Mark McDonnell remembers a meeting


Here we are on this sloping ground amongst the pine trees. Low cloud ingests the mountain tops. You, oblivious to the scree and the roots, the rivulets and the mud, in your usual black town shoes and a raincoat. In my waterproofs and walking boots I feel almost protective of you; short, white-haired. I smelled your pipe amongst the pines, espied you amongst the mountain ash. I’m glad you came over to talk. I suppose you know North Wales? Came out from Liverpool in your youth to tackle the Horseshoe, Crib Gogh? I glance sideways at you with your hands in your raincoat pockets, white stubble on your chin. In recent years we have hugged more. You are talking of Owen Glyndwr, Edward I building castles to keep the Welsh down. Your epic, from terraced house to Oxford First is engrained in me. It’s how we always talk. History is always our currency. Anything more direct would be labelled “maudlin”. People don’t love; they are “fond of each other”. Your smooth soles slip a little on the wet stones by the lake. I go to take your arm. That head with the same hair as mine, between my head and my son’s. Your other sons and grandsons at your sides and at your feet to guide you from the altar to the earth. I suppose it’s the only time you carry your father or grandfather. When you carried me proud up on your shoulders your wavy brown hair was a horse’s mane. You would easily have convinced me, once, that there were bears in these woods. We would have stepped silently and been hunters together.

* Mark McDonnell worked in Miami, Barcelona and Cambridge in (legal) drugs. Write on planes and trains; love languages (Chinese at the moment).

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