Jonathan: Nine years ago today, about this time of the evening, D and I were driving south along the M74 looking out for a place to pull up for the night in our motorhome. That morning we’d boarded the ferry from Lochmaddy in North Uist, heading back home to Shropshire. It was my 45th birthday and I felt keenly that I was at a turning point in my life. The day before, the last day on our tour of the Outer Hebrides, we’d discovered that the old walled garden with a modern house in it we’d spotted a day or two before was to be put up for sale. We’d always had a fancy for a walled garden, and indeed we’d lived in one before, in Bavaria in the mid 1990s. Our time there was the result of personal will; but this felt different – something outside of us, bigger than us, drawing us forward. Either we stepped back from the riptide of fate – and made our own way in life under our own steam as before; or we just waded in and let the current take us where it would. I remember now the extraordinary feeling I’d had that day, standing in the walled garden, with the sweet scent of grass warmed by the summer sun, and not a sound but the gentle lapping of waves on the beach across the road, the drowzy flies amongst the Veronica flowers, and the sound of a dog barking across the water in Barra – it was really that still!. It was if the walled garden and us had each been waiting for that moment, and time itself had paused awhile, wating to see which way it would go. Six months later we’d moved in; and since that day, in storm or stillness, anxiety or delight, plenty or dearth, there’s never been a day anything less than profoundly enriching.
Denise: There’s a major clear-out underway. Jonathan and I have been having a bit of a clear out: things we no longer need, never needed, or have ‘grown out of’: My Open University books; Hiking equipment; nearly five years of cover cds from Jonathan’ subscription to The Word magazine (all stored on hard disk, and a backup too, and no space to store the CDs themselves); engineering text books. Ebay, charity shop (the Thrift Shop in Daliburgh), or in the end just the wheelie bins. And daughter Catherine in Navarre, on the phone, is up for it too. She’s been living there 5 years now and by now if she hasn’t missed it she doesn’t need it. So that’s a guitar for sale, tent, Film Studies text books, travel guides, and all the cases for all the DVDs and CDs that we posted to her three or more years ago. (But there’s still about 150 CDs to post to her now, again without cases and inlays.) Selling on ebay never raises much money – hardly enough to justify the time spent laboriously listing the items, but it eases the conscience to know the item is going to someone who wants it.
Jonathan: Becky – our eldest daughter – is 31 today. She’s a lovely girl. A highlight of her birthday, she tells me, was the annual Aberystwyth Food and Drink Festival (sounds good to me!) on the streets of her home town. She told me of a young woman selling ‘food from the wild’, such as samphire cakes, crab apple jelly and the such-like. I can’t tell you how proud I feel to know that Becky values – is excited by – such things.: for not only does it say something powerful about her values, it also it says these values can be passed on two generations from mother to son, father to daughter, even though Denise and I have been conscientious in leaving Becky to find her own way in life, discover or forge her own values. This is not merely about what interests one – it is far more profound! It is about recognizing and rejoicing in the wonders of our planet, and the fruits of the earth which are there to feed us and supply our every need, both physical and spiritual. Autumn fruits are not just about food, but about receiving and giving, sorrow and sadness, death and re-birth.