It doesn’t seem to matter to the children: rain or shine, they are out the door before, during and after breakfast. They eat it standing on a tree stump, on a rock, swinging over the water, holding their food high out of the reach of the dogs, before jumping down to pet them and play yet another round of fetch.

But as the day wore on and the sun stayed steady and warm above us, even their habits shifted, a little. There was a jaunt to Cockermouth in their uncle’s car, resulting in a seething paper bag of maggots and another of worms. Then stillness for a long time, forcing the wriggling bait onto hooks, tying lead shot onto the lines, placing the floats just so. And after that an even longer period of casting out and reeling in, casting out and reeling in. A warm and lazy day on our little pebble beach, interrupted only by good things: mugs of soup and tea, slabs of fruit cake. A little more knitting, edging towards the end of the second sleeve of my cardigan. A few pages of a novel.

Later there was a walk, for those who wanted one, and not, for those who didn’t. Up into the woods, following the crisscrossing paths under the knotted shadows of the trees. Balancing along the trunks of those which had fallen. Racing pooh sticks under a rickety bridge. Clambering over a waterfall, with John’s hand always just near enough but not quite touching, free and safe all at once. Some of us peeled off sooner than others, down the steep slope back to the bothy and the gentle play beyond. Others strode the whole length of the wood, and came back with new walking sticks just ripe for whittling.

Later still there was a mile-long wander to the pub, where we were served great wedges of pie and pints of local ale. Outside, the ewes baahed deep and throatily to their lambs as the sun slipped over the fells. Then a walk home, in the falling darkness, as the first stars appeared and we named them, one by one, getting some right and some surely wrong. Who cares? We didn’t. It wasn’t about the naming. It was about a shining silver ending to a golden day, the very first day of spring. A day in which nothing was caught, bar a few twigs, but so much was enjoyed.


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