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“.