Wales was sunny when we crossed the Severn Bridge. When we left it in February, not only did we have rats, sorry water voles living behind our boiler, we also had rain that signed a contract it would never stop. I’d started wearing my sailing oilies inside the house. Plus wellies for slippers. Now, returning to Wales just over four months later, the sun was fully in charge. ‘I ripped up the contract guys!’
Still, our dog Fin was definitely more confused to see us. She didn’t exactly greet us with canine rapture when we pulled up in Borth. She produced more of a shy, low, tail wag. It moved with all the energy of ‘you guys left me’ rather than ‘I’m so happy to see you.’ ‘And I crossed the Atlantic with you guys.’ She jumped on Jack’s step-mum, Vronnie with a nervousness I’d only ever seen on my side of the dog-owning fence. I watched her. She was seeking re-assurance from Vronnie now. Not me anymore. Uh-oh.
We unpacked while Fin cut a puzzled-looking figure in the back yard. Last year coming back, I’d found shoes in the porch that I’d forgotten I owned. There were half-open packs of couscous in the kitchen cupboards. This time wasn’t so dramatic. This time, the drawings the girls had put up on the wall were only a few months old rather than a few years, and the bedding wasn’t covered by another blanket of fine dust. Plus, there were no half-opened packs of food in the cupboard. This time, I’d made sure to clear the stocks of food before we left. Testament to how boat living can change a person.. and water voles.
‘When can I see my friends?’ Lulu asked. She had a quick walk around the living room before asking the same question again. She came back into the kitchen and her fist landed on the worktop. The mugs jumped up. ‘When can I see them?’
‘Not sure I can hear you, Lu,’ I said.
She rolled her eyes. ‘You’ll find me on the trampoline.’ Bang went the front door.
Slotting back in to life on land.. it’s a little surreal. But doing it when you’re 13? When you’re old enough to know stuff but too young to control it. The funny thing is that I have some idea. When I was Lu’s age, we moved around too. My mum and I moved to the UK from the States when I was a year older than Lu. What was it like? The feeling I was missing out with my friends back home was intense. Heart-breaking even. Outside now, Lu lay on the trampoline and Fin sulked underneath it. Watching them. my chest tightened. To travel is a wonderful thing. It’s a privilege, a series of insights and sometimes the freshest of flowers. And it’s hard. Sometimes the hardest.