Last train to Holyhead

Swaying in the hammock softly with Rosamunde Pilcher.

Though wet June is weeks away, there are rain clouds.

But the hammock is safe under the roof tile.

Pilcher’s book Under Gemini is set in Scotland, my ancestral home.

Look here on this page: The rain had turned to a soft blowing mist which was beginning to smell of the sea.

If it rains here now, it will smell not of sea, but of mountains. You will hear soft sighs of parched plants, see the settling of dust.

Under Gemini was published in the mid-1970s, and at that same time I was alighting alone from a train at the Inverness station, just up from Edinburgh.

Stepping off another car at the same moment was a California woman on the very eve of her 40th birthday, also alone.

She was a professor of anthropology, attractive, headed slowly, with backpack, toward a conference in faraway India. We ended up in the same guesthouse, dining together after passing through a few dark pubs.

We found each other engaging, and spent the next five days as constant, carefree companions, becoming one.

After Inverness, our train headed west to the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides. And later, there was the big smokestack boat that carried us south through the Sound of Isleat to a railhead at Mallaig.

We held hands on deck and smiled as our ship steamed through watery mountain passes. It was cold October, and we were the only tourists.

At Mallaig, we caught another train, continuing on through Fort William, Glasgow and finally, leaving Scotland, to Chester, England.

It was a five-day romance with no time for pains, sorrows or regrets.

Until those final moments.  I had to return to London. She continued on to Holyhead on the windy Welsh coast, a roundabout route to India.

We kissed and waved goodbye as the old train chugged from the station in medieval Chester. Her window was open, and she leaned out, like in those old-time movies.

We never mentioned our last names and, even now, her first name, like her face, has faded. But not the memory of those final moments. Definitely not that.

The sweetness spiraled into sadness.

There is thunder here now. Let’s head inside the house.

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