English: Bridge over the River Aray from Inver...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The morning was extremely charming, sunny and bright. I charity shop hopped, then walked along the river upstream, through trees. Fly fishers were up to their thighs in waders on the other side, casting around like cowboys. Maybe it was the sun and temperature, but the day had a kind of fluid easiness. Sat on a bank and watched a man help a woman on crutches to the water’s edge, where they both skimmed stones.

Fom the corner of my eye, in the middle of the river away from all the fishermen and stones, I caught sight of a solid shape lift out of the water, and a splashing sound. Maybe it was a fish, but I had a feeling it was Nessie.

Ate lunch at an all you can eat Chinese buffet, which was a disappointment. Afterwards I bought wool and needles from a charity shop by the river, and then walked downstream along the river. It had started raining and the bank was covered with at least a metre of clear water, the grasses and dandelions waving in the water. Took advantage of Tesco’s refrigerator sale shelf, bought a punnet each of blackberries and apricots. Sat in the hostel lounge for the whole evening. Knitted some lines, almost addictive, and not pleasant, maddening.

I stayed in a small, quiet town for four nights. One dispiriting day, I took myself to a castle, read every card, looked at every photograph, toured the garden, fingered the dry tassel flower pods, and hauled myself through a deserted pine forest, up a hill to an old fort and a lookout over the loch. At the top, which was grassy and open, a Scotsman in a t-shirt came up out of nowhere, and told me he wants his ashes scattered at that site. Somehow that day made a difference. It’s true that calm comes from somewhere else, sitting tight.

On the highway, in the fractured, middle-of-the-night bus, I remembered a passage in the book my friend’s father had pushed into my hands ‘it is rain that ruins and again it is the rain that lifts the ruined to gain’. Which had a certain ring to it, but at that point on the bus,  I thought I understood what it meant. It is something about water at the bottom of the well.

Now, after talking to a man for four hours or so on a bus, being in a hostel, seeing the city with a girl I met, another bus, a day in Paris, a night train, mountains to the left in the morning. I’m in Venice, veined through with salt water, or I think it’s salt because there’s seaweed growing on the dock steps. And the streets have such a silence without the sounds of land motors, air conditioning machines.

In London we went into a travel bookshop whilst it was raining, and one of the chapter headings was ‘Lose your mind’.


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