Blackberries and a beach

What makes you smile, even when things go wrong? For me, this weekend, it was unending hedgerows of blackberries and a beautiful beach.

Moving house and moving countries was always going to have its moments. We’d anticipated some of the problems including parting with the wrong stuff for 6 weeks going by container ship, collecting the cat from Heathrow, buying a new car and sorting out phones and internet. It turns out there was more…

No sooner had we set off on the journey south, in a packed car to our new island home, when the phone call we all dread came saying our daughter had been in A&E after miraculously surviving being hit by a bus. Still, it was an emotional call as everyone was in shock and suddenly life felt very fragile and the worries of removal vans and packing boxes seemed less significant. What you need most in those situations is just to be able to give someone a hug – distance and circumstances have meant the hugs will have to wait till this weekend. Just before we left for our flight back to the UK we also heard the sad news that a friend who had been ill had died quite suddenly. It made me realise our lives are in God’s hands and each day is precious – none of us know what’s around the corner or what the next day will hold.

And just as we were settling in, amassing our list of ‘army quarter’ deficiencies – from a faulty cooker to windows that don’t close – the next little hiccup occurred. The cat, who has already survived being abandoned as a kitten, being hit by a car and now flying 5 hours from Cyprus to Heathrow with other orphaned pets, worked out how to unlock the newly installed cat-flap. Our plan to keep him in at night had failed and he was on the prowl in the dark in a strange new country. We thought he had worked out how to find his way back to the house after his first night escapade on Thursday, but the next day he didn’t appear or the next. A weekend that should have involved relaxing and exploring with the family became a search and rescue mission. Search parties were dispatched from dawn to dusk, armed with cat treats and torches. ‘Missing’ posters were printed and distributed door to door. On Sunday afternoon we were beginning to feel as if something bad had happened and we might have to adjust to life without our strange sandy cat. So we headed for the beach around the corner on paths lined with blackberry bushes and I thought about baking a crumble on a happier day and basked in the sun in the shelter of the sand dunes.

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A little while later there was an urgent call that a sandy cat had been spotted near the road by a wood. We raced to the spot and tramped through undergrowth spotting a pair of wary eyes and a sandy tail hidden in the long grass. Was it Simba? We couldn’t be sure. The cat didn’t respond to our calls and moved further away. We couldn’t get close enough to be absolutely sure it wasn’t him and wondered what had made him so frightened. We tried to approach from the other side of the wood and as I crunched through deep undergrowth and trampled down waist high nettles, I thought about snakes and what might be underfoot. But this is England now – not Cyprus! The abandoned cat eventually disappeared deep into the undergrowth and we had to abandon the quest. We decided to leave food and water and a box… just in case and return the next day. At dusk we made a final sortie along the beachside path, through the boatyard and back by some large houses at the edge of the airfield. Our voices were growing hoarse with calling out and listening in case he was trapped somewhere. Just as we were about to cross the road back to our house we heard a faint cry. A fluffy bundle appeared from the bushes and the cat that was lost was now found.

We’re not sure what has happened to the cat in the woods, but people say he lives in a nearby barn. So we’ve retrieved our food bowls and box and left him to it. I’m hoping our dramas are over for a few days. Our cat is sleeping safely on a chair by the window and apart from nursing some giant mosquito bites we’re all in one piece. This weekend the whole family arrive, our ‘walking miracle/accident victim’ included. We’re looking forward to blackberry picking and I’ve even found an old apple tree nearby so blackberry and apple crumble is on the menu. That’s something to make me smile.

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