End of Summer Rituals

School started today. We moved Lucy into an apartment up near campus on Saturday, though she will need more things brought up this week, and UT's first day of class is Wednesday the 28th.

But we spent the last few days hastily tying up the summer holidays. Last Sunday we had a family outing to an impressive municipal pool complex in Cedar Park, northwest of Austin. It had what I believe is called a "drop slide" and a 3m diving/jumping platform. Fred loved it, and it was a great spot in 100F temperatures.

Veteran's Memorial Park Pool

We also continued a five- or six-year tradition of a summer mural, though without Lucy and Jessica's full attention, I had to step in and help Fred finish it yesterday.

Just the ground to finish

As you can see, this year's theme was a prehistoric scene complete with a Liopleuradon and apocalyptic meteorite. Last year they made a space mural and the year before was - I believe - a kind of carnival or fun fair. This all started in the three summers I was at nursing school - well before Fred was born. While I was in class or working shifts, the girls had a variety of babysitters in the month of August, and the murals became an absorbing project, which took up the best part of a week. Jessica pointed out on Sunday that their favorite part was adding glitter to the whole thing once it was finished. Fred is not bothered about that but did enjoy painting blood dripping off the Tyrannosaurus's teeth.

Less successful, sadly, was our attempt to resurrect another tradition from past years, which we have referred to as Adalia's Place. Adalia was a retired steeplechaser (horse) that I shared for a year or so after Jessica started school. She was stabled out on the edge of the North Downs, in Great Bookham, Surrey, very near a lovely stately home called Polesden Lacey. And here she is:

Adalia in 2000, with Jessica mounted and Lucy walking

And here is a much nicer picture of Polesden Lacey itself.
Polesden Lacy, courtesy of the National Trust
Long after I stopped riding Adalia, we would park on the cul de sac by her old stables and walk for a few minutes along the bridleway to the edge of the downs and have a picnic for a few hours while admiring the view. It became an annual event on the last day before school started, and we would bring lunch and sketch books and, at first a ball and later -- after they started secondary school -- lacrosse sticks to play with. It was always fun and restful and the girls suggested we try it here.

Views of Ranmore Common, behind Polesden Lacey
  Now although we are big fans of Austin and its amenities, one of our private family complaints is that there is "nowhere nice to go".  We don't broadcast this, because Austinites are very proud of the greenbelt and Hamilton Pool and Zilker Park and the creeks. And these places are all very nice if you like cedars and limestone, and they are particularly nice from October to March and when it has been raining. But they don't measure up well to Kew Gardens, or the South Downs or any one of a dozen or more manor houses or castles or 'beauty spots' which were all within an hour or so's drive from us in England. We have been very spoiled.

But as I mentioned in an earlier post, we have really Adapted this summer and are not complaining about the heat, and so we set out after much discussion, for the Walter E. Long metropolitan park, east of Austin. It has a lake and a nice picnic area, and Jessica has run cross-country races there several times and assured us there was acceptable grass, which is an issue in central Texas in August.

A view of Walter E Long park that avoids the power plant!

The lake was very clean and there were only a few families there with us. We found a shady spot and ate our lunch and kept Lulu from running off and bothering the fishermen. But after 15 minutes of playing catch with Fred, we were melting, our end of the lake was thick with reeds, and our picnic sheet (blankets are too hot) was slowly being taken over by ants. I can't identify fire ants but MOST ants in Texas seem to bite in my experience.

So we packed up after at most an hour and consoled Fred, who was crying because we were all so wimpy, with sno-cones from Snow Beach.  Perhaps we could reschedule our Adalia picnic for January...


grace courtney said...

Such beautiful pictures! I only been to Texas once but this post makes me want to go back - such beauty there.

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