Favourite Place by Liz Lochhead

We would be snaking up Loch Lomond, the

road narrow and winding after the turn at Tarbert,

and we'd be bending branches as we slid

through the green and dripping overhang of the trees.

All the bickering over the packing, and the -- as usual --

much, much later-than-we'd-meant-to leaving,

all that falling from us,

our moods lifting, lightening, becoming our good mood 

the more miles we put

between our freed and weekend selves and Glasgow.

 

Driving in the dark means: slot in another CD

without even looking at what it is,

another any-old silver-disc from the zippered case

that, when you reminded me, I'd have quickly stuffed

far too full and randomly, then jammed it,

last minute, into the top of my rucksack.

Golden oldies, yours or mine, whose favourite?

Anyway, the music would spool us through Tyndrum,

past the shut Real Food Cafe where other days we like to stop,

and over moonscape Rannoch Moor to the

moonlit majesty of Glencoe,

over the bridge at Ballachulish, past Corran

with the ferry stilled and the loch like glass;      

we'd be wriggling along Loch Linnhe then straighten up

past the long strip of darkened lochside Big Hotels and their

Vacancies or No Vacancies signs

to 30 mph Fort William --

Full-Of-Rain-Town-With-Its-Limitless-Litres-In-A-Mist! --

we’d shout it out and we’d be honouring a

long ago and someone else’s family pass-the-time

car-journey game we never even played, but Michael,

proud of his teenage wordsmith son,

once told us about -- and it has stuck.

We'd be speeding up now, taking the bend's wide sweep as

we by-pass the sleeping town, making for

the second-last turn-off:  Mallaig and The Road To the Isles. 

And you'd say,

'Last thirty miles, Lizzie, we'll be there by midnight'.

 

The always longest fifteen miles from Glenfinnan to Lochailort

and a wee cheer at the last turn,

down past the big house and the fish farm,

beyond the lay-by -- full of travellers' ramshackle vans

now the yellow's on the broom again --

our eyes peeled now for the white-painted stone so we'll not miss

the overgrown entrance to the field of caravans.

 

There would be that sigh of

always glad-to-see our old van still standing,

opening the door, the sniffing -- no dampness, no mice...

I'd be unloading the first cool bags of food,

while you'd be round the van’s side, down in the mud

turning the stopcock for the water,

fixing the gas -- and soon,

breathing a big sigh, laughing in relief at

how that huge stag that had suddenly filled the windscreen a mile back

stopping our hearts as -- ho! -- we'd shouted our alarm --

had somehow astonishly leapt free, was gone,

and no harm done,

we'd be lighting candles, pouring a dram,

drinking the first cup of tea

from the old black and white teapot.

 

And tonight the sky would be huge with stars.

Tomorrow there would be the distant islands

cut out of sugar paper, or else cloud, the rain in great veils

coming in across the water, the earliest tenderest

feathering of green on the trees, mibbe autumn

laying bare the birches stark white.

There would be blood-red rowan berries, that bold robin

eating from my plate again, or -- for a week or two in May --

the elusive, insistent cuckoo,

or else the slow untidy flapping of the flight of the heron,

the oil-black cormorant's disappear-and-dive,

shifts of sun, double or even treble rainbows.

The waterfall would be a wide white plume or a

thin silver trickle, depending...

There would be bracken's early unfurling or

late summer's heather pinking and purpling over, there’d be

a plague of hairy caterpillars and the last drunken bees.

Mibbe you'd nudge me, and, hushed,

again we'd watch that otter swim to shore

on New Year’s Day with a big fish in its mouth, emerge

so near us on the flat rocks we

wouldn’t dare to breath as we’d watch it,

unconcerned, oblivious,

make a meal of eating it before our eyes.

Or it would be a late Easter this year and,

everywhere along the roadside,

the chrome-yellow straight-out-of-the-tube-and-

laid-on-with-a palette-knife brashness, the

amazing coconut smell of the gorse.

 

But tonight you are three months dead

and I must pull down the bed and lie in it alone.

Tomorrow, and every day in this place

these words of Sorley MacLean’s will echo through me: 

The world is still beautiful, though you are not in it. 

And this will not be a consolation

but a further desolation.