Spring arrives by stealth and there's a hidden benefit to country life away from street lamps and Ikea blinds.
'What's it like looking after the kids all the time?' is not a question I get asked very often. I'm much more likely to be asked how my wife is getting on without them now she's back in full time work. Interesting how we create expectations of a different type of bond between mums and kids and dads and kids. But since this is my blog, I'll answer the question anyway. (And don't worry, I'll get my other half to guest blog soon so you can get her answer too. She already writes - if you like food, you love this.)
One of the greatest benefits to my new life as a house dad is having time to just hang out with Woody (4.5), Eliza (1.5) and sometimes Nat (10.5). Time to get bored and desperately invent silly games. Time to feel the rhythm of their moods, to drop the books and chase them around the house for 20 minutes. That's fine until about 4 'o' clock when I've run out of steam and I'm chewing my own leg off with claustrophobia. Which is when my new discovery comes in - twilight roaming.
Back in the city, you don't really get twilight, or if you do, it's not a time to linger. Street lamps come on and bathe us all in sodium glare. Net curtains used to give a brief glimpse of domestic chaos as house lights came on while main curtains were still open. Now they're replaced by Skandi style blinds with nothing to show. In the office there's no sense of its existence. Strip lights have been on all day and as daylight fades it's replaced unnoticed with their clinical sheen.
Out here in gentle Somerset, as the days start to lengthen from Winter brevity and the air warms up, twilight is a semi-magical gap between day and night. Round about 4 'o' clock the air starts to thicken and slow. Often the wind drops and the birds get chatty in the quiet. Hedges and trees take on crazy shapes against the darkening sky.
If I've managed to get dinner sorted ahead of time, or if my wife is home, I like nothing more than grabbing coats and wellies and tumbling out in to the garden with the kids. Released from the house they fill the space with chatter and games, just as excited by our gloaming world as myself and the birds. It might be hide and seek; it might be creature spotting; it might be climbing on the log pile. Best of all, it might be time for a bonfire...
We all watch as the flames lick the sky and the fields shimmer through the heat. Then of course the kids want to get back inside to warmth and light. So then, as often as not, it's just me lingering outside as late as I dare, enjoying the echo of their games, smelling the first night air and watching brilliant sparks rise and blaze on their brief journey from earth to sky.