The Long Way Round

I’m in Eastern Europe.

This is what Lord Byron said about where I am, ‘At the birth of our planet, the most beautiful encounter between the land and the sea must have happened at the coast of Montenegro. When the pearls of nature were sown, handfuls of them were cast on this soil.’

This is where mountains soar and then dive into icy waters that are inky for their depth.

When I swim, now, here, mid June, before the summer has begun to take winter’s brittle edge off, I must swim fast, grazing the surface as lightly as I can. I picture a lily trotter and laugh. If my limbs dip too low, they are pinched by cold. But the glow that warms my body when I step to the shore to wrap myself in a sun-warmed towel is addictive; I go back for more.

I’m on my way to spend time with mum. But I must dance through Covid hoops, skirting hotel imposed quarantine, wearing my mask and brandishing my Negative-for-Corona certificate as I go: Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Istanbul, Podgorica … some airports are eerily empty and planes full of space.

I feel a long way from my own mountains, here. And so close to these. I watch an evening stripe of sun slide up sheer sides even as it sinks low over some unseen western horizons. And then I watch city lights sputter to life and gleam across black waters towards me.

I catch my breath and collect my thoughts. If I line them up, neatly, rank and file, will it make the future seem less uncertain, will it tidy my head in readiness for the making of decisions. About mum. Will it?

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