They raise them tough

Thank you so much for all the kind and encouraging words from yesterday, and all the gifts that popped the picture onto the first popular page. Blimey!

There were plenty of cars down at our local beach today, and lots of children. It was about 8 or 9 degrees and sunny, but not what you'd call toasty. (it clouded over as we sat) The sand is still largely covered by deep snow, but he sea is no longer frozen and there are only a few lumps of ice bobbing about in the water.

We had coffee - in our new flasks - and sat on a warmish rock to drink the drink and drink in the view. I became more and more fascinated by the kids. There was a lad of about 8 with his younger brother who might have been 4, walking, scrambling, slipping and balancing their merry way along the boulders half emerged from the snow. The little lad was soldiering on, up and down over stuff that stretched him. The older lad was always within grabbing range, and had his hand ready to reach out, but let his younger brother manage by himself. It was lovely to see the care and the determination - and the way they both were totally at home in this rather harsh playground.

The girls in pink had been picnicking with their parents who had walked back towards the beach. The lasses were more interested in playing on the rocks than going home, and seemed quite content, amusing themselves.

We watched a couple with a dog taking a "short cut" over the rocks. It's hard to judge the snow depth now, and it really doesn't hold you in any consistent way. We both fell through numerous times today, even though we were on the beaten track which means it's more solid. Anyhow, the couple, being dragged by the dog, were falling through at every step. Up to their waists! I have to admit that we laughed our heads off, trying to be quiet about it. It's fun when it happens to someone else, less so when you have to get the icy lumps out of your own boots and socks.

There is a real feeling of - oh, let's just get on with it - about childhood here. The children are out in all conditions and learn quickly how to manage, what to wear, how to ignore mosquitoes and frozen extremities. Not a lot of cosseting goes on in families that like to be outdoors. There are the indoor varieties as well, but I can't imagine what they get out of living this far north if they don't utilise the natural world for their amusement.

It felt great to be out, after 2 days of lying low with the weird ear. I can hear properly again, my voice is no longer bouncing about in my skull but there's a massive buzz all the time. The pain is gone, thank goodness, but I feel a bit odd and fuzzy in the head department. 

When we got home we decanted the elderflower wine into a new bucket, removed the raisins and made a form of mincemeat with them. Wine-soaked raisins can't be thrown away, and if they are mixed with a bit of sugar, some ground almonds, lemon and orange peel chopped finely, currants and a heap of spices - well then you can call it mincemeat! It goes into the freezer and I add butter when I use the mixture to make mince pies.

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