After Christmas and New Year at home with my parents, not to mention the traumatic arrival of tooth number 6 (who would have thought a tiny sliver of enamel and dentine could cause so many sleepless nights, or so much screaming?), both Eoin and I have been feeling that we have lost our mojo. He was missing the undivided attention of four adults, and I wasn’t too far behind him. It doesn’t help that Stephen has had to take off on a January-long tour of the laser capitals of Europe (next stop: Utrecht, where the optical devices are large and subterranean!) so we are pretty much thrown upon our own resources. After a couple of days of slightly directionless, mopey wandering, we came to the conclusion that something had to be done. Eoin was very vocal on this point, though, typically, he left the organisational details up to me.
So, last week, we strapped ourselves into the car and headed off to Cowbridge. So far, my aquaintance with the place had been confined to the last series of Torchwood (there’s a sinister internment camp there, non-sci-fi fans), but everything looked reassuringly picturesque and market-townish as we drove along the main street. Rain was threatening, so we decided to go for a walk first, before heading in search of tea and buns. I’m so glad we did, because we found one of the first cheering things about Cowbridge almost immediately. Look what the town has:
Yes, that’s right: a Physic Garden! How much do I wish “Physic” had been spelled with a “k”? A great deal, let me tell you. Spelling aside, though, the Physic Garden is a lovely spot: it’s basically a recreation of an eighteenth-century walled garden in design and content. It doesn’t contain any plant not found in this country before 1800, and all the fruit trees are wonderful heritage varieties. The beds are laid out such that each contains plants which were thought to be good for a certain part of the body or a particular condition; around the edges of the garden, you can find plants for dyeing. Of course, we were hardly seeing it at its best, but, even on an overcast January day, the garden was so peaceful and calm that we made an immediate resolution to come back.
Moving on, we found a very welcoming place to stop for something to nibble: just opposite the garden, there’s an art and antiques market with a cafe where they sell home-made cakes, and ask very seriously whether you’d prefer a teapot or “a nice big mug” (you can guess which one I chose, I’m sure). We wandered round the market, and I stroked a lot of utility china, then we headed on up the high street where I found a very worthwhile delicatessen (the kind with cheeses which are so mature they’re being kept in bowls) and, joy of joys, a yarn shop. I admit that I may have done some surreptitious googling before we set off, and I might perhaps have been steering the pushchair in the direction of the yarny goodness. Eoin doesn’t have a particularly high tolerance for shopping, but he was very patient while I admired the hand-dyed yarns and deliberated between wool and merino 4ply (the wool had better yardage, and, having admired all the samples, I feel a Multnomah coming on). We went home, replete with cake, yarn and window-shopping. I don’t know about Eoin, but I’m planning to go back soon.
As Eoin put up with the wool-buying with such good grace, I thought the next day should be devoted more directly to him, so we met up with the Steiner parent and toddler group at Cosmeston Lakes. This was something I’d wanted to for some time, but circumstances had always conspired against us. The group walk around the lake and through the woods, watching the wildlife and enjoying stories and songs, before sharing baked potatoes and chamomile tea. This probably sounds terribly twee, I know, but it was actually a really great experience. Eoin absolutely loved it: he can often get a bit stressed with new people, but he was calm and happy the whole time. We watched swans, geese and robins, and saw some fearless squirrels only a foot or two away. He even made short work of his jacket potato, which is remarkable considering that he usually treats spuds as the foodstuff of the devil.
Unfortunately I managed to spoil the serene atmosphere of the whole thing by getting myself stuck in a huge patch of mud while carrying Eoin at one point: I couldn’t see where I was going, put a foot wrong and next thing I knew I was up to my ankles in mud, with one leg on each side of a large log. You may never have been in this position yourself, but unsticking both legs from a mud puddle with your hands full of struggling baby is no easy task. There was general flurry and concern, but Eoin was totally unruffled and giggling the whole time.
We’re definitely going to continue meeting the group in the future, and I am really looking forward to Eoin being more mobile, and able to clamber over trees and run around in the woods with the bigger toddlers. It’s certainly having a good effect on him even now: he was full of smiles for the rest of the day, and slept for about two and a half hours when we came home, worn out by fresh air and exercise. Meanwhile, I curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea and my knitting, and reflected that the mojo was definitely back for both of us.