On some days, Llinos just wanted to escape to the coast; not on the bad days -because those were manageable- but on the grey days: the days of nothing important . Those were the days when she craved the certainty of sunlight and tides as the earth breathed in on itself.
The nothing important days were the worst, she thought. “Straighten your tie, tuck in your shirt, change your jeans, sign your communication book.” It was a litany of imperatives about the unimportant things. Llinos didn’t care about these – a uniform smartness. Since when had smartness correlated with grades and a love of learning? And why suddenly had checking and signing a communication book become a contract between teacher and learner that the teacher thought the book was OK?
So it had been with relief on Friday afternoon that she shut down her PC, turned off the interactive white board. Her bag for life bulged with weekend marking, success criteria, exemplars, peer marking,targets,two stars and a wish . The corporate jargon that had flooded her profession and turned vocation into a corporate exercise with measurable outcomes, “Like units of sausages,” her old English professor had grimaced.
“Sod it!” she thought. “It’s Friday!” The weekend shimmered with possibilities and choices which offered no choice because there were so many things she wanted to do on a sunny weekend. Most of all, Llinos wanted sun, sea and salt and maybe a bag of chips.She gunned the engine of her battered VW, put on her sunglasses and turned south; dreaming of coves and buoys.
Ynys Môn melted away in the rear window as she skimmed the A55 and turned left onto the A487. Glynllifon was green and below the Felinheli bypass,yachts bobbed and jingled in the marina. In the distance Nantlle Ridge shimmered in the late afternoon sun and she finally passed Pen Cewri which sloped towards yr Eifl on her right. She thought of Dinlle which would be calm and deep blue but the gentle slopes of Bryncir had lured her further southwards. It was race between her and the setting sun.
Her mother’s voice echoed on her shoulder. “You’re just like your father! He was always driving southwards.” She thought of RS Thomas, always moving westwards, then North West. And wondered at the emotional pull of points on the compass and the urge for home. Was it people or place; accent or an emotional heart string?Perhaps it was all these things. Perhaps it was nothing more than the weight and feel of the landscape.
She thought of her recent train ride to Cardiff; thought of travelling eastwards and inland for two hours and her inner sense of rightness at finally turning south at Crewe. For God’s sake she even slept facing southwards. Then remembered her smile as the accent flattened and widened, remembered the sense of rightness at being called “love.”
Attention back on the road there were just a few gentle slopes, and double bends, she would be there. She turned right at the Cricieth junction, quelling her inner boy racer as her heart leaped on the double bends in recall of the Neath valley where she passed her Advanced test. “Take the middle line.” her instructor had whispered gently. “Read the road.” Advice that was equally applicable to her personal life she thought. Just that deadlines and jargon had effectively restricted her view.
She parked her car on Black Rock sands, discarded her socks and shoes. The sun was beginning to set and the sky was filled with orange and purple hues.Clouds settled on the horizon drawing it closer, reminding her of prairie sunsets that she had read about but never seen. She recalled Laura Ingalls Wilder’s vivid, descriptive, prose and the contrast in her language as she narrated factually what she saw to her sister Mary.
Llinos relaxed as she walked the edge of sea and sand.Now, walking the coastline became a prayer for her. As she walked she filled her pockets with pebbles and shells. Behind her the coast stretched southwards for miles. In front it curved , following the mountains of Eryri around to the castle now translated into landscape and history. And her prayer was just as immutable: this too shall pass.
Llinos sat cross legged on the beach sorting her shells and pebbles as the sun sank further in the west. She carved her name into the sand beneath the cross of shells and pebbles and left knowing her prayer would be swept clean away by the morning tide.