Fragile Wings

Fragile Wings

I’ve found the man I love,

After forty years of trying,

All the dead ends and denying,

The roleplaying and lying,

The costume changing,

And rearranging,

To fit the expectations,

That only I had set.

Until, one day we met.

And out of the drought,

he arrived,

younger and wiser,

than any version I’d contrived,

in those days when I locked the bones away,

Imagining conformity the only way

to mould him,

And here he was,

All along, with gentle flaws,

and fragile wings

which glide, on lost rememberings,

At last, to cast off chiselled chains.

And all now that remains,

Is the child in the man I love.

Forty Years: The 15th of October 2021

Forty Years: The 15th of October 2021

1.

‘He told me you said it was over.’

And with it, an anechoic convulsion sucks the reverberance from the room,

‘But I didn’t mean it.’  (I had told him that, a flippancy, a throwaway.),

A new silence erupts, and both wait on the other to speak,

‘He thought you did, to the point where he travelled all the way across town to ask me out.’

The room shook, my heels rocked.

‘He asked you out?’

2.

Of her: A need for explanation, born of exasperation, she’d called,                         

Was my aim, as I made claim, true? She had thought she knew

me, her voice unnatural and nervously clipped,

Suppressing a dread that had carelessly ripped,

The simple bud in her soul I had set,

That from it she grew, as an incantation and I too under its hex,

We had spiralled the bliss but now this, and with it lay wrecked,

All the promises we had painstakingly kept between whispers and kisses,                                      

Eyes closed, pillow wishes and deep-set in a place no dispute could uproot,                                   

Until I would betray and deliver the day her world fell apart, and

with one reckless remark, her heart broken. 

Of him: He drew them from me,

saw the weakness he knew that in men would easily,

when pricked ego condemn themselves to such fate, and when

sensing a rift, a sweetheart infancy tiff, intoxicated in my arrogant state,

He pulled those words, no presence to notice, I spat them out,        

The plan, simmering below, an arrow brought to a bow, all these years in design,

I would visit and write, and from his prison cell at night

a devotion, one brother to another; blood bond, an emotional contract,

Quick to ask, he would rave over her picture, which with hubris I gave,

The signs all there for the asking, if only in the unmasking, I had looked,                          

But unwilling to dream of such scheming, his form a trait unheeded,

The thinking head to the heart politic¹ conceded.              

Of us: I broke the spell, pretended well,

Of not a care in the world,                                                                                         

Nor conscience speared or consequence feared,

I threw a false farewell.                                                                                                         

A cruel naive bravado, that set the wheels in motion,                                                           

A breach: incommunicado, to the depths of a silent ocean.

…and then you were gone, and all moved on,                                                          

For me forever my folly to dwell, and never to repay,                                                          

I rue the day, that I threw that false farewell.

3.

The weekend drew a bleak pause, wrought space and time between that call          

and his prolonged absence, cementing a guilt his presence would only enrage,

but his version? To engage? of course, but first as guilt licks the wounds of remorse,

Cherish the return of her soft Sunday voice on that reconciliatory call,

Cradling the words, ‘Will I see you again?’

Forever those words. And I, comforting if not healing, had assured.

And the working week would creep through dreich Glasgow streets,

Melding ‘yard crane skylines with welders’ sparks and caulkers drones,                            

Dulling senses to keep us in check,

I would sleepwalk that weekend away,                                                                                 

We waited on deck, sullen somnambulists thirsty to stray; tea break,                      

Steam and fag smoke from denim bump caps and slumped overall shoulders,

Then all shuffled down the creaking gangway,

Two white hats, as stalking cats, approached, elbow taken I was redirected,

To that room where the white noise walls fought to stifle the stinging silence,

That grew cacophonous, malevolent and swamped my head,

From one of the two, ‘I’m sorry son, she’s dead.’  

