We go off-road before we even start. Clara rushes across the grass, shrieking at the others to follow. They’re going to climb a tree they say. We follow, a little behind. Watching three small figures running down the hill – I hear the opening bars of Little House on the Prairie in my head. I resist the itch to take out my phone – plenty of time for photos. They climb on a log – all three balancing in line, arms out. We’re nearby, but not hovering. Rare freedom. There are no cars, there’s nowhere to get lost, the log’s not too high. My instinct to throw in a needless “be careful” is battened down.
They take off again – they’ve found a muddy path. A “secret passageway!” says Sam, his eyes wet with excitement. We follow. They run. We run a little. Freedom but not out of sight. Sam makes a hole in the mud with a stick. He sees a dinosaur. He loses the girls. He shouts for them. “Gulls!” They wait for him. They find the main path again. They’re amazed that their detour has brought them back here. They find another path, but this time we intervene. “Let’s climb the hill – we can play at the top,” we say, and they do.
We pass the tea room and keep climbing. We stop at the lookout for a break. Nobody says anything, we just look. Then back on the path. We’re nearly there. We turn the corner, and there’s the spot. Sky meets sea, with only a blue fence breaking up the picture. They run to the railing, as do we. Breathing, taking in sky air and sea views. It’s bright but not sunny. The sea is teal, the sky less so. The gorse a burst of yellow, unfolding on all sides, creeping down the hill to the manicured gardens and small castles below.
The kids run ahead. I stay staring for a moment longer, then follow them again, because that’s how it works. Freedom with limits. We pass the Obelisk, and run down the hill to climb the rocks. Now we’re on top of the world.
We can see everything, everywhere. The sky is bigger, the towns and streets stretch out below. A yellow and blue bus in the far distance is the only moving thing. Small white houses, glinting sea beyond. The chimneys. “Do you remember I was telling you about the chimneys,” I say to Emmie, “About how I can see them from work and we can see them from home? We can see them from here too.” She looks and nods solemnly, then gestures towards a young couple who are sitting on the rocks, a few feet away. It looks like a third date. “Do you think they’re in love?” she asks. I squeeze her shoulder gently and smile but say nothing. She runs to play with her sister and brother, sticking sticks in puddles and jumping off rocks. Their dad has to be the in the game. I haven’t been called yet. I look at them, then back at the place we’re from. We’re on top of the world.