I didn’t see the dawn this morning, though I was woken with coffee at half past five as Monday morning heralded the return to the necessity of normality. The hills were still no more than dark shapes against the skyline as I left them behind; the stars even here as I drove through the Derbyshire Dales, seemed pale and washed out by the amber glow of conurbation-land that nestles in the foothills, waiting, it seems, to swallow life and joy.
We have grown used to an inky blackness strewn with a billion diamonds as we have wandered the wilds of the north. We have gazed in wonder on the sparkling vault of the heavens, picking out the constellations seldom seen through the urban haze and watched the dizzying, multi-coloured dance of the planets against the Milky Way.
We have watched the dawn rise over the sea and seen the sun gild a pathway across the waters to a holy island as it sank beneath the mountains. Snow-covered mountains have blushed rose-gold in the sunset and the hawks have followed our journey.
Stories in ancient stone and carved figures have been our teachers as we have explored the history of our landscape and the roads have been both playground and pilgrim route as we have revelled in the beauty and peace of this land.
We have climbed cliffs and towers, watched the waves break on the sand, walked between the imposing columns of Norman cathedrals and explored tiny churches and ruined abbeys… and a number of inns, of course. We have talked, laughed, wondered… and talked some more.
We took the time on trust, going where we were led, no itinerary to follow, no rooms booked… reaching one friend and almost, but not quite, reaching another at our furthest hoped-for goal on the northeastern coast of Scotland.
The car played up… but not disastrously… the phone was almost permanently dead, internet sparse… as if technology itself conspired to slow the pace and ensure a real break from everyday pressures.
The weather…? Scotland in January? They said we were mad… To be fair, the snow prevented us from taking some of the roads we would have liked to take and curtailed our northward progress. The forecasts had been varying between dodgy and dire…Snow, rain, hail and ice were all on the cards. Yet the sun has followed us almost all the way… with just enough snow for beauty.
Ten days, almost four thousand photographs and nearly fifteen hundred miles later… and I’m back, a couple of hundred miles away from where I woke. The house is freezing, the electric went off and the fridge has defrosted all over the kitchen floor. The inboxes are stuffed to overflowing; answering everything is going to take some time! Ani has yet to be collected, the bags are yet to be unpacked and I have to be at work very soon. The second coffee of the day, however, comes first.
I do have so much to share, though, over the next week or so…