                                      

Where the days that followed disappeared, I won’t know,

Lost to family and friends I would smoulder,                                               

Me the prisoner now in my thoughts, I turned over and over,          

As a car caught in a death roll, driving fist into face I screamed at the thief,

Who had stolen her nineteen years,

And I would sing our songs,

Until, like mercury tears one drew to another, and all was one,

An amalgam of us. And to no one I sang,                 

Were you ever in love? Did your heartbeat in time with the movement of?

Someone who grew from a simple bud to a scented rose in your soul,                                 

The half that made you whole,

Your hope on which to hold,                                                                                      

The silver to the gold,                                                                        

From the child to the growing old.

‘We should have been at a wedding today,’ your father had said,

As a token comfort to assuage his past indifference,

Your mother dutifully attending his black tie; askew, crushed,

And last night’s whisky on his breath,

A bruise, backlit on flushed cheeks told of a trip and a fall,

And for the first time, I truly felt for him,                                                      

Too late now and he knew it, October had a closing act to draw,

A flower to lower, we wilted together as cord slipped through our palms,

And in my peripheral vision and far from my thoughts, my brother,

The mourners between, no diffuse for his tears,

All those years, locked in, now released, to this shallow gaol,                     

I would challenge him, of course, in time,

But for the moment, this impossible placation was mine.

4.

And as I stand forty years to the day,

As you rest at my feet and the words weathered away,

Of how you’ll be lovingly remembered,

On a plot, overgrown and untended,

You would ask of him, how he was?

And I could offer no answer because,

He left, not weeks since we laid you to rest,

And in trying my best, these years I have never discovered,

Where he went, nor even uncovered, the reason he did what he did,

And each day I live with a lost brother and lover,

And those words “…you said it was over.”   

                                  

Elpis and the box

I had been asleep in the hall when I was wakened by a car arriving in the driveway. The thud

of the loose flagstone and squeal as it stopped, identified it as Vet’s van. I heard him get out,

the gravel crunched lightly under his weight; he wasn’t carrying anything. He’d left The Box

in the car. I allowed myself to relax slightly. His visits usually involved some prodding and

probing and concluded in a sharp jab in the back of the neck. He’d taken recently to removing

me against my will to spend a night in one of his cramped, brightly lit cages. I heard him

make his way around to the back door and let himself in.  I’d have to let Dev know he’d

arrived. I shouted twice, friendly shouts, so as not to unnerve Vet. No point in inviting

tension. Vet announced his arrival too,

‘…mis…ter… rin… tool,” was as much as I could make out.

Upstairs, the bedroom door opened, and Dev started to make his way down the stairs,

carefully, both hands on the rails. A weak voice acknowledged that he was on his way.

Emerging out of the darkness he saw me and smiled a Big Dev smile. I got up, arching my

back to stretch and swished my tail uncontrollably. I greeted him with my morning yelp.

‘Good girl… good girl,’ came the reply.

We met at the bottom of the stairs; he ruffled my ears as I checked his groin for

leakage. Only stale ingrained sweat. A good sign. Dev headed down the hall towards Vet who

was standing in the kitchen, nervously juggling treats in his pockets and smiling cautiously.

Vet was at least half as old as Dev and he radiated an uncomfortable energy, his trousers and

fleece a pungent mix of schnauzer and German shepherd. I nuzzled his underparts for more

intimate information.

Someone’s been a lucky boy this morning, I thought.

Then a whiff of dog biscuit. He pulled two from his pocket. I ate them gently from his

sanitised hand as they talked above me.

The usual pleasantries. I watched their faces for clues as they spoke, a reason for the

visit. His second in as many days. But was it as routine as the last one? Routine, in so much

as The Box was left in the van and my visit to his cramped cell wasn’t required. I still had the

shaved patch on my leg where they jabbed and bled me, a new twist to Vet’s visits. I sat

down between them and swept the floor eagerly with my tail in anticipation of more biscuits.

They looked down at me smiling, then resumed their face-to-face. Dev was doing most of the

talking, Vet shook his head slowly while shifting from one foot to the other, a false fixed

smile absorbed and deflected Dev’s words.

