It shouldn’t be this hot. The view is grey. A fret rolls off the sea. The piers are blurry in the mist. The sun is at my right shoulder, a bright disc among grey clouds. It shouldn’t be hot, but the humidity is unbearable. It shouldn’t be bright, but the sun lasers through the clouds to pick out highlights on the water. In the empty space between the piers I see mirages, columns of white that might be the sails of ships or distant lighthouses.
The tide is in. Children play on a narrow slice of beach. Gulls float on the calm water and huddle on what is visible of the notorious black midden rocks. The massive autoliner carrying cars passes as we arrive and small fishing boats trundle past. We sit on a bench overlooking the sea, my wife and I. It is our anniversary, 25 years since we got together and we’re having a celebratory lunch of fish and chips. 25 years seems an unbelievably long time. If we have been together that long then surely we must be old. But we aren’t yet. Not quite.
Even when you feel that there is no movement, the years steam on, until you wonder how you got here so quickly. Something has shifted in the last fortnight. I’m moving again. Perhaps it was our short journey south through fields of gold. Perhaps it is the shift in the air that follows. Dark grey clouds gather like a dome. Winds whip up and rain comes. But in the end storm Ellen only caresses us. In the dene it still seems like summer. The burn is only a trickle, the cascades choked with weed. A flock of mallards faces off against a flock of moorhens on the pond.
The police helicopter is hovering, its attention focused somewhere north of here. I’ve spent a lot of time this year like that helicopter, stalled and searching for something to focus on. But what has often felt like drifting aimlessly has in fact been an absence of the old ‘to do’ lists and wishing time away. As the world re-opens and structure returns, I’ve been reluctant to embrace the way it was before.
So I shift slowly. I start to edit my manuscript. I use my sketch of a woman and cello to create a painting. I submit some short stories. It’s a trickle rather than a flood, just like the burn, but it’s a beginning. The helicopter still hovers, but three swallows are closer. Like tiny spitfires swooping over the grass. There is a hint of yellow in the linden trees. Rosehips and blackberries fatten in the hedgerows. These swallows are the last of summer, propelling me forward as the seasons turn.