’, and I said yes, we are together, this is our family.

Beautiful May

Today was filled with sunshine and parks and little boys running, laughing, laughing, shouting, climbing, poking sticks in fountains and stones through holes, giggling, munching, singing, counting. In the morning Felix and I went to the park in the centre of town, and he hooked up with a noisy three year old chasing the pigeons. They had a ball following each other around. In the end the other boy followed Felix to the fountain and they poked it with sticks. ‘En, to, tre!’ they counted, then flung their little stick-boats in the water. The mother of the other boy came over and we had a lovely chat in Norwegian. It cheered me up enormously after my stressful spoken Norwegian exam yesterday. I had felt so stupid and incompetent, but it turns out I have enough Norwegian to chat with a patient mother in a park, after all.

In the afternoon I met up with two fellow foreigners who have boys just a little younger than Felix, and we went to a playground by a huge lake and had ice-cream together and just the nicest time imaginable. Now I have to tidy the kitchen again (Michael, my trusted kitchen cleaner, is away), and learn some more Norwegian verbs before bed (written test coming up on Tuesday), but sunshine pretty much makes up for everything.

May!

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The first of May is a holiday here so we took full advantage and wandered off to the forest in the morning. Felix is happy to sit in the stroller for the fifteen minutes it takes to reach the edge of the forest because he knows he’ll be able to run around once he gets there.

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Felix had fun hiding behind trees

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and banging them with sticks.

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After a picnic lunch Felix raced off to chase the deer in the field.

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There were two of them today, though I didn’t manage to take a photo of them. When we came here last weekend, there were six! I couldn’t stop Felix trying to reach them. ‘Want a pat?’, he said, ‘just want a cuddle!’. Later he informed Michael that deer are ‘a bit shy’.

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Bumblebee


From the photos on this blog you’d be forgiven for thinking that May in Norway is sunshiny and beautiful. It’s a nice illusion.

When the sun does shine, however, you soak it up. Michael spent a fair amount of time in the garden a couple of weeks back chasing bees.

The angelic bees stick to the treetops but in the undergrowth the monsters lurk.

Sand and sun

It’s been a busy week and both my boys were stricken with gastro for a couple of days but today the sun finally came back and both boys felt better so Michael built Felix a sand-pit.

It turned out pretty great.

I went inside to make some waffles and from the kitchen window I could see them playing in the sand-pit. At that moment I was so very grateful. After waffles the sun still shone and shone so we walked to the forest.

Last time Felix had been here he was about this big. Now, all of a sudden, there is a little boy holding my hand. And it was a very good day indeed.

2008: Mornings

To celebrate the five year anniversary of my blog, for five days I am posting one of my favourite posts from each year. I wrote this post almost exactly four years ago. It’s one of the image poems I had great fun with for a while.

                                                                                                      

April 2008: Mornings

On days like this, the mist-machines
get going early.

The town is shiny with it

but the islands are asleep.

They dream grey dreams
of moon-suns glowing in the depths
beneath the pointed masts.

The harbour polishes the sky

and all the trees say

soon,

soon.

 

Albertsgaard Revisited

If you’re planning on staying up all night with a teething baby midway into a 1000k car journey, this is probably the place to do it. (Even better would be to stay here a week, completely alone, and write a novel, but that’s not on the cards right now.)

We left feeling refreshed and thoroughly spoiled by our lovely hostess. And the breakfast was something else.

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I’m afraid I’m going to regale you with yet more pictures of you know who. We’re going to Germany next week so maybe we’ll get the inspiration to take a photo of something else. Michael took these in the garden on Saturday. We were out there for hours, on Sunday too. You can follow the progress of the weather by the gradual reduction in Felix’s outdoor wear over the last few posts!

It’s pretty fun watching Felix gather up the courage to explore the garden. It reminds me of watching our kittens discover it, nearly two years ago. By Sunday he was crawling all around, pulling the little pine cones off the sticks, turning around to check whether he was allowed to eat them or not. His favourite thing is to crawl up and down the stairs to the deck. He’s getting pretty adept at it. He’s also pretty happy with the swing that Michael strung up on our tree.

I think all the sun we’ve been getting lately has done something funny to my head, because despite the even more dreadful than usual night’s sleep we got last night, I feel so happy. I have been enjoying work lately and Felix has really adjusted well to being in the barnehage. I often get to see him during the day for short periods, and he’s even beginning to get used to that, and is not crying quite so much when he spots me.

In other news I recently had an article published in Bøygen, a journal put together by some Masters students at the University of Oslo (ooh, and I just discovered that the title refers to a great troll-snake, from the Peer Gynt story). It is a really beautiful little journal. The theme of this issue was ‘place’, and they have essays in Norwegian and English about the role on place in literature in places as diverse as Norway, Israel, Australia. The essays are interspersed with black and white photographs, mainly of Oslo. It really is lovely and it’s a bit of a thrill to be a part of it.

In the small pockets of time between child-rearing, working, and folding laundry, I have been reading Anne Enright’s Making Babies, a very beautiful collection of essays, recommended by Blue Milk. And I have been knitting. I’ve started one more vest for the little guy. It’s quite addictive. It was in this cabin, just outside the Glacier National Park in Montana, that I decided I absolutely needed to learn to knit. It was something about the self-sufficiency of the little cabin in the woods that didn’t even have electricity, and seeing Felix wearing a cardigan knitted by my Nanna. I thought it would be a satisfying thing to do. I was right. It has exactly the right balance between challenging and soothing; it is heartening to see your progress even if it is slow, the texture and colour of the yarn between your fingers is lovely, and there is something entirely wonderful about seeing your own child all snug in a jumper you made for him.

