Monday, November 17, 2008
We have just come back from a weekend at 'The Ranch' near Point Reyes. We spent a week there in the summer and on our first night the cattle made such a noise we wondered if we had completely misjudged how peaceful the great wide open American countryside could actually be. I know it's ridiculous to go to a ranch and then complain about the cows but that night they made the phrase 'a cow says moo' look distinctly inadequate. 'The cow moans meruuurrrghhhhhhh' would more accurately have summed up their braying that night. There was some nervous laughter at breakfast as we made reference to this racket and silently wondered if it would go on all week. It certainly wasn't a noise I remembered from the Cornish countryside of my childhood or that of my grandmother's farm at Blackwell. But it turns out the cows were being weaned and that evening had been separated from their calves, hence the agonizing moans. Being pregnant at the time and dare I admit it, perhaps a little hormonal, I could sympathise with their pain. Anyway, the upshot of all this was that the owners promised us a free weekend at their spectacular idyll later in the year. Of course, when they suggested it, we, in best British form, said it was totally unnecessary...but they only had to insist once before we took them up on the offer. It sounds corny but it really is heaven there. And the timing was perfect because I was getting a dose of the baby blues last week. It might have been partly due to the fact that Max gave us a sleepless night the week before when he came home from preschool with a tummy bug. I haven't had a full night's sleep in 11 weeks, since Oli's arrival, so having an entire night stolen from me and with it the anxt of a sick child, it fairly did me in. But my blues were not entirely down to sleep deprivation. It's also that feeling of being overwhelmed (in a good way) about how precious these little lives are. Oli is just adorable and suddenly no longer a newborn. Looking at him now, with cheeks like delicious pale peaches, I feel those first few months have almost passed me by, they went in such a flash. I know that all sounds such a cliche but it's nevertheless true....Gone are those precious times when Oli, like a crumpled kitten, nuzzled his head into my shoulder, gone are the blistered little lips as he nursed, the tiny hands, the tiny everything and small dark eyes like a seal pup's. Of course, I love seeing Oli grow but I already feel nostalgic for that moment when he was first born and the nurses flung him on me and this little face, so familiar because he looked just like Max had at birth, gazed up at me and seemed to ask 'Where am I? And how did I get here?' The ranch in Point Reyes feeds into my feelings of nostalgia. When we arrived and I jumped out of the car, it smelled like summer holidays - fresh cut grass and dessicated manure! It was a balmy moonlit evening with hares and deer jumping out of the path of the car. Max ate a boiled egg with soldiers on a high bar stool in the kitchen while I washed Oli in an old tin tub I found under the sink. I grew up on stories of how my grandmother had once sterilized our baby bottles in a horse feed bucket and I thought she'd be smiling at the tin tub bath. Max spent the weekend befriending a John Deere tractor and climbing fences and he was also introduced to the concept of splinters. Dom and I weren't allowed near the tractor or the splinters so enjoyed the sunshine and the silence, because the cows had got over their trauma, and this time they were quiet.