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Home to Edinburgh

Author: L G Dickson
Year: Hope

I hoped he’d be disappointed in my leaving but it was hard to tell. He stood tall, handsome as ever and looked straight ahead as I said my goodbyes. I couldn’t quite meet his eye.

I picked up my case, no trolley wheels in 1984, and walked slowly down into the bowels of Waverley station. No dystopian nightmare for me, only dreams filled with love and promise.

He didn’t come after me, didn’t scream my name begging me to reconsider. I turned back briefly but could see only blue sky and sprinting clouds. He was gone.

My stomach flipped as I turned my mind to a future life starting with the search for Platform 19. The east coast train line lifted spirits on the approach to Dunbar, travelling North. The relatively flat landscape gave way to white horses and steep cliffs but of course the opposite was true travelling South. And so my heart sank a little as I left behind my home and travelled over the Border to a new land and new beginnings.

I forgot about him for a while. So much was new and different. The houses were different. The shapes and colours. There was more red than grey, not something I was used to. So much I wasn’t used to. I learned new rituals. When to drink and what to drink, what to eat and when to eat. Certain meals appeared more significant than others. I had been immersed in different customs and habits my whole life and now all that was new felt strangely alien.

So many different names for things – baps, pop, bait. I talked about getting some messages and my colleagues thought I was going to the post office to pick up parcels and letters from people who were struggling to be parted from me. And suddenly I missed my Nana’s message bag.

It occurred to me that perhaps we weren’t Jock Tamson’s Bairns and that we weren’t all the same people. In bare terms the things that mattered to me would most likely matter to you but how I related to people, my connection to where I lived and worked, the rhythms of my life would most probably be different.

That’s not to say it was all bad, but in those early days I would be lying if I said I was ready to embrace everything in one go. I didn’t really know how to be, how to behave. My accent, my turn of phrase, the words I crafted, the reports I wrote were equally confusing to my new friends and colleagues so there was much adapting to be done and if truth be told, in very simple terms, I missed my home.

You see, he was still 120 miles up the road, not that far, and when the new life began to disintegrate and love splintered into a thousand pieces he was still standing, solid and unbroken. But I couldn’t go back. Not straight away. I had given everything. I couldn’t have given anymore but there was a pride, a need to end this phase of my life on my terms and so I knuckled down. I worked hard, I made friends but every meandering bus journey through the small villages of Northumberland left me time to think, to analyse and wonder how it could all have gone so wrong, so fast. I would look out the window as the bus pulled up at stops in places I didn’t know. I pushed back the thoughts that threatened to overwhelm me and so focussed hard on every small thing that nature showed me on those seemingly endless commutes. The leaf on the tree, quivering gently in the wind, had no concern for my suffering, had no skin in this game. The leaf and its tree got on with surviving and growing. Shedding and renewing, they both just got on.

I started to go home most weekends and my heart would beat faster every Friday evening when I left the train and emerged into the grey twilight. We drank familiar drinks in familiar pubs and laughed at each other’s stories. Not that he joined in, I never expected him to. He just was. The canvas, the backdrop to the person I was and always would be. I inhabited myself again, I said the things I wanted to say when I wanted to say them. I wasn’t struggling anymore.

Soon I would be home for good and I could look up into his dark eyes and know that he saw me, understood me and loved me. Would I stay with him forever? We can’t ever be sure of life’s twists and turns but it was a fair bet to say I would.

Home for good. Home to Edinburgh.