Saturday, September 29, 2007

on the battlements

Definitely a night for wordless music and a deep whisky glass. Pass this one by if you haven't been divorced and have never had to do the merry dance of Sharing The Children. Really. Trust me. Scroll on down, this one's not for you.

For the remainder, all you battered and tattered little band of people who've had part of themselves torn away by an infernal engine called dee, eye, vee, oh, arse, well, heck,  gather round, throw another log on the fire and help yourselves to whisky. 

Finally tonight, after months of feeling that something was about to change, got a phone call from my ex-husband to confirm that he is leaving town and heading up North. In previous, hellish times, this would have been cause to crack open a bottle of champagne and toast his speedy departure, but now, with the our old battlefield grassed-over and the memory of the horrible wounds we inflicted, just that -  a memory - it's odd to think that I'm the one left behind, manning the Fort.

The Fort is a depleted thing. Once a busy, thriving concern when the babies were small, now it's a ghost-Fort, with just three of us, my partner, my eldest daughter ( the youngest is thankfully too young to remember the Bad Old Days) and I, left to remember the battles, the troop movements, the no-go areas and all the ghastly fall-out that used to litter our path through the wreckage of a family life. Wind blows down the corridors, and litter gathers under the wheels of a rusting tricycle. These days, the Fort is surrounded by a land in which I have absolutely no wish to remain. So part of me is deeply envious of my ex-husband's escape bid. Part of me wishes that I'd been the one to move first. I heard, with a sinking heart, the real pain in my daughter's voice when she said - well at least you're not going to move away, Mum. 

Oh, but I so want to. All of me yearns to leave, to find an island or a highland place, far from aspects of our world that more and more I fail to understand or feel a part of. All of me wanting to leave but knowing that I can't. At least not yet. Not until eldest daughter has grown up and gone, and youngest daughter is old enough for a move not to be The End Of The World, Mum, how could you do this to MEEEEEEEE? 

So. I can't have freedom, yet. I'm stuck here in the Fort, holding the damn thing. Why am I holding this Fort? It's not as if it's in any danger of imminent invasion. The sentries have all gone to get different jobs, and there's not so much as a single pitchfork left with which to defend the battlements. But instead I find myself like a hamster in its wheel doing an endless repeat cycle ; a seemingly endless patrol round the sodding battlements, noting bloodstains here and there, observing how the buckets of pitch we drizzled over the heads of the incoming hordes of Visigoths ( or perhaps just tides of luvvies, thugs and assorted wags ) have left their indelible stain on the stonework. Patrolling the battlements of the ghost-Fort, vowing that nothing will drag me up to the airy attic room where the children's clothes are stored, interleaved with tissue and lavender, stored as if by preserving wool and cotton I can somehow, preserve and save them, my children.  The battlements are, in truth, a bloody chilly place to be on a dark autumn night. I'd far rather be downstairs with all of you, watching sparks rise up against the night sky ( the roof could use some repairs, I fear, but hey - it's a Fort and who among us can afford to repair a Fort-roof?) and sipping at a glass of whisky. 

So why am I out here? Because inside the Fort it's suffocating. Because out here, I can't see much beyond the yellow sodium lights of the cage I feel I'm in, but out here, at least I can feel the wind on my face and taste the rain. And besides, in truth, I'm not really back at the Fort yet. I'm here, in Shetland, removed from all this Drama going on back home. But...

But I have to go home soon. Back to the cage I built. Or Fort. Or whatever you want to call it. The life that hasn't fit for years. The absolute aching loneliness of years and years and years of waving, and smiling and trying to communicate. Of sending out a little signal into the darkness and waiting for an answering one in return. Thing is, here, in Shetland, there's a distinct possibility that I've picked up some answers to my signal. Faint ones, sure, but answers just the same. Given more time, I could explore each and every signal and who knows, maybe the darkness might recede a little. There is life, Captain, but perhaps not as we know it.

But I have to go home soon. And the signals will grow fainter and I'll tell myself that they weren't really answers after all, and the howling loneliness of the Fort will descend again, and night after night, I'll be up there on the battlements, peering out at the distant sodium lights and remembering what it felt like to live, albeit briefly, at sixty degrees North.

So. Yeah. Tonight's cheery little threnody has been brought to you courtesy of Dee-Eye-Vee-Oh, arse with orchestral accompaniment from the nice Mr Bowmore of Islay.

1 comment:

Mel said...

Well, you've certainly got the arse part of it right, though in my experience it's no happier having everything uprooted in an instant than being stuck tending the fort. At least not at first. Patience is often worth it in the end, though. Bide your time, make your plans, and when the time comes, run like hell for something better.