I keep having that argument with myself, the one I’ve written down here before. The one about the city versus the countryside. I’m writing at the moment about moving back to Mum’s just before I had Tom. It’s reasonably rural there, but it’s also by the sea, which seems like a perfect place to raise a child. Most people move from the city to the country when their kids learn to walk, I did it the opposite way round.
I made a video on my old camera phone of Tom learning to walk in Mum’s back garden. It was a hot day, there were loads of daisies out and you could hear wood pigeons cooing in the background. He was walking in circles round the rotary washing line, holding on to the metal pole. Every time he let go, he fell down and laughed. It was idyllic, but I was hell bent on getting back to Manchester and carrying on with whatever I felt I’d interrupted when I had Tom.
These days, I’m feeling guilty for letting my non-mothering life take over. I’ve let my emotions and concern get sapped by situations where they’d be far better lavished on Tom. The realisation has resulted in an ultra high-density love for him that’s impossible to describe.
Perhaps if I was in the countryside, none of that nonsense would have mattered. Maybe I could hack it out in the sticks. Those stone cottages look good in the sunlight, but bleak in the winter. Then again, our street looks bleak in the winter; everywhere looks bleak in the winter. Friends and I took Tom on a drive out to Ramsbottom. It was a beautiful afternoon, but I left feeling scared to take the country plunge. Ramsbottom’s quaint (unlike its name) and I don’t think I can do quaint on my own.
At Mum’s, all you can ever hear after dark is pheasants and then at dawn, people shooting the pheasants. I prefer the reassuring wail of sirens and footsteps on the pavement outside making my living room floor shake. Last week I heard a couple kissing and getting a bit breathless under my window, further down the street a window gets smashed from time-to-time and the wheely bins are always rumbling around in the night, but I’d rather have all of that than total silence.
I’m never completely alone anyway, because my neighbour, (who I keep accidentally referring to as my housemate) is brilliant and has a car. We don’t have to drive far for our twice-weekly trips to the woods or the river. Tom loves being boyish: wading through puddles, hunting for bugs and building dens. Yesterday, we picked and ate wild Salford raspberries. I’m still shocked that these shady, empty places that smell so wild are only down the road, but that makes them even more magic.
It is time to stop trying to relive student life but I don’t think I should lock myself and Tom away in a remote cottage just yet. Everyone knows Manchester gets grey sometimes, but it suits it. We’ve still got good friends here, we’ve still got space to run around. It’s grey with plenty of green bits. When babysitters allow, I can order a late cab to town and be home again by three. The perfect way to spend the next day? Not lying in bed feeling low but den-building and bug-spotting with my intrepid, happy boy. For now, Manchester is home and Tom loves it too.