Mosieur Reymond had not finished the terrace as promised before our guests arrived to cat-sit for two weeks. I looked out of the glass door at the pile of concrete and the messy gravel and feared for the children’s safety and the adults’ aesthetic sensibilities. I thought we should call them to warn them how ugly it was.
“It’s supposed to be a haven of terra cotta pots and bay laurel…” I stammered on their arrival.
Within a half an hour the two girls had built an entire village on the bombsite, with railways, gardens, shops, transport and a school, and were happily playing.
“Mum, can we have a gravely garden like this?”
Middle Aged Love.
We arrived at Glenbrittle campsite in a raging gale at ten pm and, as we tried to put up our nylon port-a-home, the main pole snapped. This one-man tent had proved fine for our first encounter seven years ago but we had grown old and fat and grumpy since and were in need of an inch or two more of personal space.
When we arrived back from Inverness the repairs had not lasted out the continuing assault from the weather and the army green dome was flat as a cowpat on the ground. Guy ropes squiggled limp as aimless worms in the grass and our sodden sleeping bags leaked out from the sides like vital organs after multiple gunshot wounds. Fellow campers took pity and invited us for tea and whisky in their caravan.
We were glad that we had a bright new blue tent in the boot. We erected our aero-dynamic insect designed to perch on any Himalayan mountaintop and, having dried the bedding in the campsite machine, fell straight to sleep.
In the morning we lay in our down cocoons and listened to the rain fall like fairy pearls on a kettle drum, watching the turquoise fabric quiver with its tautness. Cool dry skin moisturised by soft water touched in short waking moments. We were safe.
The falls are like gashes, wounds in the flesh of the hills, pouring lifeblood.
Three broad ribbons of water gush from the flat stones and form a plait.
If water ever reached the price of oil……………..
“I think this way is best?” I said, pointing, and seeing perfectly clearly that the fastest way to our destination was up across the hillock not down along the cliff. I had been following my husband for a week, walking behind him, scrambling up scree to get to the vertiginous top of a bloody Cuillin mountain, wading through bog because we had started out on the wrong path, hopping over stones spaced too far for my little Welsh legs. I hated all this bloody leadership. Suddenly my body wanted to go its own way.
“Go where you want. I’ll see you there”. I didn’t realise it then but he was joking. I bounced off inland on a sheep path and waved down at him when I got onto high ground. He did not wave back.
I didn’t have a map, nor a compass. My sense of direction is terrible. It was starting to rain heavily and within ten minutes I could see neither the coast path nor the little blue spot of gortex called Julian on it. Nor could I see anything that resembled our imagined destination. As quickly as I had made my decision to stray, I was utterly lost. All around me was sodden bog. I cried into it and the heather sucked thirstily on the sound of my panic. I was definitely going to die here. Suddenly I was crazy for Julian. His mountain leadership skills were the sexiest thing on earth, his sense of balance the highest art, his helping hand when we crossed streams the profoundest acts of kindness. What adventures he had taken me on! I’d climbed a mountain for God’s sake! And here I was, having thrown it all away.
“JOOOO- LEEEE- AAAAANNN!” I shrieked, not daring to let out the tears that would sink me. “I’M SORRRREEEEEEEE…..” I ran across to every high spot I could find in the hope of catching a glimpse of my saviour.
When at last we found each other, the rain was pouring thickly. I marched on behind determined never to leave more than a foot between us on the thin path. The bog sucked on my boots, the downpour dripped off my waterproofs, sweat condensed on the lining. I looked through the curtain that cascaded off the cap of my hood at my beloved and rested in a dilirium of gratitude, muttering to myself:
“Gortex, flotex, botox, ventex……”
When we reached the bottom of the mountain we stopped at a stream and I sat watching the many ways that water moves around obstacles:
Bowl of silver pennies
I wish I had such a repertoire.
“It will be finished when you come home.” Monsieur Reymond had said.
We came home. Nothing had changed, except the little village and its inhabitants had been packed up and taken back to Germany leaving the foundations for our wall naked. On the table was a gift from our friends. It was a pink bay laurel.
One day, I thought, the bay laurel and the terrace will find each other across the obstacles.