To be taken for a picnic was unusual on excursions. With them that day was a young adult cousin, a mendacious individual who made up occupations as they came to mind, in some personal battle of wits with the unwary. When asked what he was up to these days, he replied that he was mostly involved in writing and printing seditious material. Prior to that visit, he had once claimed to be harbouring fugitives in support of political prisoners. Mainly, though, he bummed around in a bush hat covered in peace slogan badges and went travelling. He was an object of envy to the children and of disappointment to their father. "Pity about him," he would say. "He was bright, you know."
Their father was prone to being suspicious of the free university education available in those days, as being a gateway to freeloading in general, which he felt his nephew bore out. Their aunt, his mother, a divorcee who missed her son when he was away, which was often, referred to him more kindly as a free spirit, which was all the rage at the time.
They were a larger party than usual, then, the aunt and cousin in her car up ahead, leading the way through the flat Cheshire roads, the children in the bench seat of their car behind their parents in the Cortina, a municipal looking maroon trundling tamely in the dashing wake of the bright green Volkswagen beetle in front of them. There was a picnic blanket and a hamper in their boot.
It was a little blustery in the chosen spot and the children laughed between themselves at the wind blowing the carefully waved and set perms of the women into Mr Whippy-like topknots.
After the repast, gamely enjoyed in the outdoors, the adults repaired to a large roadside inn close by for "a shandy, nice in the summer", and pints of bitter for the men. The children, a girl and two boys, went to play round the Dam.
It was a day the girl, nine or so then, and supposedly in charge of the two younger boys, twin like at six and seven, always remembered. There was an atmosphere to it. There was sunshine but it was not bright through the trees, which hung over the still grey waters of the Dam in obscuring trails. They were the only day trippers at the time, although it was in general a popular spot, which made it solitary and strange.
They played on a set of rocks, rounded long ago into stone runnels by glacial waters melting down, which were perfect slides for children. The rocks were a soft, pinky red and looked as if alien creatures not of this world might live in them unseen. The girl stayed sitting on them for a time, while the boys went off scrambling up and down the wooded screes and chasing one another along the paths by the water side.
It fell silent around her and she walked down from the rocks across to the small wooden fishing platform directly below, one of several around the edge of the Dam. Herself unseen behind the drooping leaves of a willow, she watched a small boat coming into view from the other side and being rowed into the middle, where a long bundle was tipped into the deep, cold water, a silent offering which vanished quickly. Then the craft was rowed away again and out of her sight.
A wind came through, stirring the willow leaves into restless susurrations and a sun gleam lit the water briefly, making a pathway across the empty surface.
Then the boys came back and one of them had fallen in, to be taken, wet and knee grazed, to the adults, who told her off for not watching them properly.
She forgot about anything in particular over the years that followed but always remembered the day and the feel of it around her at that moment, on her own on the pink rocks and by the Dam.
Decades later, there were news items about a man who was said to have murdered his wife and hidden her body there undiscovered for years, but whose poor, cold bones were recovered in the end. It reminded her in some way of that childhood day at the Dam and their picnic outing there, but she could never think of any reason why that should be so.