A few days ago I arrived home, the first homecoming since I left, and as sweet as they come. Driving through the dark country lanes, stars tiny pinpricks in the indigo sky, I couldn’t wait to see my dog. And I guess she was just a little bit pleased to see me too. We all know the Prune way of welcoming you home, and standing there in the doorway, I’ve never been more grateful that my Prune girl was there for me too.
First birthday apart. Took us 19 years, which says it all. How do I condense 19 years into 500 words? All the memories? All the laugher, the pain? The tears, the screaming, the fighting? The inside jokes, the special understanding? The shared sunrises and sunsets, the rain, the storms. The places and people that have come and gone. I’ve never known anyone as well as you.
Birthdays, Christmas, now Father’s Day. The dates don’t matter anymore. We are all rarely ever in one place at the same time, so we make do and celebrate when we can. I learned at a young age that Christmas on the 26th or 18th of December, or even the 10th of January was just as special as celebrating on the 25th. What’s Christmas without dad anyway?
I doubt I was the only one who was relieved after the results of the French election. France has got to be one of my favourite countries. There’s the acres of rolling countryside, miles of winding roads, almost empty. Forests where wild boar roam, rivers and lakes framed by fields of sunflowers. There’s the long stretches of caramel coloured sand, washed by waves reflecting the blindingly-blue sky. There’s the food; wine flows like water, crispy baguettes are eaten copiously, fresh produce is found in every village square. There’s the weather; mild springs and falls, golden summers, cosy winters. Not to forget the unexpected chateaux one stumbles upon, in all their architectural grandeur.
The first baby pink petals started to emerge a few weeks ago. Tentatively at first, drawn out by the sun and warmer days, until each tree was covered in a shock of feather-soft pastel petals. Bubblegum, flamingo, candy floss. You’d exhaust your adjectives to describe the hues of rose that fill every garden, every drive.
“This is Prune. She’s no good for me”. A scraggly dog with a scar under her eye and jet black fur bounded over to us, tail wagging, brown eyes friendly. Minutes before, we’d pulled up outside a suburban bungalow in the middle of a quiet Belgian neighbourhood. This surely couldn’t be the place, we thought. But it was, and that little house was to see a lot of us over the years.
The fields were full of poppies, blood-red against the wheat, slowly bronzing in the sun. Pale winged butterflies danced across the sky, full of puffy clouds, unthreatening, for now at least. Hardly anything stirred, a heaviness lay in the air, like everything was too much effort. A breeze rustled the reeds, a duck slipped into the water, the only action of the afternoon. Everywhere still, everywhere resting, summer slipping slowly away on that breeze, dying like the day was.
I was helping out in the local primary school recently when a discussion came up about where countries were in the world. One boy exclaimed loudly that he’d “never left East Anglia” and there was lots of agreement; most kids seemed not to have either. It made me wish that I could give each one of them the chance to travel. To go somewhere new. Anywhere- it didn’t have to be far. It may be a cliche but I think being able to travel has made me who I am and has taught me more than I could have ever learned otherwise. It would be great if every kid could have the same opportunity; to explore, to roam, to learn.