LOCHINCH CASTLE, STRANRAER, SCT
Cairnryan to Belfast ferry crossing
29th XI 2015
Full moon leaving Scotland, three nights in the chauffeur’s flat to get away from it all, to get away from everything else we’ve gotten away from. No Thanksgiving guests, no leftovers, no shopping or cell phone service. Another ferry crossing, probably a similar route plotted by King Henry VIII, pushing the Scots and Protestants into Northern Ireland to keep the Catholics at bay.
The flat, the quiet and contemplation are good for Dawn and me, our creativity, even the kids want to paint. We wander from room to room looking out the windows on the grounds watching for pheasants, clouds, storms coming in — and at night the moon gives everything a charmed, unsettled look.
Out walking earlier we’re stopped by the owner in his car who doesn’t recognise us as guests in the flat and asks, “Are you lost?,” – and being lost or exploring have the same look from the outside.
Dawn and I plan to come back some day when the kids have grown and we can stay a month and just write. We watch “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” with Jim Carrey as the evil Count Olaf, how fun he is to watch, he’s unlocked. Dawn is restarting a story she’s been drafting for a year or more but keeps going back to books to research it, says it’s like an acting teacher told her a long time ago, Until you realise you’re enough, you’ll never be happy on stage.
I take a walk on our last night — the moon makes everything look the way you’d think it would on a lonesome castle along the southwest coast of Scotland – and stand in the road with the trees and the wind looking up, scrawls of clouds, clouds of scrawls, looking for a sign from God that never comes, it’s locked inside.
We pass into Northern Ireland with no border control, greeted at our home for the next six nights by a family of three who’s brimming over with joy to welcome us, but a house so small you can’t all stand together in the same space without apologising or giving up ground (no, you first, please): and it’s an old brick row home with a coal stove in the sitting room the man shows me how to use, and the little room off the side by the back where they keep the coal bin, a bucket, some tools – and after we’re settled in I say I’m going out to the store, which I always do, and the weather turns like that, so much they’re all gesturing and making faces about it in the store, shaking their heads – and though we’re speaking English when they talk to me and I to them we don’t understand each other one bit – I look for beer and wine in the small store called Spar, the same one I first saw in the Austrian Alps (chains have a way of getting into every crack and crevice no matter where you are, pests), and I wander around the small store like a labyrinth, accosted by a short Asian man who looks part Albino or has bad burns around the eyes, says something like he works there or remarks on the weather, but I just laugh and turn away. I search for beer and wine on the edges of the store where they always put it to pretend it’s not there and this time it really isn’t, and I ask the cashier where I can get some and go a few storefronts down where they have to buzz me in like I’m seeing a call girl – and an old guy inside who’s paying points at me, laughs and says something to the others and they laugh back, and I have no idea what any of them just said and I might as well be in Germany.
In the morning I come downstairs at six to check the coals and it’s true, they’re still going, and I feed it, empty the ashes, put on some drone music and a candle, write, recall what Charlotte said to me in bed, she confided she’s sad, misses home, and it’s the goddamned Skype I think that does that to them, to see their friends and cousins in little boxes looking back, wondering how far away they are from one another when they seem so close on screen, how long until we return, and when?
I always pictured the chauffeur as a slender, taller man who ages well and lives alone, but here by the castle the flat is big enough he could have a family and be close enough to be called on by his master for any reason, to just drive.
Throughout the house they have little sayings in calligraphy on the wallpaper, on hand painted signs — sweet, reassuring things like, “It takes hands to build a house but only love can build a home.”
I would write, Until you realise you’re enough, you’ll never be happy on stage.
Post title HT to Echo & the Bunnymen, “Silver” from Ocean Rain, released 1984.