Friday 26 October 2012
Behind me I saw a group of older folk climbing the steep cliff path. The women, eyes glaucous with fear, faces etched with weariness; the men, possibly fuelled with a heady mixture of Valium and Nat Trust bee wine, bore grins of mad schoolboy excitement. I stood aside on the inside of the track, lest one of them suddenly clutch at me and drag me over the edge. It also gave me a chance to rest and breathe deeply to control my impending panic attack.
When they had passed it left me with little choice but to continue. My mind was still racing with worst case scenarios of plunging to my death through some fault line in the path that could mysteriously appear at any moment. I was already mentally writing my obituary and hearing the will reading. Of course the world would be a lesser place without me and they would be outraged on my behalf because the sign about possible subsidence had been removed by vandals the week before.
The scene arose before my eyes.
"Did he leave any last words?"
Solicitor, "Er yes," – clearing his throat – "Eaaaagaaaroooooghhhh!"
The imaginary cry brought me back with a jolt to the cliff path and I noticed my partner further up pointing to some wild flowers. I could hardly hear her above the wind, or maybe I was choosing not to. My selective deafness had always been a handy defence against her instructions. Her gesticulations and general pointing was suggesting I photograph the flowers for her. I could immediately see that meant I would have to clamber down into a niche below the path.
I was aghast. "But their roots are anchored at least inches, perhaps feet into the cliff; I, however, am balanced on top of it. In THIS wind?!" To emphasise the wind and my terror, the neck flap of my anorak gave me a stinging slap on the ear, followed swiftly by a volley. I struggled savagely to clip it in. A desperate move as I had to temporarily release my white-knuckle grip on my trekking poles (all right walking sticks).
Then the cliff scene suddenly became a metaphor for my whole life. Blown around, terrorised, waiting for fault lines to swallow me. The wild flowers drew me in and as I leant forward towards them I heard a shout `oh bugga` through the wind as she fell from the cliff.
© Liz Redfern
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