‘For the best… good life…,’ I recognised but made little sense of.

This continued for a bit. They’d talk, stop, look down at me, talk, look down again.

Each time Dev’s face melted even more. He seemed to be deflating right in front of me to the

point where I thought he might collapse. Less and less of the talk I recognised, but I could see

it wasn’t going Dev’s way. Vet jabbed my neck again, gave me another couple of biscuits and

left quietly. Dev stood for a while, staring, but not looking, out the kitchen window.

He had been slumped in his armchair since Vet left, his face shaking quietly into the

palms of his hands. I tried sitting to attention at his feet, nosing his thigh. This didn’t have its

 usual effect and only seemed to make things worse. I forced a reaction with my best friendly

yelp. He leaned towards me, took my head in both his hands and squeezed gently, his thumbs

caressing my brows.

“Oh Elpis… my girl… my girl,” he echoed.

I sat with him hoping it might improve his mood but when he slid back in his chair

and closed his eyes I made for my cushion by the hearth of the fire where I could keep an eye

on him. My cushion reeked; it hadn’t been cleaned for some days now. These accidents had

been happening more and more recently, I would wake after a sleep to find myself in a warm

stinging puddle. Dev, didn’t complain, but I’d cower apologetically anyway. He’d just pat me

on the head, pick up the bedding and stick it in the machine in the kitchen.

            From his chair, every now and again he’d reach across for the photograph

above the fire and roll a finger slowly down Lin’s smiling face.  It hadn’t moved from his

side in the three winters since she left.

Two hunched men had taken her away in a black van; they zipped her into a bag and

wheeled her out in a hidden box one day when Dev and I had found her lying at the

bottom of the stairs. We’d been out for a morning walk, we’d played the stick game, he

threw, I returned; he loved this game. Then Dev picked up some milk on the way back to the

house. Nothing unusual as days go. But as soon as he opened the door, I knew that she had

left, there was a stillness, a missing in her. He called out from somewhere so deep and dark

inside that I shrunk to avoid it. I watched for a short time as he cradled her in his arms. He

cried so hard I thought that the part of his heart which was Lin, would give out. Wary that I

was intruding, I retreated to my bed and wept for them both.

The first time I met Dev and Lin I was locked up in a small cell when the old man who I had

previously shared a home with left one day too.  Three strangers had burst his door down and

found me just in time before I was going to seriously consider what I was eating next. They

put me in The Box and took me away. Next thing I knew I was in a small cell, in a huge

place, full of us. I had been there for about a week when Dev and Lin walked in. I don’t know

how, but I just knew they were for me. There was searching to them, a wanting. I was their

balm. In the car home, I sat with Dev, his hands firmly but safely holding my collar.

Between the excitement and the motion of the car, I began to feel ill, I threw the contents of

my dried cell meal all over Dev while Lin drove in the front. He never flinched. He just kept

ruffling my ears.

“Lin,” I remember him saying, “…got good girl here… a good girl.”

They named me Elpis in the car home; both reciting it many times until it sounded

natural and belonging, and that I recognise the metre and sound of it. When we got to the

house, they had a bed and toys there for me, the back garden had been fenced around the trees

and out to the driveway.  I was fed twice daily from tins they stored behind the door in the

hall, with an occasional treat when Dev shared a bit of sausage with me.  We walked so much

in those days, days of work and play. I fell into my bed at nights exhausted, the woods and

hills just outside our house were our playground, and on warm days we’d get in the car and

drive to the big water, and I would swim, sometimes Dev would join me on those long days.

His stroke was weak, and Lin would watch nervously from the shore, but I kept close to him

in case he got into difficulties.

