On Saturday September 17th, during a Mill event that runs from 3pm until 5pm at The Draw in Appleton, there is a reading of my play, Croy Shore. By way of introduction, I’ve written the following blog post.
I’m heading to Scotland in a couple of days and I’ve asked my husband if we can visit Croy Shore. He’s agreed, which is good of him because we’re not home for very long and it’s a distance from where we’ll be staying. Also, it’s not his place; it’s mine.
Croy Shore is a pretty stretch of beach on the rugged west coast of Scotland. It’s a bit of a bother to get to and there are lots of lovely spots in Scotland that involve no bother whatsoever – like the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, where we’ll actually be staying.
I first visited Croy Shore as child in the 1970s. Back then the overspill parking lot was a stretch of sand. Cars and campervans in hues of brown, orange and green would line up neatly next to the big rocks that signaled the entrance to the beach. We would arrive in our tangerine VW Beatle (a 1975 Jeans Beatle special edition, no less, with seats upholstered in blue denim) to meet up with aunts, uncles and cousins who often spent part of the summer in a nearby caravan park.
The weather was always good at Croy Shore. At least, in my rosy and revisionist memory, the sky is a perpetual blue and the children are forever swaddled in the sun’s warm rays.
I remember laughter. I remember searching for creatures in the shallows and running, chasing one another, along the shore.
From the beach you look out to Ailsa Craig, a rock of blue hone granite in the Firth of Clyde with the power to enchant, especially when the sun sinks behind its back. The name Ailsa Craig comes from Gaelic and means Fairy Rock. You can imagine what the mind of a child will do with that.
The thing, for me, that’s most special about Croy Shore is that nine years ago in April my uncle told me to go there. Thanks to Multiple Sclerosis I had been unable to feel my feet for a bit (or my legs, or my arms, or my torso) and I had a dream (literally I’d dreamt about it) that if I regained the feeling in my feet I would walk along a beach. I had become aware of all the simple pleasures I’d taken for granted and the thing I wanted most at that moment in my life was to be able to feel wet sand under my toes.
I’d confided this to my uncle; he was in a hospice, dying. On one of my last visits, I whispered to him that the numbness had begun to recede; I didn’t know if it would last, but that morning I could feel my toes. He sent us off – me, and my husband – to Croy Shore.
It wasn’t magical at first. The long drive was uncomfortable as the muscles in my chest wall had been in spasm for weeks and the uneven path from the parking lot (cars are no longer allowed on the beach) proved a challenge, as did the sheer distance of the walk to the beach, which, it truth, was no distance at all. Eventually I reached the water’s edge.
It was spring, which, in Scotland, meant the water was frigid, but it didn’t matter; I could feel wet sand under my toes.
At some point later, frustrated by hours and days and weeks of bed rest, I began to write. Strangely, what appeared on the page were things that might best be described as poetry, in the loosest sense of the word. One of the first of these was entitled Croy Shore. A few years later it was published in an anthology of Scottish writing called, The Second Tide.
Cyan sea merged into sapphire sky
on a chill spring day.
The last gift of a loved one
bequeathed from his hospice bed.
Arctic water startled toes
awakening from a trance –
a whispered dream
realised at last.
Feet, now liberated,
splashed in icy shallows
and limbs, still hungry
for release, basked in
a crisp sun.
I bathed in a silent melody –
enchanted by the day
feet wet and gritty,
along Croy Shore.
It may seem odd that a play I subsequently wrote about a marriage in peril is also called Croy Shore. However, it made perfect sense to me.
A writing game, if you can call it that, I’ve found myself playing over the years involves me crawling out of my own skin and into the skin of someone else, usually someone who also has a neurological illness: a man in his twenties with a wife and two small sons; a single woman in her thirties who obsesses over the lives of the people she encounters in waiting rooms; a man in his forties confined to a wheelchair who has an overbearing mother and so on. One of the possible scenarios I pondered involved the effect illness might have on a marriage that, before the diagnosis, was already in difficulty. I gave my ill-fated couple, Craig and Sarah Anderson, access to Croy Shore to see what might happen. Unfortunately, for them, it didn’t go too well.