Yesterday Jen and I visited my cousin Bridget, who I've only seen twice in the last thirty years or so. She has two children I've never met, and produces the most beautiful botanical paintings, a few of which you can see here. She and her sister Ruth lost both parents in quick succession during the past year, I lost Mum, and we have gradually been more in contact over these difficult months as the preceding generation leaves us behind.
We drove up from York. I had planned a nice B road country route, complete with cows, sheep, villages and lovely views. I had noted that the petrol tank was a bit low, but ignored it as we could "get some on the way, and anyway, there should be enough to get us there". However there were several miles of deep, stomach churning, nerve tingling panic as I realised I was running out - there seem to be fewer petrol stations per square mile here that I'm used to down in the crowded, busy south! Eventually a benevolent local sent us in the right direction, "there's one at Thirsk - that's only 11 miles up the road" - note to self - do stop letting that tank run low!! There was considerable personal pride at stake here, not only could I have run out in the middle of nowhere and had to be rescued, I had blithely stated that I'd be on time "not like Mum who was always late". So bad was she at this, that on one visit to the above mentioned cousin's parents, when we were small, Mum left really early and hid round the corner in her car so that she would be on time. She never got over the fact that Uncle Alan rumbled her and called her bluff by suggesting she'd done just that, as her being on time was quite simply unheard of!
Anyway, back to our visit. We arrived exactly on time (hurrah) and were give a wonderful greeting and treated to much needed cups of tea and happy chatter. I looked enviously round her and her husband's studio - delicious botanical painting on one side, exquisite violin being worked on on the other, sheep safely grazing framed through the window in the evening light. She showed us round her garden, all her own hard work, with some raised beds in construction which she, despite being a willowy and graceful soul, had filled up and dug over all by herself. The greenhouse was full of tasty things and the most beautiful copper beech hedge with an arch in the centre screened the garden from the quiet country road they are tucked away on. Once the children - sorry, teenagers, were also assembled, Bryony was at work just down the road, and Barley was deep in the throes of shooting virtual somethings when we arrived, we were served a very fine supper of roast beef and vegedibles, seated round a beautiful dining table her husband Barry had made. There was chat, and more chat, and more chat, and much laughter and more and more laughter, shared family tales and deliciously outrageous stories about Bryony's school friends. In fact I'm not sure when I've had such wonderful fun. We felt enclosed in a little bubble of happy warmth and beautiful things. Eventually, bearing in mind the hour's driving needed to get us back to York, we reluctantly left. On the drive back I reflected quietly to myself on the years that I have missed by not being in contact with these good souls who share my genes. I felt I had discovered a great treasure, which I didn't realise had been there all along.
People are so precious