Sleeping Child

Her child lay asleep in the crook of her arm. How long she had rocked she herself had forgotten. Back and forth, back and forth. Till her movement had no beginning and no end. Had she started with a forward rock or a backward rock? Did she really care? Not so much. Only it struck her that it was one of those things that became almost impossible to do when you thought about them too much. Tired, she thought, so tired. Even now, when she had finally rocked him to sleep, rest was far away. How to transfer the sleeping child to his cot without awakening him? Yet could she not just rest awhile in the old rocking chair, enjoy the fruits of her labour, the snuffled snores of her little son, the tightly shut eyes, tracks of dried tears he had shed in the throes of exhaustion, looking to her to make him stop crying.

Oh but how she had tried. The things she had attempted. She had put him to her breast. Frenzied, he had rejected her. Forcing down the old fears, repeating to herself- it’s not his fault, not like the others- she had held him against her shoulder and walked the rooms of her house, wearing down the carpet in her weary imagination. Still the howls from her little scrap of humanity had not abated. Aggrieved at her failure, tormented by the vision of her mother-in-law waking up to offer advice, she had resorted to gripping him around his middle, his back to her heartbeat, and dancing- yes, actually dancing, the horror of it!- all around the room. The jerky movements had, paradoxically, calmed the child. Had his brain been damaged by all the jolts┬áresulting from her clumsy gait? Dear god she hoped not. Poor thing’s been shocked into silence by me, she thought, wanting to so badly but not daring to giggle.

Only when she knew for certain that he had gotten over his- what did the old lady refer to it as? Yes, his spell- only then did she sink gratefully into the old rocking chair.

Back and forth, back and forth she’d rocked, not daring to stop till she could actually feel his sleep in her eyes.

Oh my darling, she sighed in the way of all mothers everywhere, who love their children when they are awake, but infinitely more when they are asleep.

Yes it was time to effect the transfer. Lip between teeth, concentrated breathing. Careful now, lean forward just so. These rocking chairs can be tricky. Not enough and you will never get out. Too much and you will find yourself on the floor, under the very same rocking chair that had previously been your source of comfort.

Careful now. Holding her child tight she eased herself to a standing position. Smooth glide tot he cot. Bend over, lowering the bundle gently.

Careful now. Oh so very lightly, roll him out of arms into cot. Oh well done! Self congratulations in order. Cover with the blanket. Turn to go. One last look. Good night, m y angel. And tiptoe out the room, shut the door quietly. Give everyone else in the house permission to breathe again.

16th August 2005



How can anyone doubt that there is a god? One has only to look upwards at the sky, arching overhead, stretching benevolently into infinity. Contained yet so much beyond us. It is not our realm, this sky. What a ridiculously insignificant word for such a symphony. And how awesome its fickleness of mood. One moment blue as calm white puffs of cloud glide contentedly riding the wind. The next grey, filled with ominous warning. Dark armies scudding overhead, gathering in the growing dark, preparing for unknown wars. See now the blindness of the night sky- in itself a paradox, black tarpaulin studded with pinholes of light, or yet again split by a more blinding streak of powerful masculine writing. Stealing that which it does not own. Robbing the virgin sky of its chastity as it rips through to the ground. Plundering, leaving the earth sobbing, the sky weeping tears of shame.

But oh rain can be victorious too! And the sky at raintime is a celebration, how can you question that it is?

Felix gives me scientific reasons for all this glory. I nod, outwardly fascinated. Inside my soul laughs. Foolish little man. You can only explain that which you see. How can you ever comprehend the live power of my mother sky?

Only look up, little man. Away from your footsteps, away from your streets, away from your walls and buildings. But look up. Stand, arms outstretched, heart open, throat open, head thrust upward. Look up little man. And then close your eyes. I swear you will feel my mother sky embrace you. And then you will weep, as she does for you.

How can you explain away your feelings as you turn to the sky? The connection you sense with something you can never touch?

My darling, it is the hand of god.

15th August, 2005

Trouble on board

A little bird told me that there was some trouble in one of the classes I teach. Apparently two monkeys have been rather busy in the primate section of the zoo today. My source tells me that they had been building up to a showdown of some sort and that the eruption, when it came, was a doozy! I understand that the zookeper handled the situation with aplomb and fiery skill. My prognosis is that there will be a simmering down of sorts for some time. But you how it is with our simian friends- you can’t keep a good monkey down!


So the exams are just around the corner and I’ve given you all the info I could possibly give you at this stage. Some last comments: do read the questions carefully, choose well, and remember to plan your answer. Even the situational writing question needs to be planned. Don’t forget our basic structure: INTRODUCTION followed by 3 BODY PARAGRAPHS and finally CONCLUSION. Any other advice at this stage will probably go in one eye and out the other. All the best, my young ones. Go into battle with your heads held high!

Oh my aching head

I have spent the whole weekend marking students’ essays. This is one of the worst parts of the job. Mind numbingly boring, it makes me feel more depressed than I have ever felt before. Azkaban does not have a dementor that can match up to the happiness-sucking power of a pile of badly written essays. There are woefully few really good ones that lift my spirit. Usually I keep those till the end- kind of like dessert after finishing your greens. Oh I know how feedback is important and that this is the best way to give it when the classes are so huge (more on this in another post) but why does it have to be so DULL?

Why English?

I guess you thought this was going to be about why you had to learn English. Who cares about you, man? This is MY blog. I love English because of the many nuances it is possible to convey. Do other languages have this ability? Of course they do. English just happens to be the language I am most proficient in. Any language is fun to study. When you have the time, try teaching yourself a third or fourth language on the internet. You will see what I mean. Especially when there are no exams related to your learning, you will have a whale of a time.