I turned to ask Sama if she wanted some food and let out a bark of laughter as I discovered she was already up the willow tree in the middle of the pub garden.
Sama looked down on Tom and I, giggling as I opened my tupperware and began to primly unwrap my hard boiled eggs and oatcakes.
When Miranda returned with the drinks the four of us sat on a bench under the tree and began to play with the video camera we’d been donated. Miranda put her head on my shoulder. Across from me Tom was dominated by a huge unruly ginger beard and his gaze kept sliding to anywhere away from the camera as he smilingly told us about his new hobby of archery.
“This is what we do” he said gesturing with two fingers whilst smiling at Sama who grew up in France, “to our French friends, to remind them that we still have our fingers to use bows and arrows, which kill French people, so, well. I’m pretty sure there’s still some laws somewhere that allow us to kill French people.” Looking around at our grins he continued as Miranda’s high laughter of “huhuhuhuhu” rang out.
“I’m learning horse riding too.” Continued Tom. “So eventually I’m going to change my name to Chengis Khan and move to Mongolia.”
Relieved to be no longer in front of the camera Tom turned it upon Miranda. “So…how is the practice walk going? How have you enjoyed map reading?”
In between mouthfuls of peanuts she nodded.
“Mmmm, it’s actually one of my most feared things to do, in life, is read maps, so this has been a really interesting exercise.”
“Are you overcoming that fear?”
“Yeah, gradually. Its really interesting thinking about it in a different way. Not just ‘Oh my god there’s some lines on some paper and I have to try and understand where the hell they are’. There are actually landmarks, that’s really useful. I’m a little less anxious now than I was earlier.”
“What about the walking?”
“Feel good about the walking. Quite enjoying this half pint, hair of the dog. Note for the future, don’t get drunk before walking.”
I nodded knowingly. “And cycling.”
“It helps.” Chipped in Sama.
“Sama thinks it helps. Maybe not… who knows?” said Miranda philosophically as she finished the peanuts.
Further up the Thames we passed the ruins of Godstow Nunnery. Inside the walls out of the strong wind I lay in the sun while Sama did cartwheels and handstands. Miranda told us all repeatedly of the health benefits of nettles during the day.
“They have a full range of B vitamins and there’s protein too. Nettle tea is really good for you. I’ll pick some for dinner.”
Fai Farms had information boards about their conservation work and we saw bee homes they had put around the fields. Little bundles of wooden tubes.