Ever since we had children, my marriage has been kept together by two annual events which my husband and I stick to with religious zeal: a long weekend break where we indulge in music and art in a foreign city and a week’s holiday – again a deux – on a Scottish Island. The first holiday is made possible by my parents and the second by my mother-in law. They look after the children when we are away. So a big hurrah to them.
We’ve just come back from our week on Barra, an Outer Hebredian island. Blue skies, sunshine, a warm breeze. We swam off the rocks behind our house, talked, read and wrote. And walked.
I love hiking not so much for the scenery or for bodily well-being, but most of all for its effect on the mind. I love the passage of moods when faced with hours of monotonous walking. At the beginning all sorts of pressing issues occupy my head. Then, a couple of hours later, they retreat and memories of past walks and trips flood in. And finally even these pictures recede and my inner eye usually settles on a blissfully simple and mundane image. Such as the local Co-op.
On Wednesday we ran out of tea and milk. We set out for our walk on 3pm with the intention of getting back by 7pm to make it in time for the Co-op, which shuts at 8pm. It is the only supermarket on the island. By 6.30 pm we were nowhere near our finishing line. My husband had miscalculated the route. Now, I’ve known him for 19 years, we’ve been on many walks together and he always miscalculates. He claims he can read maps, I trust him blindly – again and again – and his map reading abilities disappoint – again and again.
Our marriage hit rock bottom. Not least because I had phantasised about a lovely cup of tea and a delicious Victoria sponge cake for at least an hour by then. We stood at the foot of a big mountain. If we turned back, we would definitely miss the supermarket. Our only chance was to cross it. And so we did. In total silence. Sweat running down our foreheads. With the image of a Victoria sponge cake with beautiful fresh strawberries the only thing that kept me going.
We made the Co-op. Two minutes before closing time. Their cakes didn’t look as appetising as in my phantasies. So I opted for a couple of kitkats. The best kitkats I ever ate. I forgave my husband. Our marriage is back on track thanks to our early morning swims (where fortunately map-reading is not required).