Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Going back to the north of Scotland is always a bit weird. When I was little we lived in a small stone cottage at the foot of a hill near the sea. On top of the hill was an old Iron Age fort. Nearby, hidden in trees and at the end of a long drive with a lodge at the bottom of it, was the Big House. The people in the big house were landowners and farmers. My Mum and Dad rented the cottage from them. They had four children, let's call them Martha, Ian, Sarah and Angus. Ian was the same age as me. We used to play together a bit.

One day I came in from the garden, it must have been in the autumn, and I must have been six or seven years old. My Mum was in the kitchen, and when I came in she said to me Ian is dead. I think I laughed, because I didn't really know what that meant. It turned out that Ian had been helping his Dad with the harvest, and he had fallen into one of those big silos where they store grain. By the time they got him out, he had drowned. They tried to revive him, but he was dead. After that, my parents always told us not to play anywhere near the big piles of grain there always were in the farm buildings at harvest time. We didn't take any notice.

Near the cottage where we grew up, underneath the hill with the Iron Age fort on top of it, there were three ponds that are now a trout fishery. In the winter, when we weren't more than seven and nine years old, my brother and I used to go up to the frozen ponds by ourselves and walk out on the ice. We weren't worried, even when we heard it cracking around us. Once, Mum told us we weren't to walk on the ice, ever. We didn't take any notice.

This week when we went back for my Granny's 95th birthday, my Dad and his girlfriend and I stayed in the Big House, which is now a guesthouse. The same people still live there. The hills that I thought were so huge when I was little now seem small enough to step over. The Iron Age fort is still there. My Granny is still there. Nothing has changed at all, except the size of the hills.


james henry said...

I seriously think you should listen to your parents' advice - even if just on the basic safety stuff.

Have a good christmas.

GreatSheElephant said...

Never mind Bridget Jones. This is more like Helen Dunmore.

Have a good Christmas.

Kyahgirl said...

You must have an interesting accent :-)

(I hear you all in my head you know.)

patroclus said...

Ah, sadly not KG - just a sort of semi-posh English accent, despite the Scottish upbringing. Unless I'm speaking French, where I've developed a comedy regional accent from living on and off in the south of France.