Become a fan of h2g2
The night could not have been blacker. I could see nothing but the vaguest forms and shapes. The storm obliterated everything. I pushed the door open against the wind and rain and let the gale slam it shut. I climbed over the barred gate and made my way along the path as the wind churned the hawthorns into a frenzy, thorned wet branches lashing at my numbed face and whipping at my coat as I stumbled along in the dark. I laughed out loud at myself, holding up protective arms.
I knew the way well; for five nights I had taken this path, in gentle moonlight, in soft rain, in light dancing breeze. For five nights my landlady tut-tutted at me, convinced, I hoped, of my idiocy but not of my insanity. This time, this final, fully whiskied time, I was totally determined but the wild Welsh bible black weather seemed equally determined to stop me. As I emerged from the shelter of the bushes into the gorse on the cliff top the gale drove the ferocious freezing rain horizontally at my face. I instinctively ducked down and drew my hood even tighter. I laughed again.
The noise was tremendous, the waves roaring at the cliff face below, moaning through the caves, crashing on the rocks, the wind thrashing at the bushes behind me. I aimed myself at the point on the cliff where I needed to be, fighting the elements to get there. This time I couldn’t excuse failure by claiming a scouting exercise. This was no reconnoitre, this time I was going to do it.
I slipped twice on the wet turf. I stumbled over a clump of thrift and arrived on my knees at the appointed spot on the cliff-top, the one spot where the drop to the roaring Atlantic was unbroken by rocks, crags or turfed shelves. Straight down to the ocean that divides. I struggled to my feet and yelled at the night. “Be Quiet!!” The wind tore the words from me and threw them at the ocean below. No second chances tonight.
What was that supposed to mean anyway. “I want a second chance”? A second chance at what? Be honest, come on, you owe me that. How come you get another chance and I don’t? How come? What did I do that was so bad? You can’t just stop your life and change track on a whim. What about me? What about the kids? They may be grown up and gone but they are still part of your life, our life. Family.
I slipped again and landed on my backside, my feet over the edge. This is stupid, I can’t even do this right. Come on, P, one big shove, job done. The rain seemed lessened, softer. Over to the east there were some grey lines in the black sky. I shouted “Too late. I’m coming.” I braced my arms on the turf ready for a big, last, push. I closed my eyes.
And then – my phone bleeped. A text? Here? Now? And, of course, I had to look, so I took off my glove, and took out the phone. “Hey Dad. How u doin. Call you l8er. XX”
The wind was lighter. It was still buffeting me, pushing me back, but more gently. The grey streaks were turning pink.
“”Hey!”. Why say “Hey”? I mean, “Hi” I could understand. And it’s shorter. I blame TV! It’s what comes of living halfway round the world. Losing the language! I shall have to tell her off. Again.
I scrambled up, and brushed at my coat. The rain, no more than a strong drizzle, was coming straight down now, the wind had gone off somewhere else. I headed back to the van, slipping and sliding on the mud. There was now enough light to see my way. I held my gloved hands in front of me to catch the hawthorn branches before they caught my face. Once back in the van I took my coat off, threw it on the passenger seat, extracted the phone and pressed the keys with thick cold fingers. My head was clear now.
“Look forward to that. Love, dad.” I pressed ‘reply’ and looked out at the lightening sky. Another time. Perhaps.