We had a glimpse of the future today, or hopefully what the future might be like. The weather was kind and, having decided to let the children have an entire day at home, they were out in the garden by 8am.
Days at home are rare, as I find the hours go quicker when we’re out and about. The children behave better too, and I’m not tempted to try and do anything but watch them and maybe check the odd email.
As a result they view a day to themselves as a high treat.
They’re at an age where they play together quite well, such as games of Mums and Dads, with one of the dolls as their baby. There are the usual sibling scuffles, particularly because my daughter has a bike but my son still only has a trike. We were intending to get his big boy’s bike for his birthday but, as that’s 3 months away, I’ve been scouring ebay for one. [And found one, hurrah for ebay!]
So they played and I did housework and got the cover ready for June’s installment of Two Hundred Steps Home. Four hours flew by. I made lunch and dinner while they played the piano (watch the video here).
After lunch I gave them a wee lesson in Mummy’s Quiet Time, reading my book while they read theirs. It sort of worked, without too much shouting and huffing from me! We filled the paddling pool and had the sun-cream screaming session (for followers of me on Twitter), and they painted the decking with rollers and brushes and chalk until five o’clock.
I even managed to do one of ‘those’ jobs. You know, the ones that nag and nag and get worse because you maintain you haven’t got time, until every time you look at it you feel sick? We have an oak worktop in the kitchen and it’s my job to keep it oiled. Has been since before my son was born.
Only I haven’t. I managed for two years and then it slipped. Now the bit round the sink is rotting. So it’s been easy to think ‘Ah, too late anyway’.
Well, today I took action. Spent an hour cleaning it, only to find the oil had set in the bottle. Not to be deterred, I poked it with a spoon and found liquid oil underneath. Hurrah! Kids managed to stay away long enough for me to spread the oil, (although daughter did rush in to say son had fallen off the slide and I may have replied, ‘If there’s no blood it can wait’… You have to know my son to realise this is not a callous response but one born from a boy with a tendency to cry wolf.)
Anyway, long may such wonderful independent behaviour continue (of course I’ve put the kibosh on it by writing about it! The first rule of good child behaviour is not to talk about good child behaviour).
Maybe the school holidays won’t be so scary after all.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire gazed at the hostel nestled into the hillside, and smiled. The sprawling whitewashed farmhouse was much closer to her imagination of Welsh accommodation than the Victorian house she had stayed in the night before.
The sun shone overhead – a walk-on cameo role in an otherwise overcast morning – and its rays lit the white walls in sharp contrast to the backdrop of green. Eager to leave her bag and get her hiking boots on, Claire headed in to find her room. After her adventure at Llangorse, she intended to keep her feet on terra firma. The guidebook mentioned hill walks and waterfalls and, provided there was no abseiling involved in the latter, that sounded just fine.
Claire had decided to drive to the opposite end of the Talybont Reservoir from the Danywenallt hostel, to do a walk she’d found on the internet. It was only five miles and would hopefully be done by lunch, as she’d failed to pick up supplies when she left Brecon.
Looking at the trail now from the car park, Claire was wondering if she’d lost her mind. The path led steeply uphill, passing alongside a waterfall. She could see the path was wet and probably slippery. With her wrist only just healed, Claire wondered if she could blag a blog post from the online description, rather than risk the walk.
A blackbird hopped along the path, searching for grubs, its head tilted and its orange beak glistening against the dark ground. He seemed to be inviting Claire along on an adventure.
“Oh, go on then. But I’m blaming you if I fall and break something else. You have to go for help, can you manage that?”
The blackbird took off at the sound of her voice, and watched her from the safety of a tree branch.
“Great, now I’m talking to birds. I am losing my mind, it’s official.”
Claire followed the path along to a ridge apparently called Craig Fan Du, according to her map. It sounded like a kung fu master or a dish of melted cheese. As she reached the ridge, the path vanished and the sinking feeling returned to the pit of her stomach. I do not want to get lost today, not up here.
She followed the ridge, scanning left and right for a path. Her tummy grumbled, as if reminding her that she’d come out without any food or water. Idiot girl. I should know better by now.
Spotting the path, Claire headed to the right hand side of the ridge. The path ran along the edge of a cliff and she prayed the rain stayed put in the heavy clouds hanging above her head. It looked like it would be treacherous underfoot if wet. The path led along to a river, where a waterfall crashed into the water, filling the air with spray and noise. Claire looked round, trying to find a bridge over the river. There wasn’t one. Great, wet boots. Lovely.
The water wasn’t deep, so Claire unlaced her boots and slung them round her neck. Tip-toeing through the icy water, trying not to slip and wet more than her feet, Claire was relieved to make the opposite bank. Okay, note to self: read the walk notes before heading off.
She trudged on, unsure exactly where she was on the map. At last she reached the war memorial and plane wreckage which was listed as a highlight of the walk. Standing alone in an isolated valley, surrounded by debris, Claire suppressed a shiver. Ghost stories were exactly that as far as she was concerned, but out here, with only trees and sheep for company, it was easy to hear the cries of the dying airmen blowing on the wind.
The route gave her a choice now, as the path petered out into sheep tracks and patches of boggy ground. The rumbles in her tummy were getting louder and it was taking all Claire’s effort to pull her feet free of the bog with every step.
Half way across the valley, her boot stuck fast. Pulling hard, Claire left the boot behind and toppled facedown onto the muddy ground. She lay, panting, her face coated with more mud than a Japanese clay mask. I hope Welsh bog is as good for the skin. Tears pricked in her eyes but she realised a different sensation was bubbling alongside hunger in her tummy.
Gradually the feeling rose, and she realised it was laughter. Claire rolled over on her back, the bog squelching as it released her. For some reason an image of Michael came into her mind. She imagined his reaction if he could see her now. Michael, who went hiking and hostelling with Debbie, but had never taken her on anything but five-star experiences.
Did he think I wouldn’t enjoy it, or was it Debbie that dragged him into the great outdoors? Maybe he sees me differently; a china princess to be cherished. She contrasted the image with Josh, who would be doubled-up with laughter and most likely would take photographs before offering to help her up. Shaking both images aside, Claire shuffled back to her buried boot and pulled it free. So much for not getting wet. Trying not to wince, Claire stuffed her soggy foot back into the boot and pulled the laces tight.
The map notes said she was only half way. Determined not to be disheartened, Claire crawled to her feet and set off downstream towards the woodland. The woods closed protectively around her, as a group of waterfalls provided surround-sound entertainment. The path wound alongside the river, with the cascading water chuckling and chortling, keeping her company.
This time a footbridge crossed the river and led Claire further into the woods. The waterfalls took her breath away, not just the noise and immensity of the water, but the glinting rainbows caused by the occasional shard of sunlight brave enough to break through the clouds. There was something passionate and untameable about the cascades of water, all white with fury and rushing with deafening noise, that resonated in Claire’s gut. They possessed a freedom she was only now beginning to understand.
At last the end was in sight. Claire no longer cared about wet boots. She strode across the stream, following the barely visible path back to the car park. Stomping along the final yards, footsore and soaked to her underwear, Claire reached the car and wished she could give it a hug. She settled for sliding into the seat, resisting the urge to remove the sodden boots. That would have to wait until she was back at the hostel. All she wanted was a cup of tea and a hot shower.
Looking in the rear-view-mirror, Claire was surprised to see the grin beaming through the dried mud on her face. That was fun.