Yesterday it rained, and the day before. Tomorrow it will rain again. Today it is not raining, but you can tell that it would like to. They sky is heavy and the air is wet.
The hills were empty and still. The tractors have given up ploughing. Other walkers were ‘putting it off until later’. Only the fool hardy were out. But Hoover and I didn’t mind, we had the hedgerows to ourselves, time to explore and investigate at our leisure. Life is good.
Hoover darted ahead of me, her eyes alert, her nose quivering in anticipation. I keep my pockets stuffed with broken biscuits, hoping to keep her at my side through bribery if not affection. So far it has mostly worked, she cannot believe her luck and gobbles them down returning for more and hopefully offering me a paw in exchange. However there have also been times when I stand forlornly in the sog, listening eagerly for the ting of her returning after another deer quest.
We have yet to have a frost and the warm rain of this early October has encouraged plants to surprise us with unexpected flowers. A field scabious trying hard to lift its head reminded me of a blue sky that was somewhere beyond the clouds. Flashes of yellow sparked the imagination and clover reminded me of early school days.
Running up the gravel path on the first day of school, my heart was in my mouth. My brothers loved it, but I wasn’t so sure.
“Sit in front of me in assembly,” Sime had said. “I’ll show you what to do.” I wasn’t sure I’d find him. School was huge; there must have been at least fifty of us. Maybe not, maybe thirty. But you know what I mean – HUGE – and strange.
There was Sime, standing by the door as we shuffled into assembly. He grinned and took my hand, pulling me into the room with him.
“Here,” he said, rummaging in a box and pulling out a circlet of bells. “These are the best.” He shoved my hand through the centre and curled my fingers round the handle. I hung onto them tightly. “Keep them quiet for now, but when I say ‘Go’ shake them like crazy.” I kept them quiet and stared around the room. There was my friend Ali, chatting to another girl I’d never seen before. And there was Andrew. And Sarah had a new hairband. Sime pushed me into a sitting position on the floor.
“You have to sit with your legs crossed,” he hissed from somewhere behind me, his breath all tickley and warm. I scrunched up my legs, leaned back against his knees and looked at the shiny golden bells.
Goody, our headmistress, played the piano and around us voices sang a song about bees and clover and sucking honey. Sime knew the words. I didn’t, but I liked the tune. Children banged drums, shook tambourines and tinged on triangles according to the coloured lines on a chart. I held up my bells. What should I do?
“Not yet,” Sime reminded me. A girl sitting next to me, sniffed and wiped at a tear with the back of her hand. A teacher gathered her off to the side, dabbing at her with a big white handkerchief. She didn’t have a brother to look after her and seeing her tears made me sad.
“Go!” Sime tapped me on the shoulder, grabbing my hand and waving it in his. I shook it like crazy. I shook all of me like crazy.
“That’s it!” called Sime. “That just perfect!” I forgot about being sad. Or anxious. Or worried about school. If this was what school was like I could see it was going to be fun.
To this day, I have a particular affection for bees, and like to suck honey out of the flowers of clover. Even in the rain.
I was still singing the Bee Song as Hoover and I turned into the yard. Rain was dripping off the rim of my hat and as I looked up from latching the gate I caught sight of a dried head of grass, hung with crystals.
I headed towards the house singing an adaptation of another childhood song – Raindrops are my diamonds. With masses of those around us, who needs any others?