After yesterday's wobbles with the weather, today dawned bright and clear in sunny Northamptonshire. Back at work after my enforced sick-note sabbatical, hubby and sons are off shooting, so Zak and I have the entire day to ourselves.
The thing is, I'm torn in half today. Once the boring domestic bits are out of the way, do I spend the rest of this lovely day at Wickies with Zak or do I stay in and get stuck into some writing?
I must admit the pull of Wicksteed Park is strong today. 130 or so acres of park in undulating Northamptonshire countryside. A 30 acre lake with a nature trail. Huge swathes of lovely grass for Zak to run free (the park is closed from Sept to March so it's only really locals who go there). The cutest little rose garden where you can eat sandwiches and drink soup from a flask, huddled up in a cosy dog-walking coat, hat, mittens and scarf in the winter sunshine. The rose garden is set in lovely symmetrical concentric circles and is slightly sunken, hidden away from prying eyes; visitors often don't realise it's there as the entrance is merely a tiny ancient wrought iron gate in an overgrown hedge. Once inside, the hedge envelops you like a time-worn familiar comfort blanket. If there is no-one else there, you really could be alone in a painted landscape.
Wicksteed Park in winter is quite simply a purring contented pussy-cat, a peaceful, quiet haven where you can sit with a notepad and let your imagination gallop across the cauliflower sky. I always take bread for the ducks, geese and swans that come right up to you and take the tit-bits out of your hand in winter. Mind you, no doubt the greedy labrador will get the hump if he doesn't get some as well!
Wicksteed Park changes into a different beast in the summer though. A roaring tiger with claws outstretched waiting to capture the hoards of day-trippers and rip them off with extortionate prices. Rows of huge coaches punctuated by screaming children invade the quiet green meadows. The sound of the honking Mississippi Queen River Boat; screaming and yelling of people on the water chute; the smell of onions and chips mixing with the earthy smell of the river and lake.
In summer, the wildlife retreats to two small islands on the lake, only venturing out to a place behind some railings where they can, squawking and squabbling, take their offerings from crowds of well-meaning humans in safety.
My earliest distinct memory of Wicksteed Park was when my Auntie Mary gave birth in the ice-cream queue. (Well actually that's exaggerating a bit: her waters broke in the ice-cream queue, an incident that was followed by a scattering of adults leaving moi - at seven years old - with a whole pound note to buy lots of tubs of creamy ice-cream with little multi-coloured spatula-like spoons for my little brother and various, younger cousins. Auntie Mary actually gave birth in the Pavilion - if you google Wicksteed Park you will see a photo of the gorgeous quaint 1920's wooden building in all its splendour. I could tell you lots of tales about the Pavilion but I'll save that for another day.)
I met my very first boyfriend at Wicksteed Park. A few weeks later two love-sick fifteen year olds found a virgin patch of newly laid concrete at the back of the boat shed. "AB Loves IS" they wrote with a sharp twig, encircled by a heart. It's still there, I think, although I daren't go and look any more because it necessitates a daring manoeuvre rather too near to the bank of the lake. My daughter reliably informed me about ten years ago that it was still there, much to the consternation of her dad - who , you may have realised, is NOT the immortal IS!
I've fallen (or been thrown) in the lake four times - mostly as a scatty teenager, but once as a should-have-known-better thirty-something pretending to be a teenager.
Despite wandering down the Wicksteed Park memory lane, I really want to write today! Being back at work has meant that writing time has become more precious. What would you do - resist the pull of the computer keyboard and set forth to Wicksteeds in Winter this afternoon, or knuckle down and get another thousand or so words written?
I'd post some pictures on the blog - but if you want to have a look just Google "Wicksteed Park"
Have a great winter weekend, bloggers