Like everyone else, we are away on holiday. On Friday we rammed the car full of children’s toys, the remnants of the fridge and ourselves and set off west for the Cotswolds. Strangely not many others were on the roads and we zipped along the empty motorway, swept down the Chiltern escarpment and banked towards Oxford as the sun sent the thermometer ticking up by degrees. Eventually the motorway ran out and was replaced by single lane roads and a panorama of stone walls and farmland. The panorama slowly became dusty villages and the heat intensified.
It was getting to my wife and daughter, who started to argue.
“What can we do now?” asked our daughter.
“Read a book?”
“No, that’s boring.”
“No they’re not. Books aren’t boring.”
“Lets’ play flibbertigibit.”
Flibbertigibit is a variant on a number of car games they play. This one entails counting 3 lampposts before shouting “flibbertigibit” to win. It’s a slow game though, on country lanes. On motorways it’s most entertaining. “Flibgibiflibgibflib…” stutters our daughter as the lights flash past. Other games in the series include “Jibbly jobbly” and “Jooby jobby”. When it reaches a crescendo of excitement and the shouting starts I have to admonish them like Topsy & Tim’s father on the motorway in Car Games.
In the end though we arrive at our destination in the South Cotswolds and pile out into the garden, the ice in our glasses clanking and footballs being punted. Here the stone is not the ochre of the North Cotswolds but a lighter grey, mostly covered in healthy-looking lichen. There are apple trees sheltering the lawn at the foot of the garden. Dainty flowers emerge from the mossy grass. If you sit still and listen, the noises are those of a child’s farmyard toy, with cocks crowing somewhere nearby, chickens clucking next door and the occasional dog’s bark.
And all the time the sun burns more brightly. I lie on one arm and my daughter lies near me looking at the daisies, singing contentedly. It reminds me of when I was young too. Lying on the lawn in the summer stillness, the faint buzz of aeroplanes above, the dank smell of earth below. The happiness of nothing in particular happening. Of everything being that moment.
“Time to unpack!” comes my mother’s voice, cutting through the birdsong. Only it’s not my mother, it’s my wife’s voice and our daughter is up, stumbling towards the house, churning turf beneath her feet.
It’s been a while; I’d forgotten about life in sunshine.