The day dawned with sun streaming through the bathroom window – always makes it so much easier to get out of bed and get on with living. My mood instantly light, to match the world outside, I hopped into the shower and thought about how to plan my day. Having taken E and G to the school bus, I came back home and roused L who was still in bed, surrounded by her favourite soft toys and asking me to take a photo.
I duly obliged. Who can resist a just-woken six year old with freckles across her nose and a gappy smile? After a quick breakfast, I insisted on us walking to school. We do not have many opportunities left, with just the rest of this term to go before we leave Combs Infants behind forever, after six happy years. They must be grabbed. Walking to school down a leafy lane with a small child’s hand clasped inside yours is one of the great joys of life, believe me. Though not in lashing wind and rain. Which is why we have to make the most of the sunny days. Carpe diem and all that.
So off we trotted, picking hedgerow flowers along the way for the Nature Table and chatting about this and that. L is very into bees at the moment after a talk at Brownies from an Api-whats-her-name. So, Pooh-like, we made up Busy Bee rhymes which went along the lines of ‘I’m just a bzzzzy bzzzzy bee and you can’t catch me.’ All very high-brow. We hopped over horse pooh and admired the farmer’s cockerel (so to speak) and skipped into school where everyone was…skipping. After a sponsored skip the other week for the British Heart Foundation, they’re doing a lot of skipping at school at the moment. It’s L’s new ‘best skill’ – having been useless at it just a month or so back. Tuition from her sisters helped her turn the corner and now a new obsession is born. I’ve long since given up. Boobs too big these days. Get all huffy and puffy after three jumps which doesn’t encourage either.
I put the flowers in water and said hello to The Artist, resplendent in his strawberry-covered pinny, who they were going to do sculptures with this morning. This term’s topic is ‘Holes’, so there would be lots of holes. I lurked around and listened for a while, before deciding to take a stroll along the lane from school to the newly formed ‘Bench’. This has suddenly appeared about 200 yards up from the school. All beautifully done in a nice stone walled alcove with a view of the escarpment. There is a slightly annoying bit of hawthorn hedge just to the right, but if you lean left you have an uninterrupted view of meadow and hillside stretching up to the heather-clad heights of Combs Moss. It is the view I have from our house, but closer to, and therefore offering a different mood and perspective. As I sat, a bloke was taking pictures of telegraph poles, rather annoyingly, but he was quite young and handsome, so I let him off. I felt a little silly stopping and sitting there as I had already said hello outside school and he probably thought I only stopped cos I fancied him or something. No, no. Far too old for that. I just wanted to make the most of this new facility, to make it feel loved, and take five minutes to myself just to stop, look and listen. No-one does enough of that these days.
A field of silky long grasses and bright yellow buttercups stretched out before me, a figure in the middle distance skirting the edges of the next field, lingering like me, the black silhouette of his dog scuttling back and forth from Master to Object of Excitement (unknown) and back again. I was unclear whether it was a farmer or just a walker, but it was part of the rhythm of the morning. A blackbird sat on the wires above my head and performed a beautiful solo to the background accompaniment of plaintive sheep and a chorus of unknown feathered creatures. Crows cawed in front and behind and all was cacophony for a short while. Then just as suddenly as the symphony had begun, the orchestra departed, leaving me to admire the empty stage in relative peace. I turned and looked up towards my house on the other side of the valley and the steep field dotted with sheep and lambs. I asked the young man what he was doing and he replied that he was just checking out the situation with these older wires, to make sure all was well. Very reassuring.
With that, I thought I should probably head back home to perform my daily domestic chores. Once back, I emptied the dishwasher, made beds, took out a wash, did some messy washing-up of Bolognese pans and plates (designer pinny firmly in place), put on the kettle (on my Aga – oh, what a scene of domestic bliss) and made a cup of tea before taking it outside to sit on my new teak bench (old one rotted and now ashes) and write my thank-you letters (yes, it was my birthday on Monday for all you naughty friends who forgot). One of my presents was a Cath Kidston peg bag which now hung resplendent on my washing line, in all its retro 1950s glory, the decade of the ultimate housewife.
As I wrote, the sun was hot, the light sublime, the grass, trees and hills greener than you can imagine. The air was still and bursting with birdsong and the thrum of bzzzzzy bees and I felt, quite simply, truly truly content.
When I was fifteen, I knew that the hardest task which lay ahead for me - a good old Gemini who likes a bit of everything different and can see the good and bad in everything - was to find contentment. It has taken me 46 years, but I think this village nestled in a corner of the High Peak, far from my roots and erstwhile dreams, holds the key. My neighbour doesn’t feel the same. For her the dream has turned sour and she wants to return to ‘civilisation’. For me, this could hardly get any closer. On a sunny day, at least.
PS: I'll write about Turkey next time, promise.