Two days after Christmas Richard went back to work. The rest of us – me, the two girls, and a friend of theirs – were lolling in the living room. It was late morning. The girls were all knackered because of last night’s sleepover. The curtains were drawn, the air warm and sour. There were duvets piled up everywhere.
I reached for a handful of Celebrations, then passed the box round. My younger daughter did a wee on the older one’s drawing of a girl scarecrow, and the scarecrow’s colours all ran into the carpet. Outside was a sunny, icy, brilliant December day.
The deal had been done days ago. Everything was ready. Richard texted to say he wouldn’t be much longer.
Negotiating this kind of stuff isn’t always easy when life is so circumscribed by have-to upon have-to, kids and cleaning and shopping and work. Truthfully, and I bet other parents of young children would say the same, we don’t always manage to work it out. This time though, it’s OK.
As soon as we’ve done the handover I burst out of the front door. In less than five minutes I am on the mountain, climbing up past Treorchy cemetery where the road starts to break up, past the tumbling ravine where people in Landrovers let their spaniels splash at the bottom. Puddles are iced over and the sky is this unfathomable blue. I climb and climb, through the farm where the track becomes steeper and rockier and crusted over with ice. Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.
Up through the farmer’s dumping ground where he leaves his redundant machinery. Up past the peak of Craig-yr-Aber where the dry stone walls and the cliff-face collapse together. My calves are burning and I’m heaving for breath and laughing with relief because there is nothing like this, when I am on my way through a vast and unpopulated landscape that is so close to home and still so separate with its untidy pine plantations and carved remnants of coal tips and enormous, slicing turbines.
I love it up here.
I run on past the fake woods that creak and drip and lean. The snow is shining, there is cold and heat all around. Finally I reach the reservoir. I stop in my tracks.
Lluest-Wen Reservoir is hidden at the top of the Rhigos mountain. Not many people ever seem to come here, apart from boys on scramblers and the odd bicycling family. It is an old res that sits on the lees of the past. It’s not particularly hard to reach but it seems to get forgotten next to its better-known neighbours, Llyn Fawr and Llyn Fach, Llwyn-Onn, all the reservoirs of the Beacons.
I can’t quite get my head around that colour blue.
I know that when I run back I’ll have all the fun of an incautious descent. I’ll be buzzing like a bee. The excess endorphins in my blood will feel like religion. Ideas for creative projects dropping like snowflakes. I will look forward to seeing the girls. I will think fondly of Richard and I’ll promise myself that this time I will definitely, definitely tell him that nice thing that I thought about him.
Of course, by the time I reach the front door I’ll have forgotten. I do every time.