The Crocodile Harmonica

Magic Casa Batllo

I went to Barcelona with work on Monday. Tom went to stay with his Auntie J. I had to give two presentations, about which I was very nervous. You can’t get drunk before you do work presentations like you can before you read out your writing. You can’t make self-depricating jokes if things go wrong. I was wearing a pencil skirt that made me feel like my ankles were cuffed together and court shoes that pinched my toes. Luckily, I didn’t fall off the stage despite lots of nerves and a little bit of vertigo.

My hotel room had a curvy stone balcony that overlooked the leafy road and the plain blue sky overhead. Inside, the walls were

Another photo of one of my notebooks in a good writing spot.

covered in Beatles memorabilia because they stayed there in the sixties.  Tom would have loved it and it made me miss him. I had a bit of free time and bought him a crocodile harmonica. It’s the best harmonica I have ever seen and sounds good too. I walked to Casa Batllo and remembered visiting there with my friend when I was 21. I took photographs, then found a table in the Gothic Quarter and wrote a bit of the book. I imagined I was a full-time writer, that  I spent my life staring at Barcelona’s pretty pavements and sitting outside cafes scribbling away.  It didn’t last long though, I had a meeting to get to, then a plane to catch. As busy as it makes me, my job means the world to me and a discussion I had on the way home made me remember why.

I got talking to a lady and mentioned that I couldn’t wait to see Tom. She said that was a single Mum too and she reckons she achieved more because she felt like she wanted to do well for her son and also because she wanted to prove a point. Her boy didn’t suffer: she took him with her to lots of places and he is now grown-up, open-minded, multilingual and on a brilliant career path. She said she didn’t want to have no money and she knew what people thought of her so she set out to change it. Hopefully things will have progressed more in the next twenty years than they have since that lady had her son. There are plenty of single parents like us, but the media would rather write about the ones who don’t work.

It got me thinking about the comments beneath my last post, about people constantly being told that they can’t do things. “You can’t have a career if you have a baby.” I was told it. A close family member said “I thought you’d travel Emily, I thought you’d be a writer, I thought you’d do well.” One of my friends told me recently that he pitied me because he thought my life was ruined. No one thought it more than me.

I don’t know where my ‘can’ notion came from, but it didn’t arrive until way after Tom was born. Not everyone has an Auntie J or a mother like mine who wants to help out. Not everyone has work experience or qualifications. Who is going to help single parents find childcare solutions and training so that they can pursue careers and help dash the myths? Who is going to tell them they can be ambitious and still raise happy children?

I gasped as the icy wind whipped Tom and I on the way to school this morning.

“It was sunny in Spain,” I said, “There were no clouds. The buildings are twisty and colourful, it’s beautiful.”

“Which is your favourite? Spain or me?”

I stopped still, even though we were late. “You do know the answer to that, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course I do, I was just being a tiny bit cheeky,” he laughed, a knowing look on his face. And that was before he had even seen the crocodile harmonica.



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8 responses to “The Crocodile Harmonica

  1. I want my note book in that spot. Lovely post.

  2. Fantastic and truly inspirational post. Just joined your blog and look forward to reading more of your posts. I’ve started my own blog which combines my adventures as a new mum and filmmaker.

  3. Rachel

    It is indeed a terrible thing about being a single parent, that the vast majority of us doing a great job in difficult circumstances are entirely ignored and therefore rendered invisible by the media and government.
    I had always wanted to set up my own practice as a landscape architect, but only actually did it when I had my son, became a single parent within six months of his birth, and when I was ready to go back to work no-one would give me a part time job. Really, it was that or the dole (and thanks to the Labour government Tax Credits, or I wouldn’t have had even that choice).
    Not that I want to pressure you, but I am very glad you are writing your book to put out there a view of single parenting that doesn’t concentrate on us as statistics

  4. maryfclark

    I feel SURE that I could get some great writing done on that balcony. I hope he loves his harmonica….

  5. maryfclark

    And I don’t think of any single parents I know as statistics– rather as marvels. All I know are magnificent parents and role models. I know it is a prevalent view in government think-tanks, but all that does is prove how useless and out of touch the thinkers are.

  6. Sounds like a nice place to write=)

  7. Love your photos – what do you shoot them on? Do you get that vignetting in post-production or is it a Diana or Holga? Love it!

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