These past couple of days I have revisited old haunts. Haunts is a good word. It speaks of ghosts and memories, both good and bad, and, in revisiting ghosts and memories I find the chance to see things differently, not least because my life has moved on since the original encounter. However, within that moment or those moments risen up by my feet crossing familiar ground I can choose how to respond in the nonwnow as they call it in Africa. Now is one thing, nonwnow is quite another, more flexible in that it could mean In A Few Minutes or When We Next Meet or even Right This Minute. Responding to a sharp-toothed memory can mean a repeat of the awfulness of it, as it was when I walked right into it the first time, or it can offer me the chance of a tidy up, a reset of perspective based on the length of the timeline, the bungee that connects me to it and always will, the one I can cut with the scissors of today. Time has passed and old crimes have old teeth, blunted as teeth will blunt over the years.
Walking with an old friend up to Tapselteerie House and around her flanks, of the house, not my friend, I made for the shoreline and the old fisherman’s cottage, now just a shell. As we wandered through lands we both know so well, land we walked over so may times, leaving footprints as we moved through our busy lives. Running a hotel, catering for the visitors, the boat trips, the self catering estate cottages, the five feral children, we have much to share on this wander down memory lane. This time we were on a mission for photographs of me in the hope of finding The One for my song album cd cover. My friend (Maddy in my book Island Wife) is the punch behind me making a singer/songwriter collection at all. She is also a fab photographer. She and her partner have created the space and the musical imagination for me to write and record words that came to me as words always have and with their skills on how to build gravitas from a single melody line, together we created a phrasal melodic cocktail. Together we worked to develop them into whole songs about my life, my loves, my fears and my messages of hope. Maddy is a fierce producer and a gentle encourager. Sit on that rock, she said, and let me catch that sea-light. I scramble as elegantly as possible onto said rock and lower my butt. I won’t say ‘back a bit’, she laughed. Promise! I peered down into the water some 10 feet below and rolled my eyes. She clicked. Not that one please………
We watched the sky. We let our eyes float over the scurvy grass, sweeping up to the hills, hills that once were speckled with our cheviot sheep, our galloway cows. Dapples of sunlight caught the snow white grass tops as they swayed like dancers in the soft breeze. I looked towards the bog and felt a sharp stab of memory, one that still haunts me. Duchess. Big, soft Duchess sunk to her belly in that bog, no hope of escape whilst a freezing hail-heavy blizzard battered her face. She wouldn’t have known about bogs, being a 3 ton Suffolk punch with meatplates for feet; had no instinct to warn her off those tempting green shoots of early spring grass. By the time we found her, it was too late and we should have called the vet right then, but we didn’t. She died 3 days later, having been hauled out with ropes and a digger and it is my biggest regret that we put her through that alongside the other regret that she was out at all in such weather and at such a cruel time of year. In short, we were negligent, poor farmers, ashamed. I whispered my ‘sorry’ again to her memory and turned back to the camera.
The following day we headed out again, this time into grasses and hills and mostly sky. Maddy snapped hundreds of shots, moving me this way and that, back a bit, forward a bit, look at me, don’t look at me and in between we reminisced and laughed and made more footprints and filled the sky with more stars. I love the image we chose as IT and will smile when I see it on the cd cover, somewhere in the autumn, by which time the colours will have changed into a spectacular dying, one that sings diva colours to the colding sky before they fall into the long sleep of winter. And even then, even inside that frizzing clutching ice, there is the newspring of life already warm inside the womb.