Island Blog 74 – Spontaneous Adventures

The Boat House

 

I rarely plan adventures.  They just happen to me, swooping round corners and whopping me in the eyeballs.

Here I am !  Look at me!

And there it is, the adventure, full frontal and blocking my path.

I could, of course I could, step around it.  I could cite a whole gamut of plausible and dull reasons why I can’t take this adventure by the hand and let it lead me astray; like it’s nearly lunchtime for instance, or I must catch this ‘dry’ for a load of wet sheets, or it’s only Wednesday and nobody adventures on a Wednesday.

But, I say, and but again, the best times I have had in my bonkers life have been spontaneous adventures, when logic is wheeched over the fence leaving ample room for imagination and emotion to fill the inner void.  Then, and only then, does the adrenaline fizz like bubbles in my veins and my head feel light as goose down. I never get that fizz hanging out the sheets.

 

Yesterday we were planning to turn left.  The day had arrived in its customary shapeless grey but as we walked the little girls through the woods that climbed into the sky, we noticed a patch or two of blue.  Avoiding as best we could, the manic desire to search for more, we found a bridge with fast-running peaty mountain water and looked down to play Pooh Sticks.  We went under the bridge and sloshed over the slippy rocks, and climbed up the banks till our knees were brown as caramel and we were dizzy with giggles.  When we looked up again the day had shucked off the shapeless grey and the sky smiled blue and gold and warm.

 

So, instead of turning left for home, a sensible lunch preparation and an even more sensible change of trews and wellies, wet on the inside, (overly enthusiastic Pooh Stickery), we turned right and headed up and over the hill on the skinny track that first laid itself down, hundreds of years ago, beneath the feet of animals.  We turned up the tunes and sang our way up and down again, stopping only to remove a jumper or to admire the view or to encourage a mother and lamb to step onto the verge.  We passed by the little school shed with its beach hut stripes (The Square Rainbow) and turned down the track to where the little ferry would take us over to lunch. We pulled back the slide to reveal the red square, and the little boat cast off it’s moorings and began to move towards us.

 

Lunch, as I have said before, is a really delicious experience at the Boat House.  The welcome is warm and gentle, the food superbly prepared and presented.  We sat outside, watching the seabirds, and eating fresh prawns and I don’t mean those piddling shrimps most people understand to be prawns.  I mean island prawns, big and meaty and you only need four to be quite filled up.  The bread was straight from the baking oven with a lovely crust, the salad crisp and fresh and the dressing delicious.  But, it is not just the food that makes this place, run by Becky and Emma, so very good.  It’s the light in their eyes, the passion and enthusiasm for their business, their island welcome, their no-fuss-about-anything attitude.  They think outside the box.  They don’t say NO.  In fact, there is not a single NO visible on the island – such a joy to see in a world where NO is the most overly used word in all public places.

 

On the way home over the hill, past the Square Rainbow, we stopped to buy fresh strawberries from a roadside stall with an honesty box.  It was the last bag and as we put our money in the little till, and I saw the amount of cash already there, I thought…. how wonderful it is to adventure, to take risks, whether it be leaving an honesty box by the roadside, or opening a restaurant on a tiny little island or simply by turning right instead of left.

Island Blog 44 – To Live Again

Island Blog 44

Sometimes, in ordinary conversation, a friend might ask me if, given a choice, I would live my life over again.

I think back across the millions of miles of it, the lush richness, the deserts, the rainbows of success and the stumble-grounds; the learning and the laughter, the birthing and the dying, the joy,grief and inner growth.  Particularly the inner growth.

It is not a logical question, or answerable using logic, so you can guess that there are no men present, although maybe that’s just the men I know who, bless them, would say it can’t be true unless it’s been proven.  I know what ‘proven’ means to me.  It’s that point in the process of bread making, when the dough has risen as high as it can without pushing open the skylight.  The point when it requires further bashing and twisting and pummelling into shape before being popped into an extremely hot oven for a permanent shape-arrestment and a nice brown crust.

Anyway, answer the question you daft island wife….

Well would I? Live it all again?

My first feeling is one of huge tiredness.  It is not easy to imagine, let alone believe in, the energy required, not just to go through it all again, but to know what I’m going through as I go through it and worse, to know what comes next!

My head is reeling at the very thought.  So, park it for now.

My next thought/feeling/response is that, had I not been gifted the life I lived, there would  be no story, dynamic and whacky enough to have led me to write it down;  to have been guided to an experienced agent and through her, to have found a well established ‘we-don’t-take-on-books-unless-they-are-top-quality’ publisher.  And if there had been no madcap story, just a regular law-abiding disaster-free life, kept under militant control, I probably couldn’t imagine wanting to go through it all again.  The very idea would just have made me wriggle my ageing butt deeper into the sofa cushions and pull out my knitting, thankful that all those requirements to jump about and be adaptable are just blurred memories.

Instead , look at me learning to Tweet and Blog and answer messages on Facebook (for goodness sake) and feeling rather like I hoped I might feel, but didn’t, at the age of 17.

Is this, I ask myself, because you are being stretched when others are shrinking?  Or is it just that I am still living this life, instead of peering back across it all from the soft plumpy feathers of my wide-mouthed armchair?

So ask me now.  Would I live my young life over again?

Absolutely N.O.T.

But….. I wouldn’t change one bit of it, except, perhaps, that one time I drove right over a roundabout near Greenock because I didn’t know it was there.  Men were digging up the road and the leading lights had failed.  It was a splendid performance and I came to rest in a field with my headlights illuminating the bottom of a large white bull.

You can’t park here!  Said the roadman after chapping on my window.  Yellow rain streamed down his face and a furious gale played skittles with the traffic cones.

No mention of the roundabout.

