|Julia’s Eatery – Crail|
Ana and I climbed into the car at 10am this morning headed for the Kingdom of Fife – the East Neuk and St Andrews.
We left a climbing sun, drove through threatening greyness and arrived in a quiet midday Crail. Ana – predictably – was starving so ‘Julia’s Eatery’ on High Street was a handy first stop.
We shared the space with a brand new Gran and Granpa – full of the joys and excitement of their wee grandson who was gurrying on hard melon slices and being high-fived for every happy wee noise. I remembered my own happy chiels – and then smiled inwardly when the wee lad ran out of happy patience and demanded to be lifted out of his highchair – stirring my own memories of lunches broken by girning and crying; at snatched bites to eat gulped mid-baby-nap and of indigestion…
He was fascinated by Ana for a while – long enough to let Granny finish her coffee and cake…
When they left, Ana and I finished our own food and discussed what we would do next. The rock pools won and I moved the car out to Roome Bay.
The sun was beginning to cut through the haar as we descended onto the pebble beach. Ana collected pebbles and shells and scooped whelks and tiny crabs from the pools. I sat, quietly watching, memories washing in, relentless as the tide.
My brother and I spent every summer running to Roome Bay. Our jelly sandals nipping our feet. Our buckets and spades flying out behind us as we pretended to be planes, scattering swallows in the tree-lined football field with our clatter – stopping to scoop up water from the burn that ran through the ancient old graveyard with its skulls and crossbone stones and cross-armed knights.
Later I lay with the too-beautiful Iain in the grass in the hollow of the glen that hugged the far reach of the graveyard. Never-minding the dead who lay only feet below us -as they were oblivious to our sex.
I worked in the hotel at the Links. Laughed and flirted and got drunk on attention, on Guinness and on the closeness of that tight community of fisher folk and oil men and farmers. And I learned how to drive – illegally, without bothering any driving school or government test centre.
As Ana picked over pebbles I saw, just behind her, the deepest curve of the bay and remembered the oil-drum campfire parties that stretched into the early hours and smiled and she asked what I was laughing at.
She came bearing the special stones she’d selected for painting. We sat on the rocks and felt the sun prickle our skin. Inhaled the brine and the heady stench of drying seaweed.
We needed this trip out.
|Ana picking her way over rocks – Crail – Roome Bay|
It’s not been an easy week.
Dad’s diagnosis on Monday was grim. Advanced localised(?) (the question mark is the medic’s) prostate cancer. He’s gone from largely symptom-less, the man whom the doctor thought was benignly, mildly enlarged to the focal point of radiotherapy plans and bone scans. And he’s been transformed from robust, solidly dependable and taken-for-granted ‘Dad’ to a patient sitting in the limbo-land between MRI and CT scanner waiting rooms. Looking and sounding haunted. Losing substance.
And as he falters and falls and we fail to catch him, this time, because it is not what we prepared for, there have been so many memories bubbling to the surface. Salted by tears that come in solitary moments.
So it’s my need, just now, to capture and hug the past close. Testing the bounds of what can be remembered. Fearing the loss of memories; the fragility and subjectivity of recollection. For if I can’t remember, then what will it all have been for? All the living and striving and being and breathing. The shouting and laughing and fighting and loving.
|Stones for painting|
It’s just the natural way of things. We are born. We die. I know this.
Why this hellish emptiness then? The feeling that I – we – know nothing; have built our understanding on shifting sands.
Dad’s catchphrase ‘we all need to die and die of something’ sounds out a callow note, its trite truth mocking us. Oh yes, we heard the words. But did not stop to think how we’d really feel when death and loss came to the door.
And because we didn’t, we wasted too many minutes and hours and days sweating the shit that really didn’t matter.
Days on the beach matter.
Wee trips out in the car matter.
Dad doesn’t want to miss his month in Spain. He wants to visit Granada and the Alhambra. His doctor says ‘Go. Enjoy. Come back relaxed and prepared.’
Last year Mum journeyed to Spain for the month – delaying her own cancer treatment. I struggled then, to understand why she’d chosen holiday over medical interventions.
I don’t struggle with that decision anymore.