I am a routinous person. And many of those routines border on rituals. I have rituals when I walk. I choose to walk past the two bakeries in town so that I can catch the delicious smell of baking bread as I go past, I go up the hill past Alexandra Hall or cut through the Prom, alternating the choice, I stop at the end of the Perygyl and stare out to sea and I stop just below the Castle, by the hydrangeas, just for a few minutes to slow my breath and feel my feet on the ground. I like the silence, I like to hear the hum of the generator by the public toilets and to see if the lights are on in St Michael’s. It’s like a kind of mapping, but it also eggs me on as I move from landmark to landmark.
I got ready to stop beneath the Castle this morning when I heard barking. It was pitch black and I couldn’t see where it was coming from. A dog, clearly. Then a man’s voice. I gave up any ideas of standing still and continue walking. The man with the dog was ahead of me. The dog was still growling. The growling increased as I near. The man was young with a large set of headphones clamped to his head. He called the dog to him. Was he saying shut up? And again. Then the dog, a sizeable black, hairy, rather non-descript mongrel promptly leapt into his arms. The man stood there cradling him as I walked by. The Angel and the Why Not? were open. A few stragglers hung around underneath the town clock. A girl in a black and white striped satin sleeveless top stood before a group of people. I wish, I wish, she was saying, well stating. She shouted rather than spoke clearly vying for attention. There’s no place like home, she continued. And again, there’s no place like home. Then I heard her say, who said that?
I think about notions of home.
I found one, I told him in the car on the way back from work. I found a house in the Shetlands that I could afford. I need this, I tell him, or did I just think I told him? It’s a fantasy, I know this. The house is a mean little thing, cluttered and probably badly put together. But just for a while I think about making it mine. Everything just so, just as I wish it to be. Shall I buy it and make it mine, for later? And yet, such an action would go against my principles. Houses should be lived in. I am troubled by the idea of second homes and the impact they have on communities. Communities, particularly small ones like the ones up there, need people. A white, uncluttered space away from work, from difficult relationships, time to be, to unravel and put myself back together again. Shall I do it?
Shall it be my secret?