Today never reached full daylight, it was always dimmed, what light there was, filtered through some unimaginably tinted screen pinned to the sky.
I studied the sky on the bus north. The nearer, narrow clouds, bulging slightly in the middle, then tapering a little at both ends, like reluctant-to-grow cucumbers, were stubbornly deep-grey. Higher clouds thinned out and flattened, were silver-leaf but any light they reflected was absorbed by the rotund cucumbers, dark and immobile.
The beach at St. Andrews, on the east coast of Scotland, was busy. Commemorative silhouettes were drawn in the sand. Names were written alongside some of them. Also a sand-drawn image of Elsie Inglis.
There used to be a hospital in Edinburgh named after her. One of my extended family was born there. It was closed down, decades ago – or transformed into something else. At any rate, the name of that pioneering woman should never have been erased. But it was.
(You can see more images on beaches here)
I walk along the beach. Briefly, the sky shows patches of pale and lustrous blue. The waves are small and faraway. A stretch of wet sand reflects light.
Walking back, it begins to rain, at first just a little, then gets heavier. Thick rain, but I feel lighter. The sky gets darker and I get wetter and I walk through the town, buy a coffee; its taste has only a tenuous relationship with that of coffee. (But my standards are very exacting.)
And the long bus ride home. Tree colours are bright yellow, like ripe lemons, near-neon. Now the sky on the horizon has splashes of blue and silver.
It isn’t daylight though, not real sun-suffused light. It never has been all this grey-long, rain-spattered day.
I feel lighter though, as if I’m now moving downhill, as if I’ve drunk the water and supplies I brought with me and my load is lighter. The trees we pass, if not golden yellow, are pulsating orange. Heading south is definitely to go downhill. Everything now – air, sky, objects – is suffused with that ochre yellow glow you sometimes get late afternoon in winter, on days that never truly get light, there are not enough hours when the sun is showing, for them to fulfil their light-potential. But sometimes when the sun rests on the horizon it shoots light through the clouds and air and breathes a fiery glow onto everything. It isn’t daylight and it never has been. Not today. It’s been like a smoky grainy reflection seen in an old mirror. But the colours! – rust-red, eggshell-blue, sunflower yellow. Clouds lit from within like nascent candles – opaque bodies each guarding and reflecting an inner flame.
I feel lighter as we roll downhill, heading south to that blue on the horizon.