It’s national walk to school week this week, apparently. Or that, at least, is the line they’ve been feeding us at the village school. This is all very well, but it’s a time-consuming exercise. You can’t just whizz down in your car, drop and run. Oh no, suddenly I’m hob-nobbing with every Tom, Dick and Harry in the village.
Take yesterday. First, since I was passing, I popped my head into the barn where the village mechanic does his thing amongst the chickens. This is very handy, I might add – having a man what does cars at the end of my lane. Certainly much cheaper and more convenient than schlepping over to the swanky Audi concession in Macclesfield where they stitch you up royally with the invoice and you have to hang around finding things to do in the industrial estate for hours on end. There’s always the bowling alley I suppose….anyway, I digress. I’m umming and aahing about whether or not to get my timing belt done. The car’s, I mean, not mine. Mind you, my timing belt’s in need of a good service. Maybe that’s been the problem all these years? Hmm, I’d never thought of that. Can you get that on the NHS? I shall have to investigate. But I’m digressing again. (See? That’s why I never get anything done – and am always late.) Anyway, a discussion was had and we agreed to talk. Then, just as I was leaving, a friend drove up in her smart new 4x4 (needed round here I can tell you – it’s not Fulham, you know). We proceeded to have an erudite conversation about the clanking noise coming from underneath the vehicle despite the fact that it had just been fully serviced but in the end decided best leave it to the mechanic. (However, I did just wonder if it was a trapped stone and later discovered this was the startlingly technical conclusion the mechanic had drawn too. Is this the start of a new career for me, perhaps? I did once have a boyfriend who regularly dismantled cars, so I must have picked up a few tips there. Move over Kylie Minogue. Er, not. I’m 45 and brunette. Not quite the same, is it?).
But I’m digressing AGAIN. So, where was I. Ah yes, walking up the lane, just trying to get home but meeting various obstacles along the way. The next was one of my near neighbours. I was teetering on the verge, composing a nice shot over the hedge of the field with the marsh marigolds and the sheep and the sweep of the hills beyond, when he came past and was clearly in dire need of a chat. We tut tutted about all the sheep and lambs wandering round the place (one had whizzed down the lane in front of me and L as we walked down to school, its lambs bleating furiously in the field and wondering why the hell their mother was doing a runner when they wanted feeding (I think I know); another three were hanging around outside the pub, presumably waiting for opening time; another two lambs had just thrown themselves under Joe’s wheels etc etc). The farmer concerned believes in the right to roam. When he still had dairy cows he used to deliberately leave the field gates open so one cow would wander out, moo, and then all the others would follow it down the lane to the milking barn. Same on the way back. Simple, eh? We also discussed the myxomatosis rabbits (one had tottered across the road in front of me when I took the big girls to the bus this morning – and the same one was still bumbling about in a befuddled manner now, bless its little heart). Did see three tiny little bun-buns just yesterday though, so there’s hope. Breed like rabbits, etc etc. So it’s not total wipeout. I do love seeing their little white tails bouncing across the green fields, though it’s always seemed rather unfair to have a camouflaged coat then a white tail which just screams ‘Shoot me! Shoot me!’. Still, their problem, not mine, I’m pleased to say. I’m a little higher up the food chain.
So, what was next? Ah yes, I was on the home straight (clutching - slightly guiltily - some pink and white wild flowers I’d gathered from the roadside) and panting up the last really steep bit, hallucinating about kettles and Agas and nice cups of tea, when my neighbour staggers out with his box of goodies to recycle. Now, he’s always up for a chat, so I knew my cuppa would remain a mirage for a while longer. We discussed the merits of the day (sunny and therefore glorious and much cherished round these parts); we discussed blossom and his hollyhocks (there’s a story there but we won’t go into that now) and the fact that everything up here in the hills is a good two weeks behind the plains. We’ve still got snowdrops. Ha, ha, only kidding. But we do still have tulips and bluebells and the daffs have only just faded. Ah yes, it’s a harsh life in the High Peak. We discussed moving to Gloucestershire or some such soft southern option, but concluded we might just stay put for a while. Maybe. And he asked me about the house in France (he’s a bit of property magnate on the side, unlike his farming brothers in the village), and I told him the weather seems to have taken a dive down there too ever since we invested our precious pennies in finding ‘A Place in the Sun’. Huh! Last August, you could count the balmy nights on the fingers of one hand. There was me imagining lazy hazy days by the beach and much drifting about hotly in a Kaftan, sipping on a gin and tonic. Yep, ok, more disappointment to handle. But I’m good at that now. I’ve lowered my expectations. I told him how the property had been moved, timber by timber, from its original inland location, to one closer to the sea because the previous German owner had a, clearly, very bossy wife who it was clearly not worth crossing (they've since divorced). Anyway, saved us the trouble, I spose. And then we went on to discuss the merits of old houses versus new until, finally, I was able to take my leave with a smile and a cheery wave and go and get that kettle on. It was now 10 o’clock and I’d taken 45 minutes to get home. I could have driven to Manchester in that time. Still, I’m not complaining really. Is this not, after all, what village life is all about and what I love compared to the anonymity of my previous life on a street in London? Indeed it is, and my day felt complete before it had really even started. You can’t ask for more than that, can you now?