Just to the south of Stratford is possibly the most amazing garden ever. It’s owned by the National Trust, and made beautiful by what can only be serried ranks of gardeners. To call it a garden is probably doing it a disservice; it’s a series of garden ‘rooms’, all filled to the brim with gorgeousness. I don’t think I’m overstating it to say that you could easily spend a whole afternoon in just one ‘room’, and I’ve never yet been on a visit where we managed to see the whole set.
If you know Hidcote then you’ll know what I mean. It seemed an easy choice to make when Sunday dawned full of sunshine and we were thinking around for somewhere to have a picnic, to let the girls run off any cabin fever from the rainy end to the week, and to see if we could persuade everyone to sit still for a few pictures.
Ages ago the National Trust used to ask you to picnic in their official picnic area, but it wasn’t terribly popular because quite frankly when you’ve travelled to be somewhere lovely who wants to be eating their sandwiches gazing at the rear end of a dozen or so well laden coaches reversing to park. But now they’ve designated one of the gardens as their picnic area; a huge relief to those of us that will neither admit nor deny every having snuck their picnic in before.
And so that’s where our Me and Mine shots come from this month; the far corner of the Wilderness Garden, looking out onto a field of rapeseed humming with bees, and the gentle roll of the Cotswolds beyond.
I’ll admit as photo shoots go it wasn’t one of our best. For starters, I clearly took leave of my senses and set us up to be horribly backlit, took a heap of photos where we’re all a bit underexposed and then decided that we needed to move around.
It seems that as the girls get bigger and wigglier, my chances of getting them to sit still are decreasing at a rapid rate, and somehow small children being held with a death grip by parents with forced smiles and gritted teeth doesn’t exactly scream ‘happy family photo’ to me, so if they want to run, we let them. And I try not to fret that I’ve left the pictures to the last minute.
But when even the sitting down photos have Kitty pulling a hundred funny faces and looking like she’s just been through a hedge backwards, and Elma looking from me to the camera and back again with a puzzled expression that can only mean “didn’t we just do this a minute ago” you really start to wonder (a) whether you’ll ever get a photo that you like, (b) whether you should have taken a picture of all of you in the Premier Inn last week as photo insurance, and most importantly (c) how on earth everyone else manages to produce gorgeous pictures each month.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about photography it’s that if you force it it just gets worse (rule 1). So we quit. At least temporarily. H chased the girls around the wilderness to get some of their wiggles out; I adjusted my set up (and called myself an idiot ten times over), and we raided the picnic bag for the scones (rule 2: bribe and corrupt).
And with that we seemed to find our groove a little more easily (although point (c) still applies).
We said ‘cheese’ and ‘chips’ and ‘sausages’ (all of which now feature heavily in Elma’s vocabulary), and waved at the camera, and there in my perfectly imperfect photos I found what I was trying to capture all along, that feeling that there is no where else in the world that we would rather be than right here, right now, together.
My family – in June
Although for the record – not even scones will stop them scarpering!