I arrived in Lewes at about midday today and had a lovely walk through the town to Meriel's house. The sun was shining, the air was thick with the smell of wood smoke and the ground was covered with autumn leaves, which I would happily have kicked like a child had it not been for them being somewhat mulchy on account of the storm and the biblical amount of rain which it brought!
We had lunch at Meriel's and caught up with my godson, Will, and his sister, Jeannie, (whom I'm now instructed to refer to as my "honorary god daughter.") Both have been staying with Meriel for a couple of days whilst their parents celebrate 40th birthdays in Berlin.
Both kids are becoming rather wonderful characters. Jeannie has a tendency to sulk a little, but the sun comes out when she's feeling happy! She's plainly going to be a very fine little film actress when she grows up. Her face seems to have the ability to silently express almost any emotion in the most refined and subtle way.
Will is bombastic and freakishly intelligent. His parents aren't the sort to go on about such things; when I ask them how he's doing at school they give me the impression that he's merely pottering along. His favourite subject is history (unsurprisingly as his parents are both historians) and his favourite period is the ancient Egyptians. "What do you know about the Egyptians?" I enquired, rather patronisingly. "Too much to tell you today, in fact, it would take a whole week to tell you how much I know. The only thing I don't know a great deal about is the Rosetta Stone. People know more than me about that!"
I should point out that he's eight! A few minutes later, he struck a rather pompous pose, pretending to hold a walking stick, and said, "look, I'm Howard Carter!"
Jeanie came down the stairs at one point holding something which she presented to Meriel very proudly; "Meriel, look what I found behind the sofa..." It was a tampon. I hasten to add a clean one, but it was hysterical!
After lunch we drove in Meriel's wonderful open-topped car to Sheffield Park and Garden, a local National Trust property with beautiful gardens sweeping down to a lake. We met Hilary, Rupert and Jago there and had a very lovely walk through glorious autumn trees. The kids had a blast. Who'd have thought a rhododendron tree could provide such a brilliant climbing frame?
The sun melted into an orange fire on the horizon. And I vanished for a while to take photographs.
We returned to Meriel's for chips and beans and I got the kids carving out pumpkins. It's something I've done every year of my life for as long as I can remember, Hallowe'en being, without question, my favourite of all the festivals. Will and I made a terrible mess carving a pumpkin which we decided to make look like it was vomiting. We placed it proudly on Meriel's outdoor wood-burning stove with a trail of internal pumpkin matter spraying out of a wide open mouth! Great fun.
As I walked towards the train station, through the darkened streets of Lewes, a set of church bells starting ringing, just as I walked past. I'm sure the locals get sick to death of the sound, but to me, it was a mournful, deeply atmospheric rural sound, a sound which reminded me of home (wherever that is) and rounded off a really very lovely day.