By Tim Porteus

GREY skies and snell winds, freezing rain and not a leaf on a tree in sight.

“Mum, can we just go home?” Jennifer pleaded, the oldest of the four children. She had just turned 14 and had reluctantly come with her family in the first place. She had been asked if she’d like to go with a friend to Spain. She desperately wanted to, but her parents just couldn’t afford it, and so here she was with her younger siblings and parents in a cheap caravan.

The sense of injustice was very real. How could she share stories about what she had done in the Easter holidays with her friends, all of whom seemed to be going away to exotic places with sunshine and fun? What was she going to say? That she’d spent a week listening to the rain on the roof and the nights shivering in the back bedroom of the caravan while her siblings crawled all over her in the early morning, not letting her sleep?

It was boring and, well, disappointing, and so unfair. She was angry with her parents for making her come, and not being able to afford her flights and spending money so she could go with her friend to Spain. Looking at photos on Snapchat and Instagram of her friends lying on sun-drenched beaches just made the whole injustice unbearable.

Deep down, of course, she understood. Her parents worked hard but there never seemed to be any money at the end of the month to save for a decent holiday. They always went camping, although this Easter it was just too cold, so instead they found a relatively cheap caravan by the east coast, not far from Edinburgh, but far enough away to feel they were on holiday.

Well that was the theory. Jennifer certainly didn’t feel like she was on holiday. She’d rather spend her time in her room at home than be stuck in this freezing tin box with her annoying wee brothers and sisters. That had been the final straw. It was like prison, not a holiday.

It was her mum who heard Jennifer sobbing quietly in the back room. Earlier it had been discovered that the milk had run out and she’d volunteered to go to the shop, mainly to get out and some peace to herself. But she’d been caught in a freezing downpour and arrived dripping wet with her hair utterly ruined. It was just too much, and now despair had set in. This was the moment she pleaded to go home.

But they were only halfway through the holiday and the younger children were having a good time despite the weather. They didn’t seem to notice the cold as they explored the beach and splashed in the mud. So Jennifer’s parents were reluctant to cut the holiday short and were full of hope that they’d get at least one, maybe two decent days, before their holiday’s end.

“Let’s wait till tomorrow, the weather is supposed to get better,” her mum said.

But the following day opened with the same grey, cold sky. At least there was no freezing rain or howling wind and so it was decided to go for a walk.

But Jennifer asked if she could stay in the caravan by herself and her parents agreed. At least she’d have some time to relax.

She plugged in her phone and snuggled down for some undisturbed time on social media. Then it happened.

Sunshine came through the window. She looked out and the clouds were clearing and there was blue sky! She could feel the heat of the sun as it warmed up the caravan, and so she opened the door and, sure enough, the sun’s rays had heat in them. For the first time on the holiday, she smiled.

Perhaps she could catch up with the family, but then again, maybe she wouldn’t try. She’d just sit outside on the deckchair and sunbathe; who knows, she might even get a bit of a tan!

So she closed her eyes and soaked up the sun.

“I thought you’d be enjoying the sun.” It was her dad.

“Yeah, finally,” replied Jennifer.

“Where’s the others?” she asked.

“Oh, they are enjoying themselves at the play park, we never got as far as the walk once they saw the swings. So I wondered if you’d like to go for a walk with just me.”

Jennifer couldn’t remember the last time she had her dad all to herself. He was always so busy working or running around with the younger children.

“Yeah, OK,” she said, “but where?”

“Well, I’ve looked at the map of East Lothian and discovered a place called Faeries Oven Rock in a wood not too far from here. I thought we could see if we could find it, like we used to in the old days.”

“Dad, I’m too old to go on a faery hunt in the woods!”

“Well, I’m not,” he replied.

Jennifer smiled and shook her head: “Oh OK then, as long as you don’t say anything about faeries to anyone, that’d just be embarrassing.”

“Course,” said her dad.

They set off in the car and arrived at the wood. The dad knew what the place looked like as he’d seen a photo of it on the internet. But he had no idea exactly where it was in the wood. But it had a small waterfall so he reckoned that following the burn would eventually lead them there.

They chatted and laughed as they explored, sharing old memories of similar times together before her younger siblings had arrived. Then it began to rain again. The path was extremely muddy and the rain made it worse. Jennifer’s shoes got all filthy but her mood remained light.

They arrived at a burn and had to cross it. They discussed how best to do it and they made stepping stones together. Jennifer laughed as her dad slipped and soaked one of his shoes.

Then they found Fairies Oven Rock. It had a magic atmosphere and they took a selfie together.

“Why is it called Faeries Oven Rock?” asked Jennifer.

“Well, the faeries make their bannocks here and some say the smell of them is so irresistible that they lure you into faery land.”

“Not like your cooking then, dad,” Jennifer laughed.

He laughed too and said: “Let’s get back to the caravan and warm up.”

On the way back the rain eased off and then sunshine sparkled through the still leafless trees.

“Wait dad, can we go back?” asked Jennifer.

“To Fairies Oven Rock?” asked her dad, surprised.

“Yeah, I want a selfie there in the sunshine.”

And so they returned. Now the sun was glistening on the rock and the small waterfall was sparkling. She took some selfies, then got her dad to take some more.

“I’m sure I smell bannocks, we’d better go!” said the dad.

She just shook her head amusingly and so they began the return journey.

“Why did you want the extra photos?” asked the dad

“Just to show I was there and that it was sunny,” said Jennifer. They walked and talked all the way back to the car.

When they arrived at the caravan, the sun was still shining.

“You have a good time you two?” asked the mum.

Jennifer just smiled.

“Wow, she seems in a much better mood,” whispered the mum.

“Yes, faerie magic,” said the dad with a smile, “but don’t mention the faeries.”

Jennifer went into the back room to share some photos on social media; of her muddy shoes, then clean shoes after washing them in the burn, balancing on a stone in the middle of the burn, and a collection of her standing by a small sparkling waterfall in the sunshine.

Her friends liked her photos.

“You enjoyed the walk with dad?” asked her mum

“Yeah, it was alright,” she said. . . but with a big smile.