In praise of boredom

21 Apr

Ours is a friendship born of boredom.  Born of long summer afternoons spent lying on our beds, white Provencal sun streaming through the shutters making stripes on our brown legs.  Heat silencing everything except the crickets, whose loud rasping was the soundtrack to our siestas.  We’d talk about anything and everything as we ate long strings of sweets from the garage, catching up on the time we’d missed.  At home in England, we often didn’t have much to do with each other, we were both at boarding school and at home had different friends, different activities.  But at our Grandparent’s house in the South of France we just had each other.  No TV, no friends, no toys.  Just each other, a pack of cards, a mahjong set with no rules and shelves full of other people’s discarded holiday reading.

For a month every summer, we were best friends.  We spent our days roaming the vineyards, the soft, sandy soil filling our espadrilles, finding treasure under every stone, beneath every tree.  We built some Sterling Prize worthy dens in the secret places we found.  We utilised every nook and cranny of a natural landscape covered in gnarled American Oak trees and rocky, limestone outcrops, fashioning roofs out of bamboo gardening poles, branches, sheets.  We once constructed a pulley from a bedroom window in the house to a den on top of a flat rock.  At least I think we did, we certainly spent a long time discussing it.  The more inaccessible the den the better, my favourites were on top of rocks that could only be climbed by nimble, barefooted, children.  We knew every handhold, every branch strong enough to hold us, we could climb them in the dark.

Sometimes we played with other children, had friends to stay.  Our cousin used to join us every summer.  But then my brother had a new best friend, and the boys would spend all day playing cricket, the soft thunk of tennis ball against terracotta tiles and cries of “four” and “LBW” joining the cicadas’ song.  Their matches were long enough to rival any played at Lords.

Attempts were made to find us local playmates.  The snobby pharmacist was pleased that her children were playing with us, we were a cut above other the local children, old beyond their years, who brazenly smoked in the  village square.   But her prissy children did not embrace our preferred activities of rock climbing and football played barefoot in the prickly couch grass, and friendship never blossomed.

As we got older, we’d sometimes take the long walk into the village by ourselves while our parents sensibly slept after lunch.  We walked the two kilometres down the hill under a bright, brassy sky, our reward a coffee in the deserted Cafe de la Place, mangy dogs asleep on the cool marble floor, shops shuttered against the heat of the day.  The walk home up the side of the mountain, as the oven-like afternoon was starting to cool, left little breath for talking, but talk we did.

We talked all the time.  During the long evenings lying in bed as Beethoven’s Ninth echoed up the stone staircase.  On our explorations of the vineyard, discovering secret gardens and fallen down hunters’ hideouts.  While we spent hours in the pool, perfecting handstands, competing to see who could swim the furthest, and stalking and killing wasps.  During stormy late summer afternoons painting wicker furniture in the garage or listening to classified ads on the laughably bad ex-pat radio station.

I can’t remember what we talked about now, but our meandering conversations, winding their way through the slow, summer days bound us together as siblings and friends.  We’re all grown up now, but we still like to talk.

For this week’s writing workshop, Josie asked us to Share some memories of a sibling or siblings“.


31 Responses to “In praise of boredom”

  1. marketingtomilk 21/04/2010 at 9:58 pm #

    Beautiful post. So well written. Can imagine being there with you.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 21/04/2010 at 10:02 pm #

      Thank you

  2. MummyMatters 21/04/2010 at 10:25 pm #

    What a lovely post, I could almost feel the sunshine on my face as I was reading that. And the sorrow as your cousin joined you and took your brother away for a time.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/04/2010 at 11:28 am #

      Thank you, I really enjoyed thinking about it all yesterday, I’m sure the sunny day helped.

  3. Brit In Bosnia 21/04/2010 at 11:06 pm #

    So lovely. It sounds as if you had the most blissful holidays. So well written. Can’t wait for you to start your travels and bring the places alive like you have here. x

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/04/2010 at 11:30 am #

      Thank you very much. I’m enjoying practising, I’m sure I’ll love writing when I’m travelling. I’ll have to be dragged away from the laptop.

