Saturday 28th October 2006
Saturday 28th October
It's mushroom month, they are everywhere. Popping up. Our washing green has maybe ten varieties, from jet black to bright mustard yellow buttons. There is a tree up the street with a cityscape of toadstools around it's feet.
People in cars don't get to see these wee glories.
Last night I made mushroom risotto. Dark magic stirring in the making. It's a meditation. Assisted, no doubt, by the sweet alcoholic fumes from the large swig of sherry I added. Two large flat caps and some fairy rings. Dried fairy rings. From a jar. So I know they are really edible.
Or at least that I can sue while my liver and kidneys fail.
At the same time, I made braised beef so that today I could go out and drive and walk and then come home to a flat smelling of home cooked food all ready and waiting. Like I had a butler. I'd LOVE to have a butler. Lady Penelope's fault.
Today, I'm breaking in my new fleecy waterproof trews. I set off for Newton Dee. To the river. On the way down the muddiest path on the planet, I make the compulsory stop to sit in the walled garden, drink it in. It's a month since I've seen it. The beans and peas all over, up and out now. The newly turned soil, composted and part covered up in fleece, part in green manure and two huge waterways of teal green leeks, pulsing waves of scented hellos in the breezy golden light. It's the model garden. Tended by people who have 'learning disabilities'. They could teach us a thing or two. This garden is pristine. Lovingly tended. Glorious.
Someone has taken the striking part off the chimes. I'm a bit annoyed at that, even given the mad weather recently. I love to sit there in the birdsong and chimes on a Saturday. It's on the side of a hill, the river sparkles in the distance, the sun dancing through the Caledonian pines that guard it on the opposite side. Pragmatic peace.
In London I bought a book called The London Gardener. It's full of tips for miniscule gardens, but that's just the half of it. The other half is a walk around each area of the city, each segment probably as big as Aberdeen, and lists all the secret ancient gardens, as well as the public ones. I picked it up in Hatchard's, swithering at whether I needed yet another book about gardening when all I do it read about it this weather. I opened it at a random page - The Chelsea Physic Garden. No question. I bought it.
Sometimes, you just have to go with the signs. Keep the feeling of synchronicity going. What else is there? But connections.
The sun is beautiful this afternoon, best of all it's a rainbow day, a huge sweeping one greeting me as I park. The spectrum dividing the golden lit clear blue side of the sky from the blue-grey steely Heathcliff part of it. Even the sky has more than one mood. Today, still wet and wild, like the clouds don't know what to do with themselves, contemplating are ancient trees and four souls enough or do they need some other sacrifice?
They are greedy for it.
Passion is like that.
I prance down the muddy path and realise, in that squelching tricklish seep, that last Winter's waterproof boots are no longer so. I find clumps of grass and traverse the path like a frog. Jump stop jump. Have a think. Jump again. Perhaps they don't like wet feet either.
The Dee has burst it's banks. Running huge, proud and convex, silent and full. Like a gloat.
I walk along it, on the high path as the pockets where ice forms in the Winter are full of dark water today. It hums to itself, black as a cortege. Sense of water. Does it know? Like a shark senses droplets of blood, does the river know that just over a hundred nautical miles away, three bodies wait to be eddied back to terra firma. A concept it knows nothing about in it's shifting bed.
I sit down beside it's black silence, all the way from Victoria's holiday home. Balmoral. She would have understood the funereal look of it today. So full of silent emotion, it may burst at any moment. Until then, silent. Black.
The Qi Gung stone slab is fully under the water. I've never seen the river this high before. I love to stand on that flat stone, feeling I'm in the middle of the river, on the turn of it so I can see right upstream. My instinct is to take of my shoes and trousers and stand calf-deep and Qi Gung it anyway. But I don't want to. It looks too dangerous. Too inviting to trust. Big bad wolf blink of it. Daring the rebel in me.
Four souls are enough.
The sun is hot on my face and I realise that I'm annoyed at that. I want the full works. The icy blast, the itch of the cold. It'll come soon enough. In a few months there will be blocks of ice floating down here. I am contemplating how there is no sound that relaxes me more than the sweet flowing of a river or lapping of gentle waves when I imagine what the roar of the murderous sea sounded like to those four men. The voice of God. Too terrible for human ears.