Wednesday

I was going to write a post entitled ‘slog’, and it was going to be about how hard we have been working. Clearing out the spare room in the evenings once Felix has gone to sleep (after we have worked all day) has been tough. There is still more to do, but we have cleared out enough now to get him in there. And then of course the poor fellow starts teething again, so settling him into the new sleeping arrangements has been more difficult than it otherwise would have been, and we are still not getting nearly enough sleep. So we are tired. But I have changed my day off from Friday to Wednesday, and that is better, much better. This afternoon the sun shone and Felix and I had a picnic on the lawn.

Lying for half an hour in the sun with my favourite boy and my favourite creatures was more than enough to restore my spirits.

Also I’m very proud of myself because I knitted the little vest Felix is wearing, all on my own. The pattern is here. I started it a few weeks back, when I had my ear infection, at which point I knitted all night because I was in too much pain to sleep. It took me a while because I had to undo bits when I did them wrong – if I do another one I’ll be much faster. But isn’t it great! I’ll try to show you some pictures sans bib another time.

Felix chased the cats around for a bit, bounced on the trampoline with me, then made some calls. It was a very nice afternoon indeed.

Ready to go


I was going to write – it’s hard to leave Norway in May. It’s true, the country is now at its most beautiful – the brand new glittery birch leaves are a sight to behold, and it’s light forever. But the past couple of days it’s been raining. So it’s not that hard. I will miss our long evening walks into the forest: the slanty light, the cool, fragrant air, Felix cooing at the treetops. Last week I even saw a young deer standing staring at me on the path ahead. I didn’t get a picture of the deer, so here is dear Whitby instead:

Things are finally coming together. Our passports with our visas arrived on Monday, much to our relief. We’ve renewed our residency permits and got one for Felix. Our cats have a home for the time we’re away (we left them cowering under the sofa on Saturday, but apparently already by Sunday they were much happier). We’ve arranged for some friends to stay in our house while we’re away. We even managed to sell our car! Talk about leaving everything to the last minute.

The place feels a bit bereft without the cats, to tell the truth. I hope they are having a good time exploring their new kingdom.

Felix has recovered from his vaccination grumpiness but it has mucked up his sleep patterns. I guess they’re about to get mucked up anyway. He is still being very adorable. He loves to say ‘agoo’. Michael was zooming him around like an aeroplane one evening, and every time he zoomed in to give me a kiss, he said ‘agoo!’ And last night I was giving him a bath, and he looked at me quietly, saying ‘oooooooo’. ‘Can you say agoo, Felix?’, I asked. ‘Aaaagoooo’, he said. He just melts my heart.

We just have to pack up the last bits, and tidy up a tad more. Someone’s coming to pick us up at 7am tomorrow morning. I’m so, so excited.

Spring!

We had a really lovely weekend which involved much sitting around in the sunshine. And pushing prams in the sunshine. And bouncing in the sunshine. And drinking tea in the sunshine. And eating scones and Russian soup with friends in the sunshine. And flying a remote controlled plane in the sunshine (well, we tried at least but it was a bit windy). It was just what we needed.

(In other news, the little fellow has slept from 11pm to 6.30 or 7am for three nights in a row!!! I’m not counting on it continuing, but it’s pretty nice. He’s eight weeks old today, and as gorgeous and smily and cuddly as ever.)

 

A day in the sun

Yesterday when spring decided to show her face again (today is back to dense mist, but at least it’s not snowing), my friend invited me to her mothers’ group meeting up at the fortress. It was still pretty chilly, but we all sat around the fire and roasted sausages! Well, the others roasted sausages, I don’t eat them. But it was all very charming, and very Norwegian – the older kids (3-5 year olds) in the kindergarten do this in the forest once a week. Felix’s gorgeous knitted overalls which were much too big for him a few weeks ago now fit him perfectly. (They’re not too small yet, they’re just riding up a bit here.) We trialled our first outdoor breast-feeding session, huddled in a blanket against the wind, and that went fine too.

Then we went for a lovely walk beside the golf course. Yep that little pond’s still frozen. And there aren’t any leaves yet. But it’s very very pretty all the same. The ground is sort of golden and bare as it emerges from the snow. Some patches are still strewn with autumn leaves which have been hiding there all winter.

And I couldn’t help myself but to walk through the fortress itself to the lookout over the harbour and the town. You can see that the harbour still looks pretty iced over, but that not far beyond lies the clear and shining sea.

Speaking of Green…

Yep, it’s pretty green round here right now. A sort of scraggly, mossy green – not all the trees have leaves yet – but it’s beginning to fill in. Every time I go to the park near my house, some small thing is different.

Time feels like it’s passing so quickly at the moment. I fight a battle with my chapter every day, and at the end of each day it feels like it’s defeated me, but I make a new assault each morning with fresh ammunition. And I’m gaining ground.

I teach my last class tomorrow. Then I just have to mark the essays, and I’m done.

And – I’m beginning to think about leaving. At the end of June, I’m moving to Norway. I’ll still be back here now and again until I hand in my thesis, but I won’t have a base here any more. I’m looking forward to it, but there’ll be things I miss, all the same. I’ve been based in the UK for nearly five years now. Maybe it’s time for a change.