We've just endured a mega-storm. Fortunately whilst the rest of the group are staying in soggy tents, Nathan, Sam and I are "glamping" it in a little wooden hut with a fridge, a kettle and a proper bed. It's all a bit "Heidi" without the bad dubbing, but it's fabulously dry, and we spent the evening playing host to 13 people, who all gratefully crammed inside for a wonderful meal of vegetarian sausages, bread baps, salad and halloumi.
Everyone's now gone to bed, but all the tents are leaking so miserably that I'm half expecting to be woken up at 3 in the morning by a queue of shivering people wanting to sleep on our tiny barn floor.
Today has been magical. Nathan, Sam, Raily and I jumped in the car first thing and drove 70 miles to a little town in Scotland called Sanquhar. The journey took us around Carlisle, Gretna Green and Dumfries and through some spectacularly beautiful scenery.
Why Sanquhar? Because it's the home of a very special brand of knitting, which I'm sure I've discussed already in this blog. (The Sanquhar tradition deals mostly with gloves; beautiful, intricate things in black and white which look like ornate timber-frames houses.)
The town itself is rather ordinary, pleasant enough, but really just a little lowlands market town, although it immediately became apparent that the good folk of Sanquhar are amongst the most friendly people in the world. We visited the tiny museum, and a chap called Rab and young girl called Laura took us around in person, showing us a wonderful slide show about the area and pointing out all sorts of curios.
We had tea in a beautiful craft museum, where Raily bought me a copy of the record of ABBA's Greatest Hits Volume One, which had been turned into a clock! It's the album which shows the band sitting on a park bench and it was the first record I ever owned. To continue the theme of this blog in recent days, one of the tracks featured on the album is Mamma Mia!
We walked down the High Street and into the post office, which revealed itself as the oldest post office in continual use in the world. It opened in the early 18th Century, which I find quite staggering.
On the way home, we stopped by the town's old castle and parked up outside a derelict building. Seconds later, Raily was climbing into it through a broken window, which felt so decadent and brave that we all followed suit.
It was some kind of farm house with a stables attached. The roof had caved in and the floor was covered in slate tiles. We nicked four, which we later washed and gave to the kids with coloured chalks for them to draw pictures of what they wanted to dream about tonight. They couldn't have gone down any better.
On returning to Northumberland, we picked up the others and returned to our beloved Sycamore Gap, telling the kids that the gap in Hadrian's Wall was created when the magic flew out of England many years ago. We assured the kids that, because all the magic had flown out at that point, the tree in the gap had maintained a few little wisps and that if they all pressed their ears to its trunk they'd be able to hear the tree singing. And sure enough, when the kids listened, they heard a curious choral sound! I can't imagine how it happened. At one point I wondered if the sound was coming from my pocket! What is life without magic? I hope the kids remember these long summer days for the rest of their lives. I certainly shall.