Back to our travels today.
We drove to a beautiful Oxfordshire village to spend the day with my friend’s Kate and Rachel at Kate’s parent’s house, a gorgeous old rectory with a walled garden and lots of space for nine children to racket around in the sunshine.
And it was actual sunshine, the real deal, on a bank holiday Monday of all things.
The gods were smiling on us.
I haven’t visited Kate’s parents for years, and driving through the Oxfordshire countryside brought back lots of memories for me, of all the times I’d visited them (with her, of course), and all my years of living in Oxford.
It made me realise quite what a lucky girl I am, having had the great good fortune to live in some very, very beautiful places, and do some amazing things with some fantastic people.
We drove through the beautiful village of Nuneham Courtenay, where UE and I used to run off to, to go and eat amazing American food at a diner style pub there, the first time I’d ever tried key lime pie, but not the last.
We drove through Clifton Hampden, another gorgeous village where Kate would sometimes park up and we would wander the Thames path with a picnic. We would spy on all the rich people’s houses on the banks of the Thames and go paddling, because we couldn’t afford a boat.
We went past the turn off for Sutton Courtenay where I once spent a debauched weekend with a friend eating pies in a local pub, and then past Stadhampton – site of the fantastic pub/restaurant called The Crazy Bear. I’ve had several wonderful birthday dinners there (champagne used to be on tap, and tequila with gold flakes in it) and a particularly decadent weekend when they opened a hotel.
We were not a million miles from the Manoir Aux Quatre Saisons, another place I’ve been lucky enough to both stay and eat at a few times.
We drove past Wittenham Clumps, the site of Bronze Age Hill forts, and site for excellent picnics and kite flying.
We passed the turn off for Wallingford, site of castle visits, trips to the archaic cinema, duck feedings and general loveliness and visits to friends.
And the list could go on, of all the places I have happy memories of and the friends I have shared them with.
And today we made another memory.
We ended up sitting in the sunshine, in the garden, eating tremendous food, courtesy of Kate’s mum, drinking beer courtesy of Kate’s dad, and watching our children splashing about in the paddling pool and getting on like a house on fire, as they always do, despite the fact that we only usually manage to meet up once a year and they range in age from five to fourteen.
And I drove home thinking how blessed I am to have known these people and had them in my life for over twenty years, and how I hope I shall keep them in my life for at least as long again.