I sometimes think an upside of writing novels might be having something to show for the passing of the years. I know time speeds by, quicker and quicker now I have children. But it seems the only way of passing it, and marking it, is by anniversaries of death and marriage (for me both happened in the same year.)
Seven years ago my father passed away and we scattered his ashes at Old Harry Rocks in Dorset (I think Claire might have to pay a visit there today). His dog, Holly, was adopted by close friends of my Dad with whom I didn’t manage to stay in touch.
I received an email this morning to say that Holly is now walking with Dad in the afterlife (particularly poignant for me, after reading two of Pat Elliott‘s short stories from her forthcoming collection Sanctuary’s Gate). Holly’s ashes will also be scattered at Old Harry Rocks, a place of special significance to my Dad.
Seven years – 49 for Holly. It feels like yesterday. Truly. I don’t need to look at the pictures or read my life writings from college to remember standing up at his funeral, reading the eulogy that came to me one sleep-deprived night, or to picture us all climbing up the hill in Dorset with most of Dad in a plastic canister (we kept a ‘leg’ of ashes back for my grandma, too old to travel, to scatter alongside her husband at the crematorium. Divided in death, as in life, between his love for Dorset and his need to be near his Mum).
I’m pleased Holly lived so long and died peacefully. I can’t mourn her, because she ceased to be our dog the day Dad died. I know she was loved and happy and provided a wonderful reminder to his friends. For them today must be a sad day. Today they must feel like they lost Dad all over again.
Tempus Fugit: Time flies. From now on I hope to remember it in books, rather than deaths.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire strode up the wide grassy incline, dividing her attention between the sea to her left and the raptors overhead. The birds of prey swooped and circled on an updraft, forming a perfect dance of air-born joy.
Two horse riders ambled down the hill towards her. She nodded in greeting and wondered what it might be like seeing the world from that height; peering over hedges and into people’s houses. Maybe horse riding could be my new passion? People who ride become consumed by it. It’s a healthy obsession at least, if a bit pricey.
Out in the bay, a large speedboat carved arcs of white against the cerulean blue. The growl of an engine drifted up to her. Wondering if it was a Sunseeker being put through its paces, Claire stopped to watch. Now that is an expensive pastime. Well above my touch. I’d have to marry a footballer. I could hang out at Sandbanks and see if I take someone’s eye.
She laughed, startling a pigeon pecking at the grass. Who am I kidding? I’m not young, blonde, thin or dumb enough to be a WAG. Actually they’re not dumb. If I thought I could bag Beckham I’d definitely give it a go.
The wind picked up as she came, blinking, out of a copse of trees and crested the ridge. The hedgerow dropped away and all around was sea and crumbling limestone.
Nearby, a young woman sat on a checked picnic blanket, entertaining a baby, while a small boy ran about in the grass. He kept creeping close to the cliff edge, each time eliciting a squeal of alarm from his mother.
Goodness, why would you bring young children up here? Idiocy. Kids gravitate to danger like flies to jam.
Then Claire saw the faraway look in the mother’s eyes as she kept glancing from her son to a group of people huddled near a ledge. As Claire watched, the group threw handfuls of dust off the cliff, nearly toppling from the rocks as the wind blew the ash back at them.
Claire felt a lump rise in her throat. The tight-knit group of people, some holding hands, other’s hugging one another tightly, spoke of family and love and loss in such volume it seemed to echo around the cliff-top.
How awful, to forever associate this beautiful place with death. Around her the wide sky drew her spirit and the endless sea beckoned her on. Although it wouldn’t be such a bad place to spend eternity.
Rounding the corner, Claire saw the Pinnacles, marching out to sea, and glimpses of Swanage in the distance. It was tempting to carry on walking into town, but that posed the dilemma of getting back to her car. It was a gorgeous day, and she had nowhere else to be. No one expecting her, or harbouring expectations of her. With a shrug, Claire followed the path to town.
The phone rang just as Claire was beginning to regret her impulsive decision. Footsore and hungry, and without so much as a boiled sweet in her bag, Claire knew she had broken all the hard-learned rules of walking. It didn’t improve her mood.
“Goodness, you’re in a temper. Or do you always answer the phone like that?”
“Who is this?” She knew, but needed time to calm down.
“Conor. Where are you?”
“I’m out on the ballard, walking back into Swanage. It’s further than I anticipated.”
“Ah, did you go up to Old Harry and get tempted? Do you need a lift back to Studland to get your car?”
How did he know? Claire sank to the grass to rest her bruised feet and seethed in silence.
“I’m right, aren’t I? It’s not rocket science. It’s a cracking day. The walk from The Bankes Arms is the easiest way up on the cliffs along there, and many a time I’ve been lured to walk the route back to town.”
“Is that why you’re calling? To check up on me?”
“No, I’m calling to offer you a job. If you still want it?” There was doubt in his voice; all brash bravado gone.
Claire’s stomach plummeted as if it had dived off the cliff like the paragliders she’d seen earlier. Damn. It wasn’t a shock. But it did mean she would need to make a decision.
“Can I have some time to think about it? I’m going home to my folks’ for the weekend. I’ll ring you Monday.”
Before Conor had time to interject, Claire hung up the phone. The day fell dark, and she would have paid a large chunk of her counter-offer salary to be whisked back to the hostel and furnished with a hot mug of tea.