With the girls in school only until lunchtime on Friday it scarcely seems worth it to drive there and back only to turn round and drive there and back again, so for several weeks John and Pip have spent Fridays exploring this new part of the world that is going to be our home before we know it. I get photos of them wandering through bluebells, taking a detailed survey of the new village playpark and having a coffee and cake, all in the name of research or so I’m told. It sets a nice unhurried feel to their Friday morning and I suspect makes it a favourite part of their week.
I took Friday off work so that John could have an early weekend, heading off with friends on Friday to play a couple of rounds of golf on Friday and Saturday as a warm up for the worlds ugliest golf trophy competition, but Pip and I saw no reason to change the normal Friday morning routine. As soon as we’d dropped the girls off at school we hopped back in to the car and headed to Kinver.
Where I come from in Devon, Kinver would be a decent size town. According to John, who grew up in Yorkshire next to the largest village in Europe, it’s practically a hamlet. However you designate it, it is lovely, and at one stage we seriously thought about trying to move there. The town centre itself has lots of proper shops, unlike say Stourbridge, which alternates charity shops with coffee, including a great bakery, perfect for midmorning cake. But first we had to earn the cake.
Kinver Edge is a sandstone ridge sitting high up above the western edge of Kinver, and it’s one of those places where you can feel that you’ve climbed to the top of the world, even if you only have little legs. Pip and I headed up the eastern end, first wandering along the path and then my tiny boy determinedly climbing step after solid step, throwing his legs up as if he were hurdling them. When we finally reached the viewpoint, he was more than ready to perch up on the map and trace out rivers and hills only vaguely visible under grey skies.
Even with the map to help, I’m not sure I could have particularly recognised Droitwich over Bromsgrove, and while I know Pip’s eye sight is better than mine, his instant “I see it!” response to my pointing out the direction for New York, rather suggests that he was just enjoying the view wherever it may be; that or he thinks it’s a sort of sheep. (Forgive me American readers, but I suspect that we do talk about sheep more than we talk about cities in the USA).
Along the top of the heathland we found a herd of longhorn cattle, with some impressively long longhorns. So far as we could work out it seemed entirely a quirk of nature whether the horns went up, down or out, I wonder if it’s the cow equivalent of whether your resting face looks cheerful or on the edge of being irritated? Imagine being the most upbeat cow that ever moo-ed only to have droopy horns. Pip was more interested in their breakfasts; he was utterly convinced that cows eat cowpats and nothing I said could convince him that the cowpats come afterwards – these are the joys of two year old boys.
Past the cows we found the puddles, and Pip set to, splashing through even the tiniest drop of water before declaring himself all tired out and ready to be hoisted up onto my back. He’s a tall and sturdy boy, and neither John nor I can carry him for long in our arms, and he makes an awkward weight on your shoulders, that and he tends to hang on around your throat, so we both wear the Ergo if there’s even a chance of him needing a lift. Once onboard he’s quite happy, and at just the right height to either snuggle in for a little rest, or lean forward to chat into my ear, and I definitely had the chatterbox version with me for the day.
As we headed back down into the trees we heard a cuckoo; I’m not very good at bird noises but that’s one I can recognise, and further on we found a pair of chaffinches hopping up and down the path looking for breakfast. You’ll have to take my word for it because toddlers are not the best accompaniment to stealth photography!
And then we came to Nannys Rock. There are rock houses excavated out of the sandstone up on Kinver Edge, and on the north easterly end they’re preserved and renovated by the National Trust. Pip and I were there two hours too early to actually go inside, so we peered through the gate and they’re high up on my list of places to visit once we’ve got settled, but Nannys Rock, down at the other end, was left just as it was; a series of three caves carved out of the rock and open to the elements and to casual explorers. They are eerily beautiful, and the sandstone is so soft that they’re completely covered with carved graffiti, but it only adds context. One day, even the names dated this century will have softened and faded away into the sand on the floor.
For Pip and me the photos were enough, and soon we were back on the trail home with Pip walking the last little bit, singing the final round of the Grand Old Duke of York to bring tired little legs back to the car. He always sings “neither down nor up” at the end, however many times we sing it the right way round, and it’s endearing in its wrongness, his voicing singing out with full heart and hot little hand clasped in mine.
We did make it to the bakery before it was time to pick up the girls, and we did have a gentle domestic sort of an afternoon with them, but while I treasure that time, because frankly there is no job in the world that would let me spend as much time with them as I’d want, there was something so very special about our morning’s adventures; time with Pip that felt as if we had all the time in the world to stand and stare, and give full reign to toddler flights of fancy. I can see why it’s become a Friday favourite.