I’m afraid I have no more words today than yesterday. Hubbie went to Newcastle this morning, leaving me home with the kids. Not normally a daunting prospect, but a night of broken sleep and, shall we say, a hormonal time of the month, has left me a little fragile.
Today I was that parent. We spent two hours watching Heffalump at breakfast while I set up my free promo for Dragon Wraiths (I’m only doing it in a vain hope it might result in a couple of Baby Blues sales).
After dropping Daddy at the train station we paid a visit to the golden arches, where I surfed the free WiFi and ignored the kids while they ate unhealthy food and fought noisily over their free plastic toys.
More TV, a bit of shouting, a bike trip to the park and some healthy pasta and I survived to hubbie home time. Actually we were playing a happy game of ball in the garden when he arrived, which is always nice for the returning parent, even if tears came soon after.
Now I’m walking the dog while wracking my brain for something to cook us for dinner, and searching my mind for some conflict for tonight’s Claire scene. Oh and praying for bed. So, like yesterday, I’m going to include another of my poems from the Postcards set. I may share them all this week, because they were written about my father and I don’t think about him often enough. He is missed.
Postcards from an English Summer – JuneThe narrow winding lane is dapple-dark, and ends abruptly in a sun-lit scene. Upon the village green, a cricket pitch where men in white stand round the batting crease. Checked picnic blankets in the leafy shade are weighed down with their sumptuous summer fare. A breeze of quiet talk weaves round the trees, pierced by the cries from children climbing there. An eddy in the languid lazy calm – An eager bowler marking out his run: then crack, bails fall, a ripple of applause. The umpire takes a walk from stumps to leg. The bowler paces, pauses, thunders in, throws out his arm: releases the red sphere at waiting willow. Thwack! Your favourite sound. The ball sails high into the chestnut leaves. My senses become dulled in sultry sun, and as I mourn the space here at my side, I’m glad that England brought their Ashes home six months before yours scattered on the wind.
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:
“Come on, Claire, wake up. You’re coming on an adventure.”
Claire rolled over and peered at the source of the voice through sticky eyes.
“Go away, Bethan.”
“Nope. You don’t want to miss this. Sell your fancy boots if you have to, this is a once in a lifetime trip. The sun has even put in an appearance. Come on.”
Claire pulled the covers over her head, then shivered and swore as Bethan dragged them off. Her skin goosebumped as freezing air rushed across her body.
“You are not a good friend, Bethan.” Claire frowned, but swung her legs round and stood up. “How long have I got?”
“Ten minutes. Don’t bother with a shower: you’ll be too wrapped up for anyone to notice, and our tickets get us a free dip in the hot springs tonight. Besides, if you go up with wet hair you’ll freeze.”
“Am I at least allowed breakfast?”
“You can grab something in town. Come on!” Bethan hopped on the spot, finally making Claire laugh.
“What’s got you so excited?”
“What do you mean? This is the trip of New Zealand. Forget swimming with dolphins and chucking yourself off a bridge: this is it. It’s going to be amazing.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
Claire pulled on her warmest clothes and tried not to find her friend’s enthusiasm irritating.
As the helicopter thrummed into life, Claire regretted letting Bethan bully her into taking part in the trip. They were squeezed into a tiny box and were about to launch into the air: claustrophobia and fear of heights all packaged up in one neat parcel of misery.
Claire turned to face Bethan and wasn’t surprised to see her grinning. With a shake of the head, Claire focussed on keeping her breathing even and urging the greasy pastry and burnt coffee she’d consumed for breakfast to stay put in her stomach.
Glancing out the window, Claire’s tummy flipped as she realised they were already a long way off the ground. She hadn’t felt the helicopter take off at all. The cab was all windows, and she could see the ground over the pilot’s shoulder as the landscape quickly went from flat glacial plain to climbing mountains and then the dirty grey ice of the glacier itself.
They climbed higher and higher, until everything was white. The ground came in to meet them as the helicopter settled down on the ice with barely a bump. As they jumped down from the helicopter and ran across the snow, Claire felt like a spy in a movie, and the excitement began to build inside her.
With a blast of air, the helicopter rose and flew away, leaving them abandoned with nothing in view but white. Then Claire spotted another helicopter depositing hikers in the distance: tiny black specks against the vista. Until then she hadn’t appreciated how vast the glacier was.
“Okay, Bethan, you were right. This is a bit cool.”
Bethan grinned, then bent to help the guide attach crampons to her boots. Claire did the same, cursing at her numb and clumsy fingers. She hoped the hiking wasn’t too strenuous.
When everyone had the proper kit, the group followed the guide across the ice. Claire had little idea what to expect. She knew the caves were a must-see, but didn’t really know why.
When the guide stopped outside a narrow fissure, she almost laughed. Then she watched as the group wriggled inside, one at a time.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve done my small-space terror-inducing experiences already, thanks. Caving, weaselling, I don’t need this.”
“Don’t be a scaredy-cat, Claire,” Bethan called, as she took her place in the queue. “You can’t see the blue ice properly from the outside. Come on!”
Feeling like a small child being continually chided by their parent, Claire did as she was told. The familiar blackness of fear swept over her as the walls closed in. Pushing herself through, glad of the thick jacket and warm clothing, Claire concentrated on forcing oxygen in and out of her lungs.
The cave opened up and all around shone blue. Fear evaporated as Claire drank in the scene, before fumbling for her camera.
“Wow.” Her voice sounded subdued, not echoing as it would in a rocky cave. A shaft of sunlight pierced through the blue, lighting up a dozen different shades. It was like being immersed in an abstract painting.
Claire realised with a start that the rest of the group had walked on and she shuffled after them, nearly dropping her camera in her haste. This was not a place to be left behind.
Back outside, the view of the glacier surprised her. She’d imagined it would be smooth, like a long sheet of ice. Instead it rose in pinnacles, reminiscent of a spiky plant or coral or something seen under a microscope. Fissures and caves could be seen revealing the blue of the oxygen starved ice inside. She wondered how safe it was for them to be hiking around up in the ice and how many people they lost.
Eventually the thrum of the helicopter returning rolled around the mountain. Claire felt a mixture of sadness and relief. It had been an amazing experience but the alien feel of the landscape left her on edge and longing for a steaming mug of hot chocolate.
Bethan chattered away about the awesomeness of it all and her gratitude that Claire had shared it with her. Claire only half heard the words: they triggered thoughts for her that she didn’t want to hear. Just experiencing such beauty didn’t seem enough. The important part was being able to share it: to tell someone and recreate the experience for them; to re-live it through their enthusiasm and eager questioning.
Oh, she had the blog and that was fun, although half the time it felt like her words were dropping into the ether, heard by no one. But this – this amazing once-in-a-lifetime not-to-be-missed adventure – didn’t feel real, any more than if she’d read it herself on someone else’s blog. Yes, her nose tingled from the cold, and her mind fizzed with the imagery. But already it was fading.
By the time they landed she felt as if the experience had evaporated completely, leaving only emptiness behind.