A Word a Week Challenge: Sleep

My mother with my son; Tom was about two weeks old.

My mother with my son; Tom was about two weeks old.

When Sue posted “sleep” as her challenge word on A Word in Your Ear, I was already primed to think of babies sleeping – or in Tom’s case, not sleeping – since I posted about this a couple of weeks ago.

This is the only photo I have of my mother with my son when he was really small, probably only a couple of weeks old. Photos of him then are deceptive. He’s always asleep, but the reality of our lives then was that he slept only fitfully, for an hour or so at a time, and cried a lot the rest of the time.

Catch 22. Most of the earliest photos we have of Tom show him asleep. Yet our memories of the time are of sleeplessness. I guess we only picked up the camera in the quiet moments!

Catch 22. Most of the earliest photos we have of Tom show him asleep. Yet our memories of the time are of sleeplessness. I guess we only picked up the camera in the quiet moments!

Probably the first conversation I had with my mum after I’d come home from hospital with my howling infant was about how he never seemed to sleep. She reminded me I’d been the same, and that my dad, off work with broken ribs, had walked me in my pram around Kirkcaldy for hours on end. I probably would have done the same, except that we lived in a flat in an old manor house in the middle of rural Northamptonshire, and I couldn’t even get the pram over the cattle stops to the end of the driveway, let alone out beyond that on to roads with no footpaths.

When Tom was about five months old, we moved from our glamorous flat in Gayhurst House to a much more practical Edwardian semi in Olney. It lacked the history, character, architectural merit, Great Hall, gargoyles, tennis courts, Victorian Knot Garden and famous fishing pond of Gayhurst – not to mention the ghosts. But at least we all got some sleep.

Gayhurst House, Tom's first home.

Gayhurst House, Tom’s first home. Disclaimer: we lived in a flat in the converted stables – to the far left of the photo. In the foreground on the right is the chapel, designed in the style of Sir Christopher Wren, but not, apparently by him.


11 thoughts on “A Word a Week Challenge: Sleep

    • It was; and the history of the house was amazing. It had been owned briefly by Sir Walter Raleigh and one of the Gunpowder Plotters (the Guy Fawkes people) and it was used as accommodation for the Enigma code breakers in WWII. While we were living there a group of women who had worked at Bletchley Park during the war and been billeted at Gayhurst came to visit and be part of a documentary about their experiences. The house was also haunted. I don’t normally believe in that stuff, but walking through the Great Hall at night was seriously creepy.

  1. Pingback: Gayhurst House: a small collision of personal life with “real” history | Shaking the tree

    • 🙂 Pram is short for perambulator … basically an old fashioned baby buggy/stroller where the baby lies down rather than being strapped into a seat. I’ll post a photo of me in one with my dad (probably in the park where he used to walk me to get me to sleep). Thanks for reading my blog; I’ve just visited yours. Fascinating family history. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be on opposite “sides” of a war to members of my family. I have an uncle by marriage who was in the Wermacht, but he was from the Ukraine and although I don’t really understand the story, he and others joined the German Army thinking they’d be fighting Communist Russia. He ended up captured by the British in Italy and sent to Scotland where he met and married my aunt. Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

        • Wouldn’t it! My uncle died in the nineteen eighties; and my mum said he didn’t really talk about his experiences. I know this is common – as you’ve recounted! He died before glasnost and the break-up of the Soviet Union so I don’t think he was ever in touch with his family in the Ukraine because I gather he and his fellow soldiers who had been in the German forces were regarded as traitors. I know that one of my cousins has made contact with that side of his family so I’d like to talk to him about what he’s learned. I have read quite a lot about how the British sent many “Soviet” citizens back to the USSR after the war to appease Stalin, so I’ve wondered how my uncle managed to avoid that fate.

  2. Pingback: “two nations divided by a common language” | Shaking the tree

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