Down With Maps And Plans

Van, adventure, Dartmoor, life, family time
Once we were on the beach, though not planned, swimming was obvious. Wellies off, socks off; just having a paddle in this clear water, it's not so cold, we should go out deeper... Leggings off, wade out oops, a wave rises. Now me and Dog are swimming, not walking. Floating fur blurs her edges. My dress darkens, green-black, moves like kelp-fronds. We are lost to the elements awhile. After this dip I wrap up, skin a-tingle, pinked, glowy.
No one is surprised, except the owner of the spaniel that peed on the wet clothing I dumped on the shore. Oops!

Back at Granny’s house I am peppered in sand, laughing. If I take off my socks there'll be a dune in here. We all warm up with tea, and more laughing. Me and little niece use fuzzy felt to create a goat headed farmer, a horse headed pig, a pig headed cow: then we name the imaginary objects we are throwing at each other.
Slice of panettone. Tea.

Tired from laughing, tired from a long shift finished that morning.

Mr does the driving, we go home to change clothes and vehicles. We have a plan.
We will take the van for the night, park up, in the morning take a swim. We will look for a place named Crazywell Pool, which we’ve been waiting for a chance to discover.
It is dark as we head across the moors; the map is taking us down tiny soggy roads, more tracks than roads, grassed over, boulder strewn. We decide to turn back. We take a short cut to Burrator, following the same map to a lane where there’s a tree branch down, so rather than risk being stuck we promptly reverse the van’s rear tyres into the mud from which they cannot escape.
There is no phone signal, no internet.
No amount of jacking up wheels, nor building bespoke roads of stone or branch, or formerly pristine van mats, will create the necessary traction.
Torch batteries run out. We abandon self rescue in favour of getting the bed set up, (slight tilt, seems sleep-able) and open the emergency wine.
Dog is having the best time, running after owls and foxes, fetching sticks. She sleeps soundly.
We sleep a bit.

Daylight seeps through tall pines, and one old beech tree fixed in curves.
One historically important barn solid beside us.

After coffee and a few more tries at rudimentary road building we manage, with gymnastic balancing atop of a stile, to get a text message to a friend, and then one back, and so on, till, eventually, the rescue van was dispatched. I chased it down, waving a high-visibility jacket: nearly burst a wild pony with surprise hollering. Sorry, pony.

A mere sixteen hours or so after our accidental park-up, there's no time (or energy) for swimming.
Not too late to get to Plymbridge Woods to walk with granddaughters. If we can find it...
Again the map is thwarting though we did not get wedged or sunk merely perambulated in unnecessary circles, arrived on the wrong side of the river.
Walked over the bridge, up the hill. Legs reluctant.
Grandchild 3 waving at us - opening arms for a warm big hug. She doesn't throw those hugs around, this is a real welcome.

Even so, the inner monologue is grumbling: so tired... so fed up, plans not working and this is my one day off and the stupid maps…

Ah, but this hug, it's not perfunctory. A grand press.
And there’s Grandchild 5, peering around her ice-cream, puckered up, and I lean down for a sticky snotty kiss and a smile, and a little hand takes hold of mine.
‘Come on Granma,’ she says, like I was here yesterday but this two year old hasn’t seen me since when- September? October? When they moved away.
Granma does as she’s told, follows two of her counted blessings along the river trail; salt on skin, mud on boots.

(Dog has the best time, in and out of the river. Sleeps for days. Makes no plans. A world mapped in scent and instinct.)


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