And then there was Jon. Jon had left before I arrived on the scene, but he was

everywhere. The weight of him at times slumped their shoulders. Whenever Lin left the door

open to that room, I would sneak in for a sniff around.  She was showing me where their pain

lived. Nobody slept here, but it was prepared, as if awaiting a return. The room sighed with

the tears spilled on his pillow from Lin’s melancholy moments, and Dev’s evening visits

where he would caress and talk to the bedside photograph of them both seated in a small boat

smiling. Jon, just a young boy, Dev’s long hair, darker and fuller; and bright, wondering,

unspectacled eyes. Jon was mentioned every day back then, then gradually as the time

passed, like pillow tears and wondering eyes, all sense of him receded.

Dev’s movement had woken me, I watched with one eye as he shuffled and pushed himself

upright from the arms of the chair. His neck curved in sympathy with his back, creased at the

knees he made his way slowly towards the kitchen door. He stopped and looked down at

me, I lifted my head and smiled my best one at him, I was strangely tired, but I tried my best,

he looked like he needed it.

‘Elpis… Dinner.’

I sat up as best I could but the pain in my stomach was slowly returning.

‘Good girl… the best,’ his voice cracking.  ‘Treat tonight… goooood girl.’

I followed him through to the kitchen, staying well behind in case we collided. I was

still a bit woozy since Vet left; his scent still sanitised the kitchen. Through the back window,

I saw the afternoon light flickering rain drop reflections from the leaves on the bush under

which I took my daily leak. I asked, and Dev opened the door to let me out. I stood under the

bush and emptied warm waste all over the grass in a slow stream, the steam clinging to my

stale damp coat. Each evacuation was taking longer and dispensing less these days it seemed.

I sniffed at the air above me for fresh scent of others and listened for calls. All quiet, nothing

to attend to, I wandered back into the kitchen. He should have emptied the contents of my tin

into my bowl by now. My appetite wasn’t great these days, but I’d eat a bit for his sake, he

needed the encouragement too.

Dev was cooking sausages. I sniffed at the luxurious aroma.

‘His appetite has returned,’ I thought.

I anticipated my usual portion with some renewed relish and sat down and watched

him take three sausages from the pan. He laid them on a large plate on top of the table, then

easing himself gently into the chair, he cut them into pieces. He then did the strangest thing,

he sat for what seemed like an eternity and blew on them, again and again. He would pick a

bit up and put it to his mouth, tongue it, blow it a bit and put it back on the plate. Then,

picking the plate up with the shaky, thin fingers of one hand and laying the other gently on

my head, he lowered the plate with all three chopped sausages onto the floor in front of me. I

looked down in amazement then immediately back up at him. He spoke, and as he did a salty

tear dropped from his eye and splashed on my nose.

‘Love you Elpis,’ he said. ‘Dinner… best girl in the world.’

They were delicious. I tried hard to finish them but couldn’t. He put some

water down for me and I lapped gently at it as he tilted his head back and washed down his

daily meds. He then took a small plate from the cupboard, a fork from the drawer, and lifted

the one last sausage from the pan onto the small plate and carried it back through to his

armchair. I followed him and circled myself down onto my cushion. He sat down and laid the

plate at his side, next to Lin’s photograph.  Setting the fork down next to it, he turned and

gazed slowly at me over the top of his glasses.  I returned his look. Then he nodded slowly to

himself and fell asleep. The food in my belly had me on his coattails and I drifted slowly to

sleep.

It was fading daylight when I woke and Dev was still in his armchair, his food untouched.

I got up to go over to waken him, but I knew immediately he had left. His stillness was that of

Lin’s on the day we found her, but it was the lightness in me that announced it, a missing in

my heart where his place once was but had now gone. I heard a car arriving in the driveway.

The flagstone, the squeal as it stopped. I heard doors open and some movement, then they

closed again. I listened for the footfall on the gravel. It was lopsided, irregular, and

weighted on the right foot. As if something was being carried.

A Savage Slip

One Savage Slip

A fall from here would be bad. I knew it. My position was precarious; temporary and

finely balanced. Arms, legs, hands, feet; straining, bridging as ties and struts, like equalising

forces, finding friction where they could to maintain my grip on this sodden savage slit of

vertical granite, which was currently doing all it could to repel me onto the distant broken

boulder field below.

