The boys’ illnesses have dragged on and even now my eldest is still fighting an ear infection. Instead of swimming today, we decided to wrap up and head to our local park. The boys weave down the canal path, racing each other and doubling back to do it over and over. Our bag is filled with blackberries, mince pies and coffee. Little hands in mittens find mine and the face of my youngest looks up at me with such pleasure it melts me every time.

We trail around the park and find a path leading to the back of a housing estate I never knew existed. There’s another play area here, with a clear view of the train tracks – which may or may not sound exciting, but it’s sheer bliss when you’re four years old. I sit on a old log, bark flaking, as they climb to the highest point they can to watch the carriages whistle by.

Returning to the original park, I seek out berberis. While numerous people consider these spiky plants essentially a weed, I love them. It was the first plant I sought out a name for and over the years I’ve come to love too many varieties to count. Our park is home to many of them, and this berberis darwinii (above) is one I really must buy for my garden now we’re at the planting stage. The fiery but dainty tassels are stunning. My youngest sees me seeking out the flowers and he says, ‘oooh, those are beautiful’

Our nature curriculum suggests choosing a tree to study through the seasons and this elegant skeleton above is the one we’ve chosen. I’ve not yet identified it, due to the fact it’s not got a single leaf left on it and the wind has tumbled a muddle of leaves onto the ground below it.

Heading to the library we pick up a book on tree identification with clear pictures of trees in winter. We’ll take it with us next time we go and hopefully become a little wiser.

The boys stack up library books as if we don’t have a bookcase with bowing shelves upstairs. My middle boy picks a poetry book and it’s all I can do not to shout out in excitement. Poetry! My favourite! I’m trying to play it down, but he’s knows he’s picked a good one.

It’s Tuesday, and the days are short and bleak. The sun stubbornly refuses to grace us with its presence today and there is a metallic, industrial feeling to the day. It’s inhospitable, cold, lacking charm. But the berberis surrounding the play area, with its glossy red berries lends a much needed warmth. Sometimes you just need to remind yourself of that goodness and warmth, holding your children close as a headache pounds behind your eyes, gaining strength ready to hit you with a violent crescendo. Sometimes you’ve just got to admit it’s not the best of days but it’s the best you’re going to get today.

And I’m okay with that.

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