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Back from the edge
Lying on a sofa in a holiday let perched on a cliff on the edge of nowhere. Looking at a tiny gleam of sun. The first in days. Until now the light has been flat, the cloud continuous, the wind fierce and the rain horizontal. I am coughing, sneezing, shivering, sniffling. Surrounded by Beecham's powders and used tissues.

Yesterday the wildlife cruise I booked was cancelled. The boat had developed a fault. Today the water board are doing essential maintenance and the water is off.

The building my sofa is in is part of a brutalist looking complex built to house RAF personnel. It is now painted white but looks as if it could still withstand a few bombs. Inside it's a honeymooner's dream with polished floors, an appliance filled kitchen and a luxurious bathroom filled with light. All put together by someone with excellent taste. I wonder what the looking glass makes of the wrinkled old woman reflected in it. She's coughing her lungs up and longing to go home.


What a difference a day makes. It's midnight and I'm lying on the sofa once more. Eating strawberries and madeira cake. What changed ? Yes, the sun came out. Yes, I spent a few magical hours on a white beach with turquoise waves and flower studded machair, But the highlight of my visit, what made it all worth while was standing among the stones of Callanish in torrential rain. Soaking trousers, water pouring from my shoes, struggling to keep my tripod upright. Mopping water off my camera and lens. Trying to photograph amazing light and a double rainbow.

Did I do it ? Succeed ? It doesn't matter. The magic was in the moment. Being there. Battling with the elements. Doing a polite dance with a taciturn American using a gigantic lens. He must have been doing extreme close ups. Eventually everything calmed down and the light went. But we both still stood there. Sunset was coming.

Then people appeared. Clouds thickened. The mood changed. Show over. I returned to the warm car and the long drive back to the sofa on the cliff top. I could go home now. Satisfied.
Standing among stones,
caught in a web of rainbows,
spotlit, dazed, transfixed.

3 comments

Janet Brien said:

My, my, my...what an absolute treat to read this story! Jean, you are an awesome writer and, being a incurable fan of travel writing, I can honestly say that your style is fantastic and right up there with my favorite, Bill Bryson! I felt like I was right there with you, experiencing your disappointment and your elation. Eating strawberries and enjoying the awesome accommodations. Feeling your excitement and your thoughtful musings. You set the scene so nicely and gave me all the details I needed to sit beside you at the beginning and feel cold and drenched but so happy at the end. I could see the world, the glimmer of sunlight, and experience the thrill of that double rainbow beyond the ruins...wow. Remarkable. Wonderful. It was like being off in another land for just a little while, and to top it off, there was a picture to appreciate. Not just a snapshot, but a gallery-worthy masterpiece that demanded a long moment of wistful gazing, while thinking back at the words you wrote, the adventure you had, and wondering when I would get to read your next installment! BRAVO!!!

(If I were to make any comment to improve, a couple of words were foreign to me: "let" and "water board", and also, you don't need your story to be in bold, it would be even easier to read in normal type. Finally, a link to Wikipedia for people to visit Callenish for more information is always a nice convenience! :) Overall, an outstanding story through and through!!!!)
9 years ago

Rabbitroundtheworld said:

Jean, I visited Callanish once in winter when I was working in Stornoway for a few days. I was sharing the B&B with some construction workers whose work had come to a temporary halt, so they were holed up in the B&B watching daytime TV and feeling morose. They told me that they'd been working in Thailand immediately before heading to the Hebrides. They landed at Stornoway airport on a grim November afternoon, already dark at 4pm, straight from the colour and warmth of Thailand, and were so struck by the grimness that one of them described it as "turning the TV down from colour to black and white".

I'm always reminded of that phrase on dreich Scottish days when the colour is leached from the land. Around the same time as you had your epiphany described above, I'd been sitting at Gullane Point in East Lothian in a dull 'haar'. It was warm, but the world was a milky grey. And then, after a couple of hours, the sun broke through, and suddenly there was colour: bright green grass on the sand dunes, glittery blue water, pale yellow sand. And like you, my heart just lifted.
9 years ago

Elbertinum said:

Ich las deine Geschichte mit großem Vergnügen - manchmal kommen Tage mit Sonne und Schatten - wo sind die Menhire :-)
9 years ago ( translate )