Yesterday morning I woke up and looked out on my world and just thought how lucky I am. The sun was shining and highlighting flowers and leaves while the trees cast a cool dappled shadow on the grass. I sat drinking coffee outside and felt deeply satisfied.
As usual I went down into Ashbourne to shop. The bunting creates a sense of theatre for the actors beneath. In the sunshine the pattern cast on the golden paving slabs and cobbles is quite abstract. The view along St John Street from the Recreation Ground with St Oswald’s rising up in the background could go on any tourist brochure. The Shawcroft car park is full even at that early hour but the people who were in the cars dissolve into the surrounding streets. I made a beeline to the market which is pretty as a picture in the summer. As usual I buy my weekly fruit and veg there, buy some brownies from Michelle’s olive stall, and check out Vic’s latest stock of clothing. There is a special buzz today as people begin arriving for the Lions vs Australia match. All the pubs will be showing the match live and so rugby-shirted fans slowly gather in anticipation. The street cafes bring the atmosphere onto the square – not quite Siena or Venice but heading in the right direction. In a friendly town there are always people to say hello to and catch up with and familiar faces that always seem to be there. I love the early morning as shop keepers are just opening up. They put out their signs, decorate the front of the shops like athletes warming up.
I visit Bennett’s for a pot of coffee; hopefully at a table by the window. They have a great vantage point to watch the world go by and the cafe is cool and calm. Then to Fresh Choice for bread, herbs, and the unexpected local treats by the door. The ritual plays on as I go to Nigel’s – already preparing more barbecue food and bracing themselves for a busy day. All the usual meat plus some spicy and fruity marinades for kebabs and chicken. The banter in each shop is part of the experience – you don’t get it in a supermarket and you don’t get the value and range either. With holidays looming I browse in a few charity shops for some books by the pool – Oxfam and BHF are both very good. Finally I treat myself with a trip into Pachacuti and overhear stories of trips to China and Australia, details on care of fine Panama hats and try on a few for myself. The service is excellent and I leave a hat stretching for me to try on later.
Finally, the walk home in the sun and through leafy streets feeling that all is well with the world.
Last night I walked through the middle of Ashbourne as dusk approached. It had that dusty feeling at the end of a summer day. The temperature had stayed high – one of those rare magical days where you can sit out without a jacket, fear of midges or mugginess. The pubs were full and the sounds from each drifted out. Many had their doors open because of the warmth and a welcoming glow was just bright enough to stand out in the fading light. There was very little traffic and lots of pedestrians.
I am writing this in our garden in Ashbourne. Yesterday’s faint smell of lighter fluid which pervaded every garden has dissipated and we are getting ready for another scorcher. The surroundings mimic the Derbyshire flag. The sky is that beautiful pastelly blue and there is a rich green around it. I can just hear the sound of traffic in the distance but closer to hand are a cooing woodpigeon, a chattering blue tit, and a calling coal tit. At 10am the neighbours are just emerging and I can hear that muffled sound of preparation for the day ahead. It’s a combination of clearing away from last night’s garden party, preparation for today’s gardening and daily duties like chicken feeding. If I close my eyes it paints a lovely picture of the suburbs in our part of the world – safe, friendly and relaxing.
Things are never perfect. The schools, the Council, the economy all take their toll. In a few months time we will all be moaning about the lack of a proper summer. I want to bottle today and put it away for the Autumn. I want to appreciate what we have and realise not everyone can be as fortunate.