Saturday, 3 September 2011

How I treasure every minute

It's twilight and we're winding our way through beautiful Oxfordshire country lanes. Philippa is in the back of the car reading a book to Deia. Her voice is soothing. Deia is laughing like a maniac.

This is the last day of summer. Tomorrow, a cold front will move across the country, symbolically signifying the start of autumn.

Today was the day I chose to officially celebrate my birthday. I opted to take all my friends to Avebury, the mystical stone circle in Wiltshire. We were rewarded with the most magical weather. The sun burst out from behind rather ominous clouds at about 3pm and never left us.

We had a glorious picnic, sat under a wishing tree, hugged the pre-historic stones, picked wild flowers and took photographs in the long shadows. It was all rather hippy-like, and strangely reminiscent of those long summers of my childhood. We were accompanied by several children, including Deia, and at one point I suggested that she should try and take a mental picture of the scene so that she could remember the moment for the rest of her life.

We travelled from Avebury to the Uffington White Horse in the late afternoon. I went in Julie's car, and she took the roof down, which felt like the most spectacular way to travel. Bombing along the M4 with the wind whistling through my hair was a life-affirming experience!

There was something extraordinary happening when we arrived at the White Horse. The sun was casting long shadows across the straw-like grass, and banks of brown and white clouds were bubbling up in the west.

We sat at the top of the ridge, eating the  remnants of our picnic whilst looking across the Oxfordshire plain. We wondered how many miles we could see stretching out in front of us. Ted thought maybe 15. I reckon it was more. Trains with scores of wagons sailed between the patchwork fields, combine harvesters trundled up and down, disappearing from time to time into clouds of corn dust. Timeless. Nostalgic. Utterly magical.

The sun descended into a sky which was spattered in little specks of black, as though someone had got a paintbrush and put giant dots at regular intervals across a sea of blue.

We dawdled back to the car; Moira, Philippa, India-Rose, Deia and I   trailing behind the rest. Our fecklessness was rewarded by  a sunset of biblical proportions. A giant red column of cloud stretched from one side of the sky to the other. It was as though the clouds were burning. It was everything I'd dreamt of for the day and I felt utterly blessed.

Look at the light!

350 years ago Pepys attended the christening of Lady Sandwich's daughter. They named her Katherine, after the Queen elect, and the banquet which followed was the best Pepys had ever attended. Sadly he doesn't describe it in any depth, so we don't know why it was quite so spectacular, but good to know that the Sandwiches were proper toads!!

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