There’s so much that I’ve wanted to write about, dear Reader, in recent weeks but time remains my enemy. Easter, for a start: Easter parade hats were made, the Brownies Easter Sale came and went (less eventfully than last year), we went to Sussex and to France (like last year too). In Sussex we had an egg and spoon race in the garden and watched the weather change from sleet to hail to sun and back again every five minutes. We caught up with family and enjoyed vast quantities of my mother in law’s famous cottage pie round the table at her house on Easter Saturday. We flew to France the following day, taking her (and her cottage pie) with us, and the weather did nothing to improve despite being so many more hundred miles further south. We did an Easter egg hunt in the gloaming in our friends’ garden that first evening and ate absurdly yellow omelette made from eggs scooped from the ground just hours earlier. We met new friends and old, spoke French and English, conversed and imbibed while myriad children played and laughed next door, language no barrier.
Old friends from England came to stay the following day with their three boys – nervous at first of our three girls (three brides for three brothers) who they hadn’t seen for a while and the intervening time had turned insouciance into embarrassment. They muddled through and by the following day they were tearing round the house the best of mates. Table tennis matches, more egg hunts and brain-teasing wooden puzzles (bought for occasions just as this when time, for once, was on our side). Finding a restaurant that was open and prepared to take 11 of us was our daily challenge. We failed just once and resorted to raiding the fridge. But what a feast we made of cheese and salad! We enjoyed lazy mornings and long walks on the beach where air fresh from the Atlantic whipped our faces and filled our lungs, and rain always threatened.
On their last day we climbed the Dune du Pilat in a howling gale where not just wind, but sand, scorched our faces too. Triumphant at the top, we were pleased to sit in the sandy embrace of the lee-ward side, leaving the distant view of sand banks and oyster beds to our backs, surveying instead, from high above, the green pine canopy carpet which stretched endlessly and mesmerisingly before our eyes
My one sadness was that the bar in our village, opened so enthusiastically by a newly together couple just two years ago, has been forced to close. The pressure of trying to keep the business open in this very quiet part of France, and having over-reached themselves at the beginning with the new restaurant they created, proved too much. A new baby and children from other relationships cannot have helped. She has gone back to her parents; he lives in assisted housing in the village, now alone. I am sad for the loss of the amenity (café au lait in the morning sunshine, a kir at lunch or in the evening sun, good honest home-cooked food as you watched the passing scene), but I am particularly sad for the hopes that we witnessed at the beginning, the new life they were making as a new family, now lying broken on the quiet pavement. How quickly things can change.
And so the return to England was followed by seemingly endless more weeks of school holiday – two different schools, two different counties. I had been looking forward to this time at home with my girls but by the end I had done the Ice Cream Farm and birthing lambs, the pottery café and swimming, so many times that even I was wearying – and there was always a child somewhere that had to be got to school or picked up from school or homework that had to be done. It was holiday, but it was normal routine: it was rest but it was also alarm clocks. By the end, I felt decidedly weird and the ‘Easter’ bit of the holidays a long distant memory. I have just wanted to write it down before it has gone too far to remember, disappearing as slowly and surely as the sands of time keep flowing…