After a pretty chunky sabbatical, the Sunday blog is back! Today Nichol is talking to Chad, who said…
I’d love to meet Nichol and ask him how the farm was going; to find out how he was doing without his Granda and whether he and Archie were still friends; whether his Cameron was still sculpting, and whether they ever got to meet the Basque gardner 😉 I’m really looking forward to hearing from Nichol about his progress on his PhD – I don’t envy him having to do it by distance.
You know, I did have a week or so when I almost thought of giving it all up, grabbing Cameron and running away? It was January, and cold enough to freeze the bollocks off our best Leodhas ram. I’d had another dose of flu and got behind on my dissertation, so Cam had had to go off on his own to the mainland to sort out a new winter-feed supplier. As soon as he’d left, half the farmhands had gone down with a worse flu than mine, so instead of shedding brilliant new light on Brythonic-language syntax, I was running ragged round the fields with Gyp, Floss and Vixen (who at least now consented to work with me, though I’d never perfected Harry’s semi-mystical system of whistle-commands), preventing our herd of pregnant ewes from slithering into snowdrifts and off the clifftops. And, despite our best DIY efforts with the old house the year before, we hadn’t got around to loft insulation, and just before midnight on one grim and sleet-lashed night, the pipe above the kitchen burst, spraying freezing water through a crack in the ceiling, shorting out the internet, my laptop, and the few pathetic paragraphs I’d managed to squeeze out of my aching head. So when Cam arrived home, he found me up a stepladder, soaked, sneezing, swearing the game wasn’t worth the candle and I’d damn well sell up, sacred Seacliff traditions and all, because why in God’s name would any sane man ever live such a way in the 21st century?
But the fact was that Cam had taken the last ferry home through heaving seas, and tackled drifts and black ice all the way from Brodick to get back a day early. He walked in like a miracle, hoisted me down off my ladder, and I held out for about thirty seconds, assuring him I was okay and had everything in hand, before dropping like a snotty avalanche into his arms. Once he’d duct-taped the pipe, checked on the ewes in the barns and set the laptop and modem to dry out gently on a rack over the Aga, he sat down with me, and asked me – because he always listens, even when I’m just blowing off steam and frustration – if I’d been serious. If I wanted to keep our life here for its own sake and for ours, or if Harry was throwing a longer shadow over me in death than he had in life.
Because I wasn’t doing quite all right without the old man, and Cam knew. Neither of us was, though we’d done all the things we should – made our donations to the British Heart Foundation, cleared out Harry’s wardrobe for charity, even drained that damn lochan and sown wildflowers there, my mum’s ghost flickering around the edges of perception, helping the seeds to thrive. We both knew there was a danger that we’d end up running the Harry Seacliff Memorial Farmstead for sheer baffled love of him, even if that was no longer in our own best interests. And unlike me, Cameron has the emotional balls to come out and say all these things, and at that moment I was able to admit, fully and maybe for the first time, how big a hole the old man’s death had punched in me. Cam got into the fireside armchair with me, tipped the rest of the hot whisky toddy he’d made for me right down my throat, took me into his arms and let me cry like a toddler banshee over it all.
We were better after that – both of us, though all poor Cam had got out of the deal was seasickness and a damp sweater. Archie and Shona were banging on the front door at first light, shovels in hand, stand-in farm lads waiting in the Land Rover. Their romance was well established by that point, although Shona mostly showed it by vigorous denial. As for me and Archie – not many friendships could have come out of our debacle intact, and ours wasn’t, but in its own banged-up way, it was pretty indestructible. And yes, my Cam is still sculpting. Once we’d fought through that day and a couple more tough ones, once the pipes were fixed, the winter feed delivered and the whole Memorial Farmstead dragged back onto even keel, I followed the clatter of a sledgehammer on steel to find my brave, lovely lad in floods of tears himself, having finally brought out the bits of the tractor we’d found down in that drained lochan and begun his next and most extraordinary piece of work.
What was it? I’ll leave that for another tale, but suffice to say, between the plantation money he’d found for us and his gallery sales (our scary lady from Birmingham really came through), we were afloat. And January loosed its bitter grip, and soon after that we were celebrating an anniversary – the date of his arrival, when he’d come to me out of the storm, with the wind and the hail and first of the springtime lambs. We’d made all kinds of plans, but ended up in the room where he’d once imprisoned us both, the door only locked against wandering sheepdogs and farmhands this time. By nightfall, we’d decided that nothing would part us from Seacliff. That life on the island was a beautiful struggle, and in each other’s arms, that fight became a dance, and a dance neither of us ever wanted to end.
Having said that, I should also get the hell away from it for the residential Easter and summer weeks now available for PhD students in Edinburgh, because Chad is right – taking those courses by distance is gruelling, and sometimes you just need to sit and chat about lexical-functional grammar face-to-face. We’d arrange with Shona and Archie to cover the farm, as we did theirs when Archie could lure her away for dissipations in Glasgow, and Cam could come and meet me for a long, wild weekend of luxury hotels and gay nightclub bump-and-grind, like normal human beings.
Which brings me (kind of) to the holiday we had in the Pyrenees, and that Basque gardener…
But that, too, is a story for another time.
Those were some great questions, Chad. Thank you very much. Next Sunday we’re off to Newcastle for CT Green, who said she’d like to meet…
Aaron from Life After Joe – he was such a calm, but incredibly charismatic character – the line about it not making the pain go away…oh, that just gets me every time! Plus this was the first of your books I read, so it’s a sentimental favourite. ❤
Thank you, CT! Aaron will look forward to talking to you.