Excerpt from A Stitch in Time by Penelope Lively, ©1976:

They reached the end of the Cobb.  “I’m sorry,” said Mrs. Foster, “There don’t seem to be any ice-creams.”

“I don’t want one,” said Maria.  And she didn’t.  It was quite enough to sit on the edge of the stone, with her legs hanging down over the water, looking across the harbour at the town.  She could see their house, half hidden among trees, to the left, and then to the right the main part of the town spilling down between hillsides to a sea-front of ice-cream coloured cottages, green and pink, and a pale edging of sand before the sea began.  It was a lovely day.  Not, Maria thought, a straightforward lovely day with a boring blue sky and nothing in it but the sun, but better than that because the sky was pleasantly busy with clouds, huge shining heaps of cloud that roamed  across the horizon, ebbed and flowed, formed and reformed as you watched them.  And every now and then they blotted out the sun for a few minutes, so that bands of sunshine fled along the coastline, spread out before her here in a huge receding curve.  Everything would go grey and muted, as the sun went in, and there would be this band of golden colour sweeping along the cliffs to Weymouth, lighting up now a bright slice of rock, now a green field, now the white sparkle of a house, now the turquoise of the sea itself.

“What are you looking at, Maria?”

“Nothing,” said Maria.  Then she added, “Just the sun,” because that sounded rude, as well as being untrue.

“Nice day,” said her mother.



  1. …I know Maria’s anguish … to have such a lurid and deep vision of the world around her and the inablility to accurate describe it with terms that condenses the vividness of the vision… all you can say is “nothing” …because you are looking at and seeing EVERYTHING…


  2. I love the sky when it is “pleasantly busy” with clouds, too! When I am blue, I know one thing I’m not getting enough of: my head in the clouds. There is nothing as freeing, as open, as vast, as the majesty of the sky. It is sad when you see so many people walking, but never truly being in the moment. The simplest things in life, to me, really are the most rewarding.


%d bloggers like this: