United Kingdom

Senior Peer Reviewer: Former Write the World young writer, now mentoring other WtW young writers through peer reviews


August 25, 2018

We've never been ones for planning. We're notorious for it in our extended family - we still haven't lived down the time we led the whole group, baby and all, on a 19-mile walk because we spontaneously took a different path from the car park and got more than a little lost. We don't live by reason when we don't have to.

It bothers me sometimes. For a scatterbrain, I'm fairly obsessive and the result is a mess of underplanning and overthinking which results in midnight essay sessions and lying awake thinking about everything I need to get done whilst actually achieving very little. So my family's carefree attitude doesn't always sit right with me - it unsettles me to be so completely nonchalant about things that have such potential for stress.

Too often you feel you are juggling, spinning through life, clutching fragments close to your chest in the desperate conviction that the smallest crack could topple everything you have built into dust. You can't slow down, can't let up, can't breathe. It's hard to look up and open your arms, smiling as tendrils drift away beneath your fingertips and take their screaming with them. To realise where you are, and how far you've come. To gaze into a silent, tentative sky. I've never been good at letting go. It's too easy to cling and not notice the white of your knuckles and the dull throbbing of your fingers.

But we're a family of wingers, of let's see what happens, of we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, and our holidays are no exception. While the rest of the families staying with us in Skye get up at the crack of dawn, setting of on pre-planned walks with lunches in little bags and hiking gear packed meticulously into Karrimor sacks the night before, we throw a heap of coats into the car, jump in and speed off down the main road, blasting Zac Brown Band at an outrageous volume and stopping at odd points to clamber out and explore the rolling slopes.

There is a thrill, even in such a small thing. It is a childish sense of the wild road ahead and the comfort of your family, your first home, around you. You are suddenly 4 and the world is make-believe: landscapes and obstacles are created as you encounter them and disperse once you tire of the game; the future is but a vivid, infinite expanse; a world of spreadsheets and folders but a  distant dream.

It is New Year's Day, and a strange mix of stinging mountain wind and roaring sun has left the ground crisp and vibrant underfoot. The night before has been spent in a happy haze, wine and Ceilidh dancing and games leaking into heady darkness, where we drifted, singing Auld Lang Syne under the flickering stars;  before embraces and tears and finally, as colour bled back into the shivering Scottish skies, bed. Resolutions have been made and broken and there is a sense of magic in the air that only comes from the start of something fresh and bright. The feeling that this time, for certain, things are going to change.

In time we see a sign to Neist Point, the lighthouse at the very tip of the island. Naturally, it becomes our instant goal. We seem to like heading to the furthest point - Prevlaka in Croatia, Skagen in Denmark. Perhaps it's the feeling of being on the very edge of the world, aware at once of both your magnitude and insignificance. Of being completely away from all that is unnatural, and immersed in the rush of the waves and the elegant sweeping of sea over land and heaven over earth.

Or perhaps the very top of the country just makes for good views.

After a spot of trouble with a herd of sheep on the road and an understandably agitated farmer, we laugh our way to the top of a ridge and park. Piling on layers against the bitter winter air, we step onto the glowing peninsula. The path is alight and steeped in thick golden fog, and as we stride towards the lighthouse the sky takes on a dizzy quality that makes my head spin, blending fuzzy silhouettes into the growing darkness.

And then the wind whips and we're running, sun-bronzed skin and bright eyes and the taste of salt on our tongues. Hair crackles with electricity and fire tingles somewhere between our minds and our mouths, moulding giggles which burst from burning lips. We are tossed between crags, rag dolls in purple cagoules and outdated hiking boots. Our cries paint the soft earth with emerald and streak the gentle waves into a joyous frenzy. The world has never felt so alive, so tingling with absolute energy and existence. This is soaring, sighing, unrestrained. This is reason gone mad. And here, now, I am perfect. We are perfect. This is perfect.

Afterwards, we sit in a line by the lighthouse, the five of us, feet swinging off into the oblivion of the ocean below. Happy families. Our hair still stands straight and silly on our heads from the wind and our eyes are dazzled. The last, aching rays of the sun dip below a sleepy horizon. Soon we have to walk back in darkness, stumbling over rocks and holding one another. We will recount this story in one hundred different ways, growing more extreme with each telling. Then we will return, to exams and work and thought, to parties and sense and the gentle mundanity of home. But for now, this is for us. Our time. This is doing, not thinking.

I breathe into the lilting evening air, the air of a new year, and smile. Logic is as fragile as glass. To live for moments... is to live forever.

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