Greeted at Totnes Station by blue grey skies, green fields and a welcome drop of twenty degrees in temperature. And my father, standing on the platform, all small and wonky and smiling. It’s been a year since I saw him and, as always, I scan him to see if anything’s changed. He’s perhaps a tiny bit shorter, but otherwise looking remarkably robust for 85. He insists on taking a bag as he walks me to his car, which is wedged awkwardly between the wall and a panel van with a slip of paper under the wiper.
“Apparently I scraped his wing,” says my father.
‘Apparently’ used in the sense of ‘Allegedly’.
“I didn’t feel it. I don’t believe I touched him. But the fellow in that minibus over there made me leave a message.”
I look where he’s gesturing. The local bus mafia looking after their own, his gesture says.
The minibus is just pulling away from the kerb. My father watches as the driver weaves his way out of the car park and turns onto the main road.
“Made me,” he says. Hurt.
I look at the wound, lick my finger and give the paint a quick rub. It’s just a scuff. And it’s yellow. My father’s car is blue. There is no trace of blue anywhere on the wing. I look over my shoulder and then remove the piece of paper.
“Wrong colour paint, Dad. You car’s not yellow.”
We drive to the Hall with the quiet dignity of the falsely accused, weaving our way round parked cars (“Trippers…” says Dad) and construction vehicles. They’re digging a hole in the water meadows by the Gatehouse. It’s full of milky grey water, the colour of the sky.
“Funny place to build,” says my Dad, with a sniff. It’s a sniff laden with layers of disapproval on regret on self-knowledge. He knows better than to rail against change. He’s been embracing change all his life. But sometimes you want to hang on.
Saturday is changeover day at the Summer School. Bags and instrument cases and reunions and the solitary visitor, wondering what next. I go to a welcome drinks reception in the Private Garden, and am instantly enveloped by old friends. Judith presses a drink into my hand, saying “I’ve run out of wine glasses. Shelley told me I couldn’t serve wine in tumblers, but I said I’d serve it in a bucket if that was all I had…”
Family friends and faces I should recognise say hello, enquire politely after me, my family, my book. I deflect questions and dodge eyes. I’m not here to talk. I’m here to listen and play and write.
Then, after speeches and rattly applause, it’s time to drift in, have dinner and take our seats in the Great Hall for the first concert of the week. Summer School has begun.
I’m writing a book about the Summer School! Please come and view my author page at www.unbound.com/books/sanctuary and then pledge lots of money. Alternatively, send chocolate.