I am officially a mother. I know this because what I crave, almost above all else, is peace and quiet. Time alone to spend however I wish, frittered away reading or writing or simply being, is in very short supply.
Every day is a battle to find an hour or
so in which to do something that pleases only me. Sometime it is writing this
journal. Finishing a book which has been languishing on the bedside table.
Going for a swim. Oh Holy Land of Pool, how I worship thee! I sit in the sauna,
toasting myself till I am red in the face and dry as parchment, relishing the
quiet and seclusion of the tiny, wooden walled cell. Once baked I enter the
cool calm of the water, its turquoise embrace enveloping me willingly, and I
swim my thirty lengths or so with the Zen like detachment of a monk. Never has
the repetitive, essentially mindless activity of swimming been such a balm to
my soul, and woe betide the chatty bather who tries to engage me in idle
gossip. I offer them only a withering look and mutter something unintelligible
and vaguely unfriendly till they leave me alone.
is currently in its most beautiful phase, to my mind at least. Seemingly
overnight the trees have lost their winter pallor and their bleak branches
become covered in a riot of blossom. In Japan, cherry blossom symbolises
clouds, and is a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life. The country is
known for its annual cherry blossom festival Hanami, which has its roots in the
5th Century. I wonder why we do not celebrate this delightful time, for we are
truly blessed when it comes to blossom trees. First come the shell pink flowers
of the Yoshino cherry, delicately fragranced and as pretty as pair of ballet
shoes. The blackthorn is next up, producing a frothing mass of white blossom,
while the pale pink blooms of the winter-flowering cherry can open anytime from
November through to March in mild weather. Apples trees follow suit, normally
from late April onwards, offering blushing pink buds which burst open to reveal
pure white flowers. But possibly my favourite, and in its prime right now, are
the mulberry pink blossoms which my hasty internet research
cannot identify. Is
it the early flowering red peach, the atomic red flowering nectarine, or one of
the many varieties of crab apple? In my ignorance, and based solely on the fact
that its fruit are of a similar shade, I have always thought of it as the
blossom of the mulberry tree. In any case, its intense pink blooms catch my eye
everywhere; in gardens, hanging over paths and glowing beacon-like in parkland.
The colour hovers somewhere between fuchsia and purple and brings to mind the
deep pink of the Church of England. It is magnificent, and when I see a tree
dressed in such regal mulberry robes I feel happy simply to be alive.
Recently the grassy knoll under my
favourite tree has become a place of profound beauty. Always a lovely spot to
sit, the blossom has transformed it into a cathedral of loveliness that would
shame an angel. The recent mild weather has made my walks with Felix ever more
pleasurable, and one day when I entered what I think of as my very own secret garden
my heart leapt to see it draped in a delicate gown of white. It has become ever
more beautiful, until last week I arrived to find that a lively breeze had
begun to loosen the flowers from the branches. I stood under the snowy umbrella
as silken petals floated down upon me and Felix, entranced by the sheer
loveliness of it. In the dappled shade of the blossom-tree, on a bright spring
day with blue sky and high scudding clouds, I lay on a blanket and let the sun
warm my pale winter skin. Blossom drifted gently on the fresh breeze and
settled on the pram in which Felix peacefully, mercifully, slept. I let my body
relax and felt the frantic activity of motherhood seep out of every pore, while
I surrendered myself to the silent contemplation of beauty.
Tuesday, 8 April 2014
I used to think working art fairs was hard graft. The long days on your feet, the endless chitter chatter. Repeating ad nauseum the ever so slightly awkward pas de deux of selling art. A balancing act that requires finesse, charm and a large dollop of persuasiveness.
Compared, however, to the infinitely challenging, exhausting and nonstop circus that constitutes mothering, an art fair seems more like a holiday. I speak from experience as I recently dipped an eager toe back in the world of work, via an invitation to help out on the Dadbrook Gallery stand at the Affordable Art Fair. Having been off work for six months I considered the prospect with excitement and a fair amount of trepidation. Would I still be able to hack it? Did I still possess the brass balls and endless craic to flog art to willing punters? Would I still relish the thrill of the hunt pick up the scent and go in for the kill? I found myself thrown in the deep end on opening night, arriving at the stand to find it packed deep with wine sipping connoisseurs. Girding my loins I charged into the ring like an eager bull, salivating at the sight of the matadors red cloak. Those poor old punters didn't stand a chance; my blood lust was insatiable and I relished every moment, racking up several sales and charming the pants off anyone within range. I only came down from my high when I realised the hour of nine had come and gone and trotted off home through the night scented Battersea Park, a spring in my step and my spirits twinkling like the stars.
As I sat on the homeward bound train I felt like I was glowing with satisfaction. I felt revitalised, engaged, complete. Having Felix and being a mother has been the most incredible, rewarding and important thing I have ever done, but as I gazed at my reflection in the window I remembered the other Kat, the one who had joyfully stepped out of the wings to shine again The poised, professional Kat who is fearless and bold and works the room like a Grande Dame works the stage. Damn, I was good at this! And I had missed it immensely. Motherhood is so immersive, particularly first time round, that you become snow-blind. Your whole focus changes; from looking outwards to your career and social life your gaze shifts inwards, into your new family unit. All your protective and nurturing instincts concentrate your gaze into your lovely, wonderful, terrifying new baby. Wellies replace heels, jeans replace dresses and late nights come to mean something very different. Hangovers become crippling, impossible, regrettable. You find yourself picking up yesterdays outfit from the floor (knickers still tucked into jeans) and thinking 'This will do fine'. Gone are indulgent shopping trips to pick up a few shiny baubles. Instead you find yourself buying clothes hardwearing enough to withstand the endless onslaught of motherhood, whilst dummies, Aptimel and nipple cream become the focus of your retail therapy.
That night, as I gazed down at my saucy red boots and little black dress I felt like shrieking with laughter. I saw how the disparate parts could become an integrated whole once more. 'Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii'm every woman, it's all in meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee' sang Whitney Houston before she became an unrecognisable crack slave with no teeth, RIP Whitney. As I sat on the train, nestled amongst tipsy commuters and teenagers lost in Emo dreams, I glowed like a lamp that has been off for too long. As the train rumbled over Barnes Bridge bound for Chiswick, I felt the overpowering urge to see my baby, to hug him tight and hold his chubby legs and wipe his dribble and kiss his sweet wonderful face. I was like an elastic band; I had stretched as far as I could in the opposing direction and now I was snapping back, ever faster and more urgently. Reunited with my bike I peddled home as swiftly as my legs would take me, knees freezing in the chill night air, and as I sailed down Park Road I whooped out loud, startling a night walking man and dog out of their ruminations. I was the luckiest Cinderella in the whole wide world; not only had I gone to the ball but my very own Prince Charming was waiting for me at home. I was finding a new equilibrium all the jigsaw pieces of my being; mother, gallerist, friend, partner, daughter; a myriad identities flowed together like a river fed from many streams, and I felt the life force coursing through my veins.