Monday, August 03, 2020

Breaking Out

We are just about to set off on a research trip. It will be the most adventurous thing we've done since lockdown, apart from having applied a very slightly generous interpretation to the 'three households' allowance and having a forbidden hug or two last weekend.  But you can't take a risk, of the sort you take every time you set out on the motorway,  to celebrate fifty happy years, when can you take it?  And so far at least, we've all survived.

But now we're going to be brave, break out and go to a hotel for a couple of nights.  Neither of us has health issues apart from our age and since the place we're going to has had no new cases for some considerable time we decided it was safe enough to go ahead.  That was admittedly before Covid 19 like a hydra reared its head all over again in Europe and despite the best efforts of government it is affecting us here too.

But my new book - Old Sins, provisionally - is set in the beautiful northwest Highlands of Scotland, and though I know and love it well from many holidays, there is no substitute for checking it out on the ground once you've decided more or less where the action will take place. Memories are famously untrustworthy and from previous research experience there will be something that crops up like a gift to give me a slant I hadn't thought of before - like the lighthouse that simply begged to have a body washed up at its foot. 

My long-suffering husband is my chauffeur and uncomplainingly drives for miles and miles while I look for ... well, whatever it is I need to see.  I can't give him precise directions because I'm looking for a feeling, an atmosphere, that I just can't find on Google Earth, however closely they focus in: the smell of sea air, the colour of the sunset over the mountains, the sound of the waves, the touch of the rain which, since it is the West Highlands, will almost inevitably be falling. (Forecast for Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday next week: rain. Though since it's so unreliable, who knows?)

His reward is a break (tax-deductible, of course) in a hotel with a fine line in seafood  fresh from the water and, of course, the sheer joy of being amid the moors and those extraordinary mountains, dramatic volcanic plugs that rear up from sea-level in a flat, almost lunar landscape.  And even if there's rain about, the natives will tell you, 'If you don't like the weather, wait a minute.'

And I must admit that I'm haunted by the fear that the liberty we have at the moment to do something like this may at any time be taken away and at least we'll have it to look back on when the doors are locked again.

No comments: