The House of Marbles

So, I survived the Monster-In-Law. Thank you, sincerely, to all you lovely ladies who piped up with super helpful advice on how to deal with her-whilst I avoided the whisky and valium, I did work very hard on simply being there for Phil, being the best wife I could be. And, major result, we only spent 4 hours with her in the end thanks to a fantastic scheduling error and some little white lies (surprisingly, not told by me. Phil is apparently more in tune with my inner turmoil than I had given him credit for!) The remainder of our lovely long weekend was spent with the rest of Phil’s family and a little quality alone time. It was marvellous.

We walked the tunnels and caves under Exeter city centre, we’ve done this twice before and I can’t get enough of it-it’s like Hogwarts with a bit of Labyrinth thrown in for good measure. We window shopped, walked and walked and walked some more, drank tea and ate shortbread like there would be no tomorrow and visited some of our favourite museums. MY favourite museum is….um…. well, a little embarrassing. And, in fairness, it’s my favourite museum in Devon, not the whole world…so that makes it ok. Ok? Good. So, my favourite museum is the House of Marbles. Which does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a marble museum, marble factory and glass blowing warehouse all housed in a beautiful old barn with some handmade textiles and antique pottery to substantiate the displays.

There’s something about marbles that takes me right back to when I was a child. I can smell the coal fire and slight mustiness of the carpet I lay on with my Bebeen (my Grandma…don’t ask) rolling marbles into a tipped over bucket on the far side of the room. I can feel the rough fibres of the rug on my cheek as I rolled around giggling at the wonderful ways my Bebeen could cheat at playing marbles. The ‘chink’ of the perfectly round sphere of glass hitting the bottom of the old-fashioned metal pail when my Bebeen worked the system and succeeded, or the dull ‘thunk’ when my marble invariably rolled right past the bucket and hit the skirting board! I played with emerald greens marbles, Bebeen with deep ruby red. So we could tell who had won at the end of the game you see. Bebeen never let me win-character building she said. Only made me more determined to beat her, so I guess it worked! Her knees don’t allow for rolling round on fireside carpets with 7 year olds anymore, but we still play on the breakfast bar occasionally….

Whilst enthralled by the antique pottery in one of the converted barns in the House of Marbles, I came across a Torquay pottery jug, from the 19th century. It bore this inscription;

Do what you can,
With who you are,
Shine like a gloworm,
If you can’t be a star.
It wasn’t an epiphany, it wasn’t a bolt of lightning from the heavens. There was no gasp, no moment of clarity or leap in my chest. But I read, and reread the four lines and I committed them to memory. And later that day, I decided that this is how I’m going to live. How we’re going to live.
You see, Phil and I have recently learnt that we’re not going to have a baby on our own. And without going into details and torturing you all with the in’s and out’s (pun wasn’t intended…but I kinda like it now it’s there!) of our lives between the sheets, the problem lies with me. I have railed against my body, screamed and cried, and during the quieter times in my head, decided that Phil should leave me. Find a woman who could give him what a woman should be able to give the man she loves. The casual roll of his eyes that was his response to my insane proposal was just what I needed. He is committed to me, to us and to the family we’ll work hard to have one day.
And so, those four lines of 200 year old verse, four lines about a gloworm on a jug, they resonated with me. With the struggle we’re facing. Because my body is what it is. I am the way I am, I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and find that all is well. But I am, we are, going to to what we can with the resources available to us. We are in love with, and invested in the idea of being parents. But our priority remains us, our relationship. We know the lengths we’re willing to go to, we know one another’s limits. If we’re destined to be gloworms, so be it. I’ve always thought they were quite cute!
I think, ultimately, I’m echoing Clare’s wise words. There’s many subjects and areas of life that pre-marital counselling will touch on and perhaps one of the most important is what will happen if having children proves me to be more difficult than it should. Where is your limit? Is it different to your partners’? The research we’ve been doing has highlighted to us the unbearably high numbers of couples who don’t make it through the trials of infertility. The couples where the balance is off, where one wants something more or less than the other. That’s fine when it’s a plasma TV, or a new car, but not a child. Talk about it.
Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships, Marriage, Our Favourite Posts, Your Favourite Posts
17 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted February 1, 2011 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    I'm so very sorry and amazed at your strength and wisdom. Wishing you and Phil all the very best in the path you choose to take. And pleased all went well with the MIL ;)

