There were five of us, cousins, four girls and one boy. We met when we were small and despite living in different cities we spent enough time together to become friends. And somehow, we remained friends, through university, jobs, partners and children. The parents of three of us died a while ago, but the parents of the other two are still alive, albeit elderly. It became a habit to take them away every year in the spring, to a parent friendly hotel at which we would all gather, all of us cousins for the weekend.
This year our elderly relatives decided that nights away had become a little too much, and thus the excuse for the weekend went away. But the hotel was booked, and we were looking forward to seeing each other, so we decided to go ahead anyway. There were eight of us by now, five cousins and three partners, all sufficiently well-loved to have become honorary cousins themselves. On Sunday, with the weather set fair, we decided to walk from our hotel in Bosham to the passenger ferry at Itchenor, thence to West Wittering for a swim, and back again.
And it was a perfect day. We started slowly with a leisurely breakfast, and by the time we hit the road the sun was up and it was already warm. The sky was the bluest blue you can imagine and it would have been too hot apart from an obliging little breeze which followed us along the way. We walked from Bosham’s waterside prettiness across the inlet on the causeway, sun flashing on the distant water as the tide retreated. We passed huge and beautiful and expensive houses facing the estuary and decided which ones we would buy if we won the lottery. Along the foreshore we could see the river widening, boats bobbing on the water across mud left exposed by the tide. We stood at the end of the ferry causeway and watched as the little boat chugged across to pick us up and drop us in Itchenor, via a quick trip round the harbour to drop another passenger at his boat. We passed gin palaces and business-like yachts and little skiffs in jewel colours, garnet and aquamarine and coral and jade, all with matching sails, their names on the sail covers. Betty and Jenny and Mouse and Lively, all bobbing together on the sparkling waves.
We disembarked and walked down winding tracks through woods and fields with the estuary ever widening to our right. As lunchtime neared we found a pub, unprepossessing on the outside but with a large and welcoming garden. We ate food that was much better and more original than one would have the right to expect in such a place. Then we followed the road to the beach where the tide was in and the sand was busy with families enjoying the first proper seaside weekend of the year. We swam. We ate ice-creams. And then we retraced our footsteps back through lanes heady with may, overhung with horse-chestnuts, and lined with banks of cow-parsley delicate as sea-foam, which is also called Queen Anne’s Lace. We passed thatched cottages hung with wisteria and with roses round the door. We bathed hot feet in the cool water while we waited for the ferry to come and take us home. And then we wandered back through Bosham past the wealthy homeowners sunning themselves on their lawns with gin and tonics, back to our own gin and tonics and our dinner and our beds in cool, night smelling rooms as the last bird-songs hollowed out the darkening sky.
We had talked, and laughed, and shared stories and jokes and food and the joy of one another’s company. We had enjoyed being together in a truly beautiful place. We didn’t get lost, or sunburnt, or blistered, or even particularly tired. There was one unfortunate bashed head, but fortunately its owner turned out to be fine, thanks to a tough skull and a well-placed Boston Redsocks logo on his baseball cap. And that was really the only thing you could say that could have been better. It was that rare thing which comes just every so often, and luckily enough, we were aware of it and could appreciate it. It was a perfect day.