It’s blowing a gale but the sun is hot and warming, and I decide to brave the terrace. I’ve chosen well. I’m looking out over the river and the medieval arched bridge – there are some tremendous willows on the far bank, dancing in the wind, and in the distance I can see the water meadows that carry on to Houghton. It is, to all intents and purposes, quite idyllic.
This is one of those rare occasions when I don’t actually need to be anywhere soon, but I almost need to remind myself that I am allowed to ease off. To relax! My plan is to walk the lovely loop around to Houghton Mill, through the pretty (but, let’s be honest, lifeless) Hemingfords and then along the Ouse Valley Way back into St Ives. And, in the fullness of time, I will do just that. Before that however, I am going to sit on this terrace, drink coffee and eat cake.
It suddenly occurs to me that I am wolfing it down as if in a hurry! But I’m not, so I make myself stop and pause for a moment. Closing my eyes, I can feel the sun on my face and the wind buffeting around my ears. I realise that my shoulders are tense, so I relax them and try to focus on the immediate sensations. The here and now. The sounds and smells, the sun and wind, the taste of this glorious flapjack that I am now allowing to linger on the tongue, rather than hurriedly washing it down with coffee. It takes some effort, blocking out the day to day stuff that is constantly crowding my thoughts – this relaxing is hard work.
The usual suspects are here with me. A smattering of mallards busying themselves, a swan and, lurking amongst the low hanging willow branches, a furtive moorhen. Far off I can see a pair of cormorants diving for fish. I lose myself in the water, watching the surface change and shift with the ebb and flow of the wind. Now choppy, now still, ripples skud across with each gust of wind. The sun catches the top of each wavelet and the whole river sparkles. Then the wind drops, and the surface smooths. It was black before, but now I can see the reeds wafting in the current, tiny fish darting – silver flashes as they turn and catch the light. It’s terrific and I feel myself drifting away.
There is a splosh and I sit up with a start. A gust of wind has picked up the napkin, and the cutlery that was resting on it, and dropped it all into the river. Taken by surprise, my revels are now ended. I stretch and haul myself up. Then, whilst considering what the archaeologists of the 23rd Century might make of my votive offering, I set off.