‘Did you wish?’ I say.
He didn’t. He caught the fairies, let them go – and didn’t even wish.
We’re walking along the canal near Rufford Old Hall in Lancashire. The clump of conjoined fairies – aka fuzzy, aerodynamically perfected seedheads – was floating towards the surface of the canal when it changed its collective mind and headed for the fields.
He who is with me caught them for a tantalisingly brief moment.
We will never know, now, what would have happened had he made that wish. Perhaps it’s for the best. Wishes granted can be disruptive, I suspect.
The day is what you might expect from summer but hasn’t actually happened so far this year.
A sky that if it were yellow would be buttery (but it’s blue), pasture just on the point of turning straw-coloured, fields of crops well into the golden stage – and sheep well beyond the lamb stage.
Plus cows, of course, lying lazy in the heat.
And a fickleness of fairies, flying.
Under the dappling shade of the trees lining each bank, owners of narrow green canal boats are hanging out their washing, mending their stove pipes, cleaning their decks or just sitting, mug of tea to one side, reading the latest issue of that most renowned newspaper, Towpath Talk.
Across the water, the not quite stately home of Rufford Old Hall has a tent of reptiles to tempt the small people who are visiting with the big ones. And some big ones, too, of course. One six foot three, in fact, and Texan.
In the gardens, two sizeable birds of prey soar way above us, too high up for identification.
A couple is braving the croquet, despite our warnings of likely marital disharmony.
Pear trees, espaliered against walls are bursting with fruit.
The trees in the apple orchard, wizened with age, seem at first sight a little less fecund, but perhaps they’re just a bit slower, without the reassuring warmth of the old stone walls to lean on.
Little green apples with unusual names are ripening on many of the gnarled branches. I’ve never heard of Codlins, but there’s a version from Keswick, one from Carlisle. A pedigree northern apple, then, the Codlin?
It’s obligatory, for us, to have tea when we’re here. Lancashire tea – with cheese scones, fruit cake and Lancashire cheese.
The cheese is meant – in my opinion, being a Lancashire lass – for eating with the fruitcake, but my dearly beloved eats his with the scone. Ah well, it takes all sorts to make a world.
I notice a little girl eating a huge ham sandwich. Each time her mouth heads for the bread her little feet turn upwards where they dangle beneath the chair.
And I wonder.
I do, it must be admitted, have a tendency to wangle off my shoes when I start to eat. Could it be a girlie thing?
I know, a rather tenuous connection. But she does have pretty pink shoes.
The café’s run by the National Trust and we’ve been here several times.
A busy-busy woman scurries around, making sure all is well, wiping tables, taking orders – and calling most people, ‘lovely’. As in, ‘Is that all right for you, lovely?’
It makes me smile, being called lovely. I hope it makes lots of other people smile.
In a world where so many people are impatient, stressed and just plain insensitive, how nice to be called lovely.No matter how rude or grumpy or demanding or just plain haughty we are.
Not us, I mean – that was a generic sort of ‘we’.