  2. Posted February 1, 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    What a lovely posy. First congrats on getting through your visit with the MiL. Secondly, i didnt know anything about Exeter but you've made me want to go- i am very intrigued by the caves and love the sound of a marble museum (marbles were also a big part of my tomboyish childhood!)
    thank you for your honesty with regard to having children. I dont have any by choice although i do now have a stepson which brings with it compromises and challenges of its own but i wish you all the luck in the world with whichever way your journey takes you and you're right that ultimately your relationship is the most important thing. I love that gloworm verse- so simple, but so true.

  3. Posted February 1, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Oops that should of course say post not posy! Touchscreen typos!

  4. Posted February 1, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Oh, I'm so sorry – that really can't have been an easy thing to find out. But it sounds like you and Phil are moving forwards in the right way, and I really hope it all goes really well. x

  5. Posted February 1, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I'm sorry. I really feel for you, having a family is such an important thing to us too that my heart hurts sometimes. We have already said that we would put ourselves through IVF if we couldn't manage ourselves, but as to when to draw the line, we haven't decided. I hope the journey to becoming parents is as gentle as it can be for you xxx

  6. Posted February 1, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    How had I never heard of those caves? That sounds so magical that I want to up and go right now. (Not possible sadly as I'm stuck at my desk)

    I think you're fast becoming the queen on honest and thought provoking blogging! I have a condition which could mean I'm infertile – we won't know unless we try and so far we haven't. To be honest, I'm quite relaxed about it all and I know that if I did decide I wanted a child I would be just as happy (possibly more so) giving a home to one that already existed as creating my own but my man wouldn't so if we can't have babies naturally we'll just have dogs. Hope you guys find your path.

  7. Posted February 1, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    Oh goodness! Those words? Insanely powerful, but YOU Aisling?! Good Lord, woman — you could own the world with your strength & beauty. Thank you for sharing this & best of luck to you in the path you choose. ♥

  8. Posted February 1, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Umm Casie – ditto. One hundred times ditto. Aisling is not only brave, she is totally one hundred percent awesome for being honest and open and sharing in such a powerful, well writen, thought provoking way.

    And she is right – talk about this. Soon.

  9. Posted February 1, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    Also? Phil casually rolling his eyes at your suggestion makes me love him. What better reaction coudl you ask for?

  10. Becca
    Posted February 1, 2011 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    I love this blog. Its real and caring and honest and everything it should be.

    I'm adopted. My parents (real parents not birth parents) couldn't have me. So I adopted them. We say it that way because I chose them and the house we live in. Childhood is about who you're with. Not your DNA.

    I think Aisling, that you are remarkably brave for sharing that with us and you know what, you're going to be SUCH an amazing mother however he or she arrives.

  11. Posted February 1, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    When I read and then re-read this I still felt the same searching, aching feeling – the kind that gives you goosebumps and swells your heart and makes your throat a little bit tight.

    This is real and so powerful, and I just know that with this kind of power in there you can do great things and be a gloworm or a star or a bloody great fireball. And you get to hold hands with Phil along the way and have him raise his eyebrows at you. Brilliant x

  12. Posted February 2, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I don't know what to say!

    All your lovely comments, e-mails and even text messages have made me all the more certain that I did the right thing in writing about this.

    I wish anyone who has any kind of experience with infertility all the luck and love in the world.

    We don't have any answers, we don't know know what's at the end of the road, but we're finding out together and that's what's important.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart ladies.

    Aisling x

  13. SVK
    Posted February 9, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    I've just read this. Your attitude is so inspiring Aisling. I'm sitting here wishing you both the best of luck in the world.

  14. Posted February 10, 2011 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    What a lady. You write beautifully and honestly which makes it so special. Thank you for sharing this with us. You give me hope and inspiration and I am truly envious of your very strong relationship. I wish you both luck on your journey to be parents. I have no doubt that your future children will be very blessed.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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