The last three days have been full of farewells : to the children I've been working with for the past six weeks ; to the friends I've made ; to colleagues I've worked with and lastly, to this magical place. I'm saving my final goodbye for Shetland itself, for the land, for the shore and for the sea. Tomorrow, if there's time after I've packed, I'll take myself somewhere beautiful and say thankyou. Just Shetland and me without anything or anyone in between.
Leaving is very odd. I guess because I've looked forward to doing this residency here for so long, I'm wondering how life-after-Shetland will be. After all, I won't have it to look forward to any more. Being here has exceeded my expectations, but also has been utterly consonant with what I'd hoped I might find. Does that make sense?
One of the best things that I've found here is people who have said exactly what lies in their hearts. People who have opened up and let me in. To be allowed to share in the secret territory of another human heart is a gift. For this, and for many hours of laughter, conversation and occasional silences as comforting as a feather sofa, thankyou.
Saying goodbye to the two classes of children with whom I've shared six intense weeks of work was emotionally rigorous. My P7 class at Brae Primary had all collaborated on a book which they gave to me on my last day, and insisted that I read out loud to them. I got as far as page two and my voice went all squeaky and to my horror, I began to cry. Far from embarassing my children, my leaky, snuffly, squeaky metamorphosis seemed to delight them, and they became even kinder, even more honest and loving. I will miss them enormously - I can see their faces in my mind as I write. The next day brought more tears as I said goodbye to another class of P7's, this time at Scalloway primary school. Again, my shift into sniffling, voice-wobbling tearfulness seemed to amaze and delight them.
And I have to tell you that I'm now the proud possessor of more chocolate than I can eat in a year.
Later, Noelle and I were the entire cast of the Culture Club show on BBC Radio Shetland - one hour of 'magazine' format radio, with the pair of us having a blether on the airwaves, hopefully sounding as relaxed as if it was one of our many heart-to-hearts and chats which have whiled away the miles as we trekked hither and yon across Shetland and over to Fair Isle. Except, thankfully, without any Holy Fuuuuck moments like we had when our tiny airplane appeared to launch itself straight off a cliff into the sea on departure from Fair Isle. Frankly, it was the only thing to say under the circumstances. Trust me, you'd've said something similiar.
However, for this broadcast, Noelle and I were models of maidenly decorum.
Well, she was, anyway. I vaguely recall muttering something about writing children's books because I'd also tried to write adult novels and found myself completely unable to get my characters across the threshold of the bedroom and in between the sheets because language, for once, failed me. He put his...she felt her...they....nope, can't do it. You can hear us courtesy of the Beeb's listen again service which will stream us straight to your computer for one calendar week after broadcast. Then it gets consigned to oblivion.
So I'm here, in the dark, with the sea slapping at the wall outside my little shed, thinking that this is probably the last time I'll live quite so close to water. Tonight, when I came back home my spirits were heading into the fold-up-your-tray-tables-and -prepare-for-landing-mode but when I opened the big windows onto the sea, a seal's head broke the surface of the water only ten feet away from where I stood. The appearance of the Wild in the middle of my 21st century fit of the blues was exactly what was required to lift my mood.
Bye, bye seal.