On Walking: Monday 2nd February

I am sleep-walking down the Banbury Road, pulled along by Pants. We’ve left Dora at home, guard-dog for Elle, who’s been tremendously sick, and who is now lying supine on the sofa, drugged with cartoons. Pants leads me over the verge, down to the ditch; beneath the oak and into Dave’s field. I let him loose from his lead, watching as he wheels away.

I shiver, duck my nose into my old silk scarf. The air is so cold it feels thin, leaving me breathless. The clouds are a viscous grey; the sun an indistinct silver coin; false treasure in a treacherous sky.

Last night had been unending, holding Elle’s hand and trying not to catch her fear. ‘It’s just a bug.’ I said it over and over. ‘You’re going to be all right’.

‘But Mummy, it hurts.’

This morning, bombed from lack of sleep, I gave Stevie and Jess half-raw porridge. Tepid, gritty. The same colour as the sky.

Now, I start a lumbering jog, flapping my arms to warm up. I pass yellow catkins, hanging in pairs, no longer than half the length of my little finger. The birds are noisy; wood-pigeons clatter from an ash ahead of me. I put my head down, run on, inelegant in my wellies.

By the time we reach the bridge into Emma’s meadow, I’m warm. I don’t linger on the bridge; I don’t want to leave Elle for too long.

When she was a baby, I would hold Elle’s hand in the night. I’d put my arm through the bars of her cot, awkwardly bending, hold those precious tiny catkin-fingers. I’d be there for hours sometimes, unable to pull away in case I broke our hearts. Her hand is barely smaller than mine now, and the nails are half-varnished, bitten, the fingers long, clever. A great big ten-year old’s hands. As the waves of sickness twisted her body last night, her hand was tight, tighter still on mine.

‘Make it stop,’ she’d cried, and I’d wanted to cry with her, snatch the pain from her body and bear it, beat it, myself. Even the memory brings a sting of tears to my eyes and I stand in the field, blinking furiously. I glare at the jammy-scarlet of the blackberry wands; the unearthly chartreuse of the lichen on the hawthorn above.

I know that she’s over the worst, and that it was only a bug, but that same old nameless need that used to wake me in the darkness, is propelling me up the field, hurrying me past the cricket-bat willows; molehills go un-inspected.

I can feel the layered imprints of my daughter’s hand; the new-born, the toddler, the endlessly confidant six year old, the strong and brave almost-eleven year old. And I can hear the words she said last night.

‘Mummy, don’t let go.’

Elle walking

NB: After racing up the village like an idiot; red-faced and sweating, I found Elle serene on the sofa, tucking into a handful of dry cornflakes. Kids! Who’d ‘ave ’em?



Author: mrscarlielee

Mother. Writer. Wearer of frocks with wellies. Loves Dancing, Frivolity and Good Books. Tweet @MrsCarlieLee

15 thoughts on “On Walking: Monday 2nd February”

    1. Heya Debbie! She’s fine, thank you (apart from filthy tempered). How’s The Bones Of You? I keep checking back on your blog for news, but I imagine you must be flat-out writing the next one. And when do you launch? Are you on Net Galley for me to have a sneaky peek?!

      I’m at that awful in-betweeny stage of submission at the moment – my lovely agent has sent mine out to a couple of editors and now we’re just waiting, waiting, waiting. Agonising!


      1. Hi Carlie! All good thank you, publication in July and I’m just about to share the cover on my blog…
        I’ve been wondering where you are with things. Will cross everything for you, but someone will love your book because your writing is so beautiful. Lots of dog walks and wine to take your mind off things…


  1. Lovain’t and lovely post, beautifully written. Thank you for sharing it. Having had five children, I can totally relate. I too used to sit on the floor by the cot, holding little fingers. ☺️ my children are all grown up and married now, but I too still feel the imprint of those little hands.


    1. Hello Christine, golly: five! That’s a lot of love! Hope all is well with you and your writing – I’ll pop and visit your site in a moment. Elle gave me the bug, so today I’m bunking off work and just doing nice things!


  2. Despite the terror she inflicts on our household, the last thing I do every night is go to the toddler’s room, lean over her, and breathe in her clammy toddler smell. I can’t sleep unless I’ve done it. (Also, if I did it while she was awake, she’d punch me in the face).
    Hope little (10 is still little) E recovering quickly. Dry cornflakes have great medicinal qualities! At least my parents firmly believed it. That and Lucozade (in the large bottle, covered in orange crinkly wrap). Do people still give their sick kids Lucozade?


    1. Hello lovely lady – Elle fine, and dammit – didn’t think of Lucozade…made her drink salted orange barley, because apparently, I’m meeeeeaan. (Sadly, Elle got her revenge; gave it me)


  3. Loved this … brought back childhood memories of my own. It was the same every night … my dad would read me a bedtime story (or I’d make him read lyrics from his folk song book) and then I’d fall sleep, thumb in mouth clinging onto my dads big giant thumb 🙂 he wouldn’t leave until I was fast asleep xx


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