I’m not a Scot, my husband has Scots ancestry and we’ve been a couple of times and Edinburgh is a lovely city but that’s about it for Scotland except for Mr Burns. I really enjoy his poetry, it suits me, I hope he would forgive me if I say it is simple and clean and clear. It rhymes when it needs to and it is altogether to my taste. My Love is Like a Red Red Rose, Auld Lang Syne and even the one to the Haggis are well known the world over but my favourite has to be a little love poem that sings with passion and loyalty and long term love:-
I think it just lovely and it inspired this piece which is also on Shortbread Stories.
The mist spiralled and danced, swirling over the moor and across the burn. Marie dragged her shawl closer. It had been a dull, damp day, driech John would call it. Try as she might she couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that had grown during the last hours. He should be back by now, he shouldn’t have gone. “Don’t bother she had said, we can manage with the stuff we have here.” He would go though.
“Burns Night without Haggis, don’t be daft.” So, he had gone and now it was coming dark and he wasn’t back. The Land Rover was old and the roads were slick and she was afraid.
She had met him in London, her John, a big braw Scot, a little loud, a little rough but she had loved him from the start. She had been bowled over by his dark good looks and lust for life and they had been inseparable since soon after the first meeting.
When he asked her to marry him it had seemed the natural progression and when he wanted to move back “home” she had gone because she was his, truly, totally and completely. It was an old fashioned view but it suited them and she had never regretted it for a moment.
They had wonderful times, climbing, walking even skiing now and then. The outdoors were theirs, the heather, the glens and the wildlife had filled their existence with wonder. Their tiny cottage may be isolated but John was a ghillie how else could it be.
Oh where the hell was he. The sky was darkening rapidly now he should be back. Tears started to her eyes and a knot of fear gripped her stomach.
Struggling to keep her nerves in check she walked into the kitchen and started to prepare the rest of the food for their little celebration. “Bloody Haggis.” It was her fault, she had done the shopping and she could have picked one up from the supermarket but no she had to go and get “a better one” from the butcher and they weren’t ready and then she had forgotten to go back.
“Damn it!” she threw the vegetable knife into the sink where it clattered and bounced. Spinning round she grabbed her waterproof jacket and dragged her wool hat on.
She wouldn’t be silly she’d just walk up to the top of the rise and see if she could make out the headlights of the car down in the glen.
Within moments her face was dampened by the fog. She turned on her flashlight but the gleam was thrown back at her by the haze. She covered the short distance quickly, the long months of walking and climbing had strengthened her legs and back and she was steady and sure on the slick surface, taking care and using her ghillie stick to help her she climbed on. Now that she was taking action she felt her nerves calming and began to feel a little silly and hysterical. When he came back she wouldn’t tell John about this, he wouldn’t be impressed.
Up on the highest point she could see the dark branches of the pine trees looming through the gathering darkness. She stopped at the edge of the woods and peered downwards her eyes following the dark ribbon of the road, there was nothing approaching, no headlights as far as she could see.
With a great sigh she gathered herself for the walk back, Where the hell was he. He wouldn’t have gone to the pub, not when he knew she was waiting for him. They went together when they went out. Joined at the hip people mocked but they didn’t care, they loved each other.
Far down in the glen, more than a mile away there was something, just not right. Something, she screwed up her eyes with the effort to see, something not right. A light, not bright, not moving but a small glow in a place where there should be nothing but heather and bracken.
A chill swept her, a horrible premonition filled her mind and her world froze in the fear. With no more hesitation she started to walk. The distant glow disappeared with the dips and hollows in the road but each time she breasted a rise it was still there. On and on she went through the gloom and the darkness, her breath clouding before her face and rasping loud in her ears. Her legs pounded relentlessly through the growing night and her heart thudded in her chest as the fear grew. This was wrong, something was terribly wrong she knew it as clearly as she knew her own name.
The tears trickling unheeded from her eyes chilled her cheeks and the unconscious sobbing took her precious breath making the physical effort harder.
She needed the torch now, the dark was complete but the mist was thick and she had to shine the light down onto the road where it flashed on her shoes as they hurried on towards the light in the valley.
When she saw the outline of the old car tipped and upended in the ditch she cried out “John, Oh God no, John.” She slipped and slithered down the bank clinging to the flashlight, shining it around her. The smell of fuel was strong in the air and the heat from the engine had scorched the grass leaving the smell of burning terrifyingly strong. “John, John.”
The driver’s side door was underneath the wreck but the passenger door had been flung back against the bodywork. Her head shot from side to side, back and forth following the beam of the torch, “John, John.” Then she heard it.
A groan, “Heather, is that you. Can you help me?”
“John, where are you. I can’t see you.”
“Here, over here shine the torch towards the back of the car.” She did and there he was sitting on the side of the bank his head down turned slightly towards her. She scrambled to him slipping and sliding on the wet grass. She threw her arms around him. He was wet and he was smelly and he was shaking with shock and she held him to her and stroked the hair back from his brow and she cried.
“I’m sorry love, I’m sorry. I blew a tyre and the bloody car slid off the road. I’m sorry. Don’t cry, I’m okay, I’m okay.”
“Oh John, I thought I’d lost you. I thought you’d gone without me. I was so scared.”
“Gone without you, don’t be daft. You and me together till we’re old and grey, yeah.” His work hardened hands cupped her cheeks and his cold quivering lips found hers. “Till we’re old and grey, yeah.”
“Yeah. I love you John, I really, really love you.”
“Oh by the way, I got the haggis!!!”
In spite of it all they laughed, a little shakily, a little hysterically but they clung to each other in the dark and the fog and they warmed each other with their love.
John Anderson, My Jo