It's been a long time since I put finger to keyboard. There's been a lot going on; a new house, a holiday; a whole series of new experiences, sights and impressions.
It still feels too early to write about the house. We're settling in, and getting to know it. It's lovely, but I haven't yet got past the sense that we're playing at living here; Otford still feels more like somewhere we're visiting than the place where we live.
So while I can't yet write about the place I've come to, I'll try to share a few impressions of where I've just been - from my recent holiday to the beautiful Ionian island of Kefalonia.
The sea, just about warm enough to swim in, brings shrieks and squeals of shock from timid bathers. We start the week like the others, inching in slowly, feeling the chill creep up our legs and higher, until we are almost breathless with the cold, gasping and swearing quietly. After a day or two we decide it's better to immerse ourselves quickly, get the shock over, move around frantically until we acclimatize. We like to describe it as 'marching in bravely.'
Two women stand in the shallows, playing bat and ball. They take turns to start, but each fails dismally to return the ball; they never quite manage to create the rhythmical pit-pat of a rally. One suddenly rushes for the shore "I forgot I'd gone in with me watch on!" she cries, holding the offending time-piece between finger and thumb. It dangles and drips uselessly.
Their husbands have opted to try snorkelling. They sport matching blue face-masks with bright orange breathing tubes; the garish colours a testament to the newness of the equipment so recently purchased from the Dolphin supermarket in Lassi. Heads down, they kick towards the rocks at the edge of the bay, in search of strange creatures.
Above them a bare-footed, brown-skinned, boy looks down. The men have no idea they have interrupted his solitary game of dare-and-dive, the game for which he scrambles on sun-hardened feet over jagged rocks. They'll never know how hard he has to fight to overcome the fear of jumping, the terror of scraping skin on sharp edges, of landing in too-shallow water to gashed hands or feet, of the bite of a strange bright-coloured creature.
A sun-bed by the water's edge. Waking from sleep, disorientated, a line of dribble at the side of her mouth confirms her slip from consciousness. She sits up too quickly, not knowing how long she's lain there in the sun, already feeling the skin on her back beginning to tighten. A single hair, caught in the hinge of her sunglasses, tickles and irritates. She looks at others sitting around her, catches the smirking glances of one or two before they turn away.
In the row behind her a family sit together; father, mother and frowning teenage boy, two sun loungers beneath an umbrella, one beach mat on the sand beside. She wonders what bargain has been struck for the father and son to secure the beds, what compromise or promise has been extracted to relegate the mother to the floor.
A father and daughter come to the beach. He is laden down with toys to keep her amused, beach ball, bucket and spade, a range of small plastic figures.
There is no mistaking their relationship, each has a shock of curly black hair and dark eyes, both have large front teeth sticking out over their lower lips as though constantly in thought. Each is very overweight, with rounded belly, thick legs, pudgy arms.
The girl decides to apply her own suncream, while her father stands at the water's edge, looking on. The factor is high, the lotion the thick consistency of tile-grout; she smears it in streaks on arms and legs, missing the parts she cannot reach. Her father continues to watch her efforts, his expression a mix of indulgence and despair. I wonder if he is encouraging her self-sufficiency or simply avoiding having to help her. Others watch silently; though nothing is said, I think we are all struck with the urge to help. But friends who've spent a week rubbing lotion into each other's backs unquestioningly, know they cannot do the same for her.
Our shared exasperation is expressed by one on-looker, once father and daughter have finally made their way into the sea. "I really hate it when people let their children get fat." Until then, I don't think I'd realised quite how snugly indulgence sits, between caring too much and too little.