It's Nathan's 40th birthday today. At the start of last week we decided it would be lovely to use the occasion to make our annual pilgrimage to Avebury, one of our favourite places in the world: home of a prehistoric stone circle so large there's a village in the middle of it!
Obviously there's a limit to how many people are able to join a mission of this description on a Monday in term time, but fortunately Abbie, Ali, my sister-in-law, Sam, her partner Julius and Nathan's nephew Lewis and his partner Grace stepped into the breach.
It's hard to say what it is which makes Avebury so special, beyond the obvious fact that it's the largest set of standing stones known to man and happens to be in an area of the UK which is surely ranked as one of the most mystical places in the world. There's something about the light there. The chalky soil reflects the sun perhaps. The trees have their own special colour.
The day started with a trip to Avebury Manor, a building which featured on a BBC series which I think was called To The Manor Reborn. The basic premise was that Penelope Keith and Paul Martin would assist a group of experts in restoring a ramshackle country house, the twist being that each room would be decorated to reflect a different era in the building's past, from Tudor times all the way up to the outbreak of World War Two.
Nathan has a friend who works at the manor who smuggled the eight of us in to have a snoop around. We had a ball wandering from room to room attempting to guess the era it had been decorated in whilst chatting up the tour guides.
There was a very peculiar atmosphere in one of the corridors which Ali and I both picked up on in spades. It was a sort of pressure. Like we'd suddenly gone underwater. That's the only way I can describe it. When we mentioned it to the tour guide, she laughed and told us it was the very corridor where the ghost of a monk was said to roam.
We left the manor and did the obligatory walk around the enormous stone circle, past the tree with remarkable roots where generations of spiritual people have hung ribbons and left messages to the universe.
We settled on an area on the earthworks overlooking one of the lesser-visited sets of stones and had a picnic surrounded by wild flowers and butterflies, inventing a game in the process which involved sliding down the steep hillside on a giant plastic sheet. Immense fun.
Sam and her crew left, and the rest of us went on to the West Kennet Long-barrow; a 5000-year old burial chamber which sits in the middle of an enormous corn field in the shadow of Silbery Hill, which itself is an impressive man-made mound which dominates the countryside in that part of the world.
More excitingly, as we exited the dark cave-like barrow, we realised the corn circle we were standing beside had not one but two crop circles inside! I hadn't seen a real crop circle since I was eighteen, and one appeared in a field just outside Rushden, which a group of us sat in on the evening of my 18th birthday.
It was, therefore, quite magical for me to repeat that experience, 22 years on, as the sun melted like honey on Nathan's special day.
A glorious, glorious occasion.