I was running out of time. The rock sweated rivulets of rainwater to prize the

temporary purchase my boots and fingers had found to maintain my precarious position.

 Every muscle screamed to secure my equilibrium, my place on this rockface. Four points of

contact, lose one and lose them all.

I looked up, my face scraping against the rock’s roughness; grey laden skies offered

no comfort. Rain dripped slowly onto my face from a protruding ledge just five feet above

me. The ledge was my refuge, my escape. If only I could bridge the gap. It would be all or

nothing.

I had to move.

The day had started with clearer skies, sunlight danced brightly with shifting clouds

across the rolling Cairngorm hills, moulding our mood as we made our way towards the crag

at Coire an Lochan which cloaked our route for the day. We walked briskly, the three of us,

buoyant with anticipation of a first attempt at a classic Scottish route. Graded as Very

Difficult, the route was called Savage Slit and was well within our capabilities. Or so we

thought. Kenny was without doubt the fittest of the three; his broad shoulders and powerful

legs could move quickly with a heavily laden rucksack of climbing ironmongery. Eric was

leaner, wiry, with a determination which sometimes outstripped his ability, but always a

positive influence and good partner in trying moments. I was certainly the most accomplished

rock climber of the three, and as such would lead the toughest pitches on the route.

We scurried along the path towards the crag, the weather slowly deteriorating. Clouds

 above us thickened, the skies now darker and threatening. The shade of the crag now

hanging imposingly over us. The air cooled and the mist turned wet against our skin. The

base of the climb appeared just above us, a quietness ensued. We scrambled to the belay and

readied ourselves to climb. Harnessed and roped, I clipped the gear, my protection, to my

rucksack loops.

All three of us took our first long look at the dank vertical corner which soared

skyward above us.

‘Looks hell of a wet.’ Eric broke the silence.

‘Gonny be slippy as fuck,’ ventured Kenny.

I nodded calmly. My confidence was at such a high from recent successes in similar

conditions in Glen Coe, that any apprehensions dissolved unnoticed.

‘There are old climbers and bold climbers Bobby,’ Eric said, ‘but there’s no old, bold climbers!’

He winked at me knowingly, then handed me the rope to tie into. I rubbed my hands together.

‘Well, wish me luck,’ I asked as I turned to face the damp dark rockface.

‘Climbing!’

I pulled on the first greasy handhold. It became apparent very quickly that this was

going to be anything but a simple, straightforward climb. My boots slipped on sloping

footholds as I progressed, fingers found rivers of water inside gaping cracks which were lined

with lichen and slid and slithered under pressure. Cold bit into me, sharp granite cut numb

knuckles raw, a sharp wind swept up the crag roaring louder in my ears as I gained height.   

My breathing quickened; doubt arrived in each inhale as I could smell and taste its metallic

sickness in my dry mouth.

‘You’ll be wanting to get a runner in soon’ Eric shouted from below.

I stopped, looked down between my legs at Eric and Kenny looking up at me; wide

eyed, wired. I had run out most of the rope, and with only one runner placed about thirty feet

below me, I was looking at a sixty-foot ground fall if I slipped. For the first time in my life,

fear paralysed me.

Don’t fall dad.’…. Calum’s voice.

‘We love you Dad; we need you back home.’ …. Ceri’s voice.

‘I hate you going climbing.’ …. Arlene’s voice.

Seconds seemed like an eternity. My senses fought for attention. Emotion roared

through me like a hurricane. Above, a raindrop left the ledge, I watched it rush towards me,

this adrenalin eyedrop splashed urgency on impact. I have never felt so alive.

I had to move.

The Silence was Deafening

The Silence was Deafening.

From the window a lull,

The rolling rail track thunder rolled back,

Tarmac popping pneumatic air pockets retired,

Rolls Royce roar of take-off and land, banned,

All car, carriage and undercarriage receding,

Doppler affects.

