Cove – A Tale of Sicily

There are many things that can cause a night of sleeplessness …

9 pm coffee consumption,

hidden tablespoons of MSG in your dirty late night Chinese,

waking up at 2am to have your tyrant 3 year old demand that you should leave the double bed and sleep in the kitchen of your holiday caravan because “This bed is only for two people. Reid. And. Daddy.”

There are some nights when the third scenario wouldn’t bother me.

On these light-hearted, easy going occasions I’d probably toss a pillow gently at my child’s head, roll over and go back to sleep.


On the night that this occurred, I was overtired from travelling, at the final hormonal low of my menstrual cycle and my inner-child was feeling easily offended and highly strung.

I took offence.

With a capital O.

I mean seriously?

I paid for this goddamn Sicilian holiday.

I organised the trip.

I selected our caravan location from a drop down list, making sure it would be in a quiet, sunny location.

I practically owned these prefabricated walls.

How DARE this pint-sized dictator, who was already trespassing on my pillow, try and turf me out and make me sleep in the peasant bed in the kitchen?

I lay there, on my slither of mattress, eyes tight shut, planning vengeful come-backs for the morning.

Then it occurred to me that I am 36 and Reid is 3 and that Reid doesn’t really get vengeful come-backs.

He just gets more irate and irrational. There was no point in revenge. I needed to be an adult.


At this concluding point, I may have gone back to sleep but I couldn’t.

My nose was tweaked well out of joint. I tossed, I turned, I sighed loudly.

Then, to snazz up the darkness party, my psyche decided to dip into the special box called “Late night angst and exaggerated life issues that appear to have no solution.”

You know the one.

Psyche and I began by exploring my many failings as a parent and would-be provider of family bliss. We explored my bad decisions, terrible choices and moments of regret. We went through the thousand-bullet-point list of how my life is a complete and utter fail in every aspect. And finally we sat on the ledge of “It’s all too late now. It’s no good. I am unable to balance the spheres of being a good mum, a good person, a good writer and a good Bethan. I am too old, too weary, too exhausted, too …”

At that moment I must have dropped into the chasm of sleep because the next thing I knew, Reid was awakening me. It was 8.40am and he was in the most gloriously happy mood.

“You can sleep in this bed now, Mummy!” he chimed. “This bed is for three people now. Mummy. Reidy. Daddy!”

“Thanks,” I murmured, clinging to my shred of pillow and duvet.

Then we got up (I drank coffee) and we headed off for a walked through the nature reserve.

In and out of the light dappled pathways.

Looking up at the climbers picking their way up the red cliff face and then looking out to the silver tea-tray sea.

The kids squabbled, then held hands, then sang songs.

Ads and I held hands, then broke hands to hurry over and gather up one who had fallen over and another who had cactus spines in his hand whilst answering  the other one, who said it was too hot and wanted to go back to the caravan.

Then we found the cove – quite by accident.

It wasn’t all white sands and cliches, but rocky and painful to walk on, ice blue water hemmed with razor sharp calcite.

Ads and Ro stripped down to their pants and waded out into the crystal clear water.

Pix dipped her feet in the lapping shoreline and gazed dreamily after the others.

Reid and I perched by a muddy terrace where other beach-dwellers had built impossibly precarious towers from the pebbles and stones.

“Can we build a tower?” Reid asked.

“We can,” I said.

And so we did.

Stone by stone.

Feeling our way along the smooth flat surfaces so that our stones would balance well.

Working it out.

One by one.

Bit by bit.

Segment by segment.

Piece by piece.

We built our tower.

“This is it,” I thought to myself as I balanced another stone upon the last.

“This is the answer to what I was thinking about last night in bed.

There isn’t any perfect, concrete balance to life, or family or ourselves.

It’s a myth.

Balance is dynamic, momentary, dealing with each footstep at a time.

Balance is in the moment,

The stone upon stone art of living,



Reaching out,

Working it out.

Moment by moment.

Day by day.

Breath by breath.

Piece by piece.

We build our lives.

It’s a balancing act of natural stone – not a static wall of manmade bricks.

It’s all perfect.

Everything is fine.”

And then I felt better.

“Do you know what?” I said to Reid, stretching my arms to the sky and yawning happily. “I think our tower is finished.”

“Pow!” he replied, and knocked the whole thing down.

(As three year olds do and will, until the end of time.)

I looked at him.

He looked at me.

“Let’s build another one!” he said.

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