As you read this it is (finally) my daughter’s fourth birthday. I’m writing the night before, as usual, and I have no words again. It’s been a long week.
Granddad came over for dinner this evening, so Amber had more gifts to open.She was overwhelmed after a long day at nursery and my poor son was bereft, even though I wrapped a few toys so he also had something to open. He didn’t even register what was under the wrapping so, after he went to bed, I wrapped a few more things from the playroom. Hopefully that will help tomorrow when Amber opens her final gifts. This birthday has lasted longer than Christmas! Although, as her labour lasted 32 hours, I guess that’s fairly appropriate.
I’ve also been painting today, for the first time since my solo exhibition over a year ago. It felt odd. It also reminded me why I haven’t painted in more than twelve months: I was cooking lunch for hubbie and it went cold while I tried to fix something that had gone wrong in the first painting. That’s the thing with the style of work I do – once you start you have to keep going until it’s finished or the acrylic dries funny. In the end hubbie had to tear the brush from my hand because I’d used some old paint which was full of dry bits and the painting was never going to come good. I finally managed to complete a batch ready to be cut up and stuck to card stock tomorrow. I have until Friday to get some Valentines Day cards to the Gallery. Nothing like a deadline!
I suspect Claire will have another quiet day today. This is the first time since the beginning of January that I’ve sat down at my laptop and thought bugger Claire I want to go watch TV. I have a fairly short attention span and I am finding it hard to think up a new situation for Claire every single day. Normally (for me) a first draft of a novel propels itself forward by its own momentum once I’ve got past the first ten or fifteen thousand words. Even though I have written 25,00 words about Claire so far this month, the challenge is starting to feel like writing a short story everyday. I loathe writing short stories. If it only takes 30 days to build a habit this should be second nature by now. Some people say it take 60 days in which case I’m half way there. Just keep typing, just keep typing…
I did manage to get some research done this morning but not enough for a detailed post so I think it’s time Claire met someone to talk to. I am enjoying travelling around the North East via my laptop (even if I’m not enjoying thinking what to write about every twenty-four hours) but it’s almost as time-consuming as going there in person! Whose crazy idea was this postaday lark?
“G’day, you need a hand?”
Claire ducked out from under the bonnet to find a tanned face full of teeth grinning at her.
“What?” Claire looked bewildered for a moment before realisation dawned. “Oh, no, I haven’t broken down. The engine’s at the other end. I’m just getting my boots out. They were wet so I put them in here instead of in the car. The carpets might be old and mouldy but I don’t want them stinking of damp or getting my bag soggy.”
She stopped speaking as she realised the words were rushing out in a torrent. As it was only half an hour’s drive from Byrness to Kielder Claire had decided to take a detour to the nearest town in search of coffee. She had arrived in Hawick in time for lunch and had lost a pleasant hour or two in Turnbulls. As she knew the Kielder Hostel reception wouldn’t open until 5pm she went on to another café bookshop and happily immersed herself in other people’s lives until it was late enough to head to Kielder. As a result she hadn’t spoken to anyone since her phone-call to Julia that morning. It seemed words built up like water behind a fallen tree if you didn’t use them.
Claire looked at the man to judge his reaction to her verbal diarrhoea. He didn’t seem fazed by it. He wandered closer and peered under the bonnet as if to confirm that there was, in fact, no engine there.
“I might be a girl but I do know what an engine looks like.” Claire’s voice came out sharper than intended. The man looked up and smiled again, and Claire was struck by how attractive he was. Something throbbed inside her and she looked down at her boots as if hoping they would fill the awkward gap in conversation. Brushing her hair behind her ears Claire reached in and retrieved the still-wet snow-boots. She tied the laces together and threw them over her shoulder where her rucksack was already in place.
The stranger stood up and dug his hands into his pockets. “You staying here?”
Claire swallowed a giggle and looked around the emptiness that surrounded them. “Oh have I missed the five-star spa resort?”
The man grinned as if to acknowledge his obvious question. “Name’s Josh. I’ve been here a while, you want me to show you around?”
Is he hitting on me? Claire couldn’t tell. It had been a long time since anyone had chatted her up. Apart from Mike from Accounts and that didn’t really count as she had initiated that particular conversation, more fool her. Deciding it didn’t really matter if Josh was interested or not Claire slammed the bonnet down and followed her new Aussie friend into the hostel.
Claire had been prepared for the remoteness of the hostel, after reading the information on the website. She knew, for example, that the nearest shop was 17 miles away. What she hadn’t noticed was that, all covered in snow, the place resembled a ski resort. It was comforting even though they weren’t in the mountains. Maybe I can pretend it is a five-star hotel, especially if it looks as smart on the inside as Byrness did.
After she had been shown to her dorm and had a chance to take in the wooden bunks and multi-coloured duvets Claire dismissed the similarities to a ski chalet. Never mind. Josh has promised to take care of me. She took out her least-creased top and her make-up bag. A dab of mascara, a spritz of perfume and she was ready.
Back in the lobby she looked at Josh askance. He was wrapped up in winter woollies including a giant hand-knitted bobble hat and scarf set that looked like it was a Christmas gift from his Gran.
“Um, are we going out? I thought there was nothing to do round here?”
“Have you looked out at the night’s sky? It’s a beaut. Be criminal not to get ourselves to the observatory on a night like this. Skedaddle back to your room for your coat or you’ll freeze.”
“What observatory?” Claire’s mind struggled to catch up. She was tired and hungry and wanted dinner and maybe a gin and tonic if that was possible.
“It’s about a mile away. Come on. Public viewing is from 8pm and it’ll take a while to walk there.”
Claire weighed up the merits of eating dinner alone or accompanying her handsome new friend to look at dots of burning gas in the sky. She looked at her watch. “It’s only 7pm. Why don’t we eat first then I’ll drive us up to your observatory thing if it’s so important. It’s too bloody cold to walk.”
“You beaut, that’s a bonza idea!” He pulled off his hat and beckoned Claire to follow him to the dining room.
Claire felt like a leaf that had just been blown by a gust of wind into a swollen river.
P.S. Apologies to any Australians – it’s a terrible mimicry of an Aussie speaking. What can I say, I’m tired!
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