I woke this morning to different sounds. Not the usual twittering of the girls, just the banging of the plumbing as someone used the bathroom overhead. There was the harsh cawing of a crow and the softer calls of many wood pigeons. I am in Sussex, at my parents' house, where I grew from young teenager to adult.
We drove down last night towards the close of what had been, as the Padre said, the most perfect day. It was so warm and serene it belied the season. The girls played in the garden all day, an endless set of imaginary games, dotted with bursts of embryonic tennis, skipping and bike riding. It was a joy to see them outside after months of indoor amusement. As we started our journey the light was soft as a summer evening. The ridges and folds of the escarpment were just beginning to be defined by golden light and shadow. We descended our hill, pausing to post letters. Again, this strange serenity, people arriving at the pub for their evening meal. We passed through the village, past the hidden pond and the stone cottages, over the stream and the daffodil-strewn wood and up the other side, beyond the house where Florence Nightingale once lived, climbing steeply. We noticed a new For Sale sign. It is the miserable dog-walking lady with pink face and white hair. She never returns my smiles. She is going to live in Harrogate with the man she met on a cruise. No loss. At the top of the hill, the other side of this horseshoe valley, horses and sheep were silhouetted darkly atop their sweeping hillside backlit by the silver slip of the glassy reservoir. The sky was just beginning its passage towards darkness, a soft golden pink bestowing soft focus beauty on the cove of landscape it illuminated. As we journeyed on, the long straight roman roads and switchback turns cut through breathtaking countryside - not the drama of mountain or sea, but a high vista of peaks and troughs, clusters of bare-branched trees now etched against vermilion red to the west, a sleepy grey to the north and east. The football was on the radio, the girls full of sandwich, now sleeping, their necks - in the awkwardness of the car seats - angled like victims of the hangman's noose. A huge golden globe of harvest moon travelled south with us, past familiar signposts on the motorway - Heathrow, Richmond, Reigate, Gatwick - till we reached our destination.
We arrived at 11.15pm, swift journey indeed. A warm welcome from the parents, children transferred to beds, a glass of wine and supper enjoyed. It's good to be home.