The Tongues of Men

A novel in redraft by Gabriel Smy

A window in Perthshire


The view of Loch Tay from my friend's house, set into the hillside overhanging it, is always changing. This last weekend I woke and peered under the blind as I lay in bed, to see snow falling over the water and the fields, fluttering, eddying, plummeting through the huge volume of air between the hills.

By breakfast the snow had stopped but tufts of mist were pulled out of the forest on the other side of the loch like unkempt hair, yanked upright. The mountain tops above were as white as the sky, so when I came to photograph the horizon the two melted into each other, a dark ring of pines near the summit appearing to float away into the atmosphere.

Later there was sleet and there was rain. At no point did the sun break through but the light kept altering in subtle ways. For one moment, as we started down the muddy slope towards the shore, the panorama suddenly crystalised, with deep colours in high definition, and the wind stopped playing to let the scene echo deeply in the surface of the loch. It only lasted a few minutes. By the time we reached the water's edge it was no longer glassy but ribbon-crossed with a symmetrical wave pattern, neat and black and white.

It was perhaps the dreariest weather I've experienced by Loch Tay, but the wetness plunged the tree stumps and bracken into deep orange hues, the fleeting snow filled in the mass of air above the valley and the dim light gave body to the sodden grass, the thick hills, and painted the loch as a luminous, dancing streak through their midst.

And I remembered looking at the same view one April morning, from the same bed, not that long ago, when the day was brighter for the sunshine in it, and the ground dryer and more workable. I had no reasons left not to write a novel, and my friend had asked me the previous evening if I was going to write a book. I had said 'I'll tell you in the morning' because he did not mean, casually, do you think you might write a book one day. He meant will you commit, to actually making it happen, to starting tomorrow and not stopping until it is done.

So I looked at the scene and rehearsed my answer. There could hardly be a better view to make a decision upon. The answer could only be yes.

Looking through the same panes at the same view this weekend served a silent reminder that I did start writing a book, and have kept going, slowly at times but never quite stopping, sometimes in great bursts of enthusiasm and at other points just plodding on, and that seemed to be the truth: that the vista last Saturday morning may have been dimmer than that occasion in April, when the sunshine roved in patches over its waters, but it was the same view; always changing, yet always the same.

I said I'd write a book, and I haven't stopped yet. I said I'd blog about it, and I'm still yapping on. This is how it feels down the line: like February by the loch; damp, earthy and vivid.

 
 
 
 

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