Isn’t it odd what we set our hearts on, even if it’s totally unsuited to our circumstances? As I mentioned in my last post, DH and I have lived for many years in an old farmhouse high in the Welsh hills, with an unkempt apology for a garden, no appreciable lawn, and not a neighbouring house in sight. And yet what did I yearn for? A swing-seat, that’s what, the kind of garden equipment that cries out for a barbered lawn or neat patio, neither of which this place has ever had or is ever likely to have.
Ten years ago we left our house in the tender hands of tenants and moved into the huge Edwardian vicarage which went with my new post as vicar of three small rural parishes, a few miles away across the valley. Lawn we then had aplenty, a full tennis-court’s worth in fact, but I was so busy that I hardly ever had time even to look at it, let alone think about putting a swing-seat on it for my rare leisure moments.
It wasn’t until I moved to Oxfordshire three years later, to a part-time post that carried with it a nice, modern house in a small village, that we acquired the kind of garden that could reasonably be graced with a swing-seat. On leaving my previous parishes I’d been given a gift of money as a farewell-present, so what better way to remember the kindness and generosity of my former parishioners than to treat myself to something I had dreamed of for so long.
Thus it was that my swing-seat entered my life. We bought it in a garden centre as a kit to take home and assemble, before placing it in our back garden which boasted a small lawn and an even smaller patio. What could be more simple? Just lay out the components on the sitting-room floor, read the instructions and, in next to no time, voilà, my heart’s desire in my very own garden. Several hours, much muttered cursing, and the odd pinched finger or two later, DH and I finally threw down the instructions, which might as well have been left in their original Chinese for all the use they were, and staggered into the garden with the finished product.
But oh, it was worth it! I sat on it, swung a little, and was mentally transported into a timeless (and probably idealised) world of long, leisurely summer afternoons in the garden, with tea on the lawn and a restful read or doze on the swing-seat, all my troubles forgotten or disappeared.
That was the theory and, just occasionally, the practice. More often it became a place for sitting with parishioners to chat or listen to their problems and concerns, and from time to time a plaything for visiting grandsons, or somewhere to cuddle them and read them a story.
Then, quite unexpectedly, it became the place where I could sit with family and friends, as I came to terms with my second cancer diagnosis in seven years and faced a possibly very uncertain future. Sitting and swinging gently as we talked didn’t take away the uncertainty and fear, but it made them more bearable, because they were shared with people who really cared. Later the swing-seat became the place where I could rest and recuperate during the lovely Indian summer days which followed my surgery, until I was well enough to go back to work and the swing-seat was put away in the garage to wait for the return of summer.
Finally, it came back with us when I retired and we returned to Wales. Now that we spend every summer in Normandy, it isn't getting much use here and seems to have entered upon a well-earned retirement of its own. Perhaps one day DH and I will summon up the courage to take it apart and reassemble it in France. Until then, whenever I see it I’m reminded of how important our dreams are to us, even if they don’t always come true in the way we imagined.