After the long summer holidays of my childhood, on our first day back at school, we would routinely be given the task of writing, in our 'news' jotters, an essay entitled 'What I Did In The Holidays'.
My holidays would by then be a blur of endless days spent playing outside, new brown leather sandals (always Clarks, like these) summer dresses and shorts, favourite tee shirts, sunburned shoulders, lots of time spent at my Nana's house eating chocolate biscuits; whole days playing in the old hen house down beside the burn, which was sumptuously kitted out as a playhouse, with chipped crockery, a little cupboard hung crookedly on the wall, a rickety table and old curtains hung on a piece of string at the (real glass) windows. Fighting with my sister, helping to look after my little brother, drinking 'coke floats' made by mum, splashing in the peat-brown burn, where a large flat rock, and a small, deep pool under the shade of the stone bridge provided a plain but perfect setting for long afternoons outside. Climbing up the moor, gathering armfuls of wildflowers, catching the occasional glimpse of an adder (Scotland's only venomous snake) sliding silently away as it sensed our approach. Nights so light in midsummer that it stayed daylight, only fading into a gentle twilight for an hour or two in the middle of the night (winter nights, conversely, lasted from 3.30 in the afternoon until about 10 the next morning). Long hours spent reading as many books as I could devour, some pages of which I can still clearly visualise in my mind's eye, forty years later.
Somehow, back in the formal environment of school, I couldn't find the words in writing my compulsory essay to describe the sense of freedom, timelessness, and relaxed aimlessness, which personified my summer, and would instead compose a largely fictitious account, preferring to hoard the truth of those happy weeks in my own heart, and keep my memories away from the red biro pen of the teacher snipping through my work with 'watch your spelling' 'see me' 'handwriting is messy' etc written in the margin.
I have the same feeling of slight bewilderment (though without the reluctance to share) when recalling the specifics of our recent holiday in Wales. We had a restorative, hugely relaxed holiday, drifting round our favourite haunts, having lots of laughs with the boys, who spent many days helping on the farm, disappearing in the morning, reappearing, ravenous at lunchtime, and then disappearing again until late afternoon, when they would return, filthy, sweaty, happy, for a shower and (enormous) dinner. I baked lots of cakes, and sewed (more of that in another post), and did lots of what I do at home (preparing meals, loading the dishwasher) but also lots of what I don't do at home (sitting outside, gazing across the valley, dreaming, sipping a mug of tea, the pages of my book flipping in the warm breeze). The days merged into a continuum of contentment; waking in the spacious, beamed bedroom, drifting through the morning, an unhurried shower and the pleasure of knowing that a linen dress and sandals would be just right for the day ahead (a fact never to be taken for granted in Scotland, where a back-up jumper and cagoule, if not raincoat, are standard when setting out). Even the cooler days were warm, and one morning, waking to rain, the water vapour in the air shrinking the view to just beyond the farm, it felt like we were enclosed in our own small, perfect, world.
I realised, about half way through the first week, that being at Sugar Loaf Barn (does a more delightful name for a house exist?) that we essentially just live there for a fortnight, that it feels just like home, but more spacious, less cluttered, more remote, therefore more private, and of course without Derek working six days a week. That life is hard to leave, and why I struggled for the first week or so after returning to Glasow. I love my home, and generally am generally very contented, but I have had a restless spirit since my return. I am not fighting it; sometimes from restlessness comes creativity, or a plan not previously considered, or sometimes just a returning contentment, which feels like coming home all over again.