School: George Watson’s College, Edinburgh
It was a humid morning and a pleasantly gurgling stream threaded like a silver ribbon beside the muddy riverbank and into the sea. A cottage squatted in an encirclement of striking pearly birch trees which bore rustling leaves and nodded playfully in the freckles of sunlight. The earth was cracked and baked like a crispy chocolate cake hot out the oven. Faintly the rhythmic pulse of the waves could be heard, the cottage was waiting patiently for a family to stay.
“Hurry up!” squawked Mum, like a distressed seagull, flapping her arms to emphasise her point. We all darted around, tearing raincoats from the hangers and sand-coated buckets from under the stairs. The house was abundant with hurried footsteps, Dad resembled an excited sheepdog as he herded us into the car. Finally, the car rolled out of the gravel driveway like an egg being rolled on salt. I sat in the back gazing out of the window, watching the industrial buildings billowing smoke.
“Are we nearly there yet?” I whined as the car lurched over several deep pot holes. Large dirty sheep grazed at the roadside, munching on thick stems and prickly gorse bushes. And the sky looked as if it might break from the heavy burden of clouds. Mum was trying in vain to apply a coral lipstick as the car swung around tight bends.
“No, we’re not there, Mia. You’ll just have to patient.” replied Mum turning round in her seat and displaying a smudged coral scrawl across her cheek. I stifled a giggle as she resumed putting on her lipstick. Heavy droplets of water whipped the windscreen and Dad exclaimed brightly, “Lucky I brought the raincoats, after all this is Scotland!”
I stared out the window at a few rugged mountain ponies. Presently the rain stopped lashing the windscreen. After a few hours we pulled up in a clearing surrounded by trees with a cottage. Bees bobbed along leisurely, sucking pollen from flowers like cats licking saucers of milk.
“Should we go down to the beach now we’re here?” suggested Dad, practically hopping from foot to foot with glee. Soon we were strolling along the damp sand, gannets were piercing the surface far from shore, searching for fish, and the waves bubbled over fragments of shells and lapped my wellingtons. The bleak sun caressed my shoulders as I walked, the pungent odour of seaweed tore at my nostrils as I stepped into the sea. I was mesmerised as plumes of spray leapt over each other like white horses jumping fences. They galloped to the shore and danced, blending with the waves and then plunging up to the surface. By now I was waist deep and leaping with the waves, the water frothed around me as the white-capped waves cantered beside me.
Far up the beach Mum was waiting impatiently as Dad spotted gannets and ecstatically noted them in his Bird Guide. I happily frolicked with my water horses and the tumult of pounding waves. Suddenly a cascade of water surged from underneath me, I screamed as a large weight pushed me upwards, and slipped in my waterlogged wellies falling into a sitting position. A large head rose from the depths and a wild nicker rent the air. I clutched desperately at a mane entangled with fronds of seaweed. I sat rigidly on this warm animal, his silky black mane swam down his neck and poured down his shoulders like an inky waterfall. Waves drizzled off his gleaming coat and he tossed his head whinnying loudly.
He grunted and splashed through the sea in a frenzy of horse and water, hauled himself into the shallows and we galloped along, hooves showering spray. He nudged me gently with his steamy muzzle and I dismounted. “I rode a Kelpie!” I yelled to my parents when I reached them. They laughed gently and as I looked behind me my footprints disappeared in the wet sand as if I had never been there.