an aching kind of growing

Saturday, 6 September 2014


We rented a Devon longhouse this summer, along with the Pretty One's family, some too-scarcely-seen cousins and a few friends for Rose to dilute the testosterone.

The ridiculous tropical weather burst the night before we drove down, so we panic-packed board games and all manner of wet-weather gear. We had planned a fortnight of sunshine and outdoor sports, and I envisaged gruesome, twisted teenage plots fermented under the dripping straw and tiny, leaf-blocked windows.

The weather was kind, though.  There was an ancient pitted tennis court set in a pewter-trunked apple orchard.  Those on ball-duty ate ruby-colored juicy apples and swatted wasps with the old rackets.  We knocked up for hours on end, trying to remember alternative tennis games we'd invented as children.  The husbands told of glory days jumping triumphantly over nets.  We thought about the distance to the nearest A&E and stuck to manly hand-shakes of congratulation.

Three of the children were awaiting major exam results and grew greyer and more dish-washing as the results day grew close.  They played table-tennis and swam and as soon as we took the dogs out, watched all sorts of unsuitable DVDs found in a cupboard.  We busted them spectacularly returning unexpectedly for a forgotten phone.  There were tidy rooms and laundry done all week.

The exam results came out at dawn on the second-to-last day. Proud parents, we bought local fizz and fish and feasted outside on a long, humid evening full of overexcited relief, texts to friends and the surreal talk of college and universities; sixth form choices and who would pass the first driving test.

There was a secret garden next door filled with bursting yellow wasp-flecked plums.  I went in with a bag to scrump some for a spontaneous addition to pudding and listened to the buzz and laughter from the terrace.  It was a moment filled, like my mouth, with the bittersweetness of endings and beginnings and the certain inevitability of change.

20 comments:

  1. So good to see a post from you, Elizabeth.
    And to read all about this lovely time you had with family.
    xx's

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    1. Thank you Marsha, hope that all is peaceful in your world x

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  2. Hello Elizabeth,

    How perfectly wonderful to see a post from you pop up on what is an exceedingly lazy Saturday here in the Motherland.

    You draw the Devon picture so enchantingly. We can well remember the sprained ankles of games played on uneven tennis courts and the heavy fruitfulness of the last days of summer. You conjure all these emotions and more up for us with your delicious prose and creative mind.

    And yes, September comes with the academic year and change all round. It is so good that results have been achieved which allow for plans to be made and new futures to be started. As you say, all tinged with a sadness that for some there are new adventures whilst still others are left behind without the comfort of the usual routines.

    But, change is good.there is nothing like the present...it is a gift!

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    1. As always, such a delightful and welcome comment. The Motherland? Where are you? I almost went to a Mapp and Lucia weekend in Rye yesterday then remembered I am in fact a sports taxi and packed away my shimmery twenties nonsense for the moment.

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  3. Lovely story with the perfect words plucked at just the right moment to make us feel as though we are right there with you as your invisible, but attentive companions! Now, please excuse me . . . but, I have to go wipe the apple and plum juices off my chin . . .

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    1. What a delightful think to say. I seemed to have plum juice in my eye for a moment back there...

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  4. How glorious. And how gloriously written. My memory lane is about to be revisited, but from a period far into the distant past.

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    1. How exciting! Are you off to Fettes? Have been so hors de combat I haven't read anything all summer - is all well with you? Peace restored? In fact, I will pop over and read for my lazy little self.

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  5. Such beautiful imagery. I love the way you write.

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  6. Oh, your loyal readers have missed your writing. Welcome back!

    You've awakened memories of waiting for exam results to be posted home, and what nervous Nellies my sisters and I were. So glad those days are far behind us.

    Your break sounds heavenly.

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    1. Thank you! I know, that waiting for the post and the desperate last-minute bargains-with-the-universe.

      And in the end, does it all really matter?

      It was.

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  7. What..... a Mapp and Lucia weekend? Tell me more!

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  9. I'm salivating....

    A delicious post, as always. So pleased all parties received good exam results. We had a similar exam-tinged summer. All change this weekend -university life beckons and our lives as empty nesters begin.

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    1. Yours mattered properly and I can't believe you'll be able to have cereal for tea and stay up all night now...

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  10. As always.... I loved this....I love the way you write. Congratulations all round!

    Hugs Jane

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  11. So happy to hear your children have fared well. Fruit aside, it matters most. And always, glorious prose.

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Please leave a comment if you can be remotely bothered - anything you have to say is valuable and I absolutely love hearing from you all. Elizabeth