I don't know if you remember the letter I sent earlier this summer to the distinguished writer Robert Macfarlane, complaining that I had been unwalked in Torridon all weekend because Gail was so engrossed in his book 'The Old Ways'.
Well yesterday I received, via Gail's email account, this wonderful, beautiful reply.
You were benevolent enough to write a brilliantly bouncy letter to me back on Bloomsday, the beginning of the summer. You must have thought me quite the curmudgeon, though, or at least a sniffy snob (an Afghan Hound?) when no reply came. Well, I'm afraid that I lack the energy of a three-year-old wire-haired terrier. In fact, I lack the energy of an AA-battery that's been on torch-duty for a decade. The reason, you see, is that I became a father again for the third time late last year, and our lovely little boy Will came into the world, and turned it upside-down. He remains convinced that sleeping at night is for ninnies, and prefers to keep vampire hours. I have become an explorer-in-residence, rarely getting further than the corner-shop (which sells, incidentally, so I'm told, dog biscuits of an unusually high grade). Though, in fact, things are easing just a touch now, such that last week I left home for a few days for the first time since last November, and travelled up to the Cairngorms, and spent some time up there on the plateau. The mountains obliged with a parade of miracles: golden eagles above Lurcher's Crag, wild geese flying south through the Lairig Ghru, a parhelion or sundog (yes, I thought you'd like that nickname for this phenomenon) at dusk, a moonbow in mist at night, and temperatures on the tops so warm that I could sleep out without even a tent at 4000 feet, just below the summit of Braeriarch, where the springs rise from the granite that are the true source of the Dee, the river near whose banks, many miles to the east, you and Gail live. And so, at last, I also have a chance to reply to you, to thank you for your letter, to convince you that I am no high-and-mighty-hound, and to apologise for the fact that Gail took such pleasure in my book The Old Ways that she spent the weekend inside, reading about the outside, and so you went unwalked (unbounced)! Naturally, I was thrilled to learn of Gail's reaction to my book, but the thrill carried, well, a dark and powerful undertow of guilt at the knowledge of your supine two days. I trust there has been bings of bouncing since then. It is mighty kind of you to invite me to your cottage on Loch Torridon. I could see the Torridonian hills over a sea of cloud from the summit of Braeriarch near sunset; I haven't been there for more than a decade now. So - if I come north-west, I will delightedly take you up on your very kind offer, and learn a little more about what it means to walk in canine company. Bless you, Bertie! All the very best from the flatlands of Cambridgeshire,
Holloway', no matter that it is still not available in paperback!
You know, we are down in the relative flatlands of Nottingham this weekend, and the situation with the human grandparents is difficult, and this message from one of the writers Gail admires most has lifted spirits no end.
Wouldn't it be just brilliant to meet and walk with Dr Macfarlane in Torridon one of these days....