Life & Death in a Northern Climate

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It's all downhill from the Aultnamain Inn

on a Friday afternoon in 1995,

the Dornoch Firth a sluggish curclicue

lazing under snow-shaved braes,

a sky of purest Highland winter blue.


A wind with gold-capped teeth

snaps at my face as down the hill

I slalom into Edderton, awash with

dodgy 12 year-old Auchenlosh,

defying record wind chill

& a temperature of -23, gravity

today a well-met friend for me.


Folk have died in these conditions

they'll tell you, been found rigid

under trees, in roadside sheughs

contorted into Dali-esque positions

by such cold. But I am tough,

hewn from countless generations

of a breed well used to out-staggering

death with every lurch on days

like these, every hard-won breath

a white refusal to be brought

to creaking knees by something altogether

as banal as freakish weather.


Back home later, heated by

a wood fire, Talisker, pickled fish,

I dwell upon the myth of Scottish bravery,

close eyes that have only just stopped running,

stretch out legs still galloping away

from what the news reports as

Wester Ross's worst storm in a century,

pump the air with spectral fists.

Being dead doesn't get any better than this.

◄ Swimming at high tide.....

Dreich ►


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