Old friends who live in Canada came to stay. There is something wonderful about the friendships that endure long spaces of time when you don't see each other. The picking up again, the sense of connection, is always a delight. There was a huge space of time when we were barely in touch as the rush and hustle of work and raising young families ate up our time on both sides of the Atlantic. For the last few years we have picked up again with an ease and deep pleasure which amazes me. You don't need to share the minutiae of your life to have that sense of being on the same wavelength, of finding the same things funny, of seeing the world in a similar way, with enough differences to add spice and surprise. Lovely.
We went to look at Rug Chapel. There are of course hundreds of reasons why you would want to come to North Wales but if you haven't heard of Rug, add it to your list (and come!).
From the outside it sits, plain and simple, in a quiet setting off the road from Ruthin to Bala.
But open the door to a richly decorated world.
Every scrap of the roof is painted or carved.
Every pew end has its own mythic beast.
And the whole watched over by this fellow:
The last inscription reads:
"yrhoeddel er hyd a for aros a defudd yn udd og yn nos."
These are the last two lines of a poem from the Englynion y Misoedd and translate:
"Lifetime, however long its stay
will come to an end by night and by day."
I would like to be able to tell you that my Welsh was equal to the translation but it would not be true.
Then a couple of days with a lovely French couple staying reminded us that our French is lamentably rusty. It was less so when they left! They were charming. We hope we will see them again. And then off to Scotland for a few days walking.
We used to walk in Scotland a lot but life, family, house, garden and holiday cottage had crowded it out in recent years. We went to Braemar. The sun shone steady from early morning and the air was warm on your skin. Is there anywhere more beautiful than Britain when the weather is wonderful?
We walked from the Linn of Dee along the river and up into the hills.
It was good just to be together. There was a lightness of step, a fizz of excitement in the air. It is good to be able to play our roles for others, to be a parent, a grandparent, a son or daughter and to care for those we love but it is good too sometimes to step away from all that and just be ourselves, thrillingly unencumbered.
We walked. I panted a bit. I had forgotten the effort required to get yourself up a Scottish hill, for which our evening walk up our own hill is inadequate preparation. When we stopped and I lay back into the heather the heat and the silence sank into my bones.
We had a day off walking and visited Crathes Castle and its gardens. The castle is sixteenth century, turreted, floors piled on top of each other filled with beautiful objects, furnishings, silver and carvings. I did look and I did love it but I was missing my garden fix and when we came down the last staircase I came flying out of the front door, desperate to get into the garden and look at plants.
It was too early for the famous double herbaceous borders but to be honest, although I admire them and will always find colour and form combinations to stop me in my tracks, I am as much taken by the corners full of trilliums
and the massy curves of the yew hedges.
On two of the nights we were away we ate at a small restaurant in Braemar called The Gathering Place which I would really recommend. On the walls were quotes of all kinds, ranging from Miss Piggy's "Never eat more than you can lift" to this one: "Enjoy yourself; it's later than you think."