At least nine times yesterday the 6-year-old advised me that today he would run me a bath. When I opened my mothers’ day gifts I realised what had sparked his enthusiasm.
It wasn’t because he’d gone on the annual pilgrimage to Lush with his father and brothers – he was unable to accompany them this year due to being quite literally tied up on a Beaver trip to Go Ape. It was because he had, with the aforementioned Beaver pack, been led through an activity of card making and voucher writing. Along with the ‘run mummy a bath voucher’, I am now also free to trade other small tokens at any time I so choose for treats as varied as cleaning the hamster, and a back massage.
The vouchers were received this morning, alongside the usual ritual of being hit on the head with hand-picked daffs from the garden – depleted this year due to last week’s snow – and carefully opening envelopes that revealed handmade cards, as full of love as they are prit stick.
The bath pledge was honoured, and as I soaked my spoiled bones I had one of those rare, fleeting moments of utter contentment, followed closely by melancholy; we’d said goodbye to a good friend last week and I tried to imagine how different her daughter’s morning must have been to my sons’.
My friend had been a vibrant, spontaneous spirit whose illness had taken her along a spiritual and holistic path, and who nurtured her mind and her body as tenderly and fiercely as she nurtured her daughter. As the morning sun poured through the bathroom window, I imagined how she’d have longed to spend this day outdoors with her family. I felt a little ashamed at the unimaginative and lazy morning that lay ahead of us; a car ride into Southampton, and a table booked at Bill’s in the newish part of the City Centre – West Quay Watermark.
We usually shun this part of town. The rare occasions myself and the husband get to go out together we favour the part of the city’s old walls closer to the water, with its microbreweries and lack of large chains. But today I wanted a good breakfast, a book shop, and a wide open space to let the boys run off steam should the eggs and bacon take an age to arrive. Supping a huge pot of tea looking out over the esplanade that connects the seemingly unconnectable medieval walls, and the ma-hoosive and modern west quay complex ticked those boxes.
The three laps of the esplanade that my husband insisted the boys ran before settling down to pancakes served us well, and we enjoyed an hour and half of eating, drinking, colouring and eye-spying together. The food and service were as lovely as the first time I experienced Bill’s on a trip to Brighton – before it had made an appearance in cities around the country and before I had entertained the thought of having kids.
Breakfast devoured, we embarked upon a vain attempt to burn off the black pudding by sauntering around part of the walls. We headed towards the medieval latrine that once benefited from Southampton’s twice-daily tide, then up the steps to the tower that last served the city in the second world war when boys not that much older than my own ‘manned’ it with anti-aircraft guns. I suspect many never made it home to their Mums.
We finished in Waterstones, somewhere I enjoy to browse-n-buy books in an effort to keep book shops on the high street and not just on Amazon (and I remembered with a sort of ironic amusement when Waterstones had first appeared and I’d shunned that in an effort to support local independent booksellers).
Books bought, bellies filled, we returned home and, not for the first time in my life, I was acutely aware of the human ability to find meaning and purpose in seemingly incompatible contradictions: corporations alongside centuries-old architecture; personal connections in what at first sight are impersonal spaces; and appreciating every little thing we have whilst feeling every large thing we have lost.
Southampton is a city that perhaps reflects these contradictions more than most. Maybe that’s why it was such a perfect place to reflect on motherhood and to enjoy it for what it is: the good, the bad and, of course, the bathtimes.
This is not a sponsored post. If you fancy breakfast at Bill’s, (and I recommend you do) then it’s worth booking in advance.