So, Isabelle, we are going home.
As soon as it was out there, the possibility of it, we stopped thinking of the flat here as any more than its (nicely decorated) four walls. Linlithgow has been, for nearly two and a half years, a necessary bolthole, a place to reflect, to evaluate and to heal. It has has brought me work - and a sense of achievement again.
It has been a place of happiness, history lessons and many walks; a between-cities town with almost a countryside feel. There are a number of places we should say goodbye to - the Canal, Cockleroy, The Forth Rail Bridge, The Falkirk Wheel, The Loch, The Palace. Maybe now that we are leaving we might finally remember the order of monarchs and regents. It has been a proper beginning for us and a necessary escape from upset.
There have been many tears here too. I hadn't read the paragraph in the life book that said it could be this hard to leave people you loved. During the first few months here, I frequently howled like a dog, in the car on the way to school, and would imagine myself just switching off, shutting down, letting the car drift, wishing for something else to take over. If the next car is blue I will close my eyes and drive. If the next car is red I will put my foot on the accelerator. I wouldn't actually do that, involve someone else, but I willed someone else to just put a stop to all the howling.
I am not looking for sympathy. It was my choice. At all times I was aware that it was worse for Ian and Katrina. Ian was also contemplating just giving up at the beginning of our separation. I drove him to think those thoughts. I do not forgive myself for hurting them both like this. That they can forgive us puts them even higher in my esteem.
I spoke to two friends just after Ian had asked why didn't we go back to live in Applecross. One advised us to think properly, think about whether it would make everybody happy, and whether we would have enough money to get by, enough interests to occupy ourselves with. The other said he would go in a heartbeat. They both know me well enough to know what I would choose. Isabelle needed slightly longer. She is concerned about upsetting her Ex more than we have already. She is moving further away from her daughter. Her (french) family will have further to travel to see us. She is more of a worrier when it comes to uncertainty - and there is plenty of it. But she too is so happy to be going back.
And so, without clear plans of work or where to live, we are just about ready to put the flat on the market. Our first valuation was yesterday and the agent was optimistic of a quick sale. I will put my name on the supply teaching list; there is a possibility that I might become a registered childminder; there is an online proofreading course I am interested in; maybe someone will want piano lessons from me; and there may be holiday homes that require a cleaner. Isabelle is hoping for outdoor work. Linlithgow has not fulfilled this need. She dreams of the path-making that she had to leave behind. She will certainly get some work from Ian, woodcutting. We will be less well off for sure, financially, but richer in other ways.
The insightful Mr Minchin would wholeheartedly encourage us to embrace this, it being what we know we want to do. I love his thoughts about how to live.
'I am no nihilist. I am not even a cynic. I am, actually, rather romantic. And here’s my idea of romance:
You will soon be dead. Life will sometimes seem long and tough and, god, it’s tiring. And you will sometimes be happy and sometimes sad. And then you’ll be old. And then you’ll be dead.
There is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence, and that is: fill it.......
And in my opinion (until I change it), life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can, taking pride in whatever you’re doing, having compassion, sharing ideas, running(!), being enthusiastic. And then there’s love, and travel, and wine, and sex, and art, and kids, and giving, and mountain climbing … but you know all that stuff already.
It’s an incredibly exciting thing, this one, meaningless life of yours. Good luck.'
Not everybody's cup of tea, for us going to Applecross ensures a filled life. We are currently waking at 3am now and sometimes chatting until 5 or 6am, animated, giddy thoughts. Ian is keen for us to help him croft. We are imagining pigs, potatoes, hens and a cat. A house in the woods or a cabin near the shore. There might have to be a caravan for some of the time. There will be love. Ian has made it possible for us to both be part of his family, and he ours. There will be ideas. Art and music. Wine, of course, and, yes Tim, sex. There will be Mountains. And there will be MY GIRL. And having travelled up to Applecross so often, we now realise that the drive out to visit friends and family in Edinburgh, Glasgow and further afield, is not impossible.
It is incredibly exciting. And I am happier than I deserve to be.