Tuesday, 2 October 2012
When he was in his early twenties, my late husband (the father of my eldest son) worked for a time in forestry on the Duke of Atholl's estate in Perthshire, Scotland. He often cited those days as being some of the happiest of his life: he was young and healthy, he was working outdoors in the fresh air, and he felt in harmony with the world around him. One day while up in the hills clearing bracken and planting pine saplings, he took a break to eat his packed lunch. All at once he realized that he was not alone on the hillside. The hot breath that he felt on the back of his neck was a roe deer, who had curiously approached him from behind. At first he daren't move, for fear of frightening the animal away, but then he decided to offer it part of his sandwich. As he sat there sharing his lunch with a beautiful wild creature, he wondered if there could be a better way to earn a living.
The opera tour's northern-most venue was Perth Theatre. I sang there both times, with and without my young son. Both times, I/we travelled by train, enjoying the stunning scenery to and from Scotland. The second time, I struggled to picture myself and my son managing a push chair around the cobbled streets, filled with tourists and outdoor tables in front of restaurants. I vaguely recollected searching for the childminder's house, barely finding it in time to get to the theatre, then back again after the show was finished, checking us both into our hotel, and getting up bright and early to catch the train back the next morning. On this occasion, I was able to take more time to enjoy the town, spending time (and a little too much money) in a craft and bead shop, eating in one of the fancier restaurants, taking photographs of the architecture, and learning about the history of the city. I bought some postcards to send home to my sons, and wrote a reminder on the back to my eldest about the time we spent there together, and how Perthshire was one of his father's favourite places. The card was, of course, an aerial photo of the Atholl Estates. '...your dad probably planted some of those trees.'