Our journey back north from the south coast of England was uneventful compared to the same from the south to the north of France. The most notable element was stopping at Warwick Services on the M40 for a quick food shop at the small Waitrose branch they have there – surely the most civilised aspect of the place – and we were even seduced into buying a ‘cool bag’ for a quid (when you spent £15 or more). Ah yes, we were back in England all right.
This was further confirmed as we approached Buxton which was living up to its status as the wettest place in England as high winds drove rain hard and horizontal at the car. Welcome home! Spirits were not high at this point but mercifully the rain eased as we drove into the village and N noted how it was the first time for as long as he can remember unpacking the car from a holiday a) in daylight and b) without it pissing with rain. Reasons to be cheerful, then.
And so we put the kettle on (it was still only 10.45am as we had disembarked from the ferry at the ungodly hour of 7am) and tried to accustom ourselves again to these northern climes and atmospheres and this old stone house.
The sun was strong enough and the wind weak enough to be able to enjoy lunch outside on the front terrace, next to the lane. As we chomped we admired the beautiful view around us and admitted that it wasn’t a bad place to live really. In fact, I don’t believe we have ever eaten out on the front terrace before and it was therefore wildly peverse that not long after we’d sat down we were suddenly crowded out and being made to feel self-conscious by a load of horse riders who congregated right in front of us; this followed immediately by three stinking old Land Rovers who then pulled tight up against our low wall, belching fumes to let the riders move on before deciding that they’d made a wrong turn. So they then sat there even longer deliberating noisily before, one by one, they used our drive to turn around in. All this in the 15 minutes in which we were trying to sit outside and enjoy a peaceful lunch. Quite unbelievable! But we had to laugh...
The following few days, before the girls were back at school, we were blessed with fine weather. The September sun bathed the fields in golden light while the farmers busied themselves with haymaking. We watched as tractors plied up and down, first cutting the meadows, then coming back to spread the cuttings with whisk-like attachments. Once dried, they were back to heap the hay into long lines so all the fields became deliciously stripey, before finally returning to bail it up into neat rectangles.
The air was sweet and dusty and full of the sounds of rural work. I almost felt moved to go out proferrring jugs of cool homemade lemonade to the hot field hands but decided this was a little too Tess of the D’Urbervilles for my own good. And they might get the wrong idea with all those haystacks about (...who am I trying to kid?! an old hag like me…).
We even managed to get the bikes out and cycle down the lane and through the village to a favourite spot by the stream which meanders through the valley. We took a rug and picnic, paddled and played pooh sticks while cattle and an ageing mare (no, silly, not me!) drifted lazily around us. It was all very Cider with Rosie – and the sort of gentle summer holiday pursuit that I always dream of doing with the children but rarely achieve because it’s pissing with rain and howling a gale.
The girls were back at school before we knew it. We’re still trying to get back into the routines of term time and I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that E has moved on to senior school. She will grow up so fast now.
While I have been away a baby has been born, a friend’s father has been dying, someone else has been made redundant and much more in-between. Life continues to change for everyone and I have felt a strong desire to change something too. So I have ditched yoga (for now) in favour of a gardening course. I know it is the right decision – it has made me very happy already. A long time ago at university, reading Voltaire’s ‘Candide’ from his ‘Contes Philosophiques’, I took on board his advice on the last page of the tale: ‘Il faut cultiver notre jardin.’ While, of course, this was philosophical in intent, the literal and practical implementation of it leads back to the philosophy: when out in my garden, digging, planting, nurturing, maintaining and creating, I am simply playing out the fundamentals of a contented life. There is hope and expectation, hard work and disappointment; but by being physically in touch with earth, air and water, and the cyclical energy of death and renewed life, my spirit is entirely at peace. I understand more and more, as each day passes, that this is the direction my life is taking, that this is where my experience of the world has led me, and that this is where fulfilment lies.