Wine glass

Edwardian. Such delicate glass and perfect shape, on a slender stem. Subtle engraved patterns, like translucent petals or leaves. Honesty?

They belonged to Mum’s great-grandfather, and yet we use them daily – what point in having beautiful things if they’re just locked away?

The stem is smooth, and almost too delicate to grip. The glass lip also – will it cut mine? Is it actually sharp? I overcome hesitation, led on by the melon and ginseng exoticness of Aqua Libra. The fizz gathers in a central column up from the bottom of the glass – breath bubbles from some invisible diver.

“Is there another bottle?” asks Mum – still good-naturedly, yet somewhat slurred.

Dad gets up and retrieves it from its warming-place at the back of the hob. Slitting off the maroon foil seal, gripping the brass corkscrew in place while twisting the tap-like handle. No levers to help. The bottle held between thighs, and elbow grease to heave the cork out. No spillage.

More wine, more wine. Discussion turns to argument turns to sourness. The tension builds.

Later, Alice and Mum wash the dishes, swilling the perfect glasses clean with scalding water, and placing them, up-ended, on a tea towel to dry. Ineffective – a steamy mist condenses inside each delicate bowl.

Crash.

The roasting tin slides down from the drying rack, reducing four glasses to crushed shards. A moment’s silent denial, and then both Alice and Mum turn away, in shuddering, silent tears.

Something is broken that can never be mended, and never replaced.

Kestrel

“Look! You can see how it just flickers its wings for a brief moment, and then hovers. It’s a kestrel!”

As the car continues, I twist and crane my neck to keep it in view.

“They’re slightly reddish in colour, though against the light perhaps you can’t see. There it goes!”

Closing its wings, it plummets to the ground. Moments later, it flaps heavily off to a location more distant from the road.

“I think it’s got something! Look how much slower it is now.”

The car rounds the bend, and the kestrel and its prey vanish behind a heather-clad cutting.

Sparrowhawk is something else. Sitting in the living room, face steaming with the healing vapours of thick cocoa, I gaze out at the snow. On the multi-headed bird feeder – more like a tree – they’re busy. Great tits, blue tits, chaffinches. Blackbirds and dunnets on the ground, gathering up the crumbs from under thy table.

Suddenly, a great scatter. They explode in all directions, like a silent, feathery firework.

Bang! Something hits the window glass.

Looking out, I see a pitiful small corpse. A chaffinch, so dusty-grey pink in its fine breast feathers, lies in the snow.

We pull on wellies and go round to the now deserted terrace. Picking up her frail warm form, cradling it in my hands.

“She may be OK still. Bring her inside in the warm.”

Inside, in a shoebox, sentinels warding off the cat, the fragile bird gradually comes round.

Sand

The seabed is so pale – wave-rippled sand – just a few feet below us. Dad directs a course across the bay, paddling far out from the beach. The waves are getting quite large, and with each, the aluminium of the canoe shunks as we land, spray spraying from the bow.

Mum shifts nervously. “Is it really safe?”

“Oh, it’s OK.” says Dad, looking serious but calm. He eyes the shore, the headland and the horizon, grips the paddle a little more tightly, and smiles. This is a moment to savour.

Shunk… Shunk… 

Yet bigger waves. From my cross-leggedness on the red cushion, I grip the gunwales and just love. Alice and Lena are there too. We’re like peas in an open pod, the five of us – and a cool box.

It’s shallowing now, and the water’s paler, losing the deeper turquoise and fading to clear. Sunlight refracts and dances on the sinuously rippled sand. We can hear and see the waves hissing onto the beach.

“When we beach, can you just jump out and start to drag us up?” says Dad.

Lena and I ready ourselves.

The metal hull slides and scrapes over the shell sand, and we jump out on either side.

Curlew

Dad wakes me with a whisper and a touch. The house is still dark and silent. I feel for my clothes on the floor, and pull them twistedly on. Down the stairs without avoiding the habitual creaks of talkative ash steps.

“Are you ready?” he whispers.

I’m lacing shoes, but nod. His keys rattle and the door thuds open.

The roads from Peebles to Moffat are laced with rivers wraithed with mist in the half-light. The waking world sings silently. As the car slowly warms, I’m in a dream, in wonder. I hardly knew this half of the day exists.

It’s a long and winding road.

We pull off onto a track that extends, unwaveringly straight, out onto the moors. Dad slows the pace, easing over ruts and potholes. At the white caravan, his student’s girlfriend offers hot coffee and divine tablet.