The light lingers longer and looking from the classroom window and, at five o’clock, it is still possible to see across the playing fields to the houses beyond. Among the houses is the home of one of the favoured cousins.
One weekend in childhood years, the favoured cousins had arrived in our Somerset village on a Sunday night. From whence they came, and where they might be going, is long lost in the mists of memory.
Come Monday morning, everyone had woken early, June sunshine had illuminated every corner of the landscape. The programme for the day was clear: my sister and I would be going to our village primary school, the favoured cousins would travel onward to their destination. Yet, for just half an hour, there was time that was our own. In times long before electronic diversions, the options were limited. We would go for a walk.
Walking before school was strange. We walked to school, to walk before walking would not have been contemplated on an ordinary day, why would anyone do it?
The walk was not long, it took us no further than the windmill at the end of the road, but in those yards of tarmac there was a magic, a lightness, a difference.
The six week summer break from school was still probably at least a month distant, but there was a holiday mood. The pasture land around us took on a vivid greenness, the hedgerows filled with life and colour. In the pantry window of the windmill cottage sat two pickling jars; in the brilliance of that morning, they assumed an unlikely mystique, symbols of a world filled with potential.
What words were said on that distant day? Who knows? Childish chatter, inconsequential, except that it would have confirmed the reality of the experience; that it was really Monday morning, that it really was a school day, and that, despite such cause for complaint, our favourite cousins were with us and we could smile at the world.
Of course, the moment passed quickly, as half hours tend to do, and we went to our school, and they went on their way, and the world resumed its mundane ways; except that it was changed. The world had become a place in which ordinariness might suddenly be transfigured, in which the dull and the routine might momentarily be infused with a sense of excitement and joy.
One day, I must walk down the road from the school and tell my cousin about that morning.