Reluctantly reclusive? I am not so sure. Lockdown is not awfully awful. I feel twinges of guilt. I quite enjoy easing myself through the days. I have a licence to be lazy. Let the attic remain un-decluttered. These are Days of Desiderata. Reveries take me from the Armchair of Dreams hither and thither. The Daily Walks demonstrate that there are beautiful, remote places close to home. The Granddaughters educate and entertain (and exhaust). Anti-social by nature, the absence of large gatherings is no hardship. I was a shy shilpit wee boy. (I recall being taken aback when a friend said that shyness was a form of selfishness. What? Me, selfish? Hmm.) Re-joining society may not be as straightforward as all that, like a bird that refuses to leave its cage when the door is left ajar. A refresher course in conversation?
But there are also days that belong to Hallux Valgus. I am bullied by the burgeoning bunion.
Rongi – Remote in Rwanda
Rwanda is too small for anywhere to be Very Far Away. Remoteness is not measured in distance but in ease of access. The furthest I travelled for VSO was to Rongi, far from any proper road. The only way to get there was by moto. I remember my first trip there on the pillion of Felix’s moto. I clung so tight to the rack at the back of the pillion that my fingers bled. I heard someone yelping aloud in terror as we bumped about a heavily rutted red dirt road. Took me a moment to recognise my own voice. We skidded along ridges with drops of hundreds of feet on either side and edged over bridges made from logs. When we arrived at Rongi I sank to my knees, vowing that I would never return. But we had even further to go to reach the Priests’ compound at the top of one of the thousand hills, itself surrounded by even higher hills. Once there, it was possible to relax and enjoy the beauty of the extraordinary landscape, the hill turning into a mountain, its slopes cultivated with tea and coffee plants, and scattered with little red huts. And everywhere the excited vivacity of the children.
I attended morning Mass at 6.00 a.m. and returned to Rongi three more times.
(I felt entirely safe in Rwanda – apart from falling off Motos six or seven times. Now I am reading ‘Do Not Disturb’, a devastating and convincing depiction of His Excellency Paul Kagame as a murderous dictator. The story of peace and reconciliation shattered).
Joys and Sorrows
“Come on, Superheroes” cried a granddaughter “Let’s go!” She had just knocked the lightshade in the sitting room awry with a particularly forceful throw of the ball. She led us over the Common to the playpark. You would be surprised by the number of steps you can accumulate while chasing a granddaughter from slide to zip cord to swing. We try to hold back the TV until late afternoon. Sometimes the easy option is irresistible. ‘Dances with Dinosaurs’ is a fan of ‘Gigantosaurus’ which is infinitely preferable to Peppa Pig (who looks as if she was drawn by Picasso on a bad day.)
The older we get the more often the sad anniversaries come round again. Several this month, intimations of our own mortality.
A Calmac ferry heading for the harbour at Mallaig.
In May 2017 Larry, John and I took the ferry from Mallaig across Loch Nevis to Inverie in Knoydart. The only way to get there, other than by a very long trek over the mountains, is by boat. Once there, John settled into a stone shelter to sketch. I walked a few miles inland towards the foothills of the Munros, including Ladhar Bheinn. The day was damp, the kind that catches your throat and turns soft the pages of a sketch book. As we waited for the ferry to return I bought venison in the wee shop – and had a pint of beer in The Old Forge. I was the only customer. The beer was called ‘Remoteness’. It turned out that this was the last trip of those of us associated with 16 Roxburgh Street (the 32nd). And mighty fine it was.
New Scottish writing: Aspiring writers who would like to see their work published in this section of The Democrat should send it [with or without photographs] to The Editor, The Democrat, at firstname.lastname@example.org