One day when the weather was nice we had a late BBQ lunch on the patio. Richard grilled the steaks and chops and hamburgers Lynn had bought at Raeburns, while she and I drank wine.
This is a tricky thing about working from a distance and in a different time zone. If your employer has a “no alcohol on the job” policy, does that include a four-hour break during which you have no work to do, but after which you’ll have a Skype meeting or the emails will flood in because it’s morning back at HQ? I chose to almost never drink until I clocked off for the day, but once in a while I had one.
I needed it. We heard a sound of low rumbling getting louder and closer. “What is that?” I asked.
“Ah, just wait a moment,” Richard replied.
In a blink, a black, triangular aircraft swooshed over our heads, then another and another, and then it was over. In a second.
“Stealth bombers?” I asked incredulously.
“It’s the RAF,” Lynn said casually (RAF—Royal Air Force) “You know how the chimneys form a cross if you were looking down on them? We think the RAF may use our house as a reckoning point for their exercises.”
“It’s been in the news, they’re practicing with the US air force because of North Korea,” Richard added.
North Korea. They would shoot their first missile over Japan a few weeks later. As an aside, my sister-in-law is Japanese, and she was in Japan with my nephews (ages four and eight) at the time. I was worried this might traumatize them, but the eight-year-old’s comment was, “The announcements went on the speakers and told us to get ready to go to the shelters. It was so cool!”
Back at the BBQ, all was peaceful. When we weren’t jawing about the impending nuclear holocaust, all we heard was wood pigeons, the click-click of the dogs’ nails on the flagstones as they circled around hoping for dropped food, the gentle rushing of the river depending on the direction of the breeze, and an occasional moooooo or bahhhh from one of the neighboring fields. It was as though we had imagined the sorties.
I have never eaten so much meat in my life. OK that’s a lie. But I don’t get to eat that much meat very often, which is good, because I do love a good steak or juicy hamburger and my cholesterol is “borderline.” I took a few laps around the house and garden to shake off my lethargy. In addition to my vow to exercise vigorously every day, I had pledged to meditate. Ha. I passed the monkey puzzle tree outside the gate (photos are from a gardening site). This would be something to meditate on, I thought, and walked on.
Later, we reconvened for a typical evening of TV watching in the sitting room. This is a room with two couches, as I call them; or settees, as Lynn calls them. It’s a dark-wallpapered, cozy room, and each night Richard made a fire with wood or peat. I assumed my station next to the fireplace with a cat while Richard and Lynn each had a couch and were draped with dogs. Within minutes of whatever show we were watching starting, Richard would be asleep. But this night, after going out to retrieve a cat that had stayed out after dark, he came rushing in to tell us, “Come out to the garden—there are shooting stars!”
I really didn’t want to go outside. It was cold! I was tired and a little tipsy. I was sure I would never be able to spot the shooting stars. But there, in the country, they were crystal clear and came one after another. We stood out there in silence for 20 minutes until they trailed off.
Lynn was off to Oxford the next day. “Richard—don’t forget to pick up the wine for the tutors’ dinner,” she instructed as she rushed off. The tutors were professional musicians who taught at the annual Huntly Music School. They would give a concert on Saturday, then come for dinner at Dunrovin.