Good morning children. How are we all today? It feels wrong to be in the office. The building's deserted, my desk's actually clean (it's wood: who knew?) and I should be outside.
Summer for the Vole family meant six kids - eventually - locked outside, whatever the weather. Lunch would be passed through a window, and we'd be allowed inside a day before the new school term.
How did I fill those endless months? For a few minutes, I'd play with my siblings, until someone cried, or I smashed our only cricket ball into a hedge, never to be seen again. Mowing lawns figured frequently, as did picking fruit that I actually didn't like. Gooseberries - sour and hairy. Raspberries - maggot-ridden and hairy. If it rained, I'd be in the garage or the greenhouse, munching peas and reading apparently unsuitable books which caused bitter arguments and bans from going to the library unsupervised. This from parents whose reading stretched from medical journals to the Pope's latest ramblings… though they've not respected a pontiff since the Council of Trent. After that, the liberal rot set in.
Most of all, I liked to get on my ill-fitting third-hand bike (dark red, 1970s girl's tourer, weighed a ton) and just go. Any direction, for as long as I liked. Conversation with the parents consisted of 'Where've you been?' 'Out.' Who with?' 'Nobody you know'., a formulation that worked well almost until graduation, by which time my absences would encompass entire weeks. We were never particularly loquacious or huggy: 'sharing' still fills me with horror. What's wrong with an affectionate handshake at Christmas and perhaps Easter?