Then the traveller in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark;
He could not see where to go,
If you did not twinkle so – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star


I must have sung Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star so many times when my daughter was a baby. I always used the full version which has the traveller in the dark verse. A traveller in the dark is a small child and the star is the attachment figure. That is all I’ve wanted to be for her. And though the nursery rhymes have faded of late, I am reminded that they are always deeply embedded in our consciousness.


She has been learning the Nativity story at school but she asked me a surprising question when she encountered a Christmas crib in Manchester.

“Is that the star, the one in the Twinkle, Twinkle song?”

“The Star of Bethlehem?”

“Yes, the one the wise men follow?”

“Well, perhaps it is,”

“Who were they?”

“I don’t know,”


I used her interest in these learned men riding on camels to cement her understanding of where her father is. Three weeks ago, he departed for work in the Gulf. She brought him to me whilst I was still sleeping.

“Papa is going now,”

We all clung to one another. She watched him leave from her window bravely holding back tears. By happy coincidence, we found a story in the local library called Jamal’s Journey by Michael Foreman. It’s about a baby camel who gets separated from his parents during a sandstorm but a falcon guides him back to safety. I photographed one of the illustrations and printed it. She scrapbooked it as a reference point for where her father is and often likes to look at it as the Advent countdown begins.

The falcon cannot hear the falconer

This I worried about but it was fleeting. My daughter will always feel the emotional presence of her father if not his physical one. Long distance love can also be between parent and child. My daughter is figuring so much out already though she is so young. I placed two clocks for her in the kitchen. One with the time in England and one with the hour in Qatar.

“One, two, three…three hours,” she says as she checks them every morning. She has decorated the clocks with stars.

Geography is of the soul and not just the map. I write about the countries in my life and now I write about hers too.