On Sunday, the sun shone - a remarkable event this year, here in the South West. One of my closest friends is staying for a week and we had arranged to take my two dogs (and one guest dog) to Sidmouth on the South Devon coast to meet the Young Friends, S and A, who used to live in the next village. I had looked after their Patterdale terriers for two and a half years until S and A, who by this time had become my friends, moved to another part of the county, having found the cottage they had been searching for since they first moved here from London.
It was a glorious day: sunlight glittered on the sea, the Patterdales raced along the shore, Miss P, my Saluki-collie cross, hurled herself in and out of the breaking waves, and the older dogs, the dear old Edinburgh Boy and the guest Westie, went beachcombing, rootling around in the driftwood and the flotsam and jetsam that the waves had cast ashore overnight. We humans, walked, talked, did a bit of beachcombing ourselves, and then found a spot to sit on the warm stones where we could soak up the sun and enjoy our surroundings.
We could not quite believe that, on an autumn day, which felt like a long overdue gift after more than a year of rain, chill and grey skies, we had the beach to ourselves.
But we did.
Afterwards, we went back to the Young Friends' cottage for a delicious lunch - Indian, vegetarian, in honour of our travels, future and past, theirs and ours. It is a truly special place and although they have been there only since August, it is now unmistakeably theirs. And in the garden, S has already converted the summerhouse into the studio he has always wanted.
The dogs had eventually run themselves ragged and stretched out, comatose, on the floor, while we ate - and raised our glasses to friendship.