Freckles

Dot writes: the wonderful thing about Irish weather, which can give you sleet, rain and clear blue sky in the space of an hour but where the day you can’t comfortably wear jeans is likely to count as a once-in-ten-years heatwave (or deep-freeze), is that every now and then you get a perfect little slice of summer sunshine delivered in April. We had that slice today, complete with little boys playing barefoot, Ken drinking beer and reading the paper in the back garden, and at the same time the trees just feathered with delicate light-green leaves and the blossom in full bloom. This morning on my way back from the village I fell into step with a lady who was taking a small dog for a walk in a pushchair, and after exchanging pleasantries regarding the dog (who has a bad back, apparently), we turned to the weather. “Just so long as today isn’t all we’re getting in the way of a summer,” said the dog-pusher, deftly extracting the maximum possible gloom from the loveliness of the day.

Actually I was in rather a bad mood myself for part of the time. I was feeling tired, but also irritated at hanging around not accomplishing much. I’ve had rather a bad week in many respects: I spent most of it with a quite severe tummy-ache (down to wind, I think, and certainly associated with it; I’m still not sure of the cause and the indignity was part of the affliction), and on Friday I learned that an article I was rather proud of had been rejected by the journal I sent it to. In addition Hugh has taken to coming into our bed again. I know that what you’re supposed to do – and what I used to do – is to march the child kindly but firmly back to his own room as soon as he appears; but these days Hugh doesn’t herald his arrival with cries or wails but slips in beside me quite quietly so that I hardly wake, and I am only alerted to the unsatisfactory nature of the arrangement when I surface about an hour later to find that Ken and I are now sharing only half of our double bed. By this point the innocent culprit is soundly asleep, and moreover I am wedged between him and his father and can’t get out. Last night he wet our bed as well. So I was a little fractious today; but I cheered up when I discovered that Ken has been growing thyme in the garden and I could try a new recipe for piperade. We’ve been getting bored with our own cooking; but this evening we had piperade with home-made bread from the bread-maker, slices of ham, and rhubarb-and-apple-crumble with home-grown rhubarb to follow.

As outdoor play has become a bigger part of his life again we notice that Hugh has developed a gorgeous crop of tiny freckles across his nose. In warm weather my boys have a slightly sweet smell; it is coconutty like sun-screen, but they have it even before the sun-screen is applied. (This afternoon Ken hurriedly excavated the sun-screen.) Frank has learned to say “cuddle”, for instance when he wants to be picked up and carried down the stairs, or when he has come to the end of a meal and is covered in scrambled egg. The egg is off-putting, but generally I seize the excuse. I rub my nose against his slowly thickening hair and smell his lovely smell. The boys compete for attention – nothing makes Hugh want to sit on my lap like seeing Frank there – but increasingly we see glimpses of the team they could become. In the sandpit they play side by side, seriously digging and pouring; in the house, Frank has reached the dubious milestone of beginning to join Hugh on the swivel chair where he sits to watch television. Here they are sharing a moment with their dad’s iPod and some of that lovely April sunshine.

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