‘That’s where we’re going – up there,’ says my husband, jabbing a finger at a rocky outcrop fit only for eagles and hang-gliders. I stand at the bottom of the hill, grumpy-faced, feeling already the ache of my unfit muscles.
But in my pocket there’s something that will make the climb a lot more fun. Once I’ve trudged, breathless, to the very top and we get to sit down on a rough bit of stone, I bring out my little bottle of children’s bubble mixture. As I raise the wand to my lips and blow gently on the circle of gauzy film, we watch the stream of fragile globes break free and drift out across the valley.
Sometimes, I admit, the experience is disappointing. I puff at the plastic circle and hear a faint ‘splat’ as the mixture fails to take shape. Once, on a damp day in the Welsh borderlands, sitting amid the ruins of an old castle, I couldn’t make the bubbles float at all. They dropped from the wand and squatted on the grass, wobbling, like alien life forms.
On the best days, though, there’s no need even to blow. I simply hold the wand aloft, twist it till it catches the direction of the wind and watch the bubbles tumble over each other in their eagerness to fly.
The glistening colours change with the light – yellow, pink, blue. Their movement changes with the breeze. On a constant air-flow, bubbles float serenely. On a gusty day, they jig about like nervous picnickers dodging insects. Energetic or languid, they take on the mood of the air currents on which they ride.
Everyone likes bubbles. They’re reminiscent of childhood; ephemeral but mesmerising – symbolic, perhaps, of wishes, hopes or prayers. We scatter them to the wind, willing them not to burst but to float far away and out of sight. Especially at the end of a long uphill walk, after an hour spent anxiously scanning the ground for slippery stones and trip hazards, they offer an invitation to look up and out.
Then the aching muscles are not so troublesome after all, and the eagles and hang-gliders seem to have the right idea.