  4. Catharine 22/04/2010 at 10:00 am #

    What a lovely post. It is all so real and alive, that delicious innocent world of childhood. Thank you.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/04/2010 at 11:31 am #

      I’m very drawn to writing about my childhood, maybe because it was all so simple back then.

  5. Paula 22/04/2010 at 10:20 am #

    This is beautiful. I want to be there with you, you’ve created such a perfect encapsulation of a childhood memory…just gorgeous.


    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/04/2010 at 11:27 am #

      Thank you. My parents have sold the house now, so I wanted to write about it to remember some of the little details.

  6. JFB 22/04/2010 at 10:27 am #

    How lovely! I’m very jealous as I always wanted a sibling. I had 2 half brother but they were much older & lived away.
    You’ve reminded me of those glorious summer days though! Thank you!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/04/2010 at 11:26 am #

      You’re welcome! I do think it’s wonderful to have siblings.

  7. greenie01 22/04/2010 at 10:42 am #

    Lovely post. It reminded me of family holidays in the Dordogne when my children were young, particularly the sounds of the tennis ball and the crickets. Happy days

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/04/2010 at 11:32 am #

      That sound of tennis balls sums up summer doesn’t it?

  8. Jay 22/04/2010 at 11:18 am #

    Ahw that sounds so awesome. I’m quite jealous, as I never ever had that with my siblings. You’ve put my idyllic image into words, and done it so well!
    Great post :o)

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/04/2010 at 11:25 am #

      Thank you. I’m sure he remembers it all quite differently!

  9. Holly at Itsamummyslife 22/04/2010 at 11:23 am #

    Very evocative memories. You bring it to life so well.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/04/2010 at 11:32 am #

      Thank you 🙂

  10. Josie @Sleep is for the Weak 22/04/2010 at 12:09 pm #

    Hello Mrs Writer

    You just earned your stripes with that one, indeed you did.

    Just beautiful. You capture place and sensation SO well – a born travel writer.

    I love the relationship you had with your brother. So special. I didn’t really discover mine until we were older but we have been making up for lost time in the last few years and our favourite thing is just to sit, drink tea, and talk and talk.


    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/04/2010 at 12:57 pm #

      Thank you. I do enjoy it and it’s lovely to do something I enjoy so much.

  11. Heather Davis 22/04/2010 at 12:18 pm #

    Oh that’s so lovely! Makes me miss my sisters who are in NY. I love to talk to them too. You’ve captured childhood so well.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 22/04/2010 at 12:57 pm #

      I LOVE New York. Great excuse to visit it, wish I had sisters there!

  12. Plan B 22/04/2010 at 10:05 pm #

    What a beautiful post! Does your brother read your blog? If not, you should print that one out and give it to him. It reads like a love letter to your shared childhood.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 23/04/2010 at 10:03 am #

      He sort of reads my blog, at least, he knows it exists, but I’m not sure he actually reads it. He is on twitter, so he knows I’ve written this…

  13. Heather @notesfromlapland 28/04/2010 at 7:15 pm #

    Wow, this is fantastic! You capture the time and that feeling of endless summers spent doing nothing at all and yet filled to the brim, perfectly. Utterly brilliant, you are.

  14. Suzy 05/05/2010 at 6:19 pm #

    Beautiful post. Reminded me of vacations with my brothers and sisters. It’s funny how you can be closer in these scenarios than at home.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 06/05/2010 at 10:05 am #

      I think it’s the lack of distractions. And the boredom!

  15. PippaD @ A Mothers Ramblings 27/05/2010 at 2:09 pm #

    I kind of wish I was your sister now!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 27/05/2010 at 2:11 pm #

      I am a VERY good sister.


  1. uberVU - social comments - 22/04/2010

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by peabee72: Loving @vwallop ‘s workshop post today. Just beautiful:

  2. Ready to go back yet? « Glass half empty, glass half full. - 22/04/2010

    […] amazing poignant and moving blogs on Josie’s brilliant Writing Workshop. One in particular by ‘It’s a small world after all’ stirred happy memories of family holidays in France with Twigman and our […]

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