Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I am sorry for no blog without a word of warning. On Saturday I was so tired I did not know what my name was, and could not lift my fingers to type, and on Sunday I was driving.
I rather madly thought: I'll do it all in one go. I left at half past six; I'll be home by three, I thought blithely. North of Barrow I smashed into a wall of exhaustion so thick it felt corporeal. I took two double espressos, some iron tonic, and half a fold of Pro Plus (those of you trained in nutrition, look away now). Then I felt slightly crazy in the head and wondered if they would find me, wandering by the side of the road, somewhere south of Perth, muttering about the end of the world.
At some point, I found myself listening to men on Radio Stoke (I love the local BBC stations) discussing whether or not heaven does exist. Oh yes, they all said, with utter conviction. Of course it does, they said, with a slight note of astonishment in their voices that anyone might think otherwise, a faint patronising slide for the poor boobies who have doubts.
They could not quite agree what it was. 'It's where Jesus is,' one said. I thought that was a bit unfair on all the people who worshipped Ganesh the elephant God, or Baiame the Sky Father, or Ahuru Mazda the supreme creator God.
'It's a different plane,' said another.
'It's where there is no more sorrow,' said a third.
I think someone mentioned this vale of tears. All right, I thought. Show your working. Give me your proofs.
'Stephen Hawking might be very clever,' said the heavenly men. Apparently it was he who had started this hare running by insisting that there almost certainly was no heaven, that it was just wish thinking. 'But he's talking absolute nonsense.'
'Well,' said another of the determined fellows, 'who can tell me that Stephen Hawking actually exists. I mean, I've never seen him.'
I almost drove off the road. Although I suppose it was quite a clever existentialist question, with a dash of Plato thrown in, and a shade of Bishop Berkeley. Perhaps it called for Descartes. Cogito ergo sum, I thought. And the gallant riposte of Dr Johnson: I refute it thus.
I wondered what it would be like to be so sure of something that cannot be seen, described, or even imagined, that no scientist can test, that philosophers and theologians have argued over for millennia. I have seen three people taken away in boxes, in the last three weeks. I have the ashes of my dog, waiting to be buried in the wild part of my garden, where I am going to plant a tree for her. I do not have any idea where those people are now. I have no conviction that they exist in a place where there is no sorrow. I know only that their memories rest in the hearts of those who loved them. I keep them in my heart. That's the best I can do.
At Errol, I shed sudden, violent tears. They come and go in waves. All I can do is let them. At Dundee, they stopped, equally suddenly, and I looked at the road ahead, still another eighty long miles to go, and wondered if I would make it. At Durris, there were pied wagtails, flirting in pairs over gorse the colour of canaries, and dark chestnut cows basking in the sun. The hills were a long indigo line on the horizon. The stately sinuous silver of the Dee slid under me, and I knew that I was home.
I have not taken any pictures for the last three days, but here are some from my Beloved Cousin's lovely garden. I might not be able to answer the profound questions of the mysteries of the universe, but I do believe in the flowers:
And the Pigeon, who remains a wonderful, sturdy, actual presence, real as all get out. I believe in her, too: