house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

One Week in Scotland

Sometime in June we realised that we might find, could spare, did have and would like one week to spend in Scotland. Drive north through Spain, take a ferry to England, drive north again. One frantic week filling the van with our wish-list of things we ‘need’ in Portugal. A big party, catch up with friends around the camp fire at the loch. Sleep a little, load the van, leave the kids behind, drive south.

It went exactly like that except for the last part. We couldn’t leave the kids and we couldn’t leave Scotland. We’re still here.

Why this thing about the kids? Our friends and relatives routinely send their offspring to any grannies or aunties who will have them for any amount of time. Why can’t we? Why do I agree to do it, plan to do it (I have ferry tickets to prove it), and immediately feel like a condemned wretch, complete with gnawed fingernails, skin rash, hyperventilation, headache; panic that only grows the closer we get to the date of departure. It’s hell. I cast about for ways to get out of it.

If the kids are left with granny, then granny (or someone else) will need to bring them back to Portugal at some later date. After totally avoiding the topic for weeks, we start mentioning it around the breakfast table two days before we're due to drive away. It ends in non-commital grunts, every time. With dread in my heart, I do the research. Looks promising, I perk up. Plane tickets are too expensive. So is the ferry, should they feel like sailing back. Travel by train? I don’t even want to go into it. How can they make trains so impossible an option? (usually I rant about it; not today: phew!) Swine flu – could it close borders? Perhaps no one is available to bring them back? (must admit to ill-disguised hopeful note here, verging on hysteria). Also, surely they’re too young to travel alone. It works. We will change the ferry tickets and bring them back ourselves. We stay.

The thing is, they’re fun to be around. We love to groan over their torn clothes and muddy knees, we trail along on their adventures, we even like their silly arguments and generally relish their chaos. We’re not really longing for ‘time alone’ because – from the moment they were born - ‘alone’ is equivalent to ‘incomplete’ and ‘empty’. They fill our world.

We are staying.

Then there’s Scotland. Clear, stunning, breathtaking - these hills in the Borders have no equal. I hear the stream as I write, the lowing of cattle in the distance and a concert of small birds and there is nothing more I could possibly want. A few old trees grow on the other side of the valley. The shadows they cast on the soft slope are graceful and fluid, like dancers that never fade and never stop. I don’t think I’ve seen anything as elegant and beautiful. I could sit for hours looking, giving little sighs, closing my eyes just to open them again and be startled and soothed by this slow summer story unfolding on the hill.

This was the problem: we didn’t have hours. We had a van to fill, and ran around buying stuff and loading and carrying and calling suppliers and chasing the postman. Every glimpse of the lovely valley was laced with a mixture of guilt, regret and deep dissatisfaction. Unbearable, so screw it. We changed plans. We stayed. Hurray.

We are here for a month.


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