A few days into the holiday, having seen a green suited farmer walking about several times, I wandered towards a small paddock where a beautiful brown mare stood, proud and content with her fortunate life. As I stroked the mare's gentle face I heard a voice behind me. A man's voice. Upon turning around and seeing the farmer, little butterflies made their debut in and around my tummy and I could have sworn I heard someone say, "Welcome to your life."
The farmer told me about his mare. How his love for her shone through his softly spoken words, the twinkle in his eyes shining like a shooting star into mine. I knew nothing about this man, yet I knew everything about his life. I knew by the end of that two week holiday that I had to come back. I needed to come back to this place. Something inside me had changed. My dad spent many hours with the farmer during that holiday. They had so little in common, yet they warmed to each other instantly. Dad decided to book the cottage for the following summer before we left and I had no doubt that I would return.
For the next eight years, I did return with my mum and dad to Northumberland. We stayed in the farm cottage and also stayed in a private house just across the fields. My coolness towards my parents suggestion of visiting our friends at the farm must have been terribly poor acting for they knew, as I realise now, just how much I longed to go back. And they knew why.
In June 2001, after persuading my parents to book the farm cottage, we returned for our final holiday in Northumberland as a family. Amy was almost eighteen months old and I was another member of the single parent statastics. During that first week of our holiday, I walked Amy up and down the farm road in her pram. Over and over again. A John Deere tractor clamoured through thistles in a field of stock and I could just about make out the farmer as he shyly watched me from his cab. Over the years I had got to know that my lovely farmer wasn't married. I assumed he didn't have a girlfriend. I hoped my assumptions were correct!
On the Saturday night at the beginning of our second week I sat on the step outside the cottage and waited for the farmer to return to the farm house. Thankfully I didn't have to wait long otherwise I think I might have lost my nerve. I approached him and bravely invited him in that evening for a drink whilst my parents went out on their own. His answer of Yes must have given the game away as my mouth turned upwards and my eyes lit up the whole of Northumberland. He came in again on Tuesday night and then again on Friday night, our last night of the wonderful holiday. But that Friday was to be the best. We sat on the sofa together, talked all night about everything and even though there were many opportunities for intimacy, we remained respectful throughout.
The following morning, before leaving for the last time, the farmer and I exchanged phone numbers, smiles and a humble kiss. A kiss that would have to last until I returned with Amy and our belongings in August of that same year, just four weeks after my dad's passing. It has been six years now. June, July and August of 2001 will be the most memorable times in my life, times I will look back on as the days that changed my world.