I have two uncles who were fishermen. Before the European Armada sank the Scottish fleet. I doubt there is a profession more superstitious. Perhaps acting, but there's no real danger there, that's just a big attention seeking drama. For fishermen, where your life depends upon it, superstition is real. Never gut fish with a white-handled blade. No killing spiders, ever. No fishing on Sunday. Not even off the end of the pier. If you meet a widow in the street, on your way to the boat, you must go back home and leave the house all over again.
I wonder if their last thoughts, amongst their life images and faces of loved ones flashing, were of that one thing they usually do but didn't.
That piece of wood untouched.
Why would the banal not be the last thought? It's what happens in the biggest moments of our lives. He walks out on you, and you notice as he walks away, that the bottom of his right trouser leg is tucked into the back of his sock. The humanity of that is what cracks you up.
In sobs or giggles.
I realise it is too silent. Where are the ducks? As if on cue, they squawk an ungainly flap up and down again over by the trees. Not even nice weather for ducks.
I sit so long a spider starts to crawl up my boot and trouser leg. I shake it off. I am an incy wincy free zone, thank you very much. Knowing how they will try and try again, I get up and Qi Gung from the river bank. To a background of curious golfers. There are two reactions. Some stop talking altogether. Others talk louder. I prefer the former.
Qi Gung soon stops me being aware of anything other than the river, the bliss and me. Groundless. Yes.
I walk back along the bank, singing, a wee robin checks me out and I remember I have a Mon Cheri cherry chocolate in my bag. What a great day I'm having.
I get back to the Newton Dee village and have a cappuccino in the cafÃ©. I just miss getting a table in the lovely light. The kind of low golden light where it falls just under your eyes so doesn't dazzle you but still bathes you in that glow of well-being. It's one of the annoying things about being single. You cannot simultaneously queue and nab a good table. I suppose I could drape a jacket over a chair, risk leaving a bag, stand with a hand on the counter and a foot on the chair. Ha ha.
But the desire to control feels grasping somehow, and spoils the find. Anyway, I hate queuing way more than I want the perfect table so it's rarely worth losing my place in the queue. I just have to find a husband. So I can be one of those women who stand in queues pointing with exasperated eyebrows at silent husbands wandering in table wilderness, "Over there. Go. No, not there, THAT one.
No wonder they stop wanting to sleep with them¦
Resolve that when I find a husband, I will spend all queue time canoodling and won't care where we sit as long as it's together.
For now, there are no free tables.
I ask an elderly woman if it's okay if I sit with her.
She has Downe's Syndrome. She stares at me. I smile at her. It's like sitting opposite a three year old, and I can see the child in her. Same big round blue eyes. Same open innocent stare, sussing you out, checking all aspects of your face. As I put sugar in my coffee I wonder why we call them 'social skills', they only keep us skilled in separation. In not seeing, and not being seen.
She's still staring, I'm still smiling. Eventually she says.
"I like your earrings.
Then she gets up and walks off.
After coffee, I go around the shop in the lovely light. In the huge window they have the most beautiful optical illusion. A metal spiral with a large clear quartz globe inside. As the spiral spins, the globe seems to float up and down, so smooth and silent. And in the globe, the green trees and blue sky are upside down. I blame 'The Double Life of Veronica'. Had I not seen that a few Sundays ago, I'd not have bought it. But I did, so I did.
I want to get some Aloe vera for my dad and Chestnut bath milk for me. As I'm standing in the store queue, the flirty Downe's Syndrome man is in front of me.
"What are you buying? he asks. I tell him.
"I'm getting this for my girlfriend, Audrey. He shows me a chocolate Hallowe'en lolly, made into a pumpkin face.
"That's nice, I say, "I hope it doesn't scare her.
"I was going to get her a purse, but they're too expensive.
I get home and the house smells rich, of Autumnal cooking. I forgot I left the braised beef on at a peep so it's ready for me to come home to. I feel like I've somehow tricked one of the minor irritations of being single. To come home to a cooked meal.
I hang the crystal from the curtain pole in the living room window and give it a spin.
I love to see the world upside down.