I met a man and woman yesterday on the path from Roslin to Polton. “Do you mind if I ask where we are,” the woman said, holding out her map. I showed her: across the North Esk from Hawthornden house. “That’s where I started,” I said, “and I’ve looped around through Roslin to where we are now.” At that she paused, glanced at her husband, and said, “Well, we’ve just come from Roslin. One of us is terribly wrong ” We shrugged, laughed, wished each other well, and carried on in opposite directions.
I was the wrong one. Let’s forget the details, noting only that by the end of the afternoon I’d walked miles—most of them in exactly the wrong direction, over significantly uneven terrain, and in the rain. I never did find my way home, only to a pub in Roslin, which became my instant home, what with excellent pints of Tenant’s, a Liverpool-Sunderland footie match on tv, and a bar matron who, having touched my sleeve and remarked, “Oh luv, you’re soaked”, said I’d take a taxi home and she’d call one for me right now.
For the second time on my recent travels, then (the other time in Vigo), I’ve made a series of right/left decisions that have been precisely correct, but 180 degrees wrong. As if my private gyroscope, until now a source of pride, has tipped or gone away.
So, in the next sentence or two either I add that to the breakdown ledger known as my body, or I find “lost” in my body of work these days, my auto-geography of Hillsdale, as in, people used to get lost all the time finding their way to our place amid the crescents and drives and cul-de sacs so favoured by 50s-era urban subdivisions, requiring elaborate sequences of directions, often administered by dad over the phone to relatives who’d given up and pulled into the Esso on Albert, or the time my son Larry, who must have been 6 or 7 at the time (one long-time Hillsdalian told me), disappeared in the afternoon. We couldn’t find him—where the heck is he? F. and I checked with the neighbours. I even took the manhole cover off at McNab and Jubilee in case he was down there. In the end we found him sleeping in his own room.