180 Years Old

Written 2020

There is a biting wind coming across the salt-water loch. The waves are up and the smell of the brine and seaweed is strong. Snow-capped mountains frame the far side of the water. They rise fairly sheer from the shore. A train is making its way nosily just clear of the water where the tack runs along a ledge of rock.

The wind gusts again and we hold the hats to our heads. A smattering of rain drums over the graveyard that we stand in. The stones get another beating that will continue over the ages. We retreat into the lee of the tall white church. A square box, designed to take the beatings of the Highland weather.

I look at my phone. “This church is 180 years old.”

“It looks it,” says T.

I glance up at the four tall windows across its front. Peeling paint, the odd broken pane and flaking putty.  “They’ll need to get those fixed soon.” I say, nodding at the windows.

“Is it still a church?”

I look at my phone. “No, people live in it.”

I think of the long journey we have taken to get here. Two hours west from Inverness. The beaten A-road passing though gorse and tree line valleys with the high mountains on either side. Then the road had narrowed. We then threaded our way by cars pulling over into passing places. The traffic had been thin. The road became potholed. More than once I expect the suspension was broken. We were now twelve hour journey away from home in London. I was amazed the old car had made that journey.

“I guess we are far from civilisation now?” says T.

“I think so, who’d come here?”

As if to counter our statement of isolation the sound of a police car siren breaks through the sound of the wind. On the narrow A-road the police car flashes by.

“In a hurry,” I say.

Then we hear the beat of helicopter rotors. We look around for it. Shortly it bursts into view, low over the loch. It is large and moving fast, military. Quickly it is gone, leaving behind only the beating and a little fear.

We walk back to the graveyard gate. Around is a rough golf course, wedged into the space around the church and the loch, before the rough Highland moor starts its rise to the mountain.

Several meters away is a little café. A few people are sitting outside on benches in the windswept cold. All are wearing masks.

 

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