A First Kite

05th June 2015

Rainbow kite!

Strange things remain in the toddler brain. Weeks after the smallest incident, my wife and I will often be regaled by a tale of unsurpassing importance and seconds will tick by until we figure out what our daughter is on about, looking at each other, amazed – ‘she remembered that?!’. I can count my earliest childhood memories on a hand, and they are mostly moments of great delight. A ride downhill on a yellow plastic car, nicking sweets from my father’s study, bags of crabs from Cromer beach, hearing the cock crowing, and (less delightful), waking up at night on the bottom of the stairs after sleepwalking. I often wonder how much of these first years our daughter will remember.

There was a moment today that might stay with her until adulthood. The postman delivered her first kite - in rainbow stripes with blue and red streamers. It was assembled for tea, which was bolted down, then out we went into the evening breeze, the streamers wrapping themselves in the field gate. The Nidderdale sky is always a procession of birds. As we laid out the kite and stepped backwards, unwinding string, gulls and jackdaws criss-crossed overhead. High up, a peregrine – a bird I never believe I’ve really seen – but there it was, a silhouette with motionless wings, journeying northwards.

Birds have been the feature of the week. I’m starting work on a garden design for a couple who want the new garden to be a mecca for wildlife, and particularly birds. As I began surveying, a song thrush decided to put on a ‘greatest hits’ performance from the top of a nearby fir tree. That’s the thing about song thrushes – it’s all such a drama. Give me a blackbird, a wren, or even a cockerel any day.

Anyhow, the garden... a narrow, mid-terrace plot, could really do with levelling and starting again. But that’s off the cards, so the brief is to transform it through planting alone, linking it to the fir wood at the eastern end, and the glimpse of a lake to the south. In some ways, these are my favourite sorts of gardens – awkward, beset with constrictions, needing every sort of visual design trickery to see them right. There will be plants spilling over straight paths, fruit trees redirecting the line of sight from a scratty maple towards the lake, a feature wall of bumble and bug hotels and some simple, recessed lighting for the terrace and out, into the garden, behind shrubs. I will post some pics when it’s done.

For the first few times our kite flying was rubbish. The rainbow kite went up four feet, veered into a wall. Ten feet, spun to earth. We ran down the field, rainbow bumping behind, refusing to fly. We ran down a steep slope. My daughter chucked it in the air. It crashed. I chucked it further. It crashed. My daughter asked about the fairy kite she had wanted and I was starting to feel guilty. I can’t now remember how we did it right. Did the wind change? Did we let out more string? Suddenly the rainbow kite was heading straight up, tugging hard. At full extension, it was 20m into the sky and easy as anything to direct. We kept at our flying for ages.

In the fragments of memories that is childhood, I hope, when my daughter is grown up, this evening will be one memory that remains.

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