July 20th, 2016

We had thunderstorms last night. I left the bedroom window open and woke to shudders and cracks, flashes and bitter rain. This morning still feels heavy, the sun behind thick cloud. At the turn off for the loch, I pause in the middle of the road to wait for two cars to pass (rush hour on the North Coast 500), and at the rolled down windows the air is sticky. Everything is a damp kind of green. Tourists stopped on the roadside are taking photos of Ben Tongue. One is wrapped in a scarf, confusing the white sky with winter.

I haven’t written anything for weeks. At times like this a fear slowly dawns. It’s not writer’s block so much as the conviction that everything good I’ve ever written was a fluke. I want to walk it out and have chosen this spot where the glint of unknown water beckons. I pull over on the bog road and we get out. A track scars the hill, zigzagging upwards where it turns to little more than a landslide, the face all stones. In the quiet as I stop to tie a lace I hear deep splashes from the ditch (Tone amusing himself) and a sudden waterfall – last night’s heavy rain coming straight off the sod, the water etched with the downward press of green blades, into a gulping, swirling hole of froth. The track stretches out, long puddles shining in the ruts. I can see the loch now, below me to the south-west. Tone goes wild at the smell and bounds off over the moor. I follow, a little slower.

Coming down the bank, I squeal. There at the water’s edge is a makeshift metal boat, Thunder in red paint on its stern. It seems an ominous name for a boat and I wonder if there’s some sentiment that I’m missing. Something virtuous, something warrior-like. Or is it simply the sound the hull makes being dragged over a pebbly shore? I think of last night’s storm, of rising to pull my window to, and how exposed I had felt with just a pane of glass between the violent sky and me in my nightie. I feel the same way now, at the loch’s edge, with nothing on the horizon but frozen waves of heather.

Heading back, it is further than I remember. Drizzle dashes my hood. Eventually my eyes pick out the steady progress of a car on the main road. The way the light is, the water shining from the reeds has a blue tinge off the peat. There were islands in the loch, and I consider that in another place, with paved pathways and manicured grass, there might have been pedalos for rent, an ice cream hut. Instead all the loch had was that abandoned craft, the rusty inside camouflaged sphagnum orange.


At home, I stare at the white page on my laptop. My fingers flexed, a pitter-patter of black characters dots the screen, and then a stream, a torrent of words, the downdraft of key strikes followed by a dissipation that feels just as real as any break in the weather – weeks of sticky awkwardness gone.

A freshness, a revival.