A roaring wind hush ushers pees-weeping lapwing,

Craws caw, starlings copy and the blackbird pilots his patch,

New morning sounds,

Which over once was drowned,

with ears too busy to notice,

natures detail.

“But humans are natural too,” you say,

“and make sounds that bring you to tears of joy;

notes and words which shake the bluebird

in your chest.”

“That’s fine,” I say, “but all the rest,

is best, unsaid.”

…..and from you,

the silence was deafening.

Bobby Motherwell ©️2021

St Kilda, and the GOAT.

We stood on the bow of the Elizabeth G, as she slowed into the serenity of Village Bay. This felt more like a homecoming than an arrival. The nine-hour torturous crossing from Barra across the relentless Minch was now behind us; spent mostly in my cabin fighting sea sickness and a real fear of our ship being torn in two by the sea, such was the swell. We had been delivered safely; relief palpable as the cloud began to lift over the slopes of Oieseval. I drank in this evening view. The culmination of a thirty-year fascination with this group of islands was at hand. As the boat slowed, as if in reverence, the others readied busily for their first dive. I settled down with a Balvenie and my thoughts. Like painted watchmen, the puffins on the Dun cliffs returned my gaze. Realisation dawned that I was here because of Ewan, and Valentino Rossi.

I met Ewan through work; a site visit around three years previously. I nodded at a picture of Rossi behind his desk, he asked if I was a fan. “I named my son after him” I replied. He smiled that broad, now so familiar smile.

It transpired over the months following, that he had worked on St Kilda. I told him of my obsession. He called one day, a place aboard a diving charter he was on had become available. “I lied that you were a sound bloke, they’re cool for you to join us”. I jumped at the chance. And here I was, privileged, the only non-diver aboard.

Their first dive complete, we drank and ate well, and I wished for the morning to come when I could finally set foot on St Kilda.

As usual we both woke early, fortunate that we were cabin buddies. Ewan and I shared a coffee and chat on deck before the others rose. When they finally surfaced, we lowered my kayak into the water, I wished them luck with their dives and waved them cheerio. I paddled gently towards the beach, the sun on a cloudless sky kissing my neck and hands as the realised excitement coursed through me. The kayak speared the soft beach gently, I tore off the spray deck and I stepped for the first time onto Hirta. I panned around this familiar crescent, the wash of lush green hillside, sweeping shoreline and rising rockface; once merely studied pictures, now a reality.

Over the next few days, I would explore every walkable inch of this island. A rigid daily itinerary emerged: launch kayak in the morning, paddle ashore, explore the island in blissful solitude, return to Village Bay, watch for the Elizabeth G returning, paddle out to meet her. Food, drink, enjoyment and much sharing of stories.

In those days, I consumed all the sights and sounds I had pored over for many years. I tasted the salt air from the sea cliffs and stone cleits which sheltered the fulmar catch. The blast of North Atlantic wind which scoured the cliffs filled my fleece as I climbed the Mistress Stone. I engaged the protective male Skuas who, when alerted by the female of my proximity, would swoop down and strike at my head until I scurried clear of their territory. I lazed on the soft slopes of Conachair, dangled feet over the gaping chasm below the Lovers Stone, felt the warm sun tighten my face as the silence, but for the breeze and caw of the fulmars, brought its meditative solace. I could hear in my head the voices and songs of Ann Gillies and the other women singing together at the sharing of the fulmars, plucked by the men from the cliffs overlooking Boreray.

I entered each of the old houses, now roofless and decaying. A roof slate sat in each fireplace, painted on it was the name of the last inhabitant before the evacuation in 1930. I stood in old Findlay’s front room and looked out the frameless window at Village Bay, imagining how this view moulded the boy and the man during his seventy-four years, and how it looked on that fateful day when he would leave his home never to return.

The trip ended too soon, and we left for home. A flat sea ushered a gentle return as if to reward the perseverance of our outbound struggle. A shoal of dolphins rode our bow, shepherding and welcoming us homeward past the shadow of the Black Cuillin on Skye, back to a more familiar setting. I thought of the evacuee’s journey, their culture abandoned.

