I have just returned from my friend's house 10 minutes away. When I first visited her in this part of the world four years ago she was pregnant with her first child, long awaited. This afternoon we had a cup of tea by the pool as our children swam, played dolphin games (I found myself briefly masquerading as a dolphin, flipping my flippers, jumping for fish and making dolphin noises - a talent I never knew I had), and acted out a shark attack. Funny how their minds work sometimes. We chatted around the edges of the animated watery activity and moved seamlessly enough into aperitif time. Tea was exchanged for wine. We have much to discuss at the moment as she is separating from her husband of many years - almost as many as N and I. I understand all the reasons, and understand them more and more the more we chat. But nevertheless I am sad. And so is she. She has a very bright light shining at the end of her tunnel but it doesn't make the ending of things any easier. In the few years we have been coming here we have built up a whole new bank of memories - summers, autumns, Christmases, New Years and Easters. Time spent together. We are both adjusting to the future, not entirely sure what it will bring.
The children gamboled around the garden together. They dressed up and played their games, they swung dangerously in the hammock. We watched the sun slanting ever lower through the pines, throwing beautiful shadows and tranches of golden light towards us. I never have the camera with me when I need it. We laid the table with home-made quiche and polenta flavoured with cheese and garlic. There was a tomato and cucumber salad made from tomatoes from the garden, homemade bread, cherry cake and melon. A simple feast fit for a king. The children ate hungrily then disappeared inside to watch an ancient (yet still brilliant) 'Mr Bean' video. We were left to our chat, both our men absent - one fishing on the local beach, the other doing his accounting back in the UK. Such different lives. Such different outcomes.
She and I go back far, back to the Alps over 20 years ago. Though distance has separated us, our spirits and our intense experiences have kept us close. With the passage of time we have the advantage of a bigger picture, a better overview of all that has gone before and where it has led us. We also have the wisdom of hindsight.
Even if we travel along a road we shouldn't perhaps have taken, we see things along the way and learn from them. If you keep your eyes open, no journey is ever really wasted even if you take the odd wrong turn. And often you return to where you began, but older and wiser. You come home.