 

Island Blog 42 – A Tale to Tell

Island Blog 42 - pic

 

By now, my book is out there in the world and you may even be reading it.  You may be loving it, you may not, and over this bit, I have absolutely no control.  It is how it is.  My responsibility ended as I caught the words from the air around me and laid them down upon a blank sheet of A4.  The thoughts and feelings that will arise in you as a result of reading those words, in the order I chose, will relate to your life, not mine, and, in that moment of connection, become something new.

Over the years I have found such connections myself as I devoured the stories of many folk in many places and times.  Sometimes I have been tearful for the writer, the hero, or for myself as I become lost in a life that connects deeply with my own.  Sometimes thrilling with delight at the way a story bubbles and chatters over the stones like a clear fall of mountain water after new rain.  In a well written tale, I can hear the voices and see the landscape.  I can smell the wind and taste the grit of it in my mouth;  I can feel the warm skin of a dancing child and shiver at the ice cold of a closed mind or a bitter Arctic night.  I can twist and turn in the sweaty damp of an unfriendly sleeping bag and I can pull quickly back into the shadows to hide as a cruel drama unfolds before me.  I can waken in the night to remember, and then wish I could forget.  In short, I become part of the story, and yet play no part at all.  I may follow this person, or that.  I may long to go back, to see what happened to the child, or the old woman, even knowing that I may not;  not until the writer catches the words and lays them down for me on the page.  Sometimes I even forget to breathe, so lost am I in the story.

And every one is real.

Although it may be a work of fiction, you can bet that the writer is in there somewhere, for, if not, the tale would be as dull as a Monday shopping list.

But it is not just in books that I can connect with another life.  I can find stories in faces along the island roads and they can touch me just as deeply.  Of course, we don’t often get to this level on a daily basis – merely exchanging husband news or word of new additions to the family, new accomplishments, new sofas, new guests and so on, but the eyes are the windows to the soul and no mistake.  Some bright chirpy person can tell me one thing with their mouth and quite another through their eyes.  I do it myself, did it for years.

You are always so bright!  They told me, and because it was the done thing, I kept doing it.

Just like you do, or most of you.  There are some that might consider leaving their list of ailments and complaints at home, for we all have them to some degree or other and I have found from experience that those with most to complain about, usually don’t.  And when I meet those people, who have made a decision not to bore the bejabers out of the rest of us, telling us things we can do nothing whatsoever about and causing rain to fall on that precious moment of shared sunshine, I find my supplies of compassion and respect, verging on reverence, threaten to overwhelm me altogether.  My whole day changes as I guess my way into their life and out again feeling humbled.  Suddenly my load lightens, supposing I thought I had one in the first place.

There is always an argument between reality and fairyland.  I have always preferred fairyland, finding reality way too matter-of-fact for me, and, as we know, these Matters of Fact change daily according to the latest discovery/statistic/breaking news. Shifting sands I reckon, whereas fairyland is always fairyland and you can depend on it remaining so forever, for in that world (the real world in my opinion) we are allowed to be individual in our response to that which we observe.  All views are acceptable.  Nobody is right and nobody is wrong, for we all see things in different ways according to our creed, birthright,childhood and experiences. And we should stand tall and proud inside our own story, and sing it out, for it is the only one we can really tell.

Island Blog 16 – Locomotion

I walked today in the snow along paths flattened into bob sleigh tracks. I just knew that if anyone was going to hit the deck, it would be me. The students, just leaving school traveled confidently in their wellies, talking on their mobiles or chattering happily in twos or threes, their heavy school bags banging against their hips. Confidently, I said, which is not what I was doing.  What is it with growing older that brings new fears?  I recall leaping over rocks and skittering over ice with laughter and the fizzing taste of danger on my tongue.  If falling over was to happen, well, I wasn’t going to fuss about that, or even consider it, for youth is a fearless time, when I was invincible and above all unpleasant things, such as breaking a bone or looking a right charlie in public with my shopping bags bursting open and tins of baked beans rolling under the wheels of a long line of passing cars.

I joined the crocodile of students in the hope that, in their midst, I would maintain an upright position, but soon they peeled off, to their own homes leaving me to face a long stretch of shining ice, alone.  I kept close to the trees, where the ice was mushier and less threatening, humming a little hum to myself, telling my legs to relax their tension and to trust the image in my head, of being attached, by a long thread, to a cloud. I made the mistake of looking up only to find there were no clouds, which threw me somewhat.  I passed dog walkers, my age, striding out as if the ground were as solid and clear as it is before and after snow, thinking…’what is wrong with me?’

And then I watched the dogs.  They trot.  Well, you can trot when you have four legs!  When I walk in the wild places on the island, down steep hillsides and so on, following the deer tracks, I think about this whole number of legs thing, and I realise how compromised we humans are to have only two.  A centipede flows.  All those legs make walking, as we know it, unnecessary, for who would walk if they could flow instead?  I would much rather flow to be honest, but I do appreciate that a human with multiple legs might struggle to fit into society. Just think of buying shoes!

It seems to me that this blog is more about giving in to fears, than it is about growing more legs.  What I need to do is get out more, step onto the ice and walk it until it loses its hold on me.

In other words…..keep walking over it until I know it so well, I can dance.

A life lesson perhaps?

 

Island Blog 16 (1)

Island Blog 8 – Kites over London

I’m watching father and son (now new father himself, as of Boxing Day) take down the outside Christmas lights and bonding whilst 3 red kites soar overhead.  I can hardly believe I am in London beneath such majestic birds.  The neighbours put the remains of their sunday roast on the lawn and wait for the kites to collect.  They don’t land, just swoop and collect. Haven’t seen it for myself, but I hope to this weekend! Must be an incredible sight.

 

Blog article 8 - 'Fathers'