I did buy a few albums this year; the soporific but beautiful “Curtains” by Tindersticks, the eclectic “Bring There” by Wilco and “When The Boatman Calls” by the consistently brilliant Nick Cave, containing “Into My Arms”, surely one of the most moving songs ever written. In previous years all of these would have been played to death. However, they paled into insignificance when compared to the joy of watching James grow and discover the world, seeing things through new eyes, sensing his awe and wonder at so many experiences. By his first birthday, not only was he walking and running confidently, but would climb, jump and delight in tumbling head-over-heels at ‘Playworld’ play centre in Parkgate. He loved to make us laugh by kicking a ball and managing to kick himself in the face as he followed through with his leg.
In the summer we went with about twelve other people (friends and friends of friends) to Florida in America. We had a few days beach time in Fort Myers but mostly stayed just outside Orlando to visit the theme parks. Our first hotel was truly awful and we quickly named it “Bates’ Motel”. We should have guessed what it would be like after seeing the tattered flags as we pulled into the car park. The chalet-style rooms were just as tattered and we had to roll a blanket up to give James some kind of mattress in the rickety old cot we were provided with. Every morning at breakfast (which we ate elsewhere – there was no way we were going to eat there!) we swapped stories of ants in the bathroom, TVs that would only get the Religious channel and huge, winged beasts (I may have exaggerated that for comedic effect) that threatened to smother a small child. We had to laugh to stop some of the party crying and we told ourselves it was only a base and we were out most of the day – but it was bad. One afternoon, we did return for a sleep and everyone agreed to meet at the hotel pool, only to find the lights in the water hanging from bare wires. We didn’t go for a swim. Regularly, the men would gather in the car park before setting off for the day, and have a kick about with a football. James, aged eighteen months, always joined in.
In Disneyland and the other parks, he went on the majority of the rides but invariably fell asleep just as they started, seemingly unfazed by all the lights and sounds. There didn’t seem to be any lasting damage but he was absolutely terrified of the Winnie The Pooh character strolling around trying to be cute and make friends with the little ones. However, for some unknown reason, he loved Tigger. Who knows what went through his head and what went into his memory banks, but I don’t think it was that that made him scream his lungs out for what seemed to be the entire eight hour flight back home!
Back at home, James was always lively and on the move. I didn’t subject him to much of my music but I did buy a single and played it when he was there. “Shine” by The Space Brothers is a great dance tune and from the minute he first heard it, James would stand as close to the speaker as possible, nodding his head and jumping up and down. I loved the words that seemed so appropriate when I looked at him: “With every step you take you touch my soul, with every breath you will succeed, the soul of an angel, touched from above, your spirit is shining, surrounded by love.”