Living Arrows: a little moment of the week to pause, savour and treasure
Do you remember last Wednesday when it was so horribly terribly hot and sticky and sweaty that you just wanted to take off your skin and sit in your bones to cool down? We put the children to bed with ice blocks from the freezer as cold water bottles, with the thermometer still reading 31C in the bathroom and Pip’s bedroom egg glowing an angry red sad face at me. Thursday, and a trip to visit my aunt and uncle, could not come soon enough. They have a farm about half an hour from us, in a beautiful part of the country, all green and rolling hills, complete with the strawberry fields where I spent good chunks of my childhood discovering the very great pleasure of eating freshly picked berries, and a pool. Did I mention they have a pool.
Even writing those words just makes me feel cooler.
So naturally it rained.
Thursday was grey and sticky in Warwickshire, cooler than the night before, but only just, and the words “pool” and “swimming” were balm to the hot and flustered soul.
The first clue that all might not be going to go to plan was perhaps the fact that, as we headed west, the temperature gauge on the car started to lower, first one degree, then two, then it was a whole five degrees cooler than at home, as we drove straight towards a bank of sturdy looking grey cloud.
The second clue came when the girls decided that the first order of the day should be strawberry picking, and as we prepared to head up to the fields my uncle handed us two large golf umbrellas. Ah. Well surely we weren’t going to need those, we were going strawberry picking, in July, it really couldn’t rain on strawberries in July with Wimbledon playing in the background could it? I’m sure there’s a statute against that somewhere.
And the third clue was, well less of a clue. More an actuality. As we walked to the field we noticed that we began to be surrounded by what might charitably be called “a mild heat haze”, of the sort that falls from the sky. We picked giant juicy red berries, Pip leaning out of the sling on my back to try to grab at one or two, before he mysteriously stopped, noshing sounds were heard and a dribble of strawberry juice ran down my neck. But the more we picked, the more we had to acknowledge that we really might need the umbrellas up, and from up, we went rather quickly to “huddled together emperor penguin style”. We thought it had stopped but it was only an illusion and we retreated, defeated, to curl up on the patio under the awning and watch the rain fall.
Kitty was quite determined that she could stop the rain by willpower alone. She was not going to miss out on a dip in the pool and if the rain stopping was the key to that then that rain was going to have stopped. Really definitely stopped, as it pattered down the awning and blew through the garden horizontally on gusts of wind.
But my mother thought nothing of throwing us all out of the house for a swim in the sea if we had cabin fever on a rainy afternoon, and my aunt is her sister, so we went for it anyway. And we were right to, it was just so lovely after days of feeling hot, to be just the perfect temperature. Kitty propelled herself around the pool in her new swimming rubber ring, Elma bobbed up and down with H or me and Pip, after a few moments of stern looks at this new environment, declared it to be a giant bath and splashed and splashed and splashed to his heart’s content.
And then the rain stopped. And by the time we were showered and dry and dressed, the cloud cleared and revealed the most beautiful evening. Perfect perfect golden light as we went to ‘shop’ the fields for supper; carrots pulled by Kitty and Elma, a young broccoli, baby courgettes, and a small detour to ‘inspect’ the raspberry bushes.
We picked more strawberries, because you can never have enough, podded peas, took Bob the cat for a walk and Kitty went with her uncle to see a pheasant and her nest of chicks snug in the middle of the beetroot.
It was such a treat to spend time with my aunt and uncle, and honestly it’s not just because of the pool I promise. The girls adore them and it makes me so happy to see them getting to know their family, and for all the fun we had, I think my favourite moment was just sitting around the table at supper, talking tennis, coaxing H into trying a pea (he thinks they are evil, but was sufficiently convinced to allow that field fresh podded peas are superior to their more evil cousins), listening to the girls chatter away and watching Pip eat his body weight in strawberries.
We set off home under the light of a huge big pink moon, low in the sky along the horizon, tummies full of strawberries and beaming smiles fading only as one by one the little ones dropped off to sleep.
Not a bad way to spend a Thursday.