Saturday mornings are up-and-out mornings: teeth brushed and clothes on whilst it’s still dark outside, a quick ‘first breakfast’ of Weetabix or porridge (my children are hobbits who require at least two), baby stuffed in a pramsuit and from there into the pram, fourteen shoes on feet, six coats, check that we have keys, that we have a payment card (the children think that on the Harbour Arm, we pay with seashells – and we smuggle the card across when they look away), out of the door.
We walk through the town when it is still waking up. There are puddles to splash in, the tunnel under the bridge – they want to scream, to dare the witches, we whisper warnings that the hour is too early and people will still be in bed. The birds are singing; we never heard so much birdsong in London. On the first night that we lived in our new home, the early morning seagull cries pulled me from my uneasy dreams of lonely monsters and abandoned things but these days they slot comfortably into the easy pattern of our lives and the children aren’t even afraid of them any more. We poll our options: coffee and cake at Steep Street, though we can never get a table unless we’re waiting outside as the doors open, scrambled tofu and toast at the Market Square, a bus to the town across for Biscoff Muffins. But cinnamon whirls at Docker almost always win. We buy sticky-sweet buns, still warm, and fresh, soft bread, and find a table close by to eat.
The baby knows. She holds out her hands and asked for “More, more” and the children fight to break off bits for her, to fill her fists with cake. Sometimes we buy a coffee; often we just sit and we watch them, we wonder how we found ourselves here, listening to the sea, listening to our children chatter and bicker and laugh. We chase the baby. We threaten to swap her for something sedentary – a potato, perhaps. You get a lot of chips out of a potato. We wonder out loud how much we would get if we sold her, and the children join in until they relent, a rush of love and bodies toward the baby who protests, smacks at them, laughs as she squawks.
The sea. The way it feels; the crash of it, sea-spray, the children’s squeals. Stones become treasure in small hands, cradled in pockets. Kirsty, holding the baby’s hands to keep her safe; me, down at the water’s edge with the children, dodging the waves.
I love them in a way that catches in the back of my throat.