On deck, Ewan and I toasted them. “Tae journeys, wi’ good friends”.

Three years have passed. I am on the other side of the world. We have our boarding passes. The departure gate announces that the Melbourne flight from Queenstown will be boarding shortly.

I flick through Facebook posts on my phone. The world around me stops.

….. tragically Ewan Smith died today in a motorbike accident…”.

I look at Arlene. “Ewan is dead” I say, not quite hearing my own words as my head spins.

I flick through my texts. His last one to me. Only a week ago. Inviting me on a biking trip with him and his boys. I apologised, “…. we’re going to see Ceri in Australia, otherwise I would have loved it.”

“Enjoy Oz” he replied, “there will always be another day!”.

Bellochantuy beach: summer 2018

Bellochantuy beach: summer 2018

We all filed out on a summers day

With a feast to see ourselves through

And to the height of the day, the sun found its way

And the tide rolled back to renew

The levelled sea bed on which to land

gulls feet and beaks of curlew

And where to rest our chairs and fare

All family settled, but a few

And rushing to the frothing wake, they ran

through silt sands and pebble stanes,

to pull up short, when sharp sea shock

struck shins like bamboo canes.

A ball was found and kicked around

High, and higher still

And strings brought down to add to the sound,

of fun, which the day was filled.

And long we sat; and ate and drank,

and chat and sang aplenty

On the golden sands to vanishing point

We counted less than twenty

And the sun now setting in a downward course

Heat going and skin now tightening

We fuelled the fire and drank some more

Ever presence our wanton benighting

And we long these days for those long days

Where the sun it rose and fell

On our shared laughter and our song

And a bond in which to dwell.

Bobby Motherwell ©️2020

One year sober.

One Year Today.

A year ago today I woke up after a Sunday night in the pub (remember them?) and asked myself if it wasn’t about time to lay off it for a bit, see if I could last a week. And believe me, at the time, that was a big ask. It meant no beer at home after work, coping with a social function on the Friday (I am a social phobic), and the usual ‘social’ visit to the pub on Saturday and Sunday.

I wouldn’t say it was easy, it seemed unnatural to me to be socialising and not drinking and the ‘reward’ of the home beer after work was something I had always looked forward to, but it wasn’t anywhere near as tough as I’d thought.

And here I am, a year of sobriety.

I had planned on having a couple of glasses of Balvenie at Xmas and Hogmanay, but when the time came, I just didn’t feel like it. The bottle still lying unopened awaiting ‘That Day’.

I share this simply to mark the day, and to illustrate how we can, if we want to, rewire our thought circuitry and regain control. I have never felt better in my life.

Hard fields, blue skies in January

Hard fields, blue skies, January

Flitting

Branch to branch

Before, behind

Along the river bank he follows.

Looking well

enough fed for the month

He stays tight, watching

for turned footprints

to reveal quarry

But feet slip on perma clods of turf

and iced oasis

giving up little.

I’ll take a digestive tomorrow

I decide

And share it

Broken to crumbs, palm open

Trusted.

©️Bobby Motherwell

Tower Gap

Climbing out of Tower Gap on Tower Ridge, Ben Nevis

I had been scanning through some pictures to add to my book tonight. Categories already established, I needed them to support and punctuate the words and prose. Obviously the hills, as a category, were there and this picture stuck out like a sore thumb.

I took this picture of Eric and Kenny following me out of Tower Gap on our decent of Tower Ridge. We had earlier ascended Ben Nevis via Northeast Buttress as part of the first day on our Big Hex challenge. The Big Hex is a climbing challenge which I set up to raise money for Scottish Mountain Rescue and give climbers something to get competitive about – as if that was needed.

It has been commented on, in many quarters that this picture captures the atmosphere of this particular section of one of the worlds most famous climbs. For me, it just reminds me of a fabulous day, with friends, in one of my favourite environments.

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