A simple thing about not walking on my own

IMG_3846When I was much younger I spent a lot of time in the Scottish Highlands. My mother, whose family came from Ballater in Aberdeenshire, was evacuated there after her house was bombed. I think she was eight.
        We stayed in a little cottage that was almost as cut off as I suppose you could be in that part of the world: no mains gas, water or electricity. A phone that sometimes stopped working for no reason. Any further down the broken track beside the cottage, out down alongside the river Gairn, and we’d have been gone, somehow. I remember toying with that thought, shifting between being scared and being excited. My mother (she chose the place, not my father) had a strange habit of taking things to the brink, and often other people with her, or instead of her, even if she didn’t know that was what she was doing.
        I loved it there.The first time we visited the place  was the summer of the drought: 1976. Every day the sky was blue and Mum would send us, my sisters and I, out saying she’d blow a whistle when it was time for lunch. Sometimes I’d do something with my sisters, which usually ended in a row or somebody getting bored, often I’d head out on my own. I liked meeting tourists, German of French campers who’d pitched a tent in out of the way places and who were often so surprised to find a curious ten-year-old turn up wanting to know where they’d come from. So I was often on my own, but not entirely.
        I used to spend so much time walking, and when I was walking I know I was never lost – lost in the sense of being gone, dissociated, or zoned out. I was there and I remember it vividly: the feeling of the heat and the colours like a kind of extraordinary haze, and the distance from anywhere; and the height, the mountains. But when I wasn’t walking, or talking, and I sat down to rest, I got lost. An edge of some sort was never far away.
        This year’s the first time I’ve been back there since I was that young and not felt weighed down by an awful sense of everything that happened afterwards. Now is now, and I find not walking on my own about as wonderful a thing as can happen. I don’t go diving off into myself. Those flitting seconds when my mind turns in on itself sound like thunder around me and somebody notices. So I need to notice.
       I pass men walking on their own sometimes and I think I’d rather not.

Monsters & Post-Truth Politics

I’m disappointed by a novel I’m reading right now because I can’t imagine the author believes in the possibility of monsters. It’s a failing I find hard to forgive: what do you lose by believing a monster’s possible? Not a figurative beast, a metaphorical ‘monster’ … but a monster.
        A monster, like a fish or a snake is a creature. A monster as a creature.
        I’m not even sure how I worked this out; and I’ve no idea if I’m right. Perhaps there’s something idealised in the sense of mystery: the sense of it, itself? The register? The movement? A kind of scratching movement with staccato interludes which reminds me more of chalk on a blackboard than the slipperiness, the sudden appearances, the dissolves, the blurs, the fading and surging, the conflicts, the paradoxes, the headaches and the ever-walking-in-circles-ness of the unknown.
        I was interviewed yesterday and reminded how much I experience writing as a series of movements and transitions rather than details and references. Donald Trump came up as a monster not of the kind I mean here, more as a ‘monster’, and as he did I realised how much more possible men (there’d never be a woman) like Trump are if we dispense with the possibility of monsters, ghosts and other more mysterious phenomena. Trump thrives in a world of true or false, fact or fiction, right or wrong and black or white. Who wins? You decide, etc.
        Take away the illusion of the certainty of knowing, start living not as a humanist or a mystic, an atheist or a believer in a God, but as someone who works out life differently, who can tolerate not getting it, not knowing if there are monsters while understanding it’s very unlikely one will trouble me today, and there will be fewer ‘monsters’. Fewer beasts. Maybe just monsters. I’ll understand, I’ll feel, something about truth that shows how the idea of ‘post-truth’ politics is more part of a problem than it can ever be of a solution.