It always takes me a little while to find my rhythm, somewhere new. A couple of days to discover how our days flow best, in a different place, under different circumstances. Things clicked quickly at the bothy, more quickly than usual, and by the second dawn I knew the drill. I knew what everyone needed, and when, to make the day go well. I think this was partly because I felt at home in that little valley. But it was also because life there was so very simple. John would light the stove each morning. I’d cook some breakfast, putting a big pan of water on to heat at the same time. The children would be outside, playing some game or other, engrossed in their own endeavours. Then a quick clear up and tidy around, shaking the bedding back into shape. Everyone mucking in. Discussing what we would eat, later in the day, and who would cook it, before heading out to the bench near the swing, book in one hand, mug in the other, to listen to the honking of the geese.

We keep a fairly simple home in York, without extraneous clutter. We try to live simple lives. Yet still the world encroaches, with its demands on our time, our attention, our focus. In the woods, all that was so far away. Cook. Eat. Wash. Play. Sleep. In peace.

I know that, had we really lived there, there would have been other things to do. Children to school. Clothes to launder. Livings to be made, somehow. It was a holiday, which is not the same as real life. The winter would have been harsh, and cramped, and so very dark and damp. The children would have grown bored, and begun to bicker and hanker after the modern world with its picture houses and records and school friends. And still, knowing all this, I would have stayed a while longer.

The truth is, I would have stopped all spring if I could, scratching a garden out of the hillside, fetching our hens and rearing some orphan lambs. I’d have put a bedstead in, with thick quilts from home, and a couple of carver chairs for John and I to sit across from one another in the evenings. I’d have built a bookshelf and signed us all up with the local library. Sent the children to the village school.

Isn’t that what holidays are for? To imagine yourself into a different landscape? To play at being different people, doing different things? Sometimes these jaunts are busy, full of sightseeing and guidebooks. Sometimes they are only little breaks, to enjoy the seaside or another city for a day or two. But this holiday was all about the peace. Peace and quiet and a deepening sense of contentment. We’re hanging onto that, this week. I’ll try to make it last a little longer, once the children are back at school and the hurly burly starts again. I’ll shut my eyes, and see that glassy lake, and watch the swans come in to land. Take a deep breath, and go back for just a moment or two of utter peace.


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