Happy Solstice! That sentiment in itself, verges close to being nauseatingly new-agey, so I will say no more. It is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere – and for me and my family it was just that. We decided to celebrate, have a good day out. Dartmoor, I said – conjuring memories of dramatic landscape, ponies, pretty villages, comfortable old pubs, good beer.
I have been living in Devon for about 20 months now, and still have not got used to the length of time it takes to drive from point A to point B – the narrow winding lanes that meander on and on… and on and on – any view of the surrounding landscape completely obliterated by high green hedges and trees. Beautiful? The trees enclosing and arcing overhead – yes, certainly; the hedges, machine-hacked into shape – definitely no. And driving for hour after hour in pouring rain through endless green leafy tunnels, no matter how beautiful, is… claustrophobic.
Things might have gone better if we had remembered to take a map. The further we drove, the worse became the weather, and the more we got lost and further out of our way. We have all had days like this, haven’t we… cooped up for hours in a small car, desperately trying to remain civilised and polite whilst becoming more and more stressed and irritable. The baby behaved impeccably despite his routine being ruined, but the rest of us… well, stopping at a petrol station to buy a map, it all climaxed in an unseemly squabble with the owner of an adjacent car, when the wind caught our door and thrust it against the black edging strip of her vehicle.
We got to Dartmoor, deep in cold heavy grey cloud, saw some ponies (see picture below) and a few large granite boulders near the roadside. Eventually we reached the picturesque little village I so fondly remembered. We piled out of the car in torrential rain, only to have the doors of the olde worlde craft shoppe we’d been looking forward to, shut in our faces. It was now almost 5pm. Long after baby’s feeding time. Searched for baby food in local store, fortunately still open. The best we could find was a banana and a lump of cheese. Daughter and I fed up with being in car. Walked with baby in rain to pub. Saw more ponies with children enjoying a riding lesson. Noticed baby had lost his bootee. Went back and found it in puddle. Riding party returning from their walk. Great hilarity on seeing me again, retrieving the bootee. Arrived at pub to find husband almost through his first pint of beer. Sat baby on table, took off most of his clothing and draped them around a bright warm log fire to dry. Took off my nice warm jacket and wrapped baby in it. Sat down and enjoyed some good local beer and a relaxing comfortable atmosphere. And then came the long journey home.
I am, despite all this, pretty grateful to be living in such a beautiful part of the world in relative comfort and with plenty of good food and clean water. Apologies – I am tired and jaded. It has been the longest day of the year.
Tomorrow I will tell you about Sandy Brown.