My husband and I sometimes play a game called “Anywhere But Here”. The aim of the game is to think of a place you’d rather be, and describe it to your partner in as much rich detail as you can muster. Details should be sensory – in fact, the more senses you can engage in the description, the better.
I recently invited Facebook friends on a group to play it with me, and it led to me sharing a memory of my favourite place in the world. I’d like to share it here, too. Apologies to those of you who have already seen it.
I’m at Hole-In-The Wall on the Wild Coast. It’s been raining for days and the tiny streams are starting to flow down the hills and over the rocks into the beach, like silver tears across nature’s face. The beach is criss-crossed with the tracks of snails left behind by the ebbing tide and white foam, glistening with seaweed.
I can see whales out in the bay, breaching and cavorting. The gulls are making a mad hue and cry because the early fishermen are cleaning their catches on the rocks and throwing the innards upwards where the birds are snatching them on the wing.
I’m drinking coffee, cooked on the Aga and there is home made bread in the oven. The scent of bread and coffee is offset by the tang of salt from the ocean and the rain, the rain which keeps falling on the tin roof, and flowing down the window panes.
There are horses grazing in the garden,wild colts which roam the moors until they’re old enough to be caught and backed, before they’re driven intothe ocean by young men on foot, carrying long sticks, and ridden by a grinning youngster in shorts, barefoot, no hat, who will drive the horse deeper, deeper, until it can no longer stand, and then swim it through breaking waves, while it rolls its eyes and screams in fear, and thrashes, before submitting, exhausted, and he can return, triumphant, to his friends. That horse is now his, for life.
But for now, these skittish colts are wild and unrideable and there is something about them which calls to me. If I step out in the dawn, bread in hand,and whisper soft words, they will come to me, nuzzling velvet lips on my palm and letting me comb my fingers through their ratty manes. Sometimes, when I was younger, I would ask a child from the village if I could ride his horse and he would appear at my window before sun-up, whispering “Ntombazane! Ntombazane! Ufuna’hashe? ” and I would gallop it on the beach, wearing nothing but pj’s and a wild grin. I smile as I remember those mornings, and feel a little sad inside that I’m no longer that young or reckless.
I can hear Xhosa songs sung by the ladies working on the beach, collecting mussels to sell to tourists. Not many tourists left, they became fed up with the weather and went back inland. I don’t care. I like it when it’s winter, when I can walk the beach at midnight in my nightgown and the only strangers I meet are the wild horses or perhaps some cattle, and the only sound I hear is the whisper of promise that the ocean makes “I’m here, I’ll always be here”
I go to wake Jaime and Roderick. I know they’ll complain about the rain and I’ll feel sad that they don’t see what I do, can’t love it as I do, and I’ll leave them to their books and movies while I walk the moors, black mud sticking to my feet as I try to find a glimpse of the wild child I somehow